Friday, June 28, 2013

Not-so-secret ways to stay healthy

Not everyone can engineer a daily lifestyle of tranquility comparable to that of Susan Smith Jones, one of many uber-healthy people profiled in The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick by Gene Stone. Subtitled "What they know, why it works, and how it can work for you," the book is a cornucopia of solid advice from 25 people who have mastered the art of keeping body and soul in tip-top shape.
Upon rising at 4 a.m., Smith meditates, squeezes fresh orange juice, takes a hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, and eats a vegan breakfast. She writes or reads until lunchtime (raw food; sprouts), sees clients in the afternoon, and after dinner meditates again before bed at 8.  The author of The Joy Factor, Smith is a holistic healer and expert on relaxation who never takes medication and hasn't had a cold or flu in 25 years.
Granted, her regimen is a tad rarified, yet there are many habits of hers we can all assimilate. She offers seven cost-free suggestions that show up time and again throughout Stone's book as holistic paths to health. Here's my summary of them.
  • Get moving. Even a small amount of vigorous exercise can reduce tension dramatically.
  • Meditate and breathe deeply . . . your stress hormones will dissipate.
  • Eat a diet that takes stress off of your digestive system (yep, that means focusing on ye olde veggies and fruits).
  • Stay hydrated for maximum brain and kidney function.
  • Get enough sleep—if you want to live longer, not gain weight, and be more pleasant to be around, that is.
  • Laugh! Stimulate those endorphins!
  • Cultivate an "attitude of gratitude" by appreciating nature.
Interestingly, some of her precepts are echoed in the chapter that addresses the remarkable effects that a spiritual practice has on health. Theologian and psychotherapist Thomas Moore offers these five guideposts in that regard.
  • Spend time in nature, observing its mysteries and curious forms of vitality.
  • Walk thoughtfully, sit reflectively [i.e., meditate], especially in those in-between moments of everyday life.
  • Seek out art that has a spiritual quality for contemplation.
  • Have an inner prayer asking for what you need, praising what you see, thanking the source of life for what you have.
  • Engage in and reflect on some sort of "spiritual reading," whether it be poetry, fiction, nature writing, or spiritual ideas.
Secrets guru Gene Stone is one of the authors who is contributing original content to the Healthy Brain/Healthy Life forum that Daedalus is hosting on its website for the next few months. You're sure to find something of interest and value among the four showcases (Right Brain/Left Brain; Brain Gym; Total Recall; Food for Thought). We're also featuring news items, puzzles, quizzes, and more. I'll be sharing some groovy recipes from Secrets on down the line, so stay tuned. Bye for now . . .  I'm going for a walk!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A fishing story: "the most beautiful moment of my life"

"Even if I will never be able to find places as good as those in America, 
the spirit of fishing and of outdoor sports has already permeated my heart." 
The other day a friend showed me on his phone a photo of a pristine lake and mountains in Montana where he and a buddy were going to spend two weeks in splendid isolation fly fishing. It reminded me of a story I wanted to share with you. A little background: my nephew Andrew lives in China and his wife is named Ma Li. Her cousin Ma Ke came to stay with my sister and her husband Rob, who is a naturalist and wildlife/habitat preservationist by profession, in Tampa. Rob took Ma Ke out for a mighty fine day of fishing, and when he got back to China Ma Ke wrote and published this very enthusiastic account of the experience for a publication called Lure China. I love the cross-cultural aspect, as well as the boost of gratitude one gets for the privileges we enjoy vis a vis our public parks. (You'll see what I mean when you read on.  For example: "This country is vast but sparsely populated. A large portion of the land is undeveloped. As for the already developed areas, the local governments have taken measures to protect and preserve the pre-development environment’s character." Yes, he's talking about the good old U.S. of A! Love the paean to Outdoor World as well.)

