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Dear Judge Barrett,

Congratulations on your confirmation. You are not the Justice who I want and people really should stop pretending that you resemble the genius of Justice Ginsburg. Who knows, you might. But, like RBG, only the time you take to prove it will tell. It will be a tough sell and I’d encourage you to try you hand at being rational despite the person who nominated you.

I see nothing that makes me think you are an immoral or unethical person. In fact, you just said exactly the right things about the separation between your personal beliefs and the law and your separation from political aims. Only time will tell if you act as you have spoken. I hope you will.

I’m always one to respect people until they give me reason not too. Sadly, the guy who nominated you and virtually everyone who voted for your confirmation has fallen into that latter category. That doesn’t mean you will. Think rationally and give all people their share of dignity and perhaps you won’t damage the union too much more.

Now, there IS something that will put you into my disrespected category very quickly. That is if you make decisions that are neither founded in rationality, nor in your Christian morality, nor in you scholarly knowledge of constitutional law. If you make decisions based on politics – as you said 5 minutes ago you would not – and contradict the morality that I hope you possess, then you move to to my disrespect list. Forever.

Here’s what you absolutely must remember. Assuming that you are qualified for this job, and sincere about what you just said about the law, you owe Donald Trump nothing. You owe Mitch McConnell nothing either. Don’t make irreversible decisions based on owing evil forces a debt. You don’t!

I implore you not to mess with this American election, to respect precedent, and to not destroy someone’s legacy just because Donald Trump has a vendetta against a great black President. The country is now largely in your hands. Please don’t contribute to destroying it just because out current President wants. They may be evil; you need not be. Prove yourself worthy of your new position by being beholden to no one.

Good luck.

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Every day, we seem to be making America greater, and greater, and greater again.

In just one week we have seen 14 bombs sent to past presidents and other major critics of Donald Trump AND the worst massacre of Jews in the history of the United States, with 11 people dead.

The country in which I live is no longer some shining light on some hill. We keep hearing people say “Make America Great Again” but that is clearly nonsense.

Perhaps one of the good things about Donald Trump being president of the United States is that China and Japan are now talking about healing their long-lasting wounds and working together. That is a good thing for the world. But, that is a bad thing for our country because it means that we will not remain the world’s great economic superpower.

So, we continue down the path of making America worse. I am among those who deeply loves the country in which I live. It absolutely kills me to see the wanton destruction of what was once the greatest democracy on Earth. That is all I have to say except to urge all of us to pray for the murdered Jewish worshipers and to pray that what little remain of our executive branch will have the balls to call the bombs what they are: assassination attempts. Such evil is NEVER even acceptable to ponder.

Enough!!!!

This is the blog post I planned to right only much, much better!

The brain is sooooo cool!

I just came back from The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal exhibit at NYU’s Grey Gallery. For those who don’t know, Ramon y Cajal (or Cajal as he is commonly refered to) was the father of neuroanatomy. He shared the Nobel Prize with Camillo Golgi in 1906 for using Golgi’s staining method to show that neurons were separate cells (Neuron Doctrine).

What I learned from The Beautiful Brain exhibit is Cajal was an artist and that in fact he approached the nervous system using an artistic approach rather than a modern data-centric style. His drawings are art and not data. And given his track record, I think that modern science, obsessed as it is with data, could benefit from a look at the lessons offered by Cajal.

Cajal’s neurons and brains, retinas and hippocampi rival in artistry the drawings of da Vinci, Dürer, Rembrandt, Kollewitz…

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Help me reach my goal of $500 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention walk. Just click here.

Thanks for helping AFSP!

Love you all!

 

 

As an amateur poet and a big collector of poetry books I must say that I am not typically a fan of books by poets that are not poetry. Poetics is about concision. Novels and essays are generally not. I don’t really view them as requiring comparable skills. 

In at least one case I have been proven very wrong. Patricia Lockwood’s essay “Priestdaddy” is very close to perfect. The book is a masterful integration of the poignancy shown in her “gone viral” poem “Rape Joke”, the irreverent abandon of her Twitter feed, a sense of humor rivaling Jenny Lawson, an honest exploration of family, a childhood of Catholicism, the sexual honesty she is known for, and an utter love of language. This book is a very rare case of perfect balance between prosody and poetics. I applaud her.

