Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween fun revisited

Wait for it, it's worth it I promise.

Something in my Celtic DNA makes me love Halloween. I wait all year for this. It's my super bowl, my world series, my St. Patricks Day, my best day of all. For me, Halloween begins the week proceeding All Hallows Eve and runs until the Monday after Thanksgiving. It includes Halloween prep, The Day of the Dead, Katy Day, all the exciting Thanksgiving preparations, the big day and let down afterwards. The rest of the year is simply filler.

Not that I particularly do anything special, but I do have my routines. I reread Washington Irving's stories, especially Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane. Build a scarecrow, watch The Great Pumpkin and Sleepy Hollow each for the hundredth time, chop firewood, and prepare for my annual argument with Mrs. T about how much trick or treat candy to have on hand.

This is our only major argument. 5+ lbs each of Snickers, Butterfingers and Baby Ruth's seem appropriate to me. Mrs. T sees the world through very dark glasses, believes we don't need any. This is from a woman who lives for Christmas. Just because we have never had a trick or treater, nor are we ever likely to, she feels we can do without. Bunkum.

There is something fundamentally right about both hard and sweet apple cider, candy apples, harvest festivals, jack-o-lanterns, fall leaves, bonfires, dove hunts, moleskins and all fall activities. So what if it rains tonight!

Whatever your plans, have fun.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

war of the worlds 1938

On the evening of October 30, 1938 listeners to the CBS radio network tuned into the Mercury Theater on the Air Halloween broadcast of H.G. Wells', The War of the Worlds.  Mercury began their hour long broadcast with narrator, Orson Welles telling the audience that what they were about to hear was a retelling of Wells' story, set during the next year, in non-existent West Windsor Township, New Jersey.  Timing was critical.

As any programmer will tell you, a radio or television show has their audience until the first commercial break.  After that, listeners spin the dial hoping for something better or simply fade away.    At that time slot CBS had 20% of the audience that the  NBC Red broadcast of The Chase and Sanborn Hour had.  Orson Welles who was also the producer of Mercury Theater on the Air knew when Chase and Sanborn's commercials ran which gave which gave him liberty to take full advantage of Chase's commercial breaks.

The Mercury Hour was commercial free. The War's broadcast began with what sounded like a typical daily broadcast.  First the weather, then the band was introduced, slowly the action built until it was time for Chase and Sanborns first commercial, as C&S listeners spun the dial, newcomers were greeted with  "We interrupt this program..... " One bulletin followed another. Sadly, Grover's Mill New Jersey was obliterated by Martians during the broadcast.

The broadcast is memorable today for the stories surrounding the "Panic" caused around the nation.  The stories of Panic were likely overblown.  I suspect that in 1938 the only Americans to be fooled by such a tale would have been in New York and nearby large cities and college towns.  I find it unlikely, farmers, ranchers, small town folk in those sorts of places where UFO's regularly show up would fall for such a tale. Welles couldn't fool all the people, could he?

Tonight on PBS, American Experience features the story of The War of World broadcast in honor of its 75th anniversary on Wednesday.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed

I suspect that Lou tired, years ago, of hearing The Velvet Underground and  Nico in the same breath every time his name was mentioned. It's been almost 50 years, a lot of water under the bridge since then.

Avedon Photo

The Velvet Underground's first album gave the impression, much like the Monkeys a few years earlier, that the band members had recently been introduced to music and musical instruments, except for Nico who presaged Yoko, and Lou Reed, who along with John Cale were the Underground, and they were unlike anyone else. The band was an acquired taste, but for those coming of age with the advent of FM radio, and tired of 3 minute bubble gum music, the Underground's blatant themes of sex, love and rock and roll were a tonic.  The Velvet's first album was released a week before my 15th birthday, and I was one of the few who after buying it, didn't immediately start a band. I suspect number one son has the record now.

Everyone back then knew a kid like Lou. Mad, bad and dangerous to know, unconsciously dripping with style, influenced everyone around them. Somehow they were a chick/dude magnet, an artist, an artiste, poet, someone who made his guitar sing, even when his life didn't. Those creative kids showed us a different way, they were our beacon of hope for a brighter future, if we dared. Eventually, the kids grew up, led messy lives yet changed our world. Certainly, Lou did.

Thank you Lou, for everything.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why an Exchequer?

Once upon a time Persia was ruled by Shahs. Today would be the birthday of the last (most recent?) Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was deposed in 1979.

Some Shahs were happy, others crippled or worse.  In Persian, crippled or dead Shahs were Shah Mat.  Over time the word Shah evolved into Latin as scaccus, into old French as eschec and finally into English as chess, the game with a king.  In modern chess, when the king is crippled, he is checkmate (shah mat).

