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Mission camp teaches teenagers about life

Jun. 18–All seemed quiet as usual riding down the 400 block of Pender Street midmorning Tuesday.

The only tip that something unusual was happening on the block was a small sign on one of the lawns that said “Wilson Community Youth Workcamp.”

But driving up the narrow driveway beside the modest home where the sign was, revealed a whirlwind of activity. Suddenly there was the sound of a best miter saw, laughter and voices singing a hymn.

On the back porch sat the owners of the house, the Rev. Archie Bridgers and Mattie, his wife of 64 years, along with some teens singing, laughing, talking and cutting wood.

Inside the home were more teens and adults working on the Bridgers’ bathroom floor.

The teens, who are from Wilson and Richmond, Va., will be working on the Bridgers’ bathroom all week as part of a program called Wilson Community Workcamp Inc.

The work camp is an interdenominational youth mission program, and the 28 teens attending it this week are working in groups on projects around the city and in the county. There are 10 adults working with the teens. First United Methodist Church on Green Street is hosting the camp.

The teens are in grades 9-12, said Jessica Satterfield, director of the program. Since the program is interdenominational, youth from all Christian faiths are part of the work camp. The teens need an adult to attend and it costs $200 per youth for the week.

The money covers lodging, mailings, meals, supplies, insurance, evening programs and a T-shirt.

City officials make the referrals for homes that need repair.

“We get to help those people that don’t fit the criteria that other programs require,” said Satterfield. “A person can fall through the cracks with other programs because of age or income. But we don’t look at any of that when we come out to work in a home, All we ask is that they welcome these young people into their homes.”

The Bridgers’ home is one of five homes being worked on this week in the city and county.

  • Before the week ends, they will rebuild the whole bathroom floor and put in a new toilet, level out the tub and paint the room once they have finished repairs.
  • But replacing a bathroom floor is not all that the teens learn from their weeklong experience.
  • “I live in my own little world and never get to see how other people live,” said Leslie Finch, 15, from Wilson. “I never realized how tough living is for some of the people here in Wilson. Rev. Bridgers and his wife are happy. They believe the Lord will provide for them. I live in a different area than they do, and I am not as happy as they are.”

Leslie said she was taken back by some of the things the Bridgers’ endured in their home without complaining, like the sinking floor and a toilet that is so low they needed a chair to lift them up.

Leslie said before now she did not realize she has a lot of food in her refrigerator at home or that her floor does not sink when she walks on it.

“Well we knew somehow God would send us some help,” said Mattie Bridgers. “We had a leak and a water bill of $100. That is a big bill for us. I am so glad that they are here.”

Vietnam War veteran Bill Giese is an ex-cabinet maker who and came all the way from Richmond, Va., to help with the Bridgers’ bathroom.

“This is a valuable time for these kids,” said Giese. “During this time, teenagers are talking to seniors, and some of us who are not quite seniors. They may not talk to their own grandparents this much. There are different races and economic statuses here together communicating in a non-judgemental, non-threatening way.”

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Fourteen-year-old Adam West said his experience this week will last him for years to come.

“I guess I really didn’t realize how people lived in this part of Wilson; I was shocked,” said Adam. “I am happy that I am a part of this. I like helping people. This is very different from the way I live. I like helping older people and improving their lives.”

Adam said he enjoys seeing the Bridgers laugh, and although he doesn’t talk very much, he enjoys talking with them.

Archie Bridgers said that having the teens around to talk to makes him very happy.

“I needed the work done to the house, but these young people are so nice to be around,” he said. “We have been talking about the Lord and singing praises to Him. I am going to be sorry when they leave us at the end of the week.”

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Giving spiritual guidance during the week is Hollie Woodruff, Barton College’s chaplain.

“Every night when we all get back from the various work sites, we have worship,” said Woodruff. “I use Scriptures to tie into what we are doing this week.”

Today the teams will work half a day and take some time to relax and have some fun at Strickland Farm.

By Saturday morning, the Bridgers will have a remodeled bathroom. And going by Mattie Bridgers, her husband will probably try to be the first one to try it out.

Dude, Where’s My Car?

2. Tsunami 140 Kayak by Wilderness Systems: Designed for beginners, this vessel is both lightweight and stable. You can set and reset the foot braces while you stay seated, and contoured foot pads and an airy foam seat with a backrest help keep you comfortable. $935; ems.com.

3.Radium 150 Racquetball Racket by E-Force: With a reinforced carbon-graphite frame and the longest strings around. $100; paragonsports.com.

4.Bamboo Rake by Flexrake: Rustproof and made of sustainable bamboo. $6.50; True Value stores nationwide.

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5.Tournament Bocce Set by L.L. Bean: The durable resin balls, in green and burgundy, come in a carrying bag for easy transport to the park or your backyard. Available with monogramming. $99; llbean.com.

6.Skateboard by Carveboard: At 43 inches, this large deck rides like a surfboard or snowboard, though the jumbo-size wheels make it a bit bulky for hauling around. $370; paragonsports.com.

7.FastTrack Shelf with Hooks by Rubbermaid: One of more than 15 attachments available as part of Rubbermaid’s versatile and affordable storage system for the garage. Hang it from a FastTrack rail or attach it directly to the wall. $20; homedepot.com.

8.Microfiber Towels by Eco Car Care: These reusable, lint-free cloths can hold up to seven times their weight in water. Try them instead of chemical cleaners and wasteful paper towels for washing your car. $4 to $7; ecocarcare.net.

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9. Ultimo Affare Set by Migliore: This car-care kit includes a wax made from pure carnauba, a derivative of Brazilian palm leaves; a trim protector that helps shield plastics from UV rays; a sealant, to protect wheels and extend their life; and a tire glaze, to keep rubber black and shiny. $70; migliorewax.com.

10. WaterLESS Eco-Nauba Wax + Wash + Sealant by Jorgen’s Shine Shop: Clean the car without a hose or bucket and without using a drop of the planet’s precious water. The formula for this all-weather car gloss is organic. $13; jorgensgarage.com.

11.Gardening Tool Kit by Picnic Time: The hand rake, the spade and the fork are part of a compact gardening set that also includes a trowel, a weeder, and a carrying bag that makes it easy to cart all the tools to the garden and then store them in one place. The stool does double duty as a rack to hold the bag and tools. $35; target.com.

12. Ice Scraper by Stelton: A stainless-steel base makes this a sturdy alternative to the standard plastic windshield scraper. $59; fitzsu.com.

13.Deploy Shovel by Black Diamond: A lightweight shovel from a company that makes gear for skiers and climbers. The collapsible handle saves space in the backpack or car. $60; bdel.com.

14.Reciprocating Saw by Ryobi: This cordless tool is designed to cut through wood quickly, especially in corners and tight spaces. Available as part of Ryobi’s 18V One+ Super Combo, which also houses a cordless drill, a magnetic bit holder with bits, a circular saw with edge guide, a flashlight, rechargeable battery packs and a diagnostic charger all in one tool bag. $159; homedepot.com.

