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Saturday, December 31, 2005

One Teetotaler's New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve = major bummer for somebody who is shy and doesn't drink. I've had a few good New Year's Eves in my life - most notably, a balmy night swing dancing outside at a dock-side bar on the Florida Keys - but most of them should have been slept through, if they weren't.

Let's take New Year's Eve 1999: that year my favorite aunt died, my dad died, my lover left me, and on December 31, I had a tooth crowned. The dentist shot me up with so much Novocaine that hours later the world was still whirling. My daughter was having a riotous teenage-type party in the studio and I was too woozy to check up on her. I was laughing: how could anything be worse? The year 2000 would surely be an improvement. And it was, until my son got brain cancer in June. (He's ok now.)

Why don't I drink? My mother was an alcoholic. Her mother was an alcoholic. I have an addictive personality - the only way I know to keep from eating things I like UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETELY GONE is to keep them out of the house.

Putting those facts together, I realized long ago that were I to start drinking, I would become an alcoholic. I read a lot, so I know the outcome would be years of disaster, culminating in some calamity which would finally make me see it was time to join Alcoholics Anonymous. And then I wouldn't drink any more.

Why not just skip the awful years in the middle and go straight to not-drinking, bypassing alcoholism and not embarrassing myself and ruining the lives of people around me?

So that's what I did. I didn't drink, and I still don't. I'm going to be reading and watching tv tonight.

Extracts from
New Year's With a Twist
by Kevin Helliker for the Wall Street Journal
December 31, 2005

When light drinkers -- those who consume 12 or fewer drinks a year -- are combined with nondrinkers, they represent nearly 49% of the U.S. population, according to a National Institutes of Health press release.

Yet in a nation that prides itself on tolerance, teetotalers sometimes face pressure to drink. It can happen in any situation, but no day of the year poses more difficulty than New Year's Eve, whose icon is the champagne glass.

Once a powerful-enough force to bring about Prohibition, teetotalers faded into near-obscurity following that debacle, their presence visible only in regions dominated by abstention-promoting religions.

As Hollywood increasingly portrayed the quintessential American as cocktail-sipping (or beer-guzzling), the nondrinker came to be regarded as a peculiarity. Having nothing to sell him, marketers didn't bother tracking his numbers.

Some researchers have, however, and teetotalers turn out to be a much larger group than nearly anyone realized. About 35% of Americans in telephone polls call themselves nondrinkers.

Adjusting for the fact -- well established in drinking research -- that people underestimate their alcohol consumption, the polls still suggest that one in four Americans over 18 doesn't drink.

But culturally, the impression persists that teetotalers are isolated and troubled anomalies.

"Don't you know that a drink a day is good for you?" my best-educated uncle used to ask when I declined his offer of a drink. Out of respect, I didn't point out the devastation that alcohol had wrought upon certain other members of our family.

In drinking situations, nondrinkers are often advised to say they drank too much last night, invent a morning duty that will require total alertness -- or accept a glass of wine and leave it undrunk (or tossed into a flower pot).

Teetotalers could unite, of course. But the problem is that they're a disparate bunch. Many don't drink for religious reasons, others for reasons of health (a medication, for instance, that is contraindicated with alcohol). Some people simply don't like the taste of alcohol. Others tried it and ran into trouble.

Collectively, these nondrinkers barely know about each other's existence.

Any other non-drinkers out there care to tell what they're doing (or did) for New Year's Eve?

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Alborada, telenovela recap, second installment

The telenovela "Alborada" is my constant companion weekday nights - it's on Univision at 9 pm. Here is a second recap; the first is here. Turn on the Spanish subtitles, as I do, and improve your language skills. But if for some reason you are NOT watching "Alborada," you better just skip right along to some other post.

We left Hipolita in a house of ill-repute, her hand being stroked suggestively by Count Diego, who has had her locked in and intends her to be the latest of his victims.

She escapes and goes to see the villainess Doña Juana. (That wouldn't have been my choice.)

Juana gives Hipolita a choice: go back to Panama (to jail, to your homosexual husband, and to your demonic mother-in-law) or go live at the convent - without your child. Hipolita chooses the convent. Her maid and son go back to Las Tunas to the home of Hipolita's wussy mother and brutal stepfather.

Due to her illegitimacy, Hipolita is made a servant at the convent. She asks to serve her own half-sister Catalina - who, we discover, is an angry and unwilling novice, recently bundled off to the nunnery to save the expense of a dowry.

I couldn't find a picture of Catalina (right) in her nun's outfit. You'll have to imagine the wimple.

Catalina is in love with the badly-coiffed and badly-moustached Father Cristobal, Luis's bosom buddy. Cristobal makes googly eyes at Catalina, too.

Shame on him! He's a priest!

Catalina hates her half-sister Hipolita for having stained the family honor by being born illegitimate.

Meanwhile, Luis's fussy hysterical wife Esperanza, who has been taking a potion to make her ready for pregnancy, still needs her husband to bed her, which he refuses to do, having been warned that another pregnancy will kill her. She's desperate because her readiness-potion (purchased from a cigar-smoking black voodoo lady in a tent) expires in a couple of days.

She therefore goes back to the cigar-smoking black voodoo lady in the tent. She buys a love potion and puts an extra-heavy dose in a glass of wine, asking Luis to come to her boudoir.

He comes, and they (Luis and Esperanza) have their usual unsatisfactory argument ("I want to have a baby" "But it will kill you to be pregnant again") and he leaves without having touched the wine. Or his wife.

Now, the evil Count Diego has already decided that HE will do the deed, if his cousin Luis won't. If Diego gets Esperanza pregnant, he has the double pleasure of cuckolding Luis and also making it impossible for the marriage to be annulled as Luis wants.

So, coming to Esperanza's boudoir with evil intent, Diego drinks the love potion and then ravishes her.

Later that night the potion almost kills Diego; he retches endlessly and the palace is in an uproar. Esperanza, though a quivering mess, cannily has her maid wash up the tainted glass.

Doña Juana falls apart sobbing over her drunken philandering retching wretch of a son. Her actual genuine sobbing shows our hero Don Luis (right) yet again that his supposed mother Juana loves his cousin Diego more than she loves him, her supposed son (but don't forget, Juana switched the babies at birth and Diego is her actual son...)

Diego recovers. Luis and Cristobal continue investigating the provenance of a locket Hipolita sold to raise a bit of cash.

Any questions?

You can find ALL my Alborada recaps listed in the right sidebar, just above the elephant!

to be continued...

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"Sirba," a klezmer tune, free mp3

I've run out of Hannukah songs so the last two mp3s are klezmer tunes recorded in my living room one riotous afternoon by three members of my band, Mappamundi. Today, a sirba, in a major key, surprisingly.

SIRBA (free mp3)

Click here for list of all free Hannukah songs.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

How placebos stop pain

Extracts from Discover Magazine:
Brain Scans Show How Placebos Stop Pain

Need something to dull those nagging aches and pains? Try a placebo.
In a report last August a research team at the University of Michigan measured placebo-related brain chemistry for the first time, moving the effect beyond the realm of subjective observation.