Returning to the Largemouth Bass’ Homeland 
by Liaoning, Ma Ke
In America I often see people in sailboats gliding across the water, or stopping their boats near the riverbank to listen to music and go fishing. It’s not uncommon to come across people walking their dogs on hiking trails through the forest. And if you ever come across the ashes from a bonfire, then you know that the outdoor sports have thoroughly embedded themselves into the culture. The fact that the world’s most developed country is still able to provide such wondrous outdoors experiences to its people should make any foreigner deeply envious.
Florida’s Sportfishing Management 
Compared to the crowded conditions in China, the fishing environment in Florida is far more relaxed. You are not confined to paying membership fees at a small variety of fishing ponds, nor do you need to pay a fee each and every time you go fishing. In Florida, if you believe a certain spot is good for fishing, you go there to fish! With respect to Florida’s legal requirements, it doesn’t matter if you are a local or a foreigner, you just need to apply with the local authorities. Once approved, you may fish freely throughout the state. The application process is quite simple: you apply to the local authorities with your personal information – primarily your name, birthday, place of residence, and height. It struck me as odd that they ask you to provide your height but not your weight; I’m still not sure why that is! (Andrew’s note – it appears that he is making this remark un-ironically, I don’t know if he realizes it is likely because most Americans are overweight and don’t want to talk about it or not) Once you’ve provided the necessary information you must pay a one-time management fee that will cover you for a year. The total cost is around $90. While this may seem like a lot at first, that is the only fee you will pay for the entire year. If you compare that to what a frequent Chinese fisherman would pay during a year of visiting fishing ponds, the savings are quite clear. Once you’ve provided your information and paid the free, the process is complete. It takes about a week for them to process your application and send you your license. If you don’t have a license you are not allowed to fish. Some of you are probably thinking that this is a real waste of time having to wait an entire week? Don’t worry, they’ve thought about that already. Once you’ve paid the fee a temporary license card is available via their website. You simply print it out and carry it with you until the real card arrives. In this way you can begin fishing immediately. I figured that a fishing license would very much resemble our hukou (housing permits, looks like a birth certificate), but upon receiving mine I was surprised to discover that it was just a rectangular bit of card with my personal information. It looks less like a license than it does a train ticket! Having received your license, for one year you are free to fish public waters wherever and whenever you please. However, please don’t forget to bring your license with you at all times. While the license application fee is rather modest, the fine for being caught without a license is quite high!
Outdoor World
Orlando is a rather small tourism-oriented city and due to the great numbers of visitors that flock here, it has a variety of interesting aspects that one would not normally encounter in other American cities, some of which even made this foreigner feel a bit more at home. On this visit to Orlando our target destination was Outdoor World. This is the largest outdoor sports equipment store in the southern U.S. For Chinese people outdoor sports is still an up-and-coming, fashionable activity. While it is already becoming a new lifestyle and attitude, its history in China is still rather short. It also suffers a bit from the perception that it is a rich man’s luxury, characterized by high-priced goods and activities beyond the means of normal Chinese. Things are different in America. This country is vast but sparsely populated. A large portion of the land is undeveloped. As for the already developed areas, the local governments have taken measures to protect and preserve the pre-development environment’s character. As a result, America is replete with places that are perfect for enjoying outdoor sports. In America outdoor sports are not an activity exclusively for the wealthy, it has already become an integral part of the American lifestyle at all levels. Therefore, the market supporting this activity is also correspondingly well-developed and extensive. Orlando’s Outdoor World is one such example. For an outdoor sports enthusiast, the most attractive part of Orlando is not Disney, but Outdoor World. When you visit Outdoor World, you are first struck by its immense size. This store is roughly 30 times the size of your average Chinese outdoor sports store. Upon entering you’re immediately greeted by the mounted head of a giant bear. Further on, the extensive wood flooring, rock gardens, and running water through the store create a truly special shopping atmosphere. If you took the most bitter and jaded outdoor sports fan on earth and dropped them down into the center of this store their heart would sing out – truly, this is what an outdoor sports store should look like! Outdoor World is similar to other “big box” retailers in the American South in that it only has one floor with clearly defined shopping zones. Outdoor World’s zones included boats, fishing equipment, clothing, hunting, children’s, gifts, and others. They even had a small restaurant inside the store. Each zone’s selection is truly extensive, and if I didn’t need to leave before 7PM in order to catch the Orlando Magic game (Andrew’s note – this is a world-class humblebrag by Ma Ke!) I could easily have spent an entire day just walking the aisles looking at all they had to offer. There’s no harm in dreaming for a moment that Outdoor World is your personal warehouse… you put on a t-shirt and pants and then walk in, first you stroll over to the boat selection and pick out your bass boat of choice, then you head to the fishing section and grab your rods, reels, line, lures, and bocagrip. They have everything you could possibly need. Now that you’re properly kitted up, you head to the clothing section and pull on a pair of quick-dry pants, goretex jacket, and fishing boots… if you’ve still got the energy you might as well head over to the hunting section and grab a few more toys. The hunting section has an impressive display of mounted animals, from Florida’s omnipresent wild hogs to a stunning white tiger, it feels a bit like walking through a natural history museum! Now, if you step in front of a mirror, you’ll discover that you’ve become a new man. At least from external appearance there will be no one more handsome than you. All of these wild dreams can come true for you at Outdoor World, provided – of course – that you bring enough cash.

