Friday, December 31, 2010

Great Expectations*

It's time to tear the plastic off of that motivational/costumed-babies-sleeping-on-giant-flowers/leggy-swimsuit-model calendar you received as a desperation gift from some co-worker or distant relative. We're about to begin a new calendar year!

We spoke last year of the perils of the New Year's Resolution. The meditation for this change-over in calendar years will focus less on the promise and potential of the next 365 days and will instead concentrate on surviving the next 24 hours with your good attitude intact.

We speak of The New Year's Eve Expectation of Grandeur. (insert ominous music of your choice)

There is something about the level of expectation placed on this night that has always felt, to us, somewhat forced. For weeks beforehand, we hear of the extraordinary importance of being at just the right venue or event, with just the right person, wearing just the right outfit and imbibing and ingesting just the right treats at just the right time.

We should say that we are staunchly in favor of the idea of setting aside a random winter's eve for a healthful bout of gluttony and debauchery. Blowing off a little (or possibly a great deal of) steam after the strain of winter weather and stress of the holidays seems reasonable, even wise to us.

What bothers us is the notion that how one elects to spend this one evening necessarily sets the tone for the next year of your life. That is a lot of expectation to heap on to just one night.

Maybe it's just us, but we've never had a truly magical New Year's Eve. We have had truly magical nights on other calendar days, and so feel reasonably confident that we can recognize one when we're in the middle of it. We have had some lovely New Year's Eves and others that we have judiciously elected to never again speak of. Ultimately, though, in our experience there is no correlation between our actions on December 31 and our fortunes on say, the following February 3 or June 17. 

If you do have a storybook evening, we sincerely hope that it does carry over and is a sign of good things to come for the upcoming year. If, however, you mange to make a tremendous botch of the whole thing, as we have often done, there is no need to hide under the couch for the next 12 months.

As the inimitable Scarlet O'Hara would say, “Tomorrow is another day.”**

Not to mention, there is another New Year*** to celebrate in just a few weeks... and this one involves dragons!

Today's exercise: Celebration without expectation. 

Next: Mr. Attenborough's Neighborhood (Subtitle: Someone just got a whole bunch of nature documentaries on blu-ray.)

*No really... Is that not just the most screwed up story or what?

**For us, “Gone with the Wind” and “Great Expectations” are inseparably linked, having read them back to back one summer many years ago, as a way to fill the hours spent tanning in the backyard. This gave us both an unique take on literature and very, very bad skin. 

***Year of the rabbit. A new tattoo is expected. (Our lemons-to-lemonade approach to the aforementioned bad skin.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some Random Thoughts on Snow

Written in uncharacteristic first person (because that was what we were in the mood to do) and dedicated to the victims of the 2010 East Coast Snowpocalypse.

One of my very earliest memories is of going out to play in the snow on a paternally-lead snowman building expedition. We determined, using the tried and true “will a handful stick to the side of the Chevy Nova?” method, that the snow was too dry to build a proper snowman. We then proceeded to kill just enough time to be sure that Mom would have the hot chocolate ready, then retreated indoors. To this day, I still feel that 15 – 20 minutes is the optimal amount of time to spend in snow. After that, cocoa becomes a necessity.

I have a somewhat later memory of seeing my new Georgia-based doctor become extremely excited over seeing a snow flurry outside his office window. I remember thinking he was terribly provincial. I was nearly three. I stand by that assertion.

I have shoveled snow. I did not enjoy it. I no longer have grandparents, therefore I no longer have to shovel snow. Life is like that.

Many people think they can drive in snow. A few actually can. No one, however, drives well.

“Chains required ahead” but no exits behind. Some days getting home from Las Vegas is the real gamble. 

I currently have a pact with snow. If it promises to stay neatly tucked away in the mountains, I promise to visit it at least once a year. So far, this has worked out reasonably well for all concerned.

Skiing is not the hard part. The graceful cessation of skiing is.

Snowboarding is a cruel joke. Don't fall for it.

When hiking in the snow, steel-toed boots are not an asset. On a related note, March in South Dakota is not springtime.

I have been snowed on while on a motorcycle. Several times.

Snow is beautiful. Melting snow in the mountains is glorious.

Spring will come. Regardless.

Today's exercise: None. Consider it a snow day

Next: A meditation for the new calendar year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve and Your Inner Child Wants a Cookie

You may not realize it, but there is, most likely, a time machine in your kitchen.

If you doubt this, try baking up a batch of your favorite childhood holiday cookies. We expect that you'll quickly find yourself transported.

We don't know how many (literal) years we searched for the perfect sugar cookie recipe – the ones that tasted like Oklahoma in the 1960s.* Untold hours were spent researching the finest cookbooks and cooking websites. When we finally found it, it had been under our noses all along, in a set of aging binders. “Cooking Magic: The New England Cookbook” Culinary Arts Institute, 1956. Page 57, nonetheless.

No matter how sophisticated our palettes may be as adults, there are certain tastes and smells that will always appeal to us – the treats of our childhood. These foods provide something even greater than nourishment or even pleasure. They give us the actual physical sensation of being young. For a moment, when you take that first bite and the sugar** hits your tongue, you get to feel as you once did. 

We carry with us always the memories of our childhood, as they have helped to shape who we are as adults. It is difficult, though, to recall the feeling of youth – that constant sense of excitement, wonder and hopefulness that somehow slipped away one day when we weren't looking. (If we're being perfectly honest, there was also uncertainty and fear, but of a less mature vintage than most of us have become accustomed to of late.)

The Yummish consider this a sacred act, a yearly reconciling of who you were and who you've become, through the medium of baked goods. It is a chance to embrace your past self, with all of its stupid errors, and to forgive your current self for not always living up to more youthful ideals. It is also a better-than-decent excuse to turn on the oven.

Today's exercise: Eat a cookie!

Next: Maybe another Yummish Saint. Or not. Who can concentrate on that when the house smells like cookies?

*South Florida in the 1980s is a much easier taste to capture - Oranges.

**Or salt, vinegar, pulp, crunchy carapace, etc. as best suits your Yum.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We Are Not Alone

Yummish Meditation number 57 is dedicated to The Senior Member of the Yummish Council*

On this Winter Solstice, the day after the North American continent was witness to a full lunar eclipse, it seems only natural to turn our attention to the heavens. We beg your indulgence, as this post gets a little weird from this point on. We promise to return to our more cookie-based foundation Friday.

One of the more controversial tenets of the Yummish Faith is our unshakable belief in extra-terrestrial life. As you might imagine, this isn't exactly something we open conversations with. Nevertheless, it is a fundamental Yummish belief that “we are not alone in the universe.” 

Our beliefs, we are ashamed to say, don't involve anything nearly as entertaining as the Scientologists' Xenu. We apologize for this shortcoming and remind you this cult is led by a writer of chick lit and not science fiction.

For the Yummish, it is not a question of if  Life exists outside of the narrow confines of planet Earth, but whether we will be clever enough to recognize it when we encounter it. (Assuming, of course, that we haven't already.)

Whichever definition of Life is being applied in a given situation, it seems to us that what is actually being sought is something that we can recognize in some way as being “like us.” For the Yummish, searching for this celestial simpatico is a wholly worthwhile activity, deserving of far more attention and resources than it currently receives. To find even the tiniest bacterium tucked away in the deepest crack on the tiniest asteroid would be, to us, a cause for such momentous celebration that our hangover would be actually visible from space.

The Yummish, however, embrace an even broader interpretation of Life. We are fully open to the idea that there exist other highly organized systems that consider themselves both “intelligent” and “alive,” but whose definitions of those states are so wildly different from ours as to be currently unrecognizable to us.

Though you may be tempted to think we are completely off base and should, perhaps, give science fiction writing a stab after all, it is good to remember that sea sponges were once considered flora and nitrogen-powered deep water denizens like tube worms were considered impossible.  

