A bigger page to write on.

Jeff TMMO has asked me to address the big news from last night, although it was really the big news from Monday: Mark Bittman is dropping his Minimalist column from the NYT, but starting an op-ed and magazine gig with the same paper, moving on from recipes to ruminations and analyses of U.S. food policy.

Jeff seems to mourn the loss for the food pages. I’m thrilled for the other sections’ gain.

I guess I should have mentioned it sooner, but as owners of the two Bittman cornerstones — “How to Cook Everything” and “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” — I have paid less attention to his column, save for those “101” blowouts he does from time to time, the 101 salads piece, or the make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes, or whatever. I learned what I needed to learn about cooking from Bittman a while ago, and I think he’s going to be a wonderful voice on the opinion pages.

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that within five years, Bittman will win a Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He’s that good, and besides, the ranks of commentators in the dailies has grown so thin, the juries will be desperate to hand one to a fresh new voice. When Kathleen Parker and Leonard Pitts win the Big P, you know it’s time.

And judging from the lively discussions we have in this space about food, food policy, eating and all the rest of it, he’ll have no shortage of thought-provoking material. I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, what about the other news last night? I’m talking about Chris Matthews yelling at some Tea Party d’bag over their shameless use of Michele Bachmann to deliver their propaganda last night. While I congratulate Matthews for being one of the few journalists (on TV, anyway) who actually tells people they’re not answering the question he asked, all his spluttering isn’t going to change anything or anybody, so maybe the answer is to not pay attention to Michele Bachmann. Works for me.

And the Oscars! Nothing really really surprising there, was there? Brian took umbrage over Hailee Steinfeld being nominated for best-supporting when she was clearly in a lead role, but that’s the way Oscar rolls. Promising ingenues who hit one out of the park in their first role are almost always supporters, especially if they’re minors. It’s the Rookie of the Year prize, and all you have to do is think of all the people who have won it who never did work of the same caliber again. There was Haing Ngor (“The Killing Fields”), who wasn’t even an actor; Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”), who still acts, but whose work is strictly at the TV-drama skill level, and, of course, Mo’Nique. I just hope the Oscars aren’t a total walkover for “The King’s Speech” this year. A very fine film, but there were many others, and those big consensus winners don’t age well. When was the last time you saw “Gandhi” on cable and stopped to watch even a minute of it? Or “Out of Africa,” for that matter? (Actually, I will watch “Out of Africa,” but only for Meryl Streep. Robert Redford is laughable.)

A quick pass by the bloggage before our mortgage man stops by. We’re refinancing our house, and I need to limber up for signing my name 400 times.

Via Lawyers, Guns and Money, a site you can waste a minute or an hour on: Better Book Titles.

I’ve been giving Tom & Lorenzo a lotta love of late, but what the hell, they’re on a hot streak, like today’s Dress Libs with Zooey Deschanel.

Someone should do this with “It’s the End of the World as We Know It:” A visual map of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Actually, someone should do a master’s thesis on the pop-culture afterlife of songs like this. Exhibit A, of course: the Rickroll.

Finally, today is my state’s 174th birthday, or so one of my tweeps tells me. Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice. Happy birthday to the pleasant peninsula.

Off to flex my fingers. Good day to all.

Posted at 9:36 am in Current events, Media, Movies, Popculch |

66 responses to “A bigger page to write on.”

  1. Suzanne said on January 26, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Wow. That Better Book Titles is fabulous. Another time-waster to add to my list. Sigh.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 26, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I pre-nominate him for the Op-Ed Pulitzer. His columns remind me to look at the books — I’ll have to be more disciplined, is all (not a bad thing).

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  3. jcburns said on January 26, 2011 at 9:58 am

    If you want to see a snowy, dank peninsula, look around and wear your goggles?

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  4. ROgirl said on January 26, 2011 at 10:11 am

    The Book Titles site is great, as is dress libs with T&L.

    As for undeserved Oscars, my pet peeve is Helen Hunt for that dreadful, awful, mawkish movie “As Good As It Gets.” The whole premise, from her role as a downtrodden, blue collar single mother waitress with a handicapped child, to Jack Nicholson as an anti-social writer who learns how to love, had zero believability for me. I hated it and everything about it.

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  5. coozledad said on January 26, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Better book title for Moby Dick: Sucky Temp Job Sucks.
    Finnegans Wake:I Have a Syphilitic Gumma in my Hippocampus.
    Swann’s Way: Commit First Line to Memory, Return to Used Bookstore.

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  6. Sue said on January 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Chris Matthews does ask the tough questions. If only he would sit back and allow someone to actually answer them. It annoys me to hear him barking questions and then answering them himself, interrupting someone who is trying to answer (not all the guests try to get away with canned answers),or pre-emptively rebutting what he assumes the answer will be. His chatter makes up the majority of the discussion on the show, so why have guests?
    He would be really effective if he used his talents but also developed the ability to give guests enough rope to hang themselves.

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  7. brian stouder said on January 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

    ding ding ding ding!!! What Sue said!

    I watched Matthews last night too, and it was somewhat compelling and entertaining, but Chris is too much of the turd-in-the-punchbowl; he almost made the hapless teaparty guy an object of sympathy.

    Bachmann’s woeful ignorance (or shameless dishonesty) regarding the founding history of America and the history of American slavery gets lost in all Matthews’ frothy fulminations

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  8. Connie said on January 26, 2011 at 11:20 am

    If you seek a pleasant peninsula look about you. Through the fog and snow.

    During my Indiana years I always appreciated that Indiana had a song, and people actually sang it. I don’t think “Back Home Again” is an official state song, but many times it seemed as though it was.

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  9. Rana said on January 26, 2011 at 11:35 am

    I am irritated that the so-called Tea “Party” even got airtime. Then, adding insult to injury, they ignored the Greens, who are actually a real, official, registered party. Liberal media bias, my butt.

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  10. Rana said on January 26, 2011 at 11:36 am

    On a lighter note, we adore Mark Bittman. We’ve got a huge stack of his books, and I’ve never made anything from them that wasn’t tasty and easy to understand.

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  11. LAMary said on January 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

    I’ve given Mark Bittman books as housewarming gifts, wedding gifts and beginner cook gifts. Just last night my son and his girlfriend cooked dinner using a Mark Bittman recipe. I love that MB’s kitchen is dinky and the appliances aren’t jazzy. I really love that he wants people to think about what they eat.
    I’ve got to buy another copy of the vegetarian book. Gave mine away in an optimistic fit of generosity to someone who never eats vegetables other than french fries. Off to the kick back lounge I go.

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  12. Bob (not Greene) said on January 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    RE: Chris Matthew: I kind of enjoyed stupidity not being accommodated for a change. And then there’s this guy from Georgia:


    This guy was actually elected to represent people in this country.

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  13. Kim said on January 26, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I am (finally) reading “Eating Animals,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, and think it might just be the game changer for how I eat and what I cook for the family. I put off reading it because I’d read Pollan’s books and others, gone to see Joel Salatin speak and then again to witness how he actually does his farming thing. I’ve bought local and do limit the sorts of protein I eat. Frankly, the whole factory farming business was just too much to, um, digest so I set aside “Eating Animals” for a year. Anything Bittman can do to keep illuminating how what we eat is produced and the sorts of public health issues sure to arise because of it will be great and surely make me feel less lonely.

    Very much looking forward to wasting time on the bloggage links this evening.

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  14. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Indiana’s state song is “On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away,” which is “sampled” in “Back Home Again in Indiana,” when you sing the little off-rhythm bit that no one but Jim Nabors or Florence Henderson gets quite right — “when I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash.”

    So when you sing “Back Home Again” you’re getting a two-fer. Where I live now, none but the brave can sing “Beautiful Ohio,” and none but the inebriated can sing “Hang On Sloopy” — but it’s a great marching band tune.

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  15. nancy said on January 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    “Beautiful Ohio” is a waltz, isn’t it? I remember singing it in grade-school music classes, and I think I still recall every word.

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  16. Peter said on January 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Boy, that Michelle Bachmann makes Helen Chenoweth (ID – thankfully deceased) look like a genius.

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  17. Sue said on January 26, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I much prefer the Illinois state song, thoughtful lyrics and nice melody, to Wisconsin’s more bouncy one. Although if you asked someone to sing the IL song they couldn’t and everyone knows the WI song.

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  18. LAMary said on January 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    New Jersey’s state song is Born to Run, or at least it should be.

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  19. Dorothy said on January 26, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve only driven through a corner of it, but I’m kind of partial to “Sweet Home Alabama”.

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  20. Julie Robinson said on January 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm


    By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois.
    And thy prairies verdant growing, Illinois, Illinois.
    Comes an echo on the breeze,
    Rustling through the leafy trees,
    And its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois.
    And its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois!

    Can be sung upon request.

    Amazing how something you learned in third grade is imprinted on your brain but you can’t remember what you went in the next room for.

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  21. Sue said on January 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Julie – exactly right. Now where are my keys?

