Friday, April 22, 2011

The Castafiore Takes On Doktor Phil. Again.

  • 9 cups dandelion flowers (6 cups dandelion petals and 3 cups dandelion flower heads, trimmed)
  • 1 11-oz can Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate
  • 1 lb 10 ozs granulated sugar
  • 2 lemons (juice only)
  • 2 oranges (juice only)
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • ½ tsp pectic enzyme
  • ¼ tsp tannin
  • 6¼ pts water
  • White Burgundy wine yeast

In primary, combine all ingredients except dandelions and yeast. Stir well to completely dissolve sugar. Stir in dandelions, cover primary and set aside 10-12 hours. Add activated yeast and recover primary. Stir twice daily until violent fermentation subsides. Pick and prepare flower petals and heads. For dandelion flower heads, wash and trim off stems only. Put dandelion petals and heads in nylon straining bag with 1 dozen sterilized glass marbles for weight. Tie bag and submerge in liquid in primary. Gently squeeze and dunk bag several times a day for 5 days. Drain bag, squeezing lightly only, and transfer liquid to secondary. Fit airlock and rack after 2 weeks, topping up and refitting airlock afterward. After wine falls clear, wait 2 weeks and rack after adding 1 crushed Campden tablet to clean secondary. Thereafter, rack every 2 months for 6 months, adding another crushed Campden tablet during middle racking and stabilizing at last racking. Wait another month and rack into bottles. This wine is for the long term and for winning competitions, so cellar it for 2 years before tasting.

Even knowing what a squirrelly creature she can be, I confess to having been beguiled by La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore... again. *

Home at The Manor unusually early of an evening, she decided to check out the latest from her arch enemy, Dr. Make-Believe-I'm-A-Psychologist Phil.   It's not clear to us what motivates this compulsion that overcomes her, though it may be some kind of seasonal affective disorder...  or -- duuuuhhhhhh -- I reckon compulsions don't have rational motivations, anyway, huh? 

Yeah, okay, you caught me.  I was trying to show off how I probably know as much as Doktor Phil in terms of... well, terms 'n all.  You try coming up with believable crap to explain Bianca's behavior and see if you don't pick up a few felicitous funky phrases.

Or it might be the wine.  As motivation, I mean.  Or as disinhibitor, allowing for the release of wave upon wave of bright green Anti-McGraw Bile.

She got it into her pretty lacquered head to do some early taste-testing of last year's dandelion wine.  Jack Keller says that "dandelion wine is fermented sunshine."

That'd be Jack Keller, the winemaker, craggy-faced guy, recently bit by a rattlesnake.  Not the songwriter, who penned hits for everyone from the Everly Brothers to The Monkees.  Certainly not the poker player or the Marvel Comics artist.

[Don't you think we should all have our own disambiguation page at Wikipedia?  It sounds like something I *need* -- and *want*.  I need disambiguation.  I want disambiguation.  Hell, I DESERVE disambiguation.]

Right!  So after indulging in a little alcoholic sunbathing, The Castafiore scoped out the latest cutting edge opinions being proffered by that Ersatz Doctor, Phil McGraw. Her overall findings?  Dr. Phil remains an Offensive Media Whore and Con Man with a Blindingly Bald Pate -- and dandelion wine doesn't have to be a body-less sweet mess.  Jack Keller can fill you in on what he calls "body-builders" and on the use of sugar.  If you decide to go straight up with the dandelion wine and not fortify it with raisins or grape concentrate ("you could use dates, figs, apricots, or rhubarb instead") -- Jack advises that you serve it with an exciting salad or some baked trout. 

He specifies trout.  I need another 100 words on why that is so, but Jack is a tease, and doesn't say.  Then again, he doesn't divulge what kind of trout, either, does he?  Ha!  Gotcha, Jack!  (My vote was originally for rainbow... then I read that 95% of what makes it to the table is farm-raised and I just don't cotton to fish from the farm.  Yes, thank you, I *do* know that it's childish to expect my rainbow trout to have leaped and fought through clear, cold, unpolluted white waters to get to my plate.) 

Would everyone just get the heck off of my back, please?  I am trying to tell a story here.  Jeez.

Okay, so I had a lapse in judgement and told La Bonne et Belle Bianca she could use my laptop to scope out Old Shiny Pate's blog, The Turning Point.

See, I really didn't think she had it in her, especially with the dandelion wine on board, to even make it up to the Computer Turret.  You'll find me up here pretty darned often, maybe even 3-4 hours a day, and it's rare for the Turret to ever be unoccupied -- but it's downright unheard of for The Castafiore to make the effort.