As is true of basically all Yummish beliefs, you should feel free pick and choose the aspects that are most appealing to you. Unlike many other religions, we encourage this “Chinese menu” approach to faith. However, we would encourage you to, if not entirely embrace our view, at least spend a little time thinking about the possibilities it suggests. Not only will you be reminded that the glory of creation stretches far beyond our atmosphere, you might even get some ideas for a  really awesome sci-fi novel that we'd enjoy reading. 

Today's exercise: Look to the stars and let your imagination soar.

Next: As promised, something to do with cookies. We know not what.

*Who would probably like us to mention that the number is not a reference to his age... exactly.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Solstice: Not Just For Druids and Hippies

On December 21, at 23:38UTC* the Earth's Northern Hemisphere will mark the 2010 Winter Solstice.

Unfortunately, many of the people living in the Northern Hemisphere will miss the opportunity to celebrate this blessed event, having been laid low as the hapless victims of Cashmas.** If you're one of those who hasn't traditionally celebrated the Winter Solstice, the Yummish would like to encourage you to give it a try this year.

As you probably learned in some grade school “generic science” class, the Winter Solstice is the date after which the days begin to lengthen and the Earth begins its celestial march toward Spring. Depending on the hemisphere in which you find yourself, it is celebrated in either December or June.

“The date after which the days begin to lengthen...”

Those italics mark an important distinction. The Winter Solstice marks the time when the days are shortest, the nights are deepest and the warmth and light of the growing season is the furthest away. The Winter Solstice is the celebration of hitting the low point, the moment after which everything simply has to get better because there is just no worse for it to get. It is a celebration of hope. To observe the Winter Solstice is to express your faith in the potential goodness of the future.

For the Yummish, that makes the Winter Solstice a low stress/high reward holiday. Unlike the other holidays of this season, with their measures of success – the perfect turkey, the perfect present, the perfect party – there is no pressure to get Solstice “right.” Solstice isn't about preparing for the one day, but taking one day to prepare for the year ahead. 

Today's exercise: Plan a Winter Solstice celebration. We recommend listening to The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” a couple of dozen times to help get in the spirit.

Next: A really freaky meditation on the Yummish belief in extra-terrestrial alien life that will probably drive away the last few readers this blog has managed to retain.

*Yeah, we didn't know what that was either.

**Cashmas ≠ Christmas. As we've mentioned before, The Yummish are passionately in favor of birthday celebrations and think that if people want to celebrate the birth of a Jewish boy who was nice to his mother and willing to share his lunch with a large crowd of people, that is all to the good. A little quirky maybe, but ultimately fine by us.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Where You Live Might Not Suck As Badly As You Think

Heavener, Oklahoma

You've probably never even heard of it. It's even less likely that you've ever been there.

Unless, of course, you're a student of pre-Columbian Norse Mythology, in which case you've probably visited many times, studying and debating the authenticity of the runestones and writing long, involved scholarly works on the subject.

Riverton, Wyoming

Unless you were the one person paying attention to the non-sex parts of “Brokeback Mountain,” you've never heard of it. You certainly have no reason to travel there.

Of course, if you did make the trip, you'd meet some of the most intrepid, enthusiastic hot-air balloonists to be found anywhere and see one of the largest Indian Reservations in the United States.

Fairhope, Alabama

Even if you can find Alabama on a map, chances are you'll still have difficulty locating Fairhope. It isn't even mentioned in lame Sonny & Cher songs like it's neighbor to the West, Mobile.

However, in addition to producing a few authors and songwriters you may have heard of, the town was also founded as a utopian artists' colony with a unique tax structure that reads to the non-American mind as radical socialism if not full-on communism.

Fresno, California

You've likely heard of it, but only as a punchline to a joke. You wouldn't ever consider actually going there.

Which is a real shame if you happen to have a taste for authentic Armenian food or are a fan of funk styles of dance, especially popping.

As you have read, the Yummish Council is currently located in the somewhat achingly trendy San Francisco Bay Area. That is not to suggest in any way that we are hip. We're geekish and awkward and often feel compelled to randomly apologize for our many short comings to the hipsters we encounter while waiting online for whatever restaurant, grocery store, or bus line we're clearly not cool enough for. (Which is, in itself, a fairly bizarre thing to do and more or less proves our point.)

It is important to remember, though, that wherever you may currently reside, there is something cool about it – something interesting to be experienced. No matter how small the town's population, others have elected to live there, as opposed to living someplace else. There must be something that attracts people and compels them to say – a Yum of sorts shared by all who chose to make their homes there.  

Today's exercise: Discover for yourself what makes your home town unique and take pride in sharing that Yummish tidbit with those not hip to it.

Next: A few hours after this posting, the book signing for our first novel will begin. We suspect that we'll have a few thoughts on that experience that we'll wish to share. (Unless no one shows, in which case we intend to go out and get quite drunk.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our Beautiful Blue Marble

On December 7, 1972, unknown numbers* of people photographed the moon as a small man-made, man-filled vehicle traveled toward it. Only the three men aboard were able to capture the event from the reverse perspective.

This is our home. It is, at this time,** the only one we have.

Since a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, we're going to stop here and let this image speak for itself.

Today's exercise: Marvel at our beautiful blue marble.

Next: The Viking Hordes of Heavner Oklahoma and how where you live might not suck as badly as you think. (Yes, Frenso, we're talking to you here, too.)

*Though we can say definitely that no member of the Yummish Council is included in that number as one of us had a hot date that night and the other was -2.5 years old.

**Ahem... We believe we were promised colonies on the moon by now... and jet packs. Let's make with the good grades in math and science, you young folks. It's up to you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Precious Gift of Regret

The much revered Madame Piaf excepted, we feel it is safe to assume that everyone over the age of, let's say, five has at least one regret. A few of us have even managed to amass fairly impressive collections thereof.* (Many of which, it seems, have been unfortunately recorded for posterity via various forms of media. Let the blackmail begin!)

While it is perfectly reasonable to regret certain actions or experiences in your past, it would be a tragic error to regret having regrets.

Rather than something shameful that should be hidden, regrets are actually perverse signs of personal growth. The person who has nothing to regret is living either an extraordinarily fortunate life or an entirely unexamined one. Regret is the result of having learned from your mistakes, be they errors of action or inaction. To actively regret the missteps of your past is to safeguard your future. Those things you regret about your past make you a smarter, stronger, better person today.

The regret is a also reminder that you have been blessed with the opportunity for second chances or to make amends. It means you're still here, that you've managed to survive your own stupidity. You have the ability and the chance to learn and to grow. The regrets of your past add promise to your future.

Today's exercise: Embrace those memories that make you grimace or blush. They've also made you better.

Next: Our beautiful blue marble

*Contrary to what people will warn you before you acquire them, my piercings and tattoos do not number among my many regrets. They are, instead, the very finest of my sexy scars.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Global Appeal of Fried Wads of Dough

Doughnut, Beignet, Youtiao, Funnel cake, Zeppoli, Sopaipilla, Rosettes, Fry bread, Churros

Linguists would have you believe that cultures develop the greatest number of words to describe that which is of most value to the community. If that is true, it is fair to say that human culture ascribes significant importance to Fried Wads of Dough.

For the Yummish, this is cause for great rejoicing.

It begins with a simple dough made chiefly of white flour, a formerly elegant foodstuff once available only to the wealthy elite. Add to that refined sugar, another historically luxurious ingredient. Plunge into an impressive reserve of boiling fat/oil. Fry until golden and top with more sugar.

It is a deceptively simple dish, but therein lies it's impressive appeal. Across the planet, every day, humans of every make and model will enjoy some variation of it. It is a sort of Yummish Miracle – a Yum shared 'round the world.

