Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Life after Martha

Hello, Martha haters! It's been awhile!

The New York Times yesterday ran a story on the first page of the business section on conditions at Martha Stewart Omni Media. The author wrote about the fact that legally Martha Stewart cannot have a management role at her company until 2011 as a condition of her parole, by which time she will be 71. Of course, Martha *is* the brand, and has a lot of control over the direction of the company whether it is official or not. But it does raise the question, what will life be like for MSOM after Martha? Can a company totally branded on one person (Harpo, Trump Enterprises and The Thomas Kinkaide Company come to mind) survive that person's retirement? DesiLu, for instance, survived the divorce but, although arguably the most successful TV studio in Hollywood at the time, simply got folded into CBS and stopped producing after Lucy left. And, while MSOM is very diversified, with magazines, housewares, furniture, and even houses, their successful products all have Martha plastered upon them somewhere.

Another thing the Times piece said I take issue with: they suggested that, in light of the awful corporate malfeasance that has come to light in the last year, Martha's little $22,000 transgression seems awfully small, and that maybe the media was too hard on her. Let me say outright that I didn't start writing about her because of her crime. Hell, I even respect her as a business person.

I just hate her palette. And her centerpieces. And that calm soothing voice. Give me a balsy domestic diva like Julia Child any day! ;-)

Monday, October 13, 2008



I hate it when I like something Miss Martha produces. I was in the celar at Macy's today checking out plates and I came across her china patters. I like them. No: I loved them, especially one called Ribbon Stripe Gold. I liked French knot gold too. I thought they were the nicest things in the store. Then I saw they were by Martha Stewart and I wanted to shoot myself. Grrrr!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Miss Joycee, yet again

I've mentioned the fabulous Miss Joycee here in the past. She's the most fun person in the whole wide world. Well, Miss Joycee is launching a new business. She was tired of interior design. She had done some great kitchens and a couple of good houses but she didn't find it enough fun. She's been doing faux finishes for a few years. But now she's found her niche. Joycee plans to go back into interior design and specialize in dungeons and play-rooms. It will combine all her talents and interests in one avocation.

I told you she was the most fun person in the whole wide world.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma

It took me awhile to decide where to post this review. When you have five blogs it sometimes becomes difficult to decide where a post should go. This is one of those times. It’s a review of a book, which would normally go on Mediagrouch. It affected me personally, so it might go onto Myspace or Facebook. It took up a lot of my energy, so it could go on Livejournal. It’s here because this is my lifestyle page.

Trouble is, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan is not a very manly book. In fact, it is full of all sorts of whiny liberal angst—worry about the food chain and the environment and guilt over eating meat and fossil fuels. Yuppie liberal guilt—the worst kind. But it has a lot of good stuff to say—especially about hunting and gathering, two Pleistocene era activities, truly manly pursuits. I had read the section on pig hunting in the New York Times magazine when the book first came out, and I was really looking forward to the rest of it. I wasn’t disappointed. I couldn’t put it down.

The conceit of the book is that it looks at three (actually four) of the food chains by which Americans feed themselves: industrial farming, big (industrial) organic farming, small local farming, and hunting and gathering. As a piece of journalism the book is, quite frankly, brilliant. The depths to which he plumbs America and our various eating habits and disorders is astounding. Because I pay attention to such things I didn’t actually learn much in terms of the big picture. I already knew, for instance, that corn is so heavily subsidized that it has become the defacto food source for not only us but everything we eat, and that we are, as one nutritionist he quotes put it “walking corn chips.” I already knew that “organic” in the supermarket doesn’t mean “organic” the in the same way as on the food from the Berkeley Food Co-op when I was a kid (now a Whole Foods Market, in the ultimate irony). And I already knew a bit about the small farm movement and a lot about hunting.

But I learned a TON of new info about mushrooms.

Part of Pollan’s thesis is that we should all take the time to be aware of the food chain that supports us. He examines and rejects animal rights rather quickly. He goes back again and again to the evils of the industrial food chain. But in the end his book is ultimately unsatisfying because it never offers any real solution. It’s clear that Pollan thinks the industrial food chain is unsustainable, but he also acknowledges that the small food movement couldn’t feed everyone. The only real promise he offers is one offered by one of the farmers he profiles, suggesting that the industrial food chain won’t so much be destroyed as it will face competition from an increasingly fractured food chain.

What bothered me about the book was the angst. It was greatest in the section about hunting, when he worried about the pig that he kills and (not immediately, which is important, but after gutting it) the disgust and guilt he felt over the act of killing. He says that hunting cannot stand up to a critical gaze in the 21st century. That’s a lot of bull—weak kneed hand wringing at its most pansy-waist. He is right about the problem—that modern man is so far removed from nature that any reminder of the natural order is disturbing. Not only is it a reminder of his own mortality but, even worse, it is a reminder of his own beastliness. But that’s only for modern men who spent too much time on the East Coast—where I happily live right now—and not enough time exploring their manliness. American culture, American history, teach us that we are part of nature, not removed from it. The deer or turkey that we kill we do so for many reasons: for the pleasure of the act, to nourish ourselves, to uphold tradition. But when you are tuned in to that culture there is no angst about it at all. Game animals are part of nature and so are we. To kill a deer and eat it is the most natural act in the world. We should respect the deer, absolutely, but why should we cry or feel guilty over it? Eventually, after eating and enjoying his pig later, he finally comes to terms with the act.

(Another interesting things is that he quotes heavily from the 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset: but Ortega y Gasset’s book “Meditations on Hunting” is one of the least important works of this, one of the great philosophers of all time. It prompted me to wonder if Pollan had read any of Ortega y Gassets other works. It seems odd that he should be remembered now for a book on hunting that Pollan describes as “a bit mad.”)