A joyful place called “Hedonia”
The longest car ride I took while I was in America was from Tampa, Florida up to Mississippi. It was comparable in length to driving from Shenyang, Liaoning to Datong, Shanxi. After a great many hours in the car, we finally stopped at a place called Hedonia. Hedonia is a private countryside home, and became my temporary home while I stayed in Mississippi. This home’s name is derived from a psychological illness called “Inhedonia”. This illness is characterized by depression and general unhappiness. The founder of this country estate was a medical doctor, one day in a stroke of inspiration he thought to take this terribly unhappy word and drop the “in” prefix from the front, creating the new word “Hedonia”. To him this meant endless happiness. In time this country estate provided a great deal of happiness to its founder, as well as to his descendants. It also came to provide me with some great fishing memories. Most of my time spent fishing in America was here at Hedonia. The forest estate included a lake, and because it is a private residence, you can fish here without a license or anything else provided you have the owner’s permission. My most memorable experience occurred late one afternoon following the passage of a thunderstorm. My friend and I took a small path starting behind the cottage that wound down through the forest and reached the lake-side after only 5 minutes or so. That same morning we had already been down to the lake to fish from the bank and with the exception of one bass that was smaller than the lure we caught it on, it had been a total bust. Accordingly, this time we embarked on a small boat to fish towards the center of the lake in search of largemouth bass. We removed the motor from the boat before launching as on a lake this small it’s better to do one’s best to preserve the tranquility.
Safely seated, we grabbed our rods and lure and began fishing. Mississippi is slightly north of Florida and this influences the sizes to which the bass can grow. A big bass in Mississippi is typically only 50cm (Andrew’s note – in East Asia the bass are tiny so they differentiate catch by length whereas in North America we always differentiate bass by weight) so bass fishermen accustomed to Florida’s lunkers must acclimate themselves a bit to the slightly smaller fish here. After the storm the surface of the pond was perfectly calm and frogs could be faintly heard around the perimeter. In the boat we slowly drifted with the river’s current, each of us casting unceasingly. Many times I would feel the fish bite but would miss the hook-set. I prefer to chalk this up to hallucinations rather than my own incompetence. Suddenly the boat rocked, and I turned to see my friend had a fish on the line. It wasn’t very big so my friend wasn’t all that excited. Nevertheless, things were already looking better than the morning’s result. Fish or not, the entire process of fishing was very enjoyable. After the storm passed the air temperature was around 23C, there was a very gentle breeze, and the boat drifted slowly. We could hear the frogs and birds singing, and the sky turned a lovely shade of red as the sun set. Despite how accustomed I am to the hustle and bustle of city life, here I quickly felt a sense of tranquility that I had never before experienced. The stage was beautifully set for a big bass to be caught… now all one had to do was wait. As I paddled the boat away from shore and back towards the center of the lake, my friend hooked his big one. This fish struck with great force. My friend told me that fighting a fish is the most magical part of fishing. That being able to fool and catch a great fish is pleasure from Nature itself. After a minute of fighting with his pole doubled far over, my friend lifted his 50+cm bass from the water. Our good luck wasn’t finished. 5 minutes later I hooked up, though in the end it wasn’t as big as my friend’s bass. Even so, it still measured 47cm and that’s a respectable fish in Mississippi. Also, for this new hand, it was a pretty nice achievement! As is our custom, we released our fish back into the lake. However, if you’d like to take home a memento that’s also very easy. You just need to take photos of your fish from all sides, measure it carefully, and send that information to a taxidermy company. These days they can make a fish mount every bit as realistic as the real thing and much more durable, which you can then place proudly on your living room wall. These artificial mounts are a great compromise between sportfishing’s environmental protection credo and some people’s desire to commemorate great catches.
As we walked back up the hill the sun had already set, and through the trees I could see the glow of the cottage’s fireplace. At this moment, as I reflected upon the earlier excitement over our catches, I felt that this was perhaps the most beautiful moment of my life. Fishing, and outdoor sports in general, has already become a key part of my family’s lifestyle. After returning to China I am constantly on the lookout for places suitable for fishing or other outdoor sports. Even if I will never be able to find places as good as those in America, the spirit of fishing and of outdoor sports has already permeated my heart.
[For more heartwarming fishing experiences, check out our recent catch of related books, including How to Tempt a Fish: A Complete Guide to Fishing.]

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"England's Most Notorious Dynasty"

The Tudors by G. J. Meyers is an excellent book to have on hand if you are at all interested in the period and its personages. (NB: please overlook the romance-novel cover on the paperback!)
Although both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I mounted huge propaganda campaigns that were bought into by many later historians, it is the sad truth is that both were wastrels and neither gave a toss about the people they were leading, subjecting them to famine, warfare, beheadings (if they were lucky enough not to be tortured or burned at the stake) for shifting winds of political and religious belief, and a thorough dismantling of the social protections once provided by church and state. Both were vain, tyrannical, and monstrously selfish as well as being ever on the lookout for usurpers. "Being of royal blood was a very mixed blessing in the England of the sixteenth century," writes Meyer; "the tenuousness of the Tudors' claim to the throne inclined them to see kinsmen as potential threats."
Henry was beyond reprehensible, building palace after palace while the people were starving and coming up with a convenient little concept called "the divine right of kings" that let him do anything he damn well pleased, everyone who disagreed be damned (literally).
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I attributed to George Gower
Meyer intersperses each chapter in this sad march toward the inevitable—albeit temporary—toppling of the monarchy with primers on topics like the Renaissance papacy, the Council of Trent, the rise and fall of the English theater, Parliament, the Turks, and religious orders of the time.  Kirkus wrote that he "subverts the now rather ho-hum custom of chronological storytelling by cutting to the quick of the action, then ambling backward to fill in the details. The author is clear that the lives of Tudors were 'studded with acts of atrocious cruelty and false dealing,' but they make for highly entertaining stories. Meyer also provides intriguing profiles of the era’s many other interesting characters, including Thomas Wolsey, Elizabeth Barton, Luther, Calvin, Thomas More and numerous popes."
Meyer is also the author of a book about the Borgias (The Borgias: The Hidden History), who have gotten a lot of play recently because of the lavish Showtime series about them. (I'm personally looking forward to Sarah Dunant's new historical novel Blood and Beauty, focusing on Cesare and Lucrezia). Here's the beginning of his background chapter on the Renaissance papacy.
What is called the Renaissance papacy will stink in the nostrils of history to the end of time. Its story is a litany of violence and deceit, of greed and pride and murderous ambition — finally of a corruption that reached such depths as to defy belief. It is an embarrassment to every Catholic who knows about it, a gift to anyone wanting to believe that the Catholic Church is really the Whore of Babylon.
However, it had essentially nothing to do with Henry VIII's destruction of the old church. Tudor England was too far away to be much affected by or even very aware of it, ancJ in any case the worst was already over when Henry came to the throne. By the time he was killing the likes of John Fisher and launching his attack on the monasteries, a new era of reform was dawning in Rome itself.
The papacy had touched bottom when Henry was a child, during the dozen years when the Spaniard Rodrigo Borgia ruled as Pope Alexander VI. A man so vile that when he died in 1503 the priests of St. Peter's Basilica refused to bury him, Alexander had begun his career as the nephew of an earlier Borgia pope thanks to whom he became a bishop, a cardinal, and finally vice-chancellor of the whole church…. Once he was pope himself, Alexander devoted his reign to advancing the fortunes of the favorites among his numerous bastard children, the most notorious of whom were his son Cesare (a ruthless adventurer who became archbishop of Valencia at age seventeen, and for whom Machiavelli wrote The Prince) and his oft-married daughter Lucrezia.
[Above: alleged portrait of Lucrezia in 'The Dispute of St Catherine' fresco by Pinturicchio in the 'Borgia apartment' of the Vatican.]