When you snag a doughnut to go with your coffee or order an elephant ear from the roach coach at the County Fair, you are partaking of a treat that, statistically speaking, is being shared by people the world over at that same moment. It is so much more than a mere snack. It's a form Yummish Communion*.

Today's exercise: Indulge in the Fried Wad of Dough of your choice and take a moment to think about who else might be doing the same.

Next: The Precious Gift of Regret

*You will never know how difficult it was not to make a joke about doughnuts being a “holey” food... Though I suppose I just now did... Rats.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday: A Message of Love and Support to Those Working In Retail

It is fair to say that few people grow up dreaming of one day working in the glamorous, fast-paced world of retail. It's a job. You trade your time and efforts for cash and it is, we recognize, a piss poor trade at that.

You are, of course, better than the job. You have talents, abilities and aspirations as beautiful and unique and worthy as anyone. We understand that this is not a job that challenges you, except in the worst of ways.

On this Black Friday*, we resolve to remember that you are human beings, of equal value to ourselves and of far greater importance than any Blu-ray player, no matter how deeply discounted.

We resolve to speak to you respectfully, no matter how frustrated we are that your employer has run out of whichever loss leader item we'd set our hearts on obtaining on the ultra-cheap.

We resolve not to make this already difficult day worse for you by yelling, shoving, littering, stealing**, tossing objects or others, or letting our children or selves run wild.

We resolve not to insult you, curse you, shove you, hit you or trample you to death. We promise to put your health and well-being ahead of petty material desires.

Or at least, that is how we hope we'd behave if we were going to participate in Black Friday. As it is, we spent too many years working retail and intend to spend the day cowering under the bed hiding from the horrifying flashbacks.

Today's exercise: Today and every day, give others the gift of your respect. It costs even less than that plasma TV on sale at the mall...

Next: An in depth study of how the International Monetary Fund is enslaving and destroying the Third World... Just kidding. More likely we'll wax poetic about cookies.

* That frenzied orgy of extreme acquisition that is the natural result of asking Americans to spend an entire day attempting to be grateful for what they already have. For some, this day has become a holiday unto itself as well as a cherished family tradition and, of course, we would never “Yuck their Yum.”

**Though it is a fact that people shoplift on Black Friday, this has always confused us. Is it slightly less-bad than stealing the item at full price? We are equally confused by shoplifting from the Dollar Store. Since you don't intend to pay for it anyway, why not take better stuff? Questions like these are what comes of drinking plum wine in the middle of the day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gratitude Is In The Air; Just Breathe It In

It starts with the smell of coffee in the morning. There is just something about the smell of coffee brewing. It is such a compelling aroma that people who don't care to drink coffee still often enjoy it. It's a rich smell; spicy and deep, yet warm and comforting.

Soon a sweet scent will begin to waft from the oven to mix with that of the fresh, hot coffee. It's the scent of pumpkin muffins baking (or zucchini bread or coffee cake with lots of brown sugar and cinnamon – something dense and moist and filling for a cold holiday morning). The air gradually becomes thick and heavy with the scent of caramelizing sugar and melting, browning butter, fogging the windows and enveloping the kitchen in a cozy, warm cloud.

Later, as the day goes on, a very different fragrance will gradually replace the sugary fog, savory and more complex – The Turkey*. The robust smell of game bird, stuffed with golden cornbread treasure, starts as just a whisper, barely detectable above the lingering aroma of sugary baked breakfast goodness. As the bird roasts slowly for hours, the scent grows and fills every corner of the house, teasing you with whiffs of luscious roasting essence so dense you can almost taste them.

When you can hardly stand the anticipation any longer, it's finally time for the turkey to come out of the oven and take it's place at the center of the feast. There its savorous scent dances with a potpourri of others – the yeasty butteriness of dinner rolls, the mossy-dense aroma of green beans, the sweet spice of homemade cranberry sauce, and the salty unctuousness of gravy. Add to that the the hoppy, hearty scent of beer, the fruity-sharpness of wine, the honey-fragrance of cider or the bitter-smooth pungency of iced tea.

As darkness begins to creep, so does a new aroma – sweet, but different than before. It is the fragrance of pumpkin pie – a scent at once delicate and hearty, as flaky crust and custard-y filling find harmony. As it cools, it fills the house with an exotic melange of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and brown sugar, all but begging to be joined by the warm incense of hot tea and/or the delicate sweetness of milk.

The Yummish Council reminds you that, above all, Yummish Day** is a feast for all of the senses. In all of the hustle and bustle of the day, don't forget to take a moment just to breathe it all in.

Today's exercise: Inhale

Next: Black Friday: A Message of Love and Support to Those Working In Retail

*Or Tofurkey, Turducken, baked ham, venison, prime rib, lasagne, Tex-Mex chili burritos, etc. as best suits your Yum. If you have any good recipes, we're always looking...

**Unlike Thanksgiving, which is celebrated primarily in the US, Yummish Day is observed by seekers of the Yum world-wide.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

"Homecoming: A Novella"
I wrote a book.

Most of the words are spelled right and some of it is pretty funny, if I do say so myself.

That is all.

Thank you for your attention. You may return to your regularly scheduled chaos.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why should TSA workers get to watch porn at work all day when I can't? - A message from The Cocktail Party

National Opt Out Day:

PLEASE NOTE: This site should be considered not safe for work.*

PLEASE NOTE: If you do not wish for your children to be exposed to full frontal nudity, use caution when viewing the link above.**

PLEASE NOTE: If you are offended by depictions of graphic nudity, including detailed images of both male and female genitals, do not click the link above.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are offended by the idea that you can be subject to extremely detailed imaging of your whole body, including your breasts, labia, penis and testicles,*** or, if you refuse, made to suffer a very thorough physical inspection of those same body parts, you MUST click the above link.

Our nation's Founding Fathers were so incensed that personal homes and supplies were being used to garrison and outfit British soldiers that they figuratively and literally beat their plowshares into swords and rebelled against one of the most powerful nations the world had ever known.

Today, we stand proudly as hourly workers ogle and fondle our sexual organs, so that we can have the privilege of doing business with a private company.

We, of The Cocktail Party, fully believe that if anyone had given George Washington the choice between having his junk photographed or groped, he would have chopped down more than a cherry tree.

Today's exercise: Click on the link above.

Next: Something in recognition of the approaching Yummish High Holy Season.

*Unless you happen to work for TSA or one of its “private screening partners.” But, then, if you did, you'd probably be too busy selecting which live bodies you'd like to see in greater detail to bother reading goofy blogs with silly names.

**Though we suggest you still do so, after they've gone to bed, as children can be subject to these detailed scans (though not pat downs) as well, in spite of laws against child pornography.

***Whatever combination thereof you happen to have. That's between you and your spouse... and, seemingly now, any curious or bored TSA agent.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Yum of Talking to Yourself

Frankly, we're at a loss to understand all of the fuss about talking to oneself. If the issue is one of mental health, it is an important distinction to note that those scruffy-looking folks outside of the bus station having heated solo conversations are not addressing themselves so much as someone who is not actually there. As you actually exist (or at least we assume you do, based on the Blogger hit counter), it seems strange to us not to be on speaking terms with one's own self.

We think talking to yourself can be a very helpful and useful practice. Talking to yourself can help you work out a problem with or vent your feelings safely to the one person who is absolutely certain to understand.

Talking to yourself can help you understand yourself better, like a sort of self-guided talk therapy. In our external-stimulant heavy environment where we are bombarded constantly with the desires and opinions of others, we think it is a good practice to spend a little time listening to your own. You might be surprised by what you hear. (That happens to us more than we should probably admit.)

Sometimes it can be wise to rehearse aloud what you want to say to someone, to make sure you express yourself accurately. Hearing your statements and requests spoken out loud can help you frame them in ways that are most compelling to the intended audience.

