Sunday, January 30, 2011

Janus, Orpheus, Obsolescing

Republican Janus Coin, c. 225 - 212 BCE

I'd like to take a moment here on my daily blog to recommend a couple of things:

1. my most recent Fortnightly Blog:
January: Forward Vision, Backward Glance
[excerpt below]


2. a timely, stylish, and informative blog out of Philadelphia: Obsolescing: watching technologies as they wane. It is a nostalgic blog, but also forward thinking -- like Janus!

One of my favorite recent posts on Obsolescing is the autumnal "Ode for the Season" October 6, 2010 with it's allusion to the bereft Orpheus and Gerard Manley Hopkins' mournful little Margaret: "I think that the emotions that autumn elicits, the melancholy my own primitive soul starts feeling as the days shorten, are akin to the distress and sorrow we feel as the objects of our life, the utilitarian technologies that once surrounded and defined us, fade into memory. News of a past technology’s demise makes us suddenly, desperately long to hold, to touch, to smell, to hear the things of our past. Like Orpheus leading his beloved from the Underworld, we look back to reassure ourselves that the everyday things we have known and loved and remember still exist in their full corporeal presence (That’s why we revel in the sensory details — the typewriter’s clacking keys, the mimeograph ink’s distinctive scent.) Instead, we turn back to watch, in sadness and horror, as the objects of our lives, the tangible evidence of our own existence, slip from our outstretched arms" (~ Ann de Forest).

detail from
"Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld
," 1861
by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796 - 1875)
French Landscape Painter

So as January comes to a close, should you crave a late night reminiscence of the old year or desire some early morning reading in contemplation of the new months ahead, turn on your astonishingly capable laptop computer and take a further look at Obsolescing: watching technologies as they wane. Enjoy the nostalgic, visionary musings of Ann de Forest and David Comberg.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Keep Christmas Cards With You

"Snow Cat" Christmas Card by Robert Guy
Another Snow Cat
"I hate these days immediately following the holidays. Emptying the house of Christmas trees, decorations and children is like emptying a home of warmth. But at least there’s the pile of Christmas cards to be looked through again before you do whatever you do when done with them. They serve as a cheerful handshake during the uncheerful letdown after Christmas. Don't stop sending them. Christmas cards are worth all the bother. In fact, the bother’s a good part of the pleasure." ~ Malcolm S. Forbes (1919 - 1990)

"Urban Garden" Christmas Card
by Douglas Percy Bliss




"Keep Christmas With You All Through the Year"


"For the Time Being" by W. H. Auden
"Christmas is Really for the Children" by Steve Turner

You can also keep Christmas Cards with you all through the year.

I just ordered these designs
from the post - holiday sale at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art:

"Red Row House" by Eyvind Earle &
"The Tame Deer" by Andre-Edouard Marty.

I can save them for next year, or
-- since they're blank inside
and because they feature a lot of pink and red --
start using them right away as Valentines!

"January: Forward Vision, Backward Glance"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Peter May I Call You Pete

10 Classics in 10 Minutes

Here's a funny little coincidence. Yesterday, I was reminiscing with a friend about what a kick we used to get out of 10 Classics in 10 Minutes, read at lightening speed by John Moschitta. For years I kept an old copy in the car, perfect for entertaining the kids, who learned all the jokes and nonsense as toddlers, long before they had ever read or seen any of the original works.

Having recently upgraded from well - worn cassette tape (made in college) to new CD / book set (as seen above), I mentioned how lucky we were, in these days of technologial advancement, to also be able to watch Moschitta's old Fed Ex commercials on youtube, anytime we want. My favorite line: "Peter, may I call you Pete!"

A few seconds later, I flipped over from email to facebook and -- surprise! -- a couple of my cousins had just posted the Moschitta Fed Ex commercial, "Fast Paced World." Now how did they know that, simultaneous to their post, I been writing to another friend about this very advertisement?

