Friday, January 24, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Somewhere there's a moth full of sweater!

A Note to the Moth Who Ate My Sweater
I hope that you are feeling better
now that you are full of sweater.
But, frankly, don't you think it's rude
to use my clothes as common food?
I'd rather share my bread and rolls
than deal with sweaters full of holes.
The next time you intend to dine
on sweaters that are clearly mine,
I must insist -- call you to task --
don't take a bite unless you ask.
By now, I think you surely know
the answer is a big, loud,
by Denise Rodgers
Copyright© Denise Rodgers

A Little Bit of NonsenseAll Rights Reserved

Art by Julie Martin

This man is obviously unmarried and an orphan. In that day and age nobody with a woman in his life walked around with a hole like that in a sweater. Oh, there might have been a little unravelling here and there or a hole at the sides or the back left unmended, but that gaping yaw would not have been tolerated by the good and thrifty Norwegian women of the time. They could mend anything.

Bjorn or Jan or maybe Ole?... looks like a serious man with a purpose, but entirely oblivious to his clothing! His coat is thrown open as if to draw even more attention to the hole.  Look, he didn't have to have his hand in his pocket - it could have been adjusted ever so slightly and might have hidden the hole but, no - he apparently doesn't think the hole is a problem!

Sartorial correctness was likely not high on our skiers list of priorities. Would anyone wear a double breasted jacket on a ski slope, ever? Or flaunt such a hole? But wait....I see now that it could be a uniform tunic! That sweater might have been some sort of military issue and that's why there was nobody around to mend it. 

The more I look at it, the more I speculate that the hole was created deliberately. It must be a hole with a specific purpose. Maybe it gave him easy access while skiing to something useful, like a weapon or a compass. 

And what about that single bamboo pole? So many mysteries behind those probing Norwegian eyes.......schuss on over to Sepia Saturday  for more even more speculation and fascinatingstories about people, skiers, snow and family history. 

More Ramen rambling......

Shoyu Ramen from Nagi Ramen. Photo by Brian Oh
You cannot be interested in Japanese cuisine without learning something about Ramen noodles - something beyond the obvious stuff such as the fact they keep many college students alive; entire websites are devoted to them and there are countless ramen devotee foodies of the most serious kind, writing and rating ramen shops and products online. I've been wading through mountains of information about the broth construction, noodle extrusion, topping arrays, the ins and outs of noodle bowls, insider tips for ordering and lists of the best ramen shops in Kyoto and Tokyo.

I'm developing more and more respect for the subtleties of this product. Here's an interesting website - one of the more lauded ramen establishments.

Web site of Ichiran.

Many things distinguish the Ichiran ramen from others but here are a couple of points that interested me:

  • Their green onions are grown in a fertilizer made from re-cycled pork bones spent after producing the broth.
  • They use "special water" controlled by special pipes and purifiers, delicate and soft to the stomach.
Here's a good description by Brian Oh of the unique dining experience at Ichiran from at Serious Eats: 

Tonkotsu Ramen from Ichiran (Fukuoka)
For the last real meal of my trip and my 10th bowl of ramen, I headed to the basement of Canal City to Ichiran. Ichiran is different in that it's not a standard restaurant. Ordering is done by filling out a slip of paper and selecting the level of richness and oiliness of your broth, the firmness of your noodles, and various other options. You then proceed to a tiny cubicle where you pass your order through a small window. A minute or two later, the curtain pulls up and your ramen is placed in front of you. You don't see a single person the entire process. The idea is to be able to enjoy your ramen in peace. Tranquility aside, I ordered my ramen rich and oily with soft noodles and it was spectacular. Extremely flavorful (because I ordered it that way) and a small dollop of Ichiran's special chili sauce gives it a nice kick. A fitting cap to my gastronomical tour around Japan.

Individual booths. Slurp Away!!!

Coyote vs Acme: "Live by the Super Slick Jet Propulsion Automated Explosive Metal-Shearing Heat-Seeking Laser-Guided Razor-Edged Boomerang, die by the Super Slick, etc."

 "Live by the Super Slick Jet Propulsion Automated Explosive Metal-Shearing Heat-Seeking Laser-Guided Razor-Edged Boomerang, die by the Super Slick, etc."  Stephen Menard

I heard the New Yorker Magazine podcast of this famous case written by Ian Frazier and read by Jonathan Franzen. Guaranteed (just like the Acme products) to cause uncontrollable laughter. 

