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Today’s metaphor-or-something headline: Melania Trump’s Hat Auction Hit by Plunge in Cryptocurrency (NYT, 1/26/22)

That jade fylfot charm pawned for one-and-three

The offence that had circuitously brought 'il Rasojo' and his 'lot'
within the cognizance of Scotland Yard outlines the kind of story that
is discreetly hinted at by the society paragraphist of the day, politely
disbelieved by the astute reader, and then at last laid indiscreetly
bare in all its details by the inevitable princessly 'Recollections' of
a generation later. It centred round an impending royal marriage in
Vienna, a certain jealous 'Countess X' (here you have the discretion of
the paragrapher), and a document or two that might be relied upon (the
aristocratic biographer will impartially sum up the contingencies) to
play the deuce with the approaching nuptials.

-- Ernest Bramah, The Game Played in the Dark (a Max Carrados story)

I would leave the fylfot in the pawnshop if I were you.


Old ways and new ways

Bread-baking season started again in October, when it finally got cool enough to have the oven on (although it remains, in mid-November, unseasonably mild). I made a satisfactory couple of loaves following Mark Bittman’s easy (food processor-kneaded) sandwich loaf process. I varied the flours, sweetener, liquid, and fat each time, and made no detailed notes, but I am getting a better feel for the texture of dough at each stage and for the shaping of loaves.  I get nice flavor and a pretty good, well-knitted texture in a bread that can last me a week of skinny slices. It turns out that watching the rise timings helps. With those two successes behind me, I attempted a much more complex recipe for French loaves found in BAKING WITH JULIA, edited by Dorie Greenspan. I started with old dough, saved from the previous week’s baking, waking it up with a little water the night before. This went into a first starter, which then made a second starter, which then went through two long rises before shaping and final rise.  The dough looked great, stretchy with big and small holes, through the second starter and even the first rise, but the second rise almost didn’t. The dough had become almost inert, seemingly.  I shaped two small baguettes, following the instructions rather impatiently — it was now eight o’clock on the second day, or twenty-four hours into the process. Maybe they should have rested longer than an hour, but I was out of time.  So into the oven they went. And there was enough oven spring to make the two sad, poorly formed logs burst and bulge out in various directions, but not enough to make the texture less than leaden. Well, whipped lead. Still edible, but dense and somewhat gummy. Rather than developing a crisp brown crust, they had the mottled look of a redheaded glassblower. Continue reading



Checking into this whole shrub fad. Rachel H got us delicious ones at a farm stand after the Central PA Saturday singing last year, and then of course Ted S simply drinks vinegar.  Anyhow, I made some ginger switchel from this recipe  – vinegar, honey, ginger, water. It’s resting in the fridge now. I used less honey than suggested, we’ll see if it needs more. I bet it’ll be good with seltzer and bourbon. (Haven’t got the book yet.)

Haruspex Day 2015

The Ides of March roll round again. And once again, lousy haruspex as I am, I have no predictions for you, except the eternal and obvious (the snowdrops and crocuses will appear and give way to the daffodils and tulips, et cetera).  So this year’s link is to this note on the apotropaic function of Caesar’s reported words to his killers: And the same to you!

They Also Serve: Maps to the Stars

“Maps to the Stars” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Bad language, bad sex, bad vibes.

A.O. Scott on Maps to the Stars.


Haruspex Day 2011

Superstitious thinking at work: I couldn’t help a leap of hope that the restoration of our crashed library system overnight was a good omen for the Japanese reactors. Irrational, but irresistible.

A little something to read on Haruspicy on the Ides of March. I have only glanced at it myself. Here‘s what I said on 3/15/09.

Reading: Elizabeth Hardwick

I found these stories by Elizabeth Hardwick rather draining overall, but I liked the characterization below:

From “The Classless Society” in The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick

With his impatient, moralizing bent, Clarence was a powerful enemy. Clarence’s enmity was, like the Nesbitts’ insults, purely verbal. He did not wish to effect a deterioration in his antagonist’s circumstances so much as to cause everyone to think of his victim precisely as he did. If he thought someone charmingly foolish or harmlessly inane, he was not satisfied until the whole world acknowledged their foolishness or inanity. It was an agony to him that there might exist an intelligent person who knew his circle of friends and yet saw the various members of it in a light opposed to his own. To insist on his own view was, to his mind, “telling the truth.” Stubbornly he repudiated the tolerant, careless opinion, and with a great show of idealism and objectivity he corrected it.

— p 108

AMUSE concert tonight, 8:00

I was given the opportunity to sing with the women’s chorus Amuse in tonight’s program of sacred music by contemporary women composers of the ex-British colonies (US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia). We expect one of the composers, Catherine Aks, to be in the audience; will she notice that we have moved the placement of the first sopranos’ final “ia” to the last note from the next to last?

As an inducement, I suggest that in this grim political season you will enjoy hearing us singing fiercely about casting the powerful out of their seats.

It’s at St. Ignatius of Antioch at 8, but I have to be there at 6:30 — so I’d better get moving. Send good thoughts for my high notes holding out through the program.

singing, weekend of December 4

Lower East Side shapenote at the Living Room on Saturday, 2-5: Renaissance Street Singers at Chelsea Market on Sunday, 2-4.