Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hopping Johns and Collards

It's suppose to be lucky to eat Hoppin' Johns and Collards on New Years day as it represents coins and paper money.

The black-eyed pea, also known as the cow pea, is thought to have originated in North Africa, where it has been eaten for centuries. The peas were probably introduced to the New World by Spanish explorers and African slaves, and have become a common food in the southern United States. Hoppin' Johns consists of black-eyed peas (or field peas) and rice, with chopped onion and sliced bacon, seasoned with salt. Some people substitute ham hock, pork sausage or fatback for the conventional bacon; a few serve with chopped raw onions, green peppers or relish/chow-chow. Smaller than black-eyed peas, field peas are used in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia. On the day after New Year's Day, leftover "Hoppin' John" is called "Skippin' Jenny". This thriftiness brings hope for an even better chance of prosperity in the new year. According to Wikipedia, "one tradition common in the Southern USA is that each person at the meal should leave three peas on their plate to assure that the New Year will be filled with Luck, Fortune and Romance. Another tradtion holds that counting the number of peas in a serving predicts the amount of luck (or wealth) that the diner will have in the coming year." I don't think I'll be counting my peas but it might be a fun exercise to get kids involved in eating their black eyed peas.

Collards are greens cultivated for its thick, slightly bitter edible leaves. Plant in early spring for a summer harvest and again in midsummer for fall and early winter harvest. As you can see, they are available year-round, but many people believe that they are tastier and more nutritious in the cold months, after the first frost. For best flavor and texture, the leaves should be picked before they reach their maximum size. The plant is grown mainly in Brazil, Portugal, the Southern United States, many parts of Africa, Montenegro, Spain and Kashmir. They are often prepared with other similar green leaf vegetables, such as kale, turnip greens, spinach, and mustard greens. A mixed batch of greens is referred to as "a mess o' greens" in the South. They are generally eaten year-round here. Typical seasoning when cooking collards can consist of smoked and salted meats (ham hocks, pork neckbones, fatback or other fatty meat. Add diced onions, vinegar, salt and pepper, butter, or relish/chow-chow. Collards are considered to be a healthy food as they are good sources of vitamin C, soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties. Though greens did not originate in Africa, the habit of eating greens that have been cooked down into a low gravy, and drinking the juices from the greens (known as "pot likker") is of African origin. Pot likker is a highly concentrated, vitamin-filled broth left over from cooking the greens. The slaves of southern plantations were given the leftover food from the plantation kitchen. Some of this food consisted of the tops of turnips and other greens.

Hoppin' John
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
1 pound spicy bulk pork sausage
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups beef broth, homemade or canned
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups long-grained rice
    In a large saucepan, bring the peas and water to a boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, cover tightly, and let stand for 1 hour. (Or in a large bowl, combine the peas with enough cold water to cover by 3 inches, and let stand overnight at room temperature.)
    Drain well.

    In a 5-quart Dutch oven, cook the sausage, onion, and garlic over medium heat, stirring often to break up the sausage, until it loses its raw look, about 10 minutes. Pour off all excess fat.

    Add the drained peas, water, and red and white peppers. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the peas are tender, about 1 1/4 hours. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.

    Meanwhile, bring the beef broth, butter, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the rice, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff the rice and transfer it to a deep serving bowl.

    Pour the peas over the rice, mix well, and serve immediately.

    In my family, we didn't add the sausage (although that sounds delicious). We cooked the beans in the crockpot with a ham bone, ham, or some raw bacon and add the cooked peas to rice just before serving. We like to sprinkle chopped raw onions on top or add a little relish called chow-chow.

    Fresh collard greens, washed, chopped with thick stem removed (Keep in mind that greens can fill a pot when fresh but they cook wwaayy down.)
    Chicken or beef broth
    1-2 pieces of raw bacon (apple smoked Gwaltney bacon is good)
    Hot red pepper flakes to taste
    Salt to taste
    Apple cider vinegar to taste
    Sauteed chopped onions

    After sauteeing the onions, put all ingredients into your crockpot or a dutch oven pot on the stovetop. Add enough water to make sure greens are covered. Cook them covered, slowly for 3 hours.

    We serve them with butter, chopped raw onions, sprinkled with vinegar or chow-chow. You can substitute white wine for the apple cider. You could also add a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar if you like your greens sweet.

    2009, Take Jon Gosselin With You. Please!