Most importantly, your cats will find it endlessly amusing, guaranteed. We imagine dogs will as well, and your house plants will appreciate the extra CO².

For the Yummish, talking to oneself is almost a sort of prayer – a petition from one part of your brain to intercede on behalf of another. Literally. When you verbalize an issue, you engage different areas of your brain, changing how the information is processed. It is an appeal for wisdom and guidance, directed simultaneously outwardly and inwardly.

Also, we of the Yummish Council are hopelessly in love with the sound of our own voices.*

Today's exercise: Have a friendly chat with yourself... Or give yourself a good talking to, as you see fit.

Next: A message from The Cocktail Party in support of National Opt-Out Day. (or “Why should TSA workers get to watch porn at work all day when I can't?”) [NOTE: Opt Out site could be considered by some NSFW, which in itself should tell you something...]

*Not recorded, though. Our recorded voices always sound strange and foreign to our ears. But melodiously bouncing around inside our own brain pan... Amazing!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Announcing a new Official Yummish Holiday:

Redhead Day
The Yummish Council

As you may or may not be aware, the Yummish Council is currently populated entirely by redheads. This is not a requirement for membership. It just worked out that way.

Nevertheless, as we're the ones showing up to the meetings, there does tend to be something of a pro-ginger bias. It's not that we feel that there is anything inherently wrong with other colors of hair. There are many fine hues for hair, all of which are lovely in their own ways and equally inferior to red.

If you don't like it, as always, you are free to create your own religion. If you do, let us know and we promise to follow your blog.

That being said, while perusing our favorite Repository of Nearly-Accurate Data, we recently stumbled across this:

Redhead Day*

Unfortunately, we discovered the holiday too late to celebrate this year, but chose to go ahead and add it to the official calendar now, because, frankly, we thought it was cool and didn't want to take the risk of forgetting it next year. The Council is currently all a-twitter (pun intended) with talk of making the pilgrimage in September 2011.

We also figured this was as good an excuse as any to wax a bit poetic about the awesomeness of the ginger-haired. After all, how much poorer would our collective culture be without redheads?

Titian, Klimt, and Botticelli all celebrated ginger beauty in their works and Van Gogh was himself a redhead.

Literature gives us such memorable redheaded characters as Amory Blaine, Anne Shirley, and Madeline, not to mention Pippi Longstocking (who, honestly, has always kind of creeped us out, but whatever...) and the kids in those Harry Potter books we've never read. There is also Harry Potter author herself, J. K. Rowling, as well as writers James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain.

Musically, we have Bonnie Raitt, Jim Strider, Reba McIntire, Willie Nelson, Johnny Rotten and Antonio Vivaldi.

Red-haired actors include Marcia Cross, Eric Stoltz, Julia Roberts, Conan O'Brien, Tilda Swinton, Brendan Gleeson, Kelly McNair and many, many more. Where would television or film be without über-ginger Ron Howard?

On the historic front, we claim Eric the Red, Elizabeth I, Napoleon, Galileo, Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson.

As far as representing the sheer hotness of the ginger-haired, there are far too many names to list here, so we'll just offer Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman and Robert Redford as prime examples.

There's really no way to deny it. Gingers add spice to life!

Today's exercise: Hug a ginger! (Then celebrate some little quirk or quality of your own and how it connects you with others.)

Next: Something more inclusive, I promise.

Fun link: 38 Red Hair and Redhead Facts

*Now that they've gotten over that tendency toward violent empire building and world domination, the Dutch really have developed some fairly Yummish tendencies.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Strange Ubiquity of Bananas

It is important to begin by saying that there are few foods yummier than bananas. It is really hard to argue with a food that is packed with nutrients, has a sweet taste and can (almost) satisfy a hardcore carbohydrate jones. There is also the fact that bananas, with their internal seeds, were grown by the tree expressly to be consumed and carried away for deposit elsewhere. In that way, you could almost say bananas want to be eaten. In fact, there is little about bananas that is not likable – the sunny, cheerful color, the friendly smiling shape, the blue Chiquita sticker to wear on your forehead the rest of the day. Always available, seemingly always in season, bananas have become our dependable, potassium-rich friend.

In spite of all of these yummy qualities, I've never given bananas much serious thought, beyond “A banana sounds good” or “I wish I'd remembered to buy bananas.” They've just always been there – in every grocery store, on every lousy hotel breakfast sideboard, in every state in this country.

And none of them – not a single one – was grown here. It's not just the US, either. For the majority of the banana eating population in the world, there is no such thing as a homegrown banana.

Think about it. The more you do so, the weirder it gets.

Though I've long been vaguely aware that bananas are grown in tropical regions and, from my shopping addiction, was familiar with the term "banana republic," I only suspected that there might be geo-political ramifications to the farming of bananas.

The concept only really came home to roost one evening when the Yummish Council had gathered to watch a Swedish art house film/skin flick. Whether it was because it was veering more to the “art house” or to the “skin flick,” I won't say, but we'd long since abandoned the plot in favor of making very tired IKEA and Volvo jokes. (I did have one moment of honest enthusiasm when I spotted a Hennes & Mauritz, aka Yummish Shrine of Tacky Acquisition H&M*, in the background of a scene.) It was in one of those typically Euro-film, very talk-y (OK, read-y. There were subtitles) scenes set around a table that I finally grocked it.

There are bananas in Sweden.

I checked a map, just to be sure. Sweden is really no where near Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, or the other places where bananas are grown. Then, again, neither is London, where, I recalled from first hand experience, they were on offer every morning in the refectory. (And easily pocketed for later, post-drinking consumption.) Neither is Michigan, where I was first introduced to the fruit. That was when I began to be freaked out by the strange ubiquity of bananas.

The point was again driven home while on an ill-fated motorcycle trip to Las Vegas, the full details of which I shall not bore you with here. (Suffice it to say, we spent 24 hours on the road and 10 hours in Vegas.) Along our route though the high desert of Nevada and California and then up through the Central Valley, we had occasion to stop at many gas stations and convenience marts – every single one of which had fresh, ripe bananas for sale. That is an unbroken chain of bananas from Berkeley to Barstow and beyond. I began to contemplate the vast global infrastructure necessary to keep all of those points of sale stocked with fresh product. (There is not a lot to interrupt one's contemplative process along Interstate 5.) My mind was blown.

I've not yet come to a definitive position on bananas. I'm still weighing out things like how the calorie needs of an ever-increasing population (7 billion!) will require imaginative innovation and how our current model of consumption is unsustainably carbon-heavy. Suddenly, though, the simple banana is no longer so simple. I may not have the answers, but at least I've started asking the right questions.

Today's exercise: Question why your breakfast is often better traveled than you.

Next: Why do I always have to be the one to come up with the topic? Oh, yeah... Whatever it is, it will be brilliant, I'm sure.

*This (and every) season's design concept: “Look at my thighs! Oh, won't you please look at my thighs?”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fear is the Mind Killer

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, “Dune

Perhaps the Yummish Council should consider Frank Herbert as a candidate for future Yummish Sainthood. In addition to the concept of The Spice (to which we've long been attracted as fun a way of getting our long-dreamt-of blue eyes), he has given us the above mantra. Put aside, for a moment, the fact it is a quote from a science fiction novel featuring giant sandworms. We think it is a beautiful meditation on and exercise for addressing fear.

“Fear” is defined by our All Purpose Authority Wikipedia as “an emotional response to a perceived threat.” Fear triggers our Fight/Flight response. We feel a surge of adrenaline and anxiety that pushes us to react quickly to either avoid or ameliorate the source of the fear. The fear response is very useful when the perceived threat is of an immediate nature, like a mountain lion or mugger.

