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My mom discovered this recipe a few years ago, and it’s one of my favorites (according to the recipe card, she got it from the book Cooking for Mr. Latte). I asked her for it shortly after I left home, and discovered that not only does it taste good, it’s easy to make, and it lasts me for about a week!

My mother serves it over rice (good rice, like basmati or jasmine), and so do I. I throw in extra raisins, though—the fat little sweet brown raisins in the tangy-creamy yellow sauce are my favorite part. I could eat just sauce and rice and be happy.

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 T Major Grey mango chutney (I find this in the European section of Wegman’s)
1 tsp. curry powder
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of raisins (this is my addition. The chutney comes with raisins in, but not enough. MOAR RAISINS. They get all plump in the sauce, just like the ones in the chutney).

Preheat over to 450 degrees.

Lay chicken flat in a pan sprayed with Pam (or rubbed with oil—I just take a rag and rub the pan with canola oil) and squash it to an even width with your hand. Well, I use my hand, because I am amused by squishing things.

Whisk together mayo, sour cream, chutney, and curry powder. Add lemon juice and whisk thoroughly.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken and roast in the oven for 15 mins. Turn heat down to 325 and roast for another 15-20 mins.

Remove from oven, sprinkle or grind some pepper over the top, and there you go! Make some rice, too, to eat it over. It catches the sauce.

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Watch the episode on YouTube.

Having watched “The Omega Glory,” I decided I had to do right by my pop cultural education and familiarize myself with the origins of tribbles. Doing so has confirmed that I will be watching the rest of The Original Series. Also, that I wish I had been whoever was standing above the grain storage hatch in the space station set, pinging small balls of faux fur at William Shatner and making sure that the largest ones hit him squarely in the back of the head while he was trying to deliver his lines.

So far, I like Shatner. Any man who can stand chest-deep in a pile of what look like cheap fur muffs and maintain a balance between not-taking-this-too-seriously-excuse-me-while-I-try-not-to-laugh and acting-like-this-situation-while-ludicrous-and-trying-is-still-a-semi-plausible-reality makes a good first impression with me.

One of the better moments by far was Spock concluding that the tribble he was holding was dead. How could you tell, Spock? And, of course, the fact that Klingons seem to be terrified by tribbles trilling at them—and there’s something vaguely obscene about Kirk thrusting two . . . fuzzy balls at people for the entirety of the final “interrogation by tribble” scene.

Oh, and Scotty and Chekov were both damned adorable.

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The Remarkable Life of John Murray Spear, John Buescher, 2006, 368 p.

A month or so ago, at my workplace (the Center for History and New Media, at George Mason University, where I work on the National History Education Clearinghouse project), I said something to my officemate, John Buescher, about science fiction. John’s an older gentleman, whom I’d never talked to much until our department’s offices got rearranged (also about a month ago) and I ended up office-paired with him; and I was expecting to puzzle him, with my plush facehugger and my Doctor Who pictures and my general geekiness. Instead, he seems to like me—I make him laugh, frequently, and in this case, the mention of science fiction led to him lending me a copy of one of his books, The Remarkable Life of John Murray Spear.

Turns out, John’s written several books on spiritualism in the 19th century (and on Buddhism, as well); this one follows the life of a man who started out as a preacher and abolition and prison reformer and became an ardent, radical spiritualist, often claiming to speak, in trance, with the voices of historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams. John Spear spent his entire life flying further and further off into the fringes of society, attempting to remake human nature through the creation of artificial life, the societal adoption of free love, and the rebirth of dead geniuses through the control of human reproduction and female sexuality. Meanwhile, friends spent their fortunes on grand plans that came to nothing—the creation of a perpetual motion device, the mining of treasures from lost civilizations, the establishment of utopian communities—and the general public and even fellow spiritualists lambasted him from every side.

The book gives a different view of a period of time anyone mucking about in U.S. history hears a lot about—the whole foment of political and cultural tensions leading up to the Civil War. People like Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and William Lloyd Garrison show up in the story, but they’re not the focus—the Civil War’s barely more than a blip on Spear’s radar, concrete evidence that society as it stands is broken and needs spiritual revolution. Feminists and abolitionists flit about in the background, puzzling at John’s work or ignoring it; it’s a perspective on this time period that makes it clear that not everyone was following the steps set out in U.S. history textbooks.