    Let's end this year by one last post (for the year, not forever) about the asshat that is Jon Gosselin, shall we? I should have known that something regarding him was going to surface shortly because things had just been too darn quiet on the guy-with-eight-children-divorces-wife-and-acts-like-an-a-hole-in-public front for too darn long. And if any of Jon Gosselin's other antics were any indication, he's such a media whore that it was likely just killin' him that his self-congratulatory mug of much greater girth was not plastered all over the Internet and the supermarket tabloid covers. What to do? What to do? Slink away quietly into oblivion and try to co-raise your eight children without very many public to-dos? Naaahhh. What say you allegedly fake up a burglary of your New York apartment so that you can blame it on the chick that you've been sleeping with, all right? All right!

    Here's the scoop: According to the alphabet folks over there at ABC News, Jon Gosselin had spent Christmas with his children (shocking, I know!) and when he returned home to his apartment in New York, it was to "...find his brand new, Upper West Side apartment burglarized and wrecked beyond belief." Huh. Really? Hmmm. What else?

    Well, according to his lawyer, a one Mark Heller (fitting), "he entered his apartment in Manhattan and was horrified, disheartened and saddened to observe the devastation of his furniture, clothing and personal belongings, which were apparently slashed with a butcher knife by a very troubled and sick perpetrator." Um, since when did statements by lawyers turn into Shakespearean soliloquies? "Disenheartened and saddened to observe"? Who in the heck says stuff like that in regard to coming home to find some of your stuff missing and your remaining stuff trashed? Not many people that I know, that's for sure. My reaction upon coming home to something like that would have been, "WTF" and "911". But, according to his spokeshole attorney, Jon's reaction was that he "...immediately contacted me and facilitated the able assistance of the New York City Police Department who immediately dispatched an experienced detective to Jon's apartment." Huh.

    Now, maybe it's just because I don't have eight children and haven't recently divorced my wife because I'm such a dill hole that I don't understand that reaction. His first reaction is to call his attorney? Because he couldn't "facilitate the able assistance of the NYPD" on his own? Is he not familiar with 911 and how that whole system works? Did he forget the number to 911? I don't understand why he had to call his attorney first. And what's with the mentioning that they "immediately" sent out an "experienced detective"? Was he afraid we'd all get the impression that the NYPD took their time before sending over a complete idiot? I don't get that.

    The spokeshole/attorney claimed that Jon "found a note "speared" into his wooden dresser. His television, CD player, coffee maker, Nintendo Wii, dishes, pots and pans had been taken from his home. Clothing, luggage and bedding were slashed." All right. Hold on a minute. A person who is going to steal a Wii, a TV and a CD player is not the same person who is going to steal pots and pans. What's up with that? And a note "speared" into the dresser? Is this like some really bad, unaired episode of The Sopranos or something? Who does that? Actually, who rips off and then trashes someones apartment and then leaves a note? Um, no one. That's who. No one.

    Now, it would appear that asshat Jon Gosselin and his girlfriend or whatever she is, Hailey Glassman, were sharing that apartment. It has since been claimed by Hailey that he was "abusive" towards her and she moved out. Glassman's attorney, a one Anand Ahuja (pronounce that any way you'd like) says, that Hailey "....didn't take anything from that apartment that she was not entitled to take with her." OK, this is starting to make a little more sense. See if you follow me here.

    He goes back to Pennsylvania or Transylvania or wherever the heck he's from and while he's gone, she makes like a tree and leaves. She grabs her stuff (hence the disappearance of the pots and pans) and takes it with her. She doesn't tell him she's doing this because, well, why would she? These people haven't been acting like grown-ups since they thrust themselves into the media limelight this entire time, I don't know why we'd expect them to start doing so now. He returns back to his bachelor pad to find her stuff gone. She probably did leave him a note, but I highly doubt that she speared it on his dresser with a butcher knife. (Now that I think about it, that doesn't really sound as much like The Sopranos as it does like Scooby Doo.)

    He reads the note and is ticked off that she's gone. He trashes the place himself, perhaps on purpose to blame it on her, perhaps just out of anger and then realizes that he's done something incredibly stupid and, like everything else in his life, refuses to take responsibility for it and has to blame it on someone else. Either way, I would be surprised if it turns out that Hailey had anything to do with the destruction of the apartment.

    I'd also be very surprised if anyone else had anything to do with the trashing of the apartment other than asshat Jon Gosselin because it isn't like that isn't a secured apartment building or anything. It's not like there are not cameras and it's not like there is not security and it's not like just anyone could make their way up there. And have you ever tried to break into an apartment from just the hallway? I haven't either, but I would imagine that the logistics of it make it rather difficult. Thus all of this points to one person. That's right. Dumbass.

