Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I need a life.

I got a LOT of reading done in the last week or so. Work slow down? Nothin’ on TV? None of my stuff in the Netflix queue? A little bit of all of the above. So here’s a go at quickly summing up some good and not so good books that have been on the horizon.

Oh my god, I got something from the library that wasn’t scifi! Or fantasy! Gimme a break, it had a pretty picture on the cover. Mozart’s Sister, by Nancy Moser follows the life of, yup, you guessed it, Mozart’s sister Nannerl (Anna Maria). When they were children, Papa Mozart carted them around Europe as child geniuses. Nannerl was the only one who didn’t know her future didn’t involve the stage, but a husband, a house, and babies. Quite the shock. Not having met a single other female who wasn’t a wife/mother/widow, she should have seen it coming, don’t you think? The writing had a modern feel to it, which really didn’t match the Mozart families traditional cathlolic values. Nannerl seems a woman out of place. Nancy Moser gave a little blurb at the end about how she got involved in the writing the story. She made her religious views pretty clear, and they don’t match my own. How awful is it, that I allow something like that to color my thoughts on a book? I read somewhere that a story can only live if the author is dead. Because the story should be about the damn story, not the author.

Back to Scifi, I also picked up The Secret City, by Carol Ermshwiller, who has won about a bazillion awards. Aliens who look pretty much just like humans have visited Earth, as “tourists”. They can blend in pretty well, and all expect to go home soon. When they are abandoned here, the next generation is born here, and they know nothing of their homeworld. When the rescuers do arrive, the earth-born aliens don’t want to go home, because Earth has become their home. The Secret City is a character driven novel, not much action, not much sciency-ness. The back cover says it’s “New Age”. I’m thinking I aughta avoid New Age for a while, or maybe take a break from character driven novels for once, and hook up with some fun easy action. Star Wars, anyone?

In the “continued from last time” section, I blew through CLAMP’s xxxHolic, and in fact, it was so fun, I think I might read it again. The crossover snippets are almost as sweet as Yuko’s wardrobe, I’m still trying to figure where one part of her kimono ends, and the next begins. Somone’s got to be working on liscencing this for an anime, but they’d probably screw it up. The more manga I read, the more I’m finding the anime versions are usually cheap (yet sexy) imitations. I’m amazed at how much more emotion Mangaka are able to convey through a black and white comic book, than through an animated tv show or movie. Still slogging through Frank Herbert’s White Plague. you know, this started out so good. After 100 pages or so, it went to crap. I own it, so I can slowly torture myself with the pedantic writing, crappy dialogue, and annoying characters. Herbert keeps introducting new minor characters, which is cool because many of them are interesting, but our main dude, John, is just a jerk. Yes, I realize he’s been through major trauma and may be suffering from multiple personality disorder, but Herbert hasn’t convinced me to care. Maybe there’s a cool gunfight or explosion at the end.

On the horizon: The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Bettor. Starts out with some super slick marker drawings of playing card soldiers. Very slick! Luckily, I’ve got Frank’s annoying intro letting me know he’s already working on the screenplay. Little cocky, are we? The 2nd Wheel of Time book The Great Hunt has also made it into my apartment, and my other half keeps telling how awesome it is. Damnit, I might be getting sucked into that annoying series.

Books, books books! I need some cookies!

Gotta give credit where credit is due, this recipe is stolen directly from The Joy of Cooking. Makes about 30 2.5” cookies, so I usually make a double batch.

You’ll need:
2 sticks butter, room temp.
1 cup sugar (brown or white)
0.5 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
2.5 cups flour

cream butter with sugar & salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Add the flour all at once, and stir until combined. It’ll be pretty heavy and a little cakey. Divide in half and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a few hours (over night is best). To make cookies, using about a tablespoon at a time, roll cold dough into a ball, and then flatten with the palm of your hand. bake on a rimmed cookie sheet at 375 for about 10-12 minutes, or until the tops dry out and the bottom edges just turn brown. Cool on wire racks, and keep in an airtight container.