It’s also a sad book, as it shows a life lived in a desperate search for meaning and for change. John and his fellow spiritualists saw significance where none existed, just as, I think, everyone does, to some degree—signs and symbols and correspondences that we create and then deem inevitable and factual because we see them. While it sounds ridiculous to have sex and ejaculate on a machine to try to imbue it with a motive force—the principal of sympathetic magic is as old as human beings. These people were trying to bring together science and religion/spiritualism into some great magic bullet, a miraculous cure-all that would raise every individual human being up into something that would be a simultaneous magnification and nullification of the self.

They were trying to gain power and meaning by giving themselves up to forces beyond the self—possession let them speak as people with authority, who inarguably had something to say, instead of as human beings, whose ideas could be criticized and tested and rejected.

They looked beyond themselves for meaning, and found nothing there and made something up to fill the void. The way we all do. But for John and his group of spiritualists the result was even more bizarre and irrational and self-contradicting than most such constructs—and, through exaggeration, points back to the absurdity of our lesser, “normal” faiths and the networks of meaning and purpose we construct for ourselves.

I’ve been reading this in conjunction with a book on the history of tarot (its evolution from a pack of playing cards to an occultist tool), the memoirs of Casanova, and a collection of essays on game design; and all of the texts reflect on each other, showing the ways in which humans struggle to make significance and meaning out of life.

Also, John (Buescher, not Spear) is apparently a lapsed-Catholic-lapsed-Buddhist-turned-Catholic-again. People have interesting lives, and you would never know about those lives by just glancing contact with them. We’re all secrets.

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Having just seen the film, I decided to watch an episode of The Original Series—the first episode of TOS I’ve ever watched. This comes right after me sitting down and watching through TNG’s “Aquiel,” which is the first full Star Trek episode I’ve deliberately watched and not just fled from when I saw my father had it on. Again.

I picked this one because my work deals with U.S. history content on the net, and I’ve run into mentions of this episode before. Yesterday, I was doing research on the U.S. Constitution to put together a short quiz, and this episode came up again, so I thought, why not? It’s likely as good a place to start as any.

And so I begin watching Star Trek with an artifact of the Cold War—one, that, in the tradition of science fiction, is cautionary but also one-up-ish. Freedom is for all people, but its purest ideological source comes from the good old U.S. of A. The Constitution appears solely as a symbol (even when Kirk reads the words properly, he doesn’t bother to explain what they actually mean to the hundreds-of-years-later-living-on-another-planet descendants of the Founding Fathers—and apparently the U.S. is, in the 1990s, an entirely Caucasian nation. But one committed to freedom!). Really, the Constitution doesn’t mean much out of context. It was created two hundred years ago to solve, as best as a group of men thought they could in a short period, problems of organization and power that existed at the time. We continue to honor it about like the Yangs do in this show—it’s the Constitution, it must be meaningful! We shall wave it about and hold it up in the U.S. Supreme Court and argue over and over about the Founding Fathers’ intentions in writing it, as though their intentions 200 years ago in a pre-industrial pre-digital culture could have perfect relevance today. Symbols are like language (well, language is symbols)—they allow us to communicate and establish a semblance of common meaning, but then we forget that we created those symbols to begin with. They’re tools, not scientific facts.

But what about the show? Well. I liked this episode about as much as I like the Classic Who episodes of the Three and Four eras I’ve watched—I enjoyed it, enjoyed the characters, and thought the writing, for all its being dated in subject and style, wasn’t half so bad. There’s a funny quality to writing in older SF television—it’s less self-aware, somehow. Like it sticks to its guns. Yes, everything is cardboard, but you aren’t going to see the actors or the writing letting on to that. It’s like the seriousness of children, kind of. These things are phasers and alien planets and deadly situations because they are, and appearances to the contrary aren’t about to change that. Somedays, that style makes me laugh; somedays, I admire it.