Do you happen to remember this ad (1981) that the 40th-anniversary issue of New York Magazine (2008) called "The Most Memorable Advertisement Ever"? If not, brace yourself for a few seconds of extremely fast - paced fun. If so, well, take a look just for old time's sake -- always good for a smirk:

FedEx Commercial
with the World's Fastest Talker,
John Moschitta, Jr. (b 1954)

"Can you wait fifteen seconds? I can wait fifteen seconds."

You might also like:
10-Minute University

P.S. My favorite line in 10 Classics comes up in the one - minute Odyssey when Odysseus and his crew visit the "Edge of the World...reminisce about old dead friends, drink a little blood." My family and I like to fit this line in whenever we're making a to - do list or recounting the events of the day:

Q: What did you do this afternoon?
A: I practiced the piano, went to the grocery store, stopped by the post office, drank a little blood.

Q: What should we do over Spring Break?
A: Maybe go skiing. Maybe the art museum. Visit the cousins. Reminisce about old dead friends. Drink a little blood.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Little More Hospitable

Sunset On Boxing Day 2010*

“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets,
to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea
and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew . . .
Human beings are actually created for the transcendent,
for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful . . .
and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world
a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.”

Desmond Tutu, b. 1931
South African Activist
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town

* The day after Christmas, while talking to Mom on the phone, I stepped out on the deck and took this picture of our backyard, though I must admit that multi - tasking -- camera & phone simultaneously! -- is not usually my strong suit! Then, for the above result, I started experimenting with "Fun Features" on Kodak EasyShare. Fun! Easy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Moggy

Gerry and the Moggy
Outside St. Mary's Church, Little Crosby (nr Liverpool)

In British English, Moggy is a nickname for two things: a domesticated kitty - cat and the cute little car pictured above: The Morris Minor. Gerry and I had a lot of fun driving his dad's Moggy Minor around England, back in December 1992 when we were lucky enough to have a month - long Christmas vacation (the last time that ever happened!).

We still like to tell the story about the discovery we made when driving into town one cold night. As the car's interior got colder by the mile, and the windshield slowly but surely frosted over, we searched the tiny dashboard in vain for any kind of switch that might provide a little heat, turn on a fan, or activate the defroster.

As a last resort (it was ever thus), we checked the manual which -- amazingly, for a twenty - something - year - old car with multiple owners -- was still in the glove box. As we thumbed through the pages, the fruitlessness of our search for heat was soon revealed. A helpful motoring tip informed us that "Some deluxe models come with a heater." Ah ha! That explained it! Our model, while delightful, was not deluxe! Oh well, that's why we loved it.

To this day, whenever we find ourselves let down by some unanticipated mechanical limitation, we just shake our heads in better - luck - next - time resignation and say, "Some deluxe models come with a heater . . . "

Click here to learn more about The Morris Minor: A British miracle.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Full Wolf Moon

The New Basic Readers by Scott, Forseman and Company

Are you familiar with this reading series from grade school? I well remember Vistas in 5th grade and Cavalcades in 6th. I would occupy myself for long stretches of time by thumbing through the pages and copying out by hand all the poems that I liked best. I painstakingly entered into my scrapbook favorites by Elizabeth Coatsworth, Eleanor Farjeon, and Walt Whitman.

One of my top choices in Cavalcades was "Lone Dog," by Irene Rutherford McLeod:
Lone Dog
I'm a lean dog, a keen dog, a wild dog, and lone;
I'm a rough dog, a tough dog, hunting on my own;
I'm a bad dog, a mad dog, teasing silly sheep;
I love to sit and bay the moon, to keep fat souls from sleep.

I'll never be a lap dog, licking dirty feet,
A sleek dog, a meek dog, cringing for my meat,
Not for me the fireside, the well-filled plate,
But shut door, and sharp stone, and cuff and kick, and hate.

