Thursday, April 26, 2012

Morph Suits

I read today about young Brits on holiday wearing Morph suits, so called because you can "morph" into someone else when you wear one. No doubt I'm the last to become aware of these hideous garments.

I wondered if these 18 or 19 year old kids, having grown up with the ability to communicate anonymously electronically, are afraid to be totally exposed as themselves in real life social situations. Do they lack social skills or do they want behave very badly and remain anonymous?  You can drink right through the fabric....not sure about other bodily functions.

The whole body condom, sort of a bad joke, has become a reality offering a weird kind of protection for the whole persona. Personal responsibility be damned. Am I reading too much into this?

The manufacturer will be reaching out to the female market this year offering a version with a tutu

Maybe for the avocado festival next year.........

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sepia Saturday - Skipping Rope

This week's Sepia Saturday theme photo shows an assemblage of grim looking people around a May Pole. The smells of Spring came rushing to mind - melting snow, mud, humidity, budding pussy willows. In my photo box I found this group shot of "kids on the street", dated May 14, 1950. Most of the snow was gone; we were free of our heavy winter gear and into lighter clothing.   

Kids on Dominion Street
I'm on the extreme left and next to me stands my cousin Maurice in a double breasted suit and a lapel pin. Odd for a child but he looks comfortable in the outfit. He traded the suit for a robe when he grew up to become a priest.  We knew the value of hats in a cold climate.  I was wearing a babushka (we probably got that name from the Ukrainians), Maurice sported a toque.

It wasn't warm enough in May for the girls to be rid of their sagging lisle stockings. Beneath the happy smiles, hidden from view was the torture garment of the day- the ugly garter belt, a core part of every suffering girl's clothing.  At this age, my garter belts (hand-me-down from my sister) garters were held on with safety pins, the belt itself a tattered scrap pocked with pin holes and rips, the entire deconstructed mess hanging by threads to an itchy waist band.
Uncomfortable underwear didn't hold us back. Either just before or just after this picture, we  started sweeping the sidewalks. Sanded all winter to keep them from being slippery, the scratchy surface was a detriment to roller skating and rope skipping, so we all pitched in and cleared a few blocks. A couple of kids in the photo, including my cousin, were holding jump ropes  - we were ready to go! 

The sidewalk broom exercises were the genesis of my superior sweeping skills, noted by observers even to this day. In the photo below,  I hadn't yet achieved sweeper status, but was happily (?) apprenticing with a mop.

Apprenticing with the mop

In 1950, we still had the old front door. A few years later,  Canada entered the great age of consumerism, when the "tin men" hit town and we acquired a flamingo decorated screen door. A flamingo? In Winterpeg? In Canada? Those were the days of magnificent salesmen, sweeping across the Canadian plains like locusts, separating the population from their money. About that time if you could peek inside our house, you'd see that we had acquired silver-plated stand ashtrays, a black plaster cougar with glass green eyes and a picture of Jesus whose eyes moved with you when you moved - all appropriate must-have accoutrements for middle class Catholic families.
Circa 1959. My graduating sister, original garter belt owner and me.

I'd like to finish this with the words to some of the skipping songs, but they've vanished, drained away with much of the useful information from my aging brain -  old classmate's names, plots of novels, names of authors. All that remains in my memory are scraps of tunes and the sound of the rope slapping the freshly swept sidewalk.

Note: Margaret Buffie third from left, besides having magnificent dimples,  become an acclaimed writer of children's books in Canada. Here are some of her titles and awards:

Honors Awards

Young Adult Canadian Book Award, 1987–88; Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award, 1989, for Who Is Frances Rain?; Ontario Arts Council grants, 1987 and 1989, Canada Council grant, 1995; McNally Margaret BuffieRobinson Book for Young People Award, 1995, for The Dark Garden; Vicky Metcalf Award, 1996, for body of work; McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award, 2005, for The Finder. Works placed on shortlists for Governor General's Award, Mr. Christie Book Award, Ruth Schwartz Book Award, and Canadian Library Association Book Award, as well as on Notable Canadian Young Adult Fiction lists, Canadian Children's Book Centre Our Choice lists, Canadian Library Association Notable Canadian Fiction lists, and American Library Association and New York Public Library Best Books for Young Adults lists.


Who Is Frances Rain?, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987, published as The Haunting of Frances Rain, Scholastic Inc. (New York, NY), 1989.
The Guardian Circle, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989, published as The Warnings, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.
My Mother's Ghost, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992, published as Someone Else's Ghost, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
The Dark Garden, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Angels Turn Their Backs, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.