The story of Priestdaddy is both very common and insanely unique. It is common because it tells a story that is becoming increasingly common: A married 30-something moving back home with mom and dad. No big deal there. The insane uniqueness comes from the fact that dad is one of the very rarest of Catholic priests: A married one. 

I did not know that it was even possible to be a married Catholic priest. Apparently, one can get the calling anytime and you don’t have to reset you virginity to do it. Also, apparently, you do have to meet certain criteria that can be defined by testing. Step one is that you and the family must be tested to insure you are not insane. Considering the sorry state of child sex abuse in the “one true church” (a topic poignantly covered in the book) it seems they’d be better off giving that test to the celebate virgin applicants, But that is a much bigger topic. In any case, Lockwood’s description of the “test” is absolutely hilarious. 

Daddy was not content as a Lutheran and was – family and all – dirty underwear and all – rags in the sink and all – electric guitar, guns, mysogeny, football, living half-naked in front of the TV, hamburgers and pork rinds, and all – into the holy Catholic priesthood.

Feisty, readheaded, subversively subservient mom is her own piece of work. She cooks huge meals for the seminarians without even flinching when Fr. Lockwood asks why it took so long. She washes piles of her beloved “Priesthubby’s” (I just made that up but I officially herein offer it to you, Trish, if you want the title for a sequel; because it’s a fuckin’ awesome word) dirty underwear. She care’s deeply, perhaps too deeply, about the safety of her children. And… she is as hilariously odd in her own way as daddy is in his. 

I won’t keep going with the character descriptions because I don’t want to spoil too much. Let’s just say that Lockwood’s own post-religion, atheist husband and her “baybay” grunting sister are characterized as wonderfully as dad and mom.

As for Lockwood herself, she portrays her childhood, her sexuality, her ability to drink martinis while seductively showing her belly to vulnerable drunk seminarians, her mastery in turning on her priest-daughter mode at ordaination parties, and her uncanny early love of language with an amazing candor. I hate to again compare her to Jenny Lawson but I really see tha; I genuinely intend that comparison to be a complement. 

Twice, I compared Priestdaddy with the writing of Jenny Lawson. Now I need to state a difference. Patricia Lockwood is unique among poets because she can write an essay this well. But she differs from other essay writers and especially humorists in the clarity, beauty, use of analogy, grammar, vocabulary, and sentence construction, of her writing. I fear that if I give examples, of which there are a multitude, I’ll ruin something for you. But, here are just a couple:

<All my life I have overheard, all my life I have listened to what people will let slip when they think you are part of their we. A we is so powerful. It is the most corrupt and formidable institution on earth. Its hands are full of the crispest and most persuasive currency. Its mouth is full of received, repeating language. The we closes its ranks to protect the space inside it, where the air is different. It does not protect people. It protects its own shape.>

And…

<There has never been a trilogy he didn’t like, and if you don’t understand why, I have three words for you: father, son, and Holy Spirit. Foremost among his favorites is the original Star Wars trilogy, which he fervently believes is about priests in space, and the first three Alien films, which he believes are about how all women are destined to be mothers.>

Those are not even among what I consider the highlights. I won’t give you my favorites because, as I’ve implied, you deserve to laugh and cry and roll your eyes, and vent, and laugh and cry some more all by yourself. I won’t ruin that.

I never would have expected a poet I love to also write one of my favorite bits of prose. But, Patricia Lockwood has done it. Not only should you read this book but you should listen to it too. The Audible Studios production is read by the author and no one can say “BAYBAY”, talk about dirty rags, and tell of showing her erotic stomach to Italian seminarians like the writer herself. 

For the record, I adore this book. 

Also for the record, Ms. Lockwood, your long arms are NOT your only beauty.

Dear Mr. Trump,

I just got off the telephone with a Latina friend. Her high school aged daughter has struggled with depression problems that have largely been under control recently. Today she had a very serious breakdown. I asked my friend what happened.

My friend is Mexican but is married to a Caucasian. She lives in a small town who’s population is primarily middle-class whites. Her daughter has never before experienced racism. This is because, as I found out today her friends have “always considered her white”. 

Two days ago you were elected President. Yesterday, on a school field trip, for the first time, her long-time friends began teasing her about being “a Mexican”. Last night, after the field trip, this lovely young lady was overwhelmed by racist text messages. She awoke this morning in dispair having lost all of the positive changes to her emotional condition.

