Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

An Apology to My Readers

I know my blog isn't terribly entertaining most days. But it does achieve its purpose -- it permits me to rant about things not part of polite discourse: religion, politics, and sex. It also permits me to rant about things my friends are tired of hearing about from me, like bratwurst. That's my only excuse for having a blog, and if I do better than that, it's gravy.

The reason my rants tend to be so negative in tone is that I am usually feeling fairly frustrated. There are many matters on which intelligent people of goodwill may easily differ, but that's not generally what's been up for discussion this year. It's the bedrock certainties of life that seem to be offensive to many. Next thing you know, someone will found a group to repeal the law of gravity.

But I found a bit of comfort this week while reading Christopher Morley's classic bibliophile romance, Parnassus on Wheels.

"You remember Abe Lincoln's joke about the dog? If you call a tail a leg, said Abe, how many legs has a dog? Five, you answer. No, says Abe; because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

Calling torture "interrogation" doesn't make it nice. Calling a baby a "fetus" doesn't make it a nonhuman. Calling Bush "Hitler" doesn't make him resemble Lincoln any less (or more) than he does. Calling same sex couples "married" doesn't make it so. Telling bishops and priests they have no authority to regulate abuses of the sacraments doesn't take their authority away -- or their accountability to God.

It's not a matter of "five legs bad, four legs good", even; it's just a fact. Count for yourself and see.

Black is not white, and neither is it red, purple, or aquamarine. All the talking in the world won't make it so. Neither will legislation. It may come to pass that this country will decide that naming shades and hues properly is the latest perversion. Some people may even have nothing better to do than throw people in jail for reading the labels on their Crayolas. But after years of such stupidity, black will still be black.

Stating the Blindingly Obvious

So there's a new study that says dextromorphan and diphenhydramine in cough syrup aren't any better for coughs than sugar water.

First off, diphenhydramine is not the sort of stuff you ought to be passing out to kids. For part of the population, it's a non-drowsy antihistamine, yes. But for the rest of the population, it's an extremely strong sedative that will totally knock you out even in small doses and make you confused and dizzy even after you wake up. What the frick are they doing putting this stuff in alcohol-based syrups?!!! It's evil enough in Benadryl!

Second, I coulda told them that Robitussin DM is pretty useless. PE was the stuff, because it broke up the gunk in your chest a bit. (But they stopped selling it. Bah.)

Third, it's not the cough that's the problem, usually. Once you get to that point, you're taking prescription cough syrup and breathing Vicks. The problem is drippage (which causes the cough) and that's not really going to stop until the cold or flu does. The best that decongestants and antihistamines can do is dry you up just a little. But even that little is a godsend when you have a cold.

Fourth, the real active ingredient in cough syrup is alcohol. This ought to be blindingly obvious to everyone. What the heck else is "helping you to sleep"? Ummmm...could it be the depressant? Ooh, concept. The only problem is that alcohol does make you sleep (and thus not cough), but it also wakes you up later. But that's going to happen anyway with a cold or flu, so do you care? Also, alcohol tends to dry out your throat a bit, but you're drinking lots of fluids anyway. The big plus is that alcohol numbs the nerve endings in your mouth and throat temporarily, which...suppresses the coughing reflex. Well, whodathunkit.

(Obviously, when diphenhydramine is acting as a sedative, you also won't be coughing. But given how powerful its effects are on adults, I'd be reeeeeal leery about giving it to a kid. I think we all know more about dosages with alcohol.)

So yes, if your child has a cold, sugar water or a hot drink is probably more effective on a cough than dextromorphan (because it's meant to deal with your head, dummy!). But what you really need to do is take honey, mix it with a little whisky, and turn it into a hot toddy for your kid (assuming your child has no problems with alcohol, of course). Then you've got your active ingredient of alcohol mixed with a soothing syrup and a hot drink, all in one.

Or you could buy cough syrup and get the same thing (bar heat), but be able to give it to your kid without any nasty questions about shot glasses or giving alcohol to a minor or lack of dexterity caused by you yourself being sick. Hmmmmmmm.