King Henry II of England, husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, was French. Whenever did his accounts he did it upon:
 "a quadrangular surface about 10 feet in length, 5 foot in breadth, placed before those who sit around it in the manner of a table, and all around it has the edge about the height of one's 4 fingers, lest anything placed upon it fall off.  There is placed over the top of the escheker, moreover, a cloth bought at the Easter term, not an ordinary one, but a black one marked with stripes, the stripes being distant from each other the space of a foot or the breadth of a hand.  In the spaces moreover are counters placed according to their values."   Dialogus de Scaccario c. 1180

Henry's account table looked like a chessboard, and French speaking Henry called  his account table an escheker.

That is why Britain's finances are controlled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Toad, with thanks to the Etymologicon by Mark Forstyth.

My bride and I have the honor of spending the next day and half with 3 young ruffians.  I shall  return Monday, the gods willing.

Friday, October 25, 2013

st crispin's day

October 25, St. Crispin's Day,  marks the high and low in British martial history. I nominate as high the Battle of Agincourt, recounted in Shakespeare's  Henry V (did you watch The Hollow Crown?).
As Shakespeare wrote the story, Henry imploring his men to battle, before outlandish odds, is perhaps the most inspirational speech ever given.  The English victory impressive, the gains short lived.

The British military does not have a monopoly on stupid, but bad things happen when leaders look upon their fighting men as DNOK, the other.  On St. Crispin's Day, four hundred forty odd years after the Battle of Agincourt, the British army was back on the field, this time fighting Russians at Balaclava in the Crimea.  Misunderstanding their muddled orders, a sabre armed  light cavalry brigade was sent headlong into battle against entrenched Russian artillery. The results predictable.

The BBC tells the story surprisingly well in this video.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote the best known chronicle of the battle


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Doghouse Diaries: What each country leads the world in

According the The Doghouse Diaries each country leads the world in something. This is a map of what each country does best. click on the link for a clearer view


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's on your Kindle?

My bride is not much of reader.  That's led to some curious conversations, especially the one where she knew the title character of a book I was reading (An Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Maguire).  Mrs. Maguire is the DIL of one of Mrs. T's grandmothers BFF's.  We didn't know that at the time.

Lately, I've been getting the business for leaving half finished books lying about.  I'm currently reading four, 2 seasonal ( Washington Irving- Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle etc. and Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne), 1 stylebook (The Elements of Style edited by E.B. White) which was a high school textbook. I consider myself a fair/good editor (when I take the time) but at best a so-so conveyor of thought to text. The gift of clear, concise writing is a skill I hope for in my next life. Until then I'm dependent upon professional guides.

Finally, I've just begun The Etymologicon: a circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth.  Mr. Forsyth is an Englishman with a taste for obscure words.  That most likely qualifies him as an eccentric.  I met up with him in the Guardian where he had written about the top 10 lost words. Who knew that Sprunt (an old Scottish word) means to chase girls around haystacks after dark? His new book The Horologicon will soon be available in the US.

 While I've just began The Etymologicon, I can tell it will keep me up reading past my bedtime. The Inky Fool is Marks delicious blog.  I'm in need of 30 hour days, less sleep or long patches of dreary weather.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Separated at birth

Have you ever stopped to consider how strange it must be to suddenly become famous? One day you're toiling in obscurity next through promotion or dint of hard work you're recognized everywhere. Hey, look that's my picture in the magazine. The feeling has gotta be weird.

I had, on a vastly different scale, a similar sensation. Idling my spare time, scrolling through Tumblr,  I saw a snap that at first, second and third glances made me wonder if I wasn't looking at a forgotten family photo, someone younger, with great hair.

Having spent entire years wearing that exact outfit, or one similar, toting refreshment amongst convivial company I know that guy.  I've seen my doppelganger.

 (from Wiki)
In fiction and folklore, a doppelgänger or doppelganger (/ˈdɒpəlˌɡæŋər/; German: [ˈdɔpəlˌɡɛŋɐ] ( listen), look-alike, literally a "double goer") is a paranormal double of a living person.
It also describes the sensation of having glimpsed oneself in one's own peripheral vision with no chance of the supposed phenomenon having been a reflection.

I feel like I should find the man in the photo.  I'd be the guy from the future who comes back to warn him, except if he's any guy I know, he wouldn't listen.


Calvin or Hobbes?

If, like me, you miss your daily dose of Calvin and Hobbes you may take comfort knowing that Go Comics has posted the entire archives on line so that you can read the strip daily or download the mobile app.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cooks Books

We had the privilege of being guests at a dinner at the home of  a couple with the perfect troika of taste, talent and resources to make life appear effortless. Their home was efficient and clearly divided into family space and well used entertaining space.  Everywhere you turned in the this jewel box of a house you'd say to yourself, "why didn't I think of that?" or "we could do that", but you'd never be so gauche as to take a photo and in the morning the memory of joy had the evening before is all that fills your fuzzy head.

