Comments on Format

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The pages I set up in this cluster are intended to serve two purposes: to talk about the things that I enjoy and the things that I need to talk about, such as rebuttals to somebody's contributions to the rumor mill. People coming looking for recipes aren't necessarily in a mood to hear about the conspiracy theorist I tangled with in 2001, who just doesn't want to let go, and I'd like to do what I can to make that person's visit a more pleasant experience, so I do what I can to help him avoid the material he clearly isn't there to see. With that though in mind, starting with the creation of "Joseph Dunphy's Cowboy Wannabee Site", I adopted a simple change in format. The nasty stuff that I need to write about is in the old, familar comic sans ms I've been using. Many of the recipes and some of the other friendlier stuff, which can be expressed briefly, will be in Tempus Sans ITC. Most of the narratives, short stories and other longer writings that I post will be in the far easier to read Georgia.

There are other considerations in design, like limiting the linkage between the happy and unhappy sections, but the sudden change in font should be glaring enough to get somebody's attention. There are drawbacks to this approach. I'm not sure that I'd want to write many short stories in Tempus, because I get a feeling that it might be hard on the eyes after a while, but a recipe is short enough that this shouldn't be an issue.


"Haven't I seen this color scheme before?"



The previous one, or the present one?

Like it? Yes, you probably have seen it, or rather something it reminds you of, as I have done a little amateur web design for some old friends. Some people like my style, though as you can easily see for yourself, I have a lot to learn about the subject, and personally think that style needs a lot of work.

This color scheme is a compromise, set up so that Webring's links will remain visible both against the black background on the bottom of the page and the white background on top, but it's a slight modification of something something that some of us think would make a good standard, in the sense of being popularised, not in the sense of being mandatory.

White default backgrounds are a holdover from the early days of the Web, when we were lucky if we even had 2400 Baud modems, and graphical browsers were the rule and not the exception. We accepted white backgrounds because there were only white backgrounds, on most computers. But then faster modems came, and our graphical browsers with them, and while some will hold out, some of us just don't feel that the old white backgrounds are acceptable any more, at least not on our own pages. CRT screens attract dust, and every bit of it gets spotlighted against that eyestrain inducing glare. Darker backgrounds are just a nicer look, we think.

But the old default link colors, which everybody recognizes and gets (blue and violet) stand out poorly against black. What to use, and how to get people to understand it, so the look doesn't get in the way of navigation? Look at the stoplight, the next time you go out. That's where we get our previous link colors:

image courtesy of Gif Animation
Green = Go = unvisited link

Yellow = caution = activated link

Red = stop = visited link

Notice how well all of these colors stand out against black, the most popular of the dark backgrounds and, I would add, one that pictures tend to stand out against in a particularly attractive way. We feel that there is a certain logic to this scheme, tying the link colors into a very familiar cultural referent, and hope that the familiarity will help our visitors. Try it on your own site, and see how you like it.

One small change - yellow has been replaced with white as the color for activated links. Yes, yellow was symbolically a better choice, but yellow sets badly against the white, which I've generally been using as a text color.



Ok, fine Dude, whatever, you like dark colors, goes well with the mock Satanic theme. Who are you?


I could answer that question, but I wonder how much such answers ever tell anybody a thousand miles away. Fine. Let's start by saying that there's an excellent chance that I'm not the Joseph Dunphy you know. "Joseph", as you should know if you grew up in the United States, is an absurdly common name here, having recently edged out "John" as the most common man's name, and our extended family (as well as a number of others with the same surname) were fruitful and multiplied. I'm not even close to being the only Joseph Dunphy in the Chicago area, much less nationwide. One might think that this would come as a surprise to nobody, especially given that my first name is JOE, but strangely it does, with odd results.

You can go to another site, and read about somebody who, as a college student, had the bizarre experience of getting a late night phonecall from some woman in Utah about his "chronologically impossible" daughter-in-law. I've heard from people who think that I'm active in Socialist politics and spend half my life at Bulls games. There might be a "Joseph Dunphy" who meets that description, but my own personal political position usually puts me mostly somewhere on the boundary between Conservatism and Libertarianism, viewing government as being a necessary evil at best, and I find sports tedious beyond description. And somewhere, right now, there's probably a very confused socialist who's wondering why people keep hectoring him over his opposition to affirmative action programs or his support of fiscal restraint.

