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Posts Tagged ‘history’

Morning grammar nerds! And you know who you are. I must admit I no longer watch “Presidential” press conferences, but I just couldn’t resist Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer, and so I occasionally tune-in just to see what nonsense the White House is dishing up today; or, as I like to ask Bob over my first cup of coffee, “Damage report?”

Well bless his heart, yesterday poor Sean was trying to soften Mr T’s words on Twitter yet again, by placing his fingers up and gesturing “air quotes” around the word “wiretapping.” In other words, the middle school bullies really are running the show up on the Hill.

Everyone knows air quotes when they see them: the middle and forefingers of each hand wiggling to resemble quotation marks. Often accompanied by a spoken “quote-unquote,” they’re typically used to mock or disown the phrase they surround. They mean something “is ‘so-called,’” rather than real, the late William Safire, the great scholar of political language, once wrote. They cast “aspersion on the word or phrase that follows,” he said. “A sneer is built in.”             https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/03/14/an-investigation-of-air-quotes-mostly-used-to-discredit-the-other-sides-words-not-your-own-as-per-sean-spicer/?utm_term=.fe463b8a7442

And the funny thing is, even the Urban Dictionary knows that air quotes are so… one whole generation ago. “Used ad nauseam by ‘pretentious’ and ostensibly ‘intelligent’ university students, to advertise their ‘superior morals’ and ‘erudition’.” It’s like the thumbs-up sign, only worse, because air quotes exude privilege. They were (past tense) a preppy way to discredit those plebes beneath them, not in the way Sean tried to use them discrediting his boss’ words.

They belong to the 60s, where they should have stayed, along with Kellyanne’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band jacket. http://mentalfloss.com/article/80939/11-facts-about-sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-band

“Walking back” their boss’ Tweets seems to be a full time job on the Hill. But trying to soften Mr T’s attack on President Obama is yet another distraction. Let’s NOT discuss special prosecutors and Russia’s “involvement” in our election. Instead, like a child, Mr T turns responsibility away from himself, to shift blame on his predecessor for “wiretapping” Trump Tower. Only now, he only meant general surveillance, like spying “microwaves.” Darn, it’s hard not to use real quotes when writing about this stuff!

I wonder if Mr T went to his grandchildrens’ Temple for Purim this past weekend? Maybe that’s why his Twitter fingers went quiet, after all the “wiretapping” and microwave memes the media consumed during the week. Ivanka’s children are 5, 3 and almost 1. These are perfect ages for Purim celebrations; my Nashville grandchildren had a blast dressing up like super heroes and attending a carnival at their Temple.

Purim is a feminist’s delight because it’s about a Jewish woman who kills an enemy of the Jewish people. Esther is one of many Persian queens, but she, like Moses, was adopted and was actually Jewish. Think about this for a second. Does Christianity have a holiday dedicated to a woman? As a child, I remember having lots of saints days named after women, celebrating martyrdom…not exactly the same. Esther had balls, she had chutzpah! We had the Annunciation, i.e. a fourteen year old girl is visited by an angel and told she will have a Virgin Birth…

Coming out of years spent celebrating Mass in Latin, I was happy to enter a Temple and make lots of noise at Purim. In fact, Purim was so much fun – mohn cookies shaped like Haman hats, dressing up like Halloween or Carnevale, and laughing and playing in the Temple – I’m pretty sure that it’s what sold me on Judaism.

But the irony of my grandchildren celebrating in a building that had to be evacuated because of bomb threats since this last election is not lost on me. The paradox of a holiday marking Jewish survival during the week another attempt at a Muslim travel ban was enacted is surreal. Putting air quotes around the words of our Commander in Chief is yet another small cut in the slicing up of our democracy.

Our President is being sarcastic; he doesn’t really mean what he says; that was just locker room banter; it’s “alternative facts.”

I believe we deserve a President who doesn’t need minions to explain his rhetorical Tweeting voice, and a Presidential Press Briefing, without air quotes. The American people don’t need to watch the “built-in sneer” from an Oval Office devoid of compassion. In fact, Andrea Mitchell is a modern day Esther, insisting on answers at press “briefings,” refusing to be escorted from a room. Maybe a pair of parentheses would help us clarify Mr T’s meaning, his intent. Instead of charging President Obama with a felony, he would be revealed in all his paranoia.