In the study, led by neuroscientist Jon-Kar Zubieta, researchers injected a salt solution into the jaws of 14 men to produce an ache. Each was given a placebo—an injection said to be an experimental pain medication. Nine of the men said the pain subsided.

PET scans turned up differences in brain activity. Those who reported pain relief after taking the placebo showed increased activity in parts of the brain associated with modulating pain. A radioactive tracer also revealed that binding occurred at receptors for naturally occurring pain-fighting endorphins.

"If somebody believes something will work," says Zubieta, "that positive expectation by itself, through different connections in the brain, activates mechanisms that suppress pain. We saw a linear relationship between how people reported pain and how their brains released opioids."

Understanding the effect would help researchers conduct better drug trials. "In trials, you want to minimize the placebo effect so you can see what the actual drug is doing," says Zubieta, who hopes the research can produce better ways of dealing with pain. —David Epstein

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"Hanerot Halalu," free mp3

The sixth free Jewish song for Hannukah is "Hanerot Halalu," which I harmonized for Three Log Night. The translation (we sing only part of this, I think):

For the redemption and the battles
That you made for our forefathers
In those days at this season,
Through your holy priests.

During all eight days of Chanukah
These lights are sacred
And we are not permitted to make
Ordinary use of them,
But only to look at them;
In order to express thanks
And praise to Your great Name
For your miracles, Your wonders
And your salvations.


Click here for list of all free Hannukah songs.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

"A really good car."

I have a really good car.

From God Save the Sweet Potato Queens:

The car I had at the time - its original color being blue - looked like nothing so much as a Dumpster with four wheels and a windshield, one with many cracks.

See, for me, cars are nothing more than something to go in. My car is neither a status symbol nor a love object.

Here is my essential evaluation of cars: If it goes, it is a really good car. If it does not go, it is a really bad car and shold be abandoned by the side of the road.

Anything remotely connected with car care, be it cosmetic or mechanical, constitutes an errand, and you should already know by now how I feel about errands of any kind. That's right. If somebody else doesn't do it, it won't get done.

I drive a 1994 Plymouth Grand Voyager, very beat up, many miles on it, and my best birthday present this year: it passed inspection! Now I get 364 days not worrying about that!

It's carried my band and all our equipment, including sometimes a cello and a double bass (sometimes TWO double basses) hundreds and hundreds of miles. Now it has

  • A ripped off bumper.
  • A sound I call "the music of the spheres." Kind of like a glass harmonica.
  • A deafeningly loud rubbery squeak which is thankfully intermittent.
  • Something clunking underneath it when I make a turn; I wonder if it's about to fall off, that whatever-it-is.
  • No shocks (that's ok, a little bumping isn't going to hurt me).
  • Thousands of little tiny scratches on the windshield from when I used something metallic to scrape the ice off.

I had to permanently pull the fuse for the automatic door-lockers because the doors had commenced to lock every 30 seconds or so. That's ok, I can lock the doors with my very own fingers.

I would say that I bought this car new, in 1994, when my marriage ended, but it's not exactly true - because that was a silver Grand Voyager, and the one I have now is dark blue. In 2001, when I was driving up to New Haven to visit Melina, carrying all her birthday presents including her favorite - and only - Victorian black-and-gilt kitten bookends (given to her by her great-grandfather just before he died), that car was stolen away from in front of an Embassy in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon. That's another story.

With my $4,000 insurance settlement I searched for and found another car just like the one that was stolen (well, except that it was dark blue). It turned out to be peachy - except that all the paint on the roof had peeled off, something I couldn't see because I am only 5'6" and it took my 6'4" boyfriend of the time to see there was a problem.

I got the car painted, and here it is, chugging along 4-1/2 years later. And Zed just appeared and sung me "Las Mañanitas," so it's time to go down and have some breakfast.

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"Ma-Oz Tsur," Italian version, free mp3

The fifth free Jewish song for Hannukah is "Ma-Oz Tsur," not the usual version but an Italian tune, which I harmonized for Three Log Night.

MA-OZ TSUR (free mp3)

Click here for list of all free Hannukah songs.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Holing up

This is me lately (except not the beard):

I actually did hang a lightbulb much like this one over my drawing board last night, getting ready for the painting class I'm taking in January with Jane Filer.

Any other Seasonal Affective Disorder folks out there? What helps for me: exercise, light, and lexapro.

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"Cuando el Rey Nimrod," free mp3

The fourth free Jewish song for Hannukah is "Cuando el Rey Nimrod" from Under the Drawbridge, the Solstice Assembly with the Band of Ages. It is sung in Ladino, the language of the Sephardic Jews.

When King Nimrod went out to the fields
Looked at the heavens and at the stars
He saw a blessed light at the jewish quarter
A sign that Abraham, our father, was about to be born.

Abraham Avinu, dear father
Father who blessed the light of Israel.

Then he told all the mothers
That every pregnant woman
Who did not give birth to her baby was going to be killed
because Abraham our father was going to born.

Terach's woman was pregnant
and each day he asked her
Why do you look so distraught?
She already knew very well what she had.

After nine months she wanted to give birth to her baby
She was walking on the fields and on the vineyards
Her husband will not discover her
She made a manger where she will have her baby.

Abraham Avinu, dear father
Father who blessed the light of Israel.


Click here for list of all free Hannukah songs.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Help for writers.

Anyone interested in the world of publishing should toddle over to Miss Snark, the literary agent. Miss Snark is a literary agent in real life, so her blog is a busman's holiday.

Currently, she is critiquing 109 synopses sent by her devoted cadre of would-be writers (snarklings) and posting them, one by one, with suggestions and verdicts. It's fascinating.

From the most recent synopsis run through Miss Snark's "crapometer":
Jo isn’t very likable which is an absolutely non-negotiable requirement.

Chick lit usually requires some sort of romantic element too, and that’s missing.

And those friends? Yikes! They sound more like evil sisters than friends.

Can you think of a single "teen center" that actually works? All the teens I know are either working, hanging out with their friends at the mall or the local pizza parlor, or home studying. No teen I know would be caught dead in something designated "teen". They want to be grown up. They like to hang out in Starbucks.

And "transitioning from a carefree 20something to a work and family oriented 30 something" doesn’t have quite the ring of fun in it that I look for in chick lit.

This synopsis makes the book sound like a morality tale, not chick lit. It may not BE that, but you’d never know from this.
Despite her nom de guerre, Miss Snark is generous and gentle. Faced with some of these, uh, pieces, I would not be so even-tempered. I couldn't do her work in a million years. The awful writing and inane plots, well, they'd give me the equivalent of road rage.

The question which comes up when I read these synopses, when I think about writing in general: how do people have the courage to keep writing? When everything has already been said, been written, over and over? Sure, there are a few new things in our age, iPods and cellphones and computer viruses now figure in narratives, but nothing has really changed.

As generations of good and awful writers succeed previous generations of good and awful writers, every cliché becomes more of a cliché and there are fewer titles nobody has used.

