The Poriskova-Ocasek Principle

The Poriskova-Ocasek Principle is when a chick is just way, way hotter than a dude.

Ric-Ocasek-Paulina-Porizkova

The Cars are a really good band.

Ric Ocasek has something so much more interesting than looks. If you don’t know who he is, listen to the following songs by The Cars (that’s a band from the 1980s):

  • Moving in Stereo
  • Let’s Go
  • You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
  • My Best Friend’s Girl
  • Good Times Roll
  • Bye Bye Love
  • Since You’re Gone
  • Shake It Up
  • Hello Again
  • Magic
  • Drive
  • You Might Think

And watch the movie Her Alibi.

Her Alibi movie poster

In the ’80s ladies were supposed to fall for guys like Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds. Hairy, hairy dudes with mustaches.

In real life, Paulina Poriskova chose Ric Ocasek, a decidedly unhairy, tall, lanky dude with a mullet. And guess what? Apparently they have been happily married all this time. They have aged well. Back in the day I’m sure everyone was like, Paulina, are you sure? That guy? You could have the hottest guy around. You could have Rick Fucking Springfield or Jon Bon or something. But she chose someone with a far more interesting perspective. And it appears to have worked out for them.

It just goes to show you that beauty is not a very good indicator of how interesting someone is. Sometimes a beautiful facade hides a broken, wounded soul. And other times physically attractive people are just boring as dirt.

 

 

Book vs. Movie: The Wizard of Oz

WOZ-cover

My $3 Puffin Classics edition of the Wizard of Oz (the WoZ) includes an introduction by the improbably named Cornelia Funke. Apparently I am already to know who Cornelia Funke is because the book offers no explanation.

tobias-funke

Any relation?

Ms. Funke tells us that as a child in Germany, one did not read the WoZ; one watched the movie with the “adult woman dressed up as a girl” (Judy Garland was 16 when she played Dorothy) and “lots of singing and very evil witches.”

Instead, Ms. Funke read Pippi Longstocking and Tom Sawyer, and it wasn’t until adulthood that she read L. Frank Baum’s words in print.

In an elegant couple pages, Funke describes the physical appearance of her two copies — a modern edition in German and a first edition in English. She says no matter what our version looks like,  we are about to read a great story, and truly great stories evolve with the audience: A child today would envision a different Dorothy than a child in 1900, but each could have an equally profound experience.

It is the nature of things that not everyone will like the same stories. “If you don’t like it, it is often not the story that is to blame, just the fact that it was not the right one for you,” Funke says, and the “better a story is, the more readers will find themselves in it.”

And then Ms. Funke leaves us with a lovely little diving board off which to begin our adventure:

So, open the book and start traveling through the pages. It will be quite a journey, and you won’t come back the way you started, which is true for all journeys, especially written ones. Accept the invitation of the printed letters and step into the strange land of Oz. And if you are luckier than me, you’ll go there while you are still a child.

Like Cornelia Funke, I grew up with the movie, but have just read the book for the first time as an adult. I was struck by how much sadder Aunt Em and Uncle Henry are in the book, and how much more realistic.

Life on the Kansas prairie at the turn of the 20th century would have been incredibly hard, a fact that Baum could not have romanticized to his contemporaries who were living it.

Baum described the “great grey prairie” stretching on for miles in all directions, and the greyness of body and spirit displayed by Uncle Henry who “never laughed … worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was.”

Aunt Em, who came to the prairie a young vibrant woman,  now was so startled by Dorothy’s youthful laughter that she would “scream and press her hand upon her heart” looking at the girl with “wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.”

Unlike the typical head-bonk explanation given by the movie (maybe it was all a dream!), the book approaches Dorothy’s travel to Oz from a more practical standpoint.

Uncle Henry had gone out to secure the animals and Aunt Em had descended beneath the house to the “cyclone cellar” when the eye of the storm picked up the entire house and floated it, virtually unaffected, on a pocket of stable air all the way to Oz. While harrowing, this experience was not too upsetting to Dorothy, which hints at her character:

It was very dark, and the wind howled horribly around her, but Dorothy found she was riding along quite easily. After the first few whirls around, and one other time when the house tipped badly, she felt as if she were being rocked gently, like a baby in a cradle.

Toto did not like it. He ran about the room, now here, now there, barking loudly; but Dorothy sat quite still on the floor and waited to see what would happen.

And as hours and hours of this passed, Dorothy went through stages of fear, worry and panic, until finally she came to a sort of acceptance.

At first she wondered if she would be dashed to pieces when the house fell again; but as the hours passed and nothing terrible happened, she stopped worrying and resolved to wait calmly and see what the future would bring.

According the to book’s notes, the word cyclone was interchangeable with tornado at the time. Only in later climatology did a cyclone come to be associated with tropical storms over water, differentiating it from the landbound tornado that sweeps Dorothy and Toto away inside their one-room shack and lands them squat on top of the Wicked Witch of the East.