15.Gotham Folding Bike by Citizen Bike: This is from a line of six-speed portable bicycles that weigh as little as 23 pounds and fold small enough to carry in a large tote bag. The bikes range from $164 to $274 (a specially designed tote bag is $28 if you buy a bike); citizenbike.com.

16.Bicycle Hanger by Cycloc: So simple is the design of this bicycle storage rack that a cycle hanging on it almost seems to float off the ground. The Cycloc fits a variety of bike frames, and you can store locks and chains inside the open cup. Available in green, white or black as well as red. $135; zwello.com.

17. Ice Skates by Riedell: This new series is fashioned of lightweight PVC with extra-comfortable padding for the feet. Model 625 has figure-skating blades ($60), and Model 830 has hockey blades ($63); skate-buys.com.

18.Cordless Air Compressor by AirPro: Both rechargeable and portable, this pint-size inflator is powerful enough to pump up car tires and rafts as well as basketballs and bicycle tires; three nozzle adapters are stowed inside. The built-in point-and-shine L.E.D.’s aid in the dark. $70; brookstone.com.

Better to lose gracefully

SEEKING only to capture the experience for Extra readers, I selflessly attended the last two days of the Sydney Test. The contest between our inexperienced attack and the skilful South Africans was enthralling, and Graeme Smith’s decision to bat remarkable. The entire ground winced pre-emptively as the injured skipper faced every full-paced delivery. I probably wasn’t the only person half-hoping he could hold on for the draw.

Smith and his team have shown throughout this series that it’s possible to be tough and uncompromising and yet gracious and polite. And from the ruin of a first home series defeat in 15 years has risen a most unfamiliar phoenix: an Australian team that can win a Test match without racial controversy, and so little sledging that Shane Warne sent his mate Smith an SMS to find out why. We should be more proud of our team’s clean-spirited series defeat than if they’d won another gamesmanship-tainted whitewash.

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The only disappointing thing about the final day was that a mere 9000-odd people attended, nearly all of them members. The place should have been packed to the rafters and Cricket Australia should have opened the gates to anyone making a donation to the McGrath Foundation for admission. (And with more than $500,000 raised, that pink-tinted charity drive must surely become annual.) The match had more drama and heroism than any one-dayer I’ve seen and those few kids who turned up are surely now lifetime fans of the long form of the game. New badge for deputy JOHN HOWARD has been awarded a prize he’ll treasure above all others – another invitation to hang out with George Bush.

  • He’s visiting Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, previously awarded to independence fighters such as Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel but awarded in this particular case for subserviency.
  • Our former leader described the award as “a compliment to Australia” but surely any prize for being mates with Bush is Howard’s alone.
  • It may seem somewhat inappropriate for the President to sit around with Howard and Tony Blair – who is supposed to be a Middle East peace envoy – while war rages in the Gaza Strip.

But perhaps even Bush, like the rest of us, is sitting back and waiting for Barack Obama to do something about it. It’s e-tolls for thee TODAY, nearly a decade after Jeff Kennett boldly converted Melbourne’s main roads overnight, the Harbour Bridge has finally gone electronic tag-only. I’m nostalgic for many things from my youth, such as Sunny Boy iceblocks and a match-winning spinner in the Australian cricket team, but I won’t miss those lengthy morning queues in front of the toll booths. Let’s hope the few remaining toll collectors have found less monotonous employment. The down side of electronic-only tolling is that it’s easier to jack up the prices when they don’t need to be a round number.

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This is why the Cross City Tunnel now costs a diabolical $4.12. I’m in favour of tolls that vary at different times of day, which will be implemented from January 27, but changing to $4 and $2.50 for peak and off-peak crossings constitutes a steep price rise for most motorists. It makes me nostalgic for something else from my 1980s childhood – the 20 cent Bridge toll. Having a blast on NYE A FEW days into each year, I check the news from the Philippines and remember my dullest New Year’s Eve ever. I was stuck in the drab underground ballroom of a hotel in Manila because the organisers of our nerdy debating tournament were worried about their guests getting hurt. And rightly so because Filipinos celebrate the New Year by playing with fireworks and firing guns randomly into the air. Their belief that it brings good luck is annually disproved by the injury statistics. This year, the Philippines Government banned military personnel from discharging their weapons, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque filmed an evocative advert where he brandished acircular saw to warn against the annual loss of limbs. Nevertheless, 563 people were injured by fireworks and stray bullets this year, with two deaths. Libertarian types often complain about NSW’s fireworks ban but, as the spectacular display on Sydney Harbour demonstrated, they’re best left to the professionals. The preschool Picasso THE story that Melbourne’s Brunswick Street Gallery was tricked into exhibiting paintings by two-year-old Aelita Andre is certainly amusing but it’s revived the old myth that anyone can paint an abstract painting. The Chaser disproved this in 2007 by getting kids to paint ABC personalities for the Archibald Prize. Unfortunately all the entries were rejected but they made a lovely exhibition in the ABC’s foyer at Ultimo. Peter Fitzsimons is on leave.

Wakefulness wards off parsnip menace

Have you ever really had a dream about what you want to achieve in life? I sure haven’t. My dreams usually consist of multicoloured parsnips pursuing me down a pulsing corridor, never fulfilling my lifetime goals. I would certainly be terrified of that becoming a real life occurrence. The real problem that we have here is stopping them from coming true.

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How does one prevent oneself from parsnip-related casualties? Well, one method is with the tried-and-true “Conspiracy Theorist Mk 3” tinfoil headpiece. It’s not only fashionable but also helps keep those errant fantasies on the inside of your skull. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to cope with such a device in their busy lifestyles and funnily enough some people report difficulties in maintaining a relationship while donning their stylish skullcap. Do not worry yourself. You do not have to sacrifice your social status for protection from aggravated root vegetables if you do not want to _ there are alternatives.

  • One such method is preventing these dreams from happening. If they didn’t occur, they can’t come true. Remember, there are some sure-fire factors that could trigger distressing parsnip encounters.
  • Stay away from late night kebabs, anything with “Caution, Hallucinogen” printed on the side, and caffeine before bedtime.
  • This may cut down on dreams but not eliminate them completely. Okay, so most dreams stem from excitement, so eat bland foods and drink only water.

Take up lawn bowls. Replace your television with a cardboard box. What? You don’t want to give up these luxuries of life? Is there any alternative? Lobotomy: think about it. Pay a surgeon to take a little bit of your brain out and you’ll never dream again (or stop yourself from dribbling). What’s that? Lobotomy is too expensive? You just need a nice chair, a mirror, a circular saw, a picture dictionary of the human brain. A mop afterwards, perhaps? I’ll admit, DIY brain surgery is maybe not the best avenue of action.