I read in the Wall Street Journal that, as years pass and more drugs are brought to market, it's increasingly difficult to find names for new drugs. Computers work on it day and night, chugging out random combinations of vowels and consonents, trying to find words which (a) can be pronounced; (b) have not been used before; (c) do not have morbid or scatalogical connotations.

Luckily for fiction writers there is no law against saying again the things which have been said already.

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Dolphin daughters sponge for knowledge

Decade by decade, year by year, we find that we have underestimated animals.

From Discover Magazine:
Dolphins' Daughters Sponge for Knowledge

Scientists tracking dolphin behavior reported in June that the mothers pass tool use on to their female offspring.

Researchers found that bottlenose dolphins share knowledge of how to use marine sponges for foraging, reflecting a combination of tool use and social learning.

The dolphins wear the conical tools on their nose, or rostrum, although no one knows yet how this helps them feed, says Michael Krützen, an evolutionary geneticist who coauthored the study. ... he and his colleagues found that sponge users in Western Australia have a different diet from their pod mates. That suggests the tools let them gain access to a new food source, perhaps by protecting their rostrums as they sift the seafloor for bottom dwellers.

The technique is not genetically imprinted, like nest building, and probably originated with one innovative "sponging Eve," Krützen says. "If there is a prime candidate for social learning, the dolphin is a good animal," he adds. They are skilled imitators, and female dolphins spend a long time with their mothers. So far, the researchers have seen only one male sponge wearer.

The findings come in a year that saw gorillas added to the list of tool-using animals. The primates were observed using sticks to test water depth and branches as a makeshift bridge.

Finding species that both use tools and pass down learning is much rarer, though. Until this year, only chimpanzees and orangutans were known to be capable of transmitting a material culture. Dolphins are the first nonprimates to join the club. —Elise Kleeman

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"Shnirele Perele," free mp3

The third free Jewish song for Hannukah is "Shnirele Perele" from Some Assembly Required, the Solstice Assembly with the Band of Ages. The text is in Yiddish. I learned the song at KlezKamp, where it is a tremendous favorite.

Ribbons, pearls, golden flags
the Messiah, son of David, is above us
he holds a goblet in his right hand
and gives his blessing to the whole earth.

Amen, amen, this is the truth
the Messiah will come this year.

If he comes by riding, good years are ahead.
If he comes by horse, new times are ahead.
If he comes by foot, every Jew will be settled in Eretz Yisroyl.


Click here for list of all free Hannukah songs.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Nature Preserve condemned by local government

I saw this story at Nature Noted: Exploring the world of Land Trusts:
In what is being called an unprecedented action, a county in Texas has begun condemnation proceedings against an entire nature preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy on South Padre Island.

The issue is over a plan to open a ferry service between the mainland and the island in an attempt to foster tourism. TNC has owned the 1,500 acre preserve on the island for five years, and wants to maintain the pristine condition of the wilderness area. Willacy County officials see the wild island as a tourist draw ... So after a stalemate, the county is pulling out its big option, eminent domain.
Here's the story the blogger cited:

Extracts from the Houston Chronicle:
Nature area faces condemnation
by James Pinkerton Dec. 18, 2005

The county's district attorney said commissioners are looking to purchase only a small part of the preserve for beach access for a ferry landing. But he acknowledged that the commissioners court caused suspicion earlier this month when it ordered a condemnation suit to take the entire preserve through eminent domain.

"I'm not aware of any instance in the Nature Conservancy's 40-year history in Texas in which a local government has attempted to condemn a nature preserve," Carter Smith (state director of TNC) said. "We will be fighting this vigorously."

Carter called the threatened condemnation "a real assault on the sanctity of private property rights and private land conservation in this state."

Governor Rick Perry allowed the Texas eminent domain legislation to be added to a special legislative session this summer. Perry's decision came after a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Connecticut case that upheld a city's authority to condemn private homes and then sell the property to commercial developers as part of an effort to increase jobs and expand the city's tax base.

The 1,500-acre island preserve is part of a 24,500-acre tract the Nature Conservancy purchased for $7.5 million from a Houston firm, after plans for a large-scale residential and marina development on the site failed. The conservation group sold, at below its cost, the majority of the island acreage to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand an existing federal wildlife refuge.

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Honey Cake recipe

I make this recipe for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) but it's too delicious to make only once a year. Since it's full of oil it's perfect for Hannukah, the oily holiday. This year Zed made a double recipe, it filled three 9x9 pans and a loaf pan too.

Honey Cake

3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cloves
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee
3/4 cup orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9x9 pans or a tube pan.

Mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the wet ingredients well, then add the dry ingredients and beat gently. Finish by stirring with a spoon to get the heavy stuff off the bottom. This will need to cook for at least 45 minutes (for 9x9 pans) and up to 70 minutes (for a tube pan). The batter is wet, so you need to be sure it's cooked all the way through. Use a toothpick to check.

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"Imi Nahtna Leviva-li," free mp3

The second free Hannukah song is "Imi Notna Leviva-li" from Some Assembly Required, the Solstice Assembly with the Band of Ages.


Click here for list of all free Hannukah songs.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Cheese coins for hannukah

Since it's a rainy, miserable day here, and Zed has gone over to his father's house, I'm drifting back to Pratie Place to give you a delicious, non-low-fat recipe for a Hannukah treat I've been making for about twenty years. (There are no low-fat Hannukah treats as far as I know. The Hannukah miracle = lots of oil.)

Can be made with about six minutes of effort and 12 minutes of cooking.

Cheese coins

8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded with the FINE grater
1/2 cup butter or margarine, grated
1 cup all-purpose flour (all white or half whole wheat)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

You have shredded the cheese and butter into a bowl with the flour. Notice there's no liquid - squish the three ingredients together with your hands. The warmth of your palms will cause the stuff to adhere.

Make two logs, about 12" long. You can either wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill, or use them right away.

Slice each log into 1/4-inch-thick "coins." Place the slices on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. I say this makes about 33 coins. They get crispy when they're cool. They burn your mouth when they're hot.

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"Yvanim," free mp3

The first free Hannukah song is "Yvanim" from Three Log Night, me singing and playing viola (in 1988) and Bob Vasile on guitar.

Y'VANIM (free mp3)

By the way, this is pretty funny. Click on the candles one at a time...

Other Hannukah free downloads (updated each day):
December 26: Imi Nahtna Leviva-li
December 27: Shnirele Perele
December 28: Cuando el Rey Nimrod
December 29: Ma-Oz Tsur (Italian Version)
December 30: Hanerot Halalu
December 31: Sirba
January 1: Araber Tanz

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"The Gloucester Wassail," free mp3

The last free Christmas song is "The Gloucester Wassail" from Three Log Night, the Solstice Assembly and the Band of Ages. I hope you've enjoyed this series.


