Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How Happy Are You?

Here's a contest I'm not entering. I wonder what genius thought happy people would take the time to write to Heinz and tell them about their wonderful state of mind. Happy people are too busy being happy to write to anybody for ketchup. I think a better contest would be "How Unhappy are you?" Can you imagine what they'd hear - and they'd soon run out of ketchup prizes. I'd make up a sob story to enter that one.

I'm not too happy myself at the moment. Costco stopped baking that wonderful rosemary and garlic bread they've sold for years. All they carry now is a rather weak French loaf. Trupiano's stopped serving the cannelloni, my favorite item on the menu. Ruby's, those saboteurs, removed my favorite Kobi sliders from the menu. Music gets louder and louder in restaurants, and there are fewer places we feel comfortable. Who wants to yell at each other throughout a meal? We feel we're gradually being "86'ed" ourselves. Things change. 

What should I expect? 40 years ago I had a favorite place in La Crescenta where we'd go for the Friday night Abalone special. We'd enter the place and walk through the cigarette smoke haze to a red leather booth where we'd settle in and munch on the complimentary "radish, celery, carrot plate." Next, we'd order  a shrimp cocktail, along with a gin and tonic or Rob Roy or rum and coke - whatever was the cocktail of the moment. A salad might be tossed tableside and frequently was "spinning." If the plates and fork were ice-cold, that was up-scale. Our abalone was dredged in flour then sauteed in butter. It always came with a baked potato (wrapped in aluminum foil) with a big blob of sour cream on top. The plates were garnished with a huge piece of kale which nobody would think of eating. Between courses, everybody lit up and blew smoke into each other's faces. We'd be horrified by the whole scene today. 

Correction: The Heintz people weren't offering ketchup as a prize. Apparently you are supposed to assume that money is other words it means (but doesn't say), "Tell us what makes you happy and you could win money".

Lawry's waitress with her spinning salad bowl.

Blaze Pizza

Shari has been working on projects for a new fast casual pizza concept, Pieology. Attuned to the emerging trend, I followed my nose over to Blaze Pizza, a similar concept in Carlsbad. The order line is set up much like a Subway sandwich line or Chipotle Grill. With this concept, all the pizzas are 11"; they're "fast-fire'd" and ready in 180 seconds. 

If they asked me (which nobody does anymore) I would suggest re-wording this to "ready in three minutes." A famous study conducted some years ago revealed that supermarket shoppers weren't responsive to a tested"50%" off sale. If the wording for the same sale read "half off", sales increased dramatically. Hard as it is to believe, one has to conclude that "50%" is too difficult for the average shopper to grasp. The very least you can take away from the study is to keep it simple. 3 minutes is easier to grasp. 

For $7.95 you can choose any or all of the toppings. The extremely thin crust is almost like a cracker when it emerges from the oven. I ordered a "green stripe" and thought it was excellent. Chicken, red peppers, garlic, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, Kalamari olives and a pesto drizzle. Arugula went on top after baking. A combination of high oven temperature and very thin crust is how they achieve the rapid bake time. 

How they make money is beyond me because portion control is absent. Ingredients are added by hand and sprinkled over the top. A handful is not a very reliable measuring technique, but apparently they've worked out the details - and are in a rapid franchising mode. They have units all over the greater LA area and in San Diego in La Jolla, Carlsbad and Encinitas - no doubt all three owned by one franchisee. 

Ten other chains are franchising similar concepts in different areas of the country although they all bravely announce plans to go coast to coast. These chains are almost all the same - each has a slight twist.

Live Basil Pizza - they grown their own basil on the premises
PizzaRev - founded by record company executives
Pie Five Pizza -  your pizza in 5 minutes
Project Pie - everyday artisan pizza made by you (Carlsbad based)
Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint - the original make your own pizza place
Your Pie - "express your own pizza"
MOD Pizza - Seattle based
Pizzeria Locale - contemporary Neapolitan style pizza
Blast Fast Fire'd Pizza - 10" pie in three quick minutes
The Pizza Studio - "create your own masterpiece"
My Green Stripe Pie

Small to-go boxes are stacked up along with the condiments and napkins so you can carry home your left-overs. I liked this unexpected convenience very much. Personally however I don't like preachy little homilies on my pizza boxes. There's a smugness about this that doesn't sit well with me. There's so much more in their own area of expertise they could do with this space.

