Category Archives: Food

TV Shows to binge-watch 


On Acorn

Antipodian: New Zealand:

800 Words“,  Suddenly a widower, an Australian writer moves with his kids to the NZ village he spent summers in as a kid. Complications ensue. Great stories, charming characters, excellent writing and acting, several seasons.

Brokenwood Mysteries“,  Brokenwood, a medium size town in NZ, gets a new senior detective, colorful but as it happens, good at his job. Slightly flaky-seeming local Maori guy turns out to know everyone and something about everything. He’s like a benificent Trickster god. Detective Sims, 2nd most senior, is the only actual adult in the plain-clthes part of the station.

Antipodian: Australian:

Rain Shadow“, – a former grain-growing area of South Australia now in drought. Perminently? Story follows a young vet from the big city

Crownies“, – Crown Prosecuturs: Ensemble, very long-form stories, each lawyer has multiple cases moving at different points in the system. 
Janet King”  (sequel to Crownies), Crownies refashioned to center on one lawyer in particular, and with a brilliant freienemy mixed in
Jack Irish“. A winning, low-rent PI, only takes cases he wants…
Mr. and Mrs. Murder” – mostly comedy, two crime-scene cleaners show up after the cops are done, but often discover what really happened. The couple are charming and their neice keeps it in the family. The slightly hapless cop they are consistantly bailing out is at least grateful for the help

My Life Is Murder” – A retired ace detective neglects her baking to come back to the force, from time to time, solving crimes her old boss can’t get cleared by anyone else. Stars Lucy Lawless, formerly Xena, Warrior Princess.

Irish:

Striking Out” lawyer drama, wonderful cast and writing- Brief adult situations. 2 seasons!
Finding Joy“, – a lot of the same cast as Striking Out.. Newspaper copy editor suddenly assigned to local-color TV reporter’s beat. Bungie Jumps, New Age retreats. Serious fish out of water.
The miniseries of Tara French’s In The Woods and The Image. Really, really, dark, but gripping.
Jack Taylor” about a former Guardi working as a private investigator. Noir-ish.

British:

No Offense” – perfect cop comedy drama, funny as hell. But bad bad guys are in earnest, dark stuff happens. Story arcs are season-long but each episode has a point and arc of its own. Inspector Deering leads her squad with if-it-isn’t-true-it-ought-to-be-true verve. Mostly.
Ackley Bridge” – luminous comedy / drama about public school for a mixed stone poor Anglo and stone poor Pakistani imigrant/2nd generation community. Colorful cast of teachers and administrators. Superb writing and acting. We didn’t expect a 3rd season, but there is! and we’re enjoying it. Drop dead funny, and heart-breaking when it gets dramatic. An amazing amount of characters and their lives are stuffed into each episode.
Loch Ness“, the protagonist detective is leading her first murder investigation, on the shore and environs of the famous Loch. Her husband does “Nessie” tours for tourists, and gets a bit of education too.
Agatha Raisin” – former fashonista / publicity person moves to the Cotswalds and starts solving murders. The senior local cop is utterly incompitent, but she can work with the junior, and local worthies. Some of the outfits Agatha gets to wear may perimently damage older TVs…
Murder (Investigation) Squad“,  – London- based squad similar to Vera Stanhope’s Northumberland and City bunch- different people with different skills, one old-school white guy in a coat and tie, Inspector is a short, intense woman, her bagwoman is a taller, quieter Mc(something), not quite as driven. This is a DENSE show- You get more in one hour than some 2 hour or multi-part shows.”Line of Duty“. Anti-corruption/internal affairs procedural, in Northern Ireland. Complex plots.”The Good Karma Hospital” British doctor returns (?) to India, running a clinic with volunteer locals, ex-pats and returning migrants. Engaging stories move around the location of the hospital. 

 

Canadian:

19-2” as good as TV gets, but dark. A country cop with back-story moves to Montreal, teams with a city cop who’s former partner was disabled in a horrific shooting. Each has to prove himself to the other, while meeting their own high personal standards. And avoiding the machinations of the creepy captain. Crimes tend to be smaller and involve less gunfire than US cop shows- sometimes they get called for a fight in a bar, and assualts, property crimes, public safety and the usual sorta-organized illegal stuff you expect in a big city. One story starts with a homeless guy who’s outdoors, that the city cop knows. on a clear night that’s going to freeze. He should be indoors… and there-in lies the tale.