Not for me the other dogs, running by my side,
Some have run a short while, but none of them would bide.
O mine is still the lone trail, the hard trail, the best,
Wide wind, and wild stars, and hunger of the quest!

by Australian (?) poet, Irene Rutherford McLeod, 1891 - 1968
from her collection, Songs to Save a Soul, 1915


Tonight, before you go to bed, be sure to take a look out the window at the snowy, icy Full Wolf Moon, the First Moon After Yule. Listen for a moment until you hear the ghostly howl of the lone dog and the long gone wolf packs for whom the January moon is named: "Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages."

Similarly, the month we call January was known to the the ancient Angles and Saxons as Wolf - Month: Wulfmonath, since it was the time of year when the wolves were unable to find food, and their hunger made them bold enough to come into the villages.

A couple of nights ago, I managed to capture this rather unique perspective of the Full Wolf Moon of January:

This photo was taken, at Gerry's suggestion, from inside the house, where we have two of these hexagonal windows -- perfect for looking out at the moon. Photographing from the inside looking out appears to have been successful, judging by all the fun comments I received on facebook:

1. Mia: I saw the moon tonight at 8pm -- huge above the horizon! I guess that awestruck feeling it gave me must have been an urge to howl!

2. Eileen: What is it about moons? SO compelling/ hinting of worlds beyond...

3. Paula: Eeeeeerie...It always is, to me!

4. Karen: That is beautiful! Add noticed it on his way out the door this morning. Even after the sun came up, it was HUGE in the west.

5. Cheryl: I woke up about 4 this morning and the full moon was shining across the new snowfall. It was breathtaking, but I couldn't get my camera to capture it very well.

[I was just like Cheryl, outside first thing in the morning trying to get more pictures; probably the same view Karen had]

Monday, January 17, 2011

Light, Love, and Community on MLK Day

Whenever I'm running an errand out at Food Finders,* I always like to stop by the office of my friend Katy Bunder and read the poster that she has hanging on her wall. If you haven't decided on your New Year's Resolutions yet, you'll find some good ones here:

The Building Community Poster reads:

Turn Off Your TV
Leave Your House
Know Your Neighbors * Greet People
Look Up When You Are Walking
Sit On Your Stoop * Plant Flowers
Use Your Library * Play Together
Buy From Local Merchants
Share What You Have * Help A Lost Dog
Take Children To The Park * Honor Elders
Support Neighborhood Schools
Fix It Even If You Didn't Break It
Have Pot Lucks * Garden Together
Pick Up Litter * Read Stories Aloud
Dance In The Street
Talk To The Mail Carrier
Listen To The Birds * Put Up A Swing
Help Carry Something Heavy
Barter For Your Goods
Start A Tradition * Ask A Question
Hire Young People for Odd Jobs
Organize A Block Party
Bake Extra And Share
Ask For Help When You Need It
Open Your Shades * Sing Together
Share Your Skills
Take Back the Night
Turn Up The Music * Turn Down The Music
Listen Before You React To Anger
Mediate A Conflict * Seek To Understand
Learn From New & Uncomfortable Angles
Know That No One is Silent --
Though Many Are Not Heard
Work To Change This

by The Syracuse Cultural Workers
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

~Margaret Mead (1901 - 1978)
American cultural anthropologist

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that. . . .

Let no one pull you low enough to hate. . . . ."

~Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968)
American Civil Rights Leader
Winner of Nobel Peace Prize, 1964


*Click on this Food Finders link, and you will see a picture of my son Sam, walking in the local Hunger Hike, Fall 2008.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Time Being

~~ Reminds Gerry of his grandfather's "Old House" in England ~~
Urban Garden Under Snow

by Douglas Percy Bliss (Scottish Painter, 1900 - 84)

"But while we often like to comfort
or flatter ourselves with the thought that the future is now,
the brute truth is, the future is not now. The present is now.
The future is later -- in some cases much later."

quotation from the humorous little book,
Santa Lives! Five Conclusive Arguments
for the Existence of Santa Claus

by wry humorist Elllis Weiner (b 1950)
Coauthor of Yiddish with Dick and Jane and The Joy of Worry

Similarly the poet W. H. Auden writes:

"But, for the time being, here we all are . . .