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Best historical novels & best travel writing

Of the Telegraph's recent feature on "Ten Best Historical Novels," I was chuffed to see that we had a number of the books mentioned at a discount (we try our best to make prices lower than Amazon, FYI). Restoration by Rose Tremain was one. Also on the list, natch, was Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, seen here with its British cover design. We seem to have sold out of that at the moment, but we have the equally engrossing (and more clearly written) Bring Up the Bodies, the second in the trilogy-in-progress. If it's not getting too far ahead of ourselves, we also have a book on Katherine Parr called The Sixth Wife as well as Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens.
Having just spent many nights avidly devouring  G.J. Meyer's excellent The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty, I can say that I am well and truly sickened by Henry VIII and by the staggering accumulation of pernicious consequences his reign had for England. And that goes for his daughters too! Sometimes reading history takes a strong stomach.
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian was also cited, and we have five of his "Aubrey & Maturin Adventures."
Moving along to another genre that often combines fact with fiction, I thought that Smithsonian Magazine's roundup of "Top Ten Most Influential Travel Books" was one of the better attempts in this genre. Among the men (and two women, thank God) singled out for their lasting impact were Herodotus, Marco Polo, Freya Stark, Jack Kerouac, Bruce Chatwin, and Peter Mayle.
The life of Dame Freya Stark suggests that travel (and a tot of Scotch?) can promote vitality as well as broaden the mind: she died in 1993 at the age of 100.
 Any suggestions for other books in these genres to add to our reading lists?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ursula Nordstrom & Edward Gorey

"Thanks for your card telling me you are having a nervous breakdown" wrote book editor Ursula Nordstrom to Edward Gorey on January 28, 1972. "Welcome to the club. I think you know that I have His and Her straitjackets hanging in my office. Come down and slip into one and we can have a good talk."
Displaying her perfect touch for chivvying yet encouraging "geniuses," Nordstrom was inquiring about a long-overdue (and, sadly, never-published) manuscript:
"Honey, I hate to pester you, but we do so want to do beautifully by your book The Interesting List. And we were supposed to get it in November so we'd have plenty of time to have printed and folded sheets for the Sales Conference early in May. Now it's almost February and I've seen nothing.
If you are stuck, or discouraged, or something like that I might be able to help get you unstuck, or encouraged. I thought I had experienced all the editorial experiences an editor could experience. But you are a brand new experience for me, and it makes me feel all young again…. I mean lots of brilliant artists are happy to let me see their work in progress, and they know I am not going to say anything to throw them off the right track. Won't you trust me? Must I send you certificates of editorial integrity from Ungerer, Sendak, and others?
We want The Interesting List to be one of the BIG, BIG, BIG Harper Books for the fall of 1972. Love, genius dear
Nordstrom was director of Harper's Department of Books for Boys and Girls from 1940 to 1973, and she shepherded to print books by some of the best in the business, including Margaret Wise Brown,  E.B. White, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
During some overdue culling and reshuffling of my two dozen bookcases last week, I happened to open 1998's Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom on the page of the Gorey letter and was smitten. A few days later, in a bit of serendipitous synchronicity, I later opened up Maria Popova's Brain Pickings column and found that she had done a feature on Nordstrom's relationship with Maurice Sendak (Nordstrom had discovered the youthful artist working in the window display department at F.A.O. Schwarz)! Good work lives on.
Gorey was famous for his fur coats. "What becomes a legend most?", eh?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Letters about what they loved: Eudora Welty & William Maxwell

