Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sepia Saturday 187: Harvard Classics

What is precious, tattered, torn and handed down? To so many of us Sepians, the answer is photographs - family photographs passed on from generation to generation are the currency of Sepia Saturday. But occasionally other things are handed down - and in so many cases it is the family bible that becomes the linchpin of family history. So for Sepia Saturday 187  we focus our attention on family bibles. But in the best traditions of Sepia Saturday themes, you can interpret the theme in any way you want : books, lettering, printing, hand-me-downs  ... they all fall within our theme this week. Our theme image was specially created from a collage of family bible pictures provided by seasoned Sepians Kathy and Martha and stitched together by Marilyn.

We didn't have a family Bible. The most treasured books we owned were my Dad's set of Collier's Harvard Classics. My father purchased the set with his first paychecks as a lawyer, around 1923. Colliers, circa 1909, bundled together in 50 volumes everything you needed to read to become "well read".  They are not particularly rare and you can buy a set on eBay for about $300.00. To me however my set is priceless. Here's more about them from Wikipedia:

The Harvard Classics, originally known as Dr. Eliots Five Foot Shelf, is a 51 volume anthology of classic works from world literature, compiled and edited by Harvard University president Charles W. Eliot and first published in 1909. Eliot had stated in speeches that the elements of a liberal education could be obtained by spending 15 minutes a day reading from a collection of books that could fit on a five foot shelf. (Originally he had said a three foot shelf.) The publisher P. F. Collier and Son saw an opportunity and challenged Eliot to make good on this statement by selecting an appropriate collection of works, and the Harvard Classics was the result. Eliot worked for one year with William A. Neilson, a professor of English; Eliot determined the works to be included and Neilson selected the specific editions and wrote introductory notes. Each volume had 400 - 450 pages, and the included texts are so far as possible, entire works or complete segments of the worlds written legacies. The collection was widely advertised by Collier and Son, in Colliers Magazine and elsewhere, with great success. 

As you can probably tell, I never found my way to most of these classics. The volume of Grimm's fairy tales is in tatters; this one was our favorite as children. The pages are stained and dog-eared and the spine is barely holding. My mother re-covered the volume with red shelf paper. 

I wrote some really vapid notes in the poetry volumes when I was in college; my sister scribbled thoughts in the Chaucer.  Which brings to mind this wonderful Billy Collins poem. Chokes me up every time I read it. 


Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
'Nonsense.' 'Please! ' 'HA! ! ' -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote 'Don't be a ninny'
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls 'Metaphor' next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of 'Irony'
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
'Absolutely,' they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
'Yes.' 'Bull's-eye.' 'My man! '
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written 'Man vs. Nature'
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
'Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love.' 

I wish I'd spent the recommended 15 minutes a day reading the Classics.  Today, I might be able to quote something more substantial than naughty limericks and Ogden Nash. I suspect my father may have read and re-read them all; he seemed always to have a volume on his book pile. 

More personal stories about treasured books can be found at Sepia Saturday

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sepia Saturday 186: Auntie Hilda

Brunhilde came to mind immediately. Wagnerian.

But I have nothing that matches - no swords, no armor, no lances.

What I do have is a photo of my Aunt Hilda which is as close to Brunhilde as I can get. She's second from right. Note the gentleman's arm around her waist.

 Hilda never married. Here's a letter from my cousin which offers an explanation.

The pertinent part of the letter reads: "Hilda and Stuart Carroll had a love affair for years but
they were cousins far removed that's why they didn't get married."

All my Irish Catholic aunts were named Mary something and Hilda was Mary Hilda Irene Killeen (1887 - 1968). She was one of my three "maiden" aunts and the oldest of the lot. I knew her only as an elderly woman who wore lisle stockings and those awful clunky shoes with a thick wedge heel and laces up the front..."nun's shoes".  She ended up never marrying which in those days was a tragedy; this letter implies that she never got over Stuart. Instead she worked as a secretary for the Canadian Pacific Railway for 50 years, retiring with the proverbial gold watch. I wish I knew more.