We loved the first episode, and thought, “lets have another, even if they can’t all be *that* good”. But they *are* that good. Each better than the one before. Stories build and interconnect. The characters, and the rest of their station (19th precinct, they have car #2) have stuff going on, and histories. Substance abuse, domestic violence, everyone’s stupid problems and the cops own relationship issues offer a range of situations that don’t go as hoped, or planned. There are losses, and hurts that don’t heal quickly.  Yet, after 4 seasons, and the cruel and senseless challenges that most survive, there’s the matter of an out of season deer carcas that the country cop’s brother arrives with one night. Its cleaned and hanging in the back of the tractor-trailer the brother drives for a living.  The short term solution involves packages wrapped in pink butcher’s paper, but one of the cops at the station has a venison pie recipe… and there’s the happy ending!

Scandinavian:

Rebecka Martinsson” A detective from the forest and lakes part of the country is about to marry a guy from the big city, then things get complex and she has to stay where she grew up and get it all sorted out. Beautiful locations, a smaller town with more rural and less agricultural land than Wallander.

Straight Forward” A second-generation con-artist flees Denmark when her father is killed, going to ground in New Zealand and trying to rescue her daughter…

Megahertz Network / Cable channel 17:

Beck” – Swedish detective squad led by older widower, nearing retirement. Comedic relief by his wacky neighor- guy with orange-tinted glasses who always appears with a neck brace, like he just had whiplash… usually meeting inconveniently in the hallway or out on the balconies of their flats. Beck’s squad has a hot-dog guy who’s cynical but a good shot, a female nerd, normalish plainclothes dudes and one  guy clearly descended from Vikings- wild red hair and beard, He’s the emotional one. Beck has a daughter who’s a uniformed cop. Not as bleak as “Wallander,”

Baantjer“: Dutch detective, older guy, younger team, like “Beck”, or “Wallander” come to think of it.

Inspector Manara“: Groovy Italian detective, has a Zappa poster up in his apartment  and plays solo saxaphone to soothe his soul.

 

Animal shows, In order of best and most soothing staff and animals.

Bronx, NY, Zoo: https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/the-zoo/

Chester, UK, Zoo: https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/secret-life-of-the-zoo/

Columbus, OH, Zoo: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/shows/secrets-of-the-zoo/

Want more?

Houston, TX, Vet Clinic: https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/the-vet-life/

San Diego, CA, Zoo: https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/the-zoo-san-diego/

Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Aus. : https://www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/shows/secrets-of-the-zoo-down-under/

The Georgia Aquarium, GA https://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/the-aquarium/

On HBO:

Big Little Lies“, both seasons. Very dark. Spectacular cast and writing, set in Monterey! Extra intense 2nd season goes past the source book and brings in Meryl Streep!

Six Feet Under” The unexpected death of the owner/father of a family morturary in L.A. leaves his widow, their 3 kids and the partner in the business, mourning, and existentially challenged. The painfully disfunctional family have to pull together,  with the partner, to chart their own course for the business. And as idividuals, to build new lives with or without significant others. It takes 63 episodes, in 5 seasons, to figure it out, with one of the coolest end-of-the-last-episode-endings ever made.

Tremé,” set in the neighborhood of the same name in New Orleans, starting some months after Huricane Katrina. The superb cast and writing show how great TV can be made from stories of normal people trying to make a living and stay relatively honest in tragic times. Great food and music never hurt, even when the apocolypse has come and gone. Death is still in business. Love isn’t always enough. But even a character who seems to only be for themself can find some redemption, doing something for someone else.

The Wire“, further proof that good TV is character and story driven. One season follows one character into his new career as a public school teacher. No superheroics, just seemingly hopeless disfunction only occasionally redeemed by small success. Or rare grace. And yet. Andre Royo, the actor who portrays the recovering heroin adict, “Bubbles”, so intensely inhabited his role that people, in Baltamore, would see him on the street and press money on him, because he *was* that character, and that character needed the help. The good guys are good, the bad guys bad, and like any story it has to end. After far too much death and destruction. Besides its quality as art, the practical tutorial on drugs, crime, poverty, hollowed city centers and race is well worth your time.