(sometimes, alone at Trump Tower, I felt like I was being watched). My tower study (an aviary that functions as my refuge), was warm and inviting this (freezing cold) morning. Here is the view of the (snowy Blue Ridge) mountains. Only hawks watch me write. IMG_0183

 

 

 

 

 

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Now that Bob has retired, we’ve decided it’s time to finally find our dream beach house. Someplace for family reunions, holidays, and maybe even an investment opportunity on AirBnB or VRBO from time to time. The only problem is, what beach?

Of course the island we love is not affordable. So that leaves us with a few options: Outer Banks, too cold; Florida, too predictable (sorry Floridians); Texas Panhandle, nah. Working our way across country, we really loved California, so maybe? But then Hawaii comes to mind.

I was listening to an ER doc from Hawaii on NPR yesterday, he was talking about a new Bill he introduced on the floor of the senate; Josh Green, MD also happens to be a state legislator. After years of practicing Emergency Medicine he said he and his colleagues know by name the homeless people who frequent his ER, and he knows that they suffer from chronic medical conditions that would benefit from simply being off the street. So he proposed a Bill that would give docs the right to prescribe six months of housing, to be supervised by case workers. Treat homelessness as a medical condition. An unusual, intriguing and not a half-bad idea!

A small number of homeless people require a disproportionate amount of medical treatment. According to Green, a recent internal study by a major Hawaiian insurer found that over half of the state’s $2bn Medicaid allotment was consumed by a tiny fraction of users, many of whom are dealing with homelessness, mental illness and substance addiction.

Yet research suggests that healthcare spending for those who have been homeless for long periods and struggle with mental illness and addictions falls by 43% after they have been housed and provided with supportive services. Green said many of the individuals he hopes to house cost the healthcare system an average of $120,000 annually, yet the annual cost to house an individual is $18,000. He thinks that the total savings to the state could be hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/28/hawaii-homeless-housing-bill-healthcare-costs

Surprisingly, just a few days ago, I reconnected with an old friend, a woman who used to be an administrator in Bob’s first ER. After telling me that “Bob and retirement” are two words she never thought she’d hear in the same sentence, she also mentioned that retirement in Hawaii was something she and her husband were thinking about…and for my third coincidental island musing, Hawaii is the first state to file suit against’s Trump’s new “Travel Ban.” Aloha and Mahalo!

For these islanders, the memory of rounding up Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor is still very real! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39215990

Now I’ve never been to Hawaii, and I hear that each island is different. Maybe it’s time we scheduled a little trip to the Big Island, or one of the medium-sized ones? Of course, our retirement plans may fall apart depending on what the Republicans do to the ACC, and Mr T does to the global economy.

Meanwhile back at home, we’ve been planting some perennials, practicing Hygge, and dreaming of our Purim Princess Warrior!     IMG_0166

 

 

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The photographs I have left of my Father, who died when I was a baby, are in black and white. As are my baby pictures, stuffed into a bag in an album that has lost its binding. The Flapper gave me to her friends, my foster parents, after her automobile accident because her only other choice would have been an orphanage. My sister Kay was already taking care of my two brothers, and they had to go back to school, so who else would take care of me?

Nell only had one child, and her daughter was in nursing school when I arrived in Victory Gardens after the War in 1949. And so I was raised by a grandmother figure, as Nell was already in her 50s. And she catalogued my childhood lovingly, pasting black and white pictures with tiny black paper edges onto every page. Only my memories conjure up the white and pink explosion of the dogwood tree outside our kitchen window, the red and white tile in the one bathroom, the green grass under my feet with the white sheets billowing above.

Our TV was in black and white, and after school I would walk home from the bus in my maroon plaid Sacred Heart School uniform, to catch Nell watching Art Linkletter on Kids Say the Darndest Things. A small piano stood in a corner with brass feet and hard white teeth. Our first dog was black and brown, I remember sitting on Daddy Jim’s feet while he read the black and white newspaper, and smoked his pipe after work. I would lean back on his knees and stroke the dog’s fur, listening to his critique of the day’s news. Maybe this is when I thought I might have something to say about world events? clr-on-tricycle-20170127

When we view history through a black and white lens, we lose something of the nuance. The tone is off, and it becomes harder to relate to something that happened so long ago. It creates the distance we need to survive certain tragedies, like my Year of Living Dangerously – my psychologist brother Jim’s description of 1949. Which is why finding this photographer, Marina Amaral, is like finding a jewel in the coal dustbin of time.

