30 March 2009

You've Got A Friend - Ilana Yahav

I just discovered the beautiful sand painting art of Ilana Yahav who using only her fingers draws with sand on a glass table. The videos below are just two of her works. There are many, many more available, but do take the time to visit her web page and check out the store for more of her work.

Manic Monday - Bird

You just knew that if the word was bird
Then here the howls would be owls.

Just recently, I came across The Owl Pages which have more than anyone other than an ornithologist would want to know about owls. They have articles on everything from the physiology to the sounds of the different species. It you just like owls, there are pictures of living birds, owl paintings, and even tattoos to add to your body art collection. My favorite pages are about owls in mythology as viewed by many cultures over the centuries from wisdom and prophecy to the companion of witches and other dark forces. These beautiful birds of silent flight have stirred the imagination of all who have ever seen them

For your musical selection this week, two different blackbirds.

Paul McCartney wrote Blackbird about the civil rights struggle for blacks after reading about race riots in the US. (Blackbirds referred to anyone kidnapped for slaves on ships out of Africa).

Only 3 things were recorded: Paul's voice, his acoustic guitar, and a tapping. According to the video The Complete Beatles, the tap was not a foot or metronome - the Master was intentionally scratched. If you listen closely you will notice that is sounds like a scratch on a record. Birds were dubbed in later.

Blackbird Singing is the title of a book of poems McCartney wrote.

The much more uptempo (though it has been sung as a lament) jazz standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" from the 1920s, here with dance choreographed by Bob Fosse for Liza Minnelli in Liza With A Z.

The story told by Chicago singer Mae Arnotte was that the song is about a “lady” fed up with the city and the “blackbirds” or “johns” and wanting to return home to her mother. And another version based on the same story explained that the “blackbirds” referred to the city of New York.

27 March 2009

My Neck of the Woods - Friend In Motion

It's only the second week and already I'm cheating on the mission to write about "My Neck of the Woods". This isn't really my neck of the woods. Just the neck of the woods for someone else and a place I visited that if you happen to ever get there, you don't want to miss. This is Hamish. He is a fully functional Highland Cattle bull and as with most highland cattle, one of the gentlest creatures you are ever likely to meet as long as you don't touch his horns. He doesn't like that and will toss his head and you don't want to be on the receiving end of those points by accident.

Many of you have asked about the little Hielan' Coo on my sidebar. That is there in honor of Hamish whom I met while traveling Scotland five years ago. Before I've posted actual pictures of him, but while fiddling around You Tube, I found a video of some tourists who met Hamish and had a handy video cam. It was good to see a fondly remembered animal still in good health and just as good natured as ever (despite tourist squeals).

I also found another tourist who was as taken with Hamish as I was, possibly even more so since she took a whole album of pictures. Should you ever have reason to visit the Trossachs area of Scotland (and how could you miss Loch Lomond), be sure to drop in at the shopping mall (all the tourists buses go there). If you happen to have a carrot on you, it will definitely be appreciated.

Little Things Mean A Lot

Lately I've been fascinated by one person or small groups of people working together in their own communities to make things better for their surroundings and in the process making things better for all. A few posts ago, I told you about Colorado Bob in Lubbock, Texas. Another gentleman, Whiskey Jack is taking on a beautification project. By clicking on his name you can find links to all sorts of growing projects from sidewalk flowers to whole community farms.

It is easy to say, "But what can one person do?". All alone, they might have a hard time, but for about $25.00 and a filled out form filed at City Hall, you can become a community organizer with your own project. If you want to get dramatic, you can even file with Uncle Sam for a 501 C (3) as a non profit.

You can say, "I don't have the money". Maybe not, but 100 people visiting your "Fundable" page with a few dollars to Paypal can provide the cash you need for just about any project you envision. All you have to do is get the word out that it is a safe place to send cash, as it exists for just this type of small goal. If the amount isn't collected, their money never leaves their account. You could send an email or post on your blog and here comes the cash, to do something good.

So for this "Only The Good Friday" - Go grow something pretty or think big and feed a nation one empty lot at a time.

26 March 2009

Danny Wayland Seals (February 8, 1948 – March 25, 2009)

Pop singer turned country star Dan Seals has died in Nashville of complications of cancer. He was 61. The brother of Jim Seals of Seals & Croft, Dan Seals sang under his own name in recent years and as England Dan in the 1970s in a duo with John Ford Coley.