    He might have figured that a little publicity can't hurt him. After all, about every deal that I had heard that he had in the works hasn't gone through. Since their show "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" was cancelled, I haven't heard of any other shows in the works for him. He was so incredibly stupid that he thought that the show worked simply because he was on it. He was so incredibly stupid and full of himself that he thought that even if they were divorced, that he was just so g-d fascinating that the offers would just come rolling in for him. For some reason. When they didn't and he realized that not only did his meal ticket not exist anymore, but he realized that he was the one that tore it up, well, that's when times get tough. And when times get tough, what better way than to continue your delusions of grandeur than to trash your own apartment and blame it on a woman?

    And if for some reason you're at this point and you don't quite see how out of touch Jon is with everything in this world, let me share with you another little tidbit that his lawyer, Mark Heller, is quoted by Radar Online as saying: "Jon feels like he was raped." You know what? Guys don't get to say that. Guys don't get to say that they feel like they've been raped, got it? You know why? Because they don't, that's why. Jon Gosselin, you Dip-S, you don't have any idea what it's like to be raped. You don't have any idea what the fear of rape is like. But regardless of that, are you so effing stupid that you can't figure out that having your fairly newly purchased things stolen from an apartment that you've barely been living in for less than six months and that those are not the equivalent of "rape"? If you think getting ripped off is like being raped, you're going to be in for a huge shock if you ever are actually raped one day. A HUGE shock. That's when you'll realize that the two really have absolutely nothing to do with one another at all. Any by trying to equate the two like that, you have really succeeded in doing a couple of things.

    One, you've succeeded in completely minimizing the trauma and the brutality of rape. And two, you've succeeded in making it crystal clear what a completely selfish a-hole you really are. If we never have to hear about you or your pathetic, self-serving existence in 2010 or ever again, it will be too soon. Goodbye, 2009! And take Jon Gosselin with you!

    Wednesday, December 30, 2009

    New Year

    What Will You Choose For The New Year?

    Deuteronomy 11:7-18 "But your eyes have seen all the great acts of Jehovah which He did.
    Therefore you shall keep all the commandments which I command you today, so that you may be strong and go in and possess the land where you go to possess it, and so that you may make your days longer in the land which Jehovah swore to your fathers to give to them and to their seed, a land that flows with milk and honey.
    For the land into which you go to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt from which you came out, where you sowed your seed and watered it with your foot, like a garden of herbs.
    But the land which you are entering to possess it is a land of hills and valleys, drinking water from the rain of the heavens.
    It is a land which Jehovah your God cares for. The eyes of Jehovah your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year.
    And it will be, if you will listen carefully to My commandments which I command you today, to love Jehovah your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give the rain of your land in its due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil.
    And I will send grass in your fields for your cattle so that you may eat and be full.
    Take heed to yourselves that your heart may not be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods, and worship them, and Jehovah's wrath be kindled against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain, and so that the land will not yield her fruit, and you perish quickly from off the good land which Jehovah gives you.
    Therefore you shall lay up these my words in your hearts and in your souls, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, so that they may be as frontlets between your eyes."

    The land of Egypt was flat and had little rain. It took a great deal of skill and work to grow crops for the population's food because their water came from the flooding of the Nile River once a year. The Egyptians therefore assumed that it was by their own hard work and skill that brought them their success. But God was giving the Jews a new land called Canaan.

    "The land of Canaan was an uneven country, a land of hills and valleys, which not only gave a more pleasing prospect to the eye, but yielded a greater variety of soils for the several purposes of the (farmer). It was a land that had no great rivers in it, except (the) Jordan (River), but drank water of the rain of heaven, and so, saved them a great deal of labour. While the Egyptians were ditching and guttering in the fields, up to the knees in mud, to bring water to their land, which otherwise would soon become like the heath in the wilderness, the Israelites could sit in their houses, warm and easy, and leave it to God to water their land with the former and the latter rain, which is called the river of God... So he directed them to look upwards to God, who giveth us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons." -Matthew Henry's Commentary

    Psalm 65:9-13 You visit the earth and water it; You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for in this way You have prepared it.
    You fill its terraces with water; You deepen its furrows; You make it soft with showers; You bless the sprouting of it.
    You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drop fatness.
    They drop on the pastures of the wilderness; and the little hills gird themselves with joy.
    The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with grain; they shout for joy and sing.

