Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Vote for Gracie!

My writing partner, Nicholas Alexander Hayes, and I have a new essay published in PopMatters. It's a look back at Gracie Allen's run for President in 1940. Check it out! What ever happened to campaign songs, anyway?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to Help Your Husband Get Ahead

I enjoyed The Beginner Housewife (1956) so much that I have decided to read all of the books advertised on the back of the book jacket. First up, How to Help Your Husband Get Ahead In His Social and Business Life, by Mrs. Dale Carnegie. If the name sounds familiar, her husband, Mr. Dale Carnegie is the author of How to Make Friends and Influence People (1936). First of all, let's be real. Mrs. Carnegie, I am positive you have a first name of your own, though the "Mrs." does really highlight the married thing. I was pretty dubious about the claim this book was making right in the title. I thought, What if my husband is a total loser? Luckily, Mrs. Carnegie addresses this in the first chapter.  She says, "Professional social workers, psychiatrists and other specialists may object that the rules I have formulated will not work in every case. What about husbands who are drunkards, drifters, ne'er-do-wells and congenital misfits? (3). I don't really know what to do if your husband is a drunkard or ne'er-do-well. I guess you have to get a different book.

This book is filled with all the sexist crap you might expect. You should cut your husband a ton of slack. Let him go out with his male friends. Stay off his back, even if he stays out all night. But there was also some very thoughtful passages as well. She urges wives not to be jealous of the women who work in the office or your husband's secretary. They're at work making their living--presumably because they don't have husbands who are as good of a provider as your husband is. I thought that was pretty open minded advice for the time.

I thought I was really going to hate this book. Seriously, it has all the hallmarks of something I would despise, but I was actually surprised. My "husband" is my wife and I just assumed there would be little for me. But I found myself, directly after reading this book, drawing on some of Mrs. Carnegie's wisdom. My partner travels a lot for work. I mean, sometimes A LOT. I get lonely and have to watch Columbo and The Dick Van Dyke Show and sometimes eat potato chips for dinner, even though I know it's just going to make me feel bad. So when my partner said she had to go to an "emergency" meeting, I was just about to protest. Then Mrs. Carnegie's words came to mind. She asks wives to keep the complaining and the disappointment to themselves. Traveling is hard. No one wants to be gone all the time. Traveling is part of my partner's job. Actually, a pretty cool part and I don't want to make her feel bad. If I did make her feel bad, there's really nothing she could do about it anyway, so why do it. As my friend Rosa says, "It's time to put on your big girl panties." This is sound advice. Mrs. Carnegie couldn't have said it better.

(I stole this cute photo from PEAKaBooDesign on Etsy. My book had no cover.)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Man's Favorite Sport

Last time I was at Audio Archaeology, I asked the owner for a recommendation for what I was then calling "White People Music," before I knew the term "Beautiful Music." He pointed me to this excellent record, Dear Heart and Other Songs About Love (1965), by Henry Mancini. It's choral music, sort of. It sounds a lot like supposed Jazz Choir from back in the 70s.

The songs on this record are terrible! They say terrible things about "love" and relationships. There's a cover of "Frankie and Johnnie," which is really the kind message we should be sending people about relationships. "Mr. Lucky" is pretty okay, because at least this "lucky guy" recognizes how awesome is "lucky girl" is. I actually think that the Everett High School jazz choir might have performed this tune.

One song was so upsetting to me that I had to Google it. "Man's Favorite Sport." Here is a sample:

Some men say Judo is their dish
While others fish where mountain waters swirl

But let a girl appear, he'll pursue her
And run his fingers through her curls
And that's the way it's been since the world began
The favorite sport of men, is girls!

There is just so much wrong with this song. First of all, the verses are just lists of sports. They are solitary and elitist. But then these sports are compared to forming a lasting relationship with a woman, as if it is a competition. But maybe a lasting relationship isn't exactly what the man wants. Then there's the bit where the males are "men" and the females are "girls." Really? My Googling led me to learn that this is the theme song from a 1964 film of the same name, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss. This film is clearly one of those awesome 60s sex comedies that I love so much. Seeing that it stars the queer-as-a-three-dollar-bill Rock Hudson, my opinion of this song changed. I think it was written to be intentionally campy. I can only hope. Still, it's pretty messed up.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Library of Vintage Cocktail Books

