30 November 2007

Naughty Naughty Naughty

Le Bar aux Folies-Bergere - Manet

It All Happened On This Day In History
What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times... and you were there (Walter Cronkite)
It’s the Montmartre district of Paris in the middle of the nineteenth century. Sophistication and elegance are setting Parisian fashion. Historians referred to it as France’s Golden Years. The year is 1869, and tonight is the opening of Paris’ first Music Hall, the glamorous Folies Bergere Theatre.

Dancing and drinking were only the beginning for patrons who frequented the Folies Theatre in Paris. The Folies became the center of world attention as an entertainment spot for fostering new, upcoming stars. Variety acts and talented young artisans from around the world, names like Maurice Chevalier, Will Rogers, Josephine Baker, the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Colette, and Fernandel all made their claim to fame under the glittering marquee of the Folies.

Josephine Baker

29 November 2007

The Great Haggis Hunt Begins!!!

I should probably keep this to myself, but at midnight, GMT, Haggis season is on until January 25. Just surf on by Haggis Hunt. The Grand Prize is a two night stay at the Gleneagles in Scotland. Since most of us statesiders can't afford to just pop over for a couple of nights, the under prizes not yet announced are usually fantastic.

The rules are simple.

1. Stop while on your way to somewhere else.
2. Look at the webcams.
3. If you see a Haggis, click on the "I Saw A Haggis" link.
4. If you haven't played before, register once.
5. Make frequent trips since every click goes into the hat.
6. A drawing from all entries after January 25 will determine winners.

There are three kinds of Haggii you might spot: The slender female of the species; The Great Golden Haggis; and the standard breed.

Even if you don't play, a one time stop is fun just to read the Haggisclopedia.


28 November 2007

Other Voices Other Rooms

It has occured to me that it has been awhile since I did a "This Day In History". For the most part this day was not really, really exciting: Magellen made it to the Pacific, A NASA satellite flew by Mars, there was a bad fire that killed a whole lot of people and Truman Capote threw a party to honor Katherine Graham and celebrate the success of In Cold Blood.

Now the "Black and White Ball" has gone down in social history as one of the best events ever. Apparently If you were a SOMEBODY who knew a whole lot of other SOMEBODIES, then you got an invite. It was a sentence to Siberia or Outer Darkness to not be included. Capote apparently threw as much effort into it as he would have a small novel and spent most of the summer writing and rewriting the guest list while dangling the possibility of an invitation in front of friends and enemies. Should you be fascinated by all this hobnobbing of the great and near great enjoying the privileges of wealth and notoriety, there is an excerpt of a nice bit of gossipy fluff written by George Plimpton with quotes by all sorts of Truman's friends and whatever they were.

If you look at my "About Me", there is a mention that one of my favorite books is the beloved by many, To Kill A Mocking bird by Harper Lee. If you saw the recent movie "Capote" with the Academy Award winning performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, then you found out about his lifelong friendship with Harper Lee. He based the character of Idabel in Other Voices, Other Rooms on her. He in turn was the inspiration for the character Dill, in Lee's 1960 bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner.

After a long career producing some of the most fascinating material ever written, Capote trailed off into a multi-year, self destructive round of drugs and alcohol often making very witty appearances on TV talk shows often under the influence of one or both of these addictions that eventually caused his death in 1984. My one and only encounter with Capote was in 1978 viewing him all alone in a nook of the bar of the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, slumped drunkenly over a glass. As always when you see someone with such an addiction, all you can think is "What A Waste" and then go read everything he wrote so that you can remember what was great about the man.

"He mistook the rich who liked publicity for the ruling class, and made himself far too much at home among them, only to find that he was to them no more than an amusing pet who would be dispensed with, as he was when he published lurid gossip about them."

Gore Vidal

26 November 2007

The Gong Show

I have been a major fan of British films and television for as long as I can remember. The logo for J Arthur Rank productions of the man hitting a huge gong was familiar even to those who never went to any of the movies, and we will not go into all the jokes with punch lines about "another rank production".

The first time I can remember seeing the gong and J. Arthur Rank Presents was for a delightful movie that I still enjoy: "I Know Where I'm Going". It was made in 1947 so I must have first seen it on early television. It starred a young Wendy Hiller at the beginning of a long list of starring roles that lasted until her retirement in 1992 and final closure with her death in 2003 at the age of 90. During a 60 year career, she was one of the great "Dames" of British film and theater, succeeded now by the likes of Dames Diana Rigg, Judi Dench, and Helen Mirren. Hiller won her Best supporting Oscar for another wonderful movie, 1958's Separate Tables.

"I Know Where I'm Going" is boy-meets-girl, but done in a unique way — as a suspense drama as beautifully performed as it is written and directed. Hiller portrays a materialistic young woman who believes that money is the basis for a happy life. Unusual for the time, this early Rank production was true ensemble casting. Even the location and minor village characters play a part when she is stranded on the Isle of Mull by a storm while on her way to The Hebrides to marry an elderly and wealthy industrialist. The storm maroons her for eight days in the company of a naval officer and other residents of the Isle, and for the first time in her life she begins to live with her heart as well as her head. This simple story line is developed with considerable imagination, wit and affection into a pleasant romantic experience.

Practically all of "I Know Where I'm Going" unfolds on the rugged Isle of Mull. So you get wonderful Scottish scenery to go with a delightful movie. The film just oozes atmosphere with the sound of whining wind and the crashing of angry waves on the rocky coast. Much of the song and conversation at a party is carried on in Scots Gaelic, and though unintelligible to most moviegoers, it doesn't detract from the movie because it contributes to the flavor of the place and people.

J. Arthur Rank -- later Lord Rank -- was the most important of an early small fraternity of British film moguls in the 30s and 40s, particularly in terms of the careers that he fostered. By the end of the '30s, he had an interest in key centers of film production, distribution, and exhibition, and in less than a decade, his empire -- known as the Rank Organisation -- controlled half of the theaters in England, and the majority of the production facilities. Much more important than his business achievements, however, were the films whose production he fostered. Rank owned Gaumont British studios, the home to Alfred Hitchcock in the years prior to his departure for America where he made his best British films -- more directly, Rank was responsible for organizing Independent Producers, the production company through which Laurence Olivier and David Lean among many others made some of their most important movies.

So if you see the J Arthur Rank logo on an early black and white film, it is probably worthwhile to stop and watch the gong show.

25 November 2007

Seven Things About Me Meme

The Teach over at Work of the Poet tagged me today for the 7 Things About Me meme. Here are the rules:

*Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
*Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
*Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
*Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So here are 7 things about me.

1. I craved chinese pan fried egg noodles both times that I was pregnant.

2. My favorite color is the grey green of the winter ocean.

3. There are six, five-shelf, over seven foot tall bookcases in my room and I've run out of space for the newest books.

4. I hate Chotskys, doo dads, figurines anything small meant to be decorative that exists to gather dust.

5. One of the best things I ever decided to do was to go to Scotland for a 60th birthday present. Definitely an adventure that I would repeat anytime given the chance.

6. I miss Washington DC in general and "The Mall" in particular. I lived there for two years and wouldn't go back to live again, but would love a reason for a nice extended stay.

7. My favorite song is "My Funny Valentine" (sung below by Carly Simon)

Now who to pick upon. No one is under any obligation. Do it if you want.

Lisa at grrrrrls

Enigma4ever at Watergate Summer

Linda at Are We There Yet

Mags at Ms Maggie Moo Talks 2 U

Tish at crazy Working Mom

Corey at The Mitchell Blog

Tiptoe at Patterns

23 November 2007

We Didn't Start The Fire

Most people have heard Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire", but the following video is unique because it includes quotes by many of the people named, and in the final chorus adds new pictures to bring the song up to date.