Coyote V. Acme
Wile E. Coyote, Plaintiff
Acme Company, Defendant

Opening Statement of Mr. Harold Schoff, attorney for Mr. Coyote:
My client, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, a resident of Arizona and contiguous states, does hereby bring suit for damages against the Acme Company, manufacturer and retail distributor of assorted merchandise, incorporated in Delaware and doing business in every state, district, and territory. Mr. Coyote seeks compensation for personal injuries, loss of business income, and mental suffering caused as a direct result of the actions and/or gross negligence of said company, under Title 15 of the United States Code, Chapter 47, section 2072, subsection (a), relating to product liability.
Mr. Coyote states that on eighty-five separate occasions he has purchased of the Acme Company (hereinafter, "Defendant"), through that company's mail-order department, certain products which did cause him bodily injury due to defects in manufacture or improper cautionary labeling. Sales slips made out to Mr. Coyote as proof of purchase are at present in the possession of the Court, marked Exhibit A. Such injuries sustained by Mr. Coyote have temporarily restricted his ability to make a living in his profession of predator. Mr. Coyote is self-employed and thus not eligible for Workmen's Compensation.
Chuck Jones

Mr. Coyote states that on December 13th he received of Defendant via parcel post one Acme Rocket Sled. The intention of Mr. Coyote was to use the Rocket Sled to aid him in pursuit of his prey. Upon receipt of the Rocket Sled Mr. Coyote removed it from its wooden shipping crate and, sighting his prey in the distance, activated the ignition. As Mr. Coyote gripped the handlebars, the Rocket Sled accelerated with such sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote's forelimbs to a length of fifty feet. Subsequently, the rest of Mr. Coyote's body shot forward with a violent jolt, causing severe strain to his back and neck and placing him unexpectedly astride the Rocket Sled. Disappearing over the horizon at such speed as to leave a diminishing jet trail along its path, the Rocket Sled soon brought Mr. Coyote abreast of his prey. At that moment the animal he was pursuing veered sharply to the right. Mr. Coyote vigorously attempted to follow this maneuver but was unable to, due to poorly designed steering on the Rocket Sled and a faulty or nonexistent braking system. Shortly thereafter, the unchecked progress of the Rocket Sled brought it and Mr. Coyote into collision with the side of a mesa.
Chuck Jones

Paragraph One of the Report of Attending Physician (Exhibit B), prepared by Dr. Ernest Grosscup, M.D., D.O., details the multiple fractures, contusions, and tissue damage suffered by Mr. Coyote as a result of this collision. Repair of the injuries required a full bandage around the head (excluding the ears), a neck brace, and full or partial casts of all four legs.

Hampered by these injuries, Mr. Coyote was nevertheless obliged to support himself. With this in mind, he purchased of Defendant as an aid to mobility one pair of Acme Rocket Skates. When he attempted to use this product, however, he became involved in an accident remarkably similar to that which occurred with the Rocket Sled. Again, Defendant sold over the counter, without caveat, a product which attached powerful jet engines (in this case, two) to inadequate vehicles, with little or no provision for passenger safety. Encumbered by his heavy casts, Mr. Coyote lost control of the Rocket Skates soon after strapping them on, and collided with a roadside billboard to violently as to leave a hole in the shape of his full silhouette.

Chuck Jones
Mr. Coyote states that on occasions too numerous to list in this document he has suffered mishaps with explosives purchased of Defendant: the Acme "Little Giant" Firecracker, the Acme Self-Guided Aerial Bomb, etc. (For a full listing, see the Acme Mail Order Explosives Catalogue and attached deposition, entered in evidence as Exhibit C.) Indeed, it is safe to say that not once has an explosive purchased of Defendant by Mr. Coyote performed in an expected manner.

To cite just one example: At the expense of much time and personal effort, Mr. Coyote constructed around the outer rim of a butte a wooden trough beginning at the top of the butte and spiraling downward around it to some few feet above a black X painted on the desert floor. The trough was designed in such a way that a spherical explosive of the type sold by Defendant would roll easily and swiftly down to the point of detonation indicated by the X. Mr. Coyote placed a generous pile of birdseed directly on the X, and then, carrying the spherical Acme Bomb (Catalog #78-832), climbed to the top of the butte. Mr. Coyote's prey, seeing the birdseed, approached, and Mr. Coyote proceeded to light the fuse. In an instant, the fuse burned down to the stem, causing the bomb to detonate.

In addition to reducing all Mr. Coyote's careful preparations to naught, the premature detonation of Defendant's product resulted in the following disfigurements to Mr. Coyote:

1Severe singeing of the hair on the head, neck, and muzzle.
2Sooty discoloration.
3Fracture of the left ear at the stem, causing the ear to dangle in the aftershock with a creaking noise.
4Full or partial combustion of whiskers, producing kinking, frazzling, and ashy disintegration.
5Radical widening of the eyes, due to brow and lid charring.
We now come to the Acme Spring-Powered Shoes. The remains of a pair of these purchased by Mr. Coyote on June 23rd are Plaintiff's Exhibit D. Selected fragments have been shipped to the metallurgical laboratories of the University of California at Santa Barbara for analysis, but to date no explanation has been found for this product's sudden and extreme malfunction. As advertised by Defendant, this product is simplicity itself: two wood-and-metal sandals, each attached to milled-steel springs of high tensile strength and compressed in a tightly coiled position by a cocking device with a lanyard release. Mr. Coyote believed that this product would enable him to pounce upon his prey in the initial moments of his chase, when swift reflexes are at a premium.