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  22. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    “Born to Run” was made official by New Jersey’s legislature some years ago; I’m still waiting for the mp3 of Nancy singing “Beautiful Ohio,” which I’ve never heard sung thru. Words are easy enough to find online, though.

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  23. Moe99 said on January 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Louie Louie is Washington’s state rock song because the Kingsmen hail from here. I remember when that song was banned in Indiana.

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  24. Mark P. said on January 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    There is an interesting discussion of Bachmann’s use of the phrase “21 generations” at LanguageLog. Mark Liberman and some of the commenters try to analyze what she means, but it turns out that “21 generations” is a right-wing dog whistle.

    As for Broun (Idiot, Georgia), he probably accurately represents the majority of the more intelligent residents of his district who voted for him. It sometimes embarrasses me to say it, but I am from Georgia, and I think he has it down just about right.

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  25. Deborah said on January 26, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Reading Nancy’s link to Bittman’s Salads 101 NYT article made me think of LAMary’s link awhile ago of photos of women laughing with salads. I have to say that some of Bittman’s salads sound like they’d have me grinning from ear to ear while eating them. He makes them sound so tasty and so simple. I think I know what I’m going to be eating this summer.

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  26. LAMary said on January 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    “Sprung from cages on highway 9,
    it’s a death trap,
    it’s a suicide rap
    better get out while we’re young…”

    Yep, that’s NJ.

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  27. Dexter said on January 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    We’re the boys from Illinois
    We live in caves and ditches
    We bang our cocks on jagged rocks
    We’re rugged sons a bitches

    I first saw this as graffiti in Chicago years ago…forgot about it…then I seem to have read it is some kind of rugby-related thing…?

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  28. ROgirl said on January 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
    And strap your hands across my engines

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  29. brian stouder said on January 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Georgia has the coolest state song, thanks to Ray

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  30. prospero said on January 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Bob (not Greene):

    Paul Broun is an ahole, and a product of major vote suppression efforts in Clarke Co. GA. Athens/Clarke has elected socialist mayors. How Dr. Broun gets elected is a mystery. Student voter suppression is one aspect of this dumbass’ success. He does not adequately represent a Congressional district that includes the University of Georgia. He’s a personable old fart that represents Old Athens society. So if anything, this is sort of a Town vs. Gown thing. And he serves in his daddy’s hereditary seat.

    Chris Tweety Matthews: What he does could be a model for truncating the filibuster. Still, he’s pretty much unwatchable. When he talks so fast he ellides and swallows half his syllables, he looks like he’s about to meet Col. Pyncheon’s fate. That would be great TV.

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  31. prospero said on January 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Another Burns Night observation. For Scottish lit, I’m sticking with Lanark, by Alasdair Gray.

    Hard to believe none of y’all thought it was worth mentioning the wayward grand piano in Biscayne Bay. Probably full of cocaine.

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  32. Deborah said on January 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    I wanna to wake up in the morning where the orange blossoms grow
    Where the sun comes peepin into where I’m sleeping
    and the song birds say hello…

    There’s more but I don’t remember it from grade school in Miami, FL. But the original state song of Florida is Stephen Foster’s Suwannee River or Old Folks at Home. We sang that mournfully in grade school. I think they’re downplaying it as the state song because the lyrics are quite racist, (oh darkies how my heart grows weary…) and that’s how we sang it back then.

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  33. brian stouder said on January 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    One thing Pam and I noticed, while watching the president’s State of the Union Address last night, was that John Boehner appeared to have darker skin than President Obama. On reflection, the lighting arrangements might have had something to do with it; still, the Speaker of the House looked very like the Phantom of the Opera, lurking in the wings.

    Aside from Boehner, I think one question that every prospective Supreme Court Justice should answer is: Will you plan on attending Constitutionally mandated presidential State of the Union Adresses in the United States Congress, without regard to how fond (or antagonistic) your personal feelings may be, toward the President of the United States, for as long as you serve on the Court? (Scalia, Alito, and Thomas can go straight to the far right side of hell, as far as I’m concerned)

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  34. garmoore2 said on January 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Brian, not to be picky, but a State of the Union speech is not required by the Constitution. Art. II, Sec. 3 says “He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union.” Nothing requires that he give this in speech form, and nothing requires that any member of the judicial branch be given this information. Seems to me that any questions about attending a speech that a justice need not attend (and, for that matter, a speech that is not required by the Constitution) would raise a false issue.

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  35. brian stouder said on January 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Garmoore – fair enough, that the Constitution does not require a set-piece speech; but the (now) annual address IS the fulfilment of a Constitutional requirement, and it is also a genuine cultural and political (and self-conciously historical) touchstone.