Although it's noisy, the Carlsbad unit has outdoor seating that's tolerable. Unless you're devoted to a thick crust style pizza, you'll like this.

One Cold Valentine's Day (continued)

 With a trembling hand, Frank flicked ashes into the stand ashtray next to his chair. He caught my eye and pointed a finger at me. It made my skin crawl and I hurried into my bedroom. Frank gave me the willies. At 13 I was self-conscious and vulnerable. He would often make some remark about me wearing lipstick or a bra - he'd make his remarks jokingly but his cruel intent pierced through the alcohol haze. I wished he'd go back home. 

He continued to talk and I could hear him through the  bedroom door.

"All hell broke loose over there this morning," he said. "Last night I came home late from the legion hall. Winnie shook me awake about ten; she was mad as hell: mad at me for staying out late; mad at me for sleeping in; mad at me because she's always mad at me." His mouth twisted into a kind of rictus. He finished the drink in one long swallow. 

"No teeth," he mumbled. "What?" asked my father. "NO TEETH!" Frank raised his voice. "I reached for my zoobs on the nightstand and they weren't there."

All the men in our neighborhood called their false teeth zoobs. False teeth were inevitable for that generation because they received little dental care during the depression. Rarely did anyone reach the age of fifty without having a full extraction. Some called their teeth pearlies or Wallies or Wally Dogs; a couple of the older men referred to them as clickers, snappers or clackers. Around our neighborhood, they were zoobs. I could hear the ice cubes clinking again as my mother brought Frank a refill. He took a sip and continued.

"Winnie, I asked, Where's my zoobs? She told me she didn't know. I got up and looked around. All morning I searched for the damn things -  under the bed, in the garage, in the kitchen. I was looking in drawers and behind furniture. At noon, I was still toothless. Winnie walked into the kitchen, threw me another dirty look and took the Ritz crackers out to have a snack. She put her hand in the box, screamed bloody murder and dropped it on the floor. 'Jesus H. Christ, there's something in there,' she said and backed away. 

I picked up the box and emptied it out. My zoobs clattered as they hit the counter. Damned if it wasn't my teeth she'd felt, for God's sake. Well, I was relieved to find them, but not Winnie. It was more fuel for her fire and on and on she went, like I'd robbed a bank.  

By this time, my head was pounding like a jackhammer; my guts were churning, and I needed a drink. I went into the bathroom and put in the teeth. I reached under the sink to get the bottle stashed there. I didn't hear her creep in behind me; she pounced on that bottle like a cat on a mouse.

Shit. Was she pleased John. I could have sent her ten dozen roses today for Valentine's, and it wouldn't have put a bigger smile on her face. She caught me red handed. The right color for the day."     
"So she was smiling," said my father, surprised. 

"Yes, smiling," repeated Frank. "The old witch couldn't wait to get on the phone and tell Olive about my teeth and the sink bottle. They were laughing together on the phone when I left. The two of them love to see me suffer."

Brooding in my bedroom I wrote Frank the meanest Valentine's note I could think of:

Roses are red
and violets are blue,
Olive despises you
Winnie does too.

But then I thought of this one...

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Zoobs in the crackers?
How stupid are you?

I couldn't give Frank the Valentines because my parents would kill me but I reveled in the satisfaction of seeing the words on paper and after reading them a couple of times,  I ripped them up.

There was silence from the living room. I knew Frank's glass was probably empty again but there was a two drink limit at our house; if we didn't curb the booze, Frank would stay all day and night and drink us dry. 

Dad stayed seated and watched Frank wobble to the door where he turned to the hall closet. He reached behind the pile of coats; Dad saw the flash of the bottle just before Frank got it under his sweater. We all knew the bottle was there. Mom found it a few months before and confronted my Dad. "You're getting as bad as Frank," she said accusingly. Dad was able to convince her that he wasn't guilty; that our house was being used by Frank for over-flow hiding places. I wondered how many bottles he had hidden around the neighborhood.