The Watcher, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2000.
The Seeker, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2002.
The Finder, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2004.


My Mother's Ghost was adapted as a film by Credo Entertainment and Buffalo Gals Pictures, 1996.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Busy Neighbors

Large goat looking at me.
Next door, 50 goats are at work mowing down the weeds.  They're noisy -  ripping off the vegetation, chewing it up, scrambling around on the hills, farting and bleating. Unused to seeing people, they spend their days wandering 40 plus acres with only a goat herd for company. He uses a long stick which he mostly leans on while standing around but he knows the crucial gestures that make the herd change direction. A guy gets a lot of thinking time on a job like that. I nudged action out of the herd by just moving my camera up and down - pretty heady stuff. I can see why herding dogs are so into it.  

Large goat has moved along due to expert camera move.
I'll add "Goat Herdress" to my list of possible post retirement careers. Being promoted from "Laborer" to "Grove Goddess" was a pretty big move for me. Sleeping with the big boss has it's rewards. Although we're still working out the new job description, pulling weeds and digging holes will probably stay in it. New cards for me are coming from Vista print!

There is no rest around here. My fava beans came dangerously close to perishing today. An emergency transfusion was necessary a few hours ago as they were listing to the left and adroop in the hot sun. I think they're saved, but only by a squeak. The lazy cats sat by licking their bums and  watching the beans sag lower and lower. Clearly I need an assistant Grove Goddess but Richard thinks I'm building up an unnecessary bureaucracy. The top guy has always to worry about a bloodless coup.

Barely revived fava bean.
Meanwhile, politics aside, the place smells divine. Our "back forty" is loaded with sweet peas Richard cultivated and which have naturalized over the years. We've cut off armload size bouquets and there's still thousands left. The bees are happy. 
Sweet peas. I need a haircut. TG for soft focus.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Norway Cruising

Gather round boys. There's a bulletin.
You're going where?
We're planning a trip to Amsterdam followed by a cruise up the coast of Norway. In Amsterdam, where the cruise begins, we've rented this apartment for five days. 

The apartment is owned by the proprietess of the clothing shop in the store beneath. Across the street from a canal, it has a nice view - a change from our everyday view of the avocado grove. The building is at the intersection of several busy streets at the edge of the Jordaan district. Restaurants are abundant nearby and we can walk to the museums we are interested in re-visiting, primarily the Rijksmuseum.

Then we board a Costa cruise boat for the Norwegian fjords.When a Gallup poll once asked 200 people from each of 12 countries to rank themselves in terms of culture, food, living standards, natural beauty, female beauty, joi de vivre and national pride, the Norwegian group gave themselves top marks in every category. A nation with great self esteem. These are the ports of call.





I hope we're lucky enough to get the kind of weather shown in these photos. Hellesylt gets around 80 inches of rain a year - the likelihood of sunny skies is slim. We'll be in Leknes (not pictured) around the 1st of June when the sun doesn't go down. It drops down to the horizon, disappears for a minute or two and then starts to rise again.

Let's hide. I hate Lutefiske.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Notable Obit

My friend in Denver sent me this obit from the Denver Post. Flathead and his sense of humor will be sorely missed. His unconventional obit inspired at least 450 people to comment on his "memorial" page and will assure that he's remembered for a long time.



Blanchard, Michael "Flathead"
1944 ~ 2012
A Celebration of the life of Michael "Flathead" Blanchard will be held on April 14th, 3 pm 8160 Rosemary St, Commerce City. Weary of reading obituaries noting someone's courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors' orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.

Mike was born July 1944 in Colorado to Clyde and Ethel Blanchard. A community activist, he is noted for saving the Dr. Justina Ford house from demolition and defending those who could not defend themselves. He was a Republican delegate, life member of the NRA, founder and President of the Dead Cats MC. He loved music.

Mike was preceded in death by Clyde and Ethel Blanchard, survived by his beloved sons Mike and Chopper, former wife Jane Transue, brother Stephen Blanchard (Susan), Uncle Don and Aunt Cynthia Blanchard(his favorite); Uncle Dill and Aunt Dot, cousins and nephews, Baba Yaga can kiss his butt. So many of his childhood friends that weren't killed in Vietnam went on to become criminals, prostitutes and/or Democrats. He asks that you stop by and re-tell the stories he can no longer tell. As the Celebration will contain Adult material we respectfully ask that no children under 18 attend.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Snake in the Grove

    Richard found a snake skin in the grove.  It's got the head part attached which is a good thing for the snake. They shrug out of the skin but sometimes the head doesn't get de-skinned and the snakes have problems seeing.
    One cat thought the skin deserved a closer inspection. The other cat couldn't get away fast enough. 
    Here's our Vietnamese friend Diep in the Mekong Delta with a snake when we traveled with her years ago and on our deck in Fallbrook.  Diep now lives in Canada in Montreal where the snakes are in short supply. 
    But they weren't in short supply number-wise where I grew up in the Canadian prairies. Here's a garter snake mating ball. I saw a small ball like this one on the farm; the stuff nightmares are made of.