Francine Prose calls her a genius. One of America's most lauded authors, Jackson, Mississippi's Eudora Welty was certainly no naif: she was well-traveled and well-educated (the State College for Women, the University of Wisconsin, and Columbia). After school she interned as a writer/editor at The New York Times Book Review and tried unsuccessfully to land a job at the New Yorker. Fellow fiction writer William Maxwell was its fiction editor from 1936–1975 and championed her unique prose long before his colleagues came around to publishing it. 
Welty first started corresponding with Maxwell in 1942 when she was 33 and he 34. She’d already published “A Curtain of Green” (1941), her first collection of stories, and novella “The Robber Bridegroom” (1942). Amazingly, at that time the New Yorker regularly rejected the work she submitted, and it wasn’t until 1951 that Maxwell was able to persuade his masters to accept “The Bride of the Innisfallen.” The next year the magazine took “Kin” and “No Place for You, My Love.”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
What There Is to Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell reflects their shared love of horticulture and other writers every bit as much as the business of literature they had in common. Its title comes from a phrase in one of the last missives to her: “what there is to say we have said, in one way or the other. You know how much we love you.” The plural points up the fact that he was married and she was not. As Prose writes in a New York Times review of Suzanne Marrs' biography of Welty,
Though she seems to have had an immense talent for friendship, Welty was less successful in her choice of suitable love objects. With compassion and without sensationalism, Marrs describes Welty's decade-long involvement with John Robinson, a relationship complicated by the fact that Robinson was homosexual. Eudora's other great passion was for Kenneth Millar (better known as the mystery novelist Ross Macdonald), another literary admirer with whom she corresponded and whom she eventually met, by accident, when both were staying at the Algonquin Hotel in 1971. Millar [above right] lived in Santa Barbara and was married to the writer Margaret Millar, who was deeply jealous of Welty and delighted in publicly berating her husband. Welty and Millar's somewhat unusual affair was largely epistolary, punctuated by intense meetings. As Marrs reports, it's unclear whether the romance was ever consummated. Still, there's no doubting the ardor of their connection. “You love Eudora as a friend,” Millar told Reynolds Price. “I love her as a woman.”
“It’s been 95 and 96 the last couple of weeks, regular courtroom weather, Edna Earle would say. Figs look hopeful this year, after none for the last two, and just the thought of a bowl of cold ripe ones with cream on them for breakfast is worth all the rest of July to the undersigned. I wish I could see you some... Now and then a few of us go up to a little country hotel and sit on the upstairs porch and rock awhile quietly, having drinks in the shade and country stillness, or we sit in the dark in somebody’s Jackson porch to talk & play records.”
Photo by Dominique Nabokov
In a Nov. 16, 1966 note, Welty talks about planting bulbs – “and soft fine days outdoors to do it, just perfect” – and reading Persuasion. She calls Austen “the only power to get me whole through some days.” Maxwell in turn gives bulletins on his roses: “Paul’s Lemon Pillar and Spanish Beauty moved to the basement, for the winter, with Lady Hillingdon and Souv. de Malmaison – all showed a tendency to die back to the ground every winter, so I am letting them come in with us.” In another letter he exclaims, “Well it’s wonderful to be alive. Wonderful to be a writer. Wonderful to grow roses. Wonderful to care. Isn’t it?”
Katherine Hepburn, Alice Tully, Eudora Welty, Hope Williams at Morgan Library, May 1985 

You can read the first chapter of Suzanne Marrs' biography of Welty here. And here is Welty reading one of the great short stories of all time, “Why I Live at the P.O.” (Love the way she pronounces “spoiled.”)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Healthy & delectable converge in two cookbooks

Eat smaller portions; ramp up the veggies; snack sparingly and well; nix on the sugar fix; beware of sat fats; make friends with fish; be suspicious of salt; eschew processed food; engineer some daily exercise for yourself—do all of these guideposts to a healthier, slimmer you wheel around like a maelstrom in your brain?
Well, here's a place to touch down. The two books I'm featuring today are full of recipes for tasty, healthy, delicious dishes, some of which just might become your new comfort food! They require very little prep or kitchen expertise—just the foresight to shop ahead for the ingredients.
Scandinavians are apparently way healthier than Americans. Why? Cured salmon, root vegetables, kale, cabbage, and vitamin-packed whole grains are part of the answer, as well as an impressive amount of bicycling. ("There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing" is apparently a mantra in Denmark.) Trine Hahnemann's The Nordic Diet is subtitled "Using local and organic food to promote a healthy lifestyle." Her recipes look downright yummy, including Leek soup with rye croutons; Cauliflower soup spiced with green chile and served with shrimp on skewers; Brussels sprouts with apples and walnut oil; Fishcakes with potatoes and asparagus; Savoy cabbage fish rolls with spelt salad, and Chicken with braised rhubarb. If you're resourceful enough to locate some, she even has super recipes for rabbit, venison, goose, pheasant, and duck.
A Hahnemann concoction such as Smoked mackerel salad on rye bread just calls out for the last ingredient to be homemade, so I've dug up her rye bread recipe (see end of blog), which she shared with the New York Times's Mark Bittman. (Hahnemann also has a page on her website with variations on the traditional Smørrebrød, or Danish-style open sandwich, all of which look scrumptious.) 
How beneficial is the Nordic approach anyway? "A fairly simple diet based on healthy ingredients from the Nordic countries can result in a substantial improvement in health for people who are at risk of developing coronary heart disease and diabetes" reports one study, which you can read about here.
Here's how Hahnemann's book stacks up with The Guardian's food writer, Catherine Phipps:
Game is married with gingered red cabbage, rhubarb or lemon verbena. Our recent obsession for foraging is catered for with recipes including elderberry, nettles, crab apples and that scourge of the garden, ground elder (it had quite passed me by that this was actually edible), and there is of course a lot of fish, mainly of the sustainable sort. I like some of the combinations, such as the beetroot burgers served with a barley salad…. The foods mentioned are extremely healthy – blueberries, kale and brussels sprouts, oily fish and game have benefits that are well chronicled. Rye, oats, barley and spelt are high in fibre and protein, are difficult to eat to excess and are a good source of slow-release carbohydrates. For me, this is the one area which scores points over the Mediterranean diet, which uses much more in the way of white, refined grains in pasta, rice dishes and bread…. So surely it makes sense to embrace the foods of both diets, or just to carry on having as varied, seasonal and balanced diet as possible? I am going to be using The Nordic Diet as a winter recipe book when I need fresh inspiration.
Michel Biehn's Healthy Recipes: International Cuisine from a Provençal Table offers an approach akin to the Mediterranean, sans the deficiencies Phipps mentions. Here, amidst beautiful photos of meals ready to be consumed in picturesque nooks both inside and outside of a French chateau, you will find recipes for penne a la puttanesca, Niçoise salad, tomato tartare, orange and yellow peppers stuffed with a mixture of of rice, pine, nuts, onions, peas and cumin, meat-and-cheese stuffed tomatoes, saffron-dusted chicken and shrimp, roasted salmon, spring rolls, olive bread, vegetable couscous, zucchini and pea risotto, lemon pasta, artichoke fusilli, strawberry and raspberry cake, figs wrapped in Parma ham, hot chocolate à l'ancienne, and more. Bon appetit!
Find more to savor in the "Food for Thought: Nourishing a Smarter Mind" showcase of our current online Forum ("Healthy Brain/Healthy Life"). It's pretty fab!

