Sunday, February 07, 2016

Mag 305

So eager for the chase he is
He thinks of little else.
Runs off again, his coat in hand
hat flapping, eyes alight
All smiles and laughs with joy.

Ahoy the cry had come
"A pod's been sighted
Quickly now, off we go."

His men will have a laugh on him
Once again.
"Harry without harpoon" they call him
but he cares not, so happy a man is he.

Out of my sight now
Soon the whales will see them
Tiny specks shouting and jumping
Like small insects to
The whale's big eye.

The news will spread in whale talk
One huge creature crooning to the next.
"It's only Harry" they'll say
winking and blinking
 and diving deep.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Sepia Saturday #16: A Tall Tale

You can't miss the tall guy in this week's photo. Head and shoulders above the crowd, he looks about 6'6" or more. 

He'd have something in common with Yao Ming, the famous Chinese basketball player who is 7' 6" and a former member of the Houston Rockets team. Apparently he's retired from basketball now. I wonder if he'll end up as the CEO of some company. After all, taller people are at an advantage in the workplace. Studies have shown that short people are paid less than taller people, with disparities similar in magnitude to the race and gender gaps.

The tall guy looks as if he might be part of the film crew. I wonder if there's an advantage to being a tall assistant in the film business? Many jobs require, or at least favor tall people such as professional sports and fashion modeling. If you aspire to become a captain of industry, height is a definite asset:

"A survey of Fortune 500 CEO height in 2005 revealed that they were on average 6 feet tall, which is approximately 2-3 inches taller than the average American man. Fully 30% of these CEOs were 6 foot 2 inches  tall or more; in comparison only 3.9% of the overall United States population is of this height. Equally significantly, similar surveys have uncovered that less than 3% of CEOs were below 5′7″ in height. Ninety percent of CEOs are of above average height."

Height is not required on the other side of the camera in the movies. Many of the popular male movie stars are short.  Dustin Hoffman, for example, is only 5"2". Danny DeVito is barely 5 feet. He's always been a hero of mine since I read about his determination. When he was getting started in his acting career, he'd go to every audition call, no matter how absurd. For instance, he auditioned to play Hamlet. Obviously because of his unusual appearance he had to be a superb actor to convince directors that he would be right for a particular part or even, at times, that they should re-write the part to accommodate his short stature. 
Danny Devito teaching Hamlet in Renaissance Man 

In my personal experience with tall people, they may be paid more on the job,  but life, in general, offers plenty of challenges. Tall people rarely fit into ordinary chairs...they never know what to do with their feet, which always seem to be in the way. Clothes are hard to find as are shoes. They don't hear as well because their ears are up too high. Beds are too short; economy class airplane seats are torture chambers. They hit their heads on low doorways and beams. Hugs are awkward. They can see the dust and dirt on top of refrigerators or high shelves. Their view of the world is different.

Here's a photo I found while browsing for things to use in this blog. It combines the illusion of being tall with beach attire and joie de vivre. You might want to listen to this You Tube performance while admiring the tall? girls.

And finally, here's a photo of me, an average size human being,  two years ago, checking out one of my brother-in-law's antique cameras. He collects them.

And my brother-in-law with more of his cameras and photographic paraphernalia.

Check out more stories of camera, film, beaches and other memories at Sepia Saturday.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Mag 304: Weather Report

Adolphe Valette

Weather Forecast: Manchester, England - November 1906.

A somber Morning
 Poor visibility
Faint sunshine
 Black fog alert. 

A dismal Afternoon
Smoke, steam, fog
 Swirl in dreary gloom
Light rain later.

A crepuscular Evening
Wet and sooty streets  
Slick, slimy, wet
Watch your step.
A cheerless Night
As dark as ink
Starless, moonless, murky
Dingy, bitter cold, icy.

Today's weather forecast
Brought to you by:
Dr. Betty's Asthma Cigarettes
Dr. William's Pink Pills for Pale People
Newbury's Effervescent Brain Salt 
for nervous disability, mania, brain over-work 
The Carbolic Smoke Ball
cures hay fever, bronchitis, and sore throat

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sepia Saturday 315: The Irish Bakery

I sat for a few minutes looking at this photo on my screen and I swear my old faded baking scars began to bark. I earned those scars grabbing sheet pans out of ovens similar to these in design, but not age. I'm old but not that old!