On PBS:

Masterpiece detective procedurals:

Vera“, “Shetland“, “Broadchurch“,(UK version), “Foyle’s War

Food!:

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” A gentler, “Parts Unknown”: travel+food

KQED’s “Check Please Bay Area”

On PBS and also on Acorn:

BBC’s venerable: “Doctor Who” The new Doctor had her break-out role in Broadchurch (UK).
Endeavor“, – Inspector Morse prequil. Interesting stuff, but the imagined Morse is a bit of a stretch, the senior Inspector he works with is fun, as is the young officer Strange and young medical examiner.
Inspector Lewis“,
Inspector Morse
Last Tango In Halifax“.
New Tricks“, An active duty detective gets assigned to cold cases and recruits 3 retired detectives as her squad. They’re all characters, the cold cases are a wide range, and the retirees change, and then the lead detective, as the seasons run on. Watch from the beginning if you can.

Recently, at our house, on cable TV:

Last week BBC miniseries “Pride and Predjudice”: (Collin Firth)
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – Fred Rogers’ biopic.
“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”
“The Best of Enemies” (recent, not David Niven WWII movie)
“Pride and Predjudice”: (2005 Kira Knightley)
“A Star is Born” (most recent version)
at a theatre: “Onward”
Before that: “Parasite”
We enjoyed “The Bridge” (Texas/Mexico) and “The Tunnel”, UK/France, both of which are very, very dark, though also very good

Don’t Forget: (From our DVD collection)

“Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With TIme”
“My Neighbor Totoro”
“A Grand Day Out With Wallace and Gromit”
“Porco Rosso”
“Spirited Away”
“Howl’s Moving Castle”
“Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams”
“Tampopo”
“A Taxing Woman”
“Hidden Fortress”
“Seven Samarai”
“Le Mans” (Steve McQueen, 1970 = sequel to “Ford Vs. Ferrari”, in some ways…)
“Endless Summer” (Bruce Brown, mid 1960s)
“The Kids Are Allright” (The Who’s biopic, ending just before Keith Moon’s death)
“The Way Things Go” (31 minute Rube Goldberg machine made of industrial junk in a dis-used industrial space)

 

Stay safe!

The Ballad of Ronald McDonald – Merle Kessler / Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater


Thanks to my friend Eric Lindberg, I can report that the content of the 45 rpm “The Ballad of Ronald McDonald“, can be found at “https://beta.prx.org/stories/14394“, from 16:00 to 19:15 or so.

The Ballad of Ronald McDonald – Merle Kessler

His face painted gayly, young Ronald did ride

All with his soldiers, 2 Shakes and Large Fries

Big Mac he rode with him, and Mayor McCheese

To fight Colonel Sanders, his worst enemy

 

While in the White Castle fair Wendy did stay

She watched all a-tremble her lord ride away

She loved not Lord Ronald, though she was his McBride

Another clown had the franchise on her pride

 

All in the moonlight Jack’s onion rings shone 

To court this fair damsel he’d come all alone

The Taco Bell struck the young lover’s McDoom

As Ronald McDonald stepped into the room.

 

“My burgers are bitter!” young Ronald he cried

as he wiped a McTear from his orange McEye

“I blew-up your boxes, Jack, outsold you too”

“And Wendy, oh Wendy, I did it all for you!”

 

It was not Colonel Mustard in the hall with a knife

That parted the lovers away from their lives

But Ronald McDonald killed them and himself

Crying, “No need to go-o-o anywhere else!”

 

The Burger King found them on the sanitized floor

The blood thick as catsup, it grieved him full sore

He said, “Millions consumed your fast food while they roamed!”

“Now your arches have fallen, we’ll eat burgers at home”

 

This was a single put out by Mr. Kessler but also performed as part of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre shows. He was a member of that comedy troupe. I have the 45 rpm disc, autographed, somewhere, I hope. I meant to keep it.

This song was written and performed by Merle Kessler, and he holds the copyright to it. This publication of the lyrics is intended to keep knowledge of the song alive, and provide a reference for discussion. I assert that this is “fair use” under current law.