Previous free Christmas downloads:

December 24: We Have Only One More Shopping Day written by Lisa Pickel and Randy Kloko with Mitzi Quint and Mark Biggers
December 23: The Very First Blessing Mary Had
December 22: The Boar's Head Carol
December 21: Gedeonis Area
December 20: Let Memory Keep Us All
December 19: The Lord at First did Adam Make - Carol Owens and the Solstice Assembly
December 18: The Sussex Mummers' Carol by the Solstice Assembly
December 17: The Holly Bears a Berry by the Solstice Assembly
December 16: In the Bleak Midwinter by Joe Newberry and the Buds. (Also complete list of songs)

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Tar Heel Tavern #44

Welcome to Tar Heel Tavern #44!

It's dark and raining as I finish this post - it's a good thing the days are starting to get longer. Hang in there, everybody! All is quiet on-line, we hear the collective snores of people everywhere who have eaten too much. Or the little tykes have already burst into the room shouting that it's time to go rip into those presents, some of which were maybe wrapped just a couple of hours ago. More for the landfill.

Still, the Tarheel Tavern is open, even if business is slow. Here are today's entries.

Moomin Light submits The Stages of Advent/The Twelve Days of Christmas:
Every year, I approach Advent thinking that I’ll do things differently – I won’t get stressed, I won’t be rushed, I won’t blow up at anyone, and I’ll get everything done ahead of time. And I know it won’t happen that way.
The Dirty Greek submitted Ministry of Information: More Lying, More Spying:
...The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said. ... Happy Holidays! Articles of impeachment would be a great Christmas present.
Bora has submitted, from Science and Politics, reports on the results of a blogging class - and recommends some of the blogs created - in Schools in Blogs, Blogs in schools:
Dig through their blogs - especially the comments to posts in late December - to see for yourself. It is amazing how emotionally involved they got in this class. They all became fast friends. One is wondering why? ... Does one's persona emerge on one's blog in ways that carefully managed image in real life cannot?
From Circadiana, he submitted Clocks, Migration and the Effects of Global Warming, describing the many fascinating ways animals respond to the seasons (really, it's cool) and then:
Now, this is all starting to fall apart due to global warming. Proximal cues, like temperature and food-availability, are beginning to conflict with photoperiodic information. Species in which photoperiod is dominant continue to migrate at the same time and in the same direction. Other species are shifting their timing to later in fall and earlier in spring.
Captivated by Mandie directs us to her lovely picture of ice-skaters, available for purchase in numerous sizes.

From Gordon (Screwy Hoolie) at Scrutiny Hooligans, What Did You Think Would Happen?
What, John Kerry, you didn't think that Bush would actually use the sweeping powers and intimations of power you freely handed over to him? What, Dick Gephardt, you thought that Bush would take you along for the poll number ride? ... John Edwards, you thought it'd play well to folks back home to keep your North Carolina military boys shooting at somebody?
You can see a photo of Erin's new baby (awwww) on a Christmas card at Poetic Acceptance

In Diebold Makes Like A Tree and Leaves, "Nothing Could Be Finer" says good riddance:
"One of the nation's largest voting machine companies will not sell new equipment in the state, increasing calls for changes in a law meant to make election results more reliable. The law requires companies to disclose details about their machines' software, which Diebold Election Systems said it could not do."

... the sole function of a voting machine should be to produce a paper ballot, one that is free of hanging chads and overvotes and such other problems. One that a voter can look at and visually confirm that it reflects his/her actual vote. And it is that paper ballot that is counted, not some machine tally. Believe me, I make my living working with computers, and I know just how easy it can be to change the results to the way you want them to be if you can be certain no one is ever going to get a chance to "look over your shoulder."
Iddybud sends us My Uncle Billy Was a Real-Life War Hero:
Billy's plane was shot down over Germany in 1943, the pilot was killed, and young Billy parachuted to safety. ... He landed in a farmer's field and was taken to a local home for questioning. As a child, I remember him telling me that the farmer was kind to him - treated him like a human being. He was sent to Stalag - Luft 3 in 1943 and was held prisoner there for most of WWII. ...
What a wonderful picture she shared, too.

From Laurie at "Slowly She Turned," a report on Joseph Mitchell, author of My Ears are Bent. She quotes him:
"I believe the most interesting human beings, so far as talk is concerned, are anthropologists, farmers, prostitutes, psychiatrists, and an occasional bartender. The best talk is artless, the talk of people trying to reassure or comfort themselves, women in the sun, grouped around baby carriages, talking about their weeks in the hospital or the way meat has gone up, or men in saloons, talking to combat the loneliness everyone feels." ...His final essay about his relationship with Joe Gould, a bohemian street poet, apparently affected his own life so much that he never published anything again. Yet the New Yorker respected him so much that he quietly maintained an office there until his death in 1996.
Marcus at "Fixin' Healthcare' submits What If:
I was wondering how things would be if Medicaid had preceeded Medicare. What if children had been placed first instead of senior citizens? What if there was a health care system that included medical care but was not dominated by medical care? What if health care was based upon primary prevention services, identification and management of health risk, and early detection of health problems?
Alex Wilson submits Training for a Marathon:
So starting yesterday I'm giving myself six months to run my first marathon. Marathon-running friends have encouraged me to go for a half-marathon somewhere in the middle there for a nice motivator, and to get out of the way the "what-the-hell-do-I-do-nows" that I'm sure to experience on my first race day.
The last two entries to the Tarheel Tavern were rather somber.

At SpiritBlog - Our Community Spirit, Christmas 2005 - Scrambled Eggs and the Light, a story about visiting a dying patient with dementia:
She has so little that would tell us who she is. A few old dresses in the closet. A six-month-old Mother’s Day card on the bulletin board. Flowers on her dresser that the staff has given her. Does she have family? Does she have a past? What kind of person was she? Was she good to her children? Was she loving? Was she hateful?
And finally, Anonymoses sent Memories of my first Holiday, the season his grandmother died:
A commotion commenced with its epicenter being the front door, wherein my dear grandfather was carried into the house and up the stairs to his bedroom. He looked a broken man. He, a strong, solid man who worked his farm and raised nearly a dozen children, and who never showed weakness, was now virtually drained of Life, and seemed dependent upon the human props, crutches, that animated him toward that feather-filled bed where he was to spend his Christmas without the person who had animated him for longer, perhaps, than he was willing to let go.

And tomorrow did come, after what might have been a very long night for dear Elias. And little by little, he resurrected himself, and lived more than twenty years, until the ripe old age of 98. ... During this season, I hope people will think about what it is to resurrect...
For my part, if you're still with me, I'd like to you to read my daughter Melina's hysterical evaluation of transportation modes in New York City: our life before the strike.

And, because we are now beginning the Hannukah season, I urge you to break out the deep-fat fryer or electric frying pan and make Suvganiyot, utterly delicious doughnuts which are easier than any you've ever seen.

Happy holidays, all!

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Melinama becomes a patron of the arts

There's Tyndall art gallery in one of our local malls. I've walked by it hundreds of times without ever considering even putting my foot inside it.

But a year or two ago there was an exhibition of the work of Jane Filer. For the first time ever I found myself irresistibly drawn into a store (really, I can't think of another time this has ever happened) and was glued to each painting in turn.