    I would think that people sitting at the very pinnacle of the American Judicial Branch of government would be all the more inclined to show up, when the people at the vanguard of the elected braches of the American government convene…if only to be SEEN.

    Because whether they like it or not, NOT showing up sends an unmistakeable (and an unhealthy) message to the country, and to the rest of the world.

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  36. prospero said on January 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a ukulele. Don’t know whether this virtuoso performance is encouraging or depressing.

    Georgia state song. Unfair advantage. Ray Charles singing Hoagy Carmichael. Our current state, South Carolina’s state song is pretty much derivative drivel, but look at the lyrics of the song it replaced. Pretty much horrifying.

    Supposedly, the official songs of all 50 states. Just lyrics I think, but how can Alabama’s state song not be Play It All Night Long? Or at least Lynyrd Skynyrd? How about Tennessee Stud? Shouldn’t Hawai’i honor favorite son Don Ho with Tiny Bubbles? Massachuseetts? Jonathan Richman, Roadrunner. And is West Virginia kidding? I mean there’s even a Toots Hibbert version of Country Roads. Colorado? Louisiana couldn’t do better with something from the Meters or the Nevilles.

    Shouldn’t there be official state novels and movies too?

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  37. prospero said on January 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Listen, absence of Scalia and Thomas means room for five people that might better be in the room.

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  38. DellaDash said on January 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Whoa, Prospero…you’re hip to Toots, huh? What a bam bam.

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  39. brian stouder said on January 26, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    True Dat, about Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.

    As far as state songs, Indiana’s should really be Little Pink Houses by John Mellancamp

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  40. Scout said on January 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Of course my favorite Better Book Title is “The Handmaid’s Tale” renamed “Sarah Palin’s America.” Brilliant.

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  41. Sue said on January 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Wisconsin has an official state dirt, sorry, soil: Antigo Silt Loam.

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  42. prospero said on January 26, 2011 at 3:57 pm


    There is actually an antigo silt loam song. Written, no joke by somebody named Hole.

    The Antigo Silt Loam Song F. D. Hole (1980)
    An – ti – go, a soil to know, Wis – con-sin’s crops and livestock grow; and forests too, on
    An – ti – go; and forests, too, on An – ti – go.

    2. Great Lakes region, fertile land; glaciers spread both clay and sand;
    Winds blew silt, then forests grew, giving soils their brownish hue.

    3. Great Lakes region, fertile land, you strengthen us in heart and hand;
    Each slope, each flower, each wild bird call proclaims a unity in all.

    4. Plant a seed and pull a weed; the soil will give us all we need
    And plenty more, so birds may feed: and plenty more, so birds may feed.

    5. Of all the crops, true peace is tops; its soil is love that never stops; It blesses sand and water drops: it blesses sand and water drops.

    Slightly corny, but not terrible.

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  43. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Dirt is what’s under your fingernails; soil is what makes life and agriculture possible. (I didn’t go to Purdue for nothing.)

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  44. Sue said on January 26, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    prospero, that is pure awesomeness. I will share it with a co-worker who’s from Antigo.

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  45. Julie Robinson said on January 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    And, if that soil is in Iowa and it is timberland, it is not considered to be of any value (for farming of course) and therefore you don’t pay any property taxes. My mom, it turns out, owns such a plot and has given me the task of getting it set aside for conservation purposes. I think it’s a great idea, but it just staggers me that the land would be thought worthless. Maybe this is standard practice in other states too?

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  46. coozledad said on January 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    They ain’t many words will rhyme ya
    But it’s better than Virginia
    And there’s better folks in yer.
    There’s tobacco, there’s molasses
    People sitting on their porches
    An if the sheriff won’t hang ya
    They’ll be pitchforks and torches
    There’s tobacco and there’s cotton
    And tobacco and corn.
    There’s Baptists and there’s Quakers
    And Methodists and Baptists.
    Presbyterians and Baptists
    And the odd Jew.

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  47. Kim said on January 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Sue @ 17 and Julie @ 20 – hate to correct you ladies, but it’s O’er thy prairies verdant growing. That correction is brought to you by the memory of Gordon Teichman, seventh grade U.S. history teacher extraordinaire, who made us learn the tune. All four stanzas!

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  48. Sue said on January 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I think the last line goes
    ‘La la la LA la la la la, Illinois.’
    Just one Illinois, right?

