January 27, 2012

A Jam Session

We here at this blog love a good trope almost as much as we love not being sick—but we’re only going to get one of those today, and it’s not the second one.

From an old letter column (December 1973) of the London Times (where else) who published a keen controversy the end of which, as of its writing, had still not jelled.
It seems that Sir Dingle Foot wrote an article praising, extolling, and glorifying the English breakfast. Alas, Sir Dingle Foot made a most serious error of omission. He went on and on without so much as a mention of English marmalade. One Reverend Edmund Haviland of Tonbridge caught him out at once and fired off a letter to The Times saying how could Sir Dingle Foot, or anyone, talk about the marvels of the English breakfast without a mention of English marmalade. With the letter from Reverend Haviland a really sticky situation developed, and the fact that it was Sir Dingle Foot who got himself in a jam has since been totally forgotten.
Reverend Haviland was immediately challenged by Peter Macdonald of Edinburgh who wrote: "Marmalade, like many other inventions which other nations have sought to appropriate, is of Scottish origin, since it took a canny Scot to see value in the peel that others threw away."
This caused Colin S. Dence of King's Lynn, Norfolk, to rise to the defence of dear old England: "...by what right does Peter Macdonald claim English marmalade to be Scottish? These are vital matters of national prestige and I put forward as my authority a certain Gervais Markham (1568-1637) who published a recipe for Marmalade of Oranges in, please note, his English Huswife. Scottish indeed!" Then John Orr of Marden, Kent, added pectin to the plot with this explanation: "... I have heard that it was derived from a confection prepared by the chef for Mary Queen of Scots when she was married to the Dauphin of France and was indisposed. The word marmalade is a corruption of the phrase Marie est malade."
Lady Antonia Fraser found Mr. Orr's legend appealing, but she felt the Oxford English Dictionary must surely be right in saying that marmalade is a derivation from the Portuguese marmelo in 1480. Mrs. Joan Richards went on to explain that the Portuguese claim came about because of a language problem during the Peninsular Wars when the Duke of Wellington wanted some Portuguese quince preserve (marmalada) but instead got Portuguese orange jam "which was henceforth known in England as marmalade."
This incited G.E. Trease of Devon to inform readers that "The Duke of Wellington was by no means the first Englishman to use marmalade. It is mentioned as 'marmaled' in the English translation of Renodaeus' Dispensatory, published in 1657 by the London apothecary Richard Tomlinson. An earlier reference is in the inventory of Thomas Baskerville, apothecary of Exeter, who died in 1596. This lists 'marmalade 11Ibs, 10 shillings.'"
It is, as the London Sunday Times summed up, "A marmalade cat fight." 

January 24, 2012

Midnight Riders.

   “A job?  But how would I make any money?” ~Hunter Thompson   

“Sneak" legislation has become Washington's most effective instrument of duplicity. To be specific, a "sneak" bill is an almost invisible addendum-no more than a few sentences long-tucked into an obscure part of some multibillion-dollar omnibus legislation. Although "sneak" bills have been around since Congress first began to pull the wool over our eyes, in the early nineteenth century, it has achieved a level of refinement with those embedded in the staggering multi trillion budget bill passed in the last gasp of 2011 (the enacted 2011 budget called for $2.314 trillion in receipts and $3.630 trillion in outlays, according to the September 1, 2011 Mid-Session Review) by the most lackluster Congress since the one Harry Truman ran against for reelection back in 1948.
Some of the not so long ago (1980’s) sleazier special-interest deals, and by 2011 standards just “chicken feet”, cut at the last minute that have come to light. In one, a Representative of Alabama, who took trips on an Army Corps of Engineers jet, managed to "sneak" into the budget a rider that blocked the sale of that aircraft, despite the fact that the Army Audit Agency had strongly recommended it. Then, there's the infamous "sneak" manipulated by a Senator, Democrat of Massachusetts, a man with a reputation for fixing matters-and for getting even. He folded in an almost invisible "billette" that the FCC must not bend its rules and permit a publisher virtually unlimited time to sell its newspaper and television interests in New York and Boston, including a rag that criticized him.
Admiring the striking success of these publicized "sneak" bills, I thought of a few deals I'd make-like passing immediate legislation to change the election process. Then I began to dream of what other "sneak" legislation I'd hatch if only I could.

An appropriation to the arts-amounting to, say, a paltry $1,000,000,000.
Every luxury hut- say, those costing over 10 million bucks- will be taxed 5 percent. Proceeds will go toward permanent housing for the homeless.
Vacations are to become tax deductible. The longer and more lavish they are, the bigger the deductions. 
A landing fee of $1,675,500,416 for every alien aircraft, which should prod the FAA to gear up its technology.
A defense budget equal to the square root of .000018 percent of the monthly dining bill of the ondehundred top lobbyists in the military-industrial complex.
A chicken in every microwave
An American car in every garage
The transfer to Nebraska of all federal funds allotted to New York until Wall   Street states (under oath) what really happened in 2008
Tax penalties up to 101 percent for every forthcoming politician or CEO who wishes to write his or her memoirs (especially those "as told to")
One trip to London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Dublin, Vienna, Zurich, Montreal, Melbourne, Hamilton, Moscow, Stockholm, or Mexico City per year    for each U.S. citizen. Free, on those Army Corps of Engineers jets. Round-trip.
Five years' mandatory military service to anybody in politics who gets caught either fibbing or with someone else (overnight) other than his or her spouse, which ought to take care of the draft-and the defense budget, too.
Rain only at night
Snow in designated areas
The wind at the back of every citizen
From now on, no "sneak" legislation will be allowed to pass without a thirty-day public airing

January 23, 2012

January 13, 2012

Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Fathers,

the inbred 'splendor' of the European aristocracy.

