Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Avocados should be Extinct

You have to fertilize the dragon fruit at night? While walking down the grove road in the dark carrying my little fertilizing paint brush, I caught a couple of beady eyes in my flashlight. A scraggly possum stared at me. Not this one pictured below because I didn't have my camera. The poor little thing was terrified, but dutifully "played possum" for a few seconds, then turned and waddled into the grove. At night you hear a lot of possum rustling in the leaves; at our little stream, you can frequently find one hanging out. Possums like avocados.

So did their distant relatives, the Giant Sloths. 
Giant Sloth
Laurie posted a link to an interesting article on Facebook about why the avocado should be extinct and no -  it has nothing to do with prohibitive water costs. 
You can read it here:

"Whip up some guacamole honey. I've got the munchies."
Summing up, the article states that avocados reached their evolutionary prime in the Cenzoic era along with other megafauna like mammoths, gomphoteres and giant ground sloths. These huge creatures ate the fruit, carried the big seeds around in their guts relatively undigested and pooped them out elsewhere, out from under the tree canopy where the young tess could get sufficient light to thrive. They speculate that jaguars could have swallowed the seed too because their jaws and throats are equipped to swallow large chunks of meat. If it were up to me, I'd prefer to have my fruit swallowed by a handsome jaguar rather than a gomphotores. The gomphoteres looks like an accident along the evolutionary lines toward the elephant. Kind of an unattractive and questionably useful snout thing going on up front. But as Barlow writes in "Haunting the Wild Avocado" "...from an avocados perspective, a big mouth is a big mouth and a friendly gut is a friendly gut."

After the extinction of the megafauna, mankind seems to have picked up the slack becoming the seed carrier and planters. 


After reading the Smithsonian article, I could picture our grove with these huge beasts snuffling around and grazing their way through the trees. You wouldn't catch me out at night on a fertilizing expedition.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Doo Wop Girls

Richard's two beautiful nieces in their Halloween wigs - 
and below, in their regularly scheduled hair. Aren't they fabulous?

Photos by Doug McHargue

Saturday, October 26, 2013


               Why my husband will eat Caesar Salad tonight
(for Nancy)

Today I eat my lunch alone sitting on a plastic stool
with my Ipad.
I used to come with Liz for In and Outings
but just now
I see on Facebook she will heretofore eschew
the siren call of burgers
and choose instead to
chew tofu, sip soy milk and shuffle about in felt slippers.
A Manohla Blahnik girl, she shocked me.

High heels after all, really do make your legs look better.
Even vegetarian legs.

Chomping into my cheeseburger I scroll down further.
What is this?  Meatophile friends and relatives
by the score are crossing over to the vegetable patch.
And all these vegan ladies (and Nancy, my nephew and Martin)
smile smugly from their profile pages
with that special virtuous vegetarian kind of glow that comes from crunching and munching reddish things, like carrots.

As someone said, “What's up Doc?” Don't they hear the Vegetables scream as they're pulled from the ground?
They look thin, these earnest faces;  how galling. And they post about their oddball smoothies.
"Try sweet potatoes and broccoli with non-fat yogurt"  
"Love our carrots spun with parsley in chicken broth”

Gaggaroony honey. I love you but not that much.

Instead I reach for ketchup and think of Ogden Nash - that clever boy.
He warns of course to "shake the bottle lest nothing comes, and
then a lot’ll!"

Shifting on the stool, my vision wavers  - the faces vaporize like contrails
the images blur and go all squiggly.
Beef blindness? Heart attack?
But no….I see it's just Animal burger juice dripping on my iPad screen and
slowly spreading. I swipe at it and the irritated iPad flashes this, then that.   
The vegans vanish....every rosy, earnest, thin, vegetarian face
disappears under a great greasy smear.

I stand up, stifling first one meaty burp, then two, and click
the iPad off. 

Driving away, my appetite sated
the In and Out sign
gets smaller and smaller
in the rear view mirror.

And I decide we'll be having a Caesar Salad for dinner tonight.