I saw the irascible Frank occasionally over the years on trips home to visit my mother. After my Dad died, the 3:00 visits stopped. His liver must have been chrome plated because he outlived Winnie by a few years. His brain didn't fare as well and although he was a bit addled, he remained in the little house alone without burning it down. If I did see him, it was by accident - he might be outside raking his yard or at his garage coming or going. I'd ask,"Got your zoobs Frank?" He'd smile and make sure I could see his teeth. I'd smile back and ask "How's Olive?" The question was a thinly veiled dagger and I know it made him squirm inside. I've never understood why I couldn't stop asking him about her. Some kind of revenge I guess.  

The last time I returned to the neighborhood was after my mother died. My sister and I cleaned out the house and got it ready to sell. It was a nostalgic time for us. We put on our mother's hats and jewelry; took each other's pictures playing dress-up; laughed and cried about times past in our neighborhood. As we worked our way through closets and cupboards I half-expected to find one of Frank's hidden bottles but nothing turned up. 

We never went back, but I looked up the old street on Google Earth not long ago. Our house no longer sports the flamingo-adorned aluminum screen door; the hedges between houses are gone along with the big pine trees in Mr. Laurent's yard next door. Five doors down from ours I could see the McInerny's tiny house, almost unchanged but someone had painted the front stairs a vivid Valentine's red. 

The sight of those red stairs inexplicably softened my feelings towards Frank. My heart finally thawed out after years of February sunshine in California. I have a feeling that Frank may be somewhere warmer too.


Carlsbad in February

I haven't walked around in Carlsbad for a number of years. I'd forgotten what a fun town it is for shopping, antique stores, old bookstores, and restaurants. Here's a couple of murals that caught my eye. I loved the trompe l'oeil look of the tigers paw hanging off the edge.

This giant watering operation was perfect for the blank wall facing the playground. 

I'd forgotten how magnificent the old trees are....the giant eucalyptus and California peppers. 

I saw a fat little kid in this burl. 

In an antique store, I spotted a lamp which rivals "The Christmas Story" Leg Lamp for bad taste. Actually looking at the photo, I think it transcends the leg lamp (which is at least kitsch) and passes on to a new higher plane of ugly. The lamp was taller than me. Why the seller chose to place it up on a table is beyond me - unless...unless he/she was hoping the viewer would make the bad taste connection to the leg lamp?

Only these head hunter book ends were in worse taste. They'd be perfect in a dentist's library. I hope the rope sling from the earring around the boob doesn't catch on with young people. Wouldn't surprise me though. 

Lamps created out of old photo equipment were in a couple of shops.  
I found one Brownie (Target) that looked pretty close to the one we owned when I was growing up. 

Whoever would guess that plastic food would gain value with time. This cheese plate will put you back $125.00.

The weather was perfect at the beach. People were eating lunch at outdoor tables, hundreds of joggers were running up and down the beach walk, and bicyclists were out in full force. February in California - you can't beat it. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Delineator Cookbook

 We began volunteering yesterday  at "The Bottom Shelf", our library's used book store. Our orientation session seemed thorough and we learned more than a few things. Unaware of behind-the-scenes library technology, we were fascinated by the ISBN gizmo which tells you the estimated value of a book. For example, they scanned a copy of Marie Osmond's first biography and the device told us the book is worth between $.10 and $.90. There are 753,000 copies in the world - not exactly rare. If there's a sudden run on them and the publisher or distributor or book sellers get the current high price, the whole inventory would be worth about $68,000.00. I'm betting even Marie wouldn't invest in them. 

I knew I wouldn't leave without a book. Who can pass by the $.10 rack which is always just outside the door? My total ended up at $7.50 for four books. The most interesting one is New Delineator Recipes.  

Was the Delineator a diet? Or a kind of kitchen appliance? Neither. Turns out it was a magazine launched in 1872 or 1873. Originally it was a fashion magazine intended to market Butterick sewing patterns. The term "Delineator" of course means to "describe" or "outline".

The 1894 magazine cover I found online displays headlines running up the sides of the center design: one is "The game of golf and how it's played."; "Stenography and Typewriting" is on the other side. Golf was a new game in the U.S. having been introduced about a decade earlier. The typewriter was about 20 years old.

The Delineator Cookbook, an off-spring of the magazine, first appeared in 1928. It bore the "Delineator Home Institute" seal. The slogan of the institute was to "investigate, prove and endorse". The equivalent would be the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

The recipes are simple and straight forward. In those days, butchers often gave away liver to their good customers. It was an added bonus. I would have given it right back. 