Sometimes, though, that which causes us fear is less tangible and/or more long term. Unable to fight or to flee, we're left paralyzed, trapped by our own fear. Fear robs us of our judgment and our perspective and, in that way, robs us of ourselves.

The truth is, often what you find most daunting is actually what you most need to do.*

The fact that such strong emotion has built up around the subject shows just how deeply you actually care about it. The intensity of your fear is an indication of just how much you feel you stand to lose... or to gain. It is that sign you've been asking for, and while it may say “Rough Road Ahead,” it is still an indication that you're on the right path.

Pass through your fear and you will find yourself.

Today's Exercise: Face your fears.

Next: The Strange Ubiquity of Bananas (More funny! Less preachy! We promise!)

*On that note, the proof copy of "Homecoming", the novella we're self-publishing, arrived yesterday...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Cocktail Party 2010 Election Day Statement: Don't Believe Everything You Think

I had read that in one place.”

It's happened to all of us -- when that “fact” of which we were so certain turns out to be fiction. It's so easy to mishear, misremember, misunderstand or otherwise miss the point.

Unfortunately, that's no excuse, not when we're talking about as great a responsibility as the governance of our nation. We must demand more of our representatives and more of ourselves. We must be certain.

We must do our homework.

Every child in this nation is owed an education, because our founding fathers understood that an educated, informed and engaged electorate was absolutely necessary to the success of this grand experiment in Democracy. We live in an era of unprecedented access to information, of nearly infinite quantity and infinitely-varied quality. Sorting through and making sense of it all is, without question, a challenge.

The Cocktail Party, however, firmly believes that it is worth it.

“Trusting your gut,” is undoubtedly the way to go when selecting your bi -weekly lottery numbers (Come on Super Lotto, show us some love!) or which puppy you're going to take home from the shelter. It is a decidedly less effective way of selecting elected officials. Emotional investment is and should be a part of the voting process, but as a companion to, not replacement for, cold hard fact.

Listening to the opinions of others is invaluable. The issues you've been asked to decide will affect a great many people for a long time to come. Getting different points of view is both responsible and wise. Be careful, however, not to let another's feeling become your fact. Behind every strongly worded opinion (even ours!) lies a far more complex issue.

The outcome of this, of any, election will have a tangible effect on your life and the lives of your family and community members. Whatever state, country or city you're voting in, important decisions on weighty matters have been entrusted to you.

Before you head to the polls today, know the facts.

Today's exercise:

Next: Depends on what kind of mood we're in after the results are in.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Exercise: A Masochistic Celebration of The Body Beautiful

We'd like to begin by assuring you that we have no intention of preaching to you about the joy of “the runner's high,” as we are firm in our belief that there is no such thing.

Exercise, by it's nature, is physically challenging. Even if you are so fortunate as to find an activity that tickles your masochistic pleasure centers, in order to be effective, exercise must be, to some degree, difficult. (read: unYummish) For the Yummish, the Yum of exercise comes later, after the unpleasantness of clingy and unflattering active wear and stinky, moist sneakers has been put away.

First, though few people look good while exercising, everyone looks better after exercising. Over the long term, exercise helps your body look its personal best by strengthening, toning, reducing and enlarging to taste. In the short term, cleansing sweat and increased circulation are good for the complexion. Also, some activities require semi-adorable outfits like tennis skirts or yoga pants, which can lead to the tangential Yum of shopping.

Next, if you exercise on a regular basis, your body will begin to feel better overall, as your strength and stamina increase. You will have more energy and ability to do the things you find Yummish, such as shopping*.

Also, regular exercise increases your metabolism, allowing you to indulge in Yummy treats without concern or regret. Thirty minutes or so of exercise seems a reasonable exchange for getting to order dessert. We like to think of it as the carrot cake at the end of the stick.

Lastly, there is our favorite indulgence afforded by regular exercise – the joy of blowing it off. The greater your dedication in general, the greater the pleasure in granting yourself a brief holiday – just as we intend to do today. We might even celebrate with a cookie.

Today's exercise: Don't. (Tomorrow's exercise: Do!)

Next: An Election Day Message from The Cocktail Party

*It has been over a month since our last pilgrimage to Yummish Shrine of Tacky Acquisition H&M and it may be starting to tell on us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The signs are unmistakable. Fishnet stockings and glow-in-the-dark nail polish start to show up on grocery store shelves, alongside the jars of peanut butter and boxes of sugar cereal. Costume specialty shops pop up seemingly overnight, like mushrooms. Rubber monster masks, cheap felt pirate hats, and plastic action-hero guns are for sale in virtually every store open for trade of any sort. 'Tis the season to be... anyone.

Actors make a living* by pretending to be another person. Writers make a living** pretending to be a dozen or so other people. (In that way, writers are like actors with multiple personality disorder and a decent vocabulary.) For the rest of us, though, there are few opportunities in our daily lives to try on a different persona(e). Those who try are often labeled as “insincere” or “schizophrenic.” Thankfully, there is one exception to this - the day of elective collective madness known as Halloween.

For the Yummish, the “masquerade” aspect of this holiday is very important. What some might dismiss as child's play, the Yummish prefer to see as “walking a mile in another's shoes.” For one night, we present to the world a different self and get to sample what it is like to be perceived as such -- the den-mother-soccer-mom wearing a saucy streetwalker outfit, the retired grandfather-of-many dressed as a slick, stylish mobster, the scrawny mathlete ensconced in foam super-hero bulk. We get to perceive ourselves differently because others see us differently. We carry this experience with us, even after the temporary persona has been set aside, and it becomes part of our world view. It is truly harder to judge someone after trying on their witch boots***, especially if you find yourself enjoying the experience. It is an exercise in open-mindedness, in understanding, and in finding shared Yum. It is a way of learning to relate to that which, at first glace, seems to be “other” and discovering, once again, that All is One****.

There's also the chance for free candy and/or parties featuring adult beverages. Yum!

Today's exercise: Get to know someone new this Halloween, from the inside out.

Next: Exercise -- a masochistic celebration of the body beautiful.

*Well, a handful of actors make an actual living...

**See note on actors.

***We're you.

****I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jane Goodall: The Third Yummish Saint

Scientist, environmentalist, redhead. To try list all of Jane Goodall's accomplishments here would take too many pages (and essentially recreate the work already done by the many wonderful nerds of the Wikipedia Community). If you've never heard of Jane Goodall, The Yummish Council encourages immediate correction of this oversight. So much more than “the chimp lady,” Ms. Goodall is a UN Messenger of Peace and, through the many programs of her eponymous institute, a world renowned environmental educator and activist.

She is also one of the most inspiring speakers we've ever heard.

A petite, elegant woman with delicate features, we watched as she held a large school gymnasium filled with students, parents, reporters and others in hushed rapture. Warm, funny, self-deprecating and extremely intelligent, Ms. Goodall shared her passion for chimps, animal welfare and environmentalism at large through stories of her personal experiences, punctuated by well-researched facts. She spoke with simple eloquence, using no gimmicks or verbal trickery to “market” her message to the largely teenaged audience. Instead, she addressed her audience with respect and her topic with great reverence. She wasn't there to “sell her message.” Rather, she seemed sincerely motivated to share her Yum.

And the nature of that Yum? For that we quote the Jane Goodall Institute core values:

We strive to respect, nourish and protect all living things; people, animals and the environment are all interconnected

We believe that knowledge leads to understanding, and that understanding will encourage us to take action

We believe that every individual has the ability to make a positive difference

We believe that flexibility and open-mindedness are essential to enable us to respond to a changing world

We require integrity and compassion in all that we do and say

Sounds Yummy to us!

Today's exercise: Remember that those who shout the loudest might not have the most to say. Quiet voices can also convey great passion.

