February 25, 2013

Playing for Change.

Depending on the day of the week, time of the year or lead story of the mainstream media news parade, I admit to alternating between a died-in-the-wool idealism tempered with a no-holds-barred cynicism which leaves me,

Yet, I continue to hold dear my penchant for good old cock-eyed optimism and discover from time to time, miracles are still to be found. An interesting concept and idea is something called “Playing for Change.” Its genesis is simple: born out of the idea that we have to inspire each other to come together as a human race, why not try doing that in the most fundamental of ways — through the universal language of music.

Started years ago on the streets of Santa Monica, California, founder, Mark Johnson and his crew recorded a lone musician, Roger Ridley, singing “Stand By Me.” That simple recording spawned a journey throughout the world, through subways and streets, native Indian reservations, African villages, Himalayan Mountains and hamlets in the heart of Dublin. None of the musicians had ever met; it was the music that united them, that, and the belief that we can do more for this world by working together than apart.  A worthy ideal deserving of a few minutes of our time. 

apropos  ت

February 22, 2013

Good News.

“You just tell me the brand of whisky Grant drinks; 
I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”
- Abraham Lincoln, November 1863, to an adviser who complained of Grant's drinking habits.

Interesting news from one of my favorite places in the world.
Drinking Scotch can help the environment.

Well, maybe not exactly. Turns out that, two byproducts of the distilling process (pot ale and draff) can be used to produce a biofuel. And that biofuel can be used to power cars without even adapting the engines.

Here's the description from the UK Guardian article: 

"Scottish scientists develop whisky biofuel"

The new method developed by the team produces butanol, which gives 30% more power output than the traditional biofuel ethanol. It is based on a 100-year-old process that was originally developed to produce butanol and acetone by fermenting sugar. The team has adapted this to use whiskey by-products as a starting point and has filed for a patent to cover the new method. It plans to create a spin-out company to commercialise the invention.

This is sheer genius.  Eventually they will find a way to incorporate whisky into every single aspect of daily life. Including driving to work in the morning. So, people, do your part: Buy plenty of imported Scotch whisky to ensure these clever scientists have all the pot ale and draff they could possibly need in order to complete this important research.

February 18, 2013

“I am not young but I feel young. ...

Excuse me for interrupting you Coco, but you know how sometimes if you don’t say something while you’re thinking of it, you have lost it forever? 

I’m thinking that I have been with such wonderful young people always-whatever their age.  

I used to love to talk to an old friend who lived to be over ninety.  He would sit down, take my hand and say, “You and I are good friends and I’m not trying to think of your name because I won’t remember.”  

Dear Bill.  

I have a rough time remembering when my birthday is.  Age is totally boring and so many can’t get on with it. They’re haunted by aging, by getting old.  I think it’s because of this terrible retirement thing.  If you’re through with work, what do you do with yourself?

There was an excellent write-up in Interview in which Jeanne Moreau said:

“I shall die very young.”

“How young?” they asked her.

“I don’t know, maybe seventy, maybe eighty, maybe ninety.  But I shall be very young.”

. . . The day I feel old, I will go to bed and stay there. J'aime la vie! I feel that to live is a wonderful thing.” 
~Coco Chanel

I second that.

February 10, 2013

Helau, Alaaf, or Ahoi! …

... carne vale is sure to follow.

Großer Karneval (Grand Carnival) by Karl Hofer, 1928, Pinakothek der Moderne

Start sobbing now? 

Absolutely not!

In Germany faced with the less-than-inspiring prospect of a few wintry months, the German people console themselves with the bacchanalian revelries associated with Fasching, which in lands north of Bavaria, is called Karneval.  It starts on 11.11.11. (November 11, 11 minutes after 11 p.m.) and grants the speakers of the Fasching Guilds Narrenfreiheit (Jester's privilege the ability and right to speak and mock freely without being punished.) 

The entire affair peaks on Rosenmontag and Faschingsdienstag (the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday).  Traditionally, it’s the time to indulge your hedonistic tendencies before the onset of Lent, and some Germans take their annual holidays in order to do precisely that.  Many city pedestrian zones are overrun with normally sober citizens now glad in outrageous fancy dress for a gargantuan party. 

Ladies prowl with scissors snipping of men’s ties, doctors in hospitals have been known to make their ward visits on roller skates, and sober businessmen appear in red Bozo wigs and out sized plastic noses. And Fasching parades are plentiful.

So dust off you costume, grease your skates, and drop your inhibitions…

…for, there is a time for every purpose under heaven ... A time to laugh, a time to weep ... A time to dance, a time to mourn ...and a time to choose your Lenten penance.

But, comes Easter Sunday…

February 01, 2013

“Haw ar u?” asked the wizard.

“Grandma rolled her own cigarettes, her stockings, and her happy way of life…”
~Ted Peckham, Grandma Rolled Her Own

I spotted the book on the bookshelf and decided it was time for a re-read.  The inscription reads; “I’m sure you will be rolling your own” Ted Peckham, 1970.

It is always interesting to hear first-hand accounts from those charitable purveyors of tattle and tidbits who had the good fortune to secure a sought-after invitation.  What made them exceptional as guests were their acute observational skills, social dexterity, villainous wit, disarming candor and their gift for storytