New Austinmama column here. This one is about the wonder that is the Hub. Being a Yankee by birth and temperment, I find gushing to be unnatural. Next month's column will mark the return of the vitriol.
A long time ago, in a land not-so-far away, where the natives paint themselves orange on certain Saturdays during the Fall, I was the Arts and Entertainment Editor for an alternative weekly called Metro Pulse. My tenure dates from spring 1998 to, um, summer of 2003. I can only speak for those five years, but we both kicked ass and sucked it, just like any other publication put out on a weekly basis by humans. Hopefully, we did more of the former than the latter. Also, hopefully, we did some good. That's really all one can wish for, in the longer run.
During my last few months, after lots and lots of the folks who helped make the publication what it is moved on to other gigs, the paper was purchased by Brian Conley, who also runs one of the bigger contracting concerns in Knoxville. His big tie to journalism is ... well, he self-published a novel. And since the Pulse's inception, Conley also was a "silent" partner, which largely meant that if we wanted to report on anything that his firm was involved in, he put the kibosh on it and/or threatened to sue. Good times.
Things change, as they do, and the paper's main owner/publisher decided he wanted to retire, which was well within his rights. He sold the whole shebang to Conley, who maintained the status quo for 30 days (it might have been 60 days. Memory fades, sadly), then fired a few people and replaced them with cheaper, younger, seriously less experienced folk. This was the start of a trend. Which is fine. It was his business. He can do what he wants with it. (My only wish is that he'd changed the name of the publication. His Metro Pulse really isn't what it was for the 10+ years leading up to it. Ah, well.)
Both because of coincidence and a sense that the times we a'changing, I moved on. I can't really comment on what happened in the office after I left. I can comment on what the paper has become from a reader's standpoint, but won't, really. All I can say is that I've mostly stopped reading it, partly because I don't live in Knoxville anymore and partly because it's hard to watch someone do unspeakable things to your baby.
Conley's tenure has been marked with quite a few mis-steps, frankly, but a lot of them are what you'd expect from anyone running a business that's new to them. There is no shame in that.
But there are bits of his tenure that are full of shame. And, finally, his feet may be in the process of being held to the fire for being a thin-skinned wanker who wants to be able to control what everyone in the world thinks of him, even if he has to resort to some fairly dickheaded actions. Atrios, who is linked above, has the most coherent set of links and, of course, you should follow them to South Knox Bubba, whose clear writing skillz and general sensible-ness I've long admired. The most recent take on the sitch is here.
For the longest time -- and given that Conley has long been a very large frog, due to both business interests and family wealth, in a very small, Southern pond -- he's been able to expect a certain amount of deference from folks whose livelihoods he holds in his hands. However, it'll be interesting to see if he can continue to use the same strategies (like emailed threats for anyone who happens to disagree with him as well as using the paper he owns to control and/or influence the words of others) to get what he wants once the blogosphere gets a hold of the story. Which has already started, especially since some of the issues (like anonymity and free speech) do concern the internets as a whole. Or it may just die a quick death and I'll be getting my threatening email any minute now. Or not. I was always a small fish, and have gotten smaller in his milieu since I've left.
If you take nothing else from this, however, start reading SKB's blog. It's well worth your time.
In addition to giving the world the delightful treat of strawberries and cream,* the British have also given the world Channel 4, which is by far the best and strangest of the globe's TV stations. (Note that my survey of the world's stations isn't exhaustive, just that I think it'd be hard to beat Channel 4.)
Right now, the channel is airing The F***ing Fulfords (their abbreviation, not mine), which is all about what happens when an English manor is in disrepair and people stop being polite and start getting real, but in a British way. So still polite.
Unfortunately, I'll probably never get to see the show, so I've been living vicariously through Anne at Creating Text(iles), who is on a research trip in the UK. Someday, I want to have a project that requires a research trip to the UK, but that's another story...
*Wimbledon starts this Monday, btw. I am counting the moments.
I have reached the stage when I am over being pregnant and completely ready to have only one person living in my body, no matter how bloody painful the process will be. This point was reached at 4 a.m., when I was woken out of a lovely sleep by a fetus trying to punch and kick his way out. If a new exit had to be made, so be it. When he wasn't practicing his extreme fighting skillz, most of the bones/joints in my hips and back felt like they were being smashed with little tiny hammers. At 6 or so, I gave up the ruse of trying to sleep and came downstairs to have a bowl or three of cereal and feel sorry for myself. Grrr.
Eventually, I may find the time to snatch a nap.
The kicker, of course, is that this was the first night in quite some time when the Diva didn't wake up at 3 and want someone to sit with her until she feel back to sleep. Noooooo. This morning, she slept, peep-free, until 7 a.m. Life is unfair.
A few more from the Dairy Fest:
How can any sane person resist this face? Wait. Don't answer that.
This guy is from HaSu Ranch, which is one of the many, many alpaca ranches in the area. This part of NY State just has the ideal climate to get nice, soft coats from these goofy beasties. HaSu also had some fleeces on display that almost -- almost -- made me wish I knew how to spin. But I really, really don't need another hobby. Really.
There was a display from folks who do know how to spin. Here, a naturally-dyed sweater...
...and a hank of homespun.
Last weekend, we hauled ourselves to the Meredith Dairy Fest, which has become something of a tradition 'round these parts. Not so much the Fest itself, mind you, but the big, white plywood cows that get scattered about the tri-county area advertising it. And not so much the cows, actually, but their theft, which prompts the annual letters to the editor in the local paper that remind residents to that cattle rustling is a low-down, dirty thing to do, even if the cows in question are made of wood. Somewhere, there is a frat house full of these cows.
This year was the first one we've been to. It's fun and all, but the weather was amazingly oppressive, even at 10 a.m. No matter how much shade we stayed in or ice cream (I had the privilege of buying a milkshake from this year's Dairy Prnicess) we ate, we couldn't stand it after an hour and a half. Fortunately, that gave the Diva enough time to investigate the animal tent and climb on some tractors. Fun, but could have been more fun if it were either ten degrees cooler or 30 percent less humid.
Some pixs will be dribbling out over the next few days. Here are the first few:
It's always easier to discuss a place where you've had a mediocre-to-awful experience. There are just so many more ways of describing failure than success. While this may be a sad commentary on both the state of the English language and the culture, I lack the will to fully unpack What It All Means right now. I am now so hot and so sticky that my brain has vapor lock. Larger questions about life and all that rot will have to wait until fall.
So, my point -- and I did have one -- is that good things suck when you have to talk about them. And the food at Cooperstown's Blue Mingo Grill is very good, especially the lump crab cake appetizer and the filet with tender-but-not-mushy spinach and creamy red-skinned mashers. The Hub's baby back ribs with a fruity, spicy glaze were also hits, as was the Pie Goddess' (whose birthday we were celebrating) lobster, which I can't personally vouch for taste-wise since I am not really a lover of the lob. No matter how much melted butter you smear on it. The desserts -- cappuccino creme brulee, chocolate bread pudding and a key lime custard -- were also very, very good, even if the Hub was a little taken-aback by the bread pudding's texture, which was more crumby than bready. I thought it was delightful, personally. The only loser in the lot was the Lava Cake, which wasn't bad, really, but also wasn't good, if that makes any sense.
Also in the good column is the Blue Mingo's location and ambiance. The restaurant proper is on the edge of Lake Otsego and features a wide, wooden deck and more casual patio that encompass some fairly spectacular views. The lake breeze, fortunately, kept the temperature bearable. And, when the nights start cooling off again, the restaurant provides blankies for those who easily chill. Part of the food cost is also for the view. Which is fine by me, frankly, since both were worth the price tag.
What wasn't worth it, however, was the service. Granted, our waitress seemed to have gotten two larger parties and our four-top at the same time. And most of Cooperstown does have that lake resort vacation-y pace to it. No one seems to hurry there in the summer. I didn't expect to zip in and out -- lingering and chit-chat were also on the menu -- I also didn't expect to be there for over two hours.
And to let my inner food snob out, I also expect a server in a place like the Blue Mingo to be able to describe the food, especially since she felt compelled to describe every dish on the chalkboard menu in great, if inaccurate, detail before we could order. Our server, bless her heart, seemed like she'd never even tasted half of the things she was talking about, like "harissa" and "coulis," much less knew how to pronounce them. I'm not expecting the level of knowledge and service that one can get at a place like, say, Blackberry Farms,(where I once had the privilege to stay overnight for a Cooking Light profile that, sadly, never ran) but it did leave a bit to be desired. It's a picky nit, but when you're plunking down $200 on dinner for four, you expect a little more. I do, at least, and was left wanting.
I also, however, left deliriously full. My tummy was satisfied, even if my desire for a complete dining experience was not.
(An aside: the ever perky Rachael Ray visited Cooperstown and the Blue Mingo Grill for her $40 a Day series. Also on tap was Brooks' BBQ, which does a mean chicken, but hasn't quite got a consistent pork mojo. The episode in question will be reruning soon. Mark your calendars for June 28. If you are the sort who'd care, that is.)
Clapotis has been the scarf to knit for the last, oh, six months or so. Everyone who is anyone has one. The Clapper as ubiquitous as fast food, for those who run in knitting circles. So it was just a matter of time before the trend-conscious folk at Martha Stewart Living got in the act.
Is it just me, given my clapotis on the brain, or does that green shawl in the center of this shot look just like a clapotis?
(From the most recent issue, the one with all of the yummy sorbets on the cover. Click on the above to make it big enough to scrutinize.)
This wee heart sachet has been the most satisfying knit I've finished this summer. Not only is it stuffed with locally-grown lavender, it was also just a little bit outside of my skill-set so I actually learned a thing or two. But it wasn't so far beyond what I could do that it made me beserk, unlike the two quasi-completed sweaters that may never see daylight. Plus, this is a great way to use odd bits of sock yarn, which I have quite a bit of since I've become a sock yarn 'ho. The pattern, FYI, is here.
(This is the knitted gift that I spoke of earlier. It is now in the hands of its intended. If you know me and have a birthday/anniversary/random happy day coming up, you may be getting one as well. Try to act surprised.)
Now that the camera battery is nicely recharged, some flower pixs.
This year I decided that this damn rhodendron was going to bloom, if only so that I could see what color the flowers were before I ripped the stupid, half-dead thing out of the ground because it always looks so sad. Thanks to the wonders of modern fertilizers, we have blooms. And, now, I've grown attached to the stupid thing. Wonder what it'll do next year if I don't tinker with it?
And here it is with the irises:
And because I think they're pretty, in the backyard I've planted these daisy-like annuals. Not shown are the orange with purple center and the purple with white center varieties because I couldn't get good pixs of them.
So far, these are the season's few gardening successes. We shall not speak of the basil. Or the wildflower mix. Or the rose.