    God promises the Hebrews (Israelites, Jews, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) a bountiful, rich prosperous land if they will worship Him and obey His commands. But He also warns them not to turn away from Him to worship other things. These "gods" (little "g" as they are not really God) take the form of many things. Suffice it to say, whatever you waste your time, energy, money and emotional energy a god. If you are sacrificing time and energy, spending money and it takes up all your is an act of worship to whatever it is. If it comes before God, it is an idol. Do you spend all your time worrying over how you look? Spend all your money on clothes, makeup, plastic surgery, gym memberships, etc? Do you spend so much energy working out that you can't spend time with God or your family? Do you cry and moan because you aren't pretty enough or your boobs aren't big enough? Or do you think you are so wonderful and gorgeous that no one is good enough for you? You may have made an idol of YOURSELF! I watch some shows where women whimper, whine and cry because they are too "fat" and yet they are horribly disfigured by anorexia. They have made their bodies a god and they are totally consumed by themselves and how they look. Even though they "hate" themselves or their appearance, it's idolatry because it's consuming all their time, energy, money and thought life. They can think of nothing but themselves. The same with those who get hooked on plastic surgery. Their appearance means everything to them and they have made themselves into little plastic idols (pun intended). Satan can deceive us! We look in the mirror and think we look awful (or wonderful), when, in reality, others see the real us. It's because satan twists our minds. What is pretty has become ugly and what is ugly has become pretty!

    How about those who sacrifice all to their addiction? Alcohol, porn, drugs, gambling, gluttony, shopping, hoarding ... anything that totally consumes someone and takes over their life, is an idol. Seen Intervention? It's an uncomfortable, frightening view of those consumed with their addiction. I've watched the TV show Hoarders and seen how satan has these people so tied up and decieved that they can't even get rid of a bag of trash! These people are in bondage and serve an idol. They are literally slaves to their addiction. They become so self centered and self involved that there is nothing left for anybody else. It's all about them. They may whine and cry and sob and whimper but they don't really have any intention of changing, or they think they can't change. They feel sorry for themselves.

    Or, the opposite, are those who boast and swagger and keep their eye on themselves in the mirror. "There is only so much of me to go around, baby!" They keep tallies of all the men or women they've slept with and boast about it. They feel they are so stupendous and handsome/beautiful that whoever is with them is a very lucky person. If they smile at someone, that person should swoon. "I am the master of the universe and everyone should serve me and be happy about it." As in Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom will all come tumbling down one day.

    Whether miserable or prideful, one way or the other, everyone around them was made to serve them. Or so they think. And they become master manipulators to force their families and friends to become co-dependent and serve the same god they serve. They intend to draw you down with them into that bondage. Soon, you are paying their bills, giving them free room & board, getting them out of jail, paying their child support or raising their children, lying to the bill collectors, etc. You don't want to and you do it kicking and screaming but you end up serving their idol with them.

    To go back to our Bible passage, God warns us very specifically not to turn to idolatry. Not only here, but all through the Bible, God warns us. It's not because He needs us to worship Him. Face it, He's God and all creation worships Him, He doesn't need us. But He created us and He loves us and He knows how easily we fall into bondage. And He knows how miserable and helpless we are when we are so totally decieved and tied up in sin and idolatry. It makes life on earth hell and it sends us to eternal hell when we die. The only way to freedom is to keep our eyes on God and worship Him alone. To obey Him by accepting Jesus as His Son and trusting that Jesus paid the price for our sins so we could be set free.

    Is God not enough? Is He not capable of taking care of us? Does He not provide mercy and blessing every day? Did He not send His Son to die for us? What else do we expect from Him? Doesn't He keep the world turning, the oxygen free, the rain falling, the sun shining despite our sins? How many times has he saved you that you don't even know about? Despite being spit upon in American society today...our country is still prosperous and safe and it's not because of Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, our military or our's because of God's grace. All it would take is a simple meteor from heaven and life on this planet would be kaput. And, quite simply, we deserve a punishment like that. But God has a desire for us and a love for us and He is being ever so patient.

    With these thoughts in mind, let us turn to the new year, 2010. "Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse".

    Deuteronomy 11:19-28 "And you shall teach them to your sons, speaking of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
    And you shall write them upon the door posts of your house, and upon your gates,
    so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied in the land which Jehovah swore to give to your fathers, like the days of the heavens upon the earth.
    For if you will carefully keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love Jehovah your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him, Jehovah will drive out all these nations from before you, and you shall possess greater and mightier nations than you.
    Every place on which the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours, from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even to the furthest sea shall your border be.
    There shall no man stand before you, for Jehovah your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon the face of all the land that you shall tread upon, as He has said to you.
    Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse:
    A blessing if you obey the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you today, and a curse if you will not obey the commandments of Jehovah your God, but will turn aside out of the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known."

    The choice is ours. I'm not saying if we worship and obey God, life will be rosy and wonderful. I am saying that if we worship and obey God, He will be with us through bad times and can use all things for our good. Hard times are a given in this life, but with God hard times can still be fruitful and have a silver lining. Without God, hard times will be barren and desolate, with nothing good coming out of it.