To increase the shoes' thrusting power still further, Mr. Coyote affixed them by their bottoms to the side of a large boulder. Adjacent to the boulder was a path which Mr. Coyote's prey was known to frequent. Mr. Coyote put his hind feet in the wood-and-metal sandals and crouched in readiness, his right forepaw holding firmly to the lanyard release. Within a short time Mr. Coyote's prey did indeed appear on the path coming toward him. Unsuspecting, the prey stopped near Mr. Coyote, well within range of the springs at full extension. Mr. Coyote gauged the distance with care and proceeded to pull the lanyard release.

At this point, Defendant's product should have thrust Mr. Coyote forward and away from the boulder. Instead, for reasons yet unknown, the Acme Spring-Powered Shoes thrust the boulder away from Mr. Coyote. As the intended prey looked on unharmed, Mr. Coyote hung suspended in air. Then the twin springs recoiled, bringing Mr. Coyote to a violent feet-first collision with the boulder, the full weight of his head of forequarters falling upon his lower extremities. The force of this impact then caused the springs to rebound, whereupon Mr. Coyote was thrust skyward. A second recoil and collision followed. The boulder, meanwhile, which was roughly ovoid in shape, had begun to bounce down a hillside, the coiling and recoiling of the springs adding to its velocity. At each bounce, Mr. Coyote came into contact with the boulder, or the boulder came into contact with Mr. Coyote, or both came into contact with the ground. As the grade was a long one, this process continued for some time.

The sequence of collisions resulted in systemic physical damage to Mr. Coyote, viz., flattening of the cranium, sideways displacement of the tongue, reduction of length of legs and upper body, and compression of vertebrae from base of tail to head. Repetition of blows along a vertical axis produced a series of regular horizontal folds in Mr. Coyote's body tissues---a rare and painful condition which caused Mr. Coyote to expand upward and contract downward alternately as he walked, and to emit an off-key, accordion-like wheezing with every step. The distracting and embarrassing nature of this symptom has been a major impediment to Mr. Coyote's pursuit of a normal social life.

As the Court is no doubt aware, Defendant has a virtual monopoly of manufacture and sale of goods required by Mr. Coyote's work. It is our contention that Defendant has used its market advantage to the detriment of the consumer of such specialized products as itching powder, giant kites, Burmese tiger traps, anvils, and two-hundred-foot-long rubber bands. Much as he has come to mistrust Defendant's products, Mr. Coyote has no other domestic source of supply to which to turn. One can only wonder what our trading partners in Western Europe and Japan would make of such a situation, where a giant company is allowed to victimize the consumer in the most reckless and wrongful manner over and over again.
VICTIM Chuck Jones

Mr. Coyote respectfully requests that the Court regard these larger economic implications and assess punitive damages in the amount of seventeen million dollars. In addition, Mr. Coyote seeks actual damages (missed meals, medical expenses, days lost from professional occupation) of one million dollars; general damages (mental suffering, injury to reputation) of twenty million dollars; and attorney's fees of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Total damages: thirty-eight million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. By awarding Mr. Coyote the full amount, this Court will censure Defendant, its directory, officers, shareholders, successors, and assigns, in the only language they understand, and reaffirm the right of the individual predator to equal protection under the law.

Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, February 26, 1990, p. 42--43.

Reply to Wile E. Coyote v. ACME Company suit

Chuck Jones
Mr. Coyote with typical murderous intent as viewed by the Acme Company (Jim Menard)
(funny, parody, cartoons)
[My brother, Stephen Menard, is a litigation attorney at a defense firm in Philadelphia. He wrote this reply to the "Wile E. Coyote sues ACME" post which appeared here a few weeks ago. Any errors in this post were introduced by me. --Jim]

WILE E. COYOTE, : Plaintiff : : v. : CIVIL ACTION NO. B19294 : ACME COMPANY, : Defendant :
By Mr. Fuddle:
Ladies and Gentleman of the jury: the opening statement you have just heard from Mr. Schoff on behalf of the plaintiff, Wile E. Coyote, paints an incomplete picture of what occurred on the occasions when Mr. Coyote claims he was injured by ACME products.

The evidence will clearly show that my client, ACME Products Corp., a Division of Dangerously Innovative Products and Patents Incorporated (or "DIPPI") is not at fault in this matter, and that any injuries sustained by the plaintiff were clearly caused by his own negligence, assumption of the risk and/or misuse of the products.