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It may remove nightmares of vegetables but it may turn you into one. So what is the best way? The skull cap would ruin your social life. Making your life boring is well … boring. Lobotomy is a little extreme. What is the solution? Ah! It’s so simple. Sleep equals dreams, so no sleep equals no dreams. If you never sleep, you’ll never have dreams and they’ll never come true. So keep your friends, your lifestyle and your grey matter. Enjoy your kebabs. Just embrace a life of headaches and fatigue, but most importantly, rest easy knowing you are safe from the parsnip menace. Matthew Gaston, Year 11, Hamilton Boys’ High School

This week / highlights

FRIDAY

SEPTEMBER 4

FOOD

Eat, Shrink and Be Merry

Food, 7:30 p.m.

Who says that eating healthy has to consist of green salads and tofu? Fun-loving Janet and Greta Podleski, creators of the bestselling Crazy Plates and Looneyspoons cookbooks, put a healthy spin on mealtime favourites such as burgers and lasagna in this lively food series. Tonight, the sisters take part in a small-town community supper where greasy fried chicken is the annual tradition. Always up for a challenge, the pair take on a local caterer with their own faux fried version.

COMEDY

Howie Do It

Showcase, 8 p.m.

Toronto comic and Deal or No Deal host Howie Mandel lets his imagination run wild in this hidden-camera series. First shown on NBC last season, the show takes the same tack as the old Candid Camera show of the fifties: Set up a prank, haul in a sucker, then let hidden cameras record the fun. In tonight’s pilot episode, a man in a bunny costume is sent off to deliver a singing telegram – at a funeral. Howie also gets involved by playing a TV director of a mouthwash commercial and a waiter who likes to stick his fingers in the customer’s food. Who says the golden age of comedy is dead?

DRAMA

Medium

CBS, CTV, 9 p.m.

Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor) returns to her role of no-nonsense private investigator Cynthia Keener in this chilling episode from last season. In the storyline, soccer-mom-psychic Allison (Patricia Arquette) seeks out the crusty detective when she begins having dreams that a kidnapping victim who Keener once rescued may be connected to the disappearance of a real-estate mogul’s wife.

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MOVIE

Take Me Home:

The John Denver Story

CMT, 10 p.m.

First broadcast on CBS in 1999, this TV-movie features a standout performance by Chad Lowe as the late folk-rock superstar. The film traces Denver’s rocky relationship with his Air Force pilot father (Gerald McRaney) and his early struggles in the music industry. The story also depicts Denver’s love for his first wife Annie (Kristin Davis of Sex and the City), the inspiration of his single Annie’s Song, and chronicles his battles with depression and alcohol in the eighties.

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SATURDAY

SEPTEMBER 5

DOCUMENTARY

Lost Adventures

of Childhood

CTV, 7 p.m.

One of last season’s best Canadian documentaries, this film from Scott Harper confirms the theory that putting children into regimented lockdown is adversely affecting the way kids learn and grow. Today’s parents are overtaxing their offspring with far too many activities, whereas generations before were allowed to roam free-range. The stats make one wince: 41 per cent of U.S. kids claim to be stressed all the time; 70 per cent quit their designated sport by age 13, citing “burnout.”

REALITY

Jon & Kate Plus 8

TLC, 8 p.m.

The very public lives of Jon and Kate Gosselin continue to fill the tabloids. The TV series that made the Gosselins famous is still running, and the current season was filmed right after the celebu-couple separated last spring. What with eight kids, they split the visiting duties: Kate takes the boys to a dude ranch and dresses them up in little cowboy boots and hats; Jon stays home with the girls for a princess dress-up followed by a scavenger hunt.

MOVIE

World Trade Center

CBC, 10 p.m.

Some critics felt it premature for Oliver Stone to release this film just five years after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but the director of Platoon and Wall Street has always gone his own way. Stone frames his depiction of that horrible day on the true-life experience of two Port Authority policemen, played by Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena, who went into the World Trade Center following the collapse of the twin towers. Stone switches perspective between the rescuers and their anxious families, with scenes of the occasional survivor being pulled from the rubble.

COMEDY

Saturday Night Live

NBC, Global, 11:30 p.m.

A solid comic performance from film star Anne Hathaway made this one of SNL’s better outings last season. Broadcast before last fall’s U.S. presidential election, the show opens with ex-SNLer Tina Fey reprising her portrayal of Sarah Palin. Even funnier is the sketch with Hathaway playing a slightly twisted Mary Poppins.

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SUNDAY

SEPTEMBER 6

DOCUMENTARY

Martin Clunes:

A Man and his Dogs

TVO, 7 p.m.

British thespian Martin Clunes – best known for Doc Martin – displays his lifelong love of all things canine in this documentary. Clunes travels to Australia, Africa and the U.S. in search of the ancestors of his own pooches.

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MOVIE

The Girl in the Cafe

TVO, 9 p.m.

The craggy film actor Bill Nighy delivers a masterful performance in this TV-movie first shown in 2005. The star of such films as Love Actually and Still Crazy plays Lawrence, a lonely middle-aged bureaucrat of high rank who happens to meet a much younger woman named Gina (Kelly Macdonald) in a cafe. Instantly smitten, Lawrence then makes the unwise decision to invite Gina to accompany him to the G8 Summit in Reykjavik, where she makes her own political leanings felt in no uncertain terms.

SCIENCE

Mythbusters

Discovery, 10 p.m.

Skip past the repeats for this new episode of the true-or-false reality series hosted by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. Tonight’s new episode finds the hirsute handymen looking at urban myths regarding prison escapes and jailbreaks. In this show, the science team test the likelihood of cutting through steel cell bars with dental floss and reopen the oft-repeated yarn about a prisoner who put his ball and chain in the prison cannon and fired himself to freedom. A story like that just has to be true, right?

DESIGN

My Big Amazing Renovation

HGTV, 10:30 p.m.

A pleasant alternative in the home-makeover genre, this series focuses on renovations of extreme scope. Tonight’s episode focuses on a quaint waterfront home near Miami. Owners John and Alison bought the modest thirties-era domicile to accommodate their growing family, but now they want to make some changes. Their lofty plans include a luxury master suite, overhauling the kitchen and adding a new swimming pool and doc – and money seems to be no object. Let the reno games begin.

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MONDAY

SEPTEMBER 7

BIOGRAPHY

Chuck Jones:

Memories of Childhood

TCM, 7:30 p.m.

This short and sweet documentary celebrates the accomplishments of animator Chuck Jones. Most famed for his contribution to Warner Bros. cartoons and his creation of the animated holiday special How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Jones took his creative muse from his own upbringing in Spokane, Wash., and Los Angeles. The program includes one of the last filmed interviews with Jones, who reveals the inspiration behind such animated characters as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

COMEDY

How I Met Your Mother

CBS, 8 p.m.