Here is the thing I really learned from this book: I have lived a life closer to nature than I ever really imagined—much closer than Pollan, much closer than normal. This became clear when Pollan talked about hunting and gathering in Norhtern California. A lot of the things he discussed I had done—not the two main ones, mushroom hunting and pig hunting (I plan to remedy that soon) but most of the others. It struck me when his guide Angello mentions that mustard greens are good if you sauté them in garlic and olive oil. It sparked in me the memory of gathering wild mustard greens for dinner along the side of a road in Yolo County with my mom and dad before they split up, and eating the flowers right off the stocks. For years afterward I’d gross my friends out whenever we saw a a mustard plant by picking the flower and eating it. So lots of the stuff he talked about I had experienced, not as an angst ridden adult searching for the meaning behind my food but as a kid playing the way kids sometimes play. I gathered mustard greens. My dad taught me how to fish in the ocean when I was five. My grandpa taught me how to fish in the mountains when I was six. I’ve gathered wild berries to eat and even miner’s lettuce. I’ve made sourdough bread (fourth grade science/home-ec project). I’ve dug clams on Dillon’s beach. I’ve gone out with my dad when he gathered abalone (I was too young). I’d camped out in Desolation Wilderness. Aside from hunting pig and gathering mushrooms, I had already done most of the things Pollan had to discover in the last (and best) section of his book. As a result it didn’t affect me as much as I had thought it would, as much as the earlier sections did.

Which isn’t to say it’s not a great book? I loved it. It is funny and entertaining and has something both interesting and important to say. Everybody should read it. It’s very good. But if you have lived anything close to a traditional rural life—especially in the West—you will see much of it in a “well, duh!” kind of light.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Man's Thanksgiving

Just for the record: my thanksgiving this year was salami, cheese and a salad from a corner deli--though not my corner deli, which was closed. I managed to pick that stuff up on my way home from seeing Beowulf, which is a good way to spend Thanksgiving if you can't have the feast.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oh, speaking of recipes

Remember when I told you all that the lives of men as they grow up are punctuated by encounters with other men who teach them how to do manyly things? Well our fathers are chief among those. I've described my dad before as a real-life Burt Reynolds, both the happy go lucky Hooper Burt Reynolds and the scary manly Deliverance Burt Reynolds.

Well one of the things my dad taught me was to fish (actually, at various times my dad, my step dad, and my grandfather all taught me to fish. Fishing is an ongoing learning process). When my dad came to visit last month I took him fishing. It was great. We went out on a party boat out of Sheepshead Bay for Fluke. (I blogged about this on my livejournal, but it deserves mention here). Nobody ont he boat caught a keeper fluke, but we did pull in a few other thigns, like sea robins. One thing we pulled up were muscles. Well my dad after awhile took one of those muscles and put it ont he end of the hook and BANG! he hooked a really nice bluefish, probably the biggest fish of the day. I did the same thing with a muscle I pulled up and BANG! I pulled in a nice sea bass. We took them home and dad cooked them. He's really good at that.This is what he taught me:

Two cloves fresh garlic
1/8 cup unsalted butter
four fresh fish fliets
half cup flour (optional)
One cup red wine (optional)

*If you wnat to bread the fish do so, but it doeasn't need it
*Crush the garlic
*Melt the butter with the garlic in a frying pan over medium heat
*Place the fish in the pan and sear one side
*Turn and add the wine (this is my addition--dad didn't do this the day we went fishing) IT WILL FLAME
*When the fish is seared on both sides, serve

*Buy some fresh greens: collard greens, spinich, turnip, chard, anything.
*Also get fresh mushooms, red bell peppers, white onion
*In a frying pan coock 1/4 pound of bacon. Do not drain. Break the bacon up
*To the grease in the frying pan add the greens, sliced mushrooms, bell pepper and red onion. Saute until greens are soft but not too limp. Serve forth.


Martha publishes recipes. So should I:

This was published in a snarky article on tailgating in Smart Money magazine. Waht Smart Money was doing covering tailgating I'm not sure. Apparently it is an old tailgating standard, but I've never heard of it. Since it was announced as "traditional" I doubt it's under copywrite:

Beer Can Chicken:
*fire up the webber grill.
*Take one whole chicken, cleaned.
*Pop a beer
*Drink about half the beer
*Stick the beer can up the chicken's ass (the authro used Fosters, which obviously caused a problem at this stage)
*Set the chicken top end up in the barbecue: if the lid won't close, remove the grill and set the chicken in the bottom of the grill with the coals spread round it but not touching it.
*Cook until juices flow clear when punctured. It comes out juicy and tasting of beer.

As an apetizer (fromt he same aticle) Take raw fresh shrimp. dip them in vinegar until they turn grey. Eat them.

And don't forget the beer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Fabulous Miss Joycee

The most fun girl on the planet is th fabulous Miss Joycee. There's just something about those blonde girls from Oregon. She's an interior designer and finishes painter from Sana Cruz who does extremely girly and very sassy work. She is everything Martha Stewart is not. That is to say, she's fun. Joycee is the person who taught me to be tacky at the right time--like putting a Venus de Milo wall paper mural in your bathroom. This is an important lesson for men. Men tend towards the tacky: blow up NFL chairs, dead animals on the wall, Larry the Cable Guy videos. But men all want to be James Bond. Sophisticated. Suave. Debonair. The two are hard to mix. Thats why Joycee, as girly as she is, is useful to men(well, it's far from the only reason: see Blondes from Oregon; Fun). She can set up a high class wine tasting party for a fiend and dress a dwarf who is coming to the party in Elizabethan drag. It's all the same to her because it is all fun, and Joycee personifies fun.