This recipe is great, because you can add whatever flavorings you want. Any liquid flavorings like melted and cooled chocolate, orange zest, mint flavoring, peanut butter, nuts (nuts are oily, and are therefore liquids) should be added before you put the flour in. any dry flavorings, like spices (any spices that go in pie are great in cookies!), should be added with the flour. I usually use brown sugar, but I made a batch of mint cookies with white sugar, and they were delish! I’ll typically make four half-batches, so I can easily do four flavors. If you’re going to do a half batch, use one egg, and one egg yolk.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Just Desserts

I haven’t posted enough desserts. Scratch that, I haven’t posted enough easy desserts. If you can’t make this one, you shouldn’t have a kitchen. I’ve know this recipe since I was about 8 years old.

Rice crispie treats
1 stick butter
4 cups mini-marshmallows
6 cups rice crispies.

Melt the butter in a large pot over low-med heat. Add the marshmellows and stir well. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the rice crispies. Once it is well blended, pour into a large rectangular baking dish. Using wax paper, press down on the mixture so it flattens out and filled the bottom of the dish. Refridgerate till firm, cut with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Enjoy.

See? Wasn’t that easy? Damn. . . I need to go buy some rice crispies. Cuz now I really want some rice crispie treats! I know. . . books will distract me! Until I can find some healthy snack that doesn’t involve butter and sugar.

So I went to B&N over the weekend, hoping to find Fullmetal Alchemist volume 6, which appears to be out of print. Looks like I’m going to have to hit e-bay. It does appear, however that B&N is about the double or triple the size of their graphic novel/manga area. Take that you crappy romance section! I love manga. I spend more money on this crap during the year than I spend on clothes. So no FMA, but CLAMP is putting out 3 volume omnibus editions of some of their most popular Manga, and I am now the proud parent of xxxHolic, volumes 1-3! For $14! How can you beat that??? Damn you CLAMP, and your witty snarky romances, your intense fashion sense and your fabulous artwork! You sucked me into Tokyo Babylon, and now you’re doing the same thing with xxxHolic! Although I have no idea how to pronouce xxxHolic (ex-ex-ex-Holic? Ex-holic? Triple-ex-holic?) it’s a really fun story. Yuko is a witch of sorts, and she’ll grant you any wish you want, provided you really want it granted. Her price can be all sorts of things: your time, your memories, a portion of your soul. The more you want the wish to happen, the higher the price. Did I mention she’s got a set of soul-less freaky twins who work for her, a house full of goodies, and a wicked fashion sense? What I would give to Cosplay her! The CLAMP ladies have a fun habit of overlaying their plot-lines, as in Yuko mentions things that happen in Tokyo Babylon, and there is a LOT of crossover from their new baby, Tsubasa. Ladies of CLAMP, you’re going to get me to put out tons of cash to catch up on Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa, and the rest of Tokyo Babylon and xxxHolic, aren’t you?

If you skipped that paragraph because you’re not into Manga and you have no idea what I was talking about, this paragraph is for you. I’m also reading The White Plague by Frank Herbert. I’ve never read this before. I’d heard all sorts of bad things about it, but I’m quite liking it. it started out all fast and furious, mad man tries to get his revenge on the world, especially on those IRA nuts whose bombs killed his wife and children. Herbert’s characterization is strained, I know he can do better. When he’s talking about lunatic John O’Neill, he does a great job developing him a serial killer. And I kinda of want to feel bad for O’Neill, since now he’s got this split personality thing going on. But he’s such a damn bastard. And the worldwide plague thing is interesting. What else would force governments and peoples to work together, than a global plague that only kills you if you are of a certain nationality, and has 100% mortality in females? The conversations between government officials are fascinating, as they prepare to write off entire corners of the globe, just to save pockets elsewhere. Herbert, you are a master of the big picture. White plague? Kinda like black plague, except it turns your skin white, ‘steada black.

Also the plate for the next few weeks: still digging through that Cthulhu short story book. I’m finding that as much as I enjoy short sf/horror stories from the 20s and 30s, I don’t think I enjoy 300 pages of them. Question of the day: is Cthulhu over rated? And I got more. . . manga! From the library!