Now, we have all seen the footage on television of the plaintiff withstanding various injuries which appear to be caused by ACME's products. You have seen over and over the tape of a hapless coyote being bludgeoned by a boulder as he is helplessly trapped by his ACME Spring Loaded Shoes. We have all seen the photographs taken at Warner Memorial Hospital of Mr. Coyote in a very small incubator, on life support, as his doctors attempt to straighten out the accordion-like folds from his body. We have all seen the gruesome images of the operation in which Dr. Tazmanian D. Devil whirls like a dervish, obscuring his features and creating a starry, "dust cloud" effect, while numerous limbs holding various surgical instruments swiftly repair the nerve damage to Mr. Coyote's extremities.

It is normal for any human being to feel pity, horror, and even anger at such images. I want you to put those images aside for the moment, because they paint an incomplete picture. What the media has not disclosed to you, and what you will see in this courtroom, are various attempts at murder committed by the plaintiff - attempts which, fortunately, failed - while using my client's products. As the plaintiff readily admits, he is a predator, and his sole function in life is to track down and kill an innocent, highway traversing ornithoid.

You see, ladies and gentleman, while the plaintiff is a natural predator, he is not a very good one. His own skills were inadequate to complete the task at hand, so he chose to seek the aid of various devices to effectuate his diabolical schemes. He looked in a catalogue, saw my client's products, and ordered them in the hope that they would assist him in killing his prey.

But ladies and gentleman, ACME's products are not meant to cause intentional harm to anyone. The plaintiff has taken what were designed as amusements, toys for the young and feebleminded, and has twisted their use to his own purposes.

But I digress. Let us examine the plaintiff's claims and how the evidence clearly refutes the proposition that ACME is responsible for any harm sustained by the plaintiff. Mr. Coyote states that on December 13 he received an ACME Rocked Sled, that he attempted to use said rocket sled to pursue his prey, and that, upon igniting the sled, it accelerated with "sudden and precipitate force as to stretch Mr. Coyote's forelimbs to a length of fifty feet."

There are several reasons why ACME cannot be held responsible for any injuries caused by this incident. First, the warning label attached conspicuously to the inside of the left front tire of the sled clearly stated, and I quote: "WARNING: IGNITION OF THIS DEVICE AT FULL THROTTLE MAY CAUSE SUDDEN AND PRECIPITATE FORCE AS TO STRETCH USER'S FORELIMBS TO A LENGTH OF UP TO SIXTY FEET, OR MAY CAUSE DEATH." That the plaintiff suffered so little as a result of his carelessness can be attributed only to Providence.

Second, Arizona law is clear on this point: a plaintiff who is found to be violating any law whose purpose is safety at the time of his injury is contributorily negligent *per se*. There is ample evidence that Mr. Coyote was violating both the laws of gravity and inertia at the time of this incident, and thus he is responsible for his own woes.

I could list many more examples of Mr. Coyote's negligent conduct in connection with his use of ACME's products, but you will hear all about them as the trial goes on. You will also hear the following evidence:
  1. You will hear the plaintiff himself testify that, prior to the injuries complained of in this accident, he has suffered numerous injuries. As an example, on one occasion prior to the use of any ACME product, the plaintiff cornered his prey on the edge of a rather thin precipice. Taking an ordinary saw, the plaintiff began cutting away so that the edge of the cliff, with his prey on it, would drop some 1500 feet to a jagged, rocky destruction. Instead, by some inexplicable twist of fate the edge of the cliff remained standing while the whole mountain, on which the plaintiff was standing, plummeted to the bottom of the ravine, causing numerous injuries which affect the plaintiff to this day.
  2. On another occasion, Mr. Coyote was chasing his prey and followed it off of the edge of a cliff onto thin air, not realizing until too late that his prey, a bird, could remain in the air almost indefinitely while he, a canine, could not. As a result, he fell yet again, suffering even further severe and debilitating injuries which predate the injuries complained of in this action.
  3. You will also hear the testimony of Mr. Road Runner, the plaintiff's prey and the true victim in this tragedy. Mr. Runner has been forced to live a nomadic lifestyle as a result of Mr. Coyote's unwanted attention, preventing him from forming any type of long term relationships. Numerous restraining orders had no effect. Mr. Runner has also suffered numerous psychological problems as a result of Mr. Coyote's actions, including but not limited to an inability to trust anyone who provides him with bird seed, a necessary ingredient in his daily nutritional schedule.
  4. You will also hear from a witness to many of the incidents alleged in plaintiff's complaint, a colorful local prospector with red hair and moustache who has been known to proclaim: "No rootin' tootin' coyote can outsmart Yosemite Sam on any day of the week!" Don't be fooled by his gruff manner and twin pearl-handled six-shooters, he's a pussycat.
  5. Customer service records of defendant ACME, which we were forced to produce in this matter, clearly show that none of the complaints registered by ACME's customers nation-wide have ever resulted in criminal convictions of the officers of the corporation.
  6. Finally, videotape evidence will demonstrate that plaintiff faked many of his injuries, setting out to create performances especially for a jury such as yourself. On numerous occasions he would "mug" for the camera, as if he was well aware beforehand that he was being taped. For instance, during the "Rocked Sled" incident, as his forelimbs were stretched out ahead of him and his body remained behind, he looked straight into the camera with a forlorn, tired expression, as if to say: "look at how terrible my situation is, can you guess what's going to happen to me now." This jury is too smart to fall for such petty theatrics.
In summary, ladies and gentlemen, it will be clear to you from the evidence that ACME's products, if used properly, will cause only minimal injuries to a user and his loved ones. The plaintiff in this case has brought his troubles upon himself by adopting his carnivorous lifestyle. As others have so adequately uttered: "Live by the Super Slick Jet Propulsion Automated Explosive Metal-Shearing Heat-Seeking Laser-Guided Razor-Edged Boomerang, die by the Super Slick, etc."
I ask you, on behalf of my client, to dismiss the plaintiff's claims against it.

