Monday, July 30, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

July 30, 2012

There's something surreal about coming of age when you've led a rather sheltered life. There are so many things that you're supposed to know, indeed that people assume you do know, and yet so many of them you've not even heard of. I wasn't raised in an Orthodox Jewish or an Amish society, but we definitely were not part of Main Stream America. I speak of my sister and myself, the sixth and seventh of my mother's eight children – the first and second of my father's three. And, there is the key to it all. I did not create this blog to bash any set of people, even those who happen to be my father. But, one can't deny that a father has quite a bit of influence on his children and as it turns out my particular father happens to hate people and he went to great lengths to make sure that we, also, hated people. He has his own history and reasons for being who he is, but there you are and there you have it. The five older siblings had a different father and they had their hands full with him, from what I understand, and my younger brother came along 5 years after me, and he began kindergarten and graduated from the same school system with the same class of people and he had a different life than Lottie and I did.

Some things aren't worth going back to try to recoup. I mean, at the age of 42 I don't think I would get a lot out of watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off or The Breakfast Club. They both seem to be movies made for teenagers growing up in the 80's. IMDb writes this about Ferris Bueller, "A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite of what the principal thinks of that." That along with the smug look on a very young Matthew Broderick's face make me think that I should let this particular phenomenon go. About The Breakfast Club it writes, "Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought." Now, that sounds more substantial, but I can't help but think that this is basically a formulaic showcase for an up-and-coming brat pack. I will admit that it's entirely possible that I'm wrong, and if so, then so be it.

Even drugs seem pointless. I mean, most people did their experimentation with marijuana, cocaine and so on in high school and college and most of those people have moved on to different things. Like children. It feels like if I were to try to start now it would seem like a pathetic middle age crisis and that's not really the image I want to foster while I'm going through a middle age crisis.

It's really interesting how, during the transition into the world, I couldn't tell what was new and what was old. When I was in high school I heard a song, which I now know is called Rag Doll and is sung by Aerosmith, and I remember thinking that it was a good song and I distinctly remember assuming that it was an old song that had been played for over a decade. Turns out, I was hearing it as it was released. I was actually hearing it at the same time that my classmates were; I had just assumed that they'd all known the song all their lives. That's another thing about growing up sheltered; you assume that everybody else knows so much more than you do. You probably assume this because 95% of the time it's true, but there are times when you accidentally come face to face with something contemporary.

While others were listening to The Cars, Pink Floyd (We Don't Need No Education was old, but still incredibly popular in Boerne, TX), AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and others that I mix up in my head but that I'm certain were popular when I was in school, we were getting down to the rhythms of The Andrew Sisters, Glen Miller and Peggy Lee. My little brother once called me in San Antonio from college in Austin to confirm to whomever he was talking to that there is, indeed, a song called Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. (There is.)

It's not that I think I missed out on so much. I mean, I like Peggy Lee and Spike Jones. But, it's awkward when somebody makes a reference to something and you're left standing there with a blank look on your face because you didn't even have the sense to know that you were supposed to recognize whatever it was that was just referenced. And, you learn out of self-defense not to talk about new things unless you know for ABSOLUTE certain that they are new. About two years ago, I heard a new song that I kind of liked. It was being played on an alternative radio station, so I had reason to believe it was relatively recent. And, even though I've been through this same thing so many times, it never occurred to me that the song just might not be new. Then, while I was in a waiting room somewhere, I heard The Man in the Box by Alice in Chains on a TV show about the best videos of the 90's. According to Wikipedia, that song was released in 1991.

A lot of this is my fault. About the time I graduated high school I developed a distaste for TV and I gave up watching it. That's not to say that I got my news and stayed up-to-date by reading magazines and newspapers and thus look down my educated nose at the television-watching boors. I just puttered along in ignorance, and still do to a great extent. I'm much more aware of current events these days. And now that there are home computers on every desk in every house and office and on every phone and radio and even on refrigerators I can always log into Facebook and see what people are making fun of with ecards and then I can google the key words and figure out what's going on. This is how I figured out that a man in Florida really did eat another man's face while that other man was alive. But, I'm not entirely sure that I wanted to know that. Plus, if I can be delighted to hear a new song, who cares if it's been around for two decades?

These days I read the online version of the Austin newspaper at work; I read Newsweek on my Nook and I listen to KGSR, which has a mix of folkish singers, singer/song-writers, alternative musicians, and some musicians who are played on every other radio station known to man. Church is nice because the Bible's been around for 2000 years. We're all kind of on equal footing in that regard, though granted some people have spent more time studying it than I have. I mostly accept that I'm ignorant to everything I should know and I savor Agatha Christie mysteries, Masterpiece Mystery on PBS and I don't even try to understand what's going on in the contemporary world of popular culture. I'm too far behind and it's just not worth trying to catch up at this point. I have, however, stopped apologizing for it. Now, when I flaunt my ignorance I do it with a flair. Then I go home and google whatever it was I missed, unless I've lost interest by that point, which happens about half the time.