Just make sure that syrup doesn't contain diphenhydramine, all right? That'll make me feel better.

Sshhhhh -- Don't Tell Anyone

There's one good thing about waking up at this ungodly hour because it's too hot to sleep -- I can watch World News Now. The redeye of news shows attracts publicity sites that sound like fan pages -- and there's a reason. It's just too bad they don't run news shows this good at a decent hour. I mean, if news is supposed to be journalism, then you ought to be able to run news essays that last five minutes. If it's supposed to be entertainment (*grind teeth*), then it ought to be fun and funny, not boring and sordid and stupid. And if you're awake at 3:41 in the bloody morning, then yes, dang it, you want to hear jaunty R&B music and see pictures of a herd of horses somewhere out West while you're watching the city temperatures flash by.

You may notice that I haven't said anything about bias here, despite the fact that Kerry and Edwards were all over the World News Now episode I'm currently watching. Well...part of it is probably that I'm in the sort of zombie state the left usually attributes to us conservatives. (Although not to neoconservatives, who are more often characterized as Mad Political Scientists trained by Dr. Mengele, and who are apparently just even more evil if their last names happen to sound Jewish. Which just goes to show that the left watches too little anime, as Washuu-chan would have a very different program were she serving in the White House.) Being a zombie is actually the perfect way of watching leftist propaganda, which is why Stalinist movies on TCM practically demand their own drinking games. (And yet you must resist this temptation, as mixing vodka and thoughts of gulags is not exactly a smart move -- although very authentic to the period. Remember, alcohol is a depressant.)

But I'm really not talking about bias because, although it's there, it's not screaming at me. Even Sunday Morning on CBS tends to spend a lot of time and energy checking off boxes. Sneer at conservatives? Check. Fawn on liberals? Check. Express the correct political views so we get invited back to the correct cocktail parties? Check-a-roony. You don't get that vibe from the World News Now people (although I personally feel they would be great party guests). They are actually concerned about doing their jobs, as opposed to exhibiting their loyalty to the Party and the People. That's pleasant, you know? And it's a shame only the nightowls, out from under the eyes of their bosses, are allowed this pleasure.

But I think they are; they just don't admit it. World News Now was the first major network news show to be broadcast over the web. Also, Aaron Brown the CNN guy, who was the weekend ABC anchor before that, was also one of the charter anchors for World News Now. So next time you see him on CNN, remember that once he got to have fun....

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The Matter of Bratwurst

After going from the Corner to reading a lovely article from Calpundit about the joys of grilling bratwurst, I was distressed to realize that they really meant red bratwurst. Johnsonvillewurst. Which is not really truth-in-labeling, as far as I am concerned. Bratwurst is made of good pork...and...stuff. Veal, sometimes. But anyway, it comes _pale_, not pink. In the process of cooking, it changes from white to light gray, but it's never red or pink or dark gray.

So it occurred to me that it was time to consult German sources. I promptly found the German Wikipedia article on "bratwurst". Then I does the English Wikipedia article compare?

Well, it has a good picture of properly gray bratwurst, but the rest is somewhat lacking. It doesn't even mention horseradish, which is a must for bratwurst cuisine, and it contradicts the German Wiki.

So we turn to the Germans. Thanks to the Fish, I can translate this puppy for you. If I make any big mistakes (as I probably will), Joy can fix it!

"Bratwurst is usually made of pork and in the nature of a stuffed intestine sausage, which is roasted in the pan or on the grill. The designation "Bratwurst" does not come - as many German speakers believe - from being roasted, but from the sausage's method of manufacture: 'Braet' is small chopped meat.

"...In most areas bratwurst is a rather inferior food for market celebrations and road conditions ("Fast Food"). In German Franconia and in Thuringia, however, the bratwurst was specially developed further as a delicacy. Here it is usually prepared only from pork. The bratwurst is partly made exclusively of ham meat, which results in the special quality of the main part. In Switzerland, veal bratwurst are more popular. In the area of St. Gallen -- in the so-called Bratwurstland -- Olma-Bratwurst are made out of pork, beef, and bacon under Beigabe with milk, and are considered as Swiss delicacies. The recipes are passed on as a nearly centuries-old trade secret of the butcher's shops from generation to generation. Officially these bratwurst, under the guiding principle number 2.221.11, are led and differentiated from the other bratwurst. The bratwurst produced as specialties exceed the official quality requirements by quite a bit anyway.

