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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Crap Food from the Seventies

This stuff is too awful to even be junk food. Junk food is stuff that people LIKE to eat. I doubt if anyone ever prepared, let alone ate, Dish Number One. It is the ugliest 'sandwich loaf' I've ever seen. Even James Lileks can't beat this. It's in gross, 1973-era color. I don't know what to hate first: the purplish, lumpy interior of the decomposing blue log? The reddish streaks on the side? or the cheery flowers that lend the only 'natural' touch to this utterly disgusting mess?
The finishing directions are all that I'm willing to print of the actual recipe. "To finish: Frost top and sides of loaf with green-tinted cheese; make a decorative border of yellow cheese. Garnish with fresh flowers or use other garniture--radish roses, carrot curls and stuffed olives."
Note to self: NEVER EAT BLUE FOOD. It's a good rule.
Americans are suckers for royalty and this apparently extends to the humble casserole dish. This particular set of recipes (THE COMPLETE FAMILY RECIPE CARD SERIES COLLECTION, 1973) features not one, but two, crowns-o'-food.
Poor Crown-o'Franks was assembled from cream of chicken soup, milk, potatoes, bacon, onion, a few green beans (as a sop to those Natural Food freaks that were just becoming noticeable at the time) and of course the franks, obviously not kosher.
It seems that someone tried to liven up this rather depressing repast by arranging the franks so that they formed a little crown. How cute. The other crowned recipe in the set, stunningly named "Burger Beef Tiara" featured Bisquick biscuits surrounding chopped meat and a few disconsolate stringbeans. This tiara wasn't designed to be worn. Just admired.

Friendly Advice from Pies

You don't want to meet the UNfriendly Dessert Pies, trust us. Follow the directions. Buy the Friendly Dessert Pies from our good friend Louie,and he won't have to slam the telephone into your head again.

Chafing Dish that will Leave You Chafing

Here's the recipe for CHAFING DISH HORS D'OEUVRE. I knew you couldn't wait to read more fine recipes from this great cookbook. You're welcome!

I'll use dried-blood-coloured ink to give you that authentic, meaty feeling. The designer has bloodlike gouts of red decorating every page in irregular bursts. Yum.
But now to the meat of the matter. Literally. Guten Appetit!

Show your pretty dish
off to advantage. Keep the hors d'ouvre hot during pre-dinner relaxation

2 packages SWIFT'S

2 cups (20 fluid oz.)
applesauce (pureed)

1 ounce red cinnamon
candies or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 drops red food

Cut each link into 4 to 5
pennywise slices. Brown and heat in the skillet. Shake the pan to turn them so
they brown evenly. Place a toothpick in each sausage piece. PLace applesauce,
candies, and coloring in a chafing dish, then heat until candies are
dissolved. Add browned sausage pieces pick side up to the sauce. Serve

(There's no mention of an antidote. And this cookbook has never been used. I can see why.)

Now to what Lily Tomlin, as Ernestine the telephone operator, used to call the "Piece of Resistance"--FROSTED CANNED HAM. This recipe isn't really that different from a Baked Virginia ham though it substitutes 'lemon jelly powder' for honey or maple syrup. It's the name of the dish that makes me want to retch. I had an irrepressible mental image of a ham covered with white artificially-flavoured vanilla icing with cherries on top (the recipe in fact does call for strawberries as a garnish)

I think that the pre-relaxation-hour gave guests time to prepare to face the horrid reality of the 1956 Swift-inspired dinner table.
Most of the hors d'ouvres recipes tell you to use a 'pick' to hold them together ("Wrap Swift's Bacon around Cracker. Secure with pick")
Maybe they should use an icepick? Pickaxe? Pickup truck?
Who knows. They might taste good.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