Some people swear this is the funniest show on network television; others have never seen it. Those in the latter group might want to sample the sitcom about a group of aimless twentysomethings looking for love in all the wrong places. In the first of tonight’s two episodes, the hapless single dude Ted (Josh Radnor) gets dizzy for a girl he just met, prompting his more cynical pals Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Marshall (Jason Segel) to teach him a cruel lesson via text message. In the second episode, Ted runs into an old flame and tells his future kids (the entire show is a flashback of sorts) about the importance of being in the right place at the right time.

HISTORY

History Detectives

PBS, 9 p.m.

Still airing new episodes, this PBS series has steadily improved over the summer and now rivals theAntiques Roadshow in terms of unique finds and curios. In this evening’s first segment, art appraiser Elyse Luray examines a piece of abutment believed to have come from a famed Civil War-era bridge. Next, expert Gwendolyn Wright looks at a penny stamp connected to a landmark civil-rights case from the thirties. And lastly, sociology professor Tukufu Zuberi considers a set of metal sheets that appear to be the printing plates for jazz great Duke Ellington’s classic song Take the ‘A’ Train.

DRAMA

CSI: Miami

CBS, CTV, 10 p.m.

This show might not be the strongest entry in the CSI franchise, but it sure has staying power. Tonight, humourless CSI boss Horatio (David Caruso) leads his team through the grim investigation of a man who was boiled alive. Simultaneously, Horatio has to deal with the emotional unravelling of his erratic ex-wife Julia (Elizabeth Berkley).

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TUESDAY

SEPTEMBER 8

FOOD

Everyday Exotic

Food Network, 7:30 p.m.

Roger Mooking brings considerable life experience to this popular cooking series. A former musician and a third-generation restaurateur, Mooking took his formal culinary training at George Brown College and later ran the EPIC dining room at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. And unlike Michelin-ranked chef Gordon Ramsay, he’s not a beast. Tonight, Chef Mooking prepares lemongrass snapper in yellow tomato sauce, accompanied by broccoli with crispy garlic and mini potatoes dressed in homemade ginger butter. Here’s to the good life.

HISTORY

Cities of the Underworld

History, 8 p.m.

The eclectic history series begins its third season tonight, with Don Wildman returning as host. In the season opener, Wildman travels to the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, where he forgoes the blackjack tables in order to descend hundreds of feet under the pavement. Unbeknownst to gamblers and tourists, many casinos have located their surveillance and security operations underground. And from days of Vegas past, there’s an endless labyrinth of tunnels dating back to Prohibition.

DRAMA

The Cleaner

A&E, 10 p.m.

The basic premise of this A&E original drama has worn a little thin in the second season – how many ways can “extreme interventionist” William Banks (Benjamin Bratt) deliver the same speech on sobriety? – but the show is still worth watching for the strong performances from its supporting players. Former Battlestar Galactica regular Grace Park, in particular, is most interesting as Banks’s teammate, Akani. In tonight’s new episode, a former client seeks out the Cleaner’s expertise to save his drug-addicted girlfriend.

DRAMA

Oz

HBO Canada, 11 p.m.

Running from 1997 to 2003, Oz was HBO’s first regular drama and most episodes in the series remain the TV equivalent of a punch in the gut. Set in the confines of the maximum-security unit of a New York state prison, the series drew glowing reviews for its stark storylines that likely discouraged many young viewers from pursuing a criminal career. Tonight’s episode comes from the midway point of the show’s first season. Enterprising inmates O’Reilly and Adebisi take advantage of their cafeteria positions to slowly kill the mob boss running the prison drug trade.

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WEDNESDAY

SEPTEMBER 9

DESIGN

Stager Invasion

TLC, 7:30 p.m.

Since launching last June, this home-makeover series has become a sturdy ratings performer for TLC. Hosted by home stager Lisa Lynch, the series is no-frills TV personified: Find a slow-moving home, dress it up and watch buyers get in line. Lisa and her home-staging team are handed a near-insurmountable mission in tonight’s new episode: The owner of a home in a buyer-friendly area is on the brink of foreclosure. The problem: For some reason, the owner applied a jungle theme to the house years before, which has prospective buyers running away.

REALITY

Pitchmen

Discovery, 8 p.m.

Watching this show has become an eerie experience. Filmed earlier this year, the docudrama-style series followed the efforts of TV pitchmen Anthony (Sully) Sullivan and Billy Mays to find new and exciting products to foist upon consumers in late-night infomercials. Mays died last June, presumably from a cocaine overdose, which casts a pall over the series. In any case, tonight the pitchmen meet with the European-born inventor of the Dual Saw – a regular circular saw that cuts in both directions at the same time – but they see more potential in the cleaning product called Shuffles, which is little more than fluffy slippers that double as dust mops. Operators are standing by.

DRAMA

Glee

Fox, Global, 9 p.m.

The next High School Musical has finally landed. Fox debuted Glee with a one-hour pilot last spring and has held off launching the series until tonight. The first show established the primary players: Ex-broadway star Matthew Morrison takes the central role of high-school teacher Mr. Schuester, who makes it a personal mission to resurrect McKinley High’s foundering Glee Club. The singers are, of course, a cross-section of American youth – the jock, the cheerleader, the punk rocker et al. In the second episode, the Glee Club performs for the first time – to a mixed response. Expect an extended run for Glee.

DRAMA

Melrose Place

Global, 10 p.m.

There’s more kitsch than class in this update of the popular nineties soap, but will viewers even notice? As on the first version, the story focuses on the complex professional and personal lives of an attractive group of twentysomethings in an L.A. apartment complex. In supposed homage, the complex is managed by Melrose original character Sydney Andrews (Laura Leighton). The remainder of the cast look like they came from the casting call for a Gap commercial. Also in keeping with the original, the first episode of the new show opens with a bloody body found floating in the building’s pool. Some shows never change.

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THURSDAY

SEPTEMBER 10

MOVIE

Some Girls

CHCH, 7 p.m.

Nearly two decades before Patrick Dempsey became famous as Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy, he was your typical male movie heartthrob. Dempsey and Jennifer Connelly are the reasons to watch this 1988 romance flick, plus there’s a Canadian connection. Dempsey is in fine, randy form as Michael, a college student who agrees to visit girlfriend Gabriella (Connelly) and her family in Quebec during Christmas. Once there, he’s beset by quirky Canucks: Gabriella’s father is a writer who wanders around the house in the nude; her grandmother believes Michael is her dead husband and so forth. And the worst news: Gabriella wants to break up. Not the best teen romance, but Dempsey shows early promise (and more than a little of his posterior).

DRAMA

The Vampire Diaries

CTV, 8 p.m.

Launching tonight, this series from The CW, based on the novels by L.J. Smith, will likely find its audience among the same kids who made the movie Twilight one of last year’s biggest hits. The pilot opens with the focal character Elena (Nina Dobrev) starting her first day at high school following the death of her parents. In between algebra and gym class, Elena meets the brooding new kid Stefan (Paul Wesley) and makes an immediate connection. What Elena does not know is that Stefan is a vampire who is fighting the urge to drink her blood. As they grow closer, Stefan’s nasty brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder) arrives with plans to claim Elena for himself.