Quaint food photography for the soup....most of the photos are printed out of register and they're fuzzy. Many of them are styled with everything on the diagonal. I guess that was the latest thing in food photography in those days. 

I'll recycle the book back to the library on my next visit so they can sell it again for $2.00.

Monday, February 16, 2015

One cold Valentine's day.....

Frank MacInerny turned 65 last year. He retired after 45 years on the job and now he stayed home full time with Winnie. On a day like today, when the temperature was -28 F., they were trapped together in the little 800 square foot house, grating on each other's nerves. It was Valentine's day: Frank and Winnie had once been love birds, but they barely tolerated each other now. After 40 years of marriage, they were yoked together, with few options for escape either from their marriage or each other's annoying presence in the bitter cold of winter. Tension would build up in that little house, like a lethal gas leak, waiting for a spark to set off an explosion. I swear there were days when the nasty feelings oozed out of their house, slithered five doors down along the sidewalk, and into our front door.

Because Frank was a practising alcoholic, decades ago Winnie had banned alcohol from the premises, forcing Frank to find hiding places all over the tiny house for his mickey's of Canadian Club. She would do a regular sweep, find the stashes, and throw them out. When Frank found his booze gone, out of options, he'd come over to our house. It was a game Winnie and Frank played, and secretly I think the two combative personalities thrived on it. 

Winnie called Frank, "the old man" during the good times; otherwise she called him that "goddamned sot." Frank called her "the old bat" affectionately and "Winnie witch" when he was mad at her. They had that kind of relationship; the prickle was what kept the ragged scraps of the marriage in one tentative piece.  

I looked out the frosty window. It was 3:00 pm and we knew Frank would be suffering by now if his current stash were discovered. The street was quiet; not a dog in sight, nor a car, nor a single soul. Even the skating rink behind the school was empty. Chimneys were pumping out clouds of smoke; the leafless elm trees lining the street looked like scorched skeletons and the temperature was still dropping. If you put your bare, warm hand on our metal door lock, it would stick. Some poor kid, somewhere in the city, had his tongue stuck on a railing. The radio was blaring from the kitchen about how quickly exposed skin would freeze; we anticipated the upcoming announcement of the wind-chill temperature, a number so unimaginably low, we'd laugh about it.

As I passed the window again, I caught a glimpse of red flashing between the high-piled snow on the either side of the sidewalk. Frank was scurrying along the icy pathway in his carpet slippers, right on schedule. He was wearing a maroon cardigan, the shade of dried blood, buttoned crookedly over his undershirt. He climbed the stairs and took a last drag from the nub of an impossibly short cigarette as Mom opened the door. 

"Tobacco-stained" was too mild a description of Frank's fingers. Burnt umber was the color of his skin up to the first joint, fading to ochre near his fingernails. He flicked the butt behind him into the snow where it immediately sank and disappeared below the surface. In the spring, after the melt, there'd be a patch of Frank's miserable butts next to the stairs - an archive of his visits. One of my spring clean-up jobs was to clean the yard of all the ugly accumulata exposed once the snow had gone. Using his fourth finger and thumb in a dainty motion he plucked random tobacco pieces off his lower lip and wiped them on the sweater. "Christ, it's cold!" he declared, hugging himself as he stepped in the door.  

Inside, he didn't stamp his feet to knock off the snow like most people did. Frank jigged on the balls of his feet, doing a little warm-up dance. My mother invited him into the living room and asked if he wanted a drink. "I thought you'd never ask," Frank replied. 

As he settled in the chair, his small pot belly bulged. One of those wiry men whose arms and legs stay skinny all through life, he'd developed a spare tire since he'd quit working. His thinning white hair was combed straight back from his forehead, shiny from the Brylcreem he used to keep it neat.  He pulled a crumpled handkerchief out of his back pocket to blot his rheumy eyes, bright blue and slightly opaque from blooming cataracts.

They went through the same routine every time he visited. "Where's John?" was his next question. My father, enjoying a quiet read in the bedroom, appeared as soon as the ice cubes tinkled, as reliably responsive to this cue as Pavlov's dogs.  He emerged and took a chair across from Frank. The men lit up their Black Cat cigarettes and started to talk. 

"Hell of a cold Valentine's day," said Frank. "Freeze the nuts off you if you're not careful. Always makes me think about Olive, that ungrateful little twit."