My studies you'd probably find dry and dull beyond belief, though I would disagree, so let's just say that applied math is something that I do, and move on to things less likely to put you to sleep. I have interests in theatre and cooking, and a very amateurish interest in photography, and that is what is driving the development of these sites. The cooking that you see here has more of a third world focus than most of what it is that I do, which, as my ethnicity might suggest to you, tends to be Southern European, usually French, with occasional residual bits of Jewishness. But one of the things that I do like to do is go wandering off into another cuisine, practice it a bit, and import some of what I learn back into my own personal style. What I'm up to with the cooking pages is taking African food, and asking where the influences in African cookery came from, and using those as a start in doing something creative with what I'm learning. For example, we see curry powder showing up in some East African dishes; wouldn't it be interesting to go back to how it is that the Indians actually make curries, and use some of those techniques in modifying the East African dishes, to create something new?

These dishes are being created in connection with a would-be interactive art / community building project. Just "would be"; I don't know whether or not anybody will ever be interested in taking part, but at the very least I'll get a decent page out of it. The art festival for which the project was first conceived, at its best, tended to be a step out of the ordinary, and so I de-emphasize most of the Western aspects of what I would usually be doing, precisely because it is usual. That may sound a little self-conscious and maybe even a little pretentious, but this kind of thing does have the virtue of kicking one out of a few creative ruts, and it provides one's visitors with what one hopes will be an interesting novelty. That much having been said, I'm a long way from being the first person to have ever combined French and African cooking (consider New Orleans or Senegal) and expect to see my own home cooking greatly enriched as a result of what I'm doing here.

Enriched and corrected; I think I've focused too much on the aromatic aspects of cookery at the expense of the earthy, for reasons oddly akin to those for the same phenomenon in much of the nouvelle cuisine I've seen my neighbors perpetrate: much influence from Chinese and other East Asian cookery, without enough influence from other cuisines to bring one's style back into balance. Aromatic is not always the way to go. In the case of a roast, if one is seeking to bring out the flavor of mutton (misnamed lamb here in Chicago), for example, trying too make the sauce light and herbally fragrant might be absolutely counterproductive, and sweet-sour flavors can cancel out much of the flavor of the meat. The real thing (the flesh of very young sheep of much less than a year in age, colored a light pink color, almost white) is so rare in Chicago that I can truthfully say that in my entire life, I've never seen it offered for sale, and yet one goes out and watches people pour mint jelly on what is being sold, something darker than sirloin, as if they were eating baby lamb. The results are predictably bland and off, much like those of pouring sugar on prime rib, but the combination is a cliche to which many stubbornly cling. African cooking, with its vastly different flavor palate, offers a good rebuttal to these cliches, and as an influence, I think, a route back to something more akin to the more traditional natural flavors of Western peasant and regional cookery.



"Looking through the cookery sections and comments you've made about them, I've seen references to French cooking and Spanish cooking, but not Irish cooking. What's up with that? You did notice that your name is "Dunphy", right? Do you hate your own heritage that much, and if so, why?"


"Yes", I tell some of our more assimilation-minded friends, "I really do get asked that". I would start by pointing out that I'm hardly pure Irish, and much that is strikingly non-Irish is part of my heritage. Having said that much, I'd go on to add that lately, I don't feel terribly Irish, because I have no reason to feel Irish.

For example, there was the time I posted to a forum which need not be named. A piece of "private e-mail", which had been circulated behind my back, was posted to the group, in which I was referred to as he of the "strangely filtered ancestry", and it was suggested that I ought not be speaking there because of my 'racial impurity'. When I asked the regulars on the group whether this was the way they felt, the hostile tone I got in response left me with no room for reasonable doubt. That was how people saw things, in broad, coarse, and more than slightly bigoted racial terms. How convenient for some of them that this discussion was apparently blocked from the archives.