    It is my New Year's Resolution to try and worship and obey God. As a human being I won't be perfect and will fall but, with the Holy Spirit's help, I will be trying my best to worship God and God alone and living the simple and good life as He directs. I want Him to be the God of my life and no other gods before Him.

    Quotes That Make You Go "Huh?"

    So....many...morons! Head...might....explode! You know, it's really easy to narrow things down to just one year. But when you expand that to ten years (because you're falling into the hype of the end of a decade as if it's the end of the world or something) and your list is the worst of something within those ten years? Yeah, if you make a list like that, you must have really done something idiotic. And while some things might be entirely idiotic, sometimes there's just too narrow of a category to warrant making a list (ie, probably should have found those WMDs first and then invaded). That's when what you're going to want to do is to take the contents of your list (ie, "Attack!") and expand the category (ie, Really Moronic Things People Have Said in the Past 10 Years). And while that might seem like a vast and wide topic to try and really come up with an accurate list, trust me. In this case, it can be done. Hoo-boy, can it be done.

    I suppose I could start with the Governor of this fine state of California. The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, gave an interview with right-right-right-right-right-wing radio host Sean Hannity in 2003 when Schwarzenegger was campaigning to be Governor of "Cali-FOR-nia" (as he says). When the topic of gay marriage came up (as it inevitably always will in any discussion about Cali-FOR-nia), the soon-to-be Governator said, "I think gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman." I see. Um, perhaps someone could clue him in on what exactly a gay marriage entails? That would be helpful.

    Joe Biden is always good for a really moronic quote and he did not disappoint on September 10, 2008 when he was campaigning in Columbia, Missouri and wanted Senator Chuck Graham to stand up so that he could be recognized for the hard work that he had been doing for the Obama Biden campaign. Biden calls out, "Chuck, stand up, let the people see you." That's easier said than done if you're Senator Graham as the man is in a wheelchair. Now granted, Joe Biden immediately realized all of that standing up that he had requested wasn't going to be happening and he did a pretty good job of backtracking or fast talking or whatever it was that he did to get away from that comment, but still. Always make sure that your constituents have the ability to walk before asking them to stand before a very large group of people. Always.

    There's no way I could be compiling a list of most moronic things folks have said over the past ten years without having at least one from former President George W. Bush. The problem was choosing only one. But I think I've done it. I think I can safely say that this is my favorite GW quote ever. The context of the speech he was giving at the time is unclear to me (though it does says "Pledge Across America" all over the board behind him, if that helps anyone out), but the content was very clear. Er, not clear. Er, well, I think we all know what he was trying to say, but no one can quite figure out how he messed it up. He said: "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." Um, yeah. What now?

    And while that's relatively amusing on it's own accord in print like that, you really can't fully appreciate the beauty of it without seeing/hearing it for yourself. Behold!

    Now that's something! I'm not sure exactly what, but it's definitely something!

    But enough of politicians already. Let's move onto pop tarts, shall we? First up, we have a one Britney Spears. Now, Miss Spears has never really been known for her intellect. No, she's been known more for her fantastic voice, marrying Fresno's favorite son, Kevin Federline, and also shaving her head bald and attacking some sort of motor vehicle with an umbrella. (To this day, it's still really unclear just what, exactly, the vehicle did to her to warrant such a beating.) Really, it should come as no surprise that she's not all that well versed in the concept of geography, should it? No, it shouldn't. That's how we can explain her statement back in 2004 of "I get to go to lots of overseas places, like Canada." Now, now! Before we all rush to judgment, perhaps she was on a boat when she said that. Or perhaps she was in Europe! What's that? No? Neither of those? Smack dab in the middle of the mainland, eh? Huh. Unfortunate.

    Well, at least that quotation kind of explains this next quote of Britney's. I don't know what all she was up to in between 2004 and 2007, but it didn't seem to involve any sort of an atlas because she was also heard to say, "I've never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don't like eating fish. And I know that's very popular out there in Africa." That's perplexing on so many levels. Japan, a country where the sole activity (pun kind of intended) is eating fish. A fact of which you must be aware of if you're ever Right. Um...yeah, I don't rightly know what to say about all of that.

    But what is it with these pop singers and their lack of geographical awareness? Take Christina Aguilera. Perhaps she was just trying to avoid showing up in the wrong place when she inquired "So, where's the Cannes Film Festival being held this year?" Tell you what, Christina. How about you just give it a moment of thought (we'll wait!) and see what you come up with. Take your time! Sometimes, the most obvious answer is the one that's often overlooked!

