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: http://www.optoutday.com/

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 ├╝ber-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.