*  *  *
Mark Bittman in the New York Times:
Finally, I came to the realization that great 100 percent whole-grain bread can be made only with sourdough (it’s about the difference between how whole grains respond to store-bought yeast and how they respond to acid, or a combination of acid and wild yeast), and I discovered that via a combination of driving other people crazy with questions and a recipe from “The Scandinavian Cookbook,” by my friend Trine Hahnemann. When I visited Hahnemann just over a year ago, I requested a lesson in Danish rye and got one. That plus her recipe has propelled me at least halfway up the mountain.
Sourdough Rye
For the sourdough starter
    •    2 2/3 cups rye flour Pinch instant yeast
For the dough
    •    Sourdough starter
    •    2 cups rye flour
    •    2 cups whole-wheat or white flour
    •    1 tablespoon kosher salt
    •    1 1/2 cups cracked rye or rye flour
1. To make the starter: In a tall, narrow, nonmetal container (a tall, narrow bowl is fine), mix 2/3 cup rye flour with 1/2 cup water, along with the tiniest pinch of instant yeast — less than 1/16 teaspoon. Cover and let sit for about 24 hours, then add the same amount of both flour and water (no more yeast). Repeat twice more, at 24-hour intervals; 24 hours after the fourth addition, you have your starter. (From now on, keep it in the refrigerator; you don’t need to proceed with the recipe for a day or two if you don’t want to. Before making the dough, take a ladleful — 1/2 to 3/4 cup — of the starter and put it in a container; stir in 1/2 cup rye flour and a scant 1/2 cup water, mix well, cover and refrigerate for future use. This starter will keep for a couple of weeks. If you don’t use it during that time and you wish to keep it alive, add 1/2 cup each flour and water every week or so and stir; you can discard a portion of it if it becomes too voluminous.)
2.To make the dough: Combine the remaining starter in a big bowl with the rye flour, the whole-wheat or white flour and 2 1/4 cups water.
3. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight, up to 12 hours.
4. The next morning, the dough should be bubbly and lovely. Add the salt, the cracked rye and 1 cup water — it will be more of a thick batter than a dough and should be pretty much pourable.
5. Pour and scrape it into two 8-by-4-inch nonstick loaf pans. The batter should come to within an inch of the top, no higher.
6. Cover (an improvised dome is better than plastic wrap; the dough will stick to whatever it touches) and let rest until it reaches the rim of the pans, about 2 to 3 hours, usually. Preheat the oven to 325 and bake until a skewer comes out almost clean; the internal temperature will measure between 190 and 200. This will take about 1 1/2 hours or a little longer.
7. Remove loaves from the pans and cool on a rack. Wrap in plastic and let sit for a day before slicing, if you can manage that; the texture is definitely better the next day. YIELD 2 loaves

"What Makes Sammy Run?" on tv

Merrill plays a society vamp to the hilt
In the early—and often halcyon—days of live television, meaty dramas with top actors, writers, and directors were weekly fare on the networks. Precious few were preserved, and some of these have found their way onto DVD, including 1954's Twelve Angry Men (in its pre-Hollywood incarnation) and What Makes Sammy Run? The excerpts below from the 1959 NBC "Sunday Showcase" broadcasts of Budd Schulberg's play star John Forsythe as Al Manheim, Dina Merrill as Sammy's wife, and Larry Blyden as the ruthless Sammy Glick, whose steady rise while stepping on all and sundry we watch with the appalled fascination of a Nature documentary. Other cast members include  Barbara Rush as Al's fellow screenwriter and Monique van Vooren as Zsa Zsa Gabor–type actress Zizi Molnari. (Broadcast in two one-hour segments on September 27 and October 4, 1959, the teleplay by Budd and Stuart Schulberg was directed by Delbert Mann.) Besides the impressive caliber of the acting and the script, it's fascinating to watch how the director moves the camera around and between sets, with just commercial breaks to change costumes and setups. This New York Times article describes the story of the second act's "lost footage," which was eventually discovered at the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"So funny I was afraid to laugh": the dire fate and final vindication of satire under Communism