    I'm kind of going to guess that some of these blonde pop tart singer chicks all know each other? They seem to have a few things in common in the smarts department. Take Jessica Simpson, for example. No, not one of Bart's younger sisters (those are Lisa and Maggie). Jessica Simpson is the hottie who was married to Nick Lachey for a while. (After they split and he realized his meal ticket split with her, he ended up hosting or being on Dancing With the Stars, which isn't bad work if you can get it, from what I hear.) And even though they've been divorced for a while now, and even though it was back in October of 2003 when she became confused over the contents of a can of tuna fish, it is so unbelievable that it's almost like it happened yesterday. Come on! Are you telling me that you thought it was almost seven years ago that she asked Nick, "Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it's tuna, but it says 'Chicken by the Sea.' " That wasn't seven years ago, was it? It was?! It's amazing how some things just stick in your head. Obviously not things like what is chicken and what is fish for some people, but other things.

    All I have to say is that it's a good thing those chicks are pretty.

    And speaking of pretty chicks, this list wouldn't be complete (actually, it will never be complete; do you know how many morons were out there over the past ten years who couldn't keep their mouths shut?) without my favorite "regular person" quote probably ever. That person was Caitlin Upton. If you're scratching your head (please, just let it be your head) right now and wondering "Who?", I'll bet it would jog your memory if I told you that Ms. Upton was Miss Teen South Carolina in 2007. Ring a bell? Just in case, here's a recap:

    During the question-y part (I believe that's the official name) of the Miss Teen USA Pageant, the following question was presented to Ms. Upton:

    "Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?"

    Now, mind you, if that had been me up there, my response would have been something along the lines of "WTF? Are you kidding me? Who told you that? Where do you get that statistic?!" (Of course, that would have been my response AFTER asking, "WTF am I doing up here in some sort of beauty pageant in the first place?!" But not Miss Teen South Carolina. Oh, no. This is the moment she has been practicing for. This is the moment that she has been going over and over and over in her head for...for...well, I'm guessing for a long time. She should be ready! She should be prepared! She should have thought about it longer because this was her response:

    "I personally believe, that US Americans are unable to do so, because, uh, some...people out there, in our nation, don't have maps, and...uh I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa, and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, our education over here, in the US, should help the US, or should help South Africa, and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future... for our children."

    Good Lord, miss. It's because some people "out there" don't have maps?! Well, clearly Britney doesn't, but what about everyone else? Is that really the reason? And did she really say "the Iraq"? Yep. Yep, she did! And you know, that was only two years ago, but it's still funny! Still. Very. Funny. I'm not sure if I should hope for an equal amount of amusement from quotable morons over the next ten years or not. (You know how I feel about the morons.) I suppose as long as it's only an equal number of mind boggling quotes and not a greater number, then we'll be OK. After all, I've long given up hoping that folks start wising up. It's better just to keep them at a distance and mock them from afar. It's very entertaining and much safer this way.

    Tuesday, December 29, 2009

    Remembering Don Belton

    Don BeltonI must admit that I'm still in a bit of shock at the news, passed on Blabbeando via Twitter this afternoon, that writer and professor Don Belton (left, Indiana University English Department website) was found stabbed to death in his apartment in Bloomington, Indiana. I'd only just seen Don this past spring, at the Associate Writing Programs conference, in Chicago, and we'd chatted a bit, about his fairly new job at Indiana University, life, and a few other things. I realized I hadn't heard his soft voice, his gentle laugh, and his always kind words in so long, and I was delighted that I'd run into him. We said we'd be in touch, and as so often happens, though I did think about him from time to time, I figured we'd run into each other at some place or another, most likely Fire & Ink III, in Austin. It was a while since I'd seen him; perhaps the last time before this spring was at another conference some years back, and that tended to be where we ran into each other, though I've known him for at least two decades dating back to the time that I was a member of the Dark Room Writers Collective.

    At that time, Don was already a published writer and known in the literary world; his wonderful novel, Almost Midnight, had appeared in 1986, and it heralded a new wave of works, including anthologies and volumes of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and drama, by black gay male writers. His novel in particular was important to me as a young writer, much as Randall Kenan's first one was; the assurance of the voice, the daring subject matter, and the fact that this young writer had produced it were all tremendous inspirations. Don subsequently edited Speak My Name (1989), a volume of writings by black men, across sexualities, on masculinity, and it's perhaps the book by which he's best known. He taught a several different institutions; for years, I believe, he was living and teaching in Minnesota at Macalester College, and also taught at the University of Michigan and Penn. Don was incredibly smart, and very much in the vein of figures like Samuel Delany and Melvin Dixon, or Thomas Glave and Randall Kenan, creative writers who can also drop critical and scholarly science. His knowledge field ranged from contemporary film and visual art to American and African American literary and cultural studies, and he had lectured all over the globe, including in Paris, São Paulo, and Abidjan. Amid the writing, teaching and travel there was the daily living, and I can't say what Don was up to for most of the years we knew each other, but I do recall asking people from time to time where he was and what he was doing, and hoping that he was okay and finding a place where he might flourish.

