Archive for December, 2007

Warmest Room in the House?


In today’s NYT Book Review (alas, I’ve cancelled my Strib subsription in favor of the Times) Dominique Browning reviews “The Warmest Room in the House” by Steven Gdula.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that if you really want to understand the workings of a society, you have to “look into their pots” and “eat their bread.” Steven Gdula gives us a view of American culture from the most popular room in the house: the kitchen.

As it does now, and will forever, the question of counter space loomed large for housewives in the early part of the last century. The invention of the Hoosier, a cabinet that contained drawers for almost every possible gadget and a work surface in one unit, set a pattern for kitchen design that has been altered only by degree over the decades. Here is a paradox. Early kitchens had “no counter space,” as real estate agents would put it today, which is enough to warrant major renovation, as anyone who has bought a prewar house or apartment knows. Yet out of those very kitchens came an abundance — the likes of which we never see today unless we are watching the Food Channel — of breads, cakes, pies, stews, roasts and preserved goods, enough to feed family and friends season after season.

As we consider a kitchen remodel ourselves (and ordered Punch pizza for dinner tonight – deliciaaaahhhhs!), it is interesting to take a broader view our “germ phobic…vanity kitchens” where we do little more than reheat last night’s Chinese.

ferry to nowhere

 From the Washington Post

Twice in the past two years, Alaska lawmakers lost congressional earmarks to build two “bridges to nowhere” costing hundreds of millions of dollars after Congress was embarrassed by public complaints over the pet projects hidden in annual spending bills.

This year, Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, who are Alaska Republicans, found another way to move cash to their state: Stevens secured more than $20 million for an “expeditionary craft” that will connect Anchorage with the windblown rural peninsula of Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Now what Alaska has, budget watchdogs contend, is a ferry to nowhere.

With the Eyes of an Immigrant


In the December 24th issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes an interesting essay on the power of personality in presidential politics.  While the Republicans are competing for who is most anti-immigrant, Zakaria points out that Barack Obama is able to see America with the eyes of an immigrant. 

Born to a Kenyan father, growing up with an Indonesian step-father, then living in the “multi-cultural swirl of Hawaii,” Obama has a different perspective.  Zakaria points to examples in corporate America, where Vikram Pandit heads Citigroup, Indra Nooyi heads Pepsi; in order to run a global company, you have to have a global perspective.  Why wouldn’t you want that perspective from a person running the world’s only super-power?

Day Job

I could leave for the west coast.  But, I won’t because I’ve still got my day job.

Get clean for Gene

mccarthycampaign_large.jpgAudio recordings of Eugene McCarthy’s historic run for president in 1968 have been re-discovered at the University of Minnesota’s Elmer L. Andersen Library.    and highlighted similarities between 1968 and today.

“And at some point you make a prudential judgment that whatever good you can get out of the war, or what good is going to come from it, is not proportionate to the destruction of life and property and the draining away of moral energy, which goes along with the pursuit of the war in a way in which we are now pursuing it.”

In the 1968 Democratic primary, McCarthy (not to be confused with red baiter Joseph McCarthy, Senator from Wisconsin – no relation) stunned Lyndon Johnson with a strong showing in New Hampshire.  Four days later, Robert Kennedy entered the race for the Democratic nomination only to be assassinated in June.  Ultimately, Hubert H. Humphrey, Johnson’s VP and former Minnesota Senator himself, beat McCarthy for the nomination and lost the general election to Nixon. 

I just wish politicians today could summon the same courage McCarthy did to challenge to a sitting President of his own party based on moral outrage against the war.


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