25 March 2009

Please Yourself

On this day in history, Ricky Nelson (May 8, 1940 --December 31, 1985), recorded his first hit records, "A Teenager's Romance" and "I'm Walkin' ( A white cover of the Fats Domino song)." A few weeks later, he sang the songs on the TV series and became an overnight pop star, despite his complete lack of musical experience. Over the years until his death, he became a good musician with his last major hit being "Garden Party" bemoaning the fact that he was stuck with the image of being a "teen idol" rather than someone who actually worked at his music. He left behind the twins, Matthew and Gunnar, who became the singing duo "Nelson"

I'm Walkin with Rick Nelson and Fats Domino

I went to a garden party
to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories
and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party,
they all knew my name
No one recognized me,
I didn't look the same

But it's all right now,
I learned my lesson well.
See you can't please everyone
so you got to please yourself

People came from miles around,
everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus,
there was magic in the air
'n' over in the corner,
much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan's shoes wearing his disguise

But it's all right now,
I learned my lesson well.
See you can't please everyone
so you got to please yourself

lott-in-dah-dah, lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Played them all the old songs,
thought that's why they came
No one heard the music,
we didn't look the same
I said hello to "Mary Lou",
she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk,
it was time to leave

But it's all right now,
I learned my lesson well.
See you can't please everyone
so you got to please yourself

lot-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

Someone opened up a closet door
and out stepped Johnny B. Goode
Playing guitar like a-ringin' a bell
and lookin' like he should
If you gotta play at garden parties,
I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang,
I'd rather drive a truck

And it's all right now,
I learned my lesson well.
See you can't please everyone
so you got to please yourself

lot-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah)

And it's all right now,
I learned my lesson well
See you can't please everyone
so you got to please yourself

24 March 2009

Do The Right Thing

Every once in a while you come across someone doing something just because others will benefit. Whatever they may gain comes in the form of pleasure for a job well done and the gratitude of friends and neighbors. For that reason, I would like to introduce you to "Colorado Bob" who just happens to live in Lubbock, Texas. Don't ask, it's a long, long story and Colorado Bob does have a way with words and the time to use them when he isn't being a leather artist, community and global warming activist, gardner, and just a nice human being.

It started with "Peggy Chapman's Garden" ... just making a wall against an old theater and an empty lot with places to sit and enjoy the flowers. It went on to become "The Downtown Art Market". Now it is the "Hopi Blue Corn Project". Now the corn experiment is a first come first served project to plant in as many locations as possible, so if you are interested and your spring planting time is now or soon, you need to move quickly to get the seeds while they last, and get this symbol of health and prosperity in the ground.

22 March 2009

Manic Monday - Wet

Confession time. I LOVE being wet. Maybe it is that Pisces thing, but take me too far from water and the whole system goes into protest. All the rest of you can have the sunshine. That stuff is only good if you are in the ocean, in a river, in a pool, in a hot tub, or splashing in the small pond of a desert oasis. You can have some sun baked isle. Give me a rain forest. As a child my reaction to heat was even more extreme. In the era before real air conditioning other than a swamp cooler, I was known to take to the bathtub and not exit before nightfall. If there is lightening, I'm at the window waiting for the cloudburst and watching the show.

While I was in DC, I found out that they close apartment swimming pools in the winter - What sort of vicious plot is this, letting a little thing like snow on the roof interfere with floating bodies? Luckily the city has a rather pleasant river called the Potomac for visitation if not swimming purposes. One year a big musical did its pre-Broadway tryouts at the Kennedy Center which has a nice river view, and nothing could keep me away from a show with two different ways to get wet!

River In The Rain from Big River

Just hunting for the above, led me through all of the "rain" songs on You Tube, and here is my absolute favorite:

Rainy Days and Mondays - Paul Williams

You can imagine how many windy, stormy, foggy, and misty musical opportunities there were on You Tube. So do you have a favorite "wet" song?

Amazing Visions Blog Carnival

Shelly over at This Eclectic Life has a guest blogger today with a writer's prompt. Damien Riley at Riley Central, has challenged us to write about someone you have known whose life was extraordinary. What can we learn from their life and their amazing vision? After you’ve written it, you’re invited to go back to This Eclectic Life and submit your post to the carnival.