The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all . . .

In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance."

lines from
For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio
by W. H. Auden (1907 - 73)
Anglo-American poet
Born in England, later an American citizen

The theme of Auden's poem is just right for "The Quotidian Kit." The Time Being is just so daily, so commonly thought small. William F. French explains it very well in his analysis of the poem, concluding that we

" . . . are so accustomed to thinking of the moral life in the flash-and-bang terms of dramatic decisions and heroic choices that our daily routines and quiet virtues are regarded as morally insignificant.

"But Auden is no fool. His humor is designed to remind us that our attitude to our own limitations may govern how we respond to the harsh times of tragic choices. Auden’s comic voice reminds us that patience may well be a quiet form of courage, and self-awareness and humility contain a silent power all their own. In redeeming the everyday, he reminds us that moral heroism need not always be dramatically displayed."

concluding paragraph from
"Auden’s Moral Comedy: A Late-Winter Reading"
by ethics professor William F. French (click to read)


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Keep Christmas With You

Presents From A Friend!



Feeling blue? A few unexpected presents might cheer you up, along with some excellent post-seasonal advice from Sesame Street. If you're not familiar with this song already, perhaps from watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street a couple hundred times with your kids, then you are in for a treat. Click on the title to view the children's surprising and touchingly rendered sign language presentation:

Keep Christmas With You All Through the Year
When Christmas time is over
and presents put away,
don't be sad
There'll be so much to treasure
about this Christmas day
and the fun we've had
So may happy feelings to celebrate with you
And, oh, the good time hurry by so fast,
But even when it's over
there's something you can do to make
Christmas last:

Keep Christmas with you
All through the year,
When Christmas is over,
You can keep it near.
Think of this Christmas day
When Christmas is far away.

Keep Christmas with you
All through the year,
When Christmas is over,
Save some Christmas cheer.
These precious moments,
Hold them very dear
And keep Christmas with you
All through the year.

Christmas means the spirit of giving,
Peace and joy to you,
The goodness of loving,
The gladness of living;
These are Christmas too.

So, keep Christmas with you
All through the year,
When Christmas is over,
Save some Christmas cheer.
These precious moments,
Hold them very dear
And keep Christmas with you
All through the year.

lyrics by David Axelrod (b. 1936)
American lyricist,composer, and producer

music by Sam Pottle (1934 - 78)
American composer, conductor, musical director

from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

Which one should I open next?


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Dreams

"Winter Dreams"
China Pattern by Waechtersbach*

I hope you've had a moment to glance at my recent Fortnightly blog post: "Another Faraway Auld Lang Syne" (December 28, 2010). And I hope you were touched as I and my family have been by William Saroyan's short short story "The Faraway Night." (My talented son Ben actually memorized this entire piece and recited it at a school Declamation program when he was in junior high!)

If you enjoyed Saroyan's reverie, you might also like to take a look at F. Scott Fitzgerald's story of youthful infatuation and gradual disillusion -- "Winter Dreams" (click for text).

The opening and closing lines caught my imagination long ago and have remained as one of my own winter dreams:

"In the fall when the days became crisp and gray, and the long Minnesota winter shut down like the white lid of a box, Dexter's skis moved over the snow that hid the fairways of the golf course. At these times the country gave him a feeling of profound melancholy--it offended him that the links should lie in enforced fallowness, haunted by ragged sparrows for the long season. It was dreary, too, that on the tees where the gay colors fluttered in summer there were now only the desolate sand-boxes knee-deep in crusted ice. When he crossed the hills the wind blew cold as misery, and if the sun was out he tramped with his eyes squinted up against the hard dimensionless glare.