    It is especially heartbreaking to learn, therefore, that he is now taken away from us, and in so brutal and inhumane a manner. He was only 53. I cannot help but think of all of the black gay male creative and critical talents who have gone well before their time; when I was in my 20s and 30s, handfuls, in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and older, were taken out by HIV/AIDS, heart attacks, cancer, and mental illness. Last year, another very talented figure, Lindon Barrett, was murdered in his home, and Reginald Shepherd, a brilliant poet, died of cancer. Both were in their 40s. I cannot express how saddening these losses are; it's like a silent, ghostly war is raging alongside the many ones we see every day and cannot stop, no matter how hard we try, and I feel like they have marked the entire adult years of my generation. Recently I answered a few questions for a younger writer about Melvin Dixon, who died in 1992 at the age of 42, and I'll link to his blog when he posts my responses, but in lieu of that, I think Melvin's moving appeal from his final appearance at OutWrite, would be as apt for Don and so many others: "Remember me, remember my name."

    Rod 2.0, one of the most informative news sources out, has more information on the case.

    Reggie H. posts his incredibly informative and thoughtful article on Don at the Noctuary.

    Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer by Ann Rule

    Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer, American's Deadliest Serial Murderer by Ann Rule

    Written in 2004 by Ann Rule who lives in Seattle, Washington just a few blocks from where most of the prostitutes, who were killed, plied their trade. Most of the murders took place in 1984-1985 but it wasn't until 2001 that the police were able to get the DNA evidence to arrest Gary Ridgeway. The first victims were found in the Green River in King County, Washington and was why he was called the Green River Killer (GRK) although only a few of them were found there. Gary Ridgeway did not fit the typical model of a serial killer. He was close to his parents, had a low IQ, had 3 marriages with the last one being a long lasting marriage (his wives had no idea), he had kept the same job with Kenilworth for nearly 30 years, had his own home. He was not a drifter, he was not isolated or reclusive, he had a long term marriage, he held a job. But he was a sex addict. He wives and girlfriends said he wanted sex 3 times a day until he got older and then began having impotency problems. Little did they know that he was also picking up prostitutes and having sex with them too. He and his last wife had a love for bargain hunting and dumpster diving. They did flea markets, yard sales, thrifting and loved to "save money". It was their hobby. They got a kick saving money. His last home was a nice size and the living room, kitchen and bedroom were very neat and orderly. The other rooms were organized but stacked with their bargain buys. And I noticed that Rule said Ridgeway had no intention of paying the prostitutes. He would flash money to get them in his car but he knew he was going to get his money back because after sex, he would kill them. Most times he would re-visit the bodies to have sex with their dead bodies (necrophilia). He would have to stop "when the flies would start getting bad". I think he not only enjoyed the sex and the killing but enjoyed getting something for nothing. It was free thrills, the ultimate bargain. Although the police had Ridgeway as one of their suspects, they just didn't have any evidence until DNA testing became available. They arrested him for 4 murders in 2001 but he plea bargained. Instead of the death penalty, he got a life sentence if he gave the police all the victims and their resting places …as much as he could remember. According to Ann Rule he admitted to 71 murders before stopping. I think it's probable that there were more, whether he forgot them (he never saw them as real human beings and often confused the victims) or the murders occurred outside of King County (the plea deal was only with King County for the murders he remembered - where he swore he did all his murders - but if he is ever connected to victims outside King County or "remembers" additional murders, he would be in violation of his plea bargain and could get the death penalty so he doesn't have any incentive to admit to any other murders).

    It was grisly and unbelievable someone could be so evil while no one around him knew it. He kept his mouth shut and never shared with anyone else. But Ann Rule didn't do a great job with writing this complicated case. I've read some of her books in the past and enjoyed them but this one was poorly coordinated. It wasn't in good order. I may have told you the basics of the story but there is still a lot to make reading this book interesting. She gave short biographies of the victims. There were a lot of police involved with the case over the years and many of them suffered from the stress of the case and Rule wrote about that. But, with so many police and so many victims, it got confusing. In this case, I think she would have done better to have had photos of the police inserted where they came into the picture like she did the victims. Instead of a separate picture section in the middle of the book. There could have been a lot more pictures in a book like this and that would have been greatly appreciated. I'm not talking about photos of dead bodies but of places. She wrote as though the reader was familiar with the area and a map would have helped too.