There Will Be Blood--and Cookies

Crazy Cookbook

Get a load of what I found in a junk shop in Rochester!
And believe it or not, I can't find reference to this anywhere else. It's from the CNE, which appeared to be related to the yearly Canadian National exhibition now held at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. I have no idea where it was held back in the day.The back cover states that Swift's, which sponsored the Disneyland program, was celebrating its 101st anniversary the year this undated cookbook came out.
This means it's from 1956. What's curious is that the Tinkerbelle character who appears throughout the book looks nothing like the Disney version at all. She looks like she's burning up the entire kitchen in the illustration for WALTZ OF THE FLOWERS TARTS. Other Disney-like illustrations appear occasionally. There's a castle, sort of, on the cover, and a pumpkin coach that has been modified to look like a casserole dish later on (actually, this is a very nice touch). My favorite illustration is called HAVE A DISNEYLAND FRONTIERLAND PARTY FOR THE KIDS. The two kids in the picture look like homicidal maniacs, or maybe they're just upset. After all, they're just disembodied heads with glazed expressions. "PLANNING ADDS ZIP TO THE PARTY" (No Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, folks?)
The planning is described in somewhat alarming terms.
The caps are theirs. There IS something wrong with the kiddie guests. Probably they're on work/study from the local pen. Keep 'em amused and nobody gets hurt.
Some of the suggested games include normal stuff like Pin the Tail on the Donkey. But hey, it's 1956. That game is just for the cowBOYS. "Little girl Indians could quickly dress a papoose, if you handed out some rags, scissors and a small plastic cupey (sic) doll." Some fun. I think they meant kewpie.
Adventureland calls for a barbecue. "Get your husband or a volunteer to start the fire early..." Yep, it's definitely 1956. Most women couldn't be trusted with matches and lighter fluid back then.
Since this is Swift's show, most of the recipes call for ham and other meat products. There is a halfhearted attempt to work Disney into the mix with things like the Waltz of the Flowers Tarts, which I half expected to be meat-based. They weren't, and the cakes might actually be nice if made today. FROSTED CANNED HAM was, however, distressing.
The TOMORROWLAND section has some of the finest writing in the book. "When you wish upon a star what are your expectations of the dreamland just beyond the rainbow?...Maybe your dreams are as sophisticated as a slick ranch home--or perhaps something just as simple as a new outfit."
What else can I say.
I'll try scanning in some more of the illustrations from this incredible book.
Incidentally, it was written by someone named MARTHA LOGAN, but she's no relation to the character on TV today.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Here are two more good reasons to move to Canada.
The pictures were taken on my 2005 train trip on the CANADIAN train across Canada.
Picture Number One was taken in British Columbia and the lower picture, one of the finest I've ever shot, was taken in Ontario's 'cottage country'.
THE CANADIAN, incidentally, is the train featured in the 2008 Oscar animation nominee MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI. This is somewhat anachronistic since the train actually dates from the 1950s, and the film takes place in the Twenties.
It's a wonderful train, and a wonderful trip.

The Story So Far

I really do want to blog more often, but a combination of some kind of creeping crud and the usual fuss involved in the end of another school term have prevented much of that lately.
RIT has its 'spring break' in the middle of the winter due to its term system. Sheridan uses the semester system, which means spring break is where Spring usually occurs. The faculty do not have a break then; they spend it reviewing student applicants' portfolios.
Anyway, I've got some business to attend to once I am over the slight indisposition I've suffered for about a week now. Grades have to be posted, one student pencil test has to be screened with me present in the audience, and then the real fun starts.
It seems that Australia now requires fingerprints for positive identification of people, so I'm going to have to get to the Rochester police fingerprint division in the very short hours of their operation and pay for another set. I may get two as long as I'm there in case someone else needs them.
Then, packing commences in earnest. There are certain advantages to being at a major university. They throw out a tremendous amount of packaging. I've gotten about forty per cent of my packing boxes from recycling bins in the apartment building and in the hallways of RIT. The uni's trash included some splendid heavy duty computer boxes that I asked for and that the support staff kindly saved for me, two complete packing kits for large screens (one of which was used to pack the very rare animating Mickey Mouse picture, the other will be used for the screen for this computer). Yesterday I found styrofoam inserts for several large Dell screens (three complete sets, I couldn't carry the fourth) and one of them will hold the larger screen for the video system, others can pad the posters. A kind grad student helped me haul everythign in his small SUV (so the things are good for something.) I'll have some additional help with the stereo and its mare's nest of cables, which will be photographed before packing so I can reassemble the mess singlehanded once I'm in Toronto. At least there is one less machine to plug in. I sent back the "Cinea" player that the Academy sent me three years ago. It's been used precisely once, and no one encodes their discs any more, so it was just ballast.
Then at the beginning of March I'm off to Toronto for a presentation or two at Sheridan (topic is fairly casual, but is based on character design this time, not storyboard; I am bringing the student pencil test to compare it with its Leica reel. It will be fun to see how it plays.)
While I'm there I will be searching for an apartment in earnest, walking around some neighbourhoods and exploring side streets. It's important to do this in Toronto when there is snow on the ground, since some streets are not plowed regularly--shades of Rochester! I'll be walking around Port Credit, Long Branch, and possibly Mimico to see what I can see and possibly introduce myself to a few prospective landlords.
Lots of folks in Canada are offering help, and I have spoken to a realtor or two, so that at least gives me some idea of what neighbourhoods are likeliest. Everyone I know in the Toronto area says to live close to the school, which unhappily rules out my dream of living near the St. Lawrence Market since Sheridan is in Oakville and not in Toronto at all. Well, they have a point; the commute can be irregular on the GO train, and it is vitally important to get to work on time. I will listen to them and look a bit farther afield, then go into the city on the weekends.

The computer started to show signs of senility and general cussedness, so I purchased something called the Uniblue Power Suite at Dad's suggestion. I don't get paid for saying this, but if you are on a Windows machine, you need this product. Mr. Computer is humming along now, relieved of about 500 registry errors and 13 infected cookies. If you don't know what a registry is, you REALLY need to use this thing. I am relieved at not having to hire someone to come and pick through it manually.