"In April the winter ceased abruptly. The snow ran down into Black Bear Lake scarcely tarrying for the early golfers to brave the season with red and black balls. Without elation, without an interval of moist glory, the cold was gone. . . .

"As so frequently would be the case in the future, Dexter was unconsciously dictated to by his winter dreams.
"For he had gone away and he could never go back any more. The gates were closed, the sun was gone down, and there was no beauty but the gray beauty of steel that withstands all time. Even the grief he could have borne was left behind in the country of illusion, of youth, of the richness of life, where his winter dreams had flourished."

*More Winter Dreams: Years ago, when my sister Peg was living in Germany, she sent me a gorgeous teapot, cups and saucers in the above pattern. I've since acquired a few coffee mugs and dessert plates, perfect for serving a late afternoon pick-me-up by the fire on a cold January day.

Winter Mantel Display

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Words: Audible, Edible

Let It Snow! & Alphabet Soup
by Susan Branch

"Antiphanes said merrily,
that in a certain city the cold was so intense
that words were congealed as soon as spoken,
but that after some time
they thawed and became audible;
so that the words spoken in winter
were articulated next summer."

Plutarch, (46 - 120)
1st Century Biographer
born Greek but later became a Roman citizen

Waiting for the Thaw

Monday, January 10, 2011

Women's Institute on Leadership and Disability

Disabled Women Activists Change the World
Through YouTube Music Video:
Loud, Proud and Passionate!

January 6, 2011 - Signing and singing with passion in Arabic, Spanish and English, 54disabled women activists from 43 countries celebrate the achievements, pride and solidarity of women with disabilities around the world. These leaders are revolutionizing the status of women and girls worldwide. Filmed during Mobility International USA's ( MIUSA ) 5th International Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability (WILD), the Loud, Proud and Passionate!(SM) music video release marks the beginning of MIUSA’s 30th Anniversary year-long celebration.

Please share the YouTube link to Music Video:
Loud, Proud and Passionate!

WILD delegates in the video come from Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Palestinian Territories, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St. Lucia, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, United States of America, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

A couple more insightful, inspiring links:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Moon: "a comma, a sliver of white"

Moon Phase Calendar, January 2011

Ordinary Life
This was a day when nothing happened,
the children went off to school
without a murmur, remembering
their books, lunches, gloves.
All morning, the baby and I built block stacks
in the squares of light on the floor.
And lunch blended into naptime,
I cleaned out kitchen cupboards,
one of those jobs that never gets done,
then sat in a circle of sunlight
and drank ginger tea,
watched the birds at the feeder
jostle over lunch's little scraps.
A pheasant strutted from the hedgerow,
preened and flashed his jeweled head.
Now a chicken roasts in the pan,
and the children return,
the murmur of their stories dappling the air.
I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb.
We listen together for your wheels on the drive.
Grace before bread.
And at the table, actual conversation,
no bickering or pokes.
And then, the drift into homework.
The baby goes to his cars, drives them
along the sofa's ridges and hills.
Leaning by the counter, we steal a long slow kiss,
tasting of coffee and cream.
The chicken's diminished to skin & skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard cold knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
order themselves
into the winter night.

~by Barbara Crooker
American Poet, b. 1945

Orion, in the Winter Sky

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Three Soups & Thirteen Desserts

Christmas Cake and Village

Yesterday was the Twelfth Day of Christmas and last night, everyone's favorite Shakespearean festival: Twelfth Night. That makes today the Epiphany, otherwise known as the Feast of the Three Kings.