I refreshed my memory about these snakes from Wikipedia. Garter snakes go into a kind of hibernation before mating. Males emerge first bursting with hormones and starving (the worst kind). They wait for the females to wake up and emerge from their dens when they are jumped by the males, as many as 25 on a female. That'd be enough to make any female stay in seclusion. A tangled ball results with the whole unromantic mess rolling around in the dust.  It's a very intense, frantic scene - nature's brute survival mechanism hard at work. Interestingly, the female can store sperm for years after fertilization. Score another one for Mother Nature...if a female snake had to go through getting balled this way every year, there'd be no more snakes.  

    Snakes one at a time don't bother me - in fact I find them kind of interesting. Here's me in Bali with a nice little guy. The typical tourist thing - "get your picture taken with a snake". No doubt they've banned this kind of thing, although snakes are kept in captivity all around the world.  


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's never too late......

The role of Daniel in "The Man Who Would be King" was reputedly Sean Connery's favorite of all of films. We watched the 1975 flick last night and enjoyed it. 37 years old, it's still fine rollicking, buddy-movie fantasy entertainment.

Karoom Ben Bouih at 103
We were surprised to learn on IMDB that Karoom Ben Bouih who played the high priest Kafu Selimi was 103 years old when he made his one and only movie appearance. He was working as the night watchman of an olive orchard near the Moroccan filming location. John Huston bumped into him and hired him. He'd fall asleep on the set (who wouldn't at 103?) and Huston finally talked him into giving up his night job. Reminded me a little of the Balinese night watchman Nyoman at the Villa Uma in Ubud, Bali where we got married.
At Villa Uma, Bali Wedding: Wayan, Ketut, me, my sister Eilleen, Made, her son Wayan, Richard, Nyoman the night watchman

Nyoman was very old and once owned the beautiful property where the villa was built.   
Outdoor bath, overlooking the property at Villa Uma, Ubud, Bali
View for wedding lunch

 Nyoman would prowl around at night with a flashlight (everyone in Bali had a watchman at that point - it was just after the Bali bombings) and my brother-in-law, jet-lagged and unable to sleep would keep him company trying to pick up a few Balinese words in the process.

But I digress.....Christopher Plummer was in the film playing Rudyard Kipling, the narrator. Plummer holds a record himself in the age department having won an Academy Award in 2010 for Best Actor in  "Beginners". He was 82, the oldest actor to win an Academy Award.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Poetry Slam

Beth C. hosted again. As we entered Beth's house, we noted the freshly planted flower pots. Someone was actually overheard saying, "well look at that she is really quite the gardener" ! 

Good looking bunch of women

Sean Hill

Sean Hill, Beth's brother-in-law had a poem published in "Poetry" magazine which was the inspiration for our club meeting/poetry slam. He was emailed during the meeting and sent the above picture. He replied in non-verse but perfectly clear language that we were a good looking bunch of women and he wished he could be a fly on the wall.

We all enjoyed having the change up from the usual books; several people brought poems to read or had a favorite poem to recite. I think we were collectively surprised that we all, in fact, like poetry - something we'd never really discussed. Laurie suggested we might begin future meetings with a poem.

Food:  a wonderful seafood rissoto, an appetizer tray of jalapeno artichoke dip, and TJ's rosemary raisin crisps, potato salad with ham and kalamata olives.  Beth brought delicious cookies and more.
We polished off a couple of bottles of wine. Laurie explained her technique for making the risotto and explained "all'onda" or  the "wave" that appears on the top of a rissoto which indicates that it's done. Great culinary term.

Here's Sean's poem - we listened to him recite it, which always makes a poem come alive.  Oddly enough when Beth was a kid and for me also, it was a huge thrill for us to drive from Winnipeg to Bemidji where we would visit the mammoth statue of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. In the poem, he contrasts the blue in Minnesota from Nordic eyes, Kestrels and the blue ox, so different than the blue-black of his family back home.  Wonderful imagery.

Beth read another of his poems from his book, Blood Ties and Brown Liquor, which we also enjoyed. Great meeting.