And I can see why the characters are and continue to be loved. They’re made distinct quite quickly. By the end of this one episode, I knew Spock and Kirk were close and had likely saved one another over and over and over and over in other situations; that Kirk’s the fighting, active one, and damned if there’s not always some way out of a tight spot, but also very aware of his responsibilities; that Spock has to pull Kirk out of the fire often, and is far less logical than he pretends to be; that Bones tells it like it is (and does he like the ladies? It looked like he liked the ladies, there. Granted, if that particular lady brought me snacks, I might appreciate it, too); and that redshirts die. Like goldfish. Kirk’s a very American kind of hero—idealistic, not overly sophisticated, a bit rash, and ready to get into a punch-up at a moment’s notice. That’s one of the ways this country likes to present itself. Ye pioneer spirit, as illusory as that might be.

I’ll likely watch more. At least the Tribble episode, for my cultural education.

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Dahl, Roald. Danny, The Champion of the World. Bantam, 1975: 198 p.

I think I read this once when I was small, but I read it again recently. For research for fiction, strangely enough—one of my characters is a Dahl fan. Dahl’s one of those few children’s book authors who never sells the children in his stories short—they’re fully as capable as adults—while not making all of the adults completely hopeless, either.

Dandyprat: OED tells me this is not a word. Poking about the internet, however, leaves me with the impression that it’s used to mean “a small, scrawny, worthless and/or insignificant person.”

“‘Cheating is a repulsive habit practiced by guttersnipes and dandyprats!'” (107)

Old Man’s Beard: “vigorous deciduous climber of Europe to Afghanistan and Lebanon having panicles of fragrant green-white flowers in summer and autumn” or “any of various plants having parts suggestive of a beard, as Spanish moss.” Here’s the former type in the winter, when it’s in seed pod form.

(Which leads to me looking up “panicle” – “a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes” — and then “raceme” – “an inflorescence having stalked flowers arranged singly along an elongated unbranched axis, as in the lily of the valley.” English, I love you. Those words are almost as good as “dehiscence” – which, I’ve just learned, can be used not just for a seedpod splitting open, but for “a rupture or splitting open, as of a surgical wound, or of an organ or structure to discharge its contents.” Mm. Pus!)

“In the fall she would pick branches of leaves, and in the winter it was berries or old man’s beard.” (123).

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Eliade, Mircea. “Youth Without Youth.” Trans. by Mac Linscott Ricketts.

The novella on which the Coppola film Youth Without Youth is based. After watching the film and grasping at the threads of plot that wafted by and then dispersed like artistically-shot smoke (which there was a fair amount of in the film), I turned to the text, to see if it could provide any clues to the intentions of what I’d just watched. No luck. Coppola manufactured something almost-but-not-quite-a-plot from source material that turns up its nose at narrative in favor of characters sitting down with Dominic Matais, an old man hit by lightning and turned miraculously young again, to talk about the mystic significance of James Joyce, the myth of the eternal return, the discharge of electricity by atomic bombs (did the translator mean “energy?”), and other esoteric and oddly-articulated topics, and to ask him for interviews. Coppola’s unclear use of the symbolism of the three red roses is even less clear in the text, and the “double” that haunts Matais in the film appears in the beginning of the novella but disappears in the latter half. I’m not sure whether to be bemused or impressed by the fact that Coppola must have read this piece and seen a narrative in it—he had his work cut out for him, manufacturing a movie from this scant and ill-suited material, and I don’t think he measured up to the task.

Quotes:

“You want to be what all those other people are: philologist, orientalist, archeologist, historian, and who knows what else. That is, you want to live a strange life, a different life, instead of being yourself, Dominic Matei, and cultivating your own genius exclusively.” (57)

“You learn well or with pleasure only that which you know already.” (99)

Words:

Narthex: 1. A portico or lobby of an early Christian or Byzantine church or basilica, originally separated from the nave by a railing or screen. 2. An entrance hall leading to the nave of a church.

“. . . the faithful who were waiting in the narthex of the church had seen the lightning as an endless incandescent spear . . .” (95)

n.b.: Short for “nota bene,” Latin for “note well.” Used to direct attention to something particularly important.

