MackawsRachel, a friend of mine and one of the mostbok wonderful people I know, took me to a zoo–Brights Zoo in Limestone Tennessee, in fact. We walked around and saw all sorts of animals–mostly animals from Savannahs, since the climates are similar  in summer, as is the grazing. It is still a bit chilly in the mornings here, so it wasn’t until the second time around the park, when the sun came out, that many of the animals came outside.

Going around the corner, I couldn’t speak; there, standing in a paddock, were 3 giraffes!

Everybody has that special thing–a blanket or stuffed animal–that wasStuffed Giraffe (4) their special little security thing when they are little. Mine was Giraffe. He was a medium sized stuffed giraffe (that’s how he got the name). When I was 7, we moved 3979 miles, across the Atlantic. I had my pillow and Giraffe. He was a good listener and a reassuring friend, and he could be flipped over and used as a machine gun when flying over France trying to shoot down Eddie Rickenbacker. I don’t think I have ever lived anywhere without him.

Giraffe 2I have seen giraffes at zoos before, but generally from a distance. I was able to stand up on a platform eye to eye. They are graceful and very tall. They are a little mischievous, and have a purple tongue that is almost 2 feet long. They are quiet, mostly because breathing all that way can be rough, but can make moaning orGiraffe tounge bleating noises. I have a friend who once followed a herd (a tower? who comes up with these things?!?) on a motorcycle to see what noise they made, but apparently they have non-verbal ways of saying “what’s with the creeper on the motorcycle?” because they stayed quiet. And they have huge beautiful eyes with long eyelashes.Giraffe me - Copy

I think I just stood there with my mouth open for 5 minutes, unable to speak (really unusual for me). Honestly, I felt like dancing around and squealing, but at my age that is difficult to pull off. Rachel bought a carrot for me to feed to him. All the rest of the day I was saying “I saw a giraffe!!!” to flamingoanyone who would listen.

Life has had its ups and downs lately, but for just one moment, I couldn’t ask for more. The sun was shining, and I was hanging out with a good friend and with giraffes. What more could you want?

912signature marvel


Ireland, again

It is nearing Saint Patrick’s day, so I am rerunning this.

Verdant Place, Limerick, Dr Bear 2013 2Ireland is beautiful and very, very green. It really is called the Emerald Isle for a good reason. I once drove through England to Ireland in a drought. England looked like a sun-faded newspaper, and–even though locals kept telling us how bad the dry weather was–Ireland was lush. That summer, it rained ever night from midnight to around 4, and then cleared.

If you have a low tolerance level for quaintness, I would advise you never to visit.

We flew into Shannon, because we decided that we wanted to force ourselves to see the Irish countryside, and were afraid that otherwise we might get stuck only seeing Dublin—lovely in its own right, but not the country.Limerick Dr Bear 2013

We knew we would be arriving at 6:30 am local time, and that it would feel like 2:30 am to us, so we didn’t have anything specific planned. We managed to find our way to the bus, and climbed up to the second story. Apparently, all Irish (and most Scottish and English) bus drivers are expected to drive like the night bus from Harry Potter—lurching back and forth, taking turns at frightening speeds, etc.—but we were also driving across green rolling hills, past stone cottages; Railway Hotel, Limerick 2013castles, all under a brilliantly stormy sky.

We unfolded ourselves at the train station in Limerick, and found the Railway Hotel (Lovely! I would recommend it). The check-in time was 2:00 in the afternoon, and the clerk frowned as we walked in. She suggested we eat breakfast, and I realized she was frowning because she was trying to think of a way to allow us to check into our rooms early.

Inhabitants of North America distinguish themselves by smiling (also, with the help of bleach and orthodonture, shiny, perfect teeth). We expect it of others, and when others don’t smile, we think that they are frowning, or troubled, or rude, or even hostile. To a lot of the world, the constant pleasant smiling seems artificial, and I think I agree, even if it takes some getting used to).

That first breakfast in Limerick was one of the best meals we had—Irish brown bread toast and jam, strong Irish breakfast tea, scones, a full Irish breakfast (rashers? black pudding? white pudding? roasted tomatoes?), porridge—it was so good, I have tried to duplicate the bread.Picnic in Limerick Dr Bear 2013

After a nap into the afternoon, we wandered about Limerick, and found a local farmer’s market that was just shutting down. The very Irish and very sturdy looking lady behind the counter at the cheese mongers frowned at us, then gave us samples of several cheeses, discussing where each had come from, and how long each was aged, and we left with supplies for a plowman’s lunch down by the wharf.

Again and again, we encountered Irish natives who were friendly and kind—the bartender at the Bram Stocker hotel warning us with a heavy brogue that the people in Bram Stocker HotelCork “spoke funny and are hard to understand,” the Dublin cab driver who refused to take us to Cornucopia on Wicklow Street—“Oh, I’d be embarrassed; it’s only t’ree blocks, now. Just cross the bridge and through those tall buildings” (I knew how far it was—6 blocks—and I had a 20 pound pack)—although often, the kindness was about fixing something that had gone wrong.

