Sunday, July 29, 2007

Summer cooler update

In a June post, I promised to write about the delights of iced masala (spicy Indian) tea. Try making a pitcher of Celestial Seasonings' Bengal Spice. I used to brew these summer tisanes before chilling them, but now I just splash cold water into a pitcher in the morning, throw in four bags of any flavor and leave it all in the refrigerator to make itself by late afternoon.
Bengal Spice offers a reasonably good version of masala tea in handy bags at a price that is affordable to most folks. It can be found at most grocery stores and it is free of caffeine. I recommend this version of iced masala as the most easily accessible, most convenient and quickest method for most people

My housemate gave this drink his lip-smacking seal of approval, and I like it, too. If I were to serve this to guests, I might add frozen berries or other fruit, but I would probably freeze cubes of this beverage and add them to ice the drink. Bengal Spice would make a good foil for a green salad as well as for chicken/tuna/egg/legume salad.
(submitted by Moon Rani)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Booking through Thursday

Who’s the worst fictional villain you can think of? As in, the one you hate the most, find the most evil, are happiest to see defeated? Not the cardboard, two-dimensional variety, but the most deliciously-written, most entertaining, best villain? Not necessarily the most “evil,” so much as the best-conceived on the part of the author…oh, you know what I mean!

The worst villain: Gilbert Osmond in
The Portrait of a Lady. He devours innocence and freedom for sheer sport - ruining Isobel's life, Pansy's life - even Ralph Touchett's, in a way, as his sufferings are multiplied by his generosity. Osmond's delight in the trappings of wealth and culture makes his heartlessness even more ironic.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Quotable Friday, on Saturday

Heather, at Orange Blossom Goddess, does "Quotable Friday" posts. I'm one day late.

Herman Melville:
"Tea: a decoction that lightly floats the spirit for a while and at least lands it in a dry place."

(Hiss.........One more reason NEVER to read Moby-Dick!)


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Booking through Thursday

Okay, love him or loathe him, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that J.K. Rowling’s final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, comes out on Saturday… Are you going to read it? This Ravenclaw will be reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the moment it arrives from If I don't get it by Saturday, I'll have to hide in my closet to keep from being spoiled.
  1. If so, right away? Or just, you know, eventually, when you get around to it? Are you attending any of the midnight parties? See above. I won't attend parties, but I will talk with my stuffed Hedwigs. It will be a comfort to us both.
  2. If you’re not going to read it, why not?
  3. And, for the record… what do you think? Will Harry survive the series? What are you most looking forward to? I am in the "Snape is a good guy" queue because I trust Dumbledore completely. I think he took Harry on the quest for the Horcrux as a rite of passage, to toughen him and to ensure that he could do anything necessary to vanquish (hiss) Voldemort. It was Harry's Bardo, facing what he feared, and he got through it.


No "Booking Through Thursday" from Moon Rani this week, folks, because the topic is Harry Potter. I'm a rare person in that I haven't read any HP.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


"Booking Through Thursday
"1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
"2. The worst?
"3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)
"And, by all means, expand this to as long a list as you like. I’m notoriously awful myself at narrowing down to one favorite ANYTHING. So, feel free to list as many “good” or “bad” movie-from-books as you like. (Heaven knows that’s what I’ll be doing….)"

How about a book that was made into a television series? I choose I, Claudius by Robert Graves, a book which tells the stories of the ancient Roman Caesars in all their wicked and cunning glory. The series was top-drawer, a classy, production that was, mostly, faithful to the book. I saw the series years before I read the book. Each is superlative in its own right. I doubt it would have made a difference to my opinion if I'd read the book first. I consider them both so far above average reading and viewing fare that I cannot recommend them too heartily.

This is, arguably, my choice for the worst screen adaptation: Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. The book is a good diversion; in fact, I recommend it as a beach book. I'll call the book historical fiction, meaning that the author took a true murder case, added personal interviews and a fat dollop of secondhand information, mixed in a lot of wild imagination and served it up as a book that made the New York Times bestseller list about fifteen years ago.

The movie version was directed by Clint Eastwood, who was not the right man for the job. The film was tired and anemic with the exception of the actor who portrayed himself, a drag-queen named Chablis. The story takes place in Savannah (Georgia), a city I know well. Despite the vividly colorful city and people, the movie was lackluster. Mr. Eastwood needed to take time to get to know Savannah and her citizens. Savannah doesn't give herself easily, but she is well worth the time and the effort as she rewards the patient person with her riches.

Robert Altman directed a screen adaptation of The Gingerbread Man. Like Midnight, it was shot largely in and around Savannah around the same time as Mr. Eastwood shot his film. The word on the street was that Mr. Altman and Mr. Eastwood ought to have switched positions because neither was suited for the film he chose, but each would have succeeded admirably with the other's movie.