Our prompt photo is of an old Irish bakery. Many years ago I worked at Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakers, a Los Angeles company which operated a bakery, a frozen foods company and a chain of coffee shops. They started out selling Saratoga Chips, which was the original name for potato chips or potato crisps. The chips were purchased in bulk ready made. In the store front a conveyor belt emerged from a hole in the wall while in the back room someone placed prepared chips on the belt; they traveled into the store where the chips were bagged for sale. "Clean" was apparently the advertising word of the day back then.

Saratoga chips were seasoned with salt only which seems a bit quaint in this day and age of complex chip and crisp flavors. You British take the cake for wacky and weird crisp flavors. Here's a few from a BBC website article that intrigued me.

For most of my career, I was involved with flavoring foods of various kinds and descriptions. At one point I conducted a great deal of flavor education. Here's an example of the kind of flavor analysis we would do...this is a record of a training session where we used a simple product, Heinz Ketchip, to analyze the aroma and flavor notes. Can you imagine how complicated the Haggis and Cracked Black Pepper would be? 

Back to the's the headquarters of Van de Kamps Bakery on San Fernando Road in Los Angeles, where I worked for many years

The company has sadly long since gone but the brand lingers on some frozen food products and a small line of doughnuts. Here's what the coffee shops menus looked like eons ago, even before my time. I think the design still holds up and yes....the waitresses did wear the Dutch girl uniforms. 

I don't bake often anymore but every once in a while our oven is called into service. Here's a Dutch Baby I made last weekend for breakfast. Scroll down one blog entry to see the recipe if you're interested. 

Grab your oven mitts and rush over to Sepia Saturday for interesting tales of kitchens, recipes, baking, ovens and MORE!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dutch Babies

While working for the California Egg Commission, I prepared many Dutch Babies. They're a wonderful breakfast dish incorporating a lot of eggs and they look spectacular. Best of all, they're incredibly fast and easy...a simple batter poured into an oven-proof skillet or pan and baked for 25 minutes. The big problem they share with popovers and souffles is that the dramatic loft they achieve in the oven quickly dissipates as the dish cools. You have to rush it from the oven to the table for the ooohs and aaaahs. When we took photos of them for ads or recipe books, the photographer would have to be super-fast to catch the dish right out of the oven and looking splendid. I can remember baking 15 or 20 of these, one after the other, attempting to get the photo just right.

Sunday, I whipped one up for breakfast and for some reason, it retained it's shape. After I removed it from the oven, I plopped the pan down on the Sunday Los Angeles Times on our kitchen island. I admired it for a few minutes expecting the inevitable collapse but it just sat there in the pan looking marvelous. After fiddling with it a bit, I found I could actually remove it from the pan and handle it with no detrimental result. This one was a photographer's dream. Aside from slight overbaking of the edges, which may have contributed to the stability, it was delicious.

I used Marion Cunningham's recipe from "The Breakfast Book". Here's my interpretation of the recipe wherein I added a "resting" period for the batter:

3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 450 F. Beat eggs, milk and salt together. Add flour a bit at a time, beating after each addition, so the batter is smooth. Add melted butter and beat well. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 10 minutes to hydrate the flour. Beat again and pour into a non-stick skillet or baking pan and bake at 450 F. for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 F. and bake another 8-10 minutes until puffy and brown. 

Various recipes (and there are many, many around) suggest adding a bit of sugar and/or cinnamon/and or nutmeg to the batter.  If you saute a few sliced apples in butter in the pan first and then pour the batter on top and continue with baking, you have an easy Apple Pancake.

Traditionally, the Dutch Baby is served with a sprinkle of lemon juice and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Here's a rogue's gallery off the web of various other Dutch Babies to give you an idea of how unpredictable they can be - not that they wouldn't be delicious.

Mag 303: Spinning

Magpie Tales
Sunday, January 24, 2016

Magpie Tales is a site dedicated to writers, poets and others. Each week there's a prompt and people are invited to compose a post inspired by the photo. This week the photo transported me to outer space.

Mag 303

Photo by Francesca Woodman

Humana XX from Galaxy 569 emerged from the time travel light band safely and floated through the stratosphere, drifting through polar clouds and blue jets. When her entity hit earth's gravity, the spinning began on cue and she spiralled down to the planet's surface. Slowly, from the warmth of the blurred and milky vortex, she could sense her form beginning to appear. It would be only moments until she was completed and her life on earth would begin.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sepia Saturday #314: The Freckled Fannings

The Fannings
This family is almost certainly from Newtown in Waterford city, and Mr Fanning may have had something to do with a Butter Store. I'd say from the clothes, etc. that this is quite early for a Poole photo? (1884 is our earliest Poole glass plate.)