"Bratwurst are typically eaten with sauerkraut or potato salad. They are usually served in cut open rolls. Adding mustard is common. The sour or blue zipfel are a specialty, which are prepared in an Essig-Zwiebel-Sud.

"'Frankish bratwurst' is a comprehensive term for mostly relatively thick bratwurst of middle length. They are usually ten to twenty centimeters long (dependent on the region) and are about 15 to 20 mm in diameter. Their contents are relatively rough. It is also frequently called Nuernberger bratwurst (no "Rost" in the name). One typically eats three pieces with side orders. Anyone who orders restaurant "two with kraut" or "three with kraut" in a Nuernberger, gets these large Frankish bratwuerste with sauerkraut without further asking. Whoever orders the two or three "with salad" always gets them with (Frankish) potato salad. Frankish bratwurst was invented in 1573.

"The Nuernberger Rostbratwurst (with "Rost" in the name) is finer and smaller. Their length does not normally exceed ten centimeters. They are also thinner than the aforementioned Frankish bratwurst, only about 1 cm in diameter. The reason for the small diameter is said to be that prisoners in Lochgefängnis could be supplied with sausage through the keyhole. They are considered as the best and as special delicacies in Nuernberg, prepared in special Bratwurstbratereien. These special restaurants (e.g. Bratwurst Roeslein, Bratwurst Gloecklein) are particularly popular in Nuernberg and are usually overcrowded at noon. One typically eats six or ten of such Rostbratwurst, with sides or sour zipfel. Anyone who orders "six with salad" (or more, and/or "with kraut") in Nuernberg will always get the small Rostbratwurst with the appropriate side.

"Coburger bratwurst also contains veal.

"Sonneberger Rostbratwurst is a delicate upper-Frankish variant of the Frankish bratwurst.

"Thueringer Rostbratwurst is the largest mentioned so far. It's strong-tasting, and is long and about 15 to 20 cm thick. It is roasted over charcoal. One eats it coated with mustard, in a cut-open roll. The first mention of it was in 1404, but it developed in the course of time.

"Sulzfelder meter-bratwurst are a meter long, like the name says. They are about 10 to 15 mm thick, but very long. One orders a half meter, or for very big appetites, a meter, normally with sauerkraut. The Sulzfelder meter-bratwurst is not as strongly peppered as the other bratwursts.

"Pfaelzer bratwurst differs clearly from the Frankish and Thuringian bratwurst. It is likewise eaten with sauerkraut.

"Olma-Bratwurst is a specialty from the Swiss city of St. Gall. It is made from a mixture of pork and veal as well as bacon. An important addition is milk. The bratwurst of the fair called OLMA (east Swiss land and Milchwirtschaftsaustellung) inherited the name. This sausage is all over Switzerland and is often considered the best Swiss bratwurst. A good number of people export St. Gall bratwurst to their homeland. Using mustard is taboo. Whoever puts mustard on an Olma-Bratwoerscht shows that he is no native."

It looks as though the Nurnburg bratwurst and the Johnsonvillewurst are similar in nature, ie, red. (Like, ew. They must start gray!) It also sounds as though today's Germany knows not the procedure of boiling (okay, simmering) the suckers before you grill 'em. But lo, the Wisconsin folk also know not the importance of horseradish. But their brats look like breakfast sausage instead of Johnsonvillewurst. There are clearly substantial regional differences in the cuisine, just as in Germany.

Unfortunately, it is getting more and more difficult to get proper bratwurst. There's nothing like grilling the food cart person at a festival as to whether they are serving bratwurst...real bratwurst...and getting handed some Johnsonvillewurst or Wisconsin breakfast sausaga. Ewwwwwwwww.

Note the pale bratwurst on the right. (The red things are mettwurst, etc.)

