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Member since: Sat Nov 30, 2013, 04:06 AM
Number of posts: 1,197

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It's 2:46 pm in Japan, a moment of silence: Tohoku earthquake hit at this time 3/11/11

And then came the terrible tsunamis.

A documentary I like, "Japan's Tsunami Caught on Camera."

Love and chocolate capitalism: Smash Valentine's Day rally in Tokyo.

A specter is haunting Japan -- the specter of chocolate.

"Japanese men decry 'love capitalism' during 'Smash Valentine's Day' rally in Tokyo." ("Japanese men" means a handful of dudes.)


"Members of 'Kakuhido,' which translates as the Revolutionary Alliance of Men that Women Find Unattractive and claims on its website that 'public smooching is terrorism,' walked through the busy Shibuya district waving banners with slogans demanding an end to Valentine's Day. ... 'The blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine's Day, driven by the oppressive chocolate capitalists, has arrived once again.'

"Valentine's Day is a huge money-spinner for the confectionery business as women are traditionally expected to buy chocolates for the men in their lives -- from partners to work colleagues and bosses. ... Kakuhido was founded in 2006 by Katsuhiro Furusawa, who began reading The Communist Manifesto after being dumped by his girlfriend and came to the conclusion that being unpopular with the opposite sex was a class issue, fueling his anti-Valentine message."

Too bad for the chocolate capitalists that chocolate-giving isn't nearly as popular in Japan as it once was. People of all countries who are unpopular and do not care for public smooching -- UNITE!

Beethoven's ninth symphony, a holiday tradition in Japan -- Ode to Joy

Best performance ever. 2011. Dedicated to the victims of the tsunami in March that year. 10,000 of the living sing to the dead.
James Joyce, "The Dead": "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

A cache of Nutcracker Ballets to crack open and enjoy.

The San Francisco Ballet, 2008.

The Mariinsky Ballet, 2007.

The Royal Ballet, 2008.

The American Ballet Theater, 1977 (Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland).

Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, 1986 (most notable for the costumes and sets by Maurice Sendak).

Does anyone have any beef stew secrets?

I want to make a rich, strongly umami stew, but most recipes seem so dull. The key is a great stock, I assume, but I have to make my own. I don't have beef bones or whatever it is restaurants use to make stock. Should I roast vegetables first to make stock? Should I use wine, or stout beer? Dried mushrooms, soy sauce or miso should deepen flavor. Garlic or no garlic? Tomato sauce? How to make sure the beef isn't tough? Thyme, clove and bay leaves seem essential, but anything else? Does anyone add unsweetened dried fruit like cherries, maybe along with a little balsamic vinegar (when made with red wine)? Any beef stew advice would be appreciated.

Edited to add: I can't use store-bought stock or bouillon cubes and the like because of salt issues and as I live in Japan I have to special order the good organic stuff and I'm all out.

The Ethics of Halloween Jokes by Garrison Keillor

Hometown Ghost Stories for Halloween -- does your town have a haunted history?

There are two famously haunted buildings in Steilacoom, Washington: the E. R. Rodgers mansion, built in 1891 and sold by Rodgers after the Panic of 1893 to become a hotel/boarding house called the Waverly House, and the Bair Drug & Hardware, built in 1895 by W.L. Bair.

In the early 20th century Steilacoom was a popular resort town because of its beaches and beautiful views of Puget Sound and the distant Olympic Mountains. Bair's was the end of the electric trolly line from the city. He put in a soda fountain in 1906, the first in town to have electricity, the post office was there. It closed in the late '50s. Kids peeked through the windows at the dusty old drugstore junk, a time capsule. In the late '70s the Bair family donated it to the town and it reopened as a cafe/soda fountain/museum, but somebody didn't care for this disturbance of the peace.

From "Ghost Stories of the Pacific Northwest": 'Most peculiar is the behavior of a new product Kreger hopes to sell, a 'Secret Salmon Sauce.' ... One patron swears she saw a bottle of the sauce leap from the top rear shelf of a display, fly five feet sideways through the air, and crash to the plank flooring. ... A waitress who had seen it happen agreed. 'That salmon sauce flew off. It flew!' ... Kreger ... calls the bothersome apparition Cub Bair, the nickname of the store's founder W.L. Bair. 'He worked here the longest, and is finicky about changes.' ... 'It's nothing bad, it just doesn't like new stuff. Any type of new machine, it just goes wild.' And it seems like that goes for trendy 'Secret Salmon Sauce' too."