It's a great shot of parents, children, and puppy all en famille, and their freckliness (officially recognised medical term) is fascinating...

Date: 1880s??

The freckled Fanning family is featured in this week's photo. After thinking about them, it's difficult to put memories of the Farkle Family from the famous American TV show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, out of your mind. Unfortunately, there are few photos of the Farkle family extant, as a Google search yielded only this awful photo apparently taken from a TV screen.

The gist of the joke was that the Farkle children, all red-haired and freckled, didn't resemble their father, Frank Farkle, at all. However, the next door neighbor, Fred Berfel, was red-haired and freckled which fact seemed to be lost on Mr. Farkle for whom alliteration was everything. I always loved the twins, Simon and Gar Farkle - one black and one white, and their siblings Sparkle Farkle and Flicker Farkle. The fun was fast and furious in that family! Here's a clip - ignore the excessively silly intro - a first-rate Farkle frolic follows

Seriously, I studied the photo of the Fannings carefully to see how much latent humor I could detect in their facial expressions. I concluded that the father and two sons on the right side had laughed or smiled in the near past. The other family members looked pained or agitated. Mom is holding a very gay parasol, but she looks anything but happy. When I thought about her wearing that tight bodice with all the buttons, I could sympathize with her. 

Clothing designers of those days used the profusion of buttons to make the garments conform to the body shape. Underneath the buttoned top, women wore stiff corsets and often the dresses actually had "bones" sewn into the bodices.  Ugh. 

At least by that time, buttons weren't considered sinful. At various times in history, from what I read, buttons were considered a moral temptation; after all, they are easily undone (for some). A more conservative choice for garment closures was laces. Hmmm...I don't see it. A lace, it seems to me, is extremely easy to undo and takes little manual dexterity. In fact, I think laces became associated with sexy clothing, not modest clothing, somewhere along the line of fashion evolution. There are plenty of laced bodices on the covers of romantic novels, those novels we call "bodice rippers". And wouldn't you know it, those laces are almost always undone. 
Clearly, where there's a will there's a way. Buttons haven't posed much of a problem for this pair. 

The seemingly innocuous little button has played a few important roles in history. At one time, buttons were used to carry secret messages; some had small compasses built into them. The photo below is of a WW2 British RAF Escape Button Compass. There's a tiny working compass that unscrew from the front.

In 2011, a Barbadian woman who claimed to be a clothing designer was caught at a Canadian airport after more than a $1 million in cocaine was found inside the thousands of buttons for garments she was importing. 

In the book, "Napoleons' Buttons", the authors speculate that the tin buttons on Napoleon's army's uniforms may have been instrumental in their ultimate defeat. From the website, Napoleon's Buttons: 

 "In December of 1812, Napoleon's army consisting of 600,000 men was marching toward Russia. His Forces up until this time had been unmatched and undefeated. One reason for the downfall of the unstoppable French army was army uniforms themselves. All of the army's clothing, spanning from the highest general to the most lowly private, had tin buttons sewn on to their uniforms. When exposed to the bitter cold, as Napoleons army encountered in Russia, tin disintegrates into a fine powder. Was the army, as their buttons and uniforms fell apart, so weakened by the cold that it could not function? Were men using their hands to hold together their garments instead of carrying vital supplies? Could the disintegration of something as small as a tin button led to the downfall of one of the greatest armies throughout history? (Le Couteur & Burreson 1-19)"

I read on and on about buttons and one thing led to another as I cruised up and down the net. Strange little facts popped up - like why buttons are sewn on men's jacket sleeves? Obviously, they serve no practical purpose or do they? I read the answer and immediately posed the questions to my smarty-pants husband. "I bet you don't know why they sew button's on men's coat jacket sleeves." He paused for two seconds and said, "To discourage men from wiping their noses on their sleeves." I sighed. A little later he told me that he learned about the sleeve/nose wiping from his time as an officer and a gentleman.

From Vintage News, I found this fascinating photo of a Victorian exercise machine. How about the buttons on the woman's exercise costume.

I'm buttoning up my post for today by adding the only sepia family group picture I have of my paternal grandparents which resembles the prompt. My grandmother's gown features leg o'mutton sleeves which were fashionable in the 1890's and no doubt there are buttons on the bodice, but sadly, the photo is so bad that details are hard to see. 