Last Christmas I stumbled upon this book on Pinterest called Bacchus Behave!: The lost art of Polite Drinking. I felt certain that this was THE perfect book for my friend Nicholas. He loves spirits, loves Bacchus, and just hates exclamation points. Anyway, I set about trying to buy this book and people wanted hundreds of dollars for it--which might I say, seems worth every penny. Sadly, I did not have this many pennies in my holiday budget. But the interwebs, she just gives and gives. In my search for something object-ey, I instead found something entirely more vast and digital-ey. I stumbled upon the EUVS Digital Collection. This digital library contains I-don't-know-how-many scanned volumes of cocktail books. Their online reader is really amazing, making it possible to actually read and work from these texts. This collection appears to be the library for the Exposition Universelle des Vins et Spiritueux. In addition to cocktail books, there are also books on customs and glassware. Really, this is such a finely curated library it's worth your time to check it out even if your idea of a cocktail is a bottle of beer.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Beautiful Music

Today my friend, Stephanie, took me to Madam Zuzu's in Highland Park. It's the second time we've been there. Mostly it's a tea shop, but it has records, too. I found this lovely album by Jackie Gleason called Music, Martinis, and Memories. As you can see, the cover is amazing. On the back it reads: music, martinis, and memories...each creates a wonderfully soft, romantic haze. This makes it sound kind of like Gleason is going to get me drunk and take advantage of me.

Until this afternoon, I had no idea that Jackie Gleason had anything to do with music. There were no liner notes and the text on the back was of little help, so I turned to the trusty Wikipedia. Apparently, Gleason just willed these albums to happen. He didn't play on them and wasn't the producer exactly. It's more like he said, "hey, make a record that will help me get lucky this weekend." Et voila! My new favorite record. Wikipedia called this record "mood music." It was hyperlinked, which I thought was pretty odd. Turns out this music genre actually has a name: beautiful music. I have a big collection of this music. At my favorite local record shop, Audio Archaeology, I just usually go in and ask the man at the counter if he has any new White People music. He hooked me up with a great Henry Mancini album called Dear Heart and Other Songs About Love. Most of the songs are pretty messed up. Now that I have these key search terms, the world of beautiful music is my oyster. Music, Martinis, and Memories is on Spotify if you want to listen to it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Beginner Housewife

The charming librarians at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Flaxman Library got me this awesome book, The Beginner Housewife via inter-library loan from, Guess where? New Zealand! I did for a moment question using the school's resources to procure this book for me. I read the book cover-to-cover, which took about two hours. I lingered. It was short and easy to read. Maybe the "Beginner" referred to reading level and out there somewhere there is The Intermediate Housewife and The Advanced Housewife. There's all sorts of tasties in the table of contents, from the basics of planning your day to the mysterious "masculine mending."

The thing that really struck me about this book is the publication date. It says 1956, but the advice in it seems really old. For example, the book talks about "if you are lucky enough to have a refrigerator." Really, by 1956 I would think most people would have had a refrigerator. By 1956, I would think a refrigerator would not be considered a luxury and that the lack of one would be seen as just that, a lack. It doesn't take very long for appliances of convenience to move from luxury to necessity.

Perhaps related to the refrigerator is the section that covers keeping a "stock-pot." I realize this is a time-honored tradition, but I was pretty surprised to see it in a book this recent. If you'd like to keep a stock pot here's some helpful advice:
1. Keep it covered.
2. Boil it up every day.
3. Never put anything into it but meat (including gristle and bacon rinds) and bones (fresh or cooked).
4. Empty it out daily and clean the pan thoroughly. (64)
I'm not so sure about this...

Overall the book was delight and I actually picked up some helpful hints. I found the
breakfast section really interesting because it included a lot of tinned fish. That would go over big in our house. Despite the total cuteness of this book, it's hardly been checked out.

The back jacket advertises a couple of other books. One is How To Succeed at Business Without Really Trying, which might actually be my favorite movie. It's certainly my go-to when I feel stressed out. I've already put on hold How to Help Your Husband Get Ahead, by Mrs. Dale Carnegie. I don't have a husband, I have a wife, but it couldn't hurt, right? The last book they advertise is The Secrets of Happiness. I'm not so sure about that one either.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Canning and Preserving

What I'm currently reading on Google Books. 

From Canning and Preserving 
by Mrs S.T. Rorer, 1897


In this age of adulteration we know not what we eat, and as canning is so simple an operation, it is unfortunate that so many people use food put up at factories, consequently the author sends this little book out as a missionary, with a wish that it may remedy this evil, and prove both helpful and acceptable.
     The maxim that "practice makes perfect" applies admirably to preserving. While the recipes contained herein are as simply and explicitly described as possible, to insure perfect success time must not be considered and the greatest care taken.