Note: Mr. Fuddle was likely unaware of how deeply notorious Mr. Coyote was.  To wit: TV Guide included Wile E. Coyote in their 2013 list of The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time.

The Strange Case of the Ramen Girl

"Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything."  Lawrence Downes

A few months ago, "The Ramen Girl" popped up on our recorder. We set it for something else but the schedule was changed.  After we watched the film for a few minutes, we ended up wholly engaged and found it pretty entertaining...mostly the sets and mostly the noodle shop.  Because I have noodles on the brain, I thought I'd look up the film's rating and see how the young star's career fared. 

I was shocked to read that the lovely and talented young (32 years old) Brittany Murphy died in 2009 under strange circumstances. See the Wikipedia information below. Even more strange is that her husband (also 32) died a scant 3 months later from a similar cause! You wonder what happens to cases like somebody trying to figure out what happened? 

At 08:00 (16:00 GMT) on December 20, 2009, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to "a medical request"[35] at the Los Angeles home Murphy and Monjack shared. She had apparently collapsed in a bathroom.[6] Firefighters attempted to resuscitate Murphy on the scene. She was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead on arrival[36] at 10:04 after going into cardiac arrest.[6][35]
Shortly after her death, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told the Associated Press: "It appears to be natural."[10][37][38] An autopsy was performed the day after she died. Her death certificate listed the cause of death as "deferred".[39] On February 4, 2010, the Los Angeles County coroner stated that the primary cause of Murphy's death was pneumonia, with secondary factors of iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication. On February 25, 2010, the coroner released a report stating that Murphy had been taking a range of over-the-counter and prescription medications, with the most likely reason being to treat a cold or respiratory infection. These included "elevated levels" of hydrocodoneacetaminophenL-methamphetamine and chlorpheniramine. All of the drugs were legal and the death was ruled to be an accident, but the report observed: "the possible adverse physiological effects of elevated levels of these medications cannot be discounted, especially in her weakened state."[2]
Murphy was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills on December 24, 2009.[40]
On May 23, 2010, her widower Simon Monjack was found dead at the same Hollywood Hills residence.[41] In July 2010, Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter stated that the cause of his death was acute pneumonia and severe anemia.[42] It was reported that the Los Angeles County Department of Health had considered toxic mold in their house as a possible cause of the deaths, but this was dismissed by Ed Winter, who stated that there were "no indicators" that mold was a factor.[43] Murphy's mother Sharon described the reports of mold contributing to the deaths as "absurd" and went on to state that inspecting the home for mold was never requested by the Health Department.[44] In December 2011, Sharon Murphy changed her stance, announcing that toxic mold was indeed what killed her daughter and son-in-law, and filed a lawsuit against the attorneys who represented her in an earlier suit against the builders of the home where her daughter and son-in-law died.[45]
On January 11, 2012, her father Angelo Bertolotti applied to the Superior Court of California requesting that the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office be required to hand over samples of his daughter's hair for independent testing.[46][47] The suit was dismissed on July 19, 2012 after Bertolotti failed to show up to two separate hearings.[48]
In November 2013, Angelo Bertolotti claimed that a toxicology report showed that deliberate poisoning by heavy metals, including antimony and barium, was a possible cause of Brittany Murphy's death. Sharon Murphy described the claim as "a smear".

The Happy Story of Mr. Noodle

By contrast and on a happier note, here's a piece from the New York Times written about the inventor of the instant Ramen noodle product, Mr. Momofuku Ando, who lived to be 96 - three times as long as the Ramen girl and her unlucky husband. 

Did he ever cut a noodle? I think not.


Mr. Noodle

The news last Friday of the death of the ramen noodle guy surprised those of us who had never suspected that there was such an individual. It was easy to assume that instant noodle soup was a team invention, one of those depersonalized corporate miracles, like the Honda Civic, the Sony Walkman and Hello Kitty, that sprang from that ingenious consumer-product collective known as postwar Japan.

Kyodo News, via Associated Press
Momofuku Ando in 2005.