[A brief explanation would seem to be in order. You're probably wondering how hard it can be to get to our state-of-the-art computer center. In a post titled l'astronave, way back in April of 2010, I tackled the task of explaining the matter thusly:

The only way in or out, up or down, the pesky turret is via a thick rope ladder, dyed caution yellow, that extends down (but mostly sideways) out to the Manor Stables -- a remarkable outbuilding that is an alarming replica, as we pointed out in our last post, of the Knoppenburg Manor Stables. The proper term today is "agricultural building." You won't catch me calling it a barn if there are any prying ears about. Of course, the last outsider who dropped by was The Technician Overlord of Our Telecommunications Bundle, which he so wisely decided was best centered in the Hobby Room at the top of the Turret Tower. We had concocted a cover story about the rope bridge ("It's more a bridge than a ladder," Fred just said), which consists of the baldfaced lie that we are a new off season venue for those Cirque du Soleil performers who are fresh out of rehab. So the hefty diameter of that hemp monster, see, is easily explained away as necessary gear for these poor, troubled acrobats.

I'm usually not subject to such heights of embarrassment (heights, and, lately, riches) but I just don't want anyone to think that I have to zig zag my way from one Manor Wing to another, make it to the Grand Ballroom, out the entrance, patterned after Brunelleschi's bronze baptistery doors, over the drawbridge (Provided it is down! Men!), across the moat, down the lane, over the hedge, into the damned agricultural outbuilding, up the custom wheelchair ramp into the hayloft, and then, lickety-split, go hand-over-fist on the rope bridge for a good half mile... all just to get my email.
So just imagine the superhuman effort necessary to a drunken overweight opera diva... ]

Once she got to the Computer Turret, she wasn't about to leave without also leaving traces of her visit.  Luckily, she found McGraw's blog post on the "stoicism of the Japanese" sufficiently provocative.  This is a chunk of his prose from that post:

April 4th, 2011 by Dr. Phil
The Stoicism of the Japanese

...[D]o you know what astonishes me? It’s watching the people of Japan face their catastrophe with a kind of stoicism and, strangely, a grace. We haven’t seen any looting in Japan for desperately-needed supplies, like bottled water. We haven’t seen fistfights break out among the people waiting in line for hours to get gasoline or groceries. For years, I’ve heard about the legendary politeness of Japanese people in everyday life, but I just thought it was a cliché. How are they able to maintain such calm in the face of overwhelming disaster?

I’m hardly someone who thinks Japan’s way of life is in any way better than ours. But at the same time, I will say, there is something to be said for the ordinary Japanese citizen’s respect for order, good manners and hospitality. The other day, I was stunned to watch one elderly woman, standing in the cold outside her wrecked home, offer ABC anchor Diane Sawyer some water because she looked thirsty.

And what about the selflessness epitomized by those workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, risking dangerous doses of radiation without complaint as they struggle to prevent a complete meltdown that would endanger their fellow citizens?

I’m no expert in culture, and I’m not going to pretend to say I understand why the vast majority of Japanese people are enduring these impossible hardships with impeccable dignity, but we could all learn a few lessons from their example. I also hope we’ll all say a little prayer for that country. Yes, Japan is one of our great industrialized powers, and it will someday recover. But it has a long way to go. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese who live in the northern part of the country will have to endure months of homelessness and hunger.

If you want to help, you can go to the American Red Cross website and make a contribution for the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami, as well as for those families fleeing the nuclear radiation. My prayers are with Japan.

What did Our Girl have to say to such a pious post?  Gird your loins and read on.  Maybe grab a flagon or two of ale, a few carafes of dandelion wine so as to wash it all down without too much pain.  Only Marlinspike Hall would have a resident writing in apparent opposition to praise of a suffering nation... 

Can an unannounced visit from a perturbed Captain Haddock be far behind?

Bianca Castafiore says:
April 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm

It is, of course, rude of me to be bothered by what is an expression of admiration by Dr. Phil and his fans, but heck-by-golly, I don’t care. No, in all seriousness, I just feel like a few things about stereotyping need to be said — explicitly.

When we express our admiration of the “Stoic” Asian (don’t we really mean “opaque,” don’t we really mean that old chesnut — “inscrutable”?), don’t we automatically relegate the people of Japan to an easily dealt with two-dimensionality? It is less admiration for them than relief for our lazy Western minds not to have to think too hard or work up a good head of natural empathy. How could we, when they are so different from us?