It was about this time of year, just before my birthday.

Well, my son Zed and I were in the same mall two days ago, because he wanted to go to Hungates and buy a model rocket for his little brother.

We went by that gallery and dang if I didn't go in and actually buy this painting. Click on it for a larger view.

Never in my life did I think I would ever buy an original piece of art. But I'm very happy to have it, and Zed and I walk up close several times a day just to look at the way it was made (it's much, much brighter and more interesting in real life, something I guess I didn't appreciate about "real" art until now).

I'm taking my first painting class ever in January, from this very artist! How lucky can you get! I bought my supplies and yesterday Zed and I made wonderful daubs for hours.

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"We Have Only One More Shopping Day," free mp3

Today's song is "We Have Only One More Shopping Day" from Some Assembly Required. This song was written by Lisa Pickel and Randy Kloko, who sang it with Mark Biggers and Mitzi Quint.


Previous free Christmas downloads:

December 23: The Very First Blessing Mary Had
December 22: The Boar's Head Carol
December 21: Gedeonis Area
December 20: Let Memory Keep Us All
December 19: The Lord at First did Adam Make - Carol Owens and the Solstice Assembly
December 18: The Sussex Mummers' Carol by the Solstice Assembly
December 17: The Holly Bears a Berry by the Solstice Assembly
December 16: In the Bleak Midwinter by Joe Newberry and the Buds. (Also complete list of songs)

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Friday, December 23, 2005

BadAunt goes to a dinner party

And this is why I love her blog so much:
M manages to simultaneously tell us a story, eat curry, drink beer, and explain to three fascinated small girls (one his own daughter) the correct way to insert straws up their nostrils. The story he tells us is scandalous (while being told in a way that does not interest small girls) and involves a teacher who has now left and can be slandered freely. (Not that M baulks at slandering people in the same room, but his stories become more elaborate when the victim is not there to contradict him.) As an aside he tells us that this teacher is now living in an obscure place and doing such an obscure job that I cannot mention it here because he is probably the only person in the whole wide world with this job and could Google himself and discover that I am exposing his naughty secrets. He gets lovely government grants from two governments, who both think of him as an asset, an impression he has carefully cultivated by exaggerating his talents wildly...

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Alborada - telenovela recap

Since this, the first summary, is the one Google picks up, let me assure you they are ONGOING.

If you want to see all the summaries in order, look to the right. See that other column of writing? Now scroll down till you see the picture of Doña Juana and Modesta - it's just ABOVE the picture of the elephant.

Between Doña Juana and the elephant, there is a numerical list (ONE TWO THREE FOUR etc.) and if you click on the numbers in order, you'll get all my recaps.

I post summaries on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Tip: you can bookmark the blog so you can get back here easily!

I've decided to let myself get attached to the telenovela Alborada. The costumes are cheesy but the hero, Fernando Colunga, the same one as in Amor Real (which I recapped here), is very cute. (Muy guapo.)

This summary is for people who are trying to watch the novela but are having trouble keeping up with the story. All others, move along to some other post.

OK. Our heroine, Hipolita, is hopelessly tangled in family webs. Her first sin was to be born out of wedlock to a weak and easily cowed mother, Asuncion.

Asuncion had had a brief liaison with a rich man and Hipolita was the outcome.

To spare embarrassment, Asunción was "convinced" to send her illegitimate daughter Hipolita far away, to Santa Rita, Panama, to be raised by grandmother.

I have to stop for a moment here and brag that I know Asunción's dentist! She (the dentist) recently moved here from Mexico City and joined my Triangle Jewish Chorale. Small world.

The grandmother gave Hipolita in marriage to Antonio, who is impotent and, according to the subtitles, efeminado. Antonio's mother, knowing Hipolita must bear a son or the family will lose its estate, and knowing that her son is not up to the job, throws a political prisoner into Hipolita's dark bedroom one night and tells him, "make a baby with her or you're going to die."

Who is this prisoner? He turns out to be our hero, Don Luis, a rich and handsome Mexican set up for disaster in Panama by his cousin, the slimy Diego.

Don Luis agrees to do it, thinking he will actually just slip out the boudoir window and escape. However, Hipolita wakes up and, thinking Luis is her husband Antonio finally come to her bed, is beautiful and convincing and, oh well, delaying escape a few more minutes won't matter.

It was dark, see? So Hipolita never sees his face or learns his name, but he does tell her of the mother-in-law's plot. So Hipolita's ultra peeved.

Especially when she gets pregnant and the mother-in-law gets nastier and nastier, blaming Hipolita for a second sin - the bearing of an illegitimate son, Rafael! Pretty unfair, de verdad? (In public, all claim the boy to be Antonio's.)

So three years later Hipolita and her little boy Rafael escape, along with a maid, and head for Mexico. Hipolita wants to meet her mother and also find her boy's father.

She decides for the sake of safety and propriety to pretend Rafael is her maid's son.

On the ship to Mexico she meets an extremely cute guy, Martin, who is coincidentally the son of Don Luis's servant/friend. Martin offers to help her get to where her mom lives and also kind of falls in love with her.

After a sweet first meeting with her mother, Hipolita is brutally terrorized by her rabid, overbearing stepfather (Francisco), furious to have his wife's bastard daughter show up on the doorstep.

Another person very angry that Hipolita has arrived is Doña Juana, our major villainess. She's not a happy woman, though she lives on the luxurious Guevara estate. What's her problem?

1. Long ago she switched babies with (I think) her brother, the Count of Guevara.

Doña Juana's true son is Diego, whom she dotes on even though he is a womanizing, lying, scheming drunk. He was raised as the son of the Count of Guevara and now is Count himself, which was the plan all along.

See his cheesy suit?

Meanwhile through all these years Doña Juana has had to pretend that our hero Don Luis is her son - she never liked him and now she's trying to help Diego kill him. She's afraid her secret is coming unraveled.

2. Doña Juana knows Hipolita's father was Agustín, a nobleman who is (coincidentally) also the father of Esperanza, Don Luis's religious and frigid wife. Yes, sadly, our hero is already married.

His wife Esperanza has had four miscarriages and has been told by the doctor that another pregnancy will kill her, so Don Luis avoids her completely. She, however, insists on telling everybody that the Virgin Mary came to her in a dream and told her she would have a son. Luis thinks his wife is an irritating ditz and is trying to get their marriage annulled.

(It seems there were two legitimate reasons for annullment: either the partner doesn't have sex with you or the partner can't give you children. So our hero and heroine, Don Luis and Hipolita, each fulfill one of these conditions.)

Esperanza is desperate for a kid though she hates sex. She keeps trying to get Doña Juana (who seems to run the whole show) and her own father Agustín to force Luis to come to bed.

Anyway - Doña Juana insists that the inconvenient Hipolita must go directly back to Panama, to the arms of her evil mother-in-law and also probably to jail - or perhaps the ship will tragically spring a leak en route...

Hipolita goes back to her mother's home and is locked up by her brutal stepfather, pending her departure on the next boat to Panama.