DOCUMENTARY

Rise Up: Canadian Pop Music in the Eighties

CBC, 9 p.m.

Where were you in ’82? If you were into or part of the Canadian music scene, odds are you had big hair, bigger shoulder pads and knew all the words to The Safety Dance. The second part of CBC’s documentary opus covers the era when the music changed dramatically: CDs replaced audio cassettes and synthesized digital music became the order of the day. More importantly, the eighties brought the arrival of the art form known as the music video, which begat the creation of MTV and MuchMusic.

DRAMA

90210

Global, 10 p.m.

OMG. The kids of 90210 are back for a second year. The first campaign of The CW’s 90210 remake went largely unnoticed by most; if anything, the show was eclipsed by catty Internet gossip and tabloid reports about Canadian cast member Shenae Grimes. Expect more of the same this fall. In tonight’s season opener, Naomi (AnnaLynne McCord) and Silver (Jessica Stroup) meet the son of a famous movie star, and an errant text message sours a relationship for Dixon (Tristan Wilds). Curiously, Grimes appears to have fallen out of the storyline altogether.

THE World Cup is with us

THE World Cup is with us. A mesmerising mix of exhilaration and disappointment. You cannot help but be drawn to the event even if your previous interest in the sport has been fleeting and hardly fully blown. Instantly the name Van Persie has a tangible context.

The thrill of being part of a sporting contest that truly draws interest from every corner of the world – apologies to the Olympics and all other sports that celebrate a world cup – is the main driver. To get to Brazil, Australia along the way had to confront the likes of Thailand, Jordan and Iraq and now faces Spain and The Netherlands. Our bad luck was to be drawn against Chile when the players were still spooked by the occasion.

Competing in other groups are 28 other countries including Russia, Ghana, Honduras, South Korea, Croatia, Colombia and Switzerland. There is breadth, there is depth. Football (also known locally as soccer), like all sports, has its secrets. It is not difficult to get your head around the off-side rule, but just what constitutes a foul is a mystery unravelled only by referees. And Constantin Stanislavski.

But every sport has its fine distinctions that border on riddles. Nothing has been designed better to hurt the brain than the resetting of scrums in rugby union. Try explaining the lbw rule to a newcomer to cricket.

  1. The AFL is no different. In truth it might be the toughest sport to decipher. If you want to completely break the person learning the dark art of the lbw rule you should introduce them to correct and incorrect disposal in the indigenous game. And God be with you.
  2. The AFL disposal rules – there is a lot more than one that govern a rather simple principle – are so nuanced, the league’s best umpires are confused, even baffled.
  3. The problem is commonly referred to as holding the ball or dropping the ball. It concerns how a player – he or she – gets rid of the ball before being tackled and when being tackled.

You cannot take the ball and then hand it to another player. Nor can you throw it. If you take the ball and have time to legally dispose of it before being tackled you are said to have prior opportunity. In that case, you must immediately kick or handpass when correctly tackled. If you don’t, a free kick will be awarded against you. If you do not have prior opportunity before being tackled then a player needs to demonstrate that he or she is endeavouring to move the ball on legally.

Construction Worker Cutting Beam with circular saw isolated over white
Construction Worker Cutting Beam with circular saw isolated over white

And herewith lies the problem that has shackled the excitement of the AFL season so far: at least according to some heavies within the AFL. It is the inability of the umpires to correctly negotiate the “holding the ball” rules that has led to various other problems that have supporters, players, coaches and commentators crying free kick if not quite foul.

The most vexing moments in AFL this season come when a player takes possession of the ball and is then tackled by one opponent, then by a second. Maybe a third. A teammate may join the muddle just to make the task of assessing what is actually taking place even more confusing.

This flock tackling can happen when the player with the ball is on his feet or on the ground. The more players in the flock, the less likely the umpire is to pay a free kick because it is too hard to see clearly and understand what is taking place. Is the ball held to the player? Is he really trying to handpass? The worst mistake an umpire can make is to guess.

And this is the single problem which – if solved – will cure a multitude. As the umpires obviously prefer this season to see if the ball can be shaken free from all the mucking that goes on with the players and the ball, all manner of dreadful things take place.

The player with the ball is pushed in the back, slammed in the back. Opponents might lie across his back. Others will sit on his back or, as Fremantle coach Ross Lyon likes to say, “put the saddle on”. Some appear to try to remove his back. And we are not talking keyhole surgery. Others attack the head. They roll on it, sit on it, and wrap their arms around the noggin or the neck. No decapitations have been recorded this season – yet. In any instance of mucking there might be as many as two or three infringements go without penalty.

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Which is a little disturbing when you consider that in the round-11 match between Fremantle and Western Bulldogs, the Dockers received just four free kicks for the match. And one round later Melbourne earned just five in a whole game against Continued on Page 28 Continued from Page 32 Collingwood. Now, every game has its own rhythm but none so pristine that would produce just four and five free kicks. The game appears to be umpired more by philosophy than the rule book.

The argument by some good thinkers in the AFL is that if the umpires can only get a better fix on “holding the ball” then they will not be so sustained in length and therefore limit the time for the SAS troops from the opposition to parachute in.

Clarify and protect the rights of the player who has won the ball first – by paying free kicks – and then the secondary opportunity to mug the player while he is on the ground is removed.Until it is fixed, the rest of the AFL season will be about as easy to endure as a root canal by jackhammer and circular saw.

The eradication of a doleful political and cultural legacy

DIRECTLY under the apex of the white marble pyramid in Tirana which used to house the Enver Hoxha Museum, there was a giant statue of the dictator sitting on a throne-like armchair. Pride goeth before destruction, of course, and the statue is there no longer. It proved remarkably tough, however. Strong and willing young men swung heavy hammers at it, but made little impression. Chips of stone flew off Enver Hoxha’s body, but he remained impassive, as if the future still belonged to him. It was only when an electric-powered circular saw was brought to bear upon the statue that real progress was made. And when finally Hoxha was decapitated and his huge head lay upon the ground, there was no rejoicing among those who had done it. Rather, they looked apprehensive, as if they were waiting for swift retribution. They had not merely destroyed a material object; they had committed the ultimate crime of deicide. Hoxha was the colossus of modern Albanian history, in whose shadow the entire nation had lived for nearly half a century.

The eradication of a doleful political and cultural legacy is, of course, vastly more difficult to achieve than the dismemberment of even the largest and toughest statue. To all appearances, however, Albania has traveled far in that direction in four short years. When I was last in Tirana, in 1989, it was the silent capital of the living dead. The deep rumble of the tires of a black Mercedes in an empty street heralded the approach of a grandee of the regime, for no one else was allowed to ride in a car. All speech was sotto voce, and no one dared talk to foreigners. There was no visible commercial activity of any kind anywhere, it being an axiom of Marxian economics that a complete absence of goods is preferable to the slightest “exploitation” by middlemen. Religious observance had been totally outlawed for more than twenty years.