Enjoy the trip to your past, present and .... future (?)

For the lyrics to the song with web links to all of the history We Didn't Start The Fire

Putting Words In A Mouth

Now that Thanksgiving is past and you are feeling suitably full, please take the time to improve your vocabulary while feeding the poor.

They give you a word and four possible definitions. Every correct answer means 12 grains of rice. So have a good time, get smarter, and help feed others through FREE RICE

22 November 2007

It Seems Like Yesterday

A child was born in February of 1963. Approximately 15 years later, a teacher gave him the assignment to write about the year he was born. Since he wasn’t, as yet, confidant enough to tackle a creative exposition completely on his own, he sought his mother’s assistance. After a little enforced research, he came home with, “I have an idea”. He and his mother sat down together to do an interview and then have him write about the year plus one month from October 1962 to November 1963. Starting Out was the result.


Had she or hadn’t she? Sleeping pills, yes, but what? Thalidomide – the name haunted her and every other pregnant woman in 1962. Those babies! – Her baby? She was scared and would stay that way until next year.

El Camino Real – beautiful as only Northern California can be in the October sun. The radio blared away with the Four Seasons’ “Sherry”. They were young, a baby on the way, and happy – at least on this day. The President interrupted the music, “Today I have ordered a blockade of Cuba!” Suddenly their bright world was dark. They waited. The world waited. Six days later the Russian ships turned around and the sun came out again, but for how long?

“You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more” sounded like as good a promise as any following the November elections. Vaughn Meader had them all laughing with his satire of the Kennedy White House, “Goodnight Jackie. Goodnight Bobby. Goodnight Ethel. Do you have your bear, Teddy?”

“Puff the Magic Dragon” welcomed a baby boy into the world on February 21, 1963. His mother counted fingers and toes in time to the music. He was beautiful, perfect, loved. She was politically aware and terribly liberal, but at this moment, it didn’t matter that the South was in an uproar over integration or that the Supreme Court had reaffirmed the right of peaceful assembly. Christopher Alan was here and safe. Let the world take care of itself. She had bigger responsibilities.

The baby went to the movies right along with mommy and daddy. An infant-seat made seeing “The Birds” and “Lawrence of Arabia” easy. And to think it wasn’t that long ago that she thought Hula Hoops were the greatest invention ever!

Divorce was becoming the great American pastime. She was just one more casualty that May. There were lots of casualties – her kind and the “advisors” in Viet Nam. It was a time of commitment and she was supposed to care about the Green Berets, care about the Peace Corps, care about LSD and Timothy Leary, care about so much, but there just wasn’t time. Being a single working mother took all of her hours. Given her choice of trends to lead, this wouldn’t have been it. She and Tony Bennett had both left their hearts in San Francisco. Rod McKuen might think that love had been good to him. She disagreed. Oh well, McDonalds sold 15-cent hamburgers. At least she didn’t have to cook.

JFK was a Berliner at the wall, and Camelot was in full swing. Pope John XXIII died; the world mourned a good man. Fanny Hill fought its way through obscenity trials, while Bob Dylan led the war protesters with “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Martin Luther King had a dream near the Washington Monument – too late for Medgar Evers murdered the previous June and not in time for the four young girls bombed to death in church the following September. The US/USSR hotline was installed, and the “red phone” became a symbol of the unthinkable. Could anything else happen in this crazy year?

Los Angeles baseball fans were in heaven, and Kofax and Drysdale were patron saints! A four game sweep of the World Series had the city pretending it was New Year’s Eve, as confetti and champagne rained down on the heroes! Those beautiful no-hitter bums!

Her child was ten months old now, but for three days he slept almost constantly as if he understood that this was no time for a baby to cry. The tears fell uncontrollably from much older eyes. The drums of November marked a national tragedy. “Where were you when you heard?” would become the question a generation could answer. Kennedy dead and two days later his accused assassin died “live” on TV. On the television: the flag, the riderless horse, and the constant pictures of a nation stunned by grief. She hovered over the sleeping infant, her tears dropping on the blond curls. What have we done to you? What will become of you? Was there any hope left for the world or this new person? They would have to wait and see – together.