This was far from being the only time that I found myself getting such a response in an Irish, or at least an Irish-American cultural context. "You don't need to let people know about that", I've been told, when the subject of the French side of my heritage came up, or "you know what those French and Spanish guys are like", not to mention the just sheer, open hatred I've seen in some places when I've mentioned my Conservative Jewish background, or worse, mentioned in which part of the world the Sephardim had mostly been found for the last few centuries, no doubt waiting to be recruited by Al Quaeda, if some of those speaking were to be believed. I can truthfully say that in French, Spanish or Sephardic cultural settings, I've never been made to feel less welcome because of the Irish side of my ancestry, nor has the presence of Roman Catholics in my family tree been seen by others at Synagogue as a reason to reject my Jewishness. So, when it comes time for me to decide which aspects of my background to embrace, and to what extent, the decision is an easy one for me. I go where I've always been welcome, and turn my back on the places where I haven't been.



"So, you hate Irish people for excluding you?"


No, I don't believe in radical inclusiveness. As far as I'm concerned, a community should be free to choose who it will and won't welcome into its midst. If somebody else tries to promote hostility at my expense because of my background, as some have, that is, indeed, bigotry, and I will specifically resent that person's decision to engage in that act. I would not, however, suggest that I'm entitled to be included in any given community, even one to which I might seem to have natural ties.

The fact that one is entitled to make a choice, however, does not imply that one is entitled to be shielded from the regrettable consequences of that choice. The Irish community seems to wish to exclude many of its mixed race and mixed ethnicity relations. I won't say that this choice is morally wrong, or necessarily even foolish. The Irish are a small people struggling to preserve their identity, and to be sure, we do, in some degree, represent a dilution of that identity. But what I will say is that this choice has consequences. Standing on the frontier between two or more cultures as we do, those of us of blended backgrounds bring a set of unique perspectives to Irish culture, or could, and there is much that we would have to offer Irish and Irish-American society. If we find that the doors are closed to us, we won't be offering it.

I frequently find myself rejecting the Irish side of my heritage, not out of hatred for the Irish, but out of love for myself, and out of a recognition that for a relationship to be real, it has to be mutual. That being the case, it is an act of self-delusion for me to identify with those who will never identify with me. The only passion to be found in this observation is to be found in a desire I share with more than a few Americans in this socially isolating era - to find a community to be part of, and that means living the life that as it helps to define a community, continually renews the community. That part of me that I leave behind in the place that won't have me, is a part of me that won't be there for me as I try to build meaningful bonds with those that will. Once this thought has set in, for me to focus more on the ways of those who have welcomed me begins to feel so natural, that to do otherwise would represent forced, unnatural behavior, bringing me no joy in the doing, and no joy for my audience in the listening, because the spontaneity of what I would be doing would be destroyed.



"So you've washed your hands of all that is Irish?"



No, it's there, and it's part of me, whether I want it to be or not. In creative expression of any sort, I heed the advice given to me by a theatre instructor in the past: "don't censor yourself". Just let the creation come. To self-consciously seek to drive something out of myself is no better than to self-consciously try to make it a part of what I do. Also, to completely reject all that is Irish would be to reject a part of my family heritage, and that I will not do. How could I choose to fully reject that which would bring me closer to the memory of so many of those I miss?

What I am saying is that I won't work very hard at deepening my understanding of this side of who I am, in the absence of compelling, non-ethnic motives, such as the near-universal human desire to more fully remember those family members and loved ones who are no longer with us.



"Anything else? What about the acting?"



What about it? What I would have in mind would be a lot of practice with scene study - short scenes, giving us something to prime the creative pump with when it comes time to do Improv. I can tell you that I lean heavily toward Stanislavski on the scene study and toward Del Close when it comes to Improv. But unlike cooking, acting can't really be done on solitary terms, unless what one wants to produce is a one man show. I can offer you no promises as to what will show up as it will be an ensemble effort, and I'm still looking for the ensemble.

Why scene study AND Improv? Go down to Second City and watch some of the ImprovOlympic people get on stage. The Second City People eat them alive when it comes time to do scenes. That doesn't mean that I don't think that the Harold is a pretty darned cool method for expanding one's thinking, but it's a slow method. Doing scene study will give us something in the back of our minds to draw from as we toss together a scene, maybe grabbing one moment here, another moment there, and smoothing over the rough collage that results. I speak from no great expertise, but I have been on stage and this has seemed to work for me and for others, so this is what I'm going with.


Time to move on ... If you choose to visit my other sites or check to see if I've managed to place some actual material on the main page for this site, you can still get back to your ring later by going to the global webring return page on whichever site you find yourself, as long as it is one of my sites.

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