The rhythm is 10 syllables, 1,2,3; 12, 3; 12, 3; 1; : da da da, da-da  da, da-da  da,  da

It looks like 4 bars, or  6 groups of notes, per line, repeated 4 times per verse.

 

11/9/18 – add *what* struck the McDoom, then follow Eric’s note and get the rest! Thank you!

11/8/18  – add McDoom line & one after

Top 10 Bookstores in the East Bay


A nice write-up on a key subject! Omits “Dan Webb Books”, doesn’t mention “The Booktree” right across the street from “A Great Good Place For Books” but my picks belong in my list. This is theirs and I’m glad to have found it!

The writer mentions the Montclair Egg Shop as a pairing with A Great Good Place for Books. Absolutely yes! Best place I can think of to take a new book or an old friend or both.

Source: Top 10 Bookstores in the East Bay

Searching for apples and oranges, using grep.


Not using grep? Its a step up from sorting and cutting and pasting in spreadsheets. You will feel, briefly, omniscient, when you use it to solve some problem that’s been bugging you. Here’s my latest:

You care about two keywords in a file- apples and oranges, and you also care about about their relative positions, for whatever reason. So grepping for each, separately, is nice, but you’d really like to grep for one OR the other.

Did I mention this was grep?

grep -i ‘apple\|orange’ *filename.ext*

The -i makes it case-insensitive, just like you’d want on a first pass. The “|” vertical bar is a familiar OR operator, and the only tricky parts are to a) put the whole thing in a single set of single quotes- the two words and the operator are a single syntactic unit, and b) use a back-slash to mark the vertical bar as an operator and not just a literal vertical bar.

I used apple and orange in the title because they are canonically “unrelated” things, but where this technique is really useful is when the unrelated things are in orthagonal kinds: fruits and deserts. If you’ve got your recipes filed or a cookbook on line, grep -i ‘pie\|apple’ will produce all the refernces to either. Pies involving apples will be found where ‘apple’ has ‘pie’ both above and below… As a human, you have a right to do that last bit in your head, the sorting out that we gatherer-hunters are bred for.

Other Bests in the Bay Area – 2008 – Collecting now, alphabetized soon.


A friend is coming in tonight for a week working in San Jose, and it occurs to me to make a list of “best”s in the bay area for Michael and any other visiting fire-persons whom might come out for business or pleasure. This is also prompted by the SF Chronicle’s annual top 100 restaurants list, some of which I’ve been to (and agree are terrific) and some I would have listed that aren’t on the Chron’s list.

Best places to go:

The Exploratorium. The world’s greatest hands-on science museum and (dis)organized meeting of art and science. Whether the awesome majesty of the three guysers, who’s periods are determined by the distance between the pool at the top and the heat source at the bottom, or sheer coolness of the string shooter and spinning discs on a spinning turntable, or the interactive the water vortex, the fog vortex, the giant pinboard or the magnetic properties of eddy currents in the giant bar of copper, never mind the tactile dome ( my advice: wear a swimming outfit under your street clothes…), the Exploratorium is better than words can possibly describe. For kids of all ages, and the cafe food is good enough to just go and eat if you get hungry. The original 11 on a 10 scale.

Muir Woods. Accurately described as a cathedral of trees. Its bigger than any of the European cathederals I’ve visited, and I enjoy it more, nice though they are. Less moral ambiguity, though not none (our park did used to be someone’s home and not so long ago…) There are lobster-shaped cray-fish (big claws) in the creek the runs through the middle, and spotting them and the fish in the creek from the many bridges is one of our family treats when we go. I’ve done the hike up from the Muir Woods creek bed to the top of Mount Tamalpias and its steep and exhilerating and you have your choice of how hard to make it, based on the paths you select and how fast you push it. Bring a gallon of water per person if you plan to go all the way up and all the way down. The trees of the Wood are huge, and yet dynamic- some fall in the wind, some expire of age, new ones grow where the old have departed. Besides fish and the predictable squirrels, we’ve seen deer, moms and babys, from pretty darn close, and it was pretty darn cool!