Me being me, I have to fudge a little simply because I came across something a few days ago that was such a joy to see about a place I know well that one person's art has changed so much for the better. I don't know artists of the Fresno Mural Project or Reza Assemi and the architects, artists, and builders of the H Street, Iron Bird and Vagabond lofts, but I owe them all a debt of gratitude.

As a child there were times when I freely wandered the streets of Fresno. There were the great theaters left over from the 30s and 40s where for 25 cents each I could spend a summer day in air conditioned comfort. There was courthouse park with its wonderful shade trees, beautiful old building and lovely fountain. There were restaurants of just about any ethnic source that might appeal to you. My favorite was a Greek restaurant where I could get the coiled baklava as a special treat. Along with all that ethnic infusion there was music of just about every imaginable kind, and on the way home there was another special treat, a beautiful mural showing the history of California painted decades before my appearance by some unknown artist working in the depression.

You can imagine my horror when I returned decades later to find a dead space of closed buildings, a modernistic squared off horror in place of the graceful courthouse, the theaters closed, and the streets the residence of homeless, mentally ill, and druggies. The only reason left to go "downtown" was to be on jury duty or to be the person on trial.

Now thanks to the remarkable artists and the lofts that give them and small businesses a home, something wonderful has happened. When combined with the actions of the redevelopment agency and a new AAA ballpark, the downtown of Fresno is coming back to life, and I can't wait to see again, if only to go on the walking art tour and see all the new statuary and murals. It proves what a small group of people can do when they face dirt and ugliness and see color and beauty.

21 March 2009

Family Feud the Blog Version

While visiting over at "Are We There Yet" today, I came across this fun little game that Linda snitched from Patty, at Autumn's Meadow and thought it would be nice to do for a quick post. So let's play Family Feud - the Blog Version!

If you want to play along, copy and paste the questions to a new post, erase my answers, and fill in your answers. Just remember, you can't use any of the answers I've already given or you'll hear a loud annoying buzzer go off in your head! If you want to pass the game along, tag 5 of your friends and don't forget to send it back to me. Remember, you can't use the same answer as the person who sent it to you. Also bear in mind, if my answers are dumb, it's because the person before me had the good ones and I was stuck scrambling around for reasonable substitutes!

1. Name something you use in the shower. razor

2. Name a product for men. cologne

3. Name something people hate to find on their windshields. bird droppings

4. Name something a man might buy before a date. Theater Tickets

5. What is another word for blemish. blackhead

6. Something you cook in the microwave. Vegetables

7. Name a piece of furniture people need help moving. Large Couch

8 Name a reason a younger man might like an older woman. Less flighty

9. Name something a dog does that embarrasses its owner. Humps legs

10.. Name a kind of test you cannot study for. Hearing test

11. Name something a boy scout gets a badge for. Camping

12 Name a phrase with the word home in it. "Home Sweet HOme"

13. Name a sport where players lose teeth. Football

14. Name something a teacher can do to ruin a student's day. Bad Grade

15. What is a way you can tell someone has been crying. Sniffing Nose

16. Name a bird you wouldn't want to eat. Parakeet

17. Name something someone would wear with a hole in it. Muffler

18. Name something that gets smaller the more you use it. Candle

No tagging but let me know if you do it. Just check what Patty and Linda have done already to avoid duplicate answers.

My Neck of the Woods - Museum of Glass

Shelly over at This Eclectic Life has started a new feature for Saturdays called "My Neck of The Woods". The rules are simple in order to participate:

1. Talk about something that you have visited, so you can give a first-hand review of it for the readers.

2. Title it “My Neck Of The Woods [+ the name of the attraction or the town],” and tag it with “travel” and your state, so people could track them all on the Internet.

3. Come back to my own posting for that Saturday to let me know, so we can share links.

Since this is the first week, I'll start out gently. Tacoma, Washington where I live is sort of the red headed step child of the state. It isn't the magnificent big city of Seattle. It isn't the State Capitol of Olympia. It isn't one of the glorious natural areas or Indian homelands. It isn't even one of the quirkier little kitschy ethnic hamlets complete with faux Swiss Chalets and Alpenhorns. It's one of those basic bedroom communities that are almost somewhere else. The really big nearby areas of "somewhere else" are Mount Rainier where we will go eventually if it doesn't blow up first and Fort Lewis which gives the area a heavy military presence also reserved for another date.