For those curious as to “then what happened”, Christopher is now past 40. He retired from the U.S. Army and now lives and works in the state of Washington. He is divorced with one son. His parents remarried only to divorce again seven years later (another story). He has a sister and two beautiful nieces.

His mother is a retired writer and editor and is still happily single. As with most of the country, she is no longer a sixties liberal and has settled somewhere around fanatically moderate Democratic/Republican: Social issues left, fiscal issues right with more than enough exceptions in between to give anyone political schizophrenia.

21 November 2007

Shop At Sears

Several people will be heading out to begin their holiday shopping. Remember that Sears supports its employees who have been deployed to Iraq

This is from Sears's website

Military Pay Differential and Benefits Continuation

* In September 2004, the company extended its military pay differential
(fills the gap between military pay and employer pay) and benefits continuation to 60 months for eligible employees called to duty in the Reserves or National Guard.

Previously, policy provided 36 months of coverage.

* While deployed, eligible employees can

Continue participating in SHC's life insurance, medical and dental programs.
Receive annual merit pay increases, incentive pay.

* SHC holds a comparable position for deployed employees for up to five years.

* The company has encouraged and supported employees serving in the armed forces for decades.

Records indicate that Sears provided support to employees serving in the military in 1916.

Sears' pay differential was first instituted in 1990 for Operation Desert Shield-Storm.


20 November 2007

1968 The Year That Changed A Generation

On the Heels of 1968 In America by Charles Kaiser, 1968, The Year That Rocked The World by Mark Kurlansky, the Newsweek currently on the stand has a great almost Pop Art cover about 1968 titled 1968: The Year That Changed Everything.

For several years, I have referred to '68 as "The Year America Died", so the Newsweek was a "must grab" on the way out of the checkstand. In the issue is an excerpt from Tom Brokaw's Boom about the generation that seems to take itself a little too seriously and be a little too self-referential from it's arrival until now when we are becoming seniors.

It has almost seemed that you could draw a hard bright line through 1968 and there was the uncrowded, mostly safe, hopeful, generous, changing for the better America and the drug ridden, rampant crime, politically divisive new America to the point that you almost can't explain to your children just how different it was. The assassination of John Kennedy in 1963 had started us down a hard road and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968 put the "it ends here" stamp on the country.

"We will never laugh again." Mary McGrory told Daniel Patrick Moynihan. "No Mary." said Moynihan. "We will laugh again, but we will never be young again."

When we arrived on the scene there were a little over two billion people in the world. When we depart there is likely to be seven billion plus. So for you boomers out there, before we depart probably with almost as much fanfare as we arrived, how do we fix what seems to have been broken? What kind of world do you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren and how do we make it happen?

19 November 2007

A Pocket Full of "Ishes" for a Manic Monday

The problem with stream of consciousness is that you sometimes end up in the middle of a raging flood. Mo has decreed RELISH and I obediantly put up a recipe for Cranberry Relish a few days ago. Of course, since half of my heritage is southern, my brain immediately corrected relish to Piccalilli which is canned at home and is much better than anything you can find made by Heinz


20 green tomatoes
1 large green bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper
1 hot red pepper
1 cup Kosher salt
6 cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1/3 cup prepared horseradish


Chop tomatoes and peppers; put in a large enameled kettle. Sprinkle with the salt, cover with water, and let soak overnight. Combine vinegar, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and mustard. Drain tomatoes and peppers thoroughly.

Add vinegar mixture and simmer until tender. Add horseradish.