My Otolaryngologist
(pronounced oh/toe/lair/in/goll/oh/jist)

My Otolaryngologist
was once my ENT
Why they gave the name this twist?
A mystery to me.


Sandwich Collapse

I had marvelous company for lunch the other day in a beautiful setting. Everything was great - too bad the half-sandwich was a structural design disaster. It looked beautiful, about three inches thick, sprouts hanging out the sides, crisp lettuce stacked high. The top slice of bread was almost floating above the rest of the creation. The plate was garnished nicely and the accompanying cup of soup was delicious, although it too could be re-thought.

As soon as I picked up the sandwich, the sprouts fell out in one clump. Next, the lettuce squeezed out the back and a couple of avocado chunks escaped, plopping onto the plate.  Left in the sandwich was a slice of cheese and a couple of slippery tomato slices. There was supposed to be cream cheese somewhere in the mix, but I didn't run across it. Too bad, because cream cheese could have been the mortar binding the ingredients together.

I worked on many sandwiches during my food service years. I can hear you laughing -  "worked on a sandwich? What's to work?" If you're possibly going to serve thousands and thousands of them, you consider the design carefully. Case in point: Subway sandwiches don't fall apart on the plate. They know how to make a sandwich so that every bite has all the flavor elements in it. They're not the Rolls Royce of sandwiches but they're made to stick together. 

We always had somebody sit down and eat every new item created for a menu. Too often, during the R D stage of menu development, you stand around in a kitchen eating bits and pieces, taking a bite here and there. It's easy to miss the impact (and the challenges to consumption) of the thing in total. Another problem is the temptation to be dismissive about trivia. Yes, mustard it is extremely trivial in a non-culinary context but in sandwich construction it's important. You have to spread the mustard from corner to corner on the bread - not smear a blob in the middle. This sounds so idiotic but when you're trying to get 1000 cooks all making a sandwich the same way, you have to be clear and you have to be simple. Mustard is muscle in the sandwich world. It enhances aroma, adds depth to flavor, helps keep certain ingredients in place. It makes a huge difference and you have to convince the sandwich makers that it's important.

At some point, you have to test everything under real life circumstances.  Say, put a woman in a white blouse, sitting in the actual chair, in the actual restaurant; present the actual sandwich on the actual plate with the actual garnish and watch her eat it. If the half sandwich I ate today had been so tested, most of the problems would have been obvious and corrected. Better still, have the owner do the testing. Of whoever is manning the cash register

Once, during a sandwich roll out test for New World Bagel in New York, I stood in line to purchase one of our test sandwiches. The woman standing in line in front of me turned to me and said, "If I owned this place, I'd shoot  myself." No focus groups necessary after that test. We re-did everything.

Back to my lunch. I re-assembled my sandwich somewhat and began again to eat it. Now I had to lean way forward in the chair and keep my head two inches from the plate because it was going to collapse again. Finally I gave up and ate the sprouts, avocado and tomato with a fork and squished down the rest of the sandwich (hard palm pressure) so that I could eat the bread and cheese together.

One sloppy sandwich would never discourage me.....I'll return to the restaurant because it has so many redeeming qualities - fantastic setting, great wait staff, fair pricing and plenty more items on the menu to choose from. And carp about.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sad news and Breakfast Apple Pie

A shock this morning. I opened up one of my favorite blogs written by the Canadian artist, Robert Genn. The piece is entitled "the bomb". His doctor just informed him he has pancreatic cancer and can expect to live about a year. I'm losing a cherished cyberspace friend. Here's the link to his blog entry in which he describes going into action to preserve his art and to work with his daughter on continuing the blog.

The bomb

And last week Vivian Swift whom I've been reading for years announced that her blog has "run out of gas" and she's quitting her weekly posts. She may write once in a while but she's firing herself from the weekly obligation. I can understand it because her blog hasn't so much run out of gas, but exploded from growth. As she began giving water color tutorials the blog entries grew larger and larger and more and more complicated. I'm sure it took her hours to complete one. Anyway, Fridays won't be the same any more.

I've always wanted to try the Breakfast Apple Pie in Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book which I've been using for years. Our Granny Smith apple tree is almost finished for the year and before the last one got invaded by yellow jackets I decided to make the pie this morning. The only unique thing about the recipe is that you put cornflakes in the bottom of the crust before the apples. Turns out, the corn flakes added nothing to the concoction. They soaked up some of the apple juice and perhaps the bottom crust was better because of this. Flavor was great and we ate a slice with the excellent Dubliner Cheddar Cheese.

I'm still fooling around with Photomatix and tone mapping...these photos got fiddled with. I like the sliced apples in the crust. Not sure about the others.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sepia Saturday 200: On Itchiness

For the "best of Sepia Saturday" compilation celebrating the 200th post I'm re-posting number 159 - my memories of happy days spent at Grand Beach, Manitoba, Canada.

"Stop scratching." my mother said emphatically. "You're just going to make those bites worse!"

My itchy sister Eilleen and I exchanged looks. Mother's attention meant that serious scratching had to be reserved for after bedtime, when, hidden from her view under the covers, we could claw to our heart's content.  "Eaten alive" as the saying went, we'd scratch until we bled.

Nothing in my experience is quite as itchy as a bite delivered by the legendary Manitoba mosquito at Grand Beach. Referred to sarcastically as the provincial bird of Manitoba, there's a statue erected in it's honor nearby in Komarno, Manitoba. Komarno means mosquito in Ukrainian. Mosquitoes are a serious matter up north; the chief entomologist for the city of Winnipeg is called the "Mosquito Wizard" and he's reputedly paid only slightly less than the mayor.

Photo from of mosquito statue, Komarno, Manitoba.
The only relief remedy we had in those days was a paste made of baking soda and water then slathered over the bites. I can remember the odd feeling of the paste as it dried. It was astringent and probably served to divert our attention momentarily from the itch to the puckering.

Funny when you're a kid, you just accept your surroundings as a fact of life. I actually thought it was fun to sit on our stoop, counting the scabbed-over bites on my legs! Who knew there were places in the world where you could actually walk around in the summer and not be swarmed by mosquitoes? For me, the torture of itching and the joys of warm weather went together hand in hand.

While mosquitoes were the worst of the lot, there was plenty more entomological fun to be had with the sticky-footed fishflies we pulled off the telephone poles and screen doors; and the annual invasion of dragonflies which fed off the fishflies.

This photo of my sister and me, circa 1948 at Grand Beach, Manitoba, Canada, shows us strolling merrily along the shore. Eilleen has her red bathing cap fastened to her swimming suit strap. We were blissfully without sunglasses, sun screen, water wings, insect repellent or too much adult supervision, happily ignorant of the risks of such an unprotected stroll. We even had a break from the daily agony of the Cod Liver Oil dose, the idea being that we were storing up sufficient Vitamin D with all the sunshine. Mom, throwing caution to the wind, let us skip "Beef, Iron and Wine" the other foul tasting dietary supplement we were forced to take because we were too skinny.

Just the girls, we spent two glorious weeks at the rented Walt's cottage. My father stayed in the city and took the "Daddy train" up on the weekends. With no Dad around, proper meals weren't necessary and Mom made our food into terrific fun: fried eggs for dinner; spam sandwiches sitting on the rocks lakeside; toast cooked on the wood stove and exotica such as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinner, which remained a special treat of my sisters for her entire life. Even bedtime was fun as mother made us go to sleep when the lamp lighter came around with his tall ladder to light the coal oil street lamps. We loved to watch this and sat by the window waiting for his arrival. Once the inside lights went out, our serious scratching started. In the background, always, there were mosquitoes buzzing.

Normal routine was forgotten on these holidays as we spent hours paddling around in the water, building sand castles, playing with a beach ball and burying anyone who would allow us the honor. At lunch we'd sometimes get chips in a paper bag, soaked with vinegar and liberally dosed with salt. No one cared about greasy fingers or faces - we'd run into the water (no two hour wait) and splash it all off.

Dance Pavilion Grand Beach from archive

There was a famous dance pavilion on the boardwalk, the anchor attraction at the beach; some claim it was the largest dance hall in the commonwealth at one time.  I have vague memories of going there in the evening with my Mom and sister on those endless northern summer evenings, the light in June lasting until 10 pm.  Mother would dance in the cavernous hall with anybody who asked - I'm sure she enjoyed the male attention and it was all part of the vacation from her normal life. Burned to the ground in 1950, it was never re-built and the beach was never quite the same.

I was deliriously happy on those holidays, maybe as happy as I've ever been. The resort was built by the railway and there was excellent train service all summer.  I would have been 5 or so in my first memory of going to the train station. My sister and I held hands tightly, shadowing my mother who was preoccupied with the business of our suitcase and the tickets. In those days we didn't own a car and world exploration was limited to the single block up and down our street. As you can imagine that first train trip was unbelievably exciting, full of new and different experiences. Between the swaying cars, we watched the train tracks speeding by underneath; drank out of triangular folding paper cups from a spigot in the wall; lurched along the aisles peering at the other passengers; nestled into the plush seats and watched the scenery rushing by. Of all my travels since, those one-hour rides may have been the most thrilling of all, infecting me forever with the travel bug.

Some itches are easier to scratch than others. After college, I moved out of the insect cloud to mosquito-free California. No more sitting around counting bites! Now my metaphorical "itchy"footed condition is the one I've dedicated my lifetime trying to alleviate. The only temporary relief I've found so far is the sound of those beautiful words, music to my ears, "Let's Go!".
Grand Beach today (same view as the photo of the girls above)

A Dandy in Cuba

Will we be lucky enough to run into an entrepreneurial button coverer (I could do that) or a licensed "dandy" in Cuba? Could Tom Wolfe just walk around in Havana without a license? Dandies earn a living from tourist donations - appreciation for the "look". Only in Cuba could a Dandy or a taxi driver make more money than a doctor.

You can also get a license to be a fortune teller, a parasol repairer, a "Havana woman", debris collector, mattress repairer or shoe repairer.

From wikipedia:

Since Reforms were introduced, over 400K Cubans have signed up to be entrepreneurs. As of 2012, the government publishes a list of 181 official jobs no longer under their control, such as taxi driver, construction worker, and shopkeeper. Licenses may also be purchased for becoming a mule driver, palm tree trimmer, well-digger, button coverer and "dandy" - gentleman in traditional elegant white suit and hat. Where imports are double exports, and doctors earn £15/month, families may supplement incomes with extra jobs, and the resultant increased taxes may shore up the economy. In the last decade, half the country's sugar mills have closed down, and tourists now ride factory steam locomotives. Some 3M visitors bring nearly £2M/ yearly (2012). 150K farmers have signed up to lease land from the government for bonus crops. Before, home-owners were only allowed to swap; now buying and selling has created a real-estate boom. A new Havana fast-food burger pizza restaurant, La Pachanga, started in the owner's home, serves 1K meals on a Saturday at £3, the weekly government wage. 

Here's the agenda for our cultural tour for the first few days: 

DAY 1, Thursday - Arrive in Miami
Depart your home city today for Miami, Florida, gateway for our travel to Cuba. We will stay overnight at an airport hotel before tomorrow's morning departure. We gather tonight for a welcome briefing
Overnight: Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport, Miami

DAY 2, Friday - Fly to Cienfuegos & Explore Cienfuegos
Today transfer to the airport for your flight to Cienguegos, Cuba. Upon arrival, we set out for a walking tour of the city. Cienfuegos, also known as La Perla del Sur (the Pearl of the South) was an important trading post for sugar, tobacco, and coffee. The historic center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wonderful examples of neoclassical and eclectic architecture, as well as being an early example of urban planning in Latin America. A local guide shares the city's joys with us as we admire the Parque Marti and grand Teatro Terry, which once hosted Enrico Caruso. Have the opportunity to meet local shopkeepers on the pedestrian Bulevar and learn about Cuban currency and product supply limitations. We end our afternoon with an uplifting choir concert. Dinner is at the Casa Verde Restaurant overlooking the lovely Bay of Cienfuegos
Overnight: Casa Verde or Perla del Mar, Cienfuegos
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 3, Saturday - Botanical Gardens, Sugar Mill & Explore Trinidad
Your first visit of the day is to the Cienfuegos Province Botanical Gardens where more than 2,000 species of exotic plants thrive, including 400 types of orchids. We will sit down for a lecture about the garden's ties to Harvard University and how it was founded as a research center on the site of a sugar mill. Our next stop is a visit to a former sugar mill and estate in Manaca Iznaga. Learn the secrets behind sugar production and the importance of this industry to Cuba's economy in the past. Lunch will be at the Estate. Afterward, we drive to Trinidad. This 500-year-old city is so well preserved, many consider it an open-air museum. A local guide shows us the old cathedral and the Palacio Cantero, home to the historical museum. We will also stop at a rationing store to learn from shopkeepers how staples are distributed. For the final activity of the day, a local artisan demonstrates how to shape pottery from rich soil at a local ceramics studio. For dinner, we visit a local Paladar, whose owners sit with us and provide insight into private enterprise in Cuba
Overnight: Casa Verde or Perla del Mar, Cienfuegos
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4, Sunday - Visit Musicians and Community for Elderly in Santa Clara
Today we drive inland to Santa Clara, founded under a Tamarind tree that still stands today. The city later became the site of the final battle in the Cuban Revolution that toppled the Batista regime. We will hear more on that from our guide at the Che Guevara Memorial and Museum. Later, we stop at the Museo de Artes Decorativos to meet some musicians who set Cuban life to a local rhythm on traditional instruments. There will be time to browse the museum before continuing on to the Community Project for the Elderly. Our insightful visit reveals how art, music, and dance play a crucial role in the everyday lives of the inspiring residents. After lunch at the charming Hotel America, we explore Santa Clara by foot on a walking tour. Our local guide leads us through the colorful produce stalls at the mercado and along the city's wide, arcade-lined boulevard. Dinner is on your own in Cienfuegos
Overnight: Casa Verde or Perla del Mar, Cienfuegos
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Scarecrows around Fallbrook

Better looking from the back.....

.....than the front. Scary.

The tidiest scarecrow. Polished shoes, good looking hat, crazy trousers. I'm a little behind on my cellulite treatments. I was busy reading"Sorry about my neck" by Nora Ephron.

The most thoughtful looking scarecrow in town. Not very scary. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dragon Fruit in Bloom

Finally after almost two years my dragon fruit is blooming! This is the same photo with the second shot tone mapped with Photomatix Pro. I like the results and it's easy to use. Looks like ten more blossoms are getting ready to open. The thrills never stop around here. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

More Travel Tips from here and there

Never wear flip-flops or high heels on a plane in case of emergency. 
Can you imagine, God forbid, that your plane crashes like the Asiana flight on landing in San Francisco? The aircraft is on fire and you've got to scramble over mangled seats to find the exit:  Your flip flops or Manohla Blahniks are not going to be an asset! Instead, opt for your heaviest, bulkiest shoes -  your hiking boots or walking shoes; those with the best, sticky soles, freeing up room and weight in your suitcase and assuring, if necessary, that you can get traction, climb over those seats, even jump out of a window (good shoes would help with your landing).

If you have a choice of seats on a plane, don't sit next to a woman. We tend to be chatty and use the bathroom more often than most men. Although I've sat next to older men with obviously enlarged prostrates (I'm just guessing here) who have to pee every 20 minutes - they are much worse. While I'm sympathetic, it's awfully hard to sleep if you have to let somebody out into the aisle too often. The ideal seat if you have a choice would be an aisle seat with two smallish 40's men in center and window….they'll be busy with electronic devices, won't talk to you, will probably sleep and won't require the half hourly pit stop. As far as chattiness goes, if you get next to a babbler, who wants to tell you about her hemorrhoids or her grandchildren's brilliance, politely slip on your ear phones, even if they're not attached to anything, as that usually politely discourages them.

Always wear a hoodie on the plane - for warmth and also to snuggle into for naps or real sleep. You can end up seated behind someone who wants to have their air stream focused on you, freezing you out. If the hood is large enough, it will help block out distracting lights and sounds, making sleep easier.
People tend to leave you alone when you're hoodied. 

Never wear shorts on a plane. No matter how beautiful your legs are! Wear your heavier, bulkier clothing…I don't care where you're going, the plane will be freezing and you'll free up weight and space in your suitcase. You can always strip down in the airport bathroom once you arrive at your tropical destination. Layers work really well. Wear your shorts and a light t-shirt, then wear long pants over the shorts and your heaviest shirt and sweater on top. If it turns out to be too warm, go to the bathroom and take off a layer. You're going to be uncomfortable on the plane, everyone is unless you're in the first class cabin, so you may as well be uncomfortable with the knowledge that you were able to pack that one extra outfit, because you're "carrying on" a couple on your body.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Shorts on a Plane

Choose the Asian Vegetarian option from the meal choices in advance. The food is usually better because it's cooked to order and not en masse. 

Bring ear plugs to wear on the plane and for noisy hotels. Take them out for aircraft take-off and landing just in case there is an emergency and you have to hear instructions. Remember that even in the newest gazillion dollar planes, the speakers are terrible. They often sound like something you might get pre-installed on your computer. Static, low volume and pilot accents combine to make it almost impossible to hear what's being broadcast from the cockpit. In my humble opinion, being able to communicate with the passengers should be a high priority in terms of safety check-lists. I've sat next to foreign travelers who infer erroneously, because they speak little English or are afraid, that there is an emergency because of the static, unintelligible muttering that passes for an announcement. "This is your captain speaking…..mumble, static, mumble static, static".

Pack a clothes pin or two for keeping the daylight from creeping in through that inevitable crack in the curtains or to keep a shower curtain secure OR even as a last resort, to hang up your laundry. The pin can be a God send. 

Have cheap business cards printed with your name and contact information, address etc. If you are interested in meeting people and staying in touch, people are more likely to keep a business card than a scrap of paper with your scribbling on it.  If you wish, include an interesting quote that you'd like to be remembered for, or a job description or as my retired brother-in-law has - a title that he crosses out with a black pen just enough that you can still read it if you try hard. He calls himself "Pornographic Stuntman". I make no apologies for him - it's his sense of humor.  If you don't get it or don't find it funny, you probably wouldn't get along with him anyway. My current title is Grove Goddess. Vista Print on-line is inexpensive and card creation is easy to manage. 

Take a couple of packs of Post-It notes. I can barely live without these anymore. You can stick them on your bathroom mirror with reminders. Stick one on your hotel room door, reminding yourself to do the final check around for forgotten items. Remind yourself to look in that one place you always overlook! For us, it's the bed....shake out the sheets and look underneath for books or magazines.
I hate to admit it but on my last trip I left my "dress" black shoes behind...either they were under a chair or at the bottom of a dark closet. Henceforth, I use the flashlight to check the closet. It wasn't fun wearing sneakers to dinner on a cruise. 

Sepia Saturday #199 - G & S

The prompt photo this week was taken in 1914 in Waterford, Ireland and it's been suggested that it might be the cast of an amateur performance of the Pirates of Penzance.

When I was growing up, my sister and I sang Gilbert and Sullivan songs all the time, switching the roles around, playing men and women. Sometimes for the operettas we knew well we sang all the parts.
We'd prance around the house and over-act, cracking each other up - those were very happy moments I shared with her. Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were very popular high school musical productions and as Winnipeg was a very musical city, the choir and the operettas were more popular than football. At least in my memory.

Here's a photo of my sister Eilleen in a high school production of the "Mikado. She was one of the Three Little Maids.

The second photo is Eilleen and Wally Fox-Decent who played, I believe, Nanki-Pu. Wally didn't let the kimono and fan slow him down and went on to have a distinguished career. Here's his bio when he was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the university.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Waldron “Wally” Fox-Decent

Waldon “Wally” Fox Decent received a BA in political science in 1959 while enrolled at United College, and an MA in 1971 from the University of Manitoba.
For some 35 years, Fox-Decent has been a mediator and arbitrator in labour/management disputes. He has served as Chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Manitoba, as well as its Chief Executive Officer. He also has chaired the Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health and the Labour Management Review Committee.
From 1962 to 1995, Fox-Decent was professor of Political Studies at the University of Manitoba.  He has chaired a number of province-wide committees, most notably three successive Manitoba Legislative Task Forces on constitutional reform, including the task force on the Meech Lake Accord and the task force on the Charlottetown Agreement.  In 1997, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
Fox-Decent joined the Canadian Naval Reserve in 1954 as a cadet at HMCS Chippawa. From 1987 to 1990, he was Chief of Reserves and Cadets for the Canadian Forces. Between 1988 and 1990, he also served as the first Canadian to hold the post of Chief of Reserves Committee for all NATO countries. He retired in 1996 with the rank of Rear Admiral, Reserve.
For his outstanding achievements and contributions in the political, military, educational, and labour relations arenas, Fox-Decent received the June 2002 University of Winnipeg Distinguished Alumni Award.

Eilleen and Wally Fox-Decent 
I've seen many professional productions of the operettas but the most unique one was the gay production of H.M.S. Pinafore, named "Pinafore" in Los Angeles in 2001. It was a huge hit here where it won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for best adaptation and five L. A. Weekly Awards. While it was extensively rewritten it still shared the spirit of the original, the humor coming from being serious about ridiculous things.  From the CD liner notes.

Christmas Card from the Cast 2001
Pinafore (Original Cast)
Book and Score Adapted by Mark Savage from W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan

Staring Debra Lane, Wilson Raiser, Christopher Hall, Michael Gregory, R. Christofer Sands and David Gillam Fuller

A “Pinafore” about an all-gay U.S. Navy? Why not? For a hundred and twenty-five years people have been adapting, converting, altering, adjusting and generally using Gilbert and Sullivan’s irresistible comic confection H.M.S. Pinafore for their own purposes. Some have changed the original just to avoid copyright problems. Some have changed it out of a strange idea that it had become dated. It would be hard to imagine any adaptation succeeding, however, without being based on a deeply felt appreciation for the original. Appreciation is the key to the success of this one – and succeed it does. Handsomely!

This high camp adaptation of what was a high camp original builds on the honorable tradition of Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan to use the comic opera format to get away with only thinly disguised commentary on the issues of the day and the foibles of society.

This “Pinafore” is bannered “A Sexy, Saucy, Ship Shape New Musical.” It is set in the mythical presidency of Al Gore at a time when the failed “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy of the Clinton years has been supplanted by a segregation of the armed services by sexual preference. The Navy is now all gay and the Commander of the Navy is none other than Senator Barney Crank of Maryland who is coming to claim in marriage the child of the Captain of the good ship Pinafore. That child is a drag queen who happens to be loved by a sailor in that ship’s crew – a young man who not only has the misfortune of being the only heterosexual left in the new gay navy, he also is unaware of the fact that the “girl” he loves is, in fact, a boy.

Just as the plot of the original was a simple structure on which Gilbert hung fabulously witty baubles emphasized by the earnestness of Sullivan’s sumptuous score, so adaptor Mark Savage drapes his barbs on the same simple structure, changing it only enough to accommodate his concept. Thus whole choruses and verses stand unchanged except by context: this show gives entirely new meaning to Gilbert’s “Gaily Tripping.” Occasionally he over does it. “Our commander Barney Cranks a painfully P.C. dude / But we really owe him thanks / ‘cause we love his taste in seafood!” is too much of a stretch. But there are times when he comes up with an improvement in the wit of the original. Surely that is the case with the change of “my proffered love despised, rejected / No, no, its not to be expected” to the much more felicitous “My offered love she tosses from her / No, not, its much to big a bummer!”

This recording was made four months into the show’s apparently successful run in Los Angeles by which time the cast had enough experience performing the material before an audience to know how to not only sing the songs but sell the bits. It is a fine capturing of what must be a fun show. It probably isn’t something to be listened to frequently but it is one heck of a fun single listen.

Now for the rest of the day I'll have Three Little Maids playing on that tape in my head. 

Sepia Saturday #198: The grand fiasco

This week's Saturday prompt was the launch of a boat; it was suggested we could write about "starting things" as well as anything else that caught the eye or fancy of the viewer. The photo was full of promise.

Just having returned from the Baltic, I thought of the many fascinating ship-related things we saw in the area.

In Sweden, we saw the salvaged boat, the VASA. It was intended by the King of Sweden to be the start of something new and it was huge -  the greatest battle ship ever to sail for the Swedish navy. Unfortunately, the mighty Vasa, on her maiden voyage, traveled for one mile, staggered under a gust of wind, heeled over and promptly sank. They aptly call the incident, the Grand Fiasco.

Despite the fact that she was fatally designed, she's breath-taking to see almost 4 centuries later.  People in Stockholm refer to it affectionately as "the wreck. Redemption is hers because it's now one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. What loot she didn't carry her soldiers and sailors to in war, she now collects for the country in the museum gift shop. I wonder what the carpenters and boatbuilders who created her would think if they were told of the mighty war ship's ultimate fate?

Actually many of the builders knew the boat wasn't sea-worthy but nobody could could muster up the guts to pass the word up the line that a fiasco was in the making. "Not my job." And in those days I think they still "killed the messenger". The boat was a beautiful thing with the stern covered with carved animals painted in bright colors. Pigments weren't readily available in those days and people lived in a gray, brown world. The sight of this huge beautiful ship with all the color and dazzle would have done half it's job with the good PR for the King it would have generated. I'm guessing everyone in the know just had their fingers crossed that there might be a better outcome that there was. Doesn't that sound familiar?

Replica showing the Grand Fiasco as she met her fate

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Finger

While in Lake Arrowhead over the weekend we enjoyed looking at a heap of large pumpkins entered in a contest sponsored by Jensen's market. The largest on display was Newton's at 169 pounds
and the smallest was Ava's at 8 pounds. 

The contest entrants didn't come close to the heaviest pumpkin on record, this giant 2009 pound monstrosity grown by Ron Wallace last year:

You can't help but notice how the outer skin of the giant fruits gets pulled and tight as the pumpkin increases in size. It loses it's lovely shape and gets distorted and asymmetrical, lumpy and grotesque.

The same thing happened to my finger on Sunday! In the garden something stung me three times: ping, ping, ping. The stings were sharp and clean; strong enough to notice but not seriously. A few hours later, I suddenly became aware of pressure against my rings.  I looked at my stung finger and realized it had swollen significantly. Quickly I applied soap and worked my rings off, breathing a sigh of relief as they slid onto the counter, but I was puzzled at the degree of swelling. During the evening the finger was a bit itchy and that night I slept fitfully, waking myself up scratching. In the morning several maroon colored lesions had appeared on the side on my finger - it was a digit grotesque, just in time for Halloween.

Here's musical accompaniment to accompany further reading.

King Singers: Flight of the Bumblebee (short)

Following Richard's advise, I took a Benadryl and kept an eye on it. By afternoon my wrist was swelling too. It was time to see a doctor. Off we went to Dr. Miller who said "Wowza" and declared it a severe allergic reaction to the bee or yellow jacket stings. She gave me a prescription for the steroid, prednisone,  orders to take Zyrtec and Zantac ( ZZZ's for the bees) and to go to the emergency room if it didn't improve by today. Even though I've had many stings in my life with no problems, all of a sudden I'm allergic. It's not uncommon to develop an allergy out of the blue and I know several people who've had the same experience. My name became McAcute for speeding filling of the prescription.

The Halloween finger looks much better today; the swelling's reduced considerably and the finger is rapidly returning to normal.   Hip hip hooray for drugs.