The book is more gruesome than the movie, with heads being lopped off at every turn and mass slaughter of enemies including mythical creatures as well as wolves, crows, swarms of black bees and the dreaded winged monkeys, who turn out to be not so bad after all in Baum’s version.

There are many more small battles and victories in the book, and many more times when each of the main characters proves beyond doubt that he or she already possesses the exact thing that he or she is wishing for.

The Scarecrow proves wily and full of good ideas; the Tin Man can barely hurt a flea due to the enormous compassion of his heart; and the “Cowardly” Lion fights and defends them all with tremendous courage, despite being afraid himself.

It is not clear why Dorothy’s biggest wish is to return home to the dreary grey prairie with her miserable relatives. Why wouldn’t she want to stay in the magical, beautiful, pampered land of Oz? The book doesn’t offer much explanation for this. All we know is that, when Dorothy does make it home, Aunt Em is watering the cabbages outside their newly rebuilt farmhouse. Dorothy comes running, and Aunt Em takes her up in her arms and covers her in kisses: “My darling child!” she says, “where in the world did you come from?”

Maybe we are to interpret that Dorothy knew all along that Aunt Em and Uncle Henry really needed her, or maybe being away helped Dorothy to see that she had a home — and helped Aunt Em see that she had a beloved child.

Either way, Cornelia Funke was right that it’s a very personal story. No matter which character you connect with the most — whether you wish you were smarter, more loving, more courageous or if you wish you could find a place where you feel safe and cared for, the answer is that you already have it. Whatever “it” is. You just need to know how to see it.

Grandma Maxwell’s French Tarts

Watkins Cookbook

This cookbook belonged to my paternal great-grandmother, Jessie Belle Parsons Maxwell, who passed it down to my grandmother, Mary Maxwell.

My mom always has been a terrific cook. She was raised on good old meat and potatoes on a farm just outside Vermillion, South Dakota. When she left home to follow an Indian guru and moved to an ashram in the mid-1970s, she left behind many of the foods of her childhood. Chicken and buttermilk biscuits were replaced with tofu and whole wheat chapatis (a form of Indian naan, similar to a tortilla).

Mom became the house cook for the ashram, where she learned to make vegetarian fare from Indian visitors, and where my dad likes to recall, there were beautiful moments of cultural exchange, such as the time when one such guest declared proudly, “How many chapatis have you eaten? … I have had 15!”

But even as she replaced white flour with wheat, and lard with ghee, and chocolate with carob, Mom’s roots in the down-home pioneer cooking of her forebears were strongly established. She still held on to the recipes on which she was raised and she passed the love of those dishes on to us. 

One of our favorites to prepare (and eat) was a recipe we simply called French tarts. Not only were they easy and fun to make, but they had a wisp and whimsy of the past.

The recipe came from my maternal grandmother, Mary Maxwell, whose maiden name was DesJarlais. Her family traced their roots back to the Carignan Regiment, France’s military unit that arrived in Canada in the 1600s, and the King’s Daughters, who were sent with dowries by King Louis XIV to marry them and propagate French bloodlines in New France.

Grandma Maxwell (DesJarlais) also was a mixer of cultures. When she married my grandfather, she took over management of the South Dakota farmhouse from her husband’s mother, Jessie Belle Parsons Maxwell.

Everett Maxwell and Jessie Belle Parsons

My paternal grandparents, Everett Maxwell and Jessie Belle Parsons, around the time of their wedding in 1900

Great-grandmother Jessie later in life

Great-grandmother Jessie later in life

The cookbook pictured at the top of this post once belonged to my great-grandmother Jessie, and was passed down to my grandmother Mary, and now belongs to my mom. 

Yesterday, Mom and I cracked open the dusty bindings of this cookbook to find a simple pie crust recipe, but the French tart recipe is not in any book. It is in my mom’s heart, and in mine. It represents the love and hardship that the women and men of our interwoven bloodlines have endured to get us to this moment. 

Grandma Maxwell’s French Tarts

I am not a very competent cook (sorry, grandmothers!), so this “recipe” is more of a loose outline. We began by making a simple pie crust and rolling it out to a sheet about an inch thick:

Pie crust dough

We then cut the dough into squares.

Place about a teaspoon of sugar at the center of each square (or wonky corner piece), and make a thumbprint in the middle of the mounds of sugar. When Mom was a little girl she always wanted to help Grandma Maxwell make the tarts, and this was the first thing that she ever was allowed to do. I recall making these thumbprints myself as a child, so you could say that these French tarts literally hold the fingerprints of our family line.

You then pour about a half-teaspoon of white vinegar into the sugar mounds and fold the tarts up by the corners.

Put them on a greased cookie sheet and drizzle with unsweetened evaporated milk, then sprinkle with sugar and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes (until lightly browned).


Best to eat them when they are warm. The vinegar adds a bit of tartness. The pie crust is fluffy and buttery, and the sweetness is divine.

Sophie le Chat also was there to assist.

Sophie the cat assisting

Sophie the cat, assisting.

From Grandma Mary, Grandma Jessie, my beautiful mom, Roxanna, and all those in our family line, bon appetit!