Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I like how this tin is kind of confused, melding Halloween and Thanksgiving together.

I would have so dug this spice can as a kid. It's the kind of thing that would have lived in the kitchen cupboard for most of the year, and would have come out only on a few special days, and when you'd see it sitting on the counter, you'd know ---"good times, good times."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Upward Spiral

Extremism is such a mind trap. Put God in the mix, and people can be convinced to do anything. But a God of infinite creativity has no use for the manipulation and control of others, nor for acts of violence. A God of divine intelligence would have us use our brains to think freely. To challenge ideas, and especially, to question corrupted theologies.

I found this article about ex-jihadis interesting, because these men who had allowed their minds to be taken over by extremism, describe the moments when a small sliver of light got in. Just enough to get them doubting, questioning, what they had seen as truth. A simple act of humanity--a gift from an old man---helped one man see fellow humans where before he had seen enemies. Another man realized that democractic principles were not a joke after seeing Amnesty International in action. These men started harboring doubts about the perfect society their leaders had promised, and questioned the morality of what they were doing.

One man has gone so far as to allow himself to listen to music for the first time in his life, something that was forbidden before. But he is not free to speak openly about it. He confesses to the journalist that he listens to music on his car radio and giggles about it, saying, "you'll get me killed." He likes "everything in the charts," and gives the journalist the names of some of the bands, but later calls and asks that the names not be printed, saying, "That would be a step too far."

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear." ---Thomas Jefferson

Good Catholic Fun

Here's a joke I heard Saturday night:

"What do you call a sleepwalking nun?

A roamin' Catholic." Yuk yuk.

This is the sort of humor you can expect at the Viviano Variety show. The Vivianos are this Italian-American Catholic family and every year they put on this * show. *
Jerry Viviano is the main one running the thing. But his brothers Tony, Frank and Joe help out. Each of the brothers do their own schtick. Tony comes out and sings like Tony Bennett. Frank imitates schlockmeisters like Tony Orlando. Joe is always "the chairman of the board" - Frank Sinatra. And Jerry, the host, does Dean Martin. Every year he opens the show by coming out with a gigantic wine glass and he staggers across the stage and slurs into the microphone. Even my kids know the routine. It has become a pre-Thanksgiving tradition for us. Why, it wouldn't feel like the holidays if we didn't see Jerry Viviano pretending to be snockered and singing like Dino.

We go to this show every year because Roger plays in the band and gets us tickets. Besides the Viviano yuk-yuks, there is usually a ballroom dancing duo, a baton twirler (world class though, winner of international awards and really good), a juggler and fire-eater, a comedian, a troupe of swing-style dancers, a wise-cracking female barbershop quartet, an African-American guy doing Motown numbers and painfully lame comedy bits in-between numbers. Like two guys wheeling a dolly out onstage and then commencing to sing, "Hello Dolly."

Thank goodness it's all for charity and the show manages to raise a lot of money every year. They alternate where the proceeds go. To the Don Bosco Center one year, to Catholic Charities the next, and back and forth. This was a Catholic Charities year.

My favorite bit this year was a young guy who dressed, sang and danced like Michael Jackson in his "Billie Jean" days. He did the most amazing moonwalk across the stage.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Roving Librarians

Did you know there is such a thing as a "roving librarian"? They roam freely in search of patrons with pressing information needs. They are not tied to a reference desk, or even a library. They are librarians without borders. Be on the lookout. They are out there roving, right now. You never know when one might come up and ask you how your retrieval is going and if you need a need search strategy. Emboldened by wireless, handheld devices and remote access to online databases, these librarians have taken to the streets, and they may be headed your way.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Random Artifacts Of Autumn

Here is a yummy autumn snack to enjoy anytime. I made this up myself: Gut a pumpkin. Roast the pumpkin seeds, and toss with a generous amount of candy corn. It's a sweet and salty combo. A party for your mouth. A great source of quick energy for all those impromptu moonlit walks. After all, the moon has been so big and bright and bulging lately, who can resist its nightly call? I know I can't. I also can't resist our dog's nightly call of nature, which is the real reason I'm taking moonlit walks.