Ten years before, Olive, Frank and Winnie's daughter, had gotten married on Valentine's day. She chose the day partly for romance but mostly because the hall was cheaper in the low season and if they were lucky, the guaranteed frigid weather would keep the big drinkers in the family at home, drinking their own booze. The strategy didn't work; even though it was -14 F. all the cheap Scots bastards showed up, and there was a big bar bill to pay. 

Olive had been jumpy as a nervous cat the week before the wedding, anticipating that Frank  would get drunk and spoil her day. Plastered, he was maudlin and embarrassing at social events. She took him aside and said, "Dad, I know about the bottle in the sewer and all the other hiding spots. They're not the big secret you think they are. I won't tell Mom about them as long as you behave and stay sober for the wedding and reception. If you don't, I'll tell her everything - and I mean everything."

Frank's fall-back, fall-back last resort emergency stash was the sewer bottle. The sewer hole for the house was in the darkest part of the basement where you had to use a flashlight to see anything, even at high noon. Suspended mid-air and dangling two feet into the gloom was a mickey of Canadian Club cradled in a basket of the finest gauge of all fishing lines. 13 shots in each mickey, there was just enough to keep Frank wet over a weekend, when the "Government Drug Store", the province's liquor store re-opened. Frank's stash had been dangling there for at least 20 years, since the last flood backed up sewers all over the city when he'd fished out the basket and relocated it until the water subsided. 

Disclosing the sewer bottle location would be wounding enough for Frank, but Olive implied there was more she knew. Frank was stunned at the extortionate methods being wielded by his only daughter, but it was the "I mean everything" remark that packed the wallop. Shaky and sentimental, he got through the wedding day without so much as a nip, but he never completely forgave Olive. For a decade, he'd been waiting for the other shoe to drop. be continued


During the weekend, over-dosed on all the hearts and flowers, I read a review of the book, "Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America", by Jill Leovy. Leovy is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who started a blog in 2006 called The Homicide Report. In the blog, she attempted to cover at least the basics of every murder every year in Los Angeles County. From the blog, she developed the subject matter for her book.  Here's the blog address: The Homicide Report. The LA Times has begun a book club, "Reading Los Angeles" and this book is their first selection. LA Times book club. From the Times Publisher and Chief Executive, Austin Beutner: 

"Each month, we will select a book; journalists and staff from the Times will moderate a discussion about the book, and, on occasion, we'll suggest other ways to explore the topic ranging from dining to arts and culture."

Here's the good news (excerpted from the New York Times book review) at the end of her book:

"At her book’s conclusion, Leovy writes about the astonishing decline in the Los Angeles murder rate over the past few years. In the wake of this excellent news, it might be tempting to dismiss her book’s message as less than urgent. That, however, would be a mistake. Homicide remains the No. 1 cause of death for African-­American males ages 15 to 34 — and solving these crimes should be a top priority for any police force."

I spent a couple of hours, after reading this news, chasing down data on murder and violent crime rates.  It's such a complicated subject with oceans of data, so many interpretations and so much conjecture that I finally gave it up. The Atlantic sums it up here.

From The Atlantic

"But over the past 25 years, the tide of crime and violence seemed to simply recede. Crime is about half of what it was at its peak in 1991. Violent crime plummeted 51 percent. Property crime fell 43 percent. Homicides are down 54 percent. In 1985, there were 1,384 murders in New York City. Last year there were 333. The country is an undeniably safer place. Growing urban populations are one positive consequence."

One researcher linked the declining murder rates all over the country with legalized abortion. Another linked the decline to lead, yes, lead. Theories abound. Read here

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day

A pair of "heart" ears seemed like a harmless idea for a Valentine's day costume. Have I been spending too much time with Beth?

"Aha! Perfect." I thought when I saw just the right thing at Target. For $4.49 - slightly more than the cost of a cheesy card, I could at least give my husband a laugh for V-day. But then, I noticed the warning  - "For pets only." What possible reason could there be for limiting the hat to pets? It ties under the chin and we all have chins. I passed it up because I'm a Canadian and we follow the rules, as you know. I wondered though if it would be splitting hairs if you were to wear these ears over a gorilla costume? 