Tirana is now almost a normal city. There are cafes everywhere, full of people talking to one another in animated fashion. There are still no traffic snarl-ups, but cars are no longer confined to the political elite. There are shops and markets full of goods, kiosks sell newspapers of widely divergent outlooks, and the mosque of Skanderbeg Square has worshippers once more — even if the younger among them have to be shown what to do. Albania has gone from being the worst of the Communist countries to being among the best of the ex-Communist countries. Who would begrudge the Albanians their spring after their long, long winter?

THE answer, of course, is Western election observers. Having gone to Albania as members of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group to observe the recent elections, my companions and I soon realized that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which co-ordinated the observers, was determined from the very outset to condemn the government of Sali Berish for election fraud: an a priori condemnation in which most of the observers were, for reasons I shall soon describe, only too happy to join.

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  • It isn’t as if the OSCE has been utterly punctilious or exacting in regard to elections in other formerly Communist countries.
  • For example, when Eduard Shevardnadze ran for president of Georgia, although he was unopposed, there were masked gunmen outside polling booths to make sure the plan was fulfilled; and yet the OSCE found nothing of which to complain.
  • The OSCE also found nothing untoward or undemocratic in the outright banning of the main opposition party in Armenia.
  • But Albania’s elections have been examined by the standards of a Swiss municipal election, and found wanting. Why should this be?

All the countries whose elections have been endorsed by the OSCE have been economic basket cases, where market reforms have scarcely begun. The government of Dr. Berisha, by contrast, has been thoroughgoing in its restructuring of the economy, encouraging private enterprise and returning the land in large measure to peasant proprietors. It has no doubt been helped by the fact that all the heavy industry so insanely developed by Hoxha and his successor, Ramiz Alia, fell into ruins utterly and self-evidently beyond repair the moment the regime weakened. There has been no question of continuing to subsidize industrial output in Albania for fear of unemployment (and to maintain political control of the economy), since industry simply ceased to exist. This ruination has been of inestimable advantage to Albania, which had no option but to change economic direction.

The international civil servants hate and fear success such as Albania’s, for, if repeated elsewhere, it threatens their generally comfortable careers. Hence the extreme rigor by which Albania has been judged. And our governments have another reason to fear a thriving and prosperous Albania. Such an Albania would necessarily exert an attraction upon the Albanians who make up 90 per cent of thepopulation of neighboring Kossovo. Serbia is economically unreformed, and Kossovo is its poorest region; but the slightest hint of Albanian irredentism might be sufficient to unleash a war that would dwarf in scale and brutality all previous wars in the former Yugoslavia.

As for the observations of the OSCE’s observers, the world’s press seems to have swallowed them whole. But there are reasons for supposing that they were not merely sensory impressions made upon a political tabula rasa.

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The main opposition party in Albania was the Socialist Party, which was, and openly claimed to be, the direct successor to Hoxha’s Party of Labor of Albania. Many of the election observers were sympathizers with the former regime. Albania had been for them a noble experiment in the creation of the New Man, selflessly devoted not to his own interests and pleasures, but to the welfare of all. The country’s return to comparative normality — and the evident joy which its population takes in this return — could not have been welcome to them.

One of the Danish election observers, for example, had been an active member of the Danish – Albanian Friendship Society in the 1970s, and had actually run tours to the country for his fellow sympathizers until he became persona non grata in 1977. The reason for his fall from grace (and expulsion from the Friendship Society) was that he published an article in a Danish publication in which he alluded to power shortages in Tirana. He told me, the whole episode still clearly paining him, that he had re-read the article recently, and he could not understand the offense it had given: after all, it had been “basically sympathetic.”

“Not everything was bad under the old regime,” he said. “They had free health clinics.”

Never were free health clinics more dearly bought. He went on to tell me that in the old days, under the planned economy, the administration of affairs like elections had been much smoother. Of course, in the old days elections were over by eight in the morning and 99.99 per cent of the electorate had voted for you-know-who.

The German delegation consisted of a correspondent of the Deutsche Welle — the German equivalent of Voice of America, which has long been suspected by Albanians of ideological bias in favor of the previous regime — and two female Albanologists who trained at a time when a deep interest in Albania almost invariably denoted ideological sympathy with the Hoxha regime.

The largest and most powerful of the delegations was that of Norway. I personally saw the letter sent on the Norwegians’ behalf to the Socialist Party of Albania by an organization called Workers’ International Solidarity, in which the delegation was referred to as “the Comrades” (the letter was signed “Yours in solidarity”), and which asked the Socialist Party to arrange cars and interpreters for the delegation.

When the Norwegians returned to report what they had seen, it was not altogether surprising that their impressions were highly unfavorable to the government. The tone was set by a young man who dressed like an anarchist bomber from the pages of Joseph Conrad, and who claimed that the elections had been carried out in an atmosphere of violence. When asked what specific acts of violence he had seen, he was able to report only a little pushing and shoving: not exactly a repetition of the Haitian experience, for example.

One observer complained about the polling station in the village of Lazarati, just south of Hoxha’s birthplace, Gjirokastra, which I also visited. It is true that the atmosphere there was heated and that in general there was not the calm in which democratic choice should ideally be exercised. But I saw nothing that invalidated the process of voting itself; and taking into account the history of the village, it was surprising that things went as peacefully as they did.

The Socialist on the village electoral commission was a man who not only had played a part in destroying the holy shrine of the Bektashi sect there, but also had helped to imprison two men for 12 and 17 years respectively for the terrible crime of religious observance. They had worked as virtual slaves down in the chromium mines, and the brother of the second man had been executed for the same awful crime. What was remarkable, therefore, was that the Socialist commissioner sought, and was allowed, a part in the public life of the village. Under the present government, the Bektashis had been allowed the free and unconstrained exercise of their religion after many years of anti-religious mania. Their fervent support for the government was not altogether surprising, nor was their desire that the inheritors of Hoxha’s odious legacy should not win. If the Socialists had truly repented of their manifold crimes, they would have dissolved themselves as a party and retired into private life.

EXIT polls conducted in the afternoon of election day suggested that the government party had won by a handsome majority. At six in the evening, the Socialist Party withdrew altogether. This peculiar maneuver has somehow failed to make its way into the world’s press, which has otherwise been indignant in its denunciation of Albanian election fraud.

The maneuver must surely have been pre-arranged as a contingency plan, for it would otherwise have been difficult to coordinate, Albania’s communication system being not unproblematic. The withdrawal of the Socialist scrutineers at the counting of the votes obviously made more likely the fraud of which the party later complained, and which it used in order to cast doubt on the validity of the elections as a whole. In one polling station I visited, the Socialist member of the commission had signed a paper to the effect that he was withdrawing on the order of his party superiors and not because he had any particular complaints to make about the conduct of the election in his area.