That's the update for now. Gizmo is adapting to the packing. She has developed a taste for the air pillows that frequently cushion books and printed matter nowadays. I heard a strange chew-chew-stretch POP and got two of them away from her, sadly after the popping. The others are on a high shelf that she can't jump to without knocking over a lot of stuff. Since she's an intelligent cat she never jumps anywhere that doesn't have a clear surface.
This is why many surfaces in the apartment have been cluttered for as long as I can remember. At least it's a nice excuse.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

There Will be Laughs

I am definitely out of touch with this century. Or at least with the century's movies. What is it about some of the Oscar contenders that makes them receive raves from critics when a simple viewing reveals them to be utterly mediocre?
THERE WILL BE BLOOD has a 95% positive rating on It has a raft of Oscar nominations. And it's a perfectly ridiculous movie.
I and two grad students were laughing hysterically at the slapping scenes--but why go into lurid detail? There was no way I was going to accept Daniel Day-Lewis as an American, and his character had no development whatsoever--we're suddenly told he hates people, but nothing in the previous hour has shown why or how. It just happens.
This appears to be a common problem in modern screenplays; characters don't hold the center of the film, so why watch it? There were some pretty effects and the first hour wasn't bad.
But then I read some of OIL! the Upton Sinclair book that the film was supposed to be based on, and did a double take. Is this really the same story? Where are the female charaters? (In the movie, you never find out what happened to the boy's mother; in Sinclair's novel, she is a major character.)
The book was fascinating, even in brief online increments. The movie was just laughable. We were cracking up at the ending...
I had to explain what OSCAR BAIT was to the two foreign students. THERE WILL BE BLOOD is someone's party piece, or payback for an ego trip.

Why Move to Canada?

A poster has inquired what the differences were on the southern side of the Canadian border. I was going to answer in a brief note but this deserves a full blog entry.

There are 180 miles as the car flies between Rochester and Toronto. The two cities have similar climates and growing seasons. Both are on or near Lake Ontario. There the similarities end.

Toronto has excellent public transportation. Rochester's is a sometimes-functional bus service that is extremely deficient in the suburbs. (RIT is in the suburbs.) City routes are not coordinated and there are invariably long waits for buses. Schedules are not posted. Formerly they were changed without notice every three months. Lately they have standardized the times but there are never schedules on the buses; you have to download them online. The assumption is that you must drive a car if you really want to go anywhere.

Toronto is ten times the size of Rochester. The latter city is in decline, with a shrinking population and tax base. There are great cultural landmarks here, most of which are not publicized and some of which are underutilized by the city --the best known is probably George Eastman House, one of the finest collections of film and motion picture materiels in the world. Rochester also has the Susan B. Anthony House, two parks designed by Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmstead, an early Prairie house by Frank Lloyd Wright, a mile of splendid turn of the twentieth century mansions on East Avenue, not one but two waterfalls in the downtown core, a river, the Erie Canal, the Rochester Jazz Festival, and of course the city's noble history as the American terminus of the Underground Railroad. Rochester was central to abolitionist publishing --Frederick Douglass' magazine was published here-- the Spiritualist Movement, and the Women's Movement. Rochester has a small yet active Green movement and there are many local organic farms. There is a very good farmer's market and one food co-0p.

Rochester is not even mentioned in travel guides to Western New York. A neighbour called it the 'best kept secret' in the area. It's a secret since no one in the government or Chamber of Commerce manages to get the news out that there is something to see here besides the House of Guitars, which is all that the Canadian travelers on the late ferryboat that ran from Rochester to Toronto came to see. I should know because I asked them. That ferryboat was handled as badly as all the rest of Rochester's public transportation. If there was a mistake to make in transportation, Rochester made it. They even had a subway here! It ran for only thirty years before they took it out to build a freeway on top of it. Rochester is a textbook case of what author James Howard Kunstler called the greatest mis-investment of national treasure in the history of the country--the worship of the automobile and the cancerous growth of suburbia. Rochester is being sucked dry by suburbs that benefit from city services but don't pay city taxes. Some of them, such as Pittsford, are charming and well heeled little villages tastefully restored (an architecht told me they learned from the mistakes of Rochester not to destroy their prime Victorian business district). Other nearby towns are sprawling suburbs with monstrous newly constructed McMansions on the local farmland. There is a concrete wasteland with depressing strip malls.

And it's no coincidence that with the exception of the Wright house and the Eastman collection, most of Rochester's glories were produced in the nineteenth century.
The George Eastman Theatre is lovely, but there is no bright nightlife, cafes or any beauty in the downtown core. It was left to rot after 1964 race riots. And the city was treebarked by an ugly freeway and ring road in the 1960s, dislocating RIT's campus to the boring suburb of Henrietta and further strangling the downtown business district.

So Toronto may not be perfect, but there is a lot more to do there, you can get around without a car, and they make sensible use of their waterfront.
In addition there is the new job, which is a great improvement on the one I have now. Sheridan College is one of the greatest animation schools in the world.

So that's the answer to the question. Next?