A little something for the season.
My daughter shared this with me the other day. Since I’m reading Chernow’s book on Hamilton and listening to the musical these days, I particularly enjoyed it.
Here’s some info about the video…
I have no idea what I was searching for the other day when I ran across this page, but I found it interesting.
There’s no text with it to explain what’s going on, beyond this:
Portraits after 1, 2 & 3 glasses of wine
And I suppose that’s sufficient.
In any case, the results were fairly predictable. People seemed slightly more apt to smile after one glass, then got really friendly-looking after two. Especially the ladies, thanks to their lesser mass. And, since the photographer chose only attractive young women, some came across as very, um, sexy at that point. Rather come-hither, or at least indiscriminately friendly. One senses the approach of an indiscretion. But that might be a perception bias on my part.
Then they had the third glass, and it was just… too much. As seen in the above example. This one, too. Obviously a bad idea. Should have stopped at two, or maybe one, since two seems liable to get people in trouble.
Some of the males got almost as goofy as the women, while others, such as the extreme example below, held rigidly to the traditional maxim that a man must be seen to hold his liquor.
But you know what? He may look sober, but I worry about him getting behind the wheel of a car.
A cautionary tale, as we head into the holidays…
Heard this on the radio this morning, and as usual it shifted me into a different state of consciousness.
It’s not the words or anything obvious like that. It’s just the otherworldly mood that the song creates.
Anyway, it occurred to me after I heard it that maybe it was being played in honor of Memorial Day.
In that spirit, I share it.
I find myself reminded of this other little-known James Taylor song — a song fragment, really — from his “Mud Slide Slim” album, which I’ve always thought had its own mildly hypnotic effect. I was always struck by the sudden shift in tone — from the battle-weary soldiers “with eleven sad stories to tell” to the narrator and his very different reality — after which the song abruptly ends. It was like suddenly awaking from a dream — or, to invoke an obscure reference, like the effect when Don Juan suddenly slapped Carlos Castaneda on the back, sending him into a state of heightened awareness.
It may seem an odd way to mark Memorial Day — these lyrical expressions from pop musicians who never heard a shot fired in anger. But that’s what I have for you today.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) March 1, 2016
Since it’s also Super Tuesday, lots of voters in other states can — and will — celebrate by going out and voting for Donald Trump.
Since that option is no longer open to us here in South Carolina, any ideas?
What does Cindi Scoppe do when she’s not producing the best print commentary — nay, the best political journalism — in South Carolina?
She bakes cakes.
Not just a cake here or there. She bakes a lot of cakes. And not your yellow cake out of the Duncan Hines box. She bakes, from scratch, such things as “Cookie Dough Brownie Cake” and “Caramel Almond Torte” and “Orange Cheesecake” and “Apple Sharlotka” and “Pistachio Baklava Cake” and on and on.
And she does it all at once.
Several score of her closest friends were reminded of this over the weekend at her 8th annual Advent cake party. She served 25 cakes in all.
She took off all of last week to complete the task, even though that meant doing the whole week’s editorial pages ahead of time. What of that? Those cakes weren’t going to bake themselves.
Cindi… needs this outlet. What’s more, she deserves it. She works long hours at the paper doing the work of eight people. Then she takes home mind-numbing documents such as legislative bills and academic studies and reads every word of them on nights and weekends.
Someone out there who knows this about her may object, “But she’s diabetic.” True, and I think that may have something to do with the… intensity… of her cake fixation. But there was never a diabetic who more assiduously kept track of her condition or addressed it more readily. More than once, I’ve seen her hike up her skirt and give herself a shot of insulin in the thigh because there was a slice of cake before her that needed eating. (Once, she did this in the governor’s office over lunch. I thought Mark Sanford was going to fall out of his chair.) Cindi’s just a very matter-of-fact person who deals with things, eats her cake and moves on.
I asked her for some stats — how much sugar, for instance. She said she had no idea, but she did offer, “I want to say around 25 pounds of butter.”
She sent me all the recipes. I count, let’s see, 99 eggs, plus the yolks of two others. One recipe, chocolate mousse cake plus chocolate buttercream frosting, called for eight eggs.