Next: TBDBD (To be determined by drinking)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Sexy Scars: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Hotter

WARNING: The following meditation has been rated WEIRD by the Senior Member of the Yummish Council, who finds emotional scars far more interesting than the physical variety.

SCARS: A perspective by HotGingerMess

I love my scars. They're almost ridiculously sexy. No plastic-fantastic, Barbie-boring body here, no sir. My body is a unique, ever-evolving work of art. My scars are the story of my life, writ large in fleshy hieroglyphics. They are the souvenirs of the adventures of my life.

First, there is my favorite scar – my hockey scar. It's on my left knee. I got it when I fell down at a hockey game... in the stands... while completely sober. While it wasn't so funny at the time (and cost me the one pair of pants that made my butt look acceptable), it has since become one of my favorite one-liners to tell, timing being, as it is, everything.

Kawasaki Ninja
Below that are the faint remains of road rash, from when I laid down my Kawasaki Ninja. Suffice it to say, fuel is necessary for acceleration and the reserve tank is your friend. Still, any motorcycle story – even one where you end up on the pavement – is bound to impress someone. (I must assume this is so, or else Ewan McGregor couldn't keep making all of the Long Way Whatever movies.)

Then there is the scar on the left side of my upper lip – the result of an epic paper cut gained while... licking an ordinary white, size 9 envelope. While the story is less-than-epic, I like the rakish look it gives my face. The ring through my navel also has a unique, jaunty angle, thanks to the hernia scar above it. The surgery scar on my lower abdomen underlines and highlights the Chinese dragon tattooed on my belly, creating a type of altar on which she dances.
Year of the Hare Chinese Character tattoo

The scars on my back are no uglier than the moles they replaced, but are far more mysterious. Gun shot wounds? Cigarette burns from some torturous spy game? Samples of human flesh taken during an alien abduction? All more interesting options than some unsightly “cluster of melanocytes.” My chicken pox scar is a sexy almond shape, like a tiny white eye on my inner thigh. The deformed middle finger of my right hand reminds me of the day when, as a young teen, I elected not to have the break set, because the presence of a cast would have caused me to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Chinese Dragon TattooI could go on... and on and on and on. I've gained at least one scar for every year I've been alive. (I'm also clumsier and more fair-skinned than most, so I'm probably somewhat ahead of the curve.) Each one has a story, though. Each is a symbol of triumph, a victory over injury, illness, or adversity. They are outward signs of my inner strength.

In a game of survival of the fittest, my scars are the proof – I'm a survivor. What could be sexier than that?

Today's exercise: Celebrate your scars, wrinkles, freckles and other “imperfections” and the triumphant tales behind them.

Next: Announcing the Third Yummish Saint

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Cocktail Party: Official 2010 Endorsements

Having recently come to the realization that political endorsements are more about promoting the endorser than the endorsed, The Cocktail Party would like to offer the following thoughts on the upcoming November elections.

1. We endorse voting. It is your right, your responsibility and your privilege.

2. We endorse making an educated choice. Your vote will affect the course of our nation, our lives and (said with no sense of irony or egotism) the entire world for many years, if not permanently. Understanding such weighty choices takes time and effort, but our nation is worth it.

3. We endorse voting on facts rather than fears. If it sounds too good OR too awful to be true, be extremely suspicious. (When in doubt, see item 2.)

4. We endorse voting based on the needs of your family, community and country rather than for benefit of politicians, corporations or their attendant media shills.*

5. We endorse approaching the voting process with reverence for the importance of the act and with gratitude to those who, in the past and still today, in myriad ways, strive to protect our Democracy.

6. And finally – what the hell – We endorse Jerry Brown for Governor of the State of California. The Plymouth Satellite, cutesy nicknames and yoga – we've long suspected Mr. Brown of Yummish tendencies. He also never sat on the board of robber baron Goldman Sachs, which is always a plus in our book.

Today's exercise: Start filling out your sample ballot. November 2 is closer than you may realize.

Next: My Sexy Scars: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Hotter

*The Senior Member of the Yummish Council – a staunch advocate for voting reform – maintains this can be done only by voting a straight ticket of “None of the Above” on all candidates and measures, until a multi-party system is allowed to be established. For the Yummish, as a rule, it is hard to reject the concept of “more parties,” and we are thus willing to consider his point.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Los Dias de los Muertos: Dancing Skeletons, Smiling Death's Heads, the Grateful and the Dead

It's autumn and the fragrant chill of mortality is in the air. The scent of the overripe and the rotten, fermenting in the bright, brief sunlight, mixes with clean scent of fresh blood from the recently slaughtered and sweetly drying grains. Increasingly over-filled cupboards stand in stark contrast to an ever-more barren landscape. Bitter north winds tear across desolate fields, the encroaching darkness trailing behind them, a herald of the coming winter.

...That is if this were the the American Great Plains of the 1800s. As this is 2010 and the Yummish Council is currently located in the extremely climatically stable San Francisco Bay Area, the harvest season is more accurately recognized by the addition of overpriced ornamental gourds and under-priced, oversized bags of candy to grocery store shelves, back-to-school sales, and the beginning of the football and hockey seasons. (Go Red Wings!)

Nevertheless, this time of transition from the endless days of summer to the darkness and deprivation of winter has become a traditional occasion for people to reflect upon and celebrate death. Halloween, All-Saints Day, All-Souls Day, El Dia de los Muertos, and countless other fall and harvest festivals all around the world celebrate the glory of death in some way; from lighting candles to lighting bonfires, from singing simple songs to making a riotous cacophony intended to (literally) wake the dead. (For more harvest/death rituals, we recommend Primitive Mythology from Joseph Campbell's Masks of God series.)

“Why?” you might ask, “is the cessation of life something people want to celebrate?”

For the Yummish, the answer is suggested by the question itself. The Yummish are called upon to celebrate all life and recognize death as a part of life – the last part. It is the finale of the film, the closing chapter of the book. Without it, the experience would be wholly unsatisfying. Death brings the gifts of closure and resolution to our lives. It brings structure to our existence – a distinct beginning, middle and end.

Death forces us to see ourselves not as just this one, temporary expression of life, but to identify with something more lasting – a family, a tribe, a country, a species. It encourages us to think beyond our own lifetimes, to strive to pass along as much as we can of what we've gained – genetically, educationally, artistically and spiritually – to those who will follow us.

Because they will die, we love our parents. Because we will die, we love our children.

While the Yummish celebrate Death as a part of the cycle of life, it is important to note that we do not celebrate any specific instance of death*. The end of an individual life -- any life -- is a solemn occasion. Though we might celebrate the beauty of the life of one who has passed, the Yummish take no joy in the death. The end of a life brings only sorrow, while Life Ending is, to us, a glorious mystery. It is a complicated issue and probably explains why we drink as much cheap red wine as we do - cheap red wine historically being the preferred beverage of philosophers, revolutionaries and vagabonds alike.

Today's Exercise: Like the brightly colored sugar skulls of el Dia de los Muertos, let the specter of death remind you of the sweetness and joy of living.

Next: Cocktail Party Official 2010 Endorsements

*The Senior Member of the Yummish Council argues that the following perspective could be an exception to this general rule:

To die, to sleep
No more - and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to - ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished.

One a related note, Bay Beat Sounds will soon be announcing the triumphant return of Thanatoid Jones.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Burgers, Ourselves

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Epicure and candidate for future Yummish Sainthood

Fans of the original Japanese Iron Chef (voted by the Yummish Council to be The Finest Television Show Ever) will, undoubtedly, recognize this quote from the opening sequence. Most of us are familiar with the cliché that “you are what you eat.” You may have even said something similar like “I'm not really a sushi person” or “He's a meat and potatoes kind of guy.” On one level, we seem to accept the truth of it, but if that were really the case, would we really accept foodstuffs like this?