There are also the fire-hollowed trees on the trail on the ocean side of the creek, a bit above ‘floor’ level. Jean and I have several pictures of Benjamin at various ages in these icons, a small, friendly, forest creature, all our own. Its hard to NOT take a good holiday card picture of yourself and your family here. We probably ought to take the Dipsea trail some time. I strongly recomend going out on one of the two trails into the main “cathedral” canyon and coming back on the other- doesn’t matter which you go which way on. Take the map from the gate and plan to cross the creek at the furthest bridge. If you walk that far and back, it’ll make your day better.

Easy splashing/wading in the Pacific Ocean: Drake’s Beach, north-east of Pt. Reyes. A pretty place, a large beach, rotten rock in the cliffs so don’t stand under them, a public restroom at the parking lot and a gentle slope under the water- Drake’s Beach has it all and in abundance. Because the bay its in faces south, the waves aren’t as vigorious as those on west-facing beaches north or south, and the water seems a tad warmer.

Best hat store. The Hat Store on Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, just before it turns into a 1-way for the last blocks just south of UC Berkeley. We go here when we need to create a costume- buy an excellent hat and build the rest around it. Notable purchases have included a Jester hat, a soft Viking helmet, an Egyptian Pharoh head-dress and several less-formal choices. We always find something to like and take home, and they hold up well.

Best Aquarium store – Albany Aquarium. San Pablo Avenue, between Solano and Albany Bowl. This was where we wound up when UCB Open House day ran out of complementary goldfish… and $150 later we had a heated, filtered, glass, 10 galllon, aquarium with a bunch of attractive fish. Fairliy tough fish. We’ve always gotten good advice here, their fish, snails, plants and frogs are hale and hearty. They don’t over-sell or low-ball prices, but if you want a gold fish in a gold fish bowl (no heat, no filter…) they’ll help you with that too.

Two bits of wisdom I picked up from them/with them:

A) Fish aren’t like hamsters- you don’t have to put them all in a pickle jar and scrub out the tank once a month… Get a cleaner/vaccuum/syphon, learn to use it (There is a non-return valve, you have to ‘pump’ the big tube full and then it’ll syphon, without you having to suck on it) Use a 2-5 gallon bucket or trash-can to collect the wastewater and stuff from in between the rocks.. (Pour it out on the fruit tree in the back yard…)

B) pH balancing is VERY important, and if you can’t master it quickly, invest in a buffer solution that will AUTOMATICALLY balance pH to the right-ish area, follow the directions and sleep easy/. At least for the tetras, guppies, etc, this is just fine. Incoming water after I ‘vaccuum’ is treated with a chlorine/chloramine treatment product so the fish aren’t poisoned, and the pH balance stuff. Works every time.

Best Bowling Alley: Albany Bowl. On San Pablo, between Solano and the strip-mall/bart-station about a mile north. Games are reasonably priced, you can get shoes that fit, pool tables are $10/hr, they have bumpers to block the gutters and do kids birthdays. In short, they do it all. Nice people, nice place to bowl, great family ‘go out’ spot. We usually bowl a couple of games, or more, and then take a pool table for an hour. WAY fun! Someday I’ll get to the black-light miniature golf in the South Bay and I can compare the two.

Child-friendly restraunts:

Chef Chu’s (Los Altos/Palo Alto/Mountian View)

Armadillo Willie’s (all)

Venezia Cafe (University Ave, Berkeley)

Cliff House, Ocean Beach, SF

Caesar – Piedmont Ave, Oakland

Little Shin Shin, Piedmont Ave. Oakland

Becky’s Chinese Food, College Ave, Oakland,

Barney’s (Hamburgers, salads) College Avenue, Piedmont Avenue

Christopher’s Hamburgers

Both Japanese places on the last block of Shatuck, northbound, before University

Sam’s Log Cabin, San Pablo, Albany

Montclair Egg Shop, Medau Place, Oakland

Pizza Pastino’s Park Blvd, Glenview,

Buttercup coffee shop- just south of the Cotton Mill, now home of West Marine and Numi Tea, on the bay side of 880.

Jolie’s Coffee and Gifts- at the street side of the lighthouse anchorage in the Oakland Estuary, near Livingston and also the bridge to Coast Guard Island.

Bowser’s Pizza, Park Avenue, Alameda

<Restaurant in the Lighthouse>, Oakland Estuary, near Livingston and the bridge to Coast Guard Island…

More later,

Bill