What I clearly recall is the family room, the mainstay of the entertaining space.  I was gobsmacked by their bookshelves.  The family room bookshelves were filled, floor to ceiling with cook books.  Not simply with recipe books, but with what I refer to as cooking books and eating books.  The Joy of Cooking is a cooking book, Eating by Jason Epstein is an eating book. Memoirs, reviews, nostalgia, culinary history as well as travelogues  count as eating books. My bride prefers one sort I the other, especially that rare combination platter served by an author who who can mix his metaphors and provide both under one cover.  The unexpected informality was not only whimsical but incredibly comforting. "We'll do that in our next space" I thought.

Our new home was a blank canvas without hint of where to store a tome.  I'd sit in empty rooms and imagine bookshelves here or perhaps there aping our friends inviting room.  Daydreaming was followed by sorting through captured photos of book rooms, book shelves, book cases and stacks and stores offering guidance and inspiration.  Small spaces need storage everywhere you can fit it, but must also look good . This project needed decisions quickly in order to build before the furniture arrived.

The carpenter's secret to building bookshelves is found in resell it shops or Habitat for Humanity's resale emporiums.  Look closely, most use bathroom vanities or kitchen cabinetry for their base.

It's cheap, easy to do and it works. Now we need to fill 'er up.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

The nothing fits chronicles

I wish this were an oh what a good boy am I tale, but that negates the obscenity that came before for which I  alone bear full responsibility.   Instead, I believe in the power of redemption.  This is my redemption song.

I blame my internist. I have the lipid panel of a 12 year old girl, but my MD only sees a  fat man when he hands over a script for old fat man pills. His advice is if I don't like it do something about it. I took up his challenge, overcoming my strict meat, potato and sweets diet,  relearning how to sweat while revisiting the gym. 

 I despise vegetables but now take my daily dosage, along with smaller portions and rarely visit potatoes.  I'm in danger of becoming a know it all authority on men's health. Just ask. The things I've learned, I could write a book.  Total cholesterol 159, HDL always low at 36, LDL 94. Triglycerides 113.  Not bad for an old fat man

My white linen suit is now at Goodwill, with luck I'll find another in a NOLA thrift shop. Nothing in my closet fits, I give thanks for suspenders. Only a few more pounds to go. If I can do it so can anyone.


Friday, October 18, 2013

The Dishwasher and the Anthropologist

Before moving, Mrs. T decided we needed a new dishwasher.  My bride is a great cook, but I do the dishes and knowing my opinion counted for nothing, I stayed home. Mrs. T returned  with news our new appliance would be delivered Monday.  Then she checked the reviews.  Her report less than helpful.  "Most everyone writing a review hated model 123 (ours) and wished they had purchased model 234.  How would anyone know?

Have you ever purchased a dishwasher?  It's a pig in a poke.  What's your criteria?  How do you chose, what makes a dishwasher good or bad?  Essentially there are 2 ways to pick.  First, you can match the other appliances in your kitchen, by brand, model or color, or depending upon your willingness to pay, pay 'till it hurts.

On Monday, bright and early, the delivery truck arrived. I asked the delivery guy if he wanted to make this stop easy or hard?  "Easy I guess" came his reply. "You brought the wrong dishwasher" I said, " Come back when you have the right one" which prompted a call from the store.  "We are so sorry for the mix up.  We damaged the dishwasher you purchased, will you please accept model 234 at the same cost?  We will deliver it tomorrow morning" We would and they did.

That night I spotted a listing on Craigslist.  "If you purchased a model 234 dishwasher and wish to participate in our study we will pay you.  Call if interested."  We called.

Two days later a video camera arrived with instructions to keep a video diary of how we used our dishwasher.  An in home interview would follow.  A video diary of a dishwasher in an unoccupied condo is not entertaining but we did our part. The interview was the best part of all.

Have you ever met an anthropologist?  A real life urban anthropologist arrived at our door, hired of course by the model 234 people, to study how "real" people use their dishwasher "in real life".   How cool is that? Unfortunately she didn't know about the frozen pepperoni pizza test.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

A dogs life

If pressed, my darling daughter would happily aver that her father and bonus mother were not condo people.  I would have agreed until we tried it. The transition has been difficult for the dogs. As I've repeatedly explained to our geriatric neighbors, the dogs are like children, moving is new and we cannot explain what is happening to them, they are scared when left alone. Give them a time and they'll adjust, and so it has come to pass.