If the Epiphany happens to fall on the weekend (not the case this year), it can be the perfect occasion for inviting your friends and neighbors over for an end - of - season soup fest -- The Feast of the Three Soups! -- any three you like, e.g., good old Football Chili, New Year's Good Luck Soup (with black-eyed peas for vision & spinach greens for prosperity) and Giblet Soup (a Christmas Eve tradition in Gerry's family).




about 6 cups of chicken broth (can be canned, bouillon cubes, or home made)


2 onions, chopped up

5 carrots, sliced round or diagonal

5 celery stalks with leaves, sliced medium thickness

1 lb. pkg. of chicken livers, cut in bite - sized pieces

1 lb. pkg. of chicken gizzards, cut in bite - sized pieces (I try to cut away the gristle, but it's not always easy & it doesn't really hurt to leave it in)

any other giblets, hearts, or necks that came with the turkey (I randomly use turkey & / or chicken, whatever happens to be in the freezer)


1 teasp. of pepper (I like a lot of pepper; you can use less)

2 teasp. of salt (can be regular, garlic salt, seasoning salt, chicken seasoning mix -- whatever you like)

plus any other spices that you like with chicken (I sometimes use dried basil from our garden, but not always)


add 6 - 12 chicken drumsticks (and more broth if needed)


on a low simmer, 1 - 6 hours, depending on your schedule


add barley or rice (1/2 cup if you want it to float loosely in the broth; 1 cup if you want to thicken up the soup to a stew like consistency).

I think that's about it! It's okay if it turns out a little bit different every time. This year's soup was made with 6 bouillon cubes, 8 cups water, 2 cartons of chicken livers (no gizzards because I couldn't find any at the store that day, and no other giblets or necks because I had used them all up on Christmas Eve), 2 teaspoons of "CVS Chicken & Meat Seasoning" and 1 teaspoon of regular ground black pepper (no other spices), all the usual vegetables (carrots, celery, onions), and one cup of barley.


with BLACK - EYED PEAS ~ for vision
and GREENS ~ for prosperity

1. chop up one onion and fry in the bottom of a soup pan with a little olive oil

2. add 1 can (14 - 16 oz) of pre - seasoned diced tomatoes (the other day I used Hunts Spicy with chili peppers or something like that; I've also used the Hunts Diced with Rosemary & Oregano)

3. add 1 can (14 - 16 oz) of black - eyed peas

4. add 1 teaspoon of garlic salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 Tablespoon of dried oregano

5. add 1/2 lb. of thinly sliced deli ham, chopped into small strips

6. pour in chicken broth for desired consistency, 2 cups approx.

7. last, cut in a 10 oz box of frozen spinach, partially thawed

8. let it simmer for a little while and you're good to go!

In the past, I've made a lengthier version that involved soaking dry beans overnight, slicing up fresh carrots & celery along with the onion, and chopping a larger ham roast into chunks. However, this simpler versions seems to be equally delicious and well - liked; and it really is ready in just a few minutes.


You may also be familiar with the French custom of serving

thirteen symbolic desserts on Christmas Eve.
If you ask me, this is another celebration / menu idea that works just as well on Epiphany. After all, it is the Thirteenth Day of Christmas!

Here are some recipe posts from last year to get you started on the desserts:

Christmas Cake

Figgy Pudding

Tiny Mince Pies

Second Christmas Cake of the Season,
Decorated with David Winter Miniature Cottages

Monday, January 3, 2011

Green Stamps

Accumulate and Redeem
Did you make a New Year's Resolution to read more blogs? If so, take a look at this one by my smart funny facebook friend, Paula Lee Bright:
Almost 60? Really??
If you ever helped your mom collect and organize savings stamps from the grocery store, then you'll love Paula's recent post of holiday nostalgia:
"Mom, Green Stamps and Me, or How I Learned About Love"
The most popular stamps nationwide were S & H Green Stamps, but when I was growing up in St. Charles, Missouri, we saved stamps from the local supermarket, Hedges & Hafer. One year, we got my brother a set of suitcases and a backgammon game; now those were pretty cool stamp prizes, a cut above the usual blender or alarm clock! For an even better stamp story, check out Paula's blog . . . and enjoy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hope Your Party
Is Just the Right Size!

"I like large parties. They're so intimate.
At small parties there isn't any privacy."

from The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald


from This Side of Paradise