More Kindaichi Case Files

I got my English translation of the Kindaichi Kousuke mystery The Inugami Clan (Inugami-ke no Ichizoku) by Yokomizo Seishi, from Amazon on Friday. What a good book! You've got a nice down-to-earth detective, an exotic setting, a nice gritty postwar story about returning vets, a beautiful and mysterious woman, and all kinds of savage intrafamily secrets and aggression. I can see why this book has inspired a couple of mangas and a hugely successful movie. Last-will-mandated-marriage fu! Garden kabuki doll fu! Motorboat fu! Koto string fu! Ice fu! Red-hot poker fu! Non-gratuitous skiing policemen scene! Two breasts. At least three beasts (depending on how you define them). Heads do roll! So Joe Bob would certainly say "Check it out". (And there's even a soundtrack album.)

Since it's more likely you'll run across movies than more translated books, you might want to check out Yokomizo's listing on IMDB. 17 listings isn't bad, eh? Mr. Kindaichi was played by Chiezo Kataoka in the late forties; Ryo Ikebe in 1956; Akira Nakao, Koji Ishizaka, Kiyoshi Atsumi, and Toshiyuki Nishida in the 70's; Takeshi Kaga in the 80's; and Etsushi Toyokawa in the 90's.

Kon Ichikawa wrote and directed six Kindaichi films. He is better known to anime fans as the screenplay writer for the lovely noir train-in-space opera, Galaxy Express 999 (and he also did Hi no Tori, an adaptation of Osamu Tezuka's manga Phoenix). As for other series detectives, he made the 1991 Mitsuhiko Asami mystery movie, The Tenkawa Legend Murder Case (about which the New York Times critic says "Check it out"), as well as The Youth of Heiji Zenigata.

House of Hanging, a 1979 Kindaichi Kousuke movie. "This time, Kousuke investigates the murder happened in a hospital, and the murderer intentionally diverts Kousuke's attention by leaving deceptive evidence. Suspicions and doubts cloud Kousauke's mind…...." Ooh, sounds tricky.

Kindaichi Kosuke no Boken (aka The Adventures of Kosuke Kindaichi) pits Kindaichi against the unknown who's beheaded a statue and made off with said head. Obayashi Nobuhiko directed. And Toshiro Mifune's in it as Kindaichi's future self, while Mr. Yokomizo plays himself! Here's a picture from Kadokawa's website.

Btw, I've also learned that The Kindaichi Case Files ("Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo" or literally, "Young Kindaichi's Casefiles"), the manga about Kindaichi's slacker grandson, Hajime, inspired both an anime TV series with 148 episodes which seems a good sign. And a couple of anime movies. And a videogame (of course). And live action TV movies which seem rather popular. And there's another couple of soundtrack albums (or six). All of which I will probably never get to see, alas alas.

Catchphrases: "Jichan mo, nani kakete!" (In the name of my grandfather!) and "The mysteries have all been cleared up!"

Since the chances of getting an American release for a 1996 mystery series that didn't make Conan's ratings seem rather small, those of you not on dialup may wish to check out this fansub project from #Anime-Urchins.

Allos is a "shrine" to two minor characters from the manga, the brilliant and annoying young Chief Inspector Akechi Kengo (note that Akechi name showing up again!), and some kind of psycho killer named Takato Youichi (who doesn't show up till Volume 20, and here we're only up to 11 or so here). I don't it me or is this site vaguely disturbing? ;)

Several films of detective interest are available here. The gentleman claims they're all public domain now, which they might well be. It's a thought, if you don't mind a certain lack of subtitles! But it would be much better to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so you could just check Kindaichi flicks out of their East Asian collection. Sigh.

Somebody who doesn't love Kindaichi like I do, but at least finds him entertaining.

The Glorious Fourth

I thought I'd find a few patriotic songs and poems to celebrate Independence Day.

Not having been raised a country fan, I seem to have missed this one from Twilight Bridge:

by Johnny Cash

I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old courthouse is kinda run down."
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it.

He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I think it is." He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag."

"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing "Oh, Say Can You See".
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams."

