Book List and Baked Good

I’m Here With Cake and Poems Because I Love You

Good news – This week, I made the best cake I have ever made in my life, including cakes I’ve made using a recipe. Bad news, well…

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I wish we had eaten the shit out of that cake earlier in the night, shoved it down our throats and then puked up frothy red, white, and blue vomit.

I have always wanted the personal validation of being right about something involving politics. Lifelong dream of mine. Not gonna lie. I come from a rampantly politically involved family, where siblings and cousins consistently drop in references to the detailed careers of obscure members of FDR’s cabinet and the nuances of Supreme Court cases from the 1940’s with encyclopedic detail, as if such in-depth knowledge of US history is something everyone just knows. When I throw my two cents in and make an observation about politics, I do so knowing that I don’t really measure up. I consider myself more informed than the average person, but my family far surpasses average. When I said, “I think Trump is going to be our next president,” I have never been happier to be on the receiving end of an eye roll coupled with a dismissal of my concerns. I did not want to be right. I was shocked and saddened when I was.

I have a lot of opinions about why this happened and what we should do and what will happen from here. But, like I said, I’m not the most political person in the world. So I will leave that to the think pieces and bring you books, banter, and baked goods.

I’m here with cake and poems because I love you.

Red, White, and Blue Cake Recipe

(Really though, it was kind of pink-ish.)

Ingredients:

4 Large Eggs

2 Sticks of Butter

2 Cups of Flour

1 1/2 Cup Sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

1/2 cup of milk

2 tablespoons of strawberry gelatin

2/3 cup of pureed strawberries

1 1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

3. Mix your dry ingredients (the flour, gelatin, and salt) and set aside.

4. Cream the butter and sugar.

5. Using an electronic mixer, add the eggs, vanilla, strawberries, and lemon juice.

6. Add the milk and flour alternatively while beating the batter on high speed.

7. Fold in the blueberries using a wooden spoon.

8. Add the batter to a greased 9 by 13 inch baking pan.

9. Bake for approximately 30 minutes (I think it maybe took around 35ish minutes total, but I would start with 30 and check on it once in awhile. My oven temperature is always a little off and tends to rise and fall for some reason.)

This is a fairly light cake, so the blueberries sank to the bottom. When I first saw this, I was like, “Well, fuck,” but the layering effect was actually amazing. I used a basic vanilla frosting for the white part of red, white, and blue and it was delicious. Truly my greatest creation so far. Hopefully, the next time I make this cake, it will be for a happier occasion…

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Miss you already, Obamas. You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

5 Literary Works that Give Me Hope, No Matter What 

These are works I veer towards when I’m really, unbelievably, absurdly depressed. They can cheer me up when no living human can. Maybe they can help you too.

5. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss 

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We are in charge of the last of the Truffala Trees which are really what everyone, everyone, everyone needs. Please throw away those fucking thneeds Drumpf sold you. The Lorax is a rallying cry for humanity to speak for the one thing that cannot speak for itself – the environment. Because trees have no tongues. Our ability to live on this planet is being threatened and we can’t afford four years of right wing science denial. So, please. Can we all remember the lesson we learned from the Lorax in first grade? Also, remember that Rocko’s Modern Life episode when they learned how important recycling is and cleaned up O-Town, only to have Captain Compost Heap tell them, “Yeahhhhh, about that. So Conglom-O is still causing a lot of pollution, and that one corporation is kind of screwing everyone over anyway…” That show was onto something there. Ahead of its time, really.

4. Pages 200 to 205 of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace 

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David Foster Wallace is kind of like Bob Dylan and Bernie Sanders. Love him, love his work, cannot stand his diehard fanboys unable to acknowledge he has any flaws whatsoever (FYI he does). Bitchy aside aside, the pages of Infinite Jest that describe life at a halfway house are a darkly humorous, enlightening, and painfully empathetic look at getting sober. If you know an addict, or have been one yourself, you know that the enslaving substance becomes so deeply important that a person all but loses their mind when it is taken away. This passage is a string of contemplations and revelations, fun facts about the size of an alcoholic’s heart and falling asleep listening to someone snore, coupled with touching insights on human nature. Wallace encourages us to accept that there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agenda-less kindness, that there might not be angels, but there are people on earth who might as well be angels, and that some people really do look like rodents (I wrote, “Like Barry Manilow!” in the margins after reading that line. Because I rule.).

3. The Five Stages of Grief by Linda Pastan 

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One of my favorite books period, Pastan’s work here is strangely comforting for me. It doesn’t really have an inherently uplifting message, but rages against acceptance as Pastan poems her way through the now widely debunked five stages of grief. Pastan consistently merges dichotomies here, each death in verse ripe with implications of new life emerging in its place. The crushing snow of “Ice Age” is something to which we adapt, children building houses of snow until they freeze magnified into someone else’s history, leaving their bones behind. The poems “Death Is the Final Consumer” and “It Is Raining on the House of Anne Frank” are paired side-by-side. One poem is about wanting to give up, how life is a carcinogen (“Ask Ralph Nadar”), while the other is about finding the pure circle of life within the dark confines of one’s demons. This reflects the book’s central message of meeting inevitable decay with absurd, illogical tenacity.

4. The works of Auden, Baldwin, and Orwell 

Maybe this is cheating, but I read these three authors alongside one another for a political essay class my first year of graduate school so I recommend reading them together. Due to circumstances occurring at the time, not the least of which was the political climate, how to enact change was on the forefront of my mind. My professor told us these three writers presented three fears regarding how humans handle (or, really, don’t handle) wrongdoings. “Auden’s worried you’re going to see evil and then run into another room,” she said, “Orwell’s scared you will stay in the same room with the evil and not notice. Baldwin’s concerned you’ll miss the evil inside yourself.” These works are a reminder that, even in the darkest times, there are fearless voices that provide us clarity and insight, and remind us of how to confront the bad in the world and in ourselves. I think, as a country right now, we need to approach evil through all three of these angles. We must love one another or die.

(Side note – mourning Bowie, Prince, or Cohen? Read Auden’s elegies on Yeats and Freud. Really puts these losses into perspective.)

1. Watchmen by Alan Moore 

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Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon. Words from a deconstructed, hyper-realistic Batman figure, who was maybe not the most mentally stable person in the story, are oddly comforting to me now. As empowering as the line sounds out of context, it’s important we remember Watchman is a story about the buried nuances of good and evil rather than a stark black-and-white view of morality. Because of this, I trust its epiphanies more. It earned enlightenment via cynicism. Watchman is a work that’s heavily preoccupied with the decision to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan during World War II, attempting to reclaim and redefine humanity given the unimaginable consequences of the atomic bomb. While the book is largely ambivalent about what constitutes good and evil, it encourages small-scale heroism, even when failure is the likely outcome, and demands we remember our humanity despite the doomsday threats of post-atomic life. Dr. Manhattan’s journey most notably reflects this demand. He’s able to see the past, present, and future, and resigned to fatalism due to his godlike powers, but his journey ends with him remembering life can still take your breath away when seen from another’s vantage point. “Dry your eyes, for you are life,” he tells us, “Rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg.” (Like, scientist Heisenberg. Not Walter White Heisenberg.)

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