In recent years there has been an attempt to revive the older portions of town, create interest and activity around an industrial (Tacoma Aroma) port, and encourage the outlying home owners to come into the vicinity of downtown. The majority of this activity is centered around two areas: Tacoma Dome (Another Saturday) and The Museum District. You get one third of this area today: The Museum of Glass.

You reach the Museum of Glass by walking under the Seaform Pavilion (below right) past the wall of more than 100 Chihuly glass sculptures (below left) and across the Chihuly Bridge to enter the modernistic glass cone (yes it is glass) that dominates the landscape (above center). The pictures on the page do not do it justice, but can only give you a hint of the artwork ahead.

Once inside you have your choice of three different galleries that display glass in all its forms of blown, etched, and molded into both fantastic forms and usable items. If you are curious about the how these beautiful items are created there is a working Hot Shop with amphitheater and lecturing tour guides pointing out the various stages of creativity as you watch skilled artisans create with molten glass.

Once you have marveled at all the possibilities there is a museum shop with objects from quirky glass animals and inexpensive marbles to fabulous art works valued into the thousands. So if you get off a plane at Seatac International Airport and take the freeway the wrong direction to end up in the Tac part instead of the Sea part, do make the time for a little glass work while you are here.

20 March 2009

Only The Good - Legends of America

This is "Only The Good Friday" a lovely idea dreamed up by Shelly over at This Eclectic Life. Up till now, I've been an erratic participant, but I just found a really, really good thing on the net. As most of you know, I love history and travel. If you share either of those loves, you need to visit "Legends of America."

Once upon a time there was Route 66. As the song says, it ran from Chicago to LA - 2000 miles all the way. All along that marvelous road there were towns, attractions, bits and pieces of history. Offshoots to the great national highway, there were scenic byways, National Parks, ghost towns, and tacky roadside attractions.

Guess what? A lot of it is still there, and these folks tell you the stories, give you directions, fill you in on the events and then connect you to people who share this particular mania. It is a truly wonderful place to just visit and browse among the places and photographs while planning your way to somewhere. Even more important, the people are really nice and helpful. I guess they figure they might meet you out on the road, and it pays to be nice.

Here is their menu just to whet your appetite for the whole meal:

American History, Ghost Towns, Ghostly Legends, Historic People, Native Americans, The Old West, Photo Galleries, Roadside Attractions, Rocky Mountain Store, Route 66, Travel Destinations, Treasure Tales, The Legends Blog and The Free Newsletter. If there isn't something there to catch your eye or start a good daydream, you aren't really trying.

19 March 2009

A Poet Who Doesn't Slobber

There is a wonderful book that became a wonderful movie. Whenever someone asks for a favorite book, I usually say "To Kill A Mockingbird", but if given a top 10, the "84 Charing Cross Road" makes the list. When asked for a favorite movie, I usually say either "To Kill A Mockingbird" or "Same Time Next Year", but if given a top 10 "84 Charing Cross Road" makes the list.

Supposedly Anne Bancroft loved the book as well. Since she had the good fortune to be married to Mel Brooks, he bought the rights for her so that she could become Helene Hanff in the movie and cast Anthony Hopkins as Frank Doel. From that point on, book lovers have simply sat down to memorize great lines and take notes on books by British authors that they will have to buy. I mean, are Charing Cross lovers the only people who still know about the multiple volumes of Landor's "Imaginary Conversations"?

But it is time for spring and the movie now echoes in real life:

Helene writes to Frank: “I require a book of love poems with Spring coming on. No Keats or Shelley. Send me poets who can make love without slobbering. Wyatt or Johnson or somebody. Use your own judgment. Just a nice book, preferably small enough to stick in a slacks pocket and take to Central Park.”

Late in the movie, Frank is shown, reflecting on her as a Yeats love poem runs through his mind. The moment, and the poem, are to all romantics out there, a poet who can make love without slobbering:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths,
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939). The Wind Among the Reeds. 1899.