"No other kinds of jokes impersonated their targets with the same precision of Communist jokes, or used the logic of the State to discredit its ideology. This was a unique collective satirical project."—from Hammer and Tickle: A Cultural History of Communism
Right: Poster from the documentary that inspired the book.
"The kid's got ideas! Just like the Academy of Architecture." Cartoonist Harald Kretschmar mocked East German housing projects in 1967
From the Revolution onward, gallows humor was the order of the day. As in "Who built the White Sea canal [Stalin's horrific slave-labour project]?" "The left bank was built by those who told the jokes, and the right bank by those who listened." Or this one: "How do you deal with mice in the Kremlin?" "Put up a sign saying 'collective farm'. Then half the mice will starve and the others will run away."
Even after Khrushchev's "thaw" of the 1950s, citizens were still imprisoned in droves for ridiculing the Soviet Union's policies and leaders. As Lewis recounts:
One file from 1957 concerns a citizen of Voronoj, who got drunk, went to the main street of the town and started shouting obscenities and 'speculating about the sex life' of Khrushchev and other members of the Politboro. He was immediately arrested and taken to the police station, where, still drunk, he told all present what he thought of the Soviet regime. He was sentenced to two years for anti-Soviet propaganda and drunkenness. Released in early 1959, he was quiet for a year, but then he got drunk again, repeated the same behavior, and was sentenced to four years. He was released in 1964 but did the same thing again, and received another seven years.  
Interestingly, for the remaining period of Khrushchev's rule, only several hundred people a year were imprisoned for criticism of the regime (which was paltry compared to previous levels of incarceration). Some incorrigibles just never could suppress the urge to mock: several prisoners during this time received additional sentences for attaching insulting remarks about Khrushchev to the legs of pigeons they had caught.  
Later, Reagan got into the act and needled Gorbachev with this lampoon: "A man who goes to buy a car in Moscow, pays for it, and is told by the salesman that he can collect it on a particular date in 10 years' time. The buyer thinks for a moment and then asks: 'Morning or afternoon?' The salesman, astonished by the question, asks: 'What difference does it make?' And the buyer answers: 'Well, the plumber is coming in the morning.'"
A reviewer for Britain's Telegraph noted that the best jokes cited in Hammer & Tickle mined "the inherent absurdity of the official Soviet doctrine, rhetoric and propaganda - not just because it was absurd, but because it was official (in a way that no capitalist doctrine could be)":
—'What is the difference between communism and capitalism?' 'Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man; communism is the exact opposite.'
—'Capitalism stands on the brink of the abyss. It will soon be overtaken by communism.'
—'Is it true that Marxism-Leninism is scientific?' 'No, surely not. If it were, they would have tested it on animals first.'
Here, perhaps, we find at long last the jokes that only communism could produce. And while they may not have brought it down, they can still tell us something important about why it fell."
Further reading 
K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist;
Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War;
The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin's Secret Service. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Lone Ranger comes to Washington D.C.

"Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!"
The Lone Ranger as played by Clayton Moore was an incomparably mythical, iconic figure to the baby boomer generation. The cadre of them assembled at the Washington Monument for 1958's kickoff of the "Peace Patrol" must have been delirious with excitement when The Lone Ranger in full regalia (dig the skin-tight suit!) came galloping down the aisle on Silver, later punctuating his speech with some spiffy gun tricks.
Made to to inaugurate a U.S. Savings Stamp and Bond program, the feature below is one of the more kicky ones posted by the U.S. Archives on youtube. (Fittingly, Moore was honored in 2009 with a stamp of his own as part of a collection called "Early tv Memories.") Yes, Vice-President Nixon was involved (he told the LR that his two daughters were "eager followers" of the show. Moore, who died in 1999, was still around to see him resign in disgrace.

America's love affair with the Old West as captured on film receives an historical overview in the collection Saddles, Saloons & Six-Shooters; while the four-title set TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection—Western Adventures has my personal favorite, Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs Miller.
The Lone Ranger character originated in radio and came to film serialdom in 1938. His and Tonto's latest incarnation is coming next month via Johnny Depp and Disney, so stay tuned! (Looks like quite the reboot.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