Remote from everything modern is to be found the picturesque country seat where the oldest scion of my father’s family has just celebrated a very advanced birthday.  She is an aunt of mine and if the last fifty years of her life have been spent in her retreat, so secluded from the world as to be almost forgotten, it is on account of her marriage, which created quite a scandal so long ago.

The story goes that Auntie had been traveling and was passionately fond of sailing, a form of sport in which she was an adept.  In one of her excursions her life was saved by the most wonderful presence of mind, muscular strength, and pluck of her guide who narrowly escaped being drowned.  He managed to drag her back into safety, though with the utmost difficulty, and at great personal risk. Auntie naturally was filled with sentiments of gratitude towards her savior, and, as he happened to be an extremely handsome man she determined to prove to him her gratitude by marrying him.  True, she was some twenty years his senior.  But she was a good looking woman.

Of course, there was a tremendous outcry on the part of the clan and all sorts of stories were circulated as to the origin of the romance. The head of the family eventually gave his consent to the marriage on the condition that she lived abroad with her husband, and thereupon conferred upon the latter, by way of a wedding present, the title of Baron.

The union turned out to be a happy one.  They bought a house abroad and the couple lived there until the Baron died.  Since then his widow has never left the estate. She lives there all year round, greatly loved by her neighbors on account of her boundless charity, her gentle, unaffected manner, and of that gracious consideration for the feelings of others, which, alas!, belongs to another generation.  Her relatives, however, visit her every year, paying their respects to the heroine of a glorious romance. 

Aunties Ahnenreihe is a gem of inbreeding.  Her ancestry is a tightly woven web of intermarriage to the ninth degree.  Of the first ten generations out of a total of 300 possible ancestors, Auntie has only about five ancestors that appear once in her family tree, leaving a total of 295 ancestors repeated more than once in the first ten generations. 

Is it a wonder then, . . . I see white rabbits every day . . . and they always ask what time it is . . . dream time dearest . . . its always dream time . . .

January 09, 2012

short days, long nights, random thoughts

According to Aristotle, the stairway represented the divine order of the universe.  In their metaphysical ambition to link heaven and earth, the early Mesopotamians melded the stairway and the spiral when they created their legendary ziggurat.

The double helix staircase at Chateau de Chambord, its design attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, is a puzzle (how can you see another person on the stairs but not meet them face to face?).

When I first saw the Jantar Mantar with its seemingly random placement of stone stairways the observatory looked like a collection of movable gateways waiting for the planes to land.  It looked surreal, rather than what it was, the embodiment of scientifically calculated star-watching posts in fact, stairways to the stars.

Clerics and all manner of royal personages have deployed stairways in grandiose ceremonies and buildings. 

Aspects of worship or pilgrimage are often associated with climbing.

A stairway implies the magic and mystery of the transitory, the idea of ascending toward the invisible with all its attendant symbolism. 
A spiral or helix stairway could be energy frozen in time and space, like freezing water.

This beautiful spiral mahogany staircase was located in the Rose Inn, a B & B just north of Ithaca, New York. A fire in 2004 destroyed the staircase and the section of the Inn which housed it. Unfortunately it will not be rebuilt.

A neglected stairway is a melancholy sight even the light seems to be in retreat.  A grand staircase at Parc de Sceaux near Paris, as photographed by Andre Kertesz, is the image of desertion. 

No footsteps have disturbed the wind-blown leaves from their resting places, no broom or rake has tidied them.  A stairway, and a grand one at that, it commands respect for human ingenuity as it reminds us of the flux at the heart of existence.

January 06, 2012

Twelfth Night

(The Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th until the morning of January 6th, which is the Twelfth Day. In following this older custom of counting the days beginning at sundown, the evening of January 5th is the Twelfth Night.)
Epiphany (from the ancient Greek πιφάνεια, epiphaneia, "manifestation, striking appearance") the realization or comprehension of the larger essence or meaning of something.)

Every year tens of thousands of children and young adults die in car accidents.  And everywhere grieving parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, godparents and friends are left behind.  Every day these children are remembered by their families.  But once a year, around the world, we do not only remember our own, but all the children. On the second Sunday in December, at 7:00 P.M. we place a light in our windows. As the lights are extinguished in one time zone, they are lit in another so that a lightwave is created in these 24 hours around the world.  Every light in a window was a child that illuminated life.

Slow down you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be
Before your time...

for Mercedes