But no. Momofuku Ando, who died in Ikeda, near Osaka, at 96, was looking for cheap, decent food for the working class when he invented ramen noodles all by himself in 1958. His product — fried, dried and sold in little plastic-wrapped bricks or foam cups — turned the company he founded, Nissin Foods, into a global giant. According to the company’s Web site, instant ramen satisfies more than 100 million people a day. Aggregate servings of the company’s signature brand, Cup Noodles, reached 25 billion worldwide in 2006.
There are other versions of fast noodles. There is spaghetti in a can. It is sweetish and gloppy and a first cousin of dog food. Macaroni and cheese in a box is a convenience product requiring several inconvenient steps. You have to boil the macaroni, stir it to prevent sticking and determine through some previously obtained expertise when it is “done.” You must separate water from noodles using a specialized tool, a colander, and to complete the dish — such an insult — you have to measure and add the fatty deliciousness yourself, in the form of butter and milk that Kraft assumes you already have on hand. All that effort, plus the cleanup, is hardly worth it.
Ramen noodles, by contrast, are a dish of effortless purity. Like the egg, or tea, they attain a state of grace through a marriage with nothing but hot water. After three minutes in a yellow bath, the noodles soften. The pebbly peas and carrot chips turn practically lifelike. A near-weightless assemblage of plastic and foam is transformed into something any college student will recognize as food, for as little as 20 cents a serving.
There are some imperfections. The fragile cellophane around the ramen brick tends to open in a rush, spilling broken noodle bits around. The silver seasoning packet does not always tear open evenly, and bits of sodium essence can be trapped in the foil hollows, leaving you always to wonder whether the broth, rich and salty as it is, is as rich and salty as it could have been. The aggressively kinked noodles form an aesthetically pleasing nest in cup or bowl, but when slurped, their sharp bends spray droplets of broth that settle uncomfortably about the lips and leave dots on your computer screen.
But those are minor quibbles. Ramen noodles have earned Mr. Ando an eternal place in the pantheon of human progress. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Envelope Soup

 "What Contemptible Scoundrel Stole The Cork From My Lunch" --- W.C. Fields

My mother loved "envelope soup" - her name for Lipton's dehydrated chicken noodle soup.
On cold winter days, we'd come home from school for lunch, bursting in the back door out of the -30 or -40 degree cold shouting urgently,  "Mom, I'm starving!" We didn't have to wait long - just the time it took to shrug out of the snow suits, undo the boots, shake them off and run to the table that was squeezed into the corner of the kitchen. (My closet is bigger than that kitchen was). She'd have a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of hot soup waiting. I didn't know, of course, how good I had it. Our youthful appetites were intensified by the freezing weather; the food was lovingly prepared and offered in our warm kitchen; life was uncomplicated (at least for the kids) and we were safe. Happy. My mother would stand by the stove, waiting for me to finish one bowl so she could add more and she'd patiently listen to me babble about the morning at school. It must have been thrilling for her to hear all the things that went on in the second grade. Even after a career in the food business and after eating delicacies all over the world, few things have ever tasted as good as those warm winter lunches and never, ever has there been a listener like my Mom. Except perhaps for your Mom?

I've been thinking about those soup lunches as I've been mapping out our food forays coming up in Japan. First thing in Japan you have to consider is Ramen, Ramen, Ramen. 

It was easy to eat "envelope soup". The inch long, firm noodles were easy to get into a spoon and they'd obediently stay in the spoon until you could get them into your mouth. Even a kid could manage it. 

Moving upscale once in a while, my mother would substitute a bowl of Campbell's canned chicken noodle soup for the envelope variety. The Campbell's noodles were plumper and longer - harder to handle. We'd crouch over our bowls and suck up the noodles, much to my mother's chagrin. She'd insist we suck quietly or we cut the noodles with our spoons. Of course that encouraged us to slurp all the louder.

During the course of my Ramen Reading, I've learned/affirmed that in most of Asia, it's considered bad luck to cut a noodle. A noodle is considered a "life line" and cutting it is not advised. Asians slurp assisting consumption with a deep, flat soup spoon used for the broth and in a minor way to help get the noodles within slurping distance of the mouth.  Noisily and enthusiastically they slurp; the more the better. And not just for the sake of good manners. Even though slurping is complimentary to the chef and conveys satisfaction and happiness, slurping improves the taste. The action helps get soup around in the mouth to all taste receptors; it causes volatiles to travel up through the nose to odor receptors; it increases the flow of saliva and it serves to slightly cool the soup before it goes down the throat. All good things. 

Here's an interesting presentation of's in Kyoto and if we can remember to pack our flak jackets, maybe we'll visit the place. You have to be very careful not to make a fuss???? 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Orphan Master's Son and "The Lady in Gold"

This month our book club read "The Orphan Masters Son", the 2013 winner of the Pulitzer prize for fiction.