Every Sunday after mass, I would stop in at my "nest of aunts" house which was next door to the church. All three unmarried aunts lived there with my Grandmother. They lived with her for their entire lives. It was a lively home and they treated me as an adult; I loved those visits.  After the last mass on Sunday, the house would be over-flowing with cousins and aunts, chatter filling the air, lots of tea being drunk, kids running in and out of the house. My grandmother sat in a rocking chair presiding over the activities.

Here's a photo of the three maiden aunts and others with my sister in 1947. Hilda is second from right. It's a terrible picture but the only one I have of her. This was a Christmas party but looks more like a funeral. My guess is that they were just going out the door when someone said "Stop - I want to get a picture." No doubt there was fiddling around with lighting and focusing. It would have been very cold outside; December in Winnipeg often brings temperatures well below zero. The ladies were wrapped up in furs and probably very uncomfortable.  My father's white writing on the drapes adds a ironic whimsy to the glum scene. As he was probably the photographer I think he was trying to "put lipstick on a pig" as we say.


I searched for an appropriate poem or limerick to add here - something about Hilda and I stumbled on the beautiful poetry of Hilda Doolittle. Out of her vast body of work, I chose Heat for today as I sit in our avocado grove where it's 90 F.  and hear fruit dropping from the trees and thumping into the mulch. While we're waiting for the sea breeze to cut the heat, we can make more guacamole for dinner tonight.


O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air--
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat--
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.

Friday, July 12, 2013


Having nothing in my photo stash that would suffice for this week's Sepia Saturday theme, I did a Google patent search thinking I might come up with something interesting.  I found this one for a beerbrella that made me laugh. So much for the theme.


 Here's the patent

Beer's been on my mind as we have a new brew pub opening up on Main Avenue. Fruit flies abounded in Beth's office (upstairs from the new pub) at this month's book club meeting; we wondered if they were attracted by the fermentation activities going on below.

Brewing has become a serious business around here; it was recently declared the second largest employer in the county. With that in mind, instead of picking up Vietnamese food to-go yesterday, I stopped at the Urge Gastropub in Ranch Bernardo and ordered a meat loaf plate and an IPA beer bratwurst. The place was moderately busy at 5 pm; thankfully and surprisingly, the music wasn't too loud.

Their beer menu is amazing long and changes every day; they offer fifty-one types of craft beer and have over one hundred beers by the bottle.  As my drinking and driving days are long since over I can only admire the libation list from afar. To that point they wisely offer several sizes presumably so you can taste a selection of brews without getting plastered. Most you can buy in half pint quantities or a "taste". The tastes run about $2.00. They have a detailed explanation of the beers and what makes them special.

One of the beers they serve is called Old Rasputin on Nitro. It's a Russian stout with 9% alcohol.We'll be in St. Petersburg for three days on a Baltic cruise in September, so I hope to drink something like this in its own terroir along with a genuine Russian pierogi. About Russian stout.....

 Inspired by brewers back in the 1800's to win over the Russian Czar, this is the king of stouts, boasting high alcohol by volumes and plenty of malt character. Low to moderate levels of carbonation with huge roasted, chocolate and burnt malt flavors. Often dry. Suggestions of dark fruit and flavors of higher alcohols are quite evident. Hop character can vary from none, to balanced to aggressive.

The meat loaf, made of veal, chorizo, Angus beef and bacon was excellent and survived the ride home very well (including a stop at Home Depot for rebar - my life is so glamorous). The crumbly texture was particularly appreciated - very unlike the tough, compact loaf that you frequently find on diner or coffee shop menus. Minced chorizo added very nice heat at a level that complimented the other ingredients without overwhelming them. The beer bratwurst was another story. Undistinguished except for an annoyingly tough casing; I had to saw through it. I did detect a whiff of beeriness about halfway through gnawing on the thing. It's quite a feat to make sauerkraut bland but they achieved it.  Disappointing. Turning my attention from the flat brat to the side order, I found the red potato salad tasteless, basically mayonnaise and red potatoes. One win for the meatloaf - it's the best! Stay away from the brat unless you have very low expectations for the wurst. Regardless of the mediocre brat, the meat loaf filled me with hope - I'd try the place again.