Needless to say, I wasn’t eating any of this, or even coming into contact with it. Nothing is more deadly to me than dairy products and eggs. But I took a plateful home, since my wife couldn’t make it to the party. She appreciated it.
Forget about separate bathrooms; there is no more dramatic separation between the sexes than the stark contrast between the store aisles devoted to items marketed to boys and those aimed at girls.
The “boys'” aisles are filled with menacing things that shoot, crash, kick, punch or snarl, and the dominant colors are not baby boy blue, but black and brown, relieved only by blood red, ninja turtle green and sometimes alarming orange.
And the “girls'” aisles are, well, pink. That’s about all you can see at a distance, and sometimes close up. So much pink that I still feel an aversion to walking down them, like there is still a trace of Wally and the Beave in me, thinking, “Aw, Mom! Don’t make me go there! What if one of the guys sees me! He’ll give me the business!”
And anyway, we try hard to find more neutral things for our granddaughters — building sets, puzzles, games — something less frou-frou at the very least. There are such things still to be found, for girls and boys, and they are only occasionally to be found floating in the sea of pink.
And when you find something that doesn’t belong there, boy does it stick out. Like “Ultron” above, which I found amid the pink at Target, no doubt left by some kid whose parents said, “Put that down; we’re shopping for your sister.” (Or maybe the sister wanted it, and her parents preferred to buy her something more “suitable.” I don’t know…)
I like Ultron’s stance in the photo. With his shoulders hunched up toward his ears (or where ears would be if he had any) and his arms hanging in a way that suggests a reluctance to touch anything, and that mechanical grimace, he looks terribly awkward and embarrassed, as though he had accidentally gone clanking into the women’s bathroom. He seems to be thinking, “Get me outta here before the Avengers see me! They’ll give me the business!”
Well, it just serves him right for being such a testosterone-fueled bully who wants to dominate the world. Maybe in the future he’ll remember to check his privilege before barging in among all these lady dolls…
When I met Howard Duvall at Starbucks the other day, I was delighted to see that they’d started using the red holiday cups. I have a lot of pleasant associations with that annual sign of the season, such as the time three of my kids and I stayed warm with such cups on a Black Friday visit to a bitterly cold New York (see above).
Some people, however, see the cups’ arrival as an opportunity to increase the amount of division in the world:
Starbucks has come under fire from some Christians who say the company isn’t repping hard enough for Jesus on its recent understated holiday cups. The problem? Political correctness, according to one evangelical.
“I think in the age of political correctness we become so open-minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head,” Joshua Feuerstein said in a widely viewed anti-Starbucks rant on Facebook titled “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.” “Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups? That’s why they’re just plain red.”…
Everyone has his or her peeves. Here’s one of mine…
Why on Earth would I expect to see “Christmas” on a coffee cup on Guy Fawkes Day? That’s more than three weeks before Advent even starts, much less Christmas. You want to complain about Christmas being underplayed, get back to me sometime between Dec. 25 and the Feast of the Epiphany.
When I get a red cup on Nov. 5, it really is a holiday cup, since it will span the period that includes our first experiences of cold weather, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas. It’s about celebrating a season — you know, the holiday season, and yeah, that includes Hanukkah. Maybe New Year’s, too (I’m not clear on when they stop using the cups).
If your excuse for protesting is that you are a Christian, how about checking out a liturgical calendar sometime? Yeah, I know, not every Christian is in a liturgical church, but come on — just how early do you want the Merry Christmases to start?
I say that on account of my being Catholic and all.
I reTweeted this from Paul McCartney yesterday, which included a picture of him that appears to be from his “Maybe I’m Amazed” period:
— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) November 5, 2015
But this was a classic case of a reTweet not constituting an endorsement.
Now, y’all know that I’m an Anglophile from way back. I generally love English traditions, including some of those involving fire.
But I’m a bit squeamish about the one that involves burning in effigy a Catholic-rights activist who in reality was tortured by English authorities before being drawn, hung and quartered.
OK, granted, we’re not talking Pope Francis here: Guy Fawkes was a terrorist who intended to blow up the king and Parliament and had the explosives to do it.