Set in North Korea, it's an epic tale and absolutely riveting.  While reading reviews of the book and lists of honors the author has won, I noticed he (Adam Johnson) won the California prize for fiction. I'd never heard of it but on their web site I noticed that the 2013 award for non-fiction went to Anne Marie O'Connor for "The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer." As we just saw "The Kiss" in Vienna and as I have SADD (senior attention deficit disorder) my attention was totally diverted.

"The Lady in Gold" feels like a good old friend as I once spent a few weeks assembling a jig saw puzzle of the work.

As you can see my paltry art education has been acquired in the most plebeian of ways, although in all fairness, I must say the puzzle was an authorized one purchased when the painting was here in Southern California some years ago. Not some cheapo knock off.

Puzzles made of famous works aren't the worst thing that can happen. In the Belvedere museum in Vienna where we saw the "Kiss", they've merchandised the heart and soul of poor Gustav. His images are on everything; we watched the museum shop cash registers smoking: they were selling place mats and ties; napkins and book marks;scarves and calendars; diaries and notebooks. Richard bought a eye glass case and a couple of prints but I resisted buying even one of the Klimt books - the big heavy coffee table books I love but hate hauling home. There is something unbelievably compelling in those museum shops; we rarely leave without some knick knack and most of the time we regret that we can't carry home more. Of course, the merchandising is essential to providing funds for museum support which helps ease the pain and guilt of plucking tissues from your Klimt Kleenex holder.

Something strange comes over us in museums; something we both like. I think we fall "in love" with these works of art, to over simplify. They're not considered masterpieces without reason. Once under their spell, you want to have something to remember them by; you want to stay connected even if it's through the reproduction on your mouse pad or your coffee mug.

Klimt, they say, was inspired by the Byzantine era gold leaf paintings. perhaps like the by Giottos hanging in our own backyard at the Getty. I'll have to further educate myself in the Byzantine by buying a puzzle of one of these beauties.
Wikipedia. Giotto di Bondoni

And speaking of inspiration I'm motivated to read the O'Connor book if I can ever haul
myself mentally out of North Korea.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Expensive in Vienna

We have a couple of Buddah's Hands or Citron trees growing just for novelty and they are quite fecund.  Or is it prolific? I think of "prolific" in terms of accomplishment and "fecund" as a more biological description. Even after looking the usage up, I'm still not sure. In every day terms, people seem to use them interchangeably. 

I was surprised to find out how expensive the fruit is in Europe. You'd better have a fecund bank account if you want to purchase many of these. 

35.90 euro/ kilo or 16 euro per pound = about $22 per pound. Usually we just let them fall to the ground. I'm inspired to try candying a few. 

Suggested uses for Citron from

Buddha Hand Citron Fruit Use:

In the western culinary world, the fruit is mainly used for its aromatic rind.  The rind makes a great zest, much better than lemon in my opinion. Specific culinary usages range from flavoring savory dishes, desserts and vodka.
The insides:
The inside of the fruit is composed almost entirely the white stuff (pith) that you see between an orange rind and orange flesh. However, here the white stuff is much firmer and has been called solid albedo.  There is really nothing juicy in there.  No seeds either. However, you can eat this white stuff inside after you remove the bitter outer yellow rind.  The albedo has a very mild floral flavor and is on the dry side.  None the less, it can be cut in slices to add some texture to salads, etc.
The fruit is pulled apart into individual fingers, dried and candied.  This candied fruit is a popularsnack throughout Asia.
Air freshener:
Many simply use the fruit as an air freshener for the car or home-doubling as a conversation piece. The citron smell that is released from the fruit is a delight. The aroma reminds me of thecereal fruity pebbles and fruit loops, without the artificial overtones.  Others say it smells like violets.
The plant has a long history in China where it is highly prized because it symbolizes long life hand happiness. In Japan, the fruit is a popular gift at New Year’s because it’s believed to bringgood fortune to a home.
Religious offering:
The fruit is sometimes given as an offering in Buddhist temples.   The fruit with a closed hand configuration is the most valued for offerings because in this state it resembles the Buddhist hand gesture for prayer.
In Asia, it has been prescribed as a tonic as part of traditional medicine.

Vape anyone?

Finally getting the last few travel items put away, I got to the very bottom of my back pack and found this:

I looked at it for a while, drawing a blank, and showed it to Richard. Neither of us had ever seen the item before. There's a light thingie on one end so we thought maybe it was a flashlight. Finally I was looking at it from a different angle and realized it looked like a cigarette. "Gamucci" is written on the side of the thing and a Google search reveals that it is indeed a Ecigarette. Puffing on it causes the light to turn on, sort of glow and it generates some simulated smoke.
Vaping utilizes a Propylene Glycol or Vegetable Glycerin based liquid, mixed with small amounts of nicotine and food grade flavoring that then get vaporized in a small battery powered atomizer. Simulating the experience of smoking, the vapor created is inhaled and exhaled much like cigarette smoke hence the term “VAPING” as opposed to “SMOKING” 

How did it get in my backpack? We had to check our packs at some of the museums in Vienna, which is the only time mine would have been out of my sight. Perhaps someone accidentally dropped it in? Or is it some devilishly clever marketing ploy. Reverse theft? 