Autumn is thrift store season. When the leaves start falling, it’s time to hit those musty racks. Summer is not a good time to go, because when it’s hot and humid, it’s hard to face a bunch of ugly old clothes, hanging all limp and smelly. But when the weather cools off, that peculiar thrift store scent isn’t so noticeable and the sweaters seem worth digging through. When I was a freshman at KU my friend Rick and I hit the thrift stores and vintage clothing stores looking for Halloween costumes. Since then I've come to associate the crunching of dried leaves underfoot and chilly wind with the act of combing through used clothes in search of THE FIND. I learned that second-hand stores held all kinds of possibilities that went far beyond Halloween. Like vintage cardigans that were either cashmere or 100% lambswool. They always had quaint little tags sewn inside that dated them to the 50’s or 60’s.

When Roger and I cruised area thrift stores a few weeks ago for our pepperpot attire, I happened upon two delightful little cardigans that qualified as FINDS. One looks vintage, even though it’s not. It is light pink and soft to the touch, with pearly white buttons, and embellishments bordering the buttons and buttonholes that give it a retro look. I’m wearing it right now. It was $2.00. The other cardigan is not my color at all, a goldish greenish greenish gold, but I don’t care, because it has a nice nubby texture and thousands of little golden threads woven throughout the cloth. It is cozy as hell. Price tag: $2.00.

Well, lately my black boots have developed a gimpy heel, and so today I went back to the thrift store. I am squeamish about used shoes, but sometimes you get lucky. Today I got lucky. Found a pair of brown M. Patrick boots in really great shape, and they weren’t all gross inside, where your foot goes. I also found a pair of brown loafers that were in commendable form. The thrift store was having a 30% off sale (do thrift stores even NEED to have sales???) and so I picked up both pairs for $5.60! Left there feeling like high society, let me tell you.

I have done an amazing thing this fall. I've converted from coffee to drinking tea. Sure enough, giving up the bean has done the trick, and the effects of the acid are gone. And in the meantime, I have been learning how to become a tea drinker. There are things I didn't know. Like, you can't steep a tea bag in a huge coffee mug full of hot water. Unless you want your tea to taste like hot water. You have to watch the water level. I have sampled a wide variety of teas, and have learned that I like Earl Gray tea when I'm feeling delicate, and Lady Gray Tea when I'm feeling downright ethereal. Prince Wales tea is a good solid tea that is nice and grounded and yet very smooth, and not at all bitter. I haven't been able to get into Chinese Oolong tea, and though you're supposed to drink it with milk and sweetener, I prefer my tea "black." That way it stays piping hot. Once you start adding milk or cream, you have about 10 seconds to drink it before it's a watery, tepid mess. The key would be to heat the milk first, but who has time for that? The one time I do heat milk is when I attempt to make an economical version of the chai latte they serve in coffee shops, which I love so much. You heat up soy milk in the microwave, and wait until you see it bubbling up to the rim like it's about to spill over, and you stop it just in the nick of time. That way you get the milk good and frothy. Then you add not one, but two chai tea bags and let them steep. I use Celestial Seasonings' India Spice. Throw in some brown sugar for good measure, and you have a poor fascimile but at least you tried and you get some pleasure out of that. One really bizarre tea I've tried is called Lapsang Souchong. This is one weird tea. The tea leaves are smoked, and so the tea has a smoked flavor that is puzzling, and not really pleasant. I keep wondering if this tea will grow on me, but as of yet it's just strange and maybe even a little disturbing. I have found I really like African Rooibos Red tea. I didn't think I would --I thought it would have some earthy aftertaste, but instead it just has this nice depth that sort of reminds me of coffee! Snif. So when I'm missing coffee, I drink that. I like Darjeeling tea, but I have to be in the right mood. It's got a unique kind of grapey flavor and is good when eating something with a fruity filling.