31.8.04

Notable Quotes

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and he will sit in the boat and drink beer all day.”
(for other variations, go here, here and here)

29.8.04

A trip down memory lane

Yesterday I blogged about my visit to the Dutchess County fair. One of the fun things to do at a county fair is to forget your age and cholesterol level and just enjoy (forgetting the sunscreen is not, however, an option).

Since it was so hot and since it's a carny, why not have a Sno Cone? I'll tell you why not: sometimes they don't come in a paper cone. This is sacrilege akin to the Great Cotton Candy Loss (more on that in a second). No one gets a sno cone for the great taste. It's the eating of the ice with the bug juice syrup dripping down to a slushy mess in the bottom. Having a plastic cone with a rim and a straw just is not the sno cone experience.

Cotton candy, for those of you who haven't been to a fair or sporting event recently, no longer comes on a paper cone. It's in a plastic bag. Why is this disturbing? Part of the fun of cotton candy is the mess: it melts on your face, in your hair and on your hands. People around you are in danger of sticky sugar residue on their clothes. A bag of cotton candy you can save, eat neatly and not worry about others? Un-American!

Friday I spoke with my father, who as a child summered in Long Beach (NY). Friends of his family ran a concession shop and he worked there. When I was a child, we'd go spend part of the summer with my grandparents and a visit to the concession stand was a must. Daddy would slip behind the counter and make me a cotton candy cone. It was magical.

Now that magic is gone from the carny. I did find properly coned sno cones and cotton candy at the circus. Probably by the time you read this, that'll have changed, too.

28.8.04

An almost perfect day

Today I took the bus from NYC to Kingston, where a friend picked me up. We then headed for the Dutchess County fair. One of the hottest, sunniest days this summer, I slathered on Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, SPF 30 (before I left home I applied Shiseido's SPF 55 foundation) and off we went.

First stop: the beer garden for a quick bite and a glance at the map; we were entertained by Pal the Wonder Dog. I then made the mistake of seeing the same women at the Guess My Weight/Age booth that I'd fooled last year; this year she was right on the money. Now, of course, being the obsessive person I am, I'm worried that I really do look my age! And, sadly, it led to an impulsive eating binge (fried dough with powdered sugar). We ate that as we wended our way towards the 4H tent. We had been looking forward to the DC K-9 corps demonstration, but the cattle parade was running a little long.

If you've never seen a cattle parade, basically a bunch of kids walk around leading a cow. It's broken down by age (of child, not of cow) and judged on how well they handle the animal. To ensure fairness, the children swap cows once they're in the ring and have to walk a little with the new cow. All the participants got a ribbon, but there were Blue, Red and Yellow ribbons given to the three best; they were also invited to Sunday's finals.

Then it was time to look through the livestock pens. We'd just missed the sheep shearing, and the sheep were certainly shorn! Some of the sheep, apparently the Tunis breed, were wrapped in what could only be called sheep burquas. How appropriate.

The announcer at the cattle parade kept plugging what she claimed were the best milkshakes, all made with fresh milk. I have to admit, my vanilla was very yummy. I'm not a huge fan of milk (or milkshakes or ice cream) but I'd definitely go back for seconds. If you ever get a chance to have a real one, freshly made with fresh ingredients do not pass it up. Your taste buds will thank you.

More wandering, including a walk through the old machinery exhibit (including a corn sheller and a blacksmith, some fruit lemonade, and then it was time for the cattle costume contest. Apparently previous days had held a horse, rabbit and pig costume contests; today, it was the cows turn. The announcer wanted people not from the area as judges and so, much to my chagrin, I was nominated. My co-judges were also from NYC, but they'd never been to the fair before. Four entries walked in a circle: a little girl in nurse's scrubs with a bandaged cow, an older girl wearing a boa and a brightly colored Mardi Gras painted cow, a minor parade of four people announcing a race between Butterscotch and Wilma (in homage to the Olympics), and a girl dressed as Paul Bunyon with trusty Babe the Blue ox. According to the organizers, the nurse and the Mardi Gras were in classes of one, so they automatically got the blue ribbon. Our choice was between the racers and Babe. No contest: Babe won. Had we been given the choice of all four, however, it would have been the nurse, then Babe, then the Olympics.