Things going wrong is apparently common in Ireland, and they all seem to have developed what I think of as “a bemused complacency towards the fecked-up-ness of it all” (“Oh, I can’t sell you a ticket on the bus; you can only get those from a machine, and that one there, it is broken. Marvelous!” “They closed at 3:20? How odd.”) It did surprise me that I had trouble getting used to the b.c.t.f. (as well as the occupied frown), since ??????????????????those are both things with which I face the world. That and the heavy lidded Irish eyes that are part of my genetic heritage.

Another odd observation, though: any given block in Ireland seems to have two pubs, a bookie shop, a homeless person or two and their dogs, and a pro-life billboard. It seems to me that there are vices that might be more important to fight than allowing a woman the right to choose, but, then again, Ireland only reluctantly legalized birth control.

Murphy's in Dublin Dr Bear 2013It was one marvel after another–a beautiful countryside here, a harpist there, music in a pub, the stormy skies at sunset, the voices–Irish is not so much an accent as a cadence, a lilt, a language sung softly. Kind people, great ale, and wonderful food–yes, my friends: the French were polite and the British Isles had good food; re-examine your prejudices!
If you are ever in Dublin, drop by the Murphy Brother’s Ice Cream Shop. They are always smiling.

Of course, who wouldn’t, spending the day around ice cream hand-made in Dingle. (“hand-made in Dingle” that makes me giggle.)

Wheaten Bread (Irish Brown Bread)

Irish Wheaten Bread 007On our first day in Ireland, for our very first meal in Europe, we had breakfast at the Railway Hotel. Besides some marvelous tea and incredible service, we also had some toast, which included a brown bread. My foodie daughter was in love. “Wouldn’t it be ironic,” she asked, “if after going through Germany and France, my favorite bread ended up being Irish Brown Bread, and my favorite cheese really was a sharp Irish Cheddar?”

Ne Gustibus Disputatem Est.


  • 3 cups extra-course whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • ¼ cup brewer’s yeast (optional)
  • ¼ cup melted butter (I might consider more)
  • 2 cups buttermilk or milk
  • 1 Tbsp dark corn syrup or honey
  • 1 egg

Step 1, Prepare Ye the way: Preheat the oven to 400°, assemble all the ingredients, run to the store because you are out of butter, and grease & flour a baking sheet or cake pan.

Step 2, sifting the dry ingredients: In one bowl sift (mix if you don’t have a sifter) the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the oat bran, wheat germ, and brewer’s yeast.  Mix thoroughly.

Step 3, pastry cutting: Mix in the butter, much as you would cut in cold butter or shortening.

Step 4, mixing the wet ingredients: In another bowl, beat the egg, then mix in the buttermilk and the corn syrup.

Step 4, combining the big mess: Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix well. The results might be a bit gloppy. No, I take that back: they result will be very gloppy. Flour your hands and try to fashion this into a ball, and if you cannot, add a bit more flour until this is manageable. Irish Wheaten Bread 001

Step 5, baking: Set the round loaf (or round loaves, if you are making little ones) onto the pan. Score the top with a cross. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Rotate them to make sure they brown evenly, reduce the oven temperature to 375, and bake for 30 minutes more. The result should be a crumbly brown loaf.

Final Step, share and enjoy Irish Wheaten Bread 009They break along the score, so you can each munch a quarter. You can have them with a mug of strong Irish tea, and some cold butter, and some current jam. They are perfect as a toast for breakfast, or to accompany a hearty plowman’s lunch.

As always, they are perfect for giving to somebody you love, either in person, or by post.

R. H. Scone

 Spicy Scones (4)Have I really not published a scone recipe other than Shoe Fly Pie Scones & the Gluten-free Scones? Kaum zu glauben. I had avoided savory scones for a long time–Unnatural!–but this idea came to me and I couldn’t say no. 




  • 2 cups flour (Whole wheat, white, both, as you wish)
  • Optional: add ¼ cup of gluten and ¼ cup of brewers yeast for extra protein, and to make the scones firmer.
  • 1/8 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs Ras El Hanout
  • 3 Tbsp cold butter
  • ½ cup chopped orange (including peel) I prefer cara cara or blood.
  • ½ cup chopped green olives
  • ¾ cup plain yoghurt or sour cream
  • 1 egg

Step 1, Prepare Ye the way: Preheat the oven to 400°, assemble all the ingredients, run to the store because you are out of something, and then grease a baking sheet.

Step 2, sifting the dry ingredients: In one bowl sift (mix if you don’t have a sifter) the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spice, and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Step 3, pastry cutting: Cut in the ice cold sliced butter, using either a pastry cutter or rubbing it between your hands. I suppose some processer thingy can do this, too, but I don’t own one. The result should be crumbly.Spicy Scones (1)

Step 4: chopping the fruit: Chop the olives and the oranges. For me, it was a half an orange and 12-16 olives, but it depends upon the sizes.

Step 5, mixing the wet ingredients: In another bowl, mix the yoghurt and the egg. Sometime, you can also mix the spice here, to let it moisten, or add the baking soda here, to start a foamy sponge.

Spicy Scones (3)Step 6, combining the big mess: Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and fold together. Try not to overwork the dough. You might think of it as wetting the ingredients more than mixing brownie or muffin dough. The results might be a bit gloppy.

Step 7, baking: Gently pat the mixture out on a counter to about ¾ inch thick. Cut (I used a juice glass and got 12), and ease them on the greased baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. See how they look. Stick a toothpick in one and see if it comes out battery.Spicy Scones (5c)

Final Step, share and enjoy They are perfect for sharing over breakfast, or in the afternoon over tea, or for dropping by and giving to friends ( I think I gave away 22 and a bite today, all to very wonderful people).

They can be eaten like a sweet scone, or as an addition to a main dish. Or maybe as sandwiches with a little feta and cucumber slices.

Thinking of the Other

There are two big words that have been rambling their way around my mind this week, words from my apprenticeship as a Social Theorist. These two words are Colonising and Orientalizing.

I know these are big words, but stick with me. You trust me, don’t you?

These are terms used to describe Europe’s relationship with its “Oriental” colonies, which meant anything from Morocco to China—you know, the East. From the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, Europeans had a mental image of the mysterious orient, the degenerate orient, the dangerous orient, of the barbaric orient in need of civilizing. Orientalizing and Colonising are how the great colonial powers came to think of the people and cultures of foreign lands, of Other groups of people. To subjugate people, we have to be able to think of them as radically different, as the unbridgeable Other.

Amadeo_Preziosi_-_The_Grand_Bazaar_-_Google_Art_ProjectColonising is a term to describe one way of doing that, a view of other cultures as “primitive” and “backward” so that we can paternalistically “civilize” them. Timothy Mitchell uses this term in his book Colonizing Egypt to describe how the British had to think of 19th century Egypt as a country of bizarre, violent customs, dark and twisting city streets, dark, twisted, illiterate, and barbaric natives, and degenerate, corrupt rulers. We are still used to this view, seeing it in the 2-dimensional cartoon Egypt of the Indiana Jones movies.D228 This image has also melded into our view of the Islamic world in general.

The flip side is Orientalizing, conceptualizing the Other as CLK339940radically different, but as exotic and fascinating (and rather erotic). Edward Said uses this term to describe how the cultural study of “the orient” created a falsely romantic but still distancing relationship with the North African, Middle Eastern, and other Asian colonies and spheres of influence. We see this fascination with exoticism in the popularity of Sir Richard Francis Burton’s translations of Arabian Nights (or his translation of the Kama Sutra), we even see it in the quasi-Indian mysticism of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s works, not to mention the trappings of Masonic temples.

Now, obviously, there are problems with thinking about whole continents of human beings this way. There are the moral problems of colonialism and exploitation, and the factual carefreeness of these oversimplifications. There is the long-term post-colonial problem that these views imposed upon colonial people are internalized by them, weakening their cultures. Of course, for me as a logician, there is the internal self-contradiction: How can we think of a people as both ignorant and uncivilized, but also become fascinated with their culture?

Of course, in America, we could accept projecting both savage ignorance and the exotic wisdom on the First Nations, accept the idea of barely verbal, semi-human slaves and at the same time the simple wisdom of Uncle Tom or Uncle Remus, or even refuse to accept that “Negroes” were capable of culture, while at the same time stealing jazz and blues songs from them.

We Americans can also buy the music and imitate the style of dark young men in hoodies and sagging pants, while at the same time hoping the police will protect us from them.

Hip-Hop, Gangsta Rap, and their ilk have had an impact on our culture I would never have believed back in the old school days of the 80s. Now, not a day goes by without seeing young men knowingly (or maybe not) trying to look like they are “from the hood,” even in the country mountains of upper-east Tennessee. We project an authenticity and integrity upon the music, and on the showy façade of the fashions. We also project an exotic and powerful aura of danger.

Yet at the same time, we project a dangerous and powerful aura of danger upon young Black men in general, and treat them accordingly. We can criticize the police for stopping cars of young men for DWB (driving while black), but most white homeowners would prefer that young black men in their neighbourhoods be watched closely. For the most part, police are merely doing what we expect them to do: protect us from them.  We project radical otherness upon each other, we project a colonialising and orientalizing conception, we create and exemplify each other’s faulty conceptions, continuing in an odd dance of attraction and repulsion, fear and fascination…..

…until somebody gets shot.

So, be careful with each other. Don’t make each other out to be exactly the same, but don’t make each other out as radically different, either. Maybe as equivalent, “of equal value.” And the best way to understand others is to ask them, and to listen.

Maybe over some good food.