Pack into hot sterilized jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace; seal. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Then the stream overflowed:

Now relish is green and green made me think of leprechauns. It isn't St. Patrick's Day, but one of the best uses of "ish" was written by Yip Harburg who also wrote a little ditty called "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and pots of gold are found at the end of rainbows and that brings you back to leprechauns that showed up on the screen in the form of Tommy Steele getting taller by the minute while hunting for his pot of gold and a rainbow belonging to Finnian ... Moving arms and legs rapidly to tread water in that fast flowing stream of consciousness.

Finnian's Rainbow came to the stage in 1947 and to the screen in 1963. While seeming dated now, it was originally way ahead of it's time with it's subjects of poverty and racism while making it all palatable with a wonderful collection of songs including standards such as "How Are Things In Glocca Morra", "That Old Devil Moon", and "If This Isn't Love". The score also contained some humorous patter songs to capture the Irish magic including "When I'm Not Near The One I love", and a delightful song about the flutters of first falling in love that actually contains the Manic Monday word: Relish --- along with a whole lot of other ishes. You can listen to the whole score by clicking on the title link below or just read the lyrics or take side trips on the bios of both Clark and Steele who are still going strong. What made this song so interesting was the Minuet like rhythms and pauses and a lyric that managed to rhyme mouse and Eisenhower.

(Burton Lane / E.Y. "Yip" Harburg)

Tommy Steele & Petula Clark (Film Soundtrack - 1963)

PETULA: Is it a warmish, kind of glowish, kind of peculiarish sensation?
TOMMY: Oh no, it's sort of a shimmerish kind of quimmerish, flibbery-gibberish sensation.
PETULA: Does it make you feel humming birds in your heart?
TOMMY: Butterflies in me feet
PETULA: And bees in your bonnet
TOMMY: Stars in me britches
PETULA: Does it make you want to dance?
TOMMY: I hadn't noticed
PETULA: And sing?
TOMMY: Oh, it does, it does....


Something sweet
Something sort of grandish
Sweeps my soul
When thou art near

My heart feels so sugar candish
My head feels so ginger beer (Laughter)

Something so dareish
So I don't careish
Stirs me from limb to limb
It's so terrifish, magnifish, delish
To have such an amorish, glamorish dish

We could be, oh, so bride and groomish
Skies could be so bluish blue
Life could be so love in bloomish
If my ishes could all come true


Thou art sweet
Thou art sort of grandish
Thou outlandish cavalier
From now on, we're hand in handish



And Guinevere

Thou'rt so adorish
Toujours l'amourish
I'm so cherchez la femme


Why should I vanquish
Relinquish, resish
When I simply relish
this swellish condish


I might be manish or mouseish
I might be a fowl or fish
But with thee I'm Eisenhowish
Please accept my propasish


You're under my skinish
So please be give-inish
Or it's the beginish
of the finish of me

I hope you all enjoyed the music and may all your ishes come true.

16 November 2007

Cranberry Relish

This is a great cranberry relish for all turkey dishes, turkey sandwiches, and a tasty alternative to a more traditional cranberry sauce.

2 cups washed raw cranberries
2 skinned and cored apples
1 large, whole (peel ON) seedless orange, cut into sections
2 cups granulated sugar

Set up the grinder with a medium-sized blade on the edge of a table with a large roasting pan or bowl to catch the mix as it grinds. These old fashioned grinders tend to leak some of the juice down the grinder base, so you may want to set up an additional pan on the floor under the grinder to catch the drips. If you don't have an old-fashioned grinder you can use a grinder attachment on a KitchenAid mixer, you can chop by hand (though that will take a lot of work), or you can chop in a food processor (be very careful not to over-pulse, or you'll end up with mush).

2 Run fruit through a grinder. Use the entire (seedless) orange, peels, pith and all.

3 Mix in the sugar. Let sit at room temperature until sugar dissolves, about 45 minutes. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3 cups.

15 November 2007

Get Stuffed

Whether you call it dressing or stuffing, this is one of the centerpieces of the Thanksgiving meal and probably one of the most individual as each cook adds that "little something" to make "their dressing" taste unique. It usually comes in one of three forms: meat/fish, spiced cubes, or cornbread based. Here is one of each to take home and doctor with your special "something".

Pennsylvania Oyster Stuffing

9 cups Dry Bread crumbs
1 Medium Onion Diced
1 Cup diced Celery
1 Pint oysters drained, liquid reserved and chopped

Turkey giblets and meat from neck (cooked and chopped fine)

celery seed, dried sage, salt, pepper to taste

1. Simmer the turkey pieces in about 3 cups of water for at least an hour

2. Place the bread crumbs in a large bowl, add the vegetables,
oysters, seasonings. mix very carefully and well

3. Remove the turkey pieces (chop or strip from bones) add this and the oyster liquid to the bread crumbs and mix until thuroughly moistened.

4. Stuff loosely in turkey or bake until browned in a covered casserole.

Basic Bread Stuffing

1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery (with Leaves)
1 bunch parsley tops chopped fine
1 cube butter
8 cups bread cubes
salt and pepper to state
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
turkey or chicken broth to moisten for casserole

Sauté onion, celery, and parsley in the butter until softened.

Combine onion mixture with bread, pepper, eggs, salt, sage and poultry seasoning in a large mixing bowl.

Stuff 8 to 10-pound turkey or add broth for placing mixture in casserole. I usually do both: stuffing turkey and then leftovers in casserole.

Bake in a greased covered shallow casserole at 325° for about 35 to 45 minutes. Take the cover off the last 5 minutes to brown.

Additions can include: chopped apples, cranberries, or chopped almonds or pecans.


Southern Cornbread Dressing

6 cups crumbled cornbread
3 cups soft bread crumbs
4 ounces butter
2 cups onion, chopped
2 cups finely chopped celery
3 to 4 cups chicken broth
2 cups chicken, diced, optional
1 heaping tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 400ºF. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornbread and white bread crumbs. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion and celery in butter until tender. Do not brown. Combine the sautéed vegetables with the bread mixture.

Stir in chicken broth, using enough to moisten. Stir in the diced chicken, if desired, and the seasonings and beaten eggs, blending well. Spread the mixture in a large shallow baking or roasting pan measuring about 10" x 15". Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until brown.

14 November 2007

Thanksgiving Pudding

Sweet potato Pudding

1 stick of butter
4 cups grated fresh sweet potato
1 cup light brown sugar or to taste
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup flour
nutmeg to taste
2 eggs beaten

Preheat oven to 350

1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well
2. Put it in a well buttered baking dish
3. bake abut 20 minutes or until a good crust forms at edges.

Then stir in crust and repeat baking until another crust forms.

Total baking time is about 45 to an hour.

12 November 2007

What Yam I Gonna Do?

From now until Thanksgiving, I'll be passing along some favorite recipes. Some will be traditional and others ones I've tried out as something a little different each year. Up First: Three recipes for Sweet Potatoes/Yams

Cajun Yams

1 can yams or 2 to 3 boiled fresh yams mashed with a fork
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
1/3 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 stick melted butter
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine mashed yams with all ingredients, except topping, until evenly blended. Pour into greased dish and pat down. Prepare topping by combining ingredients until well blended. Spread topping over yam mixture keeping the topping about 1/2 inch from the sides to prevent sticking Bake 40 minutes covered at 350F. Serves 8.

Jamaican Yams

2 large sweet potatoes
5 small apples
1 cup brown sugar
2 shots dark rum
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 cup applebutter

Bake sweet potatoes at 350 F for an hour.

Meanwhile, simmer all other ingredients to liquid. Peal and slice potatoes and apples. Layer both in baking dish, spooning liquid ingredients over each layer.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (or until tender), basting with liquid from bottom of dish every 10 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, to allow potatoes to absorb juices.

Some Like It Hot & Easy

Two cans of sweet potatoes drained
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Brandy
1 tablespoon pepper flakes
1/2 cube butter

Melt butter, add brandy, brown sugar & pepper flakes. Stir until blended. Pour over sweet potatoes and heat through in either the oven or microwave.