Next stop: the crafts pavilion. This is where things like Rawcliffe Fantasy figurines compete with the amazing 22' ladder and the computerized personality reader for your attention. This is right next to the carny side of the DC Fair, and we wandered through the rides and games to the bumper cars.

There's something very wonderful about bumper cars: all your bad driving instincts take over, you can get your aggressions out, and you see everyone smiling. There were two parents with little kids and we all took care to almost, but not quite, bump them. Several times one father said thanks - the kid clearly loved the almost danger.

Then it was on to the grandstand for a few moments with Ms. Cuchi-cuchi herself, Charo. The only thing that could top that was a family of jugglers. Ok, a Daddy juggler/unicyclist and an 8-year-old juggler/unicyclist (aka "Daddy's retirement plan"). Finally, we saw Hilby, the skinny German juggle boy.

Time for the traditional "leaving the fair candy apple" and back home.

Here's a summer's end assignment: Take the time to visit your local county fair, fireman's field days or state fair. Revel in the smells and sounds. Get gypped out of a toy at the carny. Eat fried dough and takeaway sundaes and curly fried. Enjoy. Repeat next year.

26.8.04

Essential Tracks

Terry Teachout's co-blogger, OGIC, on About Last Night was on vacation recently and was able to listen to CBC's Radio One, which is exploring five essential tracks from each decade in the 20th century. Here's the list from the 80's:

1. 'Billie Jean' [Michael Jackson]
2. 'With or Without You' [U2]
3. 'Message' [Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five]
4. 'Fight the Power' [Public Enemy]
5. In a tie, 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' [Joy Division] and 'When Doves Cry' [Prince]

The runners-up were Eddy Grant's 'Electric Avenue' and 'Hungry Like the Wolf' by Duran Duran."


While I'm not sure that I agree with the above, I'm hard put to come up with alternatives (at least, right now, off the top of my head - give me a little while and I'm sure I could). "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles, perhaps, because it was prescient.

Read what OGIC says and create your own essential list.

24.8.04

And now, representing the US in the short story dash...

Not quite Olympic literary gold " Last week we mentioned that literature used to be an Olympic event until 1948... See the full list of winners here -- though you figure if they were trying to really be Olympic they would have at least awarded medals, not just cash."

I can see future events: the Complete OED lift, synchronized reading, and the ever-popular team penmanship competition.

22.8.04

I wonder what the onlookers did...

Thieves Grab ´The Scream´ From Museum: "Armed, masked thieves burst into a lightly guarded Oslo museum Sunday and snatched the Edvard Munch masterpiece 'The Scream' and a second Munch painting from the walls as stunned visitors watched in shock."

This is the second time I remember that painting being stolen. You'd think that by now "lightly guarded" would have changed.

Notable Quotes

Seasonal musings
"Of course it does. Everywhere has seasons. You just have to know where to look for them."

Delightful images formed in her mind and she smiled. She saw the seasons hiding: spring behind a tree, winter in the attic, summer in the shrubbery...

She found it interesting that there were publishing seasons. Spring, summer, fall, winter. She would sit on one of the benches that lined the platform and make whimsical guesses at what each "season" produced. Would autumn be ushered in with leaves of books drifting down to carpet the ground? Would winter produce snowballed books lying forgotten in high drifts, or bestsellers that readers could throw at each other and watch the splatter and disintegrate? Would spring come in with tiny new books sprouting from bookshelves like rows of beans?
The Train Now Departing, Martha Grimes

19.8.04

Get your cuddle on!