But still. The English had already been oppressing Catholics for Fawkes’ entire life and then some, and they used the Gunpowder Plot as an excuse to step that persecution up and continue it for most of the next 400 years. The celebration, unless I mistake, was of a victory over the Pope and papists as much as over a terrorist cell.
Which I kind of resent, because, you know, we’re not all terrorists.
So excuse me if I’m not too thrilled about your bonfire there, Paul…
Reading various editorials and such about Memorial Day, I’m reminded of our time in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, where so many suffered so much as prisoners of the Japanese during what is referred to locally as “the war of 1939-1945.”
Specifically, I’m reminded of how deeply impressed I was by how beautifully maintained the cemetery for British and Dutch POWs was.
Yes, I know this is American Memorial Day (known in SC, at least until recently, as “Yankee Memorial Day”). But this is what I thought of. And there is an American angle to this mostly British story.
You’ve seen the picture of me standing in front of The Bridge on the River Kwai. Well, that was taken by the Thai wife of one of a trio of American veterans I ran into next to the bridge. It was hard to miss them — two middle-aged white guys and a black guy busily painting and restoring the monument at right. Even though two of them were wearing the proverbial Asian conical hat.
They were from an American veterans’ lodge in Bangkok. They had come to spruce up the one monument I saw in the town to the 133 Americans who died building the Death Railway or Burma Railway connecting Bangkok to Rangoon for the Japanese.
I asked them how to find the cemetery where the POWs lay (thinking at this point there would be Americans there among the Brits). They gave me rough directions — too rough, it would turn out — and an idea of how long it would take to walk there. I thanked them for their service, got my picture taken, and hiked back upriver to our resort.
When I got there, we decided to go see the cemetery before dark, which was coming on soon. So we headed out in the general direction on the Maenamkwai Road. Maenamkwai ran parallel to the river, and was something of a party district, as evidenced by the signs in front of pubs offering such experiences as “Get Drunk for 10 baht” — which seemed both a fiscal and physical impossibility, 10 baht being just under 30 cents, but I don’t know because I didn’t test it. Those kinds of places were a bit… unsavory. Quite a few of the patrons were white men about my age — some Brits, some other nationalities — who could occasionally be seen groping the pretty young Thai girls.
We began to despair of finding the cemetery based on the veterans’ directions and the insufficiently detailed map we’d obtained at our resort. Finally, we decided to ask directions of a typically seedy-looking white guy we encountered coming out of a Tesco Express. He wasn’t, as I’d hoped, a Brit. He was French, and had no English. I was enormously proud that, though I think of myself as having no French, I managed to come up with “le mort du guerre” in my effort to tell him what we sought. (Google Translate says I should have said “les morts de la guerre,” but whatever — he seemed to understand). However, he was much confused by our map and perhaps by his own whereabouts — I suspected that he’d spent at least 10 baht at one of the local establishments — and his directions were decidedly vague.
But we carried on, and eventually found it, a few blocks further.
As I said, I was deeply impressed by what we found. Not just the sheer number of graves — almost 7,000, according to Wikipedia — but how meticulously they had been cared for. One section was cordoned off, where someone was putting in new sod so as the improve upon the near-perfection. I was astounded that a graveyard so far away from the families these men left behind was maintained to this extent. (I noted the plaque saying the land was the gift of the Thai people, but I learned later that the graves are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.)
When we arrived we were accosted by a couple of young Thai women. One of them explained that her friend was studying English, and had come here hoping to find someone to practice with — which impressed me with her initiative and desire to learn (if only that Frenchman had had such an ambition). So we chatted a bit along the lines of “Hello, how are you?” Then I excused myself because the light was failing and I wanted to explore the cemetery.
My aim was to find the Americans, but there were none. I kept walking from section to section, thinking that the next one would be the American grouping. No luck. I would later learn that the American remains had been repatriated. Eventually, I gave up on my chauvinistic impulse, and appreciated what I found. Most were from the Commonwealth, although there was a big Dutch section with 1,896 graves.
All these mostly young men, who died under such horrific conditions, at the hands of an enemy that regarded and treated them as less than human, under that generation’s twisted version of the Bushido code. All those families that would never even be started back home, on the other side of the world.