Well, it's getting late again and my head hurts and I want to sleep tonight, so perhaps I'll go to bed. I'll write more soon.

Until then I remain,

Yours truly,


Jason Hooper

July 29, 2012

Being that I can't sleep I could either stuff my face with cookies and milk – which I've already done, but I could continue to do it – or I could post something. I would like to go into more detail about this particular subject, but for the moment I will just post some pictures that I took on a recent trip to Rockport – an art festival that was there.

We were in the booth next to Jason Hooper, a potter whose work I love and of whose work I have a few pieces. I've shown them here in context in previous posts. My plan was (is) to gather all of my pieces together and take some pictures of them, but for the moment I'll show you what I saw there. He was kind enough to let me take pictures, and while I'm not the world's best photographer let me make up for that by saying that I LOVE his work and I will definitely be collecting more of it in the future.

Tea Set


Vase and Tall Tea Set

Salt and Pepper Cruets

Tall Teapot

Business Card Holders (left) and Cell Phone Seats (right)

Cell Phone Seat

I love functional art in general, and his designs and colors are fabulous. Plus, he's from across the pond and he has a quaint accent and it's just fun to sit with him and chat.

If you're interested in his work, here is his web site: I will admit that he has more work than what is represented there, so if you're REALLY interested I believe he has a "Contact Us" page, which I would highly recommend you utilize.

Thank you and good night.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pizza Margherita Experiment

July 22, 2012

I mentioned a problem earlier that I had looked at my expenses. That post had to do with my attempt at breaking my addiction to going to the nearby corporate coffee shop, which I still enjoy doing. I like to sit and watch the people there, aside from drinking the coffee. At the same time that I looked at how much I spend on coffee and covert people watching I looked at how much I spend a month on food and clearly I should weigh 458 pounds by now. The lesson from all of that is that I've been broke for the past 6 months and didn't realize it and that I will be broke until the 2nd week in November. I don't know how this works out, but I did a basic budget and that's what it tells me. This is assuming, of course, that I keep within my budget, which allows for much less money being spent on food.

I've been eating at home. Sandwiches, salads, chicken, sausage, rice, pasta... things that I have in the house already or don't cost that much. I do allow myself fresh vegetables. However, I've also felt the need to be more creative with my food because, while I buy good deli meat, sandwiches get old after a while.

I have a basil plant, so I did a search for things that I could do with it. The most popular was a pizza margherita. There a zillion different varieties of recipes so I read a few and decided to do something that would work for my home.

First is the crust. I'm not about to buy yeast and begin making bread. One of the ideas was to do something quick, so making a crust, though it would be immensely fulfilling, would be too involved at the moment. Maybe later. I decided to buy a crust, but when I got to the store a focaccia bread in the bakery caught my eye and it was about the same price, so I picked it up. Of course, it's almost universally understood that pizza margherita is supposed to use a very thin crust, but I'm not trying to be traditional here.

I wish, I WISH that I had had homegrown tomatoes. I picked up a vine-ripened tomato. I already had mozzarella cheese in the fridge. It's not the balls of fresh cheese, though that would have been even better. Again, we're thinking budget and I already had this ingredient.

So, I cut the bread in half. It was slightly over a foot long, and that's a bit much for one sitting. I brushed the half with olive oil – after drizzling it from my Jason Hooper hand-thrown ceramic olive oil bottle. I put very thinly sliced tomato, I put kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on the tomatoes, and added mozzarella sliced about 1/4 inch thick. I tore up pieces of basil, sprinkled it across the top, and drizzled the whole thing with more olive oil. Then I put it into on a cookie sheet into the oven, preheated at 400ยบ. Almost all of the recipes called for 8 – 9 minutes, but this was done in 6.

Once I took it out of the oven, I added more fresh basil to the top.

Result: I would probably skip the basil before cooking; I think cooking it killed the flavor. Again, using home grown tomatoes would make it SO much better (I just LOVE home grown tomatoes) and I can see that a thinner crust would be good, but this bread toasted and was slightly crunchy and was wonderful to eat even without anything on top. Another thing that is almost universally agreed is to be spare with the ingredients – don't cover every millimeter of crust with stuff.

The tomatoes cooked down to be like a sauce and I had layered mozzarella on top of some of the pieces, and basil on some. I did a pretty good job of mixing up the stuff on top for a variety of flavors in each bite.