W.L. Bair's wife Hattie was famous for her chicken dinners, clam pie, and oyster stew and ran Waverly House from 1920 until her death in the late '40s. The Rodgers mansion was vacant from then until the sixties. As a kid I remember being invited inside by the old man who ran the place, again a boarding house. There was a small museum featuring rocks and minerals, but it was dark and creepy and I'd only go inside if my brother was with me.

E.R. Rodgers became a restaurant, and stories of strange happenings at night were well known. The alarm system and lights went on or off by themselves, appliances malfunctioned. The attic was used as storage space and things would move around, staff smelled strong perfume, a patron at the bar below the attic saw a foot descend through the floor one night. I knew someone who worked there who didn't believe any of those stories until one night after closing she and another waiter returned some wine to the basement cellar and the lights went out one by one. Nobody wanted to go to the attic or basement alone.

The apparition of an old man in a rocking chair looking north is supposed to one of the ghosts, the other is in the attic. People think she's either Hattie Bair or E.R. Rodgers' wife or daughter, but that's not the story I heard. I was told that a woman staying at the Waverly Hotel went up to the attic every day to look north for her man to return by a ship that never came. Maybe he went to Alaska to find gold in the late 1890s. Maybe he went off to sea, maybe to war. Maybe she worked in one of the saloons. Nobody wants to talk about how many women came to the Pacific Northwest to work in those places. Both apparitions were very interested in looking north.

Unfortunately the ghosts seem to have retired. E.R. Rodgers now houses a law firm, obviously no fun to haunt. Bair is probably another trendy overpriced restaurant. There used to be a Ghost Walk in Steilacoom, but I think the ghosts are long gone. When I was growing up the town was like Sleepy Hollow, old houses full of old people and old things. Now those old renovated houses sell for millions and the trees are gone because they blocked the view and there's no more grocery store or library or school. I don't blame the ghosts for giving up the ghost.

Here's a video someone took of the Rodgers and Bair buildings. The guy's voice is horrible, I can't watch all the way through.

Scary old movies for Halloween, a list of favorites

Dracula (1931). The actors are so good, eccentric, especially the guy playing Mr. Renfield. He is warned: "We people of the mountains believe that in the castle there are vampires -- Dracula and his wives -- they take the form of wolves and bats!" Sealing one's fate: "Oh, but that's all superstition." "The spider spinning his web for the unwary fly. The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield."

The Spiral Staircase (1945). Great storm action keeping the sound effects department busy, gaslights, big old Victorian house. Sealing one's fate: "My suitcase is in the basement. I'll only be a minute."

The Dark Old House (1932). Storm action, dinner scene featuring roast beef, pickled onions, a large loaf of bread and potatoes. "Have a potato." "It's only gin. I like gin."

I Married a Witch (1942). Upon suggesting the witch's father has a hangover: "Don't tell me what I've got. I INVENTED hangovers."

The Mummy (1932). Sealing one's fate: "Surely a few thousand years would take the mumbo-jumbo out of any old curse."

Arsenic & Old Lace (1944). Gary Grant, it goes without saying. The aunts give out jack-o-lanterns to trick-or-treaters!

An American Werewolf in London (1981, not so old). "I'm certain if there were a monster roaming around Northern England, we'd have seen it on the telly." "A naked American man stole my balloons."

McDonald's Japan "Taste of Halloween" black cheeseburger

The buns are made with black sesame seeds, the lower bun's smeared with black squid ink sauce, there are two patties topped with cheddar cheese, deep-fried onion shreds and an orange chipotle sauce that doesn't belong there and tastes weird. Also on offer is a "ghost burger" of fried chicken with camembert sauce on a white bun, but my husband brought home the black cheeseburger.

Double, double, two beef patties
Corpse of cow, gristly and fatty
Black ink sauce from salt-sea squid
Darkened buns of sesame seed
Onion bits like crisp brown leaves
Falling from the autumn trees
Golden cheddar harvest moon
Chipotle sauce, out of tune
Double, double, cheeseburger black
Halloween taste, Donald's of Mc

Poe's "The Raven" read by Garrison Keillor

Autumnal nostalgia made me buy Reese's Peanut Butter Cups the other day. They were one of the most prized of Halloween treats and held great trading powers with your siblings if you preferred less popular sweets. Its old-fashioned orange and brown package, reminiscent of unfortunate high school colors, hasn't changed. I don't even remember the last time I ate a Peanut Butter Cup. Possibly not since trick-or-treating. I took a bite. Surely this can't be the same as I remember. I couldn't really taste either peanut butter or chocolate, just salt and intense sugar. Ah, I shouldn't expect anything to be the same, it isn't and it won't be ever again. Quoth the Reese's, "Nevermore."

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