My other thought for the SS theme was related to cocktail umbrellas. Here's a cute alternate use for them in case you have too many on hand:

Lunch with Larry and Lainie

I haven't seen my friends for a long tme. They were passing through the area and we were able to spend the whole afternoon at Rancho Bernardo Inn eating lunch and drinking wine. The weather was perfect..a little bit cool but it felt pretty good to the Arizonites. Don't expect a decent meal at the Inn..our Caesar salads were pretty bad; Jack in the Box quality at uptown prices. The menu is extremely limited and the service okay but not what you'd expect from the prices. The food really didn't matter; the place was quiet and our primary purpose was to catch up. We laughed remembering our happy times together, cried over a few friends now gone, caught up on our family status and collectively felt grateful that we're all still around. Lainie just turned 76 and can still turn a head.

Lainie with Thelma and Louise

Larry - probably a tail gate party

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Show Dog

My sister-in-law Paula (participates in dog Obedience shows) sent me this splendid photo she took of a Springer Spaniel getting ready for a show (conformation). His ears are wrapped to keep them in spiffy condition prior to his/her time in the ring. She recently read and recommends the book, Show Dog: The Charmed Life and Trying Times of a Near-Perfect Purebred, by Josh Dean described on Amazon.com below. The book gets great reviews.

By spending a year alongside rising star Jack, a champion Australian shepherd, and his canine and human friends, magazine journalist Josh Dean yanks back the curtain on the dog show world, providing not just a hilarious and often touching portrait of a colorful subculture only slightly exaggerated in the film Best in Show, but also a revealing look at our love affair with the world's most doted-upon and tinkered-with animal species, examining the colossal array of dog types and humans who love them. 

The book follows Jack as he matures over the course of a year, from still-improving adolescent to seasoned adult show dog. We get to know him and the people around him—his owner, his handler, his breeder—to experience what it's like to own a show dog and to train one. And we come to appreciate him for what he is, a lovable and intelligent house pet—albeit one with a highly unusual occupation.
Along the way, Dean takes a close look at the eccentric and fascinating world of breeders and dog show fanciers—exploring the history and science of purebred dog breeding and the evolution of canine perfection via dog show culture, with that pursuit's many related peculiarities: judging, training, naming, promoting, hairstyling, kennel-owning, RV-driving, hotel-finding, treat-selecting, and more. 

Here's a longer view of the springer showing that he's not just about colorful ear wrap. He's a beauty!

Bill and Larry

Bill and Larry are getting married. Our friends announced on Facebook that they would be marrying on Sunday in Washington, DC. I thought Larry's words about marriage were lovely.

Bill said, “YES!” and I said, “YES!” . . . so yesterday we went to the DC courthouse at Judiciary Square and applied for a marriage license. The document will be ready for us on Friday.

Come Sunday morning, document in hand, we’ll meet at an undisclosed, somewhat monumental location in Washington, to be legally married.

Although our marriage won’t solve all the world’s problems, it’ll definitely help make the world a better place – and not just for us. Besides making us quite happy, our marriage will add to the stability and strength of our neighborhood, and create new family bonds.

We thank everyone we know and love for their readiness to welcome us into the refining, tempering, stabilizing discipline that marriage is. And a special thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court for helping make this wonderfully good thing possible.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Sepia Saturday 184: Serendipity

On July 6th, 1885 Louis Pasteur successfully treated a boy with rabies vaccine. The prompt  for Sepia Saturday this week is this plaque commemorating the occasion.

Pasteur discovered the principle of vaccination when he inoculated chickens with cholera bacteria. The chickens should have died; however, they did not. They were sick for a while but recovered. When he used a fresh culture of the bacteria in the repeat experiment, the chickens did not get sick. Serendipitously, he had discovered vaccination.

What is serendipity? It's often referred to as the situation when one is in search of a certain thing and in the process, something else of greater or equal value results. 

Horace Walpole, incidentally - the  inventor of the Gothic novel, coined the word "serendipity". 

From The Free Dictionary. Word History: We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for the word serendipity, which he coined in one of the 3,000 or more letters on which his literary reputation primarily rests. In a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that "this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word." Walpole formed the word on an old name for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of "a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of...."