And there's one final bit of my family story that hearkens back not to the Freckled Fannings but to the fictitious, funny Farkle family. My grandfather William died in 1902 and some years later my grandmother, by then in her 40's, married the boy next door. Bertie Massey was in his early twenties. Not exactly the Farkle family and Bertie was no Fred Berfel, but I bet there were a few raised eyebrows in that community. 

Around 1890 - my grandmother Lucy Armstrong Killeen and my grandfather William Killeen and children:
Percy, George, Hilda, Netta, Lornie, Pearl. My father was not yet on the scene. 

Monday, January 18, 2016


What do you call a group of?????
  • Elephants: a parade
  • Elk: a gang
  • Ferrets: a business
  • Fox: a leash, skulk or earth
  • Buffalo: a gang or obstinacy
  • Donkeys: a pace
  • Giraffes: a tower
  • Goats: a tribe or trip
  • Gorillas: a band
  • Hippopotamuses: a bloat or thunder
  • Hyenas: a cackle
  • Jaguars: a shadow
  • Kangaroos: a troop or mob
  • Lemurs: a conspiracy
  • Leopards: a leap
  • Martens: a richness
  • Moles: a labor
  • Monkeys: a troop or barrel
  • Mules: a pack, span or barren
  • Otters: a romp
  • Pigs: a drift, drove, sounder, team or passel
  • Porcupines: a prickle
  • Porpoises: a pod, school, herd or turmoil
  • Rabbits: a colony, warren, nest, down, husk or herd (domestic only)
  • Rhinoceroses: a crash
  • Squirrels: a dray or scurry
  • Tigers: an ambush or streak
I'd heard of some of these terms used to describe animal groups but I'd never heard of a "dazzle of zebra" before going to Africa. And what a perfect name it is! When a group of zebra are together moving, the stripes juggling around on legs, bodies and faces is mesmerizing. Dizzying. In fact, a "dizzy of zebra" wouldn't be a half-bad term to use. With my eyesight and ever-wavering horizon if I watched too long I'd have to glance away to get re-stabilized. I'm sure there's a similar effect on lions and hyenas, the primary predators of the zebra. Mother Nature rewards success and the zebra evolved, striped, for camoflage. In the tall grass with deep shadows, they disappear. "Look at the zebra," someone exclaims and as the dazzle trots into the grass they disappear like a puff of smoke. Safe....for the moment.


In a typical zebra cluster, the safest place to be is in the middle. Standing out from the crowd increases the chance of being picked off by a lion or hyena. An animal standing alone could be sick and therefore easy pickings.

Every zebra has unique stripes; they're like fingerprints, and even though they all look alike to us, a foal can spot it's mother immediately from her striping. 

Zebra babies are up and running within a couple of hours of birth. They have to be able to keep up with the harem right away as the group is always on the move. This little guy has particularly beautiful stripes including the two on each ear. They're born after an 11 month gestation period; they stand one hour after birth and by two hours, they're running. They have to be able to keep up with the harem or it's curtains. At a week old, they start to graze even though they will continue to suckle for months.

When you see Zebra clustered together like this they are likely a harem. A harem is a stallion with a group of female zebras, or fillies and their offspring. The group typically numbers about a dozen. They stand very close together not because they are demonstrating affection but because the confusion of stripes makes it difficult for predators to visually sort out one animal from the pack. When harems come together for migration they become a dazzle.
Like all animals, they are most vulnerable while drinking. The cluster effect creates confusion for the eye and protection wherever they are. You see the animals in tight little knots around the waterholes or at the rivers' edge.

This guy is a handsome specimen. The males leave the harem when they are between a year and two years. From then on, their goal in life is to get a harem of their own, by displacing an older stallion and claiming his harem. If they succeed in driving out or killing an established stallion and taking over, the first they do is kill the foals. Nature drives them to get rid of the old genes and replace them with their own stronger genes. The mares will not come into estrus while they still have nursing babies so they aren't receptive to the males. Killing the babies takes care of that problem. The fillies come into heat for about a week - a glory week for the stallion after which the pregnant females are no longer receptive but his genes are "in the bag" so to speak. From then forward, he's defending his territory against a new crop of perhaps stronger, younger males.
A dazzle.

The beautiful stripes have inspired artists:
Colored Zebra
Zebra fragments

One cannot think of stripes without conjuring up the image of prison uniforms. Prison officials used the stripes so that prisoners would be immediately recognizable; in many ways, the exact opposite motivation of Mother Nature in her allocation of stripes to the zebra.