Not only can you buy costumes for your pet for every holiday, it amazes me that you can now buy fragrance for your dog. "Smells so good" it claims. To whom? Certainly not the dog who likes nothing better than the heady aroma of another dog's butt. And the nail polish?? The line of products must sell and it must be profitable or it wouldn't occupy a couple of feet of Target shelf space. 

Instead of dressing up our cats or painting their nails, we decided have our truck tuned up and smogged today. With an hour to kill I talked Richard into taking a look at the new improved Myrtle Creek Nursery. 

The cafe was crowded with Valentine's merry-makers. We strolled around the place enjoying the plants and the displays. 

Steamer trunk cabinet.

Old bed-spring planter
A painting Zuzu would love.

Resident cat keeping an eye on the bird houses.

What better color for Valentine's day? 

Book Club Meeting - The Invention of Wings

What happens when you put 10 sociable women in a room together, add a small amount of wine and a good book? It's conversational chaos -of the finest and most enjoyable kind. Our book club rarely has everyone in attendance but last night we all showed. It takes quite some time to get past the "Hi Howareya's"; in fact, we barely discussed the book, maybe because everyone enjoyed the read and ways in harmony regarding the major theme - the abolition of slavery. 

The book was "The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd. Most of us were surprised to read that, although the book was fiction, it was based on a pair of real sisters: 

Angelina Girmke

Sarah Grimke
From Wikipedia: 
Sarah Moore Grimké (1792–1873) and Angelina Emily Grimké[1] (1805–1879), known as the Grimké sisters, were 19th-century Southern American writers, oratorseducators, and Quakers who were the first American women advocates of abolition and women's rights.[2]
Throughout their lives, they traveled to the North, lecturing about their firsthand experiences with slavery on their family's plantation. Among the first American women to act publicly in social reform movements, they were ridiculed for their abolitionist activity. They became early activists in the women's rights movement.
A complete account of the sister's lives can be found here: 

In her very rare personal time, in secret, Charlotte, a slave, works on a quilt to tell future generations the story of her life.  The author was inspired by the quilts made by Harriett Powers, born a slave in Georgia. One of her masterpieces is pictured below.
Bible Quilt - Harriet Powers. From the www.daeandwrite website
On the suemonkkidd website, there's  a "Book Club Kit" which includes the following recipe suggested as a complement to the discussion. 

Also, there's a recipe for a Blackbird Cocktail. I cannot imagine what further chaos would erupt in our club if we all started drinking bourbon. 

As Quakers, the Grimkes would have been teetotalers or practitioners of teetotalism - the opposition to alcohol. They would not have approved of the Blackbird Cocktail. Apparently there were some significant rewards for sobriety to the group. They're known for having founded such financial institutions as Barclays and Lloyds; manufacturing companies including Clarks, Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry's. Not bad at all.

Below is the explanation of the Bible Quilt squares - Power's own descriptions: 
In her own words:
The meaning of the Harriet Powers "Bible Quilt"

African-American quiltmaker Harriet Powers's Christian faith, and her detailed knowledge of the Bible and "end time" prophecy, are vividly portrayed in her quilts.  Below are Powers's own descriptions of the scenes in the "Bible Quilt" now in the collection of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.  Also included are relevant Bible passages and links describing the prophetic events Powers depicts, which were of particular importance to some denominations, who would immediately recognize the events and their Christian meaning.
Job praying for his enemies.  Jobs crosses. Jobs coffin.{Job, esp. 14:13, 17:13; Job's undeserved suffering anticipates that of Christ on the cross)The "dark day" of May 19, 1780. The seven stars were seen 12 N in the day. The cattle all went to bed, chickens to roost and the trumpet was blown.  The sun went off to a small spot and then to darkness.{Revelation 6:12)The serpent lifted up by Mosses and women bringing their children to look upon it to be healed. {Numbers 21:8-10]Adam and Eve in the garden. Even tempted by the serpent.  Adam's rib by which Eve was made. The sun and moon.  God's all seeing eye and God's merciful hand. [Genesis 3:1]John baptising Christ and the spirit of God resting upon his shoulder like a dove. {John 1:31-33]
Jonah casted over board of the ship and swallowed by a whale. Turtles. {Jonah 1:17]God created two of every kind, Male and female.[Genesis 1:27]The falling of the stars on Nov. 13, 1833.  The people were frighten and thought that the end of time had come.  God's hand staid the stars.  The varmints rushed out of their beds. [Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:25, Revelation 6:13]Two of every kind of animals continued, camels, elephants, gherrafs, lions, etc.[Genesis 7:15]The angels of wrath and the seven vials. [Revelation 15:7] The blood of fornications.[Revelation 19:2] Seven headed beast and 10 horns which arose out of the water.
Cold Thusday, 10 of Feb. 1895.  A woman frozen while at prayer.  A woman frozen at a gateway. A man with a sack of meal frozen.  Isicles formed from the breath of a mule.  All blue birds killed.  A man frozen at his jug of liquor.The red light night of 1846.   A man tolling the bell to notify the people of the wonder.  Women, children and fowls frightened but Gods merciful hand caused no harm to them.Rich people who were taught nothing of God.  Bob Johnson and Kate Bell of Virginia.  They told their parents to stop the clock at one and to morrow it would strike one and it did. This was the signal that they entered everlasting punishment.  The independent hog which ran 500 miles from Ga. to Va. her name was Betts.The creation of animals continues.The crucifixion of Christ between the two thieves.  The sun went into darkness. Mary and Martha weeping at his feet.  The blood  and water ran from his right side.  [Luke 23:43-45; John 19:34]