Now I love Yeats, with the above poem or the classic "Lake Isle of Inishfree"

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

But even more I like the harder to interpret elderly, bawdy, ironic, and ultimately wise Crazy Jane when she argues with the world or its representative in The Bishop. Within these short poems, Yeats uses plays on words (sole/soul hole/whole and rent meaning payment/torn) There are seven Crazy Jane poems but here are two: First the argument with the bishop and finally when she with her sins of loving to well presents herself for judgment. You can decide if St. Peter let her in.

Crazy Jane Talks With The Bishop

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
'Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.'

'Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,' I cried.
'My friends are gone, but that's a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart's pride.

'A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.'

Crazy Jane On The Day Of Judgment

‘Love is all
That cannot take the whole
Body and soul’;
And that is what Jane said.
‘Take the sour
If you take me
I can scoff and lour
And scold for an hour.’

“That’s certainly the case,’ said he.

‘Naked I lay,
The grass my bed;
Naked and hidden away,
That black day’;
And that is what Jane said.
‘What can be shown?
What true love be?
All could be known or shown
If Time were but gone.’

‘That’s certainly the case,’ said he.

18 March 2009

Think Warm

It snowed this past Sunday in Washington followed now by three days of rain and it is cold. It's March for pity's sake ... naturally thinking that sunshine is a God given right, I started thinking about warm places this time of year. Checking my memory against Google, I found that Death Valley was 85 degrees on Sunday. That means that all the wild flowers will be early. The trouble with the desert in Spring is that you have to be there when it happens or know someone crazy enough to live there who will call and say, "NOW! Come today." Believe me. It is worth the instantaneous trip.

It also means that this is a good time to visit Scotty's Castle before the real heat begins. Scottys Castle was once a private home is now part of the California State Park system and open for tours. As with many of the fanciful homes built by California characters, this one comes with many stories and a mystery. Nobody knows for sure if Death Valley Scotty who was a legendary goldminer (maybe or just a good tale teller) built this castle or if his lifelong millionaire friend, Albert Johnson, did. Most think it was a dream shared by the two, but the legend that ties the men together goes on.
You would have to make up your own mind as you tour this amazing castle in Death Valley, California in the USA. The main house of the castle, a duplicate of a Spanish manor home, and the Annex are two of the main attractions at this estate. The Great Hall was used as the living room and it is where Scotty entertained and shared many of his life stories as a goldminer. The suites and guestrooms are incredibly adorned and the music room speaks for itself. Scotty died in 1954 and was buried atop a hill looking down upon the historical castle that was named after him.

There is a video tour and background stories on the link above that might make you want to visit if only for the spanish tiles and intricate wood and wrought iron decorations. If not, just think about the desert in a new way and look at the short lived spring fully in bloom now that would greet you.

17 March 2009

Happy Harry Day

My father always insisted that Saint Patrick was actually a Scot who simply went to work in Ireland. Because of this, dad would pull out a special bow tie that he donned every March 17: A garish orange number with polka dots. In addition he would bring out his stack of Harry Lauder records to combat the annual American slide into a deluge of sentimental Irish vocalizing.

Now I love St. Patrick's day parades and music. I even like the kitschy parts such as dyeing rivers, fountains, and (Sacrilege!) beer a nauseous shade of green. But just for today: Sir Harry Lauder with one of his most famous songs (not that you will be able to understand a word he says.) - Plus you can't trust the Irish to drink alone, they get quarrelsome

Wee Doch an Doris

A contributor to You Tube has cleaned up all these old Lauder recordings and the songs are wonderful, but embedding is forbidden. If you would like to hear them, you can start here with the Harry Lauder choruses.

15 March 2009

Manic Monday - What's Your Party Piece?


A "party piece" is some small exhibition of talent via song, poem, joke or instrumental performance that entertains or impresses friends and guests at a social gathering. Back when a gathering of friends didn't include any object operated by electricity, everyone was expected to pitch in to entertain the gathering. People were expected to join in games such as "The Minister's Cat", tell jokes or share their particular prepared bit. In addition to the usual games and music of piano or song, one of the most popular entertainments was the declamation of a long poem, comedy routine or dramatic recitation such as you might read about in Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, or Pride and Prejudice.