A cat-centric post

This tale of wonder is told for children; with which view, it has been carefully designed and very nicely printed. For some time past, it has arrived at the dignity of a popular Nursery Tale in the Author’s family ; and it is hoped it will merit the same good fortune elsewhere. It will be worth while explaining, that the circle in each page is made to represent some object in connection with the story ; and, that as some of them have proved rather puzzling, to Juvenile admirers has been left the task of ” finding them out.” - See more at:
"You have a  problem with that?"
Below are the title page and several images from The Nine Lives of a Cat by Charles Bennett; 1860; Griffith and Farran, London. As he explains in the preface,
This tale of wonder is told for children; with which view, it has been carefully designed and very nicely printed. For some time past, it has arrived at the dignity of a popular Nursery Tale in the Author’s family; and it is hoped it will merit the same good fortune elsewhere. It will be worth while explaining, that the circle in each page is made to represent some object in connection with the story; and, that as some of them have proved rather puzzling, to Juvenile admirers has been left the task of  finding them out.
 This last stratagem reminds me of a Warner Brothers cartoon! I've embedded the book after the jump; or you can flip through the entire thing here. Now a pause for a reading.
Edward Gorey was the perfect illustrator for Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, don't you think?
We currently have 107 items relating to cats, so they should not feel neglected. To help you find that special cat-related book, box of notecards, or whatnot, this news bulletin from our IT guru re Daedalus Books online's new search box may be of interest:
By popular demand, we have a new search feature. When you use the "Search" box, you'll see other relevant searches, as well as some products that match your search terms. You can click on those, or press the "Go" button to complete your original search. You'll also notice that our search results page has changed a little. Results are now sorted by relevance (although you can still sort by title, price, publisher, or itemcode). You can also filter by media type by selecting the Books, Music, or DVD tab. Please feel free to send us feedback, via email to
Finally, Flavorwire's recent list of "10 great books starring cats" references Carroll's Cheshire Cat while also including big cats such as  Life of Pi's tiger and Narnia's Aslan. Grrrrrr!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Free website provides access to digitized papers of Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison

Today the University of Virginia Press is launching “Founders Online,” a website offering free access to the papers of six of the most important figures from America’s founding era: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton (right), and James Madison. Two of those personages have direct links to the Charlottesville, VA region. Jefferson, of course, is the founder of the University, and both it and his nearby residence, Monticello, are UNESCO world heritage sites. Madison's house is a ways up the road north in historic Orange County. Both the papers of Washington and those of Madison are housed at the University.
Franklin, Washington, Madison, Adams
The Rotunda at UVA, designed by Jefferson
 The site, developed by the press’ electronic imprint, Rotunda, is being launched today at a ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Here's how the University's press release describes the project:
For the past 50 years, the National Archives, through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, has invested in documentary editions of the original historical records of the founding era. These projects, led by dedicated historians and expert editors, draw from archives across the country and around the world. The editors have collected copies of the original 18th- and 19th-century documents, transcribed and annotated them, and produced hundreds of individual print volumes.
In February 2008, inspired by the Capitol Hill testimony of historians, including David McCullough and others, Congress directed the U.S. archivist to expedite public access to these founding documents through online publication. In 2010, it provided funding to the commission to make the project possible.
Founders Online will include thousands of documents, replicating the contents of 242 volumes drawn from the published print editions. As each new print volume is completed, it will be added to the database..... Students and others will be able to view transcribed, unpublished letters as they are being researched and annotated by the documentary project editors and staff. Together, some 175,000 documents are projected to be on the Founders Online site.
This video also gives an overview. Let us know if you turn up anything interesting! If there's one thing we know about Daedalus customers, it's that a goodly percentage of you are history buffs. So here are some of our books relating to the FFs you might want to know about.
We have John Ferling's biography of John Adams from Oxford in both paper and hardback; more than a dozen intriguing books on George Washington—as sage, political genius, symbol, mason and more; The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster's Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture; Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson; A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution; Historic Houses of Virginia: Great Plantation Houses, Mansions, and Country Places; and Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism.
This is a new arrival that looks particularly interesting.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Listening booth 2: Benjamin Britten's Requiem, Earl Wild's rhapsodic piano

This coming Saturday, June 15, Sir Simon Rattle celebrates Benjamin Britten’s 100th anniversary with a performance of the War Requiem. His orchestra is the great Berlin Philharmonic, and they’re joined by the Rundfunkchor Berlin. You can hear it all free in real time or archived by using this link. Gramophone describes the work as follows:
Britten’s War Requiem was commissioned for the consecration of the new cathedral in Coventry and premiered in the cathedral on May 30, 1962. The work is scored for a full orchestra as well as chamber orchestra, chorus, boys’ choir, organ and three soloists which Britten conceived as being Russian (Galina Vishnevskaya), British (Peter Pears) and German (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) – the Berlin performance employs a British tenor and a German baritone. When Decca recorded the War Requiem in 1963 under Britten’s baton, it sold over 200,000 copies in its first five months of release. Since then there have been at least a dozen recordings of the work, and during the 2012-13 concert season, it will be heard in over 60 live performances around the world.
Photo by Karsh.
Britten is one of the premier British composers of the 20th century, and a very interesting person to boot. I would like to direct you to several relevant items on our virtual bookshelves: Letters From a Life: Volume Two 1939–45: Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten and his anti-war opera Owen Wingrave, based on a short story by Henry James, on DVD.
I have just finished blurbing a boatload of CDs by the late, great pianist Earl Wild. At this very minute I'm listening to a 2-CD Liszt extravaganza, and it's exquisite. I highly recommend poking around amongst the Wild offerings, because he's just fantastic, and there is something for everyone.

I just have to share a little coda on Gramophone's reviewing style, which is more than a little acerbic. Here's one of their number on Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto:
Personally, I should call it Tchaikovsky's greatest work. It never conveys an impression of exacerbated nerves, and while it is full of lovely melodies, it never degenerates into sentimentality, or into that odious whining to which the composer became so prone.