Of course, it would be fatuous to suggest that the elections were unblemished. A Balkan country without a tradition of multi-party democracy (to put it mildly) is not the likely scene of perfect electoral impartiality. Nor does the contention for power by the successor party to one of the most ferocious totalitarianisms in history help matters; its very existence must raise the temperature in a country with a history like Albania’s.

It was quite clear that President Berisha’s ruling party awarded vastly more television coverage to itself than to any of the opposition parties. Its televisual triumphalism may not have worked entirely in its favor, of course: in Peru six years ago Mario Vargas Llosa may have lost the election because of the blanket coverage which in the end revolted the electorate. Nevertheless, a strong impression of bias was undoubtedly created. Moreover, tales of minor harassment of the opposition press are all too credible.

And I felt the still-reigning equation of opposition with treason in my flesh and blood, as it were. On the day following the election, a small demonstration was held by the Socialists in Tirana’s main square. Instead of letting the demonstration continue (which would have not only shown a commitment to democratic freedoms, but also illustrated the falsity of the Socialist Party’s claims, inasmuch as there were only a few hundred demonstrators), the police broke it up with considerable violence and brutality. Some of the demonstrators ran to the steps of the Tirana International Hotel, where they could either receive sanctuary or at least be beaten in front of the international observers, who were already disposed in their favor. The police waded in with truncheons, feet, and fists, thus scoring an international propaganda coup for the opposition.

I myself was arrested while photographing the demonstration. I was hit on the back with a truncheon (while complaining that I didn’t have time to be arrested, I had a plane to catch), and was thrown into a police van, where I found Mr. Gramoz Pashko, a former finance minister and a visiting professor at Scotland’s Stirling University. We were soon joined by a passing endocrinologist, who was treated with especial hatred and disgusting roughness by the police.

We were thrown into a small cell where we were later joined by a man who, I was told, was a famous actor and director from the National Theater of Albania. He was developing a black eye, and I suspected from my examination of him that he had a fractured cheekbone. A vicious beating of someone else took place outside our cell, and a particularly sadistic policeman (who had thwacked me hard on the back as I entered) shouted that he would kill all us Communists, a sentence which he later kindly commuted to castration.

Mr. Pashko, a volatile man, tried to argue with the police, a manner of proceeding which would have procured us all a real beating. I asked him to calm down and be just a little bit British. Fortunately, he did calm down. I was soon released, as my cellmates were a little later, and I was driven back to my hotel by a man whose car smelled of fish and who made a delivery of carp to a cafe en route.

The episode was deplorable, and it illustrated the fragility of Albania’s new-found freedoms. But it is only five years since the country, whose population was then half-starved and dressed in rags, emerged from half a century of the most ferocious totalitarianism. To threaten to isolate it, and to expel it from theCouncil of Europe, on the grounds of the imperfections of its democratic institutions, is to apply to it standards which have never been applied elsewhere. And it would be to subject an entire nation to a new Dark Age, when it has been through enough Dark Ages already. It would be the most despicable treachery.

 

The most widely used–and most useful–kitchen machines

THOUGH THE MACHINE age took a century to reach the kitchen, it has finally arrived. Blenders, juicers, mixers, grinders, processors–we have machines that will do almost everything to food except eat it.

The most widely used–and most useful–kitchen machines are food processors, mixers, and blenders. Though each of these has its own attributes and assets, all are the same in a fundamental way. They are all labor-saving devices in which a motor drives a shaft. Clearly, the quality of the motor–its size and strength and workmanship–is vital. As a rule, professional equipment, or as close as you can come to it, will serve you best. The extra cost is more than made up for by durability and ease of operation, cleaning, and maintenance.

Food processors are all the rage–and rightly so, for they are different from the cooking tools we had before. They permit the preparation of refined and complicated things that were impossible in the past, unless we had all the time in the world, or a staff of trained professionals at our command. However, manufacturers’ claims and many food experts to the contrary, there are a number of things they cannot do. Or don’t do well. Or do in ways that are so cumbersome as to be self-defeating. After all, there are only two reasons for using a machine: it does something better than you can by hand, or it takes a time-consuming task and makes it fast and easy.

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When asked to do what they do best, processors are wonderful. They make purees superbly. They turn out souffle bases that are light and silken. They are marvelous for mixing pasta dough and making bread crumbs. They take all the grief from certain messy jobs, as anybody who has ever struggled with panades, quenelles, or pate a choux will tell you. For pie crusts, they are fabulous. They work the fat into the dough more evenly and quickly and with less heat than is possible by hand, making crusts that are both firm and flaky. And for chopping, slicing, and shredding when appearances don’t matter–making cole slaw, mincing mushrooms for duxelles, cutting celery for stuffing or onions for sauteing or stew–they are a blessing.

When appearances do matter, they are less effective. When they cut, the end result is seldom uniform. In general, they fail when doing things for show. Nor do they function well with liquids. Any time the quantity of liquid rises higher than the mount around the drive shaft at the center of the bowl, it’s going to leak. And when the time comes to remove the blade, you really have a mess. Even less acceptable is the job processors do of beating air into anything. Regardless of manufacturers’ claims or articles in food magazines, you must use a beater for fluffy batters or for whipping cream or egg whites. Processors are inconsistent when grating, yielding a mix in part too coarse, in part too fine. The results are just as fast and better by hand with a Mouli or a stand-up grater. In fact, a lot of things are faster and better done by hand. When quantities are small–if you’re just chopping up some celery or a carrot–knives are easier and quicker and create a lot less mess to clean up afterward. Even when quantities are larger, a processor can be so cumbersome to use that the machine stops being labor-saving.

  • By way of example, the following is taken from a recent article in a national food magazine. We are dealing with fresh peppers.
  • After being instructed to cut them open and remove the seeds in the traditional manner, we are told: “To slice [peppers] into matchsticks, cut through one flat side of pepper from top to bottom. Repeat on remaining three sides.
  • Stand rectangles side by side in feed tube, wedging very tightly. Slice rectangles using light pressure. Use Medium Slicer.” As dice players like to put it, this is making eight the hard way.

The moral, of course, is always to ask of your machine only what it does best. This caveat applies especially to attachments. All kinds are available for processors, including ones that juice and ones that make spaghetti. Though they do these jobs, they do them poorly, and they are best avoided. Stick to basics.