“The blessings that any cultural creation (n.b.: cultural creation, not only artistic) can afford are unlimited.” (99)

Anchorite: A person who has retired into seclusion for religious reasons.

“To the doctors he said that the young woman believed she was living in Central India twelve centuries ago and insisted she was a Buddhist anchorite.” (120)

Pandit: 1. A Brahman scholar or learned man. 2. Used as a title of respect for a learned man in India.

“Fortunately, in addition to Matei, a pandit from Uttar Pradesh familiar with the Madhyamika philosophy was at Rupini’s side when she awoke.” (121)

Metempsychosis: Reincarnation.

“‘But I don’t believe in metempsychosis,’ she whispered, frightened, one evening, taking his hand. ‘I never existed before! . . .'” (123)

Hebdomadal: Weekly.

“A week has passed, he said to himself, so this must be the rhythm, hebdomadal.” (127)

Ugaritic: The Semitic language of Ugarit, “an ancient city of western Syria on the Mediterranean Sea. It flourished as a trade center from c. 1450 to 1195 b.c. but was destroyed soon after by an earthquake. Excavation of the ruins (beginning in 1929) has unearthed important cuneiform tablets.”

Protoelamite: A still largely-undeciphered language, from the “Proto-Elamite period, the time of ca. 3200 BC to 2700 BC when Susa, the later capital of the Elamites, began to receive influence from the cultures of the Iranian plateau. This civilization is recognized as the oldest in Iran and was largely contemporary with its neighbour, Sumerian civilization, the oldest in the world, which began around 3500 BC.”

“After Egyptian and Ugaritic, there had followed, probably, a sample of Protoelamite and one of Sumerian.” (127)

Labial: 1. Of or relating to the lips or labia. 2. (Linguistics) Articulated mainly by closing or partly closing the lips, as the sounds (b), (m), or (w).

“. . . interspersed with short, labial explosions such as he would not have believed possible for a European to reproduce.” (128)

Climacteric: 1. a. A period of life characterized by physiological and psychic change that marks the end of the reproductive capacity of women and terminates with the completion of menopause. b. A corresponding period sometimes occurring in men that may be marked by a reduction in sexual activity, although fertility is retained. 2. A critical period or year in a person’s life when major changes in health or fortune are thought to take place. 3. A critical stage, period, or year.

“‘Perhaps it’s the nervous condition that precedes the climacteric in certain women.'” (129)

Senescence: The process of growing old; aging

“And since a more convincing argument could not be found—aside from a fatal accident or suicide—this way was chosen: a process of galloping senescence.” (130)

Irredentist: One who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one’s nation but now subject to a foreign government.

“‘He was a poet and at the same time a magician and a revolutionary—or rather, an irredentist.'” (134)

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Words: 254.
Prompt: The Eastern Market, and Marjorie and Magister begin their first real date. I may continue this.

Marjorie had told him she had gotten tired of the museums and of listening to him expound on every antiquity and display; he had told her he didn’t expound, they just brought back memories. She didn’t want to hear him hyperdrive down memory wormhole again, then, she said. The Mobius was not a wormhole, he said. We’re going somewhere outdoors today, she said. Somewhere that’s only in the present. Oh, everywhere has history, he replied. Shut up, she told him. Eastern Market. We’re going to Eastern Market. Has that burned yet? he asks. It has, she said. They’ve set up in a temporary hall across the street. That’s a shame, he says, the fire. Adolf would hate to hear that that had happened to his building. Adolf? she queried. Cluss, he replied. Adolf Cluss. He designed the Market. He loved red brick, Adolf, I told him it was— No, she says. Ix-nay on the ostalgia-nay. We’re going to Eastern Market, and we are going to look at the crafts and the art and the vegetables and you are going to say nothing about the distant past or future. Is that understood? He shrugged at her, slipped his hands in his pockets, and leaned back against the pole he was using for balance as they rode, both of them standing. It’s relative, he said. Wrong answer, she said. Here and now, you and me, a farmer’s market, and that is all. I have my marching orders, he said, and she took that for agreement.

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