"A new kind of party is bringing together lost souls, writes Sarah Baxter in The Sunday Times of London. "At a cuddle party, you are invited to stroke a stranger clad only in your pyjamas. There are strict rules: no alcohol, no nudity and emphatically, no 'dry humping'. Partygoers must ask permission to touch each other and have the right to refuse. The parties last three hours and guests are welcome to exchange phone numbers and hook up with each other afterwards. The phenomenon is spreading from New York to California, has popped up in Canada and is set to invade Britain, according to its inventor, Reid Mihalko" (from the Toronto Globe and Mail)

17.8.04

This is wrong on so many levels

Death by Popcorn: "A family night at the movies became every parent's worst nightmare when a toddler choked to death on popcorn after repeated efforts by his frantic folks to save him, Nassau police said yesterday... It was supposed to be a celebratory day for the Queens Village family after the boy's dad, Eddie Riley Sr., 36, got a security job after being unemployed for months."
It's a terrible tragedy, but with a little parental thought and responsibility it could have been avoided.

1. Do not take a three-year-old to a movie. If you want to have a "family night", choose something more appropriate, like dinner at a restaurant. A child that age cannot sit still for the length of the movie, so why subject your fellow moviegoers to the noise and disruption? You also can't adequately supervise children when you're engrossed in a spectacle.

2. If you must take a toddler to a movie, don't make it an R-rated one. Save that for when you have a babysitter. It's rated R for a reason and even though technically you're doing the right thing (the children under 17 are with a parent or guardian) it's just wrong.

3. If there's no way you're going to follow 1 or 2, at least make it something other than Alien v. Predator.

16.8.04

I just can't help it

I promised myself I wouldn't rant about the Olympics. But, well, I just can't help it.

First, let's stop pretending that these people are amateurs. Venus Williams? The NBA gang? Please. Amateurs are the Jamaican bobsled team.

Second, I'm glad the men's basketball team got spanked by Puerto Rico. Why? Because they epitomize what's wrong with the NBA. It's not a team sport any more, it's a group of individuals who just happen to wear the same uniform. (heresy alert) Michael Jordan was one of the worst things to happen to professional basketball. He may have been a very skilled player, but he was a one-man team. The other four just let him do whatever he wanted, and officials became blinded to his constant walking. Instead of learning how to play, everyone wanted to "be like Mike". And this (login required) is the result.

Third, while I understand the tricky political situation that leads to Taiwan being called Chinese Taipei, exactly why do Puerto Rico and Hong Kong have teams at the Olympics?

Fourth, can the commentators just please shut up?

Fifth, who cares if Phelps does or doesn't tie Mark Spitz' record? Spitz competed during a particularly harrowing moment in history and did an amazing job for someone who's life was potentially in danger. Phelps v. the Thorpedo? Yawn. At least there's a real competition there, unlike when America's Sweetheart (Mary Lou Retton) was supposed to have been the best of the best. Exactly how we've arrived at that conclusion is beyond me. The people that could have (would have) challenged her weren't there.

I feel better now.

Time flies

It used to be that summer dragged on, a seemingly endless stretch of time. It didn't belong to anything; it was an interregnum between years. As I got older and moved into the working world, summer was a miserable time to be endured. Who wanted to wear suits and "grown up" clothes in all the heat and humidity that is summer in New York?

Fall would announce itself slowly. The first clue was the appearance of Concord grapes at the supermarket. Then, a few weeks later, pomegranates would take the place of plums or nectarines on the grocery shelves.

When I became a school librarian, the summer seemed shorter than I'd remembered but the clues that school, and fall, were here remained the same.

Until today. There, at my local supermarket, were pomegranates and Concord grapes. I couldn't resist, even though it shortens my summer just that little bit more.

Still cooking

Yet another is the culinary image: take Tobias Smollett, stew him in his own juice, reduce, mix in some finely chopped Poe, season with Patti Smith and serve with late Henry James.
This is from Tom Payne's article Circle of Cliches. He goes on to list many of the words we read in book reviews and book blurbs, many of which only appear in those places.