Mr. Trump, you say you are not a racist; you say you want to bring all Americans together; you say that white supremacist support is not indicative of your values. I desperately want to believe that but, less than 2 days after your election I have a friend whose family is experiencing racism that they had never before seen.

Prove to me this isn’t what you want. Speak out to your supporters and tell them to teach their children not to hurt others. If you can’t do at least that then I see no path to decency.

vote

I have friends and family who strongly disagree with my contention that Donald Trump has many of the behaviors of a certain German leader in the years before WWII, a fascist leaning reminiscent of Mussolini, and a following that is taken nearly verbatim from Elias Canetti’s book “Crowds and Power”. Many of you are not reminded of 1933. Many of you don’t know the history of Europe to which I refer. Some of you don’t care. That is your right.

No matter what you think of my personal position, I hope you will take one last look at the possibility that I’m right and ask yourself if you see a risk to a Trump presidency. I hope I’ve been compelling enough to at least make you think a little.

If I’ve convinced you of nothing then please know that I still love you all and I respect your opinions and unconditionally respect your right to have them.While I want you to believe what I believe I know that many of you don’t. Still, I must tell you this:

The only way to create the country you want to see, the only way to create change, is to use the right that so many of our fore(mothers) have fought for for 2 centuries. Regardless of whether or not you are on my side of this terrifying election…..

Get out and vote!

 

The Pays de Caux is an area encompassing much of the Seine Maritime in Haute-Normandie in Northern France. It is a part of France that I have not visited but, if this desert is an indication of its beauty then, it must be amazing. The Tarte Cauchoise is one of the traditional tartes of this region, thus its name.

I’ve looked for a good recipe for a long time. Finally I have one courtesy of the family who owns and runs the Saint Honore Boulangerie in Portland. Because I’m a total amateur mine looks nowhere near as gorgeous and the one I was taught to make. Further, since the recipe comes from the family bakery in Normandy and I don’t know if I have permission to share it I won’t give you the exact proportions. But I will tell you the basics and show you the photos of my first, delicious if imperfect, attempt.

Basically, a Tarte Cauchoise is an apple tart that uses a puff pastry shell and an almond meal and creme fraiche based custard. The other ingredients are .eggs, sugar, corn starch, milk, and a bit of Grand Marnier. It’s traditionally made with golden delicious apples but, as you will see from my photos, I used several varieties of apple that I picked at my friends farm in Oregon.

So… here we go!

Start by taking a 10″ tarte pan and lining it with puff pastry dough and then parchment paper. Fill it with pie weights and bake it at 375f for about 15 minutes. If you are an actual competent baker (like my wife) yours will look a hell of a lot better than mine. None the less, here’s what I came out with. (Hey! You come make in for me next time!).

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For a single tarte you will need 3 large apples. I selected mine from this wonderful assortment.

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Whisk 2 large eggs in a large mixing bowl.

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Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar.(I like mine a bit less sweet but that is also less authentic)

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Add 1/4 cup of corn starch.

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Add about 1 1/2 cups of almond meal.

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Mix it all up.

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Now add 3/8 cup of creme fraiche. (I make my own from whipping cream, a couple tablespoons of buttermilk, and about 12 hours of sitting out on the kitchen counter)

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And 1 1/4 to 1 3/8 cups of whole milk.

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Mix it again so that you have a nice almond custard.

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Leave the custard alone while you peel and core your apples.

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Cut each apple into 8 slices.

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Remember the pre-baked tart shell? If the dog has not eaten it by now go grab it and fill it with the apple slices.

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Add your custard.

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Bake at 330f for 40 minutes and…

VOILA! You have an amazing desert from the glorious culinary history of Normandy!

Processed with Snapseed.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I neglected to mention the Grand Marnier. That’s because I did not have any when I was taking my photos. (No the dog didn’t get it). You can add it to taste while adding the milk and that is what makes it authentic. I considered adding some Grappa but feared by oven would explode. 🙂 I considered some Cognac but did not want to start a civil war 🙂 I considered buying some Grand Marnier but I don’t think it comes in 1/8 cup bottles 🙂 I decided to just leave that up to you!

Bon Appetit!