(submitted by Moon Rani)

Booking through Thursday

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
2. The worst?
3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)

The best: Brideshead Revisited. (I'm prejudiced: I like anything with Jeremy Irons.)
The worst: The DaVinci Code.
Had I read the books the books first and did it make a difference? Yes for Brideshead, and the adaptation enhanced it so much that I've both read the book and watched the series many, many times. Yes for DaVinci, and it didn't make that much of a difference because I loathed them both. The film was so much sillier, though...

posted by melanie

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Booking through Thursday

What with yesterday being the Fourth of July and all, I’m feeling a little patriotic, and so have a simple question:What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel? At least to date. A “classic,” or a current one–either would be fine. Mark Twain? J.D. Salinger? F. Scott Fitzgerald? Stephen King? Laura Ingalls Wilder?It doesn’t have to be your favorite book, mind you. “Citizen Kane” may be the “best” film, and I concede its merits, but it’s not my favorite. You don’t have to love something to know that it’s good.Now, I know that not all of you are American–but you can play, too! What I want from you is to know what you consider to the best novel of YOUR country. It might be someone the rest of us haven’t heard of and, frankly, I think we’d all like to get some new authors to read.In fact, while we’re at it–I’m curious about the geographical make-up of this meme. So, while you’re leaving your link to your post, tell us where in the world you are! (For the record, I’m in New Jersey, USA.)

My choice for the Great American Novel may not even
be a novel ( it might be a novella): Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. On one level, it's a light story about a golddigger who befriends a writer, moves into his apartment, and shows him the decidedly atypical slice of American life she has tried to enter.

Glam, bohemian parties present a background for a lonely, lovely woman who loves the glitter and freedom she found when she left her home, but fears attachments. She calls the men who give her the "tips" she lives on "rats," and she calls her cat "Cat" because a real name for the animal would represent too much of an attachment. Despite the patina of sophistication, she remains a naive, small-town girl who misses her brother and who allows herself to become an unwitting carrier of information for a jailed mobster.

I've always thought of Breakfast at Tiffany's as another iteration of the themes that F. Scott Fitzgerald iterated in The Great Gatsby. Like Jay Gatsby, Holly Golightly has come east to establish a glittering life for herself. Where Gatsby stared at the green light at the end of the pier where his unattainable Daisy lived and flung jewel-toned shirts to impress her, Holly stares at the unattainable jewels behind the windows of Tiffany's and tries to impress with witticisms. Both Holly and Gatsby are victims of the criminals and wastelands that underlie the glamour of New York.

(Incidentally, I love the film except for the gruesome, goggle-eyed, bucktoothed-gargoyle depiction of the Chinese landlord. Was such a depiction ever acceptable, or funny?)

I'm from Long Island, New York, which explains my affinity for both of Gatsby's Eggs and Holly's Manhattan.

posted by melanie

"Booking Through Thursday"

"What, in your opinion, is the (mythical) Great American Novel?"
This is an impossible question for me. I could no more choose the great American novel than I could choose a single great American writer. Instead, I shall offer some authors as contenders for having written the great American novel: Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and Toni Morrison. Each evokes a distinct time and place from a distinctly American perspective, and each tells involving stories that require deliberation. None serves up mere pablum but, rather, real food for thought. I chose the first six authors who came into my head, but I could fill a page with more
(submitted by Moon Rani)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Meeting a newly-minted author

It started with a notice for a book-signing that I saw at our library. It ended with my own, private audience with that author - - and his mother.
I believe in supporting new writers and other artists. If I were wealthy, I would become a patron of the arts, but as it is, I offer a wealth of praise and encouragement along with a few modest purchases. That's why I just had to meet the young man whose recently published novel I read last night.
I made telephone contact with the writer's mom, which sounds funny until you understand that the young man is a 2007 high school graduate. His book, Danger In the House, was published in October 2006. It isn't available anywhere but in my town because it doesn't even has the ISBN yet, but all that is in the works.
Danger In the House is a horror novel, not my usual choice. But Nicholas Brady's book provided me with chills and thrills and a certain spooky atmosphere on a soft summer evening. Young Nicholas has many writing basics in hand, and turned out several nifty phrases in his story of a haunted house and its new inhabitants. It was not scary enough to make me turn on every light in the house, but I consider that a plus as I'm a regular scaredy cat. His book is told from the perspective of the teenaged protagonist who finds herself struggling against possessed parents, ghosts and a malacious house while trying to protect herself and her hapless younger brother.
Ms. Brady, Nicholas' mother, provided his transportation to our meeting place yesterday. Her persistence won me over in deciding to buy the book. I had a pleasant chat with mother and son, asking the usual questions about inspiration, method and future plans. I was amused to see Ms. Brady superintend her son while he inscribed my book, telling him where and how to sign and what to say.
Nicholas has the potential to be a crowd-pleaser if he carries on his intention to major in writing arts when he enters college this autumn. In fact, I look forward to being scared by Nicholas many times more in the future.

(submitted by Moon Rani)