Amaral’s passion is restoring and colorizing old black and white pictures. And I found a picture she posted online of a child, a Czechoslovakian girl who was the same age as my sister Kay in 1949, when she died at Auschwitz in 1943. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka; and I remembered Nell’s given name was Kosty, which was probably changed at Ellis Island. On Amaral’s webpage, you can move a line back and forth over the child’s face, and bring color to her cheeks and blood to the cut on her lip.

“Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments,” http://www.marinamaral.com

Today more than ever, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remember that the Holocaust started with the rhetoric of hate, and the silence and indifference of the rest of Europe and America. And we must vow to resist in any way we can, and we must say her name, Czeslawa Kwoka.

Photograph courtesy of Marina Amaral.

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Yesterday I met a woman from Maine, who came to Washington, DC on a bus with her service dog. She was a German Shepherd dog, and reminded me of Bones.

I met a family of sisters and their daughters from Boston, who wore black knit caps embroidered with “Nasty Women.” And they reminded me of my first march in Boston, when Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated.

I met a Grandmother from Oregon, and I saw women sitting on curbs nursing their babies in the cold. And I thought of the Bride marching in Nashville with her babies.

Because we were not allowed on the National Mall at first, we were herded into Independence Ave where we stood shoulder to shoulder. And we listened to speakers.

And we said their names.

We could not march because we had no room to march. There was precious little police or emergency personnel anywhere, although there were plenty of National Guard at the RFK Stadium where the sea of buses from all over the country were parked.

So we stood in solidarity for over three hours, between fences. And we listened to celebrities and politicians. And now we know what we must do.

We women must run for office. ANY local office. We need to call our legislators Every. Single. Day. We must support those who will speak for us, for the vast majority of people who did not vote for Mr T.

Like Tom Perriello, who is running for Governor of VA and rode with us from Cville yesterday. https://www.tomforvirginia.com

And coming home in the dark last night, after telling us that two women donated $25,000 to hire our buses, our bus captain mentioned a non-profit near and dear to their hearts: The Legal Aid Justice Center https://www.justice4all.org

It’s the morning after, and it’s time we took our country back. Resistance to this movement of strong, smart determined women is futile. The DC cops who gallantly opened side streets and allowed the Mall fences to come down were wearing pink pussy hats yesterday. Our little cat feet made a mighty roar in the fog of this inauguration weekend.

Women are the wall, and Trump will pay. c2ujs8wweaeo048

 

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On this cold and rainy Tuesday, let’s talk about food shall we? Now I’m not a big sushi lover, not like Bob and the kids. Raw fish should be called bait imho, so I always order something cooked on the menu. But last week in LA, over a most deliciously fresh dinner of lobster rolls and salmon sashimi, the Rocker rolled out his new App; something for us old folks to help with choosing ethical, sustainable products, https://buycott.com  …oh and btw,

it also tells you what political party the company or the company president is donating to – HOLLER!!

I know, holler is so last year, but my point is you will find out if some product has GMOs or not, and you can also tell if something is related to Mr T as well! For instance, “Kitchen Aid is the named sponsor of the PGA Senior Golf Championship. Donald Trump spent many years lobbying for a major golf tournament and was awarded the 2017 Kitchen Aid PGA Senior Golf Championship. Trump is very proud of this. Kitchen Aid should not allow for Donald Trump’s dangerous bigoted bullying to be rewarded. Accordingly, they should push to move the tournament to another location (as many less prestigious golf events have already done).” https://www.buzzfeed.com/carolineodonovan/how-buycott-intends-to-put-bad-brands-on-blast?utm_term=.cuBKePYJJV#.twe5gWO44m

I never really wanted one of those huge Kitchen Aid mixers on my kitchen counter top anyway. And I’ve never owned a toaster oven for that matter, just a toaster. In fact, we just recently upgraded to a 4 slicer!

But just how conscientious are we when it comes to holiday consumption? Tis the season and I’m growing more in love with Amazon for its convenience every year, though I admit it was not an easy road to climb since I also strongly believe in small, local businesses. But I have always been a brand buyer, not the fancy Gucci wear my initials all over you “luxury brand buyer,” but I like what I like. Like my washing machine detergent is Tide.