As we headed back, we passed Beata Mundi Regina War Monument Catholic Church, which was founded by some Carmelite nuns who located there to care for the graves. I don’t know whether they are still the ones who do that work, under the aegis of the commission, but whoever does does so lovingly.
That night, I purchased The Bridge on the River Kwai from iTunes — I wanted my daughter to have some idea of what had happened there — and tried to watch it on my iPad, but the wi-fi had trouble handling it. I would finish watching it after I got home, and also order the DVD of “The Railway Man” from Netflix.
But of course, there’s no way I will ever fully appreciate what those men experienced there.
Once upon a time, we kept track of our days this way throughout what was termed Christendom:
Anyway, you get the idea. There wasn’t a day in the calendar that didn’t have its own, holy designation — if you belonged to a liturgical church. Although some feast days were more equal than others.
But as Bob Dylan would say, it used to go like that; now it goes like this:
You’ll note that, with the exception of Giving Tuesday, this new liturgical calendar is about nothing holy or transcendent, but all about the gimme-gimme, pure commerce. For that matter, Giving Tuesday is about trying to adapt altruism to this new, entirely secular calendar of recognized (and much advertised) observances.
This formalization of the shopping calendar has pretty much taken place entirely within my lifetime.
One of our friends over at the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families forwarded this message from the Palmetto Project over to me, so I’ll share it with you:
If you’ve been thinking about adopting a family this Christmas, we have more than 400 families left, a lot of these are families of 2 or 3 – and we really need your help.
Please call the WIS TV phone bank at 251-8501 and speak to a volunteer today so that we can make sure you get your information ASAP! Or you can go to http://www.wistv.com/story/24003113/2014-families-helping-families to register on line.
Phone Bank is open now until 7:30 and tomorrow from 5 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
If you have already adopted a family, thank you very much! You should have received your information already, so please call us at 251-8501 if you have not.
Thank you so much for your continued generosity.
As you may recall, our youngest daughter is in Thailand with the Peace Corps. She’ll be there another two years. So as the family gathered yesterday for a Mother’s Day cookout, she couldn’t be with us physically. But she posted this on her blog:
I love this time of year. Although nothing’s really changing on this side of the planet, my southern blood can feel the dogwoods bloom and the Atlantic Ocean warming up begging me to dive in. It’s when my South Carolina soul is set free — those first few Charleston summer nights spent riding my bike through the cobblestones of the Battery, down alleyways like magic gardens, past beautiful long pastel porches where belles once kissed their beaus by the flickering light of oil lamps.
I’m sure it’s getting to be the perfect weather for a backyard barbeque — which is exactly what I’m missing out on today as my family gathers to celebrate Mother’s Day.
While I wish I could be there, my service in the Peace Corps is a daily reminder to me of my mother’s influence. I often think, as I find myself in shocking situations, how would my mother handle this? And the answer is always the same — graciously, and with style. My mother would smile and calmly treat any human she came into contact with, with the same dignity and respect as the next person, no matter their approach or appearance. I learned from witnessing my mother’s consistent interactions as a social worker and active volunteer that all people deserve equal attention.
I feel that my parents, particularly the long hours I spent alone with my mother as her last baby, are largely responsible for any humanitarian tendencies I may possess. As I dug for grubs at her feet in our backyard organic garden, I learned that the easy way is not always the right way, i.e., cloth diapers for five children is better than polluting the planet with disposable diapers for five children, dryers are unnecessary when you have a sunny sky, and that your recycling and composting piles should always outweigh your trash.
My mother taught me a sense of social responsibility, but what’s more is she taught me how to live. She showed me by example the importance of prioritizing and maintaining a positive outlook. When she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, she fought it so gracefully that I never questioned her survival. A steel magnolia if you ever saw one.
I’ve come a long way from my childhood, which I spent totally preoccupied with my mother’s activities and whereabouts. Sure, all children are concerned with their #1 caretaker’s well-being, but my interest was border-line stalkerish. Maybe I was just spoiled, but I couldn’t stand for her to be out of my sight for a minute, and I needed constant validation of my status as the baby. I still do. Some things you never grow out of. While I have some minor personal goals for my life, the one over-arching theme is to make my mother proud. At the end of the day that’s what I really care about. That’s what would make me happy. I know in order to do this I must try to live selflessly as she does, not missing an opportunity to make my life worthwhile. This doesn’t come as naturally to me, but I am trying.