What has been difficult for Mrs. T and I has been our transition to responsible dog owners. In days past we opened the door, tossed the dogs outside and left them to fend for themselves. That's no longer an option. Now it's Toad, 2 leashes and a pick up bag, rain or shine several times per day and upon command.  My bride frequently reminds me that the dogs are my problem if it is dark, cold, inclement or inconvenient  It could be worse, it's not cold yet.

The monsters still tell time and the younger begins my day with a cold nose and wet tongue licking my ear at 8 am. Since we are up and dressed to go outside at that unseemly hour we've decided to take a walk before breakfast. It is the walk which makes the whole dog in a condo thing worth doing.

In the matter of several days we decided upon our route. If we cross the street and cut through one dodge a walking trail awaits us. The trail circles the neighborhood lake, veers to the right and

takes us to the local copy of Seward Johnson's statue The Awakening. The path then circles back home. It's exactly a one mile walk.

On a treadmill its a 8-10 minute walk. Without a dog maybe 12, one dog 15 minutes, 2 dogs 30 minutes. The perfect way to start a day.  The process is repeated at 4:30 pm.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I wasn't paying attention and  thought she said she needed someONE old.  Instead I was informed the bride needed someTHING old, and what she wanted was the lace from Mrs. T's first wedding dress, and for me to sit quietly in my atelier and snip the lace off the bodice and hem.

Like most men I had no appreciation for the hand work necessary to construct a wedding dress.  I had never encountered such tiny stitches, the skills required to become a bridal seamstress are beyond the imagination of most tailors.  The object was to wrap the bridesmaids bouquets in old lace, with the covered buttons from mom's dress securing the bride's bouquet.

I felt a heathen rending the lace from what was a beautiful silk gown, but as Mrs. T said, "I'm not wearing that old thing again", and since the bride was the only daughter I went at dismantling the gown  attempting to honor the skills of the crew who assembled it. The florist created masterpieces.

There was an unintended prize for me at the end of my efforts.  What do you do with the remnants of an old wedding gown?

Honoring Isadora Duncan, I am having my bride's old dress cut and stitched into a long opera scarf. Just the thing to go with a navy top coat.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wedding Tie blues

My bonus daughter's wedding was the weekend before last. One of the family elders has strong and vocal opinions about the kind of man who would be married in a pre-tied bow tie, so in an effort to shield the groom to be from a lifetime's abuse I quietly suggested that he tie his bow. I didn't say why, I just told the groom it would look sharp. 'Nuf said.

At the rehearsal dinner the groom presented his groomsmen with tokens of his thanks. Mrs. T talked him down from giving the boy's axes so instead he presented each with a black silk tie your own self bow tie along with orders to wear it to the wedding. Bear in mind these are modern young men who for the most part couldn't, for money, tie a long tie unaided.

The morning of the wedding the girls went one way, the boys another. Mrs. T naturally had to be in both places at once and with me in tow, after first visiting the girls, stopped in on the boys. The boys were clueless on how to tie their ties, so they, on the fly, created a system. First each sat and watched for as many times as it took a how-to Youtube video, then practiced tying around his thigh.

Once comfortable and reassured that bow tie tying was just like shoe tying each groomsman graduated to practicing with a tie around his neck. With much grunting, struggle, brotherly cooperation and blue language miraculously the ties transformed from lifeless pieces of silk to beautiful neckwear. Watching a group of non tie wearers become trained bow tiers in less than an hour was an experience I'll not soon forget. It was verily one of the great experiences of my life, and the family elder afterwards heaped high praise on the groom for being the kind of man who ties his own wedding tie.

The wedding was beautiful too, much more later.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Mi Cava

Real Estate professionals will take issue but it is my contention that new home purchase decisions are within seconds of walking in the front door. Verily it is true.

Mrs T and I, after moving to an apartment spent upwards of 2 days searching for our next home. We knew the area we wanted to live in, our budget, and what we were or were not willing to compromise on. Each trip out turned up craps until my bride phoned one afternoon and told me to meet her at our new address. It was located a mile from our apartment and several hundred yards north of our old house, on a street I loved yet rarely travelled. I knew walking in the front door I was home.

Instantly we placed an offer, which was accepted several days and several counters later. We closed 2 weeks later. While waiting to take possession one or the other of us would ask semi serious questions about our new digs. Where were the closets, what color were the appliances, etc. Generally, I am more observant than Mrs. T, but here I my powers failed me. I was transfixed on only one room. To this day I am uncertain whether I ever visited the entire condo before closing. I only had eyes for a small storage room located off the laundry/ utility room. I claimed it before owning it. Mi Cava.

Six feet wide and fifteen feet long, with a skylight directly over head. With thought the architect couldn't have created better space.

Storage is at a premium so I must share the cave with several cabinets which only adds to its coziness. Now if I could only find the rest of my toys.

It's good to be back, thank you for waiting.


Monday, October 7, 2013