The Soliloquies of Shakespeare or ballad poetry of the type written by Noyes, Longfellow, Burns or Service lends itself well to this type of performance, though the hundreds of lines in The Song of Hiawatha or Tam O' Shanter probably would have been a bit much. One of my favorite Service poems that fits the theme is The Cremation of Sam McGee with its comic phrases:

I was sick with dread, but I bravely said:
"I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; . . .
Then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm,
In the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile,
And he said: "Please close that door.

It's fine in here, but I greatly fear
You'll let in the cold and storm --
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee,
It's the first time I've been warm.

Since St. Patrick's Day looms you can memorize the lyrics to the following for your next party piece: Finnegan's Wake

14 March 2009

Caesar Was An Ambitious Man

“The Death of Caesar” by Vincenzo Camuccini (1771 - 1844)

Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue shriller than all the music . Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.

Caesar: What man is that?

Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Julius Caesar Act 1, scene 2, 15–19

The "ides" of March is the fifteenth; which day of the month the ides is depends on a complicated system Caesar himself established. The ides of January, for example, is the thirteenth; the ides of March, May, July and October is the fifteenth.

The importance of the ides of March for Caesar is that it is the day he will be assassinated by a group of conspirators, including Brutus who speaks above. Shakespeare lifted the details from Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar, but being Shakespeare he had to dress it up changing the words from "take heed of the day of the Ides of March" to "Beware the Ides of March!"

Once Caesar has been assassinated by the Senate crowd, it leads to one of the great speeches in literature: Mark Antony's funeral speech where the word "honorable" becomes anything but.

Mark Antony:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,
So let it be with Caesar ... The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it ...
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,
(For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all; all honourable men)
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral ...
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man….
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason…. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Julius Caesar
Act 3, Scene 2,

And a slightly different version: The Cowboy Shakespeare

13 March 2009

Pi Day

I'd like to wish you a very happpy PI day....Thats right folks, just in case you didn't know March 14th is the official PI day and one more reason to party

Or just eats lots and lots of pie because they are in circles too.

To get you started: Pirate Coconut/Banana Pie

2 baked pie crusts (bake the crust at 425 until beginning to brown). When cool, line bottom of pies with banana slices.

Pie Filling:

In a heavy saucepan

3 cups sugar
8 TBSP cornstarch
2 small cans flaked coconut
6 TBSP butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups milk, evaporated milk, half n half or any combination of these
1 cup rum (alternative use 3 cups liquid and 5 drops of rum flavoring)
6 egg yolks (the egg whites can be used for your meringue)

Mix sugar and cornstarch until completely blended. Add liquid slowly and mix completely with a wire whisk. Cook, stirring continuously, over low heat until it begins to thicken. Take out a little warm filling and add to your egg yolks and mix WEL. Pour this back into your saucepan. When filling gets thick add butter and whip with your whisk until it is melted. When your filling is sufficently thick, add vanilla and coconut (reserving 2 TBSP coconut to sprinkle on meringue). Top hot filling with meringue (recipe below), sprinkle with remaining coconut. Bake at 425 until coconut is toasted and peaks of meringue are browning.

Perfect Meringue

Use a clean, dry bowl. The bowl must be grease free, because any amount of fat will wreck a meringue. Glass, ceramic, stainless steel, and copper bowls are all suitable. Plastic bowls may appear clean, but may still have trace amounts of oil; do not use them. Cold eggs separate easily, but eggs whip to a higher volume when at room temperature. The solution is to separate the cold eggs for your pie filling and letting the whites come to room temperature. Separate each egg into two small bowls, one for the white and one for the yolk, and then add the white portion to the larger bowl. This allows you to reserve any with broken yolks for another purpose. Even a small amount of yolk can deflate the egg whites, so be careful.

Add 2 teaspoons cream of tartar to the unbeaten eggs. Whip to medium soft peaks. Beat in 2 tablespoons white sugar per egg white. Continue to beat until egg whites are glossy and hold a firm peak. Spread meringue over piping hot filling, and spread to the edges to seal. Hot filling is necessary to insure that the inside of the meringue cooks, preventing weeping. The preferred baking method is one that combines high temperatures with a short baking time. This prevents overcooking the outside, and thus beading is avoided.