However, both Don Luis and the drunken Count Diego have fallen for her and these powerful men are filibustering the removal to Panama.

So Hipolita cools her heels - with maid and baby Rafael - in a locked bedroom.

Count Diego comes to the stepfather and makes a secret offer: he, Diego, will take the inconvenient stepdaughter off his hands! Diego proposes to install Hipolita in the home of a "nice widow" and come screw her from time to time.

The dad says ok and Hipolita, who is told of the offer in a different way, agrees to go.

The maid is opposed, but Hipolita says "it's the only offer I've gotten - somebody has to help me." She thinks once she's out of the locked bedroom she'll be able to send for Martin to help her - she's kind of sweet on him, as he is on her.

The little family of three is installed in the house. They instantly realize the "nice widow" is actually a prostitute and that they have traded one incarceration for another. Diego shows up and starts stroking Hipolita's hand suggestively.

Any questions?

You can find ALL my Alborada recaps listed in the sidebar on the right - just above the elephant!!

Stay tuned...

I also recapped Entre el Amor y el Odio here
And I recapped Amor Real here.

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"The Very First Blessing Mary Had," free mp3

Today's song is "The Very First Blessing Mary Had" from Three Log Night.

Candace Carraway is singing lead. She graduated from my "Songs for Non-Singers" class and became a magnificent alto. She's singing with Joe Newberry, who is also playing banjo.


Previous free Christmas downloads:

December 22: The Boar's Head Carol
December 21: Gedeonis Area
December 20: Let Memory Keep Us All
December 19: The Lord at First did Adam Make - Carol Owens and the Solstice Assembly
December 18: The Sussex Mummers' Carol by the Solstice Assembly
December 17: The Holly Bears a Berry by the Solstice Assembly
December 16: In the Bleak Midwinter by Joe Newberry and the Buds. (Also complete list of songs)

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

"The Boar's Head Carol," free mp3

Today's song is "The Boar's Head Carol" from Three Log Night. I think I taught this song to the group in the recording studio, because we were a song short. In the following year's Solstice Extravaganza, Mark Biggers and Doug Holmgren sang the leads, carrying the two papier maché boars' heads I had made. Making props was my favorite part of the show.


Previous free Christmas downloads:

December 21: Gedeonis Area
December 20: Let Memory Keep Us All
December 19: The Lord at First did Adam Make - Carol Owens and the Solstice Assembly
December 18: The Sussex Mummers' Carol by the Solstice Assembly
December 17: The Holly Bears a Berry by the Solstice Assembly
December 16: In the Bleak Midwinter by Joe Newberry and the Buds. (Also complete list of songs)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

our life before the strike

Even under normal conditions, people who live in New York talk obsessively about how to get from place to place. One of my friends visited from LA and became paralyzed by boredom every time one of these conversations started. Her choice: hop in the car. That's it. But for us, it's just so interesting. You have all kinds of options for your transportation, each of which exposes you to its own unique awful smell and which has a unique possibility of failing you at the worst possible time.

I'd like to map this out for you. This is the raw data that feeds into a decision at any time.

: Foot
ADVANTAGES: Simple; reliable
DISADVANTAGES: Can take a long time; it's cold outside; the heels of your cute shoes can get stuck in sewer grates
Toilet paper, groceries, other things you probably forgot to buy during your shlep yesterday
OBJECTIONABLE ODOR: Exhaust from city-at-large
WAY THAT YOU COULD DIE: Mowed down by taxi cab while simultaneously listening to iPod, drinking coffee, and jaywalking

: Subway
OBSTACLES: The slow-moving N-R-Q-W train
ADVANTAGES: Quick; reliable; cheap
DISADVANTAGES: Umm... apparently, it's not *that* reliable
NEAT THING YOU COULD BUY ALONG THE WAY: Bootlegged DVDs and ethnic-style toddler ponchos sold by hostile South Americans.
OBJECTIONABLE ODOR: Warm, stale, subway air that has been circulating underground since the Triassic.
WAY THAT YOU COULD DIE: Pushed onto tracks at rush hour by mob pressing toward edge of platform

: Taxi cab (legal)
OBSTACLES: insolent pedestrians
ADVANTAGES: fast, unless there's traffic (deciding whether there will be traffic is a whole nother conversation)
DISADVANTAGES: Never available on weekend evenings or during entire holiday season; sometimes hit on you or preach to you about Jesus
WAY THAT YOU COULD DIE: Taxi driver runs red light while simultaneously changing lanes and swerving to avoid pedestrian; collides with another taxi cab

: taxi cab (illegal)
OBSTACLES: legal taxi cabs
ADVANTAGES: fast; gives you the same law-breaker adrenaline rush as buying a counterfeit handbag
DISADVANTAGES: Not cheap. Apt to cheat you unless you bargain a good price beforehand. Driver has no incentive to act legally in any situation.
NEAT THING YOU COULD BUY ALONG THE WAY: Depends what he's selling.
WAY THAT YOU COULD DIE: In fatal car crash during police pursuit of illegal cab; your face would end up all over New York Post the next day next to humiliating alliterative headline

OBSTACLES: Essentially none.
ADVANTAGES: Not responsible for following any traffic laws. Only responsible for your own survival.
DISADVANTAGES: Responsible for your own survival.
NEAT THING YOU COULD BUY ALONG THE WAY: If you are riding a bicycle, odds are that you are carrying tasty Chinese food on your front handlebars. You could just eat that.
OBJECTIONABLE ODOR: Shrimp-fried rice.
WAY THAT YOU COULD DIE: I think this one is pretty obvious

: bus
OBSTACLES: Pedestrians; taxi cabs; bicycles; other buses; dust motes and passing clouds
ADVANTAGES: Very cheap. Much more comfortable than the subway. Sit in comfort while watching hoi polloi trudge along the street below you.
DISADVANTAGES: Hoi polloi are most likely moving faster than you are.
NEAT THING YOU COULD BUY ALONG THE WAY: A discount ride: if you don't bring enough quarters to pay for your bus ride, the drivers usually just roll their eyes and wave you on back.
OBJECTIONABLE ODOR: your seat-mate.
WAY THAT YOU COULD DIE: old age. While still on bus.

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Melinama tells you how to make sufganiyot

The book Clutter Control suggests that if you use something less than once a year, you should get rid of it. My mother's electric frying pan, which I stole from her in the 1970s, just makes the cut: for about 25 years, exactly once a year I have hauled it out of deep storage to fry sufganiyot.

Extracts from
Out of the Fryer, Into the Lights
Julia Moskin for the New York Times - December 21, 2005

American Jews have recently ... embraced a Hanukkah treat popular in Israel, sufganiyot, or, as we know them, jelly doughnuts.

... for Israelis today, the sufganiya itself has become a focus of the holiday. "Hanukkah is not one of the most important religious holidays, so for us it is a time for getting together, eating as many sufganiyot as we can...

Ashkenazim may find sufganiyot reminiscent of German pfannkuchen or Polish paczki, a traditional pre-Lenten indulgence. For Sephardim, they are a bit like the fritters called bimuelos, zingoula or fritelle.

Many American Jews have adopted a speedier version. ... at West End Synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, families attending a Hanukkah party gathered around a menorah, dreidels and piles of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

This article, and many others, specify that sufganiyot be JELLY doughnuts. However, when I first got married my father-in-law gave me a recipe that came out of the Jerusalem Report which is much easier than the usual methods, and which uses no jelly.

It makes free-form anthropomorphic sufganiyot. They look like clouds or animals made by toddlers out of play-doh.

The recipe I give you here has been tested over many years, and the stained index card says "1996 Sufganiyot - BEST EVER." I haven't changed the recipe since then. This makes 28 doughnuts, enough for four piggy teenagers or six average people.

1996 Sufganiyot - BEST EVER

1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice concentrate (do not dilute)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons oil
1 egg
around 2 cups flour (or a little less)

Mix first four ingredients and stir fifty times to make a "sponge." Let rise in a bowl covered with a kitchen towel for half hour or more (more is better).

Add the rest of the ingredients and beat vigorously. This makes a very wet dough. Do not fear: you will not be rolling it out. Wet is good. Let it rise for another hour or more.

Heat two quarts of cooking oil (have a little more at the ready just in case) to 350 degrees in an electric frying pan or deep-fat fryer. Tear up some brown paper bags on which you'll drain the donuts.

Make cinnamon sugar (about a cup of confectioners sugar and as much cinnamon as your crew likes). Put it in a medium-sized paper bag. If your bag has holes in it you're going to be sorry.

OK, time to begin. With a big spoon dip out some of your gooey dough and drop it into the hot oil. It will behave like spider man, stretching all over the place. Make weird shapes, it's fun. Don't make the doughnuts too big or they won't cook well in the middle. Don't crowd the frying pan or the temperature will get too low.

The doughnuts will soon bob up to the surface and you'll want to turn them over fairly soon, using a slotted spoon or tongs. You'll turn them several times before they're done - which is when they are a pretty dark brown on both sides. Try one and see.

As some get taken out of the pan, put in more. Don't crowd them.

Drain them on the paper bags. When they're somewhat cooled, pop them into the cinnamon sugar bag and shake. Put on a plate or directly into the mouths of the avidly waiting consumers.

Do NOT make these unless you have a lot of people around to eat them - and to help you clean up.

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"Gedeonis Area," free mp3

Today's song is "Gedeonis Area," learned from the singing of the Boston Camerata. I sang it in the show with Lisa Pickel.

The song was written, I just discovered via Google, by Philippe le Chancelier (ca.1165-1236). It's not a seasonal song:

Gideon's courtyard
is wet with dew from heaven,
the bush, with fiery flame,
radiates without heat;
the fruit and seed
comes forth from the dirty shell;
as a golden light
grain comes forth from the chaff,
the olive from the olive tree,
the rock is made liquid from liquid.

Lisa, one of the Solstice Assembly's songwriters (I'll feature one of her songs later in this series), suffered a serious accident just before the show: she was standing in her living room when her next-door neighbor, "cleaning his gun," accidently fired.

The bullet went through his window, through her window, through both her thighs, and finally into her living room wall. She was determined to sing in the show anyway, though, and hobbled out holding on to my shoulder. That's show business!

Gedeonis is on Three Log Night.

GEDEONIS AREA (free mp3)

Previous free Christmas downloads:

December 20: Let Memory Keep Us All
December 19: The Lord at First did Adam Make - Carol Owens and the Solstice Assembly
December 18: The Sussex Mummers' Carol by the Solstice Assembly
December 17: The Holly Bears a Berry by the Solstice Assembly
December 16: In the Bleak Midwinter by Joe Newberry and the Buds. (Also complete list of songs)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Phyllis only wants presents from the mall.

As heard on the radio, from Saturday's Weekend America. This Phyllis is no relation to Carol Owens!! It's an unfortunate coincidence!

Barbara Bogaev: "Maybe you're making hundreds of little cranberry-nut breads [yes, oddly, I was] ... but our colleague Phyllis Owens says that when she gets a handmade gift as a Christmas present from someone, it's like a lump of coal in her stocking." Phyllis:
When I was little, a neighbor presented me with this big, heavy, overdecorated dress ... because my mother didn't want to hurt this person's feelings I had to wear this monstrosity. In public.

Over the years it's been a parade of stuff I wish I'd never laid eyes on. There were the crocheted mukluk slippers ... there was the calico-covered coat hanger ... Once someone even gave me a giant bottle of homemade spaghetti sauce. Can you say botulism? Spare me! Please!

What makes otherwise reasonable people go into a holiday crafting frenzy? Suddenly everyone wants to find their inner Martha Stewart. I think it's the misplaced notion that handmade or homemade is intrinsically better somehow than store-bought. Trust me, it's not.

... Now I can hear you all talking back to me [yes, actually, I was shouting at the radio] saying [affects a sarcastic singsongy voice] "Oh, what's she talking about? Handmade gifts are so much more personal. Someone took their time, they put their heart into it, it's so much less commercial."

Please! ... Unless you're making a gift from leaves and tree bark - and please DON'T, I am begging you - you're still buying raw materials and tools from somebody, so some commercial entity is getting paid.

So if you're out there right now thinking about getting all creative and crafty, then stop! Put down that glue gun! Please! Noone wants your crafts!

But if you've already made your Christmas knick-knacks and doodads, and are wrapping them up as we speak, don't worry, you're in luck. Some stores are open until midnight Christmas eve.
What a patriotic American sentiment Owens expresses. Go buy her some of that great junk they sell at the mall, so she can get in the return line on December 26 and exchange it for something she really wants. Maybe some of these things.

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"Let Memory Keep Us All," free mp3

Today's song is "Let Memory Keep Us All."

My ex-husband and I wrote the words in honor of Carol Boren Owens, early member of the Solstice Assembly and soloist on yesterday's song.

The lyrics are set to the tune of "The Death of Admiral Nelson," a song I learned from Peter Bellamy. Bellamy was one of the greatest singers and arrangers of the English folk music revival; I had the tremendous pleasure of doing a concert with him and my business partner Patrick Sky just a year or two before Peter died. The two of them filled many hours complaining about the contrast between the Good Old Days and - now.

I arranged the song for four parts and the Band of Ages backed us up.

This one is available on Under the Drawbridge, a cd which was featured on NPR's Weekend Edition with Margot Adler.


Previous free Christmas downloads:

December 19: The Lord at First did Adam Make - Carol Owens and the Solstice Assembly
December 18: The Sussex Mummers' Carol by the Solstice Assembly
December 17: The Holly Bears a Berry by the Solstice Assembly
December 16: In the Bleak Midwinter by Joe Newberry and the Buds. (Also complete list of songs)

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Monday, December 19, 2005

"The Lord at First did Adam Make," free mp3

Today's song is "The Lord at First Did Adam Make," with the lead sung by Carol Boren Owens. I have to admit I rewrote the words a bit.

Carol Owens was one of the first and one of the most vibrant and enthusiastic members of the Solstice Assembly.