11 November 2007

All The Rest Is Gravy

All too often in life we forget to be grateful for the extras handed to us on a silver platter. Once you pass "enough" everything else is gravy. Once each year in Judaism you honor this principle at Passover where one of the central songs to the wonderful meal is the singing of the fifteen stanzas of Dayenu "Enough For Us" thanking God for all the miracles performed but acknowledging that the act of creation was "Dayenu"

We all like to be happy. We prefer it when life runs smoothly and the bumps in the road are eliminated beneath our feet. When horrid things happen (and they will at some point to almost everyone) we can get tangled in the loss, anger or grief totally forgetting just how wonderful it is to simply exist.

There is a poem written by a man who was a alcoholic in his tenth year of recovery. My father passed away quite soon after his tenth "birthday" with AA so Raymond Carver's poem strikes close to home about what it means to enjoy the "gravy".


No other word will do. For that's what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. Don't weep for me,
he said to his friends. "I'm a lucky man.
I've had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don't forget it."

Raymond Carver

It doesn't matter what you are facing. The doctor has issued some point on the calendar, the husband has wandered, the children have done something that produces terror, the bills are coming due and the income doesn't quite match the need .... Dayenu .... You are here and just being alive is "Enough" to see you through. Chin up, look to the rainbow, be brave .... all the bromides that are really, really true. It's all gravy.

11th Hour 11th Day 11th Month

This is probably the most famous poem to come out of World War I. The whole story of the poem can be found here on the Arlington Cemetery site.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

And then there is another great poem:
By: Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work -
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?
I am the grass.Let me work.

08 November 2007

Some More Ways To Go Green

Back in the Fifties there was a comedy called Visit To A Small Planet by Gore Vidal filled with the ascerbic wit only Gore Vidal could provide. It then lost it's satirical effect in a Jerry Lewis movie. Back then the foibles of the human race were the Cold War, Communism, nuclear weapons, and the rise of the importance of television in family life. Looking back after a half century it is well worth the effort to read.

In the meantime while waiting for Amazon to deliver your copy, here are some ways to hang on to a planet so that Kreton might have some where worth living to visit in the future.

Ten Ways To Save The Earth

For a longer look at going green, the Sundance Channel has done a wonderful series called Big Ideas For A Small Planet

One of the Soft Places To Fall

The welcome mat is out. Temporary outcasts from Crawford's List can pull up an overstuffed chair and make themselves comfy.

In the meantime Congressional Quarterly for Mr. Crawford's words of wisdom.

For live chat head for Brian's

05 November 2007

World Environmental Clock

Click on "NOW" to get a real idea of the speed

Easy Steps to Start Going Green

Buy a battery recharger. "Batteries contain dangerous metals that aren't combustible and shouldn't go in a landfill," says Hershkowitz. Over time, the charger will pay for itself, since you'll no longer shell out for new batteries every time your Walkman runs out of juice.

Ditch the paper towels and napkins. Hershkowitz says that the paper industry is the number-one consumer of fresh water and the number-one industrial cause of deforestation. Do your part by using cloth napkins, dishtowels and sponges in the kitchen and dining room.

Keep your tires properly inflated. Your car will run more efficiently, using less gas and emitting fewer pollutants.

Patronize local businesses. When you buy from stores that get their products locally, like farmers markets and food co-ops, you're supporting companies that don't waste precious natural resources by shipping products across the country. "You're also supporting your local economy,".

Pack refillable juice boxes in your kids' lunches. "You can buy them for $1 at bargain stores, instead of using disposable juice boxes,". "It saves paper, plastic and money." Set a good example for the kids by bringing a coffee cup to work, or finding a coffee shop that will refill a travel mug.

Keep your lawn pesticide free. You won't pollute water, and you may safeguard your children's health. "There's a documented increase in child leukemia in homes that use pesticides on their lawn, and there is an even greater incidence in homes that use them indoors,".