Processors range in price from about $100 to $400. As is often–but not always–the case, the best ones tend to be the most expensive. Processors by Cuisinart, Robot Coupe, and KitchenAid are certainly among the best. The most important thing to look for is the size and power of the motor. Small ones burn out, and they won’t perform heavy tasks, like making forcemeats or pasta dough. Then check the plastic work-bowl and lid. They should be solid and substantial, smoothly finished, with no sharp edges; it is all too easy to cut yourself on some of them. The larger the capacity of the work-bowl the better, to spare you removing, emptying, and returning it when making large quantities. The blades should seem heavy-duty; you can tell a lot by simply handling them. Take a good look at the on/off mechanism; some work more easily than others.

PROCESSORS AND BLENDERS, with their blades that spin hundreds of times a minute, perform in ways no human being could. They are like sports cars, specialized and flashy; they do tricks. Mixers, however, perform essentially as you would if you were a machine. Though they can do many things, their two unique and basic functions are beating air into substances and approximating the motion of the human hand in stirring. The movement of their paddles, stirrers, whisks, and dough hooks is an extension of the way these tasks have traditionally been done. Mixers were the first major electrical appliance to reach the kitchen, more than fifty years ago. Not only have they survived, they have prospered and multiplied. There is a reason: they are superb machines.

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Only mixers permit low levels of speed. Turn your back on blenders and processors, or let them whirr ten seconds too long, and you have mush. With mixers you are in control of what you’re doing. You are also in close contact with what you are making. So much of quality and success in cooking depends on look and touch; a mixer puts no canisters or shields between you and your ingredients. You can bend close, peer, and sniff while you work.

Mixers, like processors, have an extensive range of uses. With the appropriate attachments they will slice and shred, grind meat, puree fruits and vegetables, and extrude spaghetti. On the whole, the attachments are like the federal bureaucracy; remarkable not because they perform well but because they perform at all. Even so, when you have a task that both processors and mixers can do, like grinding meat, the mixer is the way to go. It is easier to achieve the consistency you want, and you are not hampered by the size of the workbowl, because the attachments go on top of the mixer and direct food into anything you choose.

There are two kinds of mixers: handheld and counter models. Though hand held mixers are nothing more than electrified egg beaters, they are useful. They save time and effort beating egg whites and whipping cream when the quantities are small. (If you’re dealing with a dozen egg whites or a pint or more of cream, counter models, with their larger motors, are far faster.) They are easy to clean, and most brands are remarkably well made. Considering their modest price–$25, give or take a few dollars–it makes no sense to do without one.

But it is the counter model that is truly indispensable. Once again it is the size and power of the motor that is critical. Though a few brands, such as Sunbeam and Kenwood, are very good, the Hobart KitchenAid is far and away the best. Hobart’s machines are powerful, durable, reliable, and responsive, and easy to clean. The largest model for home use, the K5SS, is as close as you can get to professional equipment.

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BLENDERS, LIKE FOOD processors, perform their functions through the use of sharpened blades revolving at high speeds. They are, however, far more limited in range and flexibility.

What blenders do is blend. They are designed primarily for handling liquids. While it’s true that they are capable of chopping and shredding, using them for this is clumsy, time-consuming, and laborious. The motors in most of them do not provide the power necessary to deal with anything substantial or pulpy. All too often they will clog or stall. Because the blades are short and the canisters tall and relatively narrow, it is constantly necessary to stop them, readjust the food so that it comes in contact with the blades, and start them up again.

There are three kinds of blenders on the market. The standard, inexpensive blenders–they run between $20 and $50–are the ones most widely used. These are lightweight machines with lightweight motors. They are terrific for mixing milkshakes, cocktails, packaged batters, powdered drinks, and liquids of all kinds. And they can deal with certain solids if they’re soft or light enough, like sour cream mixed with cream cheese, or Tiger’s Milk. When you are blending denser substances, such as cooked vegetables or cooked fish, the addition of liquid to loosen the mass is necessary. Uncooked vegetables are hard for them, and heavy jobs like panades and thick frostings are out of bounds. The labels on the row of buttons on most models are misleading. They imply that different tasks–from chopping to whipping–can be performed, whereas in fact all that the buttons actually control is the speed at which the blades revolve.

Professional or commercial blenders are simply heavy-duty versions of the standard ones–solid, stainless-steel machines with relatively powerful motors. They are less dependent on the presence of liquids, less likely to clog or stall, less exasperating to use. They can mix and make purees very well. In fact, with certain foods, such as cooked chicken livers and poached or tinned fish, blenders of all types deliver a finer puree than processors do. Also, because of their small diameter in relation to their volume, the contents stay closer to the blades and they do their work more thoroughly, with less adjustment of the contents than a processor requires.

The third variety of blender is the great one. It is a unique and all but magical machine: the Vita-Mix 3600. If you have never heard of it, that is because the manufacturer has failed to capitalize on its extraordinary capabilities. It is sold primarily in health-food stores, and through mail order, as a juicer and a money-saving device for performing such functions as grinding your own grain into flour, and then making bread dough in three minutes.

The secret to the 3600 is, of course, its motor. Originally designed for driving a circular saw, it weighs close to ten pounds and its drive shaft rotates both ways. Its blades are instantly reversible. You flip a switch, and what was whirling clockwise goes counterclockwise. The substance in the canister is hurled against the blades with far greater impact-at speeds of up to 530 miles per hour–than when both were traveling in the same direction. This instantaneous reversibility produces results not possible before. The soups it makes are revolutionary. You simply poach whatever vegetables you like in whatever liquid you choose and dump the results into the canister. The 3600 pulverizes the contents so completely that it duplicates the homogenous texture of a cream soup, without binders. That is to say, no eggs, no flour, no cream. Nothing. Not only does this make a soup with fewer calories and less cholesterol but it accentuates and clarifies the flavors of the basic ingredients. These soups are absolutely stunning.

And there’s more. The power of the motor, whether you reverse the blades or not, is so great that the 3600 never stalls or clogs. You need not work with modest quantities, constantly filling and emptying the canister. The power also lets you deal with substances that would burn out the motors of even the best commercial blenders. Shrimp and lobster shells are literally turned to powder; thus you can turn out bisques and butters with less effort and more flavor than any other machine allows. All this does not come cheap. The 3600 is about $425, list. It is not for everyone, but if you are a serious cook, or would like to be one, it is more than worth the cost.

The choice of which machine to buy depends on your needs and skills and interests. If you do much baking, or plan to, a mixer is the machine for you. If your cooking is primarily for small or occasional meals, the blender is the wisest choice. If your goals or your abilities are more ambitious, and you cook regularly for large groups, a food processor best fills the bill.

Our kitchen has all three. This is, of course, the ideal solution; each machine is asked to do only what it does best. But if we could have only one appliance, it would be a mixer. That’s because we do a lot of baking, and because so much of what we chop and slice gets done by hand because it has to show.

Owning one of these appliances permits each of us to be a part of the revolutionary change taking place in cooking tastes and techniques. The only puzzling question is which came first–the revolution or the new machines?

James Goldman, a playwright and novelist, and his wife, Barbara, a producer, write frequently about food and wine.

Goldman, James^Goldman, Barbara