She died on May 3, 1990, after the album Three Log Night was recorded, but before she ever got a chance to hear it. She was 33 years old.

These are two pictures of her with Melina. They were taken at the Medieval Faire in Jamestown, North Carolina. It was Melina's first hennin and first Medieval Faire. It was Carol's last. All of us still think about her and miss her.


Previous free Christmas downloads:

December 18: The Sussex Mummers' Carol by the Solstice Assembly
December 17: The Holly Bears a Berry by the Solstice Assembly
December 16: In the Bleak Midwinter by Joe Newberry and the Buds. (Also complete list of songs)

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Best of Me Symphony is up at Typepad. Thanks, Gary!

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Menticia knits.

After Menticia and I talked about Texan history and national loyalties, our conversation turned to Christmas presents.

I'm not sure Menticia gets it exactly about presents. I asked what she's getting for her brother, and she said, "I gave him five bucks." I said "that's not much of a present," and THEN she said, "I told him he'd have to give the money back sometime," and I said: "well in that case, it's not a present at all, it's a loan!"

This is my second Christmas with her, another opportunity to impress on her my conviction that parents and grandparents love home-made presents.

On "Weekend America" a grinchy commentator said she hates hand-made presents. She thought even 12-year-olds should be able to get themselves to the mall and buy her something she actually wants. I wanted to attack this woman with globs of the cranberry-walnut cake batter I was mixing at the time. Tomorrow: a partial transcript of her obnoxious piece.

It seemed I wasn't making much headway with the home-made thing but suddenly Menticia said, "OK, I want to knit my grandma a scarf." So before she changed her mind, we whipped off to the mall (!!) to get yarn and knitting needles.

Evidently some kids at her school have been knitting and it looked kind of cool to her.

In the crafts department, Menticia went instantly to the powder-blue yarn. She said it's her favorite color and I said I hated it and we had fun going through the yarn colors and giving our opinions, all strongly worded.

She said "I hate purple, but sometimes my mother makes me wear it."

This almost turned to a crisis when the right-sized knitting needles turned out to be purple. But she rooted through and found some blue ones, so disaster was averted.

We had hardly gotten our butts into the car when she asked how to get started. I haven't knitted in twenty years but luckily I remembered!

All the way home she kept asking me to teach her, she couldn't wait, and I actually can't knit and drive at the same time, so we'd drive for a while and then I'd pull over and show her for a while, then I'd pull back into the road and she would bend her head over her work. Then there would be a problem and another request for help. It was a long ride.

We finally got settled in the living room. On the way home I'd hatched a scheme. I pulled out Redwall, a book I've been trying to wheedle her into because my son Zed loved it so much when he was her age. (She's been resisting because it's thick and the print is grown-up size.) I said, "Let's alternate. I'll read you a chapter while you knit, then we'll switch and you read me a chapter while I knit."

The brilliant thing about this: Menticia didn't really want to read this book, because it's a little bit hard, but on the other hand she saw I could knit very fast. So as long as she was reading to me, her grandmother's scarf was getting longer at a satisfying clip. She looked up often to gauge my progress.

When we switched, I read to her from the stirring story (of noble mice and dastardly rats and stoats) in most dramatic style, and soon, she adopted the dramatic style too, for the first time ever! It was fun to hear her voice swoop up and down - usually she tries to be "calm."

I packed one more peanut butter sandwich into her and took her home. Knitting was so much fun, now I'm making a scarf for Zed. I called him from the store asking his color preference and he said, "I want the rainbow colored yarn Melina used to use." Awww.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Menticia gets interested in history.

I totally love being a mentor. Menticia really cheered me up on Friday when I was a little low because my daughter Melina and her swain are not coming home. This will be the first time ever I don't lay my eyes on Melina at the darkest time of the year - the first time ever she won't be here on my birthday - that she won't light Hannukah candles with me.

I knew this time was coming, but forewarning doesn't actually help much.

Anyway, I picked Menticia up at school and saw that, for once, she had gotten enough sleep. Too often she watches tv with her sibs way late into night. This time, her eyes were dancing and her little body was full of bounces. I wish she got enough sleep more often.

We went off to one of her favorite restaurants for her customarily huge "snack."

I was telling her about my Spanish conversation teacher, who is a chicano, more specifically a tejano:
Tejano history dates back to 1731, when 15 families from the Canary Islands came to settle in San Antonio in what was then northeastern Mexico, which in turn was under Spanish rule. ... The Tejanos were an independent frontier people who developed a ranching community and a culture that was separate from the rest of Mexico. ...

Things changed in 1821 as Mexico gained independence from Spain. The new federalist Texas government invited U.S. settlers to Mexican-controlled Texas. The Tejanos, recognizing the economic benefits of this immigration, welcomed the new settlers.

The territory was rich in fertile land. By 1830 there were 30,000 U.S. settlers and slaves living in Texas, compared to just 4,000 Tejanos.

In 1834 the new president of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, abolished the federalist system and concentrated power in Mexico City. Both Tejanos and the Anglo settlers saw this as a severe blow to Texas sovereignty [and] joined forces, and by the end of 1835, they had succeeded in driving all Mexican soldiers out of Texas.

In late 1835 the Anglo-Tejano rebels defeated and evicted Mexican forces from the Mission San Antonio de Valero ... later known as the Alamo.

While recognizing that the Anglo settlers drove the independence movement, some historians argue it was the Tejanos who envisioned the revolution's framework. The Tejanos, these historians contend, had been fighting for independence for such a long time that they simply invited the settlers to the cause.

"The myth is that Anglos brought liberty to Texas, when in reality Tejanos initiated the struggle with the authoritarian government of Santa Anna in Mexico"

See, in a similar vein, Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Driven Out

At the 1845 convention to admit Texas to the United States ... more than a million acres of land had been transferred from Tejanos to Anglo-Americans.

Later settlers who arrived in Texas were unaware of the Tejanos' contribution to the territory's independence, and many hated all people of Mexican descent. The new settlers drove many Tejano people from their homes.

When the classical versions of Texas history were written in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the Tejanos were virtually erased. More.
(Well, I didn't tell her all that - it's googled from the National Geographic.)

Interestingly Menticia told me: "They got California from us, too."

I said, "Menticia, who's us?" (We mentors are supposed to talk to our kids about their heritage and ethnic identity.)

For the first time ever she said "Mexico!" and sort of pumped her fist as for a soccer team.

I said, "hmm, but you live here in the United States, isn't that part of your team?"

[Pause.] "I'll root for Mexico one month and then root for the U.S. the next month! I'll alternate!"

I think that's a good compromise. She and her older sister and brother were all born in Mexico, even though they came here when Menticia was only one year old. I'm happy to see her interested in history and in her own past, something she's been markedly bored by in previous conversations.

What do you think?

We then had a discussion of the English idiom know which side your bread is buttered on. I see it was used in the year 1546 by John Heywood: 'I knowe on whiche syde my breade is buttred.'

The rest of our afternoon: chronicled tomorrow.

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