Mechanically Separated Poultry

The act of eating is, at its essence, brutal. One expression of life, animal or vegetable, is sacrificed in order to sustain another expression of that same life-force. According to Yummish teachings, both of those expressions of life are of equal value. It just so happens that one aspect of the total value of one of those lives is its ability to sustain, through its death, the life of another. That life will, in turn, feed another and so on. (If you think that being at the “Top of the Food Chain,” means we only consume and are never the consumed, there are some bacteria in your belly and mites in your lashes right now that might beg to differ.)

The act of eating is also terribly beautiful. That which you eat becomes a part of you. Its flesh becomes your flesh, its blood, your blood – a true communion. (For more on this theme see the Roman Catholic Church and/or True Blood) Broken down into its basic components, this other life becomes the basic building blocks of your life. Your body is continually recreating itself, completely renewing itself every 7 – 10 years. These new cells are built from what you've consumed. Your skin, your hair, your eyes, your heart, your everything is made out of the apples, the steaks, the Twinkies you've eaten throughout your life.

The Twinkies?

Your heart is made out of Twinkies? Your child's heart?

Perhaps it's time to pay more than lip-service to this fundamental truth: You are literally what you eat.

There are plenty of folks much more eloquent and far less lazy than the Yummish Council who can tell you how far off track our food culture has gone. We recommend the writer Michael Pollan, the films Food, Inc. and King Corn, the book Fast Food Nation, and the future Yummish Saint Alice Waters.

Or you can simply start by asking yourself why we're irrigating the California desert in order to grow the majority of our food supply while the nearly perfect farm lands of Indiana and Kansas produce little but corn and strip malls.

Today's exercise:
Call or write your state and federal representatives and tell them to create and support farm subsidies that benefit family farms and promote public health over the profits of corporations like Monsanto and Yum Foods, Inc. (see above link), two wholly un-Yummish organizations. Shop at your local farmers markets and farm stands. Grow your own food, even in a small way, like a tomato plant or pot of basil. Learn to shop the “perimeter” of the grocery store and avoid the processed and prepackaged as much as possible. Read labels. Get picky. Get angry. Get healthy.

Next: El Dia de Los Muertos

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Uncontroversial Cookie Recipe

Granola Fruit Bars

Traditional Recipe:

Wait for Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
Locate the rural area of the US or Europe closest to you. (Possibly Canada, too, but not certain. Might be too cold there, eh?) Go there.
Find a large patch of wild blackberry vines. (Note: Due to the copious numbers of large, man-eating thorns, long sleeve shirts are strongly recommended.)
Harvest blackberries until lightheaded from the resultant loss of blood; approximately 2 - 3 pints (of blackberries, not blood. This is (semi)real life, not True Blood, y'all.)
Wash berries in cold water to remove dirt, small leaves and shreds of your own flesh.
Make homemade jam.(Approx. prep time for jam: 28 hours)
Continue with below directions for Simplified Recipe

Simplified Recipe:

½ cup butter, unsalted
2 Tbs butter, salted (softened)
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (can substitute 1/3 cup of white flour for equal amount of whole wheat for extra flavor)
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract, split
8 oz jam, any flavor (Recommended: Polaner All-Fruit or my Mom's homegrown/homemade Bay Minette blackberry jam.)
2 cups oatmeal (Not instant. Recommended: McCann's Quick Cooking)
Cinnamon, nutmeg & sugar to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine unsalted butter, flour and sugar,1 tsp vanilla and nutmeg to taste. Mix thoroughly with a pastry blender or fork.

Use fingers to press evenly into ungreased 8” x 8” baking pan.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until lightly browned

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 – 10 minutes

Meanwhile, mix remaining vanilla into jam. Combine oatmeal, salted butter, and sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Spread jam mixture evenly over crust. Sprinkle top with oatmeal mix.

Return to oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until oatmeal is toasted.

Allow to cool completely before cutting. Yield: 16 bars

Today's exercise:
Make cookies! (These or other. The Yummish Council is open to all cookies of all persuasions.) Extra credit for posting the recipe (or link to the recipe) for your favorite cookie in the comments section. Share the Yum!

Why are you wasting time worrying about that when there are cookies that need baking?

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Yum of Sport

It is important to open this topic by reassuring those who don't give a fig about sports that the Yummish Council is in no way suggesting it's necessary for them to do so. (Though you may want to try out my true favorite sport, if you haven't already.) As we know, each Seeker has his or her own unique path to the Ultimate YUM. You might, however, find today's discussion helpful in understanding those who do enjoy participating in and/or observing sporting matches.

It is true that sports can sometimes appear violent, what with tackles and body checks and rope-a-dope, etc. There is, however, another way of looking at it; namely that sports provide a controlled, socially acceptable way of expressing the aggression many of us carry or have carried at various times in our lives. Though sports may involve seemingly hostile acts, the rules both allowing and governing those acts were established and agreed upon beforehand by all involved. Therefore, while the game-play may be aggressive, there are no victims, only participants. Exorcising one's road rage by starting a fist fight in a parking lot is generally not beneficial to society. However, deciding to go a few rounds in the boxing ring at the gym after work provides the opportunity for a less socially destructive expression of that tension.

Watching sports, in person or via the broadcast method of your choice, can also bring a similar release of tension, allowing the viewer to be fully, but temporarily, emotionally engaged in passionate conflict, while avoiding physical risk themselves. (For a really long diatribe on the subject of Single Combat, go bother Tom Wolfe, but don't say we didn't warn you.)

Sports also bring diverse people together, providing a common ground for understanding and engendering positive feelings, a sense of community. Though the person may be a complete stranger to you, when you see them wearing your team's logo or sitting in your team's section, you feel connected to them. You feel positively inclined toward that person. You know you have at least one interest, one Yum, in common with them. Maybe you smile or wave or just exchange a glance. Either way, a small connection was made.

Sports also encourage people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet (be they from the other side of the county or the other side of the world) to join together to a common purpose, even if it is “only a game”. Though they may have nothing else in common and even support different teams, the game itself provides a basis for common understanding. Even if they can agree on nothing else, players and fans have elected to agree on the rules and structure of the game.

Ultimately sport allows us to express many of our less attractive human traits – aggression, competitiveness, tribalism – in less harmful ways.

Sports also give us the excuse to drink cold, hop-y adult beverages, eat nitrate-laden pig sandwiches and geek out over attractive hockey players*. Yum!

Today's Exercise: Root, root, root for the home team! (And for the senior member of the Yummish Council, we say “Boomer Sooner.”)

Next: Possibly something controversial about the concept of “free market economy”... or maybe another cookie recipe.

*Straight male and lesbian readers may feel free to replace the last item with an alternate Yum, such as the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, who are all also blindingly attractive.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out: The Yum of Music. (No Talent Required)

When we are children, there are many opportunities to be loud. The playground, the playing field, playing an instrument and performing in the school play all provide kids the chance to make grand, passionate sound. Though if you asked your average child, he or she is likely to complain of frequent shooshings. For some perspective, however, ask yourself when was the last time you were shooshed. For most of us adults, it has been far too long since we've earned ourselves a good “Shoosh.”

Adulthood provides few socially acceptable outlets for the joyful creation of tremendous sound. Music is one of the few exceptions our culture provides.

(Shouting team cheers and chants like, Boomer Sooner, Go Wings, and Purty Cow at sporting events is another. That discussion, however, is for next week.)

Music is recreation. Whether you play an instrument or play the stereo, the operative is “play.” To the Yummish, there are few concepts holier than “play,” defined by the Yummish Council as “an act whose sole purpose is to bring pleasure, firstly to the “player” and secondarily to any “playmates.”