Alan Bean Plus Four

"Alan Bean Plus Four" was the fiction piece in the New Yorker I started reading while waiting in the doctor's office. The receptionist called my name - it was my turn, but I didn't want to stop reading.

After my appointment, I sat down again in the waiting room and finished the story. What a surprise when I checked out the author and found his name was Tom Hanks. A coincidence I thought, but no - it turned out to be THE Tom Hanks. 

From the online New Yorker interview with Tom about the story: 
"Alan Bean was the fourth person to walk on the moon, as part of the Apollo 12 mission. Do you think that he’s been neglected in the annals of astronaut history? Is this story an attempt to redress that?
I think Alan Bean should be a household name, along with Jack Schmitt, Dave Scott, John Young—all of the dozen guys who walked on the moon. They aren’t—ah, well. Alan is probably the only example of a guy who was really changed by his trip to the moon. He’d been a military guy, a jet pilot, an astronaut, he was on Skylab, etc. Then he came back and took up painting, something he hadn’t done prior to that. Now he’s a full-time artist.
Among NASA folk, Al Bean is a legend. But what he (and the others) did deserves more attention—more fanfare, perhaps—than he/they have received. So says me, anyway."
Al Bean
Here's a link to Al Bean's website Al Bean where you can enjoy his paintings. Each painting has a story by Al which explains what was happening in the scene he painted and also the larger context of the event. I spent an hour wandering through the site. 
Original with moondust on aircraft plywood. $368,000.00
Back to Tom Hanks...not only does he write well but he offers this nifty app for your iPad or iPhone, Hanx Writer. It's fun.
Here's a quote from the New Yorker review of the app:
But, more than anything, the Hanx Writer is about making noise. The glorious simplicity of the app is that it sounds like what it does; it achieves the audio equivalent of skeuomorphism, the design principle of recreating the familiar materials and visual cues of old objects. Here at The New Yorker, several of our staffers remember the days of the “typing pool,” where manuscripts and other documents were typed for further processing into magazine pieces. (It’s whereNancy Franklin got her start.) One editor recalls that you could tell whether your neighbor was being productive that day just by the typewriter sounds coming out of his office (thus pressuring you to get down to work). As an easily distracted reader, I, for one, am relieved to have missed what Hanks calls the “focus-stealing racket,” but only because, in these days of of razor-thin Mac keyboards, the office is eerily quiet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Accidental Book Club Meeting

Roz Chast was speaking at the library. I love her cartoons in the New Yorker and took extra care to make sure I got to the library early to get a seat. She was speaking about her illustrated memoir, "Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?"

Turned out she wasn't there - I misread the announcement (so did three others) and instead of an author appearance, the Non-fiction Book Club was going to discuss her book. So I stayed and listened to the group which was lively and articulate. Anybody who has an aging parent or who has cared for an aging parent would enjoy the book. The book club agreed that one of the primary messages of the book is to get prepared yourself for your demise. Clean out all your junk! 

Here's an excerpt which was published on-line by the New Yorker. It's all set up for sharing on social media so I hope they don't mind me printing this here. You can read more at Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant