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Saturday, February 28, 2009

My first movie: Jethro asks for breakfast

It's a rainy, cold morning. I just took this movie with my tiny pink OptioM50 camera bought on Woot!

Jethro is pretty polite, he only does this about once per hour until he gets breakfast. We usually feed him before nine but this morning, breakfast is late because I took this movie.

He'll get one of his favorite supplements with breakfast today, though: grapefruit rinds. Your compost pile can't compost them, but your donkey can.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Spicey Apple Cake

Mark and I didn't have a very successful art day yesterday. He did an entire painting, then painted all over it and set it aside for another day; I started a woodcut but couldn't seem to get my knife sharp enough... so I made applecake instead and it was absolutely fabulous.

Apple Spice Cake
1 cup butter (I'll try less next time)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/2 cup raisins soaked in warm water or wine for 15 minutes and drained
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 large peeled apples chopped into 1/4"-1/2" cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10" tube pan.

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in each egg separately, beat in salt, spices, and vanilla.

Stir or beat in drained raisins, flour mixed with baking soda, and apples.

Bake for an hour or more, depending on how big your apples were. Mine were big, so it was very apply and took 1-1/4 hour to cook. Cool in pan or, if you're like me, turn it upside down immediately and have it fall apart. Let it cool for easiest cutting or, if you're like me, cut it immediately into messy, delicious warm pieces with lots of crumbs.

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Mark does Illustration Friday: "Instinct."

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

FYI what a leg looks like after a donkey hoof lands on it.

I can get a sock on it today. It's so swollen it feels hard as a rock. Now, all I want is for you to go: "EEW!" and I will be happy.


Why old musicians are so fabulous.

After the gig last night (we sang/played early American songs and fiddle tunes for Revolutionary War reenactors at the Moore's Creek National Battlefield) we were supposed to go to the hotel the sponsors had reserved for us, but the notion of hobbling on my awful swollen leg up into a hotel room with all my gear and then hobbling back down again in the morning was so unappealing that I hopped in the truck and drove home.

On the way I heard this quote:

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul
and paints his own nature into his pictures.

Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887

It immediately made me think of that wonderful movie I saw recently, Young @ Heart, octagenarians singing Clash and Cold Play, and the Buena Vista Social Club, ancient Cubans, re-united by Ry Cooder, and laying down the most fabulous groove, with no sense of hurry or grandstanding...

Young musicians are often so hungry, so anxious to prove themselves, to be something special, to make their fortunes; they make me weary with their striving.

Old musicians have learned the best thing they have to offer the world is their souls: they may get hoarse, their fingers may get gnarled a bit with arthritis, but they know what they've seen "out there" - in their lives and in their glimpses of the beyond - and it's in the music.

I want to be like them. I want to live a long time, and I want to keep singing and playing, and I want to be more and more myself, playing with my friends, offering anybody who cares to listen the sum total of what I've seen, suffered, loved, and wondered. I've gotten to the point where I hardly care if anybody's listening, it's the offering that's important.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"Why Paddy's Not at Work Today" - except I have to go anyway.

I've gotten better at monitoring Jethro's intent as his mood changes - I can usually sense (by the tilt of his neck or ears or the rolling of his eye or the little hustling movement he makes with his hooves) the moment when he's hatched a Bad Plan. I can usually head off those Bad Plans, but it requires constant attention.

We went walking yesterday and had two problems:
  1. It was windy, which makes him nervous;

  2. It was recycling day.
In the old days, this donkey was terrified of garbage cans and recycling bins; they must be about the size of hyenas or whatever else consumes donkeys in their native Africa.

This was my 2007 idea of what the situation must seem like in his bonehead: poor tiny Jethro wedged, helpless and insubstantial, between his huge Scylla and Charybdis nemeses ...

We used to have intense disagreements about whether it's safe to pass by a recycling bin.

Then, his entire opinion changed: he discovered there are usually beer bottles nestled amongst the newspapers!

Now, he likes to nose out a beer bottle and lick or suck it for as long as I'll let him. He wants to stop at every bin and have a sniff.

Well, yesterday when I decided he'd done enough beer bottle sucking I pulled him away from the treasures.

I wasn't paying attention - he had a sudden tantrum, reared up on his hind legs and knocked me over...

... which has happened before, but then...

... as if in slow motion, looking up, I saw him come down and, by accident, land on the side of my leg and ankle with his hoof, 550 pounds of donkey on top.

I tied him to a tree and sat on the road while I tried to see straight and get the stars to stop whirling around my head so we could finish the walk. I got him home and then decided to go on the elliptical trainer, but after about 35 minutes it was clear this had been a bad idea...

I went to Yiddish class though shifting gears in my truck was pretty ghastly.

I took all the painkillers in the house and went to bed with my rapidly swelling leg on top of the covers because I can't bear to have anything touch it.

I woke up this morning shouting from pain! And now, I get to drive to Wilmington and do a gig, in 18th century garb, for the re-enactors at Moore's Creek National Battlefield. I'm hobbling around trying to get up the courage to hobble up into the attic and find my garb. Meanwhile, if I take any more painkillers I'll fall asleep on the road.

I'm sure Jethro forgot all about this incident a second after it happened and is now wondering why I'm not giving him a walk.

My Yiddish professor Sheva asked why I don't get rid of him. I said, "Vayl s'iz nisht keyn kley-fabrik noent." (Because there is no glue factory nearby.)

Here's the song... Here's a picture of the leg, two days later...



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chickens now legal in Durham North Carolina!

Extracts from
Durham says yes to backyard chickens
by Matt Saldaña for, 18 FEB 2009

After months of debate and three contentious public hearings, the Durham City Council voted Feb. 16 to allow backyard chickens. The unexpectedly unanimous decision delighted many in attendance, prompting more than 50 supporters to burst into applause as City Hall's electronic scoreboard lit up with green bars, indicating 7 "yes" votes.

The vote was a victory for urban chicken enthusiasts, who organized around the issue and named their group the Durham HENS, for Healthy Eggs in Neighborhoods Soon.

After reciting a litany of egg-related metaphors ("This ordinance has been scrambled. ... Tonight, hopefully it will be served on a platter, sunny-side-up"), Councilman Eugene Brown announced that he had run out of logical reasons to oppose the change.

"When restrictions are in place, which they are, when almost every city in the state allows hens, which they do, I hope council will take the position of enhancing citizens' freedoms, and not denying it," said Brown.

Supporter Frank Hyman, a former councilman, speculated that the presence of young supporters—and Durham civil rights legend Ann Atwater, seated in the front row—made a convincing argument.

Seated behind Atwater was a row of teenagers who work at Durham Inner-City Gardeners (DIG), a youth-driven urban farming initiative of Durham SEEDS, the nonprofit city garden. Rashida Smith, 15, spoke matter-of-factly about the benefits of learning to raise independent food sources.

"I have never kept chickens, and don't know what it would be like, but in my opinion I think chickens in Durham will be a good opportunity to learn and see what happens," she said.

The youth support prompted scorn and a sideshow of drama from Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People chairwoman Lavonia Allison, however. Allison, a powerful political figure, belittled a group of urban teenagers who spoke in support of the measure, at times pointing her finger at supporters in the gallery and saying, "Shame on you."

Before Smith addressed the council, Allison spoke dismissively of the presence of inner-city youths in favor of the amendment—whose presence seemed to undercut her arguments at earlier meetings that supporters did not speak for urban neighborhoods.

"I see we have a more mixed group of young folk here tonight," Allison said. "They've been asked to come speak for some other folks, who don't have 50-foot lots."

Afterward, Smith said she wasn't worried about the icy reception, and that she had so much fun participating that she would consider speaking at future council meetings.

"Everyone has their own opinions. People can say what they want," she said.

Destiney Robinson, 16, chimed in: "I just wanted to get up and say [to Allison]: 'We're teenagers. We're still learning. We're participating in the discussion. That should be all that matters.'"

Mayor Bill Bell—who donned a Carolina blue UNC sweatshirt over his suit as penance for losing a basketball bet with Chapel Hill's Mayor Kevin Foy—said his vote came down to added protections for adjacent landowners, who will be given mandatory 30-day notice, and the opportunity to appeal the chicken permits.

Members of HENS have agreed to donate extra eggs to the Durham Rescue Mission.

Durham's new ordinance allowing backyard hens in city limits takes effect immediately, according to City Manager Tom Bonfield. Raleigh and Carrboro already permit them. Chapel Hill's Town Council is scheduled to vote on the issue Monday, Feb. 23.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Searching for one particular Obama Bobblehead doll!

I love my Sholom Aleichem bobblehead doll so much, I want another one to keep it company. I want this Obama bobblehead, with the crossed arms and the flag. There are other flag dolls, but not with the folded arms. If you know where I can get one of these, please let me know!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

[Hannah]: Seals!

Check out this gorgeous illustration by the Ukrainian Louis Choris, visiting the northern pacific coast of the US in the early 19th century. Next time I have time to paint I want to copy this picture.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Celebrate."


Acrylic on Canvas 9" x 11"


Happy Valentine's Day

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Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Celebrate."

In my year, the bad times are like this: Christmas, my birthday, New Year's Eve, and Valentine's Day. Then the world starts to look acceptable again. It was funny to be trying to make a happy picture at such a time, but it was good distraction.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to avoid sounding like an Amurrrrican when you pronounce the letter "R."

I've been conducting the Triangle Jewish Chorale for fourteen years and still struggle with "American R" in our Hebrew and Yiddish songs. The basic problem: our native language, English, has no guttural or rolled consonants, so they are difficult for some people to hear, much less pronounce.

I tell my singers I'll accept either
  • The "German" or "French" guttural R, or
  • The "Spanish" flipped/rolled R.
The former sounds marginally more authentic in both Hebrew and Yiddish, but the latter is easier to sing.

By the way, here is an interesting explanation of the way the R prononunciation of modern Hebrew came about:
The Zionist Eliezer ben Yehuda - though an Ashkenazi Jew in Czarist Russia - based his Standard Hebrew on the Sephardic dialect originally spoken in Spain, and therefore recommended an alveolar [forward, rolled] R.

But as the first waves of Jews to resettle in the Holy Land were northern Ashkenazi, they came to speak Standard Hebrew with their preferred uvular articulation [guttural, gargled] as found in Yiddish or modern standard German, and it gradually became the most prestigious pronunciation for the language.

The modern State of Israel has Jews whose ancestors came from all over the world, but nearly all of them today speak Hebrew with a uvular R because of its modern prestige and historical elite status.
Isn't that odd?

How to make the flipped or rolled (Spanish) R:

Put your tongue in the "D" position (bend the tip up and touch just behind your top gums). Now lower it a tiny bit so there is an airspace above it and move it quickly toward the back of your mouth. That's it.

If you try this in the word "practice," PDACTICE PDACTICE PDACTICE, faster and faster, you'll get it.

OR - I found this exercise online:
  1. Say the word butter, then say the word ladder.
  2. Feel your tongue "flip up" during the second syllable, barely touching the ridge above and behind the top row of teeth, almost touching the roof your mouth.
  3. Now say each word faster, "Butter, Butter, Butter, Ladder, Ladder, Ladder".
  4. You may decide one word works better for you. Eventually you'll get it.
Or this, the "Dracula Exercise" (supposedly the only way Lenin was able to "fake" the trill sound.

  1. Try saying "Dracula" and see if it helps you roll the R by putting a D in front of it. Touch the tip of your tongue to the bottom of your two top front teeth. Then when say "Dracula" and notice the tongue moves loosely but quickly from the tips of your teeth to the roof of your mouth.
  2. Practice using the R in word-initial combinations as "dr-", "tr-", "br-", "pr-" - it is much easier to pronounce in those positions. Once you can do that, work on dropping the initial consonant.

Singing teachers often recommend repeating Tee-Dee-Va Tee-Dee-Va Tee-Dee-Va rapidly to strengthen and loosen up the correct muscles.

How to make the guttural (German, French, Yiddish, Hebrew) R:

This is called a uvular consonant, the tongue action is toward the back of your mouth.

I suggest putting your tongue in the "G" position, then drop the tongue a tiny bit to create an airspace above the back of the tongue and blow air through the space.

You can also try "gargling" without any liquid in your mouth. And lastly, here's an exercise I found online:
  1. Open your mouth and carefully enunciate the sound K, several times.
  2. Pay attention to where in your throat the K sound is made. We'll call this the K place.
  3. Begin slowly closing your throat, as if to keep from swallowing a mouthful of liquid, until you can almost feel the K place. Your throat should be only partially constricted.
  4. Tense the muscles around the K place.
  5. Gently push air through your partially constricted throat.
  6. Practice saying Ra-Ra-Ra (where R = steps 4-6) every day.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place."

The Red Queen's speech from Through the Looking Glass (above) explains why I have trouble enjoying maintenance.

On Planet Earth, things fall apart. Everything is in a trajectory towards disintegration which we can only struggle to delay. It takes so much effort just to avoid losing ground!

I love huge projects that create new things. I detest projects which simply fix things: you work and work and all you get is, back to where you should have been in the first place. The enemies: time, entropy, attrition, material exhaustion...

This gripe follows four hours I spent today repairing the deer fence. Little creatures with sharp teeth make little-creature-sized holes, lots of them, then the fawns come along and make the little holes bigger and squeeze through and eat things on the forbidden side! But the worst of it is, they forget where the little hole they squeezed through is, so they hurl themselves against the fence over and over in utter hysteria, and it's time-consuming to calm them down and get them to leave.

Here are the ideas I used to stay calm while the hours rolled by:
  • The weather was delicious. Usually I perversely end up sewing up holes in the fence on rainy days.

  • Better to sew up holes than to chase crazed deer.

  • It was actually good exercise, yoga-like stretching and groveling in the leaves.

  • One either repairs things or replaces them. Replacing is not only more expensive, but more trouble.

  • Maintenance temporarily turns back time. What a triumph!

  • Fixing stuff is the right thing to do.

I managed to convince my daughter's boyfriend that fixing their bed by adding a center beam would be easier than going shopping for a new one, paying for it, dragging it home, dragging it up the stairs, disassembling the old one, dragging it down the stairs, and assembling the new one.

Yesterday, I cleaned out a winter's worth of mounded crud from the chicken coop. I was muttering about it, but on the plus side, that hay-plus-chicken-poop will make fine compost. And while I was cleaning, I found the very first two eggs laid by my new pullets. (I'd suspected they were ready -- some of them now assume the "ready" squat when I stretch a hand out over them, proving they can't distinguish a hand from a rooster -- and I saw one circling the coop cheerfully clucking to herself yesterday, classic post-egg-producing behavior.)

If I can grow to love maintenance, perhaps I won't get so cranky and impatient that I drill a hole in my drainpipe trying to snake it.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Time."

I bought a book called Words Like Arrows: A Treasury of Yiddish Folk Sayings, by Shirley Kumove, and found this odd saying in it:

The watchmaker is a doctor
but he doesn't serve the Angel of Death.

Some of the sayings are so odd they make no sense at all, but this one has an eerie rightness to it.

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Mark does Illustration Friday: "Time."


Acrylic on canvas, 11x14

I've been experimenting with stencils and collage, silhouettes and tonal mass. No modelling this time.

Ravens are some of my favorite creatures. Who better to represent the moment.


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Why are there so few male mentors?

This is an article written by Graig Meyer, coordinator of the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. I think he's a genius, he's the guy that put Menticia and me together. I've tried to get the guys I know to mentor but they all present excuses 1, 2, 3, and 4 as summarized below. I swear it's one of the most fun and inspiring things you can do.

Extracts from
Why are there so few male mentors?
by Graig Meyer for the Chapel Hill News

Across the Triangle, there are dozens of mentoring programs trying to support young men by providing them with male role models. We know firsthand what newspaper headlines tell us: too many boys in our society are failing school and falling between the cracks.

Like most mentoring programs, the program that I run has one challenge that surpasses all others: recruiting enough male mentors.

Twice a year, our program trains a group of new mentors and brings in new students to our program. Last fall we faced a crisis. With only one week to go before our training for mentors was to begin, no men had stepped forward to volunteer.

That's right. No men had volunteered to become mentors. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Recently, a social worker from one of our local elementary schools told me that she asked teachers at her school to recommend students for our program. They recommended two girls ... and eight boys. That's no surprise. There are probably about four times as many boys who need mentors as girls. Unfortunately, our female mentors outnumber their male counterparts 2:1.

Why don't men volunteer? (Are you reading this, men?) They consistently tell me four things:

  1. I'm too busy.
  2. I'm not patient enough.
  3. I wouldn't be good at it.
  4. I'm not sure it really works.

Guys, I'm calling you out. Those are excuses that are leaving our young men behind.

First of all, it does work. We have a 100 percent high school graduation rate for our male students, and 100 percent of them have also gone on to some type of post-secondary education.

You would be good at mentoring. You are patient enough. There is no movie-influenced Supermentor role that you need to fulfill. You just need to be yourself. There are boys in our community who need you.

Making the time is something you can choose to do. And I promise you that you will be rewarded.

Men: Step up to the plate. Mentoring programs need to hear from you. Most programs ask for you to give just a couple of hours per week.

You can include your mentee in things you're already doing, like going to a basketball game, fishing, fixing your car or cooking dinner.

Women: Reach out to the men in your lives. The best way to recruit a mentor is to tell him, "You'd really make a great mentor." Give them some information on a mentoring program in your area. Or even better, call the program and give the program a few names of your male friends. We'll call them on your recommendation.

Couples: Sometimes it's easier for a married couple to mentor together. If a husband and wife volunteer together, we can match you with a male mentee. You can split the mentoring responsibilities between you. It's a great activity to do together.

There are mentoring programs throughout the Triangle that need your support. It takes men stepping up to the plate to make sure that our programs don't struggle with this issue and that our society doesn't fail our young men.


Friday, February 06, 2009

FYI 30Rock does a telenovela

I loved this episode of 30Rock, in which Jack woos his girlfriend's grandmother by buying the Spanish language tv station to change her favorite telenovela (Los Amantes Clandestinos). Pretty cute! (Salma Hayek is the girlfriend.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Extracts from
Peanut Product Recall Took Company Approval
by Gardiner Harris for the New York Times, February 2, 2009

Even though federal health officials have begun a criminal investigation into whether the Peanut Corporation of America deliberately sold contaminated products, the government still needed the company's permission last week before announcing a huge recall of its products.

The wording of the recall statement had to be approved by the company before the Food and Drug Administration could publish it under current rules.

More than 500 people have been sick in the outbreak of salmonella poisoning, and 8 have died. More than 430 product brands have been recalled.

The Blakely plant [was known to be] the source of the salmonella outbreak on Jan. 9. The peanut company announced a limited recall on Jan. 13 and expanded it on Jan. 16. The company waited until Jan. 28 before recalling all products made at the plant in 2007 and 2008, even though it had known since 2007 that tests of products showed contamination with salmonella.

Craig Wilson, an assistant vice president at Costco, said he pulled Kellogg's Keebler and Austin peanut butter crackers off shelves ... nearly a week before the Peanut company and Kellogg issued a nationwide recall that covered those cookies.

Mr. Wilson said he could not wait for the F.D.A. to make announcements about food problems that are widely known among food safety officials. "I don't want to say that you can't rely on the F.D.A.," Mr. Wilson said, "but we certainly can move quicker than they do."

Monday, February 02, 2009

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Flawed."

I did this picture a couple years ago but it fits the prompt in my opinion. It was a rendering of a political cartoon I saw at the time.

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Mark does Illustration Friday: "Flawed."


When telling otehrs how to live, it helps to bring a large bull. Also, have a squirrel and a flamingo witness the exchange.


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The Toddler's Creed

The Toddler's Creed was composed by T. Berry Brazelton and I've had a newspaper clipping of it on my wall for a quarter century. I decided to paint it yesterday, it took a ridiculous amount of time.
  • If I want it, it's mine.
  • If I give it to you and change my mind later, it's mine.
  • If I can take it away from you, it's mine.
  • If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
  • If it's mine, it will never belong to anybody else, no matter what.
  • If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.
  • If it looks just like mine, it is mine.