I will definitely do this again. I will also try to find a market for homegrown tomatoes because there's just nothing like fresh homegrown tomatoes to make life better.

Thank you for reading.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beginning a Fun New Book

July 21, 2012

Currently reading: In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson.

I just started and have been (literally) laughing out loud the whole time. It's disturbing my cats. On page 26 I laughed so hard I almost passed out. Ask my sister, Lottie; this is not an exaggeration. (Something about dice in a cup of coffee... my memory is vague.)

More soon,


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Finishing with a Kick in the Pants

July 19, 2012

I have finished Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. I very much enjoyed the book, but I have mixed emotions about it.

Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I looked forward to getting off work to read it, the way I hear people at work getting excited about watching the TV show they're currently keeping up with. Contrast that with the book I'm reading now, which I put down regularly and wonder if there's something else I could be reading, Fried Green Tomatoes is definitely a keeper. I spent many hours sitting on the patio reading while my cats nibbled on grass, and in the recliner, which one cat has pretty much claimed as her own and I have to ask special permission to use. I went a long time without using it and they've gotten out of the habit of sitting on my lap. I need to get back to that. I need more books like this one.

A buddy of mine who is a teacher once gave a few of us a minor lecture about the difficulty of writing a narrative by jumping back and forth in time. It was a warning and a suggestion that we not try it unless we were seasoned writers. In a side-by-side with the movie, I can say that the movie went back and forth from present to past (depression era). The book – much more so than the movie – jumps around in time. It doesn't just go from present day to the past; it jumps from present day to two main points in the past and a sprinkling of other temporal locations. Each chapter begins with the date and place, but it was fairly easy from context to figure out where in the century I was, but that might be because I saw the movie first and I knew what was going to happen in one timeline, so I could tell when I was reading in the other.

I thought that she handled it very well, but I felt that there was perhaps a bit too much of it; too many different times. Not that I lost track (I didn't) but it just seemed a little too much. Along the same lines, there seemed to be more characters than one is used to reading about. I didn't feel, necessarily, that there were simply too many characters, but that possibly too much time was taken in following up on so many of them. Taking time to digress and give history about a couple of key minor players is good, but we seemed to be all over the place at times. And while she tied most of it together in the end, I'm not sure that it all added to the story, enough to justify the erratic flow.

As I said before, a lot of it is about a woman in the 80's waking up and discovering that she's no longer a young woman and that perhaps all of the rules she's been following so closely weren't as important as she had thought. Similar to Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind in that respect.

The other part, now that's a real kick in the pants. What's hinted at in the movie is just stated flat out in the book. I don't like to write spoilers, so I'll be vague. But, there were a couple of fabulously unexpected things toward the end of the book/movie. I loved reading about the love and loyalty that Flagg expresses, even though I could feel my more orthodox Catholic friends squirm a little in my mind while I read those parts. Clearly, I'm not one to judge anybody, much less fictional characters or the author who writes them. And the disapproval that my mind projects onto my unsuspecting friends only makes it more delicious.

This was a book well worth reading. I purchased it on my Nook, but I would actually like to have it on my bookshelf. Thank you for reading this review. I look forward to writing more soon.

Until then I remain

Your friend in books,


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Not Quite Right


This afternoon two coworkers asked if I wanted ice cream. I mean, do you even need to ask? Before we went to the break room Donna was picking cat hair off my shirt and Annette asked if I had my shirt on inside out. I said no, it was just some cat hair. Annette pointed out the buttons and Donna put her finger on the seam between the torso and the sleeve and sure 'nuf the shirt was on inside out. But oh well; let's get ice cream.

So, I got home and decided that I want coffee. Two days ago I made the mistake of calculating how much money I spend by going to the corporate coffee shop every day, so I proceeded to make my own coffee. I ground the beans for 15 seconds and poured the grinds into the reservoir. Something seems slightly amiss, like in the back of my mind, but not enough to pay attention to. Then I got the coffee cup, filled it with cold water from the refrigerator because I read that using cold water makes better coffee. I poured the water into the Mr. Coffee coffee maker and saw sludge swimming around in it, then I noticed the coffee filter, which was still white. As in, there were no coffee grinds in it. I had put them into the reservoir and then poured the water right in on top of them and presto I had cold sludge in a very difficult part of the machine to reach.

It's what I get for calculating how much I spend a month at corporate coffee houses.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Update to Fried Green Tomatoes


Update: I went to my local bookstore this afternoon and purchased a cup of coffee. But, more to the point, I looked at their copy of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. The chapter I was referring to in my previous post is on page 40 in their copy, which is a trade paperback published by Ballantine Books. 

Thank you.