A Pinch Of Science, A Dash of Art

There is a certain duality to my personality which I’m sure drives everyone who knows me crazy. 

Now, every endeavor or facet of life has art to it, and science.  We have many words for this duality.  Left brain/right brain.  Art/Science.  Mars/Venus .  In Christianity we call it Spirit / Truth . 

Most of us have an engineer and an artist inside us, with one of them being the boss.  Not me.  My scientific and artistic sides are almost totally equal – at this point in my life, they have reached an uneasy cease-fire, and have even learned to cooperate somewhat.

(As an aside, I think this is where nm and I don’t see eye to eye about music.  I equally appreciate the artistry AND craft of songwriting and recording.  This is why I consider Dylan (artistry) and Phil Collins (craft) to both be masters)

Let me tell you a secret that successful people follow (in any undertaking): master the science, and allow the art to master you.  Know everything there is to know about whatever it is you are doing, but use that knowledge as a sail, not an anchor.  Create, but do so only after you understand the foundations on which you create.

I swear, if I didn’t claim Jesus Christ as Lord, I’d probably gravitate to Buddhism.

I’m digressing from where i wanted to go with this, but I think my two sides are having an argument right now.

What I wanted to tell you is that I’ve ordered a book I wish I had ordered years ago.  It’s called On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee.  I think it will bring balance back into my “cooking” life.

Up till now, my time in the kitchen has been by the seat of my pants, fearlessly trying this ingredient or that method, many times with good results, many times causing my family to pay the price.  The Artist has had full control, with the Engineer only being an onlooker.  I think that reading this book will correct that.  The synopsis at Amazon:

A classic tome of gastronomic science and lore, On Food and Cooking delivers an erudite discussion of table ingredients and their interactions with our bodies. Following the historical, literary, scientific and practical treatment of foodstuffs from dairy to meat to vegetables, McGee explains the nature of digestion and hunger before tackling basic ingredient components, cooking methods and utensils. He explains what happens when food spoils, why eggs are so nutritious and how alcohol makes us drunk. As fascinating as it is comprehensive, this is as practical, interesting and necessary for the cook as for the scholar.

I’ve learned from young Jedi Alton Brown, now I need to learn from Yoda himself.  It’s my understanding that On Food and Cooking may be the single most in-depth study of food science ever assembled.  If I can learn the “whys” of ingredients and techniques, then, just like in music, improvisation will be (pardon the pun) a piece of cake.

This may take a while to get through, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

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What I’m Reading

Yes, Kat, I do read.  I prefer non-fiction, especially biographies, which would be another interesting topic in and of itself.  I’ve noticed that the bloggers I know who write in a very matter of fact, almost dry way, love to read fiction.  And those of us with a flair for the dramatic seem to prefer non-fiction.  Maybe reading fills a deep need, and fills gaps we don’t even know are there?  I don’t know, I’m just thinking.

Anyway, I not only love biographies, I especially love baseball biographies.  I’ve eaten up books about Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson.  I had never before read a book about any of the much-hated Yankees, until now.  My wife gave me Luckiest Man , The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig as a gift, and it has been fascinating. 

I have learned quite a bit from this book, and not only just about Gehrig.  For instance, I had no idea that there was a real estate bust in Florida in the mid to late 1920’s.  The situation almost totally mirrors our current nationwide real estate slowdown.  I had no idea, but a lot of ballplayers lost a lot of money in that real estate crash, long before others lost even more in the stock market crash of 1929 (Hank Greenberg lost a fortune).

I learned that Gehrig had an audition to take over for Johnny Weismuller in the role of Tarzan.  He took several photos in a Tarzan suit, and upon seeing them, Edgar Rice Burroughs had this to say, “Having seen several pictures of you as Tarzan and paid about $50 for newspaper clippings on the subject, I want to congratulate you on being a swell first baseman.”  (Gehrig did end up in a supporting role in Rawhide). 

I’ve learned that Gehrig and Babe Ruth had a horrible falling out, and although the facts are unclear, it involved a cruise, and Ruth partying with Gehrig’s very drunk wife.  The whole thing was probably a misunderstanding, but the rift became large, and then later the two men said things about each other that no doubt caused more anger.  I hate how these things happen.

Gehrig’s parents were most likely illegal aliens.  No record can be found of their emigration.

Gehrig was a mama’s boy, a cheapskate, and a horrible interview.  I love how this book doesn’t gloss over any of those things, but the subject still comes off as sympathetic.  In fact, his work ethic (and pride in his work ethic) reminds me very much of the men in my family.  And, of course, having a loved one with a neuromuscular disease makes me even more interested in a man so great they still call the disease that killed him “Lou Gehrig’s disease”.

He lived in the shadow of Babe Ruth, then Joe Dimaggio, and never complained about it – even though his numbers were arguably better than each of them during the years they played with Gehrig.

I am a little over halfway through (I read at bed time, and the Ambien cuts me down to a page or two a night), and I have just gotten to the season (1938) when everyone knew something wasn’t right with Gehrig, but he hadn’t yet been diagnosed.  It’s funny, instead of sadness at this point, I am amazed.  His body was failing in 1938, and early in the year, he had the lowest batting average in the league.  Yet, the human body is an incredible thing.  As muscles failed him, other muscles learned to compensate.  He finished the season with a .294 batting average and 114 RBIs.

I want you baseball fans to think about that.  Those are great numbers for a healthy man.  But Gehrig was literally dying, and his strength and skill were so great that he willed himself to play better than most pros do, ever. 

Anyway, I highly recommend Luckiest Man to any baseball fan, or student of the 20th century.  I’m a little upset that I’ve discovered a Yankee I could actually like. 🙂

Kat, I Finally Read Some Fiction!

I finally got around to reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven.  My wife insisted I read it, and I’m glad she did.  I have no doubt that most of the fine literature types hated it, but I was moved to tears.  I guess I’m just overly sentimental.

There’s something to be said about a story that brings home the fact that no life is worthless.  As someone who has many times felt “stuck” and had not a few wistful moments that I never got out to see the world, this book brings me a little smile. 

 I love small, sweet stories, but they are hard to find outside of novels aimed at women.  And they’re hard to find in that genre, too.

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