12 March 2009

Irish Whiskey Cake

With St. Patrick's Day fast approaching, some of you may prefer eating your liquor: Irish Whiskey Cake



1 (18 ounce) box yellow cake mix
1 (3 1/2 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup Irish whisky
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped pecans


1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Irish whisky


Mix all cake ingredients together and bake in a greased and floured bundt or 8 inch springform pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees. When removed from oven, while still in the pan, poke holes in surface with tooth pick


Melt butter, sugar and whiskey together. Simmer slowly for 2-3 minutes.
Pour 2/3rds. of glaze on top of cake right out of the oven
Wait 25 minutes
Remove cake from pan
pierce top with toothpick
Pour remaining glaze over cake

If you must get cute, you can use white cake mix and add green food coloring to the cake batter and the glaze. I usually just opt for more whiskey. :-)

11 March 2009

Matinee Idol?

In case you missed the news, there is a newly rediscovered painting that may very well be William Shakespeare, painted from life about 1610.

Here is the full news video and well worth watching


We know that while he may have started life as a disgraced glover's son, he rose to act, write, and become a partner in a successful theater. By the time of his death he was both respected and well to do. This portrait reflects that status and the story of its discovery is fascinating.

08 March 2009

Manic Monday - Full

Another Manic Monday rolls around and for the first time, Mo's logo simply didn't match in any way the first thoughts to go leaping across the brain. Instead of full as in the top of a glass, I thought of full as in complete which immediately brought to mind one of my favorite poems within the plays of Shakespeare.

Full Fathom Five
from The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that does fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! Now I hear them – Ding-dong, bell.

Now I could have wandered off into Sylvia Plath's poem by the same name that borrows from the images, but that is way too depressing being all about parental death and suicide. If you like that sort of thing, go read Plath. I'll avoid her as much as possible. So let's go elsewhere.

For a long time, pop song writers have stolen classical themes and turned them into songs. You can find a pretty complete list here. I have many favorites including "Moonlight Love"" from Debussy's Claire de Lune that has now been rediscovered by a host of fans courtesy of the movie Twilight. Then there is "Stranger in Paradise" in the Broadway musical Kismet - based on a theme from Alexander Borodin's Polovtsian Dances.

The popular song that fits with today's theme is another favorite that became a big hit for Frank Sinatra, Full Moon and Empty Arms based on the melody from Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto

To Important To Miss

Today is International Women's Day. One of my favorite bloggers, Claire of A little Piece of Me, has written a wonderful piece about her experiences in training to be a counselor and the choice to make change in your own life.

Anyone who has experienced violence in their own lives or that of a loved one, know the destructiveness that can be passed down through generations and totally color the way we feel about others and ourselves. There comes a time when you must say "STOP, This will not happen again." It sometimes comes to late to prevent the loss of an important person in our lives. It is never too late to prevent passing the violence along.

06 March 2009

Bare Naked (First) Ladies

Michelle Obama

Jackie Kennedy

Dolly Madison

Helen Taft

Bess Truman

Nancy Reagan

Mary Lincoln

Mamie Eisenhower

With all the uproar over Michelle Obama's bare arms and shoulders, I decided to google the images of other First Ladies. My, My Mame and Hello Dolly! It wasn't difficult to find pictures of bare shoulders, arms, and breast mounds. Oh there were a few well covered from top to toe, but they were actually in the minority or only existed because there was only one known portrait or picture.

After the rather prim images presented by the Bush women and the well covered Hillary Clinton, it was easy to forget that Mamie and Jackie often treated the world to some first lady skin. Then there was the uproar over Dolly Madison's fashionable but see through 1812 period number or the fact that Mary Lincoln's breasts were among her better features. Lady bird's day time apparel may have been southern perfect, but she loved to swirl in her evening gowns. How soon everyone forgot Nancy Reagan's one shoulder number, and it has even been mentioned that around the residence floors, Helen Taft preferred her soft asian robes to her buttoned down American prudery.

You could almost call the display, "Bare Naked First Ladies".

04 March 2009

A Year of Books

This one is for all the book lovers out there. Last year a young woman decided to try to read 52 books in 52 weeks and write a commentary on each one. She made it and you can read all of her posts about all of the books at her website: 52 Books. This year she is doing it again and today's post will have you hooked. This is a reader, someone who invests themselves in the characters and events of the book. Enjoy the experience.

Now if any of you decide to do the same, please let me know and I'll pass it along and highlight your site. In the meantime, I've got a whole lot of reading to do.