It was a reminder to periodically examine the contents of my back pack when on the road...not for items stolen but for items planted.
Scary thought. 

Sepia Saturday 210: "He is still moving Mr. Mu."

"Things found in old books" is the theme for this week's Sepia Saturday. Nancy told me about an exhibit of such items that the Fallbrook Library put together. Can you imagine the stories behind all the notes, photos, documents left in library books? 

I started going through Richard's old books because he has a habit of using interesting things for book marks; foreign currency for example.  He enjoys finding the bills years later and being reminded of times past, like when Zimbabwe was experiencing 89,000,000,000,000,000,000% inflation. 


He also uses old envelopes, receipts and airline tickets. My own books don't yield much flotsam or jetsam; I'm a book torturer and fold down the corners to mark my spot. I apologize for that. 

Peering at the line-up of books on the shelf, I could see something white sticking up from the pages of his  "Lin Yutang's Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern American Usage". 

Instead of the worthless but amusing 100 trillion dollar Zimbabwe bank note, this photo fluttered out.

When I showed it to Richard he started to laugh. "What's so funny?" I queried. The photo was marked DIA and bore an official looking number; I assumed it was probably something serious. As the laughter subsided, I asked all my questions, beginning with, "Who was Mr. Mu?".

My husband had a career working in various aspects of intelligence gathering: At one point he was on assignment in an east european country attending an exhibition of Finnish skiing skills and "watching" a Chinese diplomat who was also "watching" him. It's a long complicated story - too long for this purpose. The two adversaries ended up looking at each other face to face and camera to camera. It was a comic situation and my husband has a fine sense of humor. In a spontaneous flash of fun, they laughingly agreed to switch cameras and take pictures of each other. Guess who suggested this? Once "Mr. Mu" handed Richard his camera, Richard absconded with it. In that game there's little room for spontaneity. Shame on Mr. Mu; he should have known better. 

After the incident was over, one of Richard's associates at DIA slipped him this bucolic photo, with the added caption, of a Chinese man using some kind of instrument. Were Chinese intelligence agents so naive and inept; so unschooled in spy craft, like poor Mr. Mu, that they'd use a device on a tripod in the middle of an empty field and have an assistant? That's the joke of course. 

As you can see the photo is stamped unclassified and unlike most memories of those times, Richard was able to keep it and use it as a book mark. 

I love watching spy movies with my husband who has his best laughs when the crucial file (there's always one) is handed over from one person to the next and lest we, the great unwashed, don't get it, it's stamped in the most clandestine possible way: 

Don a disguise!.... something low-key like a nose-and-glasses 

......and sneak on over to Sepia Saturday to read more stories.

Optional theme music by the great Henry Mancini.....

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Downton Electric Mixer

Here's the New Yorker's review of the season four opener of the Downton Abbey series last night. I fell asleep. I found Mary, mourning for six months, pale, thin and barely interested in her son, a crashing bore. With all the robust and well drawn characters in the mix, I'm gob smacked at why the writers couldn't have done better

This season’s slightly feminist and pro-labor gambits notwithstanding (several side plots have been established about highly trained servants being forced out of their jobs), the show not-so-implicitly argues that although circumstances evolve, solid family values will endure. Especially if you have kindly old servants watching your back. The show’s plummy, self-satisfied conservatism has been pointed out 
many times before. But that won’t stop me from rooting for Mary, the newly-hatched Downton executive. Please pass the excellent, electric-mixer-made pudding, even if it may put Ms. Patmore out of a job. She’ll find another.

I thought the best of the show was the electric mixer's appearance in the kitchen. They must have had a Hobart, unless there was a British equivalent. Reading about them this morning, I was surprised to read that the mixer's mechanics haven't changed. How amazing that a pea shucker attachment made in 1919 will fit on today's model!!!
Wikipedia. Mixer circa 1930

In the early years, retailers were slow to take on the KitchenAid mixer. To counter their reluctance, Hobart established a direct sales force made up primarily of women who went door to door offering demonstrations of the new food preparation tool. With the creation of citrus juicer and food grinder attachments in 1919, KitchenAid mixers were on the road to becoming the versatile "food preparation tools", as they were subsequently styled. Today's KitchenAid stand mixers can be converted to anything from a pasta maker to a sausage stuffer or grain mill with the addition of optional attachments. 

The mixer's mechanics remain virtually unaltered, too. An attachment made in 1919 -- the pea shucker, for instance -- will fit on today's model. Tens of millions of KitchenAid mixers have been manufactured at the same Greenville, Ohio, factory that produced the first one in 1919.   

More here.