Music gives us emotional release. From manically happy pop to the most soul-sucking emo (is that still a thing?), there is music to match any emotion you might have... or wish to have. It also gives structure to that emotion, allowing you to fully experience and express your emotion of choice, but only for the length of the song. Be it a three minute pop song or some multi-day Mahler fiasco, there is a definite beginning and conclusion, letting you experience intense emotion for a short period of time rather than allowing it to take over your life.

The tragedy is that there are many people who do not allow themselves to experience this Yummiest of treats, simply out of fear that they aren't good at it. Out of fear that others might not enjoy their singing, they stay silent. They don't clap, out of fear they'll miss the beat. They deprive themselves of the simple pleasure of listening to music they honestly enjoy just because others might mock their taste.

The Yummish Council is deeply saddened by this and wishes to reassure these musically-deprived that talent is not necessary for the enjoyment of or participation in music. It is necessary to be able to sing like Lea Michele if your goal is to sing on Glee, but not for you to enjoy singing in the shower. It's OK if you aren't Frederica von Stade. She is. You don't have to be. Being intimidated by her, vocals-wise, makes sense if you are auditioning for a Rossini opera, not when singing “Happy Birthday” to your child-of-choice.

Nor is it necessary, or even proper, to apologize for your taste, which is part of your unique Yum. Whether you like M.I.A or ABBA, revel in the Yum you share with others who feel the same. Remember that no matter how esoteric your taste in recorded music, there is at least one other person who likes the song at least as much as you - the musician who created it.

So... if you want to sing out, sing out! If you miss the note, call it “experimental jazz fusion.” If you clap off beat, you've just invented “percussive harmony”. If you get off pitch, celebrate it as your own unique interpretation of the piece. Don't worry about “performing” and enjoy simply “playing.”

Today's exercise: Join your church choir, local drum circle or other. Sing in the streets or in your shower. Turn the stereo up to ear-bleed levels (read: 11). Make some noise!

Next: The Yum of Sport

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Second Yummish Saint

(Our apologies to all of those who were hoping we'd punk out again and post another cookie recipe. )

In all honesty, the Yummish Council went to bed last night intending to announce Joseph Campbell as the second Yummish Saint after St. Alfred of Peets. High on mythology and cheap Swedish vodka, we were satisfied that the issue had been successfully put to bed and decided to follow suit.

We woke up this morning, however, headach-y and uncertain (and passionately rededicated to our charcoal filtered friend Stolichnaya). While Joseph Campbell's insight, brilliance and Yummishness are hardly in doubt, the Council found itself having second thoughts about his place as the second Yummish saint. After all, it was through the efforts of another man that we, like so many people, first came to know the beautiful mind that was Joseph Campbell. Was it not more proper to honor the man who, in addition to many other Yummish acts, helped to promulgate Campbell's Yummish teachings? (Relax. It's not Bill Moyers.) His worth seemed undeniable. His message is largely hopeful, noble-minded and positive and the influence of his aesthetic is nearly immeasurable. The more we considered it and the more our hangover faded, the more obvious it became. Thus, the Yummish Council takes great pleasure in announcing the Second Yummish Saint:

George Lucas*

If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Lucas, let us be the first to welcome you to the planet we call Earth. Otherwise, the Council will assume that all humans over the age of 6 months are aware of his vast body of work. For nearly 40 years, Mr. Lucas has been one of the most influential storytellers humanity has ever known. His stories center around honor, bravery, love, sacrifice and, perhaps the most yummish of all, redemption. He gave us such fanciful concepts as the 3D animated chess set, a forest planet inhabited by talking teddy bears, and Harrison Ford. (Based on those twin Yums of “forgiveness” and “forgetfullness” the Yummish Council has elected to disregard the first Star Wars prequel from the criteria for consideration and to pretend that it simply never happened. Some did feel, however, that positive mention should be made of Liam Neeson's hair extensions. We intend to speak to her about this later, in private.) There is also the whole concept of “The Force,” but we're feeling lazy and have opted to save that for a later meditation, should we run short of ideas/vodka some week.

Though the Yummish Council is hardly above shameless self promotion, we feel it is important to say that this decision was made entirely devoid of promotional concerns. (And if you believe that...) However, if you remain unconvinced as to the validity our decision, the Council invites you to record how many references to Star Wars you encounter in any given week. We suspect you'll concede our point by lunchtime Wednesday. (Note: If you work in IT, a single day's count should prove sufficient.)

Tangential note: If you ride a motorcycle or drive a sporty car in the Bay Area and are unfamiliar with Lucas Valley Road, correct this oversight immediately. For extra Yummishness, turn right on Nicasio Valley Road and follow it to Rancho Nicasio for homemade potato chips and Sierra Nevada on tap. Yum!

Today's Exercise: Watch your favorite George Lucas movie. (Extra points for the inclusion of draft beer & homemade potato chips.)

Next: If you want to sing out, sing out. The Yum of music. No talent required.

*Runner up: The inspired genius who first looked at a potato and thought “I wonder if there is any way this thing can get me drunk?” Well done, sir! Well done!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Angels & Demons: We Are All God's Particles

The God Particle

What is the "God Particle"?

The answer to that question varies greatly depending on whom you ask.

If you ask "Science" (or as I like to call it, "Wikipedia"), it will tell you this:

If you ask writer of airport newsstand novels Dan Brown, he will scribble something like this:

If you ask guru of electronic awesomeness Raja Ram, you get this:

If you ask Seekers of the YUM, they will probably point their fingers at you and laugh.  (Don't look at the finger!  If you look at the finger, you'll miss all the heavenly glory!)

This gesture should not, however, be mistaken for an act of aggression. Rather, to the enlightened seeker of the YUM, it is a gleefully absurd question to even ask "What is the God Particle?" To them the answer is simple: You are, silly!

To the Yummish mind, each of us is a tiny part, or "particle", of something indefinable, yet greater, stretching backward and forward through space and time. Your body and everything that surrounds it is made up of materials set free into the universe to reassemble in myriad, almost unimaginable ways (Apples! Cockatoos! The planet Jupiter!) by the explosion of an ancient star, a sun whose rays reached, and still reach, across space and time, as do the rays of our own sun. The energy from the sun's rays doesn't simply heat the earth and the air, but is the source of all energy currently available to us, from the power harnessed in crude oil, to the energy in the food you eat and your body's own kinetic expenditures. Follow the path to it's roots: Cells break down to molecules, molecules to atoms, atoms into protons and neutrons, then to quarks, and E=mc2.

You've heard it a million times before, but there is just no escaping it:

All is One.

There are no “angels” or “demons”. No “Us” and no “Them", but 7 billion absolutely unique and absolutely equal simultaneous human expressions of the one thing.  And a universe of everything, which is one thing.

Or, as The Senior Member of the Yummish Council put it:

Today's Yummish Exercise: Follow your bliss!

Next: The Second Yummish Saint (Take 2!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Cookies (and best intentions) Crumble

This last week, the Yummish Council met to select the Second of the Yummish Saints. However, as the Yummish Center was experiencing an unpleasantly intense heatwave, the decision was made to conclude early and go out for iced coffees instead. We stand by that choice. (See lesson “Everything in Moderation, Including Moderation.”)

Therefore, in lieu of the usual, long-winded, hard-to-follow, Joseph-Campbell-wanna-be diatribe, I offer you a cookie recipe. (Especially now that the heatwave has passed and it is again reasonable to turn on the oven.)


Ingredients :
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. Salt

Mix thoroughly the butter, sugar and egg. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Sift together flour, soda and salt and stir in. Chill dough 1 to 2 hours. Drop rounded teaspoons about 2" apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 400 degrees until set but not brown, about 10 minutes.

- Author: Unknown Seeker of the YUM, possibly my mother-in-law

Today's Yummish Exercise: Enjoy a cookie!

Next: "Angels & Demons" or "We Are All God's Particles."