Still, when I found out a Koch brothers’ company owned Northern toilet paper, I figured it’s time to put my money where my bum is, literally. I switched to a Proctor and Gamble company, even though I’d been traumatized for years by their weird Mr Whipple ad campaign. “1964 — The Mr. Whipple (aka “George the Grocer”) character was created to promote Charmin’s “squeezable softness.” Mr. Whipple appeared for more than 20 years in Charmin television, radio, and print advertising.”

But I digress. When I heard about that gun-toting maniac who believed some Mr T induced conspiracy theory about trafficking at a pizza parlor in DC, well it just made me want to crawl right back under the covers. After all, who in their right mind would dare to denounce pizza? That most glorious of all foods! That is, until I heard about Kellogg pulling their advertising dollars from Breitbart aka FAKE news. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/nov/30/breitbart-news-kelloggs-advertising-boycott-alt-right

And I have a wee bit of a connection to this beloved cereal chain. My brother Mike, who was the President and GM of the Vikings at the time, and his family lived on the same spit of land in MN that bordered Lake Minnetonka with old Mrs Kellogg. In fact, the Flapper once told us a story of how Mrs K herself, who was older than my Mother at the time, came out in the middle of a snowstorm in her snowshoes to check on her! Yes, people in MN are that kind, that good, just like Garrison Keillor says they are!

Mrs Kellogg brought the Flapper some food since she knew the rest of the family was away on some trip. They sat down to tea. And knowing my Mother, I’m sure they had an interesting discussion. I wish I could ask them now what they think about all this boycotting stuff. They would most likely remind me that this act of civic disobedience has been around for ages and in fact started in our ancestral home, County Mayo, Ireland! I KNEW it!

The word boycott entered the English language during the Irish “Land War” and derives eponymously from Captain Charles Boycott, the land agent of an absentee landlord, Lord Erne, who lived in Lough Mask House, near Ballinrobe in County Mayo, Ireland, who was subject to social ostracism organized by the Irish Land League in 1880. As harvests had been poor that year, Lord Erne offered his tenants a ten percent reduction in their rents. In September of that year, protesting tenants demanded a twenty five percent reduction, which Lord Erne refused. Boycott then attempted to evict eleven tenants from the land.

Tonight we’ll be having leftovers. Good old fashioned comfort food with a side of ravioli. Tomorrow we will order a pizza, to go with our Rice Krispie treats. https://www.ricekrispies.com/en_US/recipes.html    img_5666

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Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Beatrix Ost, http://www.beatrixost.com, a surrealist artist, theatre producer, designer and fashion icon. It was like meeting a haiku, elusive yet familiar. One cannot help being drawn to her. Wrapped in a long silk, printed sheath, her hair in a turban, she wore pointy toed yellow boots from another century. It seems she divides her time between a farm in Cville and an apartment in NYC.

Ost told the group at her book signing that she had wanted to interview several interesting people – such as the war photographer who lost three limbs in an IED explosion – and she asked each person one question:

“What is the marrow in your bones?”

And so she began to tell us all what drives her to continue creating art. She grew up after the war in Germany, with very little. Hardship is a fine anvil when coming of age. She remembered an aunt who lived outside the city, on a farm. This woman had taken an American officer as a lover, and so she would drive into the city to visit Ost and her mother in a Jeep. Cars were also very rare at the time. Out of the Jeep stepped a magnificent  creature; her aunt was wearing the officer’s jacket, belted tightly around her waist, epaulets at the sleeves, and cork espadrilles. She was stunning.

A sense of style and the meaning of adornment, of creating beauty in the midst of chaos was born. And just recently she met Camille Hautefort, a young woman who was making jewelry out of salvaged bombs from Laos. The woman handed her a weightless spoon one night, it was made from the ordnance found in the highlands of Xieng Khuang province, in the village of Ban Naphia , and Ost said she was so moved she nearly cried holding it in her hand. She knew she wanted to collaborate on jewelry design.

Now this company, Article 22, is helping artisans in Laos and clearing unexploded bombs from fields. Ethical jewelry. And I thought of all the bombs our country has dropped, all over the world. Of how women and children suffer in war-torn countries because men like to play at war. Of how our local candidate for Congress, Jane Dittmar, recently tweeted:

There is an armed man outside of our Fluvanna office intimidating volunteers – if you feel uncomfortable please contact 911 immediately.

