Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gourmand or Gourmet, a world of difference, or is there?

From dictionary.com:

3 entries found for gourmand.
gour·mand ( P ) Pronunciation Key (gr-mänd, grmnd)n.
A lover of good food.
A gluttonous eater. See Usage Note at gourmet.

gourmand
n : a person who is devoted to eating and drinking to excess [syn: glutton, trencherman]


gour·met ( P ) Pronunciation Key (gr-m, grm)n.
A connoisseur of fine food and drink.
[French, from Old French, alteration (influenced by gourmand, glutton), of groumet, servant, valet in charge of wines from Middle English grom, boy, valet.]
Usage Note: A gourmet is a person with discriminating taste in food and wine, as is a gourmand. Because gourmand can also mean “one who enjoys food in great quantities” or even “a gluttonous eater,” care should be taken to make clear its intended sense. An epicure is much the same as a gourmet, but the word may sometimes carry overtones of excessive refinement. This use of epicure is a misrepresentation of Epicurean philosophy, which, while it professed that pleasure was the highest good, was hardly given to excessive concern with food and drink.[Download Now or Buy the Book]
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionCopyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
gourmet
n : a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink) [syn: epicure, gastronome, bon vivant, epicurean, foodie]

Three book reviews

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex worthy of Pulitzer , March 30, 2006
Reviewer:
Greg A. Locascio (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews
Middlesex is a page turner. Eugenides explores three generations of the Stephanides family with lushly-described characters brought fully to life through the conversational, detailed narrative of Cal(lie), a genetic time bomb hermaphrodite. Eugenides switches between first and third person narration deftly, telling us what Cal(lie) could not logically know (like the smell of his/her grandfather/uncle Lefty's crotch, and his embarrassment over it, the first time he makes love to his sister Desdemona).

While Eugenides vision is grand in scope (such as his description of the burning and evacuation of Smyrna and, later, the burning of Detroit in race riots), he also shows his character's interior, hidden motivations inflected with an air of tragedy and humor. His only fault is treating Cal(lie)'s gender dilemma with a light stroke, as if an afterthought to the more pressing demands of showing us how he/she got there.

This is a great book, the kind that stuck with me for days after I finished. I read "The Virgin Suicides" a year ago. It is difficult to compare the two books because they are so different. "Middlesex" is epic in scope, spread across space and time. "Suicides" is introspective, claustrophobic, creepy suburban isolation. Kudos to Eugenides for crafting a work that departs from prior success.

Independence Day, by Richard Ford
A good treatment of Baby Boomer generation, March 30, 2006
Reviewer:
Greg A. Locascio (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews
Independence Day is a solid, easy read, even though it is light on action and heavy on internal monologue. This is the third Ford book I've read in the last month and a half, along with "A Multitude of Sins" and "...Day's" pre-quel, "The Sportswriter." I don't know how many more books I need to read by Ford because his narrative style is essentially the same in all I've read. Ford writes convincingly, and with lush, genius, award-winning detail, about hapless, resigned middle to upper middle class men. Frank Bascombe is the Holden Caulfield for the Volvo set or anyone dealing with their own "existence period."

In " Independence Day" I found myself wishing Bascombe would get all passionate and out-of-control like he did at the end of "The Sportswriter." But this novel does not end like its prequel did, with a crazy cross country journey and eventual expatriation to France. "Independence Day," appropriate to its title, ends with Bascombe alone, after chatting with a superficial friend and neighbor, taking in the quiet, sedate, suburban scenes of holiday Haddam, NJ.

Okay, I lied. I'll read at least one more Ford book. "Rock Springs" next?

I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
A classic in every sense, March 30, 2006
Reviewer:
Greg A. Locascio (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews
From a feminist perspective, the lead character of Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist whose life is the loose narrative thread that connects nine short stories about the advance of robots, is revolutionary. And she is not the only genius element of this book.

I was surprised to discover "I, Robot" was written in 1950. Asimov's timeline portrayal of technological advances, and their wide-ranging social implications, is remarkably fresh, prophetic, even, to this day and certainly a brisker antidote to the pseudo-pop philosophical rantings of lesser imitations.

"A/I" is a better robot movie than the Will Smith summer blockbuster that bears only a vague resemblance to its namesake book.If you consider yourself a true science fiction fan, "I, Robot" is a must read. I've only tread lightly through the vast Asimov canon, but have to say this is the best by him I've ever read.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Jon's visit to 2203 Maple Avenue

Jon and I visited Grandpa and Grandma Locascio Saturday. Jon was in good spirits almost the entire time. Last time, he was fussy and the only thing that could placate him was swinging around in his car seat.

Some new milestones in Jon's life: he can track an object with his eyes and will follow it across his entire field of vision. He loves peek-a-boo. Infants believe the world ceases to exist when they don't see it, so peek-a-boo provides a wonderful chance for them to discover reality over and over again. Jon is starting to be able to use his arms with purpose. I watched him poke at a mobile for a good 15 minutes as he tried to pinpoint what he was doing to make the objects move. He can coo with the best of them, though his vocabulary is limited to "ah-goo." His neck is getting strong enough to support the weight of his head. At the last weigh-in a couple weeks ago, Jon weighed 13 pounds, 2 ounces. No doubt he's grown since. He's got broken capillaries in his cheeks from them growing so chubby. He puts his right hand in his mouth and sucks on his left thumb. He prefers his hands to a pacifier. He's a very antsy baby, always flailing his arms and legs when he's awake.

Jon is a very easygoing lad. Not the least bit fussy. And very happy. It doesn't take much to make him smile, and when he smiles it makes my day. Esther says he waits his turn patiently to feed at day care and is a darling to the rest of her co-workers. But when Jon wants something he makes it known. He can switch moods just like that. So watch out.




Trail talk

Spring is springing sprung forth and I'm itching for a get away from it all wake up in the pines and listen to birdsong without traffic in the background kind of experience. Which makes me sad because escape from the madding hordes is not forthcoming anytime soon... Well, a walk around DeKalb to all the secret waste places I know about provides enough of a tide me over kind of nature fix, replete with litter, traffic hum and other signs of habitation.

Soon... I will sleep outdoors for the first time in 2006.
Soon... with master's degree in hand, teaching job in tow, students safely released into some distant summer, I will leave the cares of civilization for a good month... Maybe Arizona, Utah, Wyoming or Montana. Some place where I can walk for days at a time and not see another soul, much less a town.

I have this desire for complete removal. What a novel idea! The longest I've ever been away from town was 11 days during my epic journey through the High Sierras of central California on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2004. Which is more than 99.9 percent of tourist Americana has ever done. Eleven days. That's nothing.

But a whole month. Not a month of hiking with purpose, or driving around to beauty spots, or following an itinerary. Drop me off at some trailhead with a fully loaded backpack and a couple bearproof canisters of food I can return to on a weekly basis for resupply. Find some beautiful base of operations from which I can explore in all directions, or not, as whim dictates, not on a schedule or beholden to the consciousness of another.

It sounds so lonely. A kind of soul-searching, wrenching kind of loneliness. Maybe a radio. But that would be a connection to the outside. Certainly a pile of books. That's within the ethos of removal. My notebook. At least six rolls of toilet paper, though maybe not as much. Outdoor living burns a lot of fuel. A backpacking guitar? Yes, music by the fire would be nice. A bottle of whiskey. Fresh air, mountains, fishing, walking, the smell of pine pitch, the crunch of snow in June. Nature. Wonderful contact, free of complications.

Yes, spring is here. Wanderlust creeps in as the temperatures rise. 'Tis my greatest blessing and worst curse. It's something the rest of the 99.9 percent with their mortgages, purpose-filled lives, chain restaurants, and lawful relationships will never understand.

Funny thing is I want to have both worlds. I want to own a home, have a fulfilling, satisfying career, a family. I want my son to know who his father is. And I'm willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make it happen. But my heart is out there soaring with the turkey vultures, crawling through the catacombs of a desolate slot canyon, glissading down the echoey north slope of an alpine peak to a creekside camp. There's a little part of me set aside. It is elsewhere, out there in the wild places.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Jon Allen circa six weeks



Only two more weeks of weekly Jonathan Allen pics. After that I'll only post pictures once a month, or whenever he wears a silly costume.

In this photo he is relaxed and cooing on my lap. These gab sessions usually last about 20 minutes before he puts on his angry Buddha face and cries for some other type of attention, but last week on two occasions he was content for a good hour or more. I had to set him down because I was tired of holding him. A first!

Jon Allen continues to grow and fill out (and fill up his diapers). He weighs about 13 pounds now and should continue to see rapid growth the rest of this first year. I see now why proud parents take so many photos of their infants. Each day seems to bring dramatic changes in appearance and ability level.

Whenever I burp him his eyes get really wide. I tried to capture the phenomenon on film, but the resultant shot looked like I was choking him a la Homer and Bart Simpson.