Shop at thrift stores and tag sales. Whenever you opt for used clothing, appliances or furniture, you're not just saving cash. You're also reducing the demand for newly manufactured products. "We're a wasteful society, and it's good to make use of that waste,".

Install a low-flow showerhead. "This is a high-efficiency showerhead," says Hershkowitz. "It will perform as well as a standard showerhead but uses less water."
Reduce the office paper jam. One-third of all our garbage is paper. Making double-sided photocopies and printing on the back side of used paper goes a long way.

Get a bike. Do you drive five minutes to pick up a loaf of bread at the supermarket? Hershkowitz says that 25 percent of all car trips are less than a mile. By riding a bike or ‑- egads! ‑- walking for short trips, you'll save energy and money, and you just might slim down in time for swimsuit season.

Put a big shade tree in front of your house. "It will keep your home cooler, and you won't need to use the air conditioning as much,".

Look for the recycling symbol on toilet paper and tissues. The manufacturing process for making paper from other paper products is less wasteful than making it straight from trees. Marcal, Seventh Generation and CVS are all made from post-consumer recycled paper.

04 November 2007

Dona Nobis Pacem

Visit Mimi, the Peace Globe queen, to get your own for November 7.

Over 40 years ago Lorriane Schneider (1925 - 1972), a woman and printmaker with lttle real artistic background created a poster because she feared her son might be drafted. To this day, this little drawing with its four branches to represent her four children and simple slogan is recognized as one of the icons of the Viet Nam peace movement. It is incorporated as part of my peace globe above.

It was not until TV producer Barbara Avedon gathered together 15 middle-class women on February 8, 1967 to discuss ways to protest the war did Schneider’s image find its true and enduring purpose. The women did not want to align themselves with the beards and sandals of youth nor did they want to be seen as wild-eyed radical route, yet they wanted to let the U.S. Congress know how enraged they were in the face of mounting body bags.

The group decided to send 1,000 “Mother’s Day cards” to Washington as letters of protest. The card said, "For my Mother’s Day gift this year I don’t want candy or flowers. I want an end to killing. We who have given life must be dedicated to preserving it. Please talk peace.” This act grew into the “Another Mother for Peace,” group which eventually became the vanguard of a surging protest movement.

Schneider was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died in 1972 at the age of 47, but her anti-war poster and plea for social justice creation lives on. So I will now add my voice to all of the mothers and now grandmothers who have seen this image.

Please Talk Peace

02 November 2007


A year ago, I started this blog as a way to reach out to others while keeping brain and fingers well exercised. The column below is among the first that appeared, and it seems appropriate today. Enjoy the trip down memory lane.


The calendar tells me that I am 62. There are days when the body agrees. Most of the time as long as I don't go anywhere near a mirror, I think I'm 36. See the picture above taken a quarter of a century ago. It was a wonderful year so I chose to freeze in that state. There is nothing that makes me sense physically, mentally or emotionally that I am beyond that age.

I can tell myself that the hair is grey. I can step on a scale and groan with dismay, but when the mirror and the scale are gone, that picture is me. The only place I feel old is in the reflection of other peoples eyes. They see me as I appear, not as I am.

Rodin did a sculpture, "She who used to be the beautiful Heaulmiere". Robert Heinlein remarked about this sculpture that it takes a genius to look at what is and see the person behind the reality. Heaumiere was always 18. That the facts said that her breasts drooped, that her stomach hung, that her cheeks and jowls were sagging over the bones was unimportant. To herself she was a young and beautiful girl. In the movie "All that Jazz", the central character on his way through a hospital ward stops off in the room of an elderly, semi-conscious woman and gives her a passionate kiss to which she responds in kind and for a few moments you believe that she is young.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm a few years younger than my own children. Fortunately, they have inherited their mother's total disregard for the years. Welcome to joy and experience and adventure ... the future is a wonderful thing to view and I have a lifetime to enjoy it all.