Often, our assessment of the Japanese people is most firmly based on our absolute ignorance of what is happening in front of our eyes, and our cluelessness of the language going in one 耳 and out the other. I would wager that most Americans heading for a conference in Tokyo would learn to say “thank you” but not bother with “bathroom” or “help.” (And we wonder why we have so many foreign toilet emergencies…)

So what does the realization do for you, as you notice with notably Christian approval that you’ve seen no looting among these well-behaved pagans, but rather a “legendary” politeness, including an old woman offering a non-suffering Western media figure some water? Does all that “impeccable dignity” merit more aid? Or just more prayer? Or are you thinking that maybe they require *less* prayer than one would anticipate, since they stay in line so well already? Aha! I think I am catching on.

I realize that this mostly inoffensive blog post (there are scads out there way more dominated by cultural stereotype, with much less natural sympathy) simply perpetuates our established stateside understanding — that of “the model minority.” We go with what we [think we] know.

In terms of this sad tragedy, aren’t we mostly protecting ourselves from pain and denying the Japanese their real needs and their true sufferings by doting on all that we do not see, as if — because we do not see it — it is not there?

One thought that recurs and almost makes me cry out in a different kind of pain is this: How much of the “stoicism,” how much of the delicate restraint that we “admire” in the Japanese of this post-quake period is a learned response — something, in fact, that we put in their cultural curriculum after dropping atomic bombs on the men, women, and children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is it stoicism and good manners — positive stereotyping, at least, eh? Or are these faces just too well versed in the suffering born of huge, massive, unimaginable (to *us*), COLLECTIVE destruction?

If there is an element of dangerous emotional repression going on… then I hope there is also much going on to which our know-all american culture is just not privy. [But I saw it on t.v.! But I saw it when I visited Tokyo with my Christian choir in 1968! But everyone knows that blahblahblah!] I hope there are all kinds of polite, stoic people blowing up, irrationally, and maybe stamping their tiny little feet; I hope there are cadres of wise, obsessively neat old men secretly wishing that some foreign media Talking Head will slip on a mandarin orange peel while on the air; I hope there is an epidemic of well-behaved, hyperrespectful (and therefore mathematically talented) Japanese teenagers snatching the last bit of rice before their fat and lazy Korean cousins have a chance…

Sometimes etiquette and behavior are superficial, sometimes they are deeply reflective, and yes, I am sure we are witnessing aspects of the very best of human nature in the news reports coming out of Japan in the aftermath of earthquake and tsunami, and as we watch the tragedy of an ongoing nuclear catastrophe.

Let’s just be sure that we are as compassionate when an occasional person cracks under the repeated strain of aftershocks and new tsunami warnings, when the murky uncertainties of a radioactive future reveal tics of anxiety, frustration, and anger — even in the most stoic of Japanese.
*****   *****   *****   *****   *****   *****   *****   *****   *****
*OMG: Bianca does Dr. Phil  [The first confrontation -- pub. 9/22/2009]
We try, Fred and I really do. But we can't watch her all the time, and really? Why does the onus fall on us? Am I truly expected to monitor the computer use of a mumblymumbly year old grown woman, and in a place as huge as Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé?

It happened at 3:38 in the morning. Yes, I was up but hardly felt like looking over the shoulder of a drunken Castafiore, as she picked and pecked her way across the keyboard.

She's taken to frequenting local pubs after her evening performances at the Opera House, belting out encore performances of L'air des bijoux.

The only way I could tolerate a late night, early morning onslaught of je-ris-de-me-voir-si-belle-dans-ce-miroir-oir-oir-oir? Whiskey. Stoli. The dregs of a house red.

So, out of appreciation for my liver function, I stay safely ensconced in our designated area of The Manor.

La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore decided to surf the net before passing out in her suite of rooms -- rooms that she and some of her ne'er-do-well operatic thugs refurbished last summer, in the style of François Ier. Now *that* was perhaps an episode that Fred and I might have prevented -- but she's wily, very wily, that Castafiore.

Apparently, she is a fan of this Dr. Phil person, a tall, chunky, bald man of indeterminate age -- or 59. As documented in the Dickipedia, Phil McGraw is a "doctortainer of the highest order." Still, Bianca is perhaps not the sort of fan base that The Dr. Phil Brand was designed to attract, and in that lies much of her charm and amazing ability to sour the stomachs of her interlocuteurs.[click HERE to read the rest]

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