When I was little, I would stare at my mother’s face and marvel at her beauty. Now I’m wise enough to marvel at her strength. Each day I spend in Thailand is a test — a beautiful, delicious, sweaty test filled with smiles and laughter, but a test nonetheless. One that forces me to channel my mother from the other side of the world.
I wish all the mamas a happy Mother’s Day and I miss you from Thailand!
Late in the afternoon Saturday, I sent out the above picture with the challenge,
My HQ today is @yesterdayssc in case any of my blog peeps care to join me. And if ye don’t, yer an eejit…
But none of y’all showed. At least not immediately. I only waited about another half-hour.
Sorry about the “eejit” thing. It was the only Irish-sounding put down I could think of. I get it from Roddy Doyle.
Saturday was a quick-in, quick-out deal for me, compared to my usual habits on this day. I had been uncertain that I would attend at all. My son’s band was going to play at Henry’s up the street, but one of his bandmates had a death in the family the night before and they had to cancel the gig. I did run into a couple of his present and former bandmates — these guys have played in a lot of bands together over the years — at Yesterday’s, sans instruments.
It was a beautiful day for it. Sorry I missed y’all.
That’s what I expect a lot of people to say when they leave the St. Pat’s celebration in Five Points this Saturday and try to come back in — assuming, of course, that they’ve learned a cheesy Irish accent from the same dialect coach who trained the “Lucky Charms” guy in “Austin Powers.”
Expect a few donnybrooks over that.
I don’t know what I think. On the one hand, it seems reasonable to me, as it has seemed reasonable to the organizers of this annual festival from time immemorial (this never happened in Jack Van Loan’s day!), to allow people to come back in if they’ve paid once. I mean, when you’ve paid for an all-day event, I can think of all sorts of reasons (say, for instance, you are constitutionally incapable of taking advantage of a port-o-john) why you might need to leave briefly and come back — and you DID pay for the whole day.
On the other hand, the public safety argument has some force on its side, although I’m not entirely devastated by the logic:
But the new policy will allow police and private security to better monitor who is coming and going.
In the past, people were screened the first time they went through the festival gates but not necessarily when they came back, interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago said. Instead, those returning just showed an arm band and walked in.
Now, everyone inside will have been screened, eliminating the risk of bringing contraband, Santiago said. The policy also keeps people from leaving so they can drink more or use drugs before coming back, he said.
“We know that everybody who is in there has been through security,” he said.
Franks also hopes the no re-entry policy curbs some of the disturbances the festival causes in surrounding neighborhoods. There should be fewer people walking through yards and less trash…
What do y’all think?
A video, some Tweets and images from last night…
Love the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band jacket on Kool and the Gang’s trombonist! #FHNY
I’m doing a Nerd Dance on Gervais, like Dick at the end of “High Fidelity.” Sorry. Obscure pop culture reference there… #FHNY
On my way in to work this morning, at the junction of Sunset Boulevard and Meeting Street, just before the Gervais Street bridge, I thought I saw a speed trap.
Then, just before I drove past, I noticed the sign, and the cab.
Y’all have a good, safe time tonight. Maybe I’ll see you at the Famously Hot New Year’s celebration at Gervais and Main.
Since this post the other day, I’ve been listening more closely to the Christmas music to which I’ve been exposed.
This morning, I heard something really unusual. What got me was the very different rhythm part of this rendition of “O Come Emanuel.” I’d actually been listening a while before I realized what the song was — even though it’s my favorite Advent song. This was before coffee, you understand.
I wanted to know right then who it was. But I couldn’t do what I would normally do. I was driving the truck, which is straight-shift and takes two hands, and wearing my winter coat that zips up, and couldn’t get at my phone to get my SoundHound app to give it a listen and ID it for me. Frustrating (in any event, as I discovered when I got to work, I’d left my phone at home — again, the lack of coffee).
So I decided that I’d fall back on trying to find out who that was when I got to a keyboard. To my inexpert year, it sounded like Pearl Jam. So I hunted on Google, and on YouTube. I asked everybody on Twitter:
Heard a very offbeat rendition of “O Come Emanuel” on radio this a.m. Sounded like… Pearl Jam. Google couldn’t find that. So who was it?