So many of the products and processes we use were discovered serendipitously, the list would fill pages. I limited my list below to the everyday household items I personally take for granted every day. Serendipitous discovery I notice comes about when the discoverer is breaking a rule or indulging in some kind of moral lapse. The person is out of the groove and out of the groove is where new things happen. 
    Arthur Fry: Wikimedia Commons
    • Accident: The invention of Post-It notes is legendary.  In 1968, Dr. Spencer Silva, a scientist at 3M was attempting to develop a super-strong adhesive, but instead he accidentally created a "low-tack", reusable, pressure sensitive adhesive that has been characterized as "a solution without a problem". Arthur Fry saw an application. Eventually they became Post-It's. Even the yellow color was accidental. A lab next door to the Post-it team only had scrap yellow paper around which was initially used and the yellow color became a hallmark of the product.  
    • Rule breaking: Aspartame was discovered by James Schlatter while working in a lab trying to discover an anti-ulcer drug. He licked his fingers and tasted sweetness...incredible sweetness. His bad laboratory practice (never lick your fingers because the items you are working with might be poisonous) resulted in an amazing discovery.

    • Goofing around:  Percy LeBaron Spencer of the Raytheon Company was walking past a radar tube and he noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket melted. Realizing that he might be on to a hot new product he playfully placed a small bowl of popcorn in front of the tube and it quickly popped all over the room.
      Early Radar range. www.kitchenretro.wordpress.com

    Van de Kamp's Saratoga Chip Shop
    •  Revenge: The first potato chip was invented by George Crum at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, on August 24, 1853. He was fed up with the constant complaints of a customer who kept sending his potatoes back to the kitchen because they were too thick and soggy. Crum decided to slice the potatoes so thin that they couldn’t be eaten with a fork. Against Crum’s expectation, the customer was ecstatic about the new chips. They became a regular item on the lodge’s menu under the name “Saratoga Chips". I worked for many years for Van de Kamp's - the company began by selling Saratoga Chips from a store front in downtown L. A.
      Wikimedia Commons

    •   Carelessness: In 1905, an entrepreneurial little 11-year-old boy with a soda-making hobby left his equipment outside in the cold all night.  When little Frank Epperson came out the next day, he found that that his stirring stick was frozen upright in his now solid soda.  He called it the “Epsicle.”  19 years later, he patented his "epsicle" “ and only renamed it  "popsicle" at the urging of his children.
      Frank Epperson: www.whenwasitinvented.org
    • Giving Up:  Lee and Perrin's Worcestershire sauce: Two chemists in Worcester, England, were approached by a customer to create a sauce he'd sampled in India. John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins' creation was so horrible tasting that they abandoned it in the basement. Two years later, the pair found the sauce had mellowed and that it flavored meats wonderfully. It went on sale in 1837.
      Wikimedia Commons
    • Laziness: Chocolate Chip Cookies: One fateful day in 1930, a little-known inn in Massachusetts ran out of baking chocolate.  Too lazy to run to the store, what was Ruth Wakefield to do except shrug and break some semi-sweet chocolate chunks into her chocolate cookie dough  instead?  After baking, she noticed that the chocolate hadn’t mixed in with the dough and found this change to be quite delicious!  This accidental innovation made her Toll House Inn a household name.
    Once these discoveries were made, they had to land in the lap of someone who recognized their worth; to take advantage of good things that appear unexpectedly and to see things changing and adapt. Serendipitous invention requires a mind wise enough to see patterns and apply knowledge to them; above all, a mind that is stimulated by mistakes and unbound by fixed thinking - willing to learn. 

    128 years later, Pasteur's famous quote still sounds good... "chance favors only the prepared mind”. And finally here's a wonderful chart of the process published with this fine paper: Maximizing Serendipity

    Read more stories inspired by the Louis Pasteur plaque here: Sepia Saturday

    The Goddess of Serendipity: www.commondreams.org
    Delicious Foods Discovered by Accident/Yummly: www.yummly.com
    Marvelous Mistakes:When food goes wrong, sometimes it's right: www.jsonline.com
    Top 10 Accidental Discoveries : www.listverse.com