    I do not recommend this book for anyone under 16. The case is interesting but Rule's book may not be the best on this subject.

    Interesting case but not the best writing. I don't really recommend.

    Dear 2009, Bye. Love, JibJab

    How much do I love the folks over there at JibJab? I'll tell you what, I love them a whole heck of a lot right now. That's because it's the end of the year and I'll fully admit that I'm half assing it here at best! Don't get me wrong. I'll be giving some attention to the alleged break-in at Jon Gosselin's apartment and what I think went on there (he's a media whore; he staged it himself). But I can't throw myself into that without making sure that proper homage is paid to this fine, fine year that we've just run through. Ahh, who am I kidding? This year blew. But at least the fine folks over there at JibJab have managed to summarize the whole suck-y year in one highly amusing video, complete with catchy tune and wacky lyrics. My favorite part? Probably the homage to the horrible individual, Octomom. Be on the lookout for that, as it is hil-arious. But enough of my rambling. (If I'm going to claim that I'm half-assing it, I've gotta keep it short!) I give to you, courtesy of the geniuses (or is it genii?) over there at JibJab, their original short "Never A Year Like '09". Behold!

    PS If the damn video doesn't load (which is unfortunately all too often the case lately), please click here and watch it. I might be half assing it, but that doesn't mean that I won't be bringing you stuff that's fairly amusing.
    Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

    Monday, December 28, 2009

    Free Music From M+KO

    Free, great music!

    From the dynamic duo of Mendi + Keith Obadike!

    Give yourself a no-cost holiday gift!

    Download it and enjoy!

    (/exclamation points off)

    Our Christmas

    We had a wonderful Christmas holiday! Here are my Christmas decorations:

    Jenny, Kyle and Brett stayed with us and I put up Aunt Ruth's ceramic Christmas tree. Jenny put Brett's Santa Claus under the ceramic tree.

    On December 23, Kenny, Stan and Ronnie put together Logan's trampoline. Of course, they didn't think how they were going to get it from our house to Kenny's! On Christmas Eve, Luke helped them take it partially apart and they loaded it on a trailer and carried it over to Kenny's house. Then they put it back together.

    On Christmas Eve, I gave Stan his flat screen TV and DVD player for his room and he gave me the 55-200mm Zoom lens I'd wanted for my camera! Perfect gifts for each of us! He put his TV and DVD player together and it works great. Later, while the guys were taking care of Logan's trampoline, I visited with Jenny, Brett, Hannah, and Elaine at Elaine's house. Here are Elaine's decorations:

    Here we are visiting and playing with Brett:

    Brett with his beautiful Aunt Hannah!

    This little oak rocker was given to my Mother when she was Brett's age, over 70 yrs ago. Now, here is her little great grandbaby rocking in it.

    Hannah looks wonderful in this color!

    Playing with Granddaddy Pickle's lamp collection:

    About 5:00pm, we went to Peggy's for the Harris Christmas Eve party:

    Every Christmas, Peggy always had little toy bags for the kids to give them a present to open early. This helped them wait on the rest of the presents and gave them something to do. These little care bags are a tradition. Now, only Logan and Brett are little and get the care bags. Here is Brett opening his...he virtually crawled into his bag!

    And here is Logan opening his bag!

    What a smile!

    Evans looking handsome these days.


    Katie looked so cute in this black, white and red sweater!

    Logan gets a skateboard.

    Brett hums and Elaine gently bops his mouth to make a funny noise. He loved that!

    Kyle is a great daddy!

    Brett is riding the horsey on Mommy's lap!

    Brett likes this stuffed toy.

    He wanted to curl up with it and take a nap.

    Ah, yes, he finally gets his nap with Grommy!

    I take my turn holding him!

    Kyle brought a Yahtzee game for the older kids to play. They had a great time learning how to play it.

    Christmas morning we had breakfast at our house. I didn't get many pictures because I was too busy hostessing.

    Jenny putting together one of Brett's Santa Claus gifts.


    But then we went to Mom's house to get together with James, Alex, Glenn and Janis and their families. Dad had made us some really unique and beautiful bird houses. Mom had got all us girls some really nice leather hand/computer bags. I will really put mine to good use!


    Lee was all spiffy in his new Christmas clothes and shoes!

    Michael Reese got there earlier than his parents. By this time I was in so much pain and feeling so bad that I left early and didn't get to be there when Glen and Janis came. But it was nice to talk to my cousin, Michael!

    Alex and Melinda


    One of the bird houses Dad made. I'm just in awe of them! Mine is not going outside!

    Brett seemed to really like the tractor that Melinda & Mike gave him.

    Alex is stylin' in his new shoes!

    Luke and Hannah