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  49. Sue said on January 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Everyone knows that Wonkette can dial the snark up to 11, but for some reason it was the picture at the top that had me busting out laughing:

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  50. Deborah said on January 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm


    Nothing could be fine-ah
    than to be in Carolina
    In the Morning
    butterflies all flutter up
    and kiss each little buttercup…
    that’s all I remember

    a friend of mine changed the words to:
    Nothing could be fine-ah
    than to tickle her vigina
    In the Morning

    and so on…

    sorry for being so explicit folks.

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  51. Julie Robinson said on January 26, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Yes, just one Illinois. I realized it later since of course it’s been in my head all afternoon. At one time I did know all four stanzas, as well as all three of The Star Spangled Banner, and all three of our school’s fight song. Our elementary school music teacher was very big on knowing all the stanzas. What a quaint time it was.

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  52. brian stouder said on January 26, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    sorry for being so explicit

    But – you speak truth! I recall the same “Nothing could be fin-ah than to be in her vagina in the mor-ning” lyric, followed by “Nothing could be sweet-ah than her lips around my (pita) in the mor-ning”

    etc etc (I think it only gets worse from there!)

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  53. coozledad said on January 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    I always wondered why they never set any of William Byrd’s observations about North Carolinians to music.
    “When the weather is mild, they stand leaning with both their arms upon the corn-field fence, and gravely consider whether they had best go and take a Small Heat at the Hough: but generally find reasons to put it off till another time.”

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  54. prospero said on January 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    For Mark Bittman fans: Minimalist”s Greatest Hits.

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  55. Little Bird said on January 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I have the Bittman “How to Cook Everything” cookbook. Deborah gave it to me. I think I’ve used it to make French onion soup. Granted it was really good soup, but…..
    I’ve used it for a few other things, but that soup was really, REALLY good!
    I highly recommend it to anyone who likes french onion soup.

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  56. basset said on January 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Hmmmm, apparently Tennessee really DOES have seven state songs, maybe two of which I actually recognize.

    “Tennessee, Tennessee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be” doesn’t figure in any of them.

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  57. LAMary said on January 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Does Davey Crockett figure in any of them? Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee…

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  58. prospero said on January 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Della, I’ve seen the Maytals many times back when I used to live in a civilized place. Pressure Drop, live, in person, is an unforgettable experience.

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  59. alex said on January 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    “It’s a treat to beat your meat in the Mississippi mud.”

    According to my brother who did some time in Oxford. But I think that was a “kellered” anthem and not an officially recognized state song.

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  60. del said on January 26, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Alex, Here’s a fun version of Mississippi Mud.

    ROGirl, I always thought the Born to Run lyric was, “wrap your legs round these velvet ribs and strap your hands ‘cross my engines.” Freudian, dunno. Many misheard lyrics. A friend’s little brother thought that the AC DC song was “Dirty Deeds – Dumb Don’t Cheat.”

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  61. Deggjr said on January 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Helen Chenoweth, the subject (not target) of one of the greatest put down lines ever: ‘living proof you can **** your brains out’.

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  62. Linda said on January 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Bassett, Tennessee has 2 (of 7) wonderful state songs, the Tennessee Waltz (written by a Polish guy from Wisconsin, Pee Wee King), and Rocky Top.

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  63. DEdelstein said on January 27, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Re: Bittman. I have all his books but for some reason I never got into them apart the old fish one (maybe because I’ve come to love the Cook’s Illustrated nerdy lab reports so much that I want trial-and-error texts as part of the cooking experience). But I do cook his overnight yeasted waffles at least once a month for my kids and there are none better. What I want to say, though, is that the U.S. really needs an op-ed writer with a platform like the New York Times to take on Monsanto, which currently threatens not just our way of life but the world’s. I’m not a praying man but if I were I’d pray he’ll be on that case.

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  64. basset said on January 27, 2011 at 8:27 am

    right, Linda, those were the two I knew… never heard of the rest.

    have only seen the Maytals once, opening for the Who in Bloomington back in 74. I believe the Maytals were louder, at least at the bass end – remember standing against the side wall about halfway down the floor with my (bell bottoms!) pants legs flapping from the sound.

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  65. DellaDash said on January 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Never got to see the Toots and the Maytals live, but they’ve been a fav since I first went Jamdown in ’83. Around that time, the major radio stations on the island (RJR & JBC in Kingston, IRIE FM in Ocho Rios) were airing an original Maytals song that was pure country…something like “when I was just a boy, my father said to me…son, you…da de da de da…dee dee dee dee dee”…can’t remember the title, but have been unsucessfully searching for that tune for decades. Oh well. Every playlist I’ve ever made is sprinkled with ‘Sweet and Dandy’ or something Toots that can’t fail to get me on my feet and bust 2 moves.

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