"And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag."

"On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam."

"She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land she's been abused --
She's been burned, dishonored, denied and refused."

"And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more."

"So we raise her up every morning,
Take her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground
And we fold her up right.
On second thought I DO like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag."

Not to slight the other US Armed Forces, but....

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun.
Here they come, zooming to meet our thun-der,
At 'em boys, give 'er the gun! (Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spout-ing our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame
Or go down in flame.
(Shout!) Nothing'll stop the US Air Force!

Minds of men fash-ioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue.
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God on-ly knew! (God on-ly knew them!)
Souls of men dream-ing of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before and bombers galore,
(Shout!) Nothing'll stop the US Air Force!

Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
keep the wings level and true.
If you'd live to be a grayhaired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue! (Out of the blue, boy!)
Flying men, guarding the nation's border,
We'll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on.
(Shout!) Nothing'll stop the US Air Force!

The Coast Guard has a song, too! (And the link includes the tune.) Here's a longer version without the tune.

A very nice little poem from an Italian shopkeeper.

And because patriotism includes a bit of outspokenness, you can scroll on down for this funny little poem from Harper's Weekly back in the day, which sounds rather topical, actually. (Spelling regularized, 'cause it was too dialecty for me to stand.)


Resolved,-This nation's goin' to ruin,-
Old Abram Lincoln's bound to strand it.
Thare's some all-fired mischief brewin',
We Democrats can't no way stand it!
We make a vow, from this time forth
To stop all warfare in the North.

Therefore we form a resolution
To make all Lincoln's orders void;
To put his generals to confusion,
So that our own shan't be annoyed;
And fortify our strong position
By firing guns on abolition.

Two Elizabeths from Portugal

A very nicely done page on the life of the lady who inspired a minor character in Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion and got her own adventure in Paladin of Souls. Needless to say, her ultimate fate is quite a bit better in Bujold's world than in our own.

Here's a rather touching portrait of poor Isabel, by Petrus Christus. She is portrayed praying, with St. Elizabeth behind her. Not the mother of John the Baptist, though.

This other Isabel of Portugal -- St. Elizabeth of Portugal -- is from the 1200s. Her feastday is today. She also had a rather difficult husband (Diniz I, called "the Just"). Since she reigned only about a hundred years after Portugal was retaken from the Moors and became an independent kingdom, it's not surprising that she left her mark. Especially when you get the same story about the roses as you get about her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. (But hey, if God did it for your aunt, you might very well trust God to do it for you!) She was also known in legend for receiving the plans for a church in a dream, and then paying the workers with flowers that turned into gold coins. (Useful trick.) She founded about five zillion hospitals, many of which are still in existence as organizations, and did good deeds galore. She was also a Third Order Franciscan. Her body rests in the Convent of St. Clare in Coimbra.

Here's a good article (in English!) about the saint's life. She was a learned woman, it seems, and a decent engineer and architect as well. In fact, she drafted the plans for the buildings she built, and her country's scholars name their style "Isabeline". (Spanish scholars mean entirely different things when they talk about Isabeline stuff -- either Isabel and Ferdinand, or Isabel II in the early Victorian period.)

Her husband King Diniz (now spelled Dinis) may have been a womanizer, but according to this article, there's a reason he was called "the Just". He even refused to believe the accusations against the Templars. He built a castle in Estremoz, which is now a hotel. He was also called "the Farmer", which seems a rathar flattering title in a king.

He also gave his queen the town of Óbidos as a wedding present, and the "wedding town" became a tradition for Portugal's kings and queens thereafter.

Here's a Portuguese-American festa with some information on the saint, and here's stamps and postcards of her. Here's a nice statue.

Here's a weird little page that gathers a lot of information, but ultimately claims that all the legends about the queen in question were invented by crypto-Jews in order to do homage to Esther. Um. Well, that seems rather unlikely, doesn't it? I'd find it more likely that the Marranos got attached to St. Elizabeth because she was a peacemaker and a doer of righteous deeds. Quite possibly, the charitable organizations founded by her had helped them, and they were grateful.