Here's a link to Poetry Magazine

Bemidji Blues

By Sean Hill
For Arnold Rampersad

Shadows bluing the snow, the pines’ and mine,
bear the cast of a kestrel’s blue-gray crown
I note as I find my way about this town.

Blues here more likely the Nordic-eyes kind
than the blue-black of some Black folk back home.
Here so many lakes reflect the sky’s blue dome;

some summer days skimmed-milk blue tints windblown
whitecaps. Blue’s an adjective, verb, and noun,
and the color of the world when I pine

because she’s gone leaving too much wine and time.
Blue shadows on the snow, mine and the pines’.
For a tall man, blue ox, and now me, home

is Bemidji, though the blues here around
more the cast of a kestrel’s blue-gray crown
than the blue-black of my cousins back home.
Source: Poetry (April 2012).

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Billy Collins Poetry

Tonight is our poetry slam at Book Club. Kathy sent around some of her favorite poems including one by Billy Collins. Hooked now, I've spent much of the morning reading his oeuvre, laughing and crying my way through them. Although I have a long list of things to do, I can't imagine making better use of my time. Thank you Book Club. Thank you Kathy. Thank you Billy.

I Chop Some Parsley While Listening To Art Blakey's Version Of "Three Blind Mice"

And I start wondering how they came to be blind.
If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sister,
and I think of the poor mother
brooding over her sightless young triplets.

Or was it a common accident, all three caught
in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?
If not, if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?
Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse
to locate even one fellow mouse with vision
let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,
could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife
or anyone else's wife for that matter?
Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off their tails
with a carving knife, is the cynic's answer,
but the thought of them without eyes
and now without tails to trail through the moist grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard
has the cynic who always lounges within me
up off his couch and at the window
trying to hide the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, though Freddie Hubbard's
mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon,"

which happens to be the next cut,
cannot be said to be making matters any better.

Billy Collins

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Smelly things

More than half my life was spent evaluating foods and beverages while developing food products; a good deal of that time was spent training my nose. A flavor vial sat on my desk and changed every week, giving me time to sniff and memorize every day - to really imprint the aroma on my brain. If there was an easily available food counterpart I'd try to concentrate on that particular food for the week. It was the only way I was able to learn new aromas - by isolating them and then recognizing them blended together in a compounded food. I think I peaked out at about 50. Now, I can still learn to recognize and identify new aromas but it's harder and harder to retain the information. 'Specially if I don't use it.  

I used to get asked this question frequently: What are your five favorite aromas/smells? The favorites change regularly but for now my five are bacon cooking, roses, coffee, rosemary, citrus.  Close seconds are freshly mown grass, sweet peas, mint, grilled onions, cilantro, bbq grilling.

In the LA Times Magazine today, writer Denise Hamilton writes sublimely about aromas. She  describes the perfume Caron's Narcisse Noir -  "a narcotic blend of dark florals limned with civet, a dirty animalic note that evokes tangles sheets and illicit love - the perfect scent for a 1940's bombshell".  I don't like this kind of writing about wine because most people cannot sense the notes that wine critics/evaluators say are present, nor does analysis prove them to be present. With perfume when they say the perfume contains galbanum and sweet does. The perfumer has put those notes in the mix...and most of the time you can be trained to recognize them.  Flowery romantic writing is perfect for perfume.

The Grueneberg ganglion is a recently discovered ball of olfactory nerve cells found at the tip of the noses of mammals. Our noses are mighty handy for warning us about emergencies. For instance, we can detect smoke at incredibly low levels of concentration.

Now for the bad stuff. Smoke scares me but the worst smell of all for me is vomit -which makes me (and most people) feel immediately sick. Many feel that this"sympathetic" response is an instinctive and protective reaction. If you live in a tribe and you all eat the same things - if one person has food poisoning, it's likely everyone consumed the offending substance and could be in danger. The brain recognizes a warning sign when someone nearby starts vomiting and sends a message to the stomach - disgorge!! Like many other bodily functions there are many alias for vomiting (because the very word disturbs some people - instead they say: tossing your cookies, upchucking. Here's 363 synonyms:
In Australia on a ferry ride out to the Great Barrier Reef, I was aboard a boat on a roiling lurching sea where everyone was sick. Once it starts, it spreads fast. With every muscle in my body clenched and my sea sicknesses patches pasted to my wrists, I sat next to a stoical Japanese man and his young son. The three of us staring straight ahead managed to endure it all, retaining both our composure and the contents of our stomachs. Once we landed the heretofore silent man turned to me with a slight smile and said, "You didn't womit!" One of the best compliments I've ever had.