Weirdly, no one answered. I asked again about six hours later. Still no takers. Which is unusual. Normally, someone at least guesses.
So you know what I did? I found out the old school way. Soon as I got a moment (late this afternoon, after a busy day) I called the request line at Magic 98.5. I asked who that was doing “O Come Emmanuel” between 7:45 and 8 this morning.
Turns out it was Third Day, a Christian rock band that formed back in the early ’90s. You know, when everybody was trying to sound like Eddie Vedder.
The fact that my crowd-sourcing efforts failed, I suppose, testifies to grunge-style Christian bands occupying a lesser-known part of the pop music spectrum. Even Rob, Dick and Barry might have had trouble with it.
I’m just glad I solved the mystery. I’m sure you’re happy for me.
And now that my temper is up, I may as well go on and abuse every body I can think of.
— Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
Is that headline a contradiction in terms? Should it be, “Bottom Five?” Or would saying that, with “Worst” — which I feel compelled to use — be redundant?
But before I get to my list, allow me to complain that we are not in the Christmas season. This is Advent. Even though I was sick at home with a cold the first Sunday, and late the second Sunday, and therefore missed the candle-lighting ritual at Mass both times, I know this is Advent. You know how? I can read a calendar. Christmas starts on the 25th (remember how we used to call it Saturnalia, o fratres mei?), and ends on the Feast of the Epiphany.
Oh, you say only the Church calls it that? Well, let me clue you in: The Church invented Christmas. In fact, Protestants refused to celebrate it for generations because it was seen as so Catholic. Even Santa Claus is a saint. So there.
Speaking of which, one category of song you won’t see represented here is the kind that isn’t really a Christmas song at all; it’s really a winter song. Take “Jingle Bells,” please. (OK, I don’t really hate “Jingle Bells;” constant repetitions of it when I was a small child conditioned me to associate it with festivity. It’s just an illustration of my point, so bear with me.) Does it say anything about Christmas? No, it doesn’t. OK, there’s the sleigh — but it’s not, specifically, Santa’s. It’s a run-of-the-mill sleigh. It’s drawn by one horse, not by reindeer.
Or, worse yet, “Frosty the Snowman.” Is there a single Christmas allusion in it, direct or indirect? No, there is not. It’s about winter. Ditto with “Let it Snow,” which was thrust upon me one morning this past week.
Moreover, it’s about winter as we in South Carolina seldom experience it. Oh, sometimes we get a dusting of snow — in February. I, having spent most my life in the South (or in the tropics), have never experienced a white Dec. 25th. Granted, we had a nice blanket of the stuff fall on the second or third day of Christmas in 2010, but that’s an exception that proves the rule.
Songs like that are about winter in a particular part of the world, which is not here. So where’s the relevance?
Mind you, it’s not that songs must contain Jesus, Mary and Joseph, much less the Three Kings (who in any case should not be heard from before Jan. 6) in order to make the category. I’m happy with Santa, or the elves, or the reindeer, or a Yule log, or a tree… something, anything, that relates it to the actual holiday.
But enough about what the list is not.
Here’s the actual list:
Above is a cropped shot taken of three of my kids in Central Park in NYC on Nov. 23, 2007. It was the day after Thanksgiving, the day merchandisers call “Black Friday.” It was bitterly cold, and those cups of hot coffee were welcome.
I show you this in order to note that, to the best of my recollection, that was the first time I ever saw the red Starbucks “holiday cups.” Ever since then, I’ve been happy to see them come out again each year, because I have pleasant associations with that trip to New York.
I was a bit less delighted than usual to see them come out this year on Nov. 1, All Saints Day. Yes, when kids had hardly dented their candy hauls from Halloween.
That, to me, is going too far.
Nor was I thrilled to receive the below promotion on Veterans Day. The text with it said:
One Cyber Monday a year just isn’t enough. That’s why it’s a month-long event here at Musician’s Friend…
No, actually, one is quite sufficient, thanks. Or if you must have two, have the second after the usual one. Have three or four, if you like. I’m all for everybody making a living. But wait, please…