Here is a film of Ost’s “Wild, incredible paradise” in the Virginia countryside: https://www.nowness.com/story/no-sour-meadows And you will find her book ,“The Philosopher’s Style,” along with this transformative jewelry at Lynne Goldman Elements, downtown Cville. img_5437

 

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My favorite living author, who also happens to own a bookstore in Nashville, asked her readers what the title of their autobiography might be; “What would be the title of your life story?” The graphic on Parnassus’ Instagram account was a cartoony book titled “Can I Get Extra Cheese On That, a Memoir.”

Now I have nothing against cheese, in fact a day without cheese is like a day without a squeeze! But since that title was taken, I thought for maybe a split second and wrote “Victory Gardens.” That title means so much to me, and I realize it probably makes you think of the push to grow our own food after WWII, if you are of a certain age. But if my foster parents hadn’t scooped me up in Scranton at ten months of age and planted me in Victory Gardens, I might have been heading for an orphanage.

In that tiny, four room cement house, in the “temporary” development built to support the war effort at Picatinny Arsenal, I was surrounded by enough unconditional love to grow  strong. You remember the ice cream truck, and the doll house Daddy Jim built from the ice cream sticks; my trips to town and free samples of everything, especially bologna at the butcher shop.

Yesterday I listened to NPR’s Fresh Air in the car and I was rooted to my seat. I couldn’t leave the car and face the oppressive 96 degree heat – plus the topic spoke to me. Two culinary historians were promoting their book about food during the Great Depression. The authors were talking about their grandparents, but we Boomers grew up with parents who lived through this period, so our childhood kitchen tables reflected that period of time perfectly. And don’t forget, I had two mothers.

In Victory Gardens, Nell would proudly tell anyone within earshot that she was really good at opening cans, then her face would light up like a Christmas tree at her own joke! I remember dinners that consisted of canned hash with a fried egg on top. A vegetable side would mean a sliced tomato. Frozen foods were a novelty, so in this Catholic house we ate frozen fish sticks on Fridays. One day a week we ate out at the diner. And for a very special occasion she might make her specialty, stuffed cabbage, a Slovakian miracle simmering in sauerkraut.

But the Flapper, in her old Queen Ann house in town, would cook! She simmered meatballs in sauce she made herself, and even though she was working ever day she managed to get a delicious hot meal on the table every night. She taught me how to shop for the freshest ingredients by season, and how to save a few pennies here and there. Of course I’ve told you about her Depression-era Mac n Cheese, the kind with bacon because they could not get real butter. One of both Moms’ favorite stories was how as a young child I could tell the difference between butter and margarine. Later I learned they had to put yellow food coloring in a Crisco-like substance in the 30s to approximate butter. And ps, I have never purchased margarine in my life!

So while listening to “Creamed Canned and Frozen” yesterday, one author spoke about  bologna and mashed potato dinners. I had to smile since bologna was a staple at my cement house too. With the Flapper we made delicious ham sandwiches on rye bread with real dill pickles we picked from a barrel.

But the funniest thing the authors Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe said was their children would not eat the food they were preparing during the writing of this book, since it didn’t look like food to them! And thinking back, canned hash does look like something maybe the dog didn’t like…http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/15/489991111/creamed-canned-and-frozen-how-the-great-depression-changed-u-s-dietsta The Flapper, however, cooked creatively with spices, and spicy food believe it or not was deemed suspicious in the 30s.

Spicy foods were [considered] stimulants. They were classified as stimulants, so they were on that same continuum along with caffeine and alcohol all the way up to cocaine and heroin. And if you started with an olive, you might find yourself one day addicted to opiates. It put you on a very slippery slope — watch out for olives!

Today we are asked to learn where and how our fish were harvested, what the cows have been eating before we buy a steak, and how sustainable is the farm growing our produce. Would the Flapper pay more for organic milk, like I do? It’s a wonder panic doesn’t set in the moment we think about getting a meal on the table! I wonder how or IF the Love Bug will cook, maybe she’ll use a replicator a la Star Trek? I remember how she turned her nose up at the first chicken nugget I offered her, after all, it doesn’t look like chicken!

So even though I grew up in a bland house that referenced a garden without an actual garden, where a tinned tuna casserole made with soup was considered nutritious, I managed to become a fairly inventive home cook imho thanks to the Flapper. And the real victory was when the Bride asked for all my recipes when she was setting up her own kitchen after college.

While Lee and Al were visiting I made stuffed eggplant; a recipe I made up as I went along, sauteing garlic and mushrooms, mixing with the eggplant, and of course baking with cheese sprinkled on top! This was right before they went in the oven, Bon Appetit!  IMG_4981

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