I read a book blurb last summer that stated that the book was "an Oscar-worthy wonder, starring a cast easy to care about and impossible to forget." Sadly, that line was the only unforgettable thing about the book.

14.8.04

From my e-mail inbox

bedfast matroidblandish commerce constantineconcubine cramp ebullientschedule ornately skullcapante mall telepathyares actinide strategistdifluoride kay grenadedefunct scallop dragonflythirst phd can'tmach atmospheric beneathmort upriver altermanerwin academy binchanson astray mannadrawl antietam martinicomponent delightful quellsarcasm lodowick jeffreybearberry bony autocorrelateshriek stealth napkindrowse thebes togetherbarge bluegrass alwayhitch reverend trefoilswordplay bile diplomatfleshy berate zoomboyfriend allen laocoonrousseau debenture pavannebagpipe mellow hookteratology antisemitic releasabletriangle ciliate mangelerudite gaucherie inauguralthey'd bemuse electrophoresissockeye suitcase effloresceindispose dervish preachybruit sport clamberalkali barrel intervalastound someplace conspireaugusta cheetah propensityriordan classic babelbremsstrahlung utter pierendogamy

I particularly like "ebullientschedule" and "pavannebagpipe".

10.8.04

Notable quotes

There are one-storey intellects, two-storey intellects and three storey intellects with skylights. All fact-collectors who have no aim beyond their facts are one-storey men. Two-storey men compare, reason, generalize, using the labour of the fact-collectors as their own. Three storey men idealize, imagine, predict–their best illumination comes from the above through the skylight.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Yummy reading

Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World by Gina Mallett (thanks to Jessa for the heads-up). This sounds as though it's going to be as good a read as Julian Barnes' The Pedant in the Kitchen (not available in the US for some obscure reason).

The first book I read that was about cooking and a delicious read was Susan Branch's Vineyard Seasons. It's pretty to look at, while the Barnes book is funny and gives you a new appreciation for the art of cooking. I can't wait to read the Mallett!

7.8.04

Who has time to re-read?

Study cites most re-read books:According to a study by the American Library Association, “The Color Purple” ranks among the fiction most commonly re-read. Others include the Harry Potter books, the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and Shakespeare’s plays...Also cited by the committee: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie,” Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh.”

If I can ever get through what's on Mount Bookpile, I'd love to re-read some of these. Until then, I guess I'll just have to keep discovering new books. (link via LISNews.com)

2.8.04

First grammar, then memorization. What next?

In Defense of Memorization: If there’s one thing progressive educators don’t like it’s rote learning. As a result, we now have several generations of Americans who’ve never memorized much of anything. Even highly educated people in their thirties and forties are often unable to recite half a dozen lines of classic poetry or prose.
There are few things that I agree with in terms of constructavist learning. Alan November and the Sudbury Valley model may work well once students have a good grounding in the basics. But not before.

The goal of education shouldn't be to cram young minds full of useless stuff. Nor should it be to let students follow their bliss in learning. A balance needs to be found, where students are excited by learning but they also manage to learn fundamental skills. Rote memorization may be passe, but it certainly aids the ability to remember and recall, a skill everyone should master.

No thx. LOL.

Prof says teens' grammar shortcuts OK on blogs, e-mail

The problem that this professor sees is that teens aren't writing - so, in her mind, any writing is good. However (and I speak from experience), her comment, "Grammar is easier to teach in school than critical thinking or the love of writing, and if they can enter school with the latter two of the three, they are ahead of the game" is simply misguided.

Why? Because many English teachers are not teaching grammar. Because the time at which students should be learning this stuff is not when they go to college, but when they're in grammar school. Because there's a difference between blog/e-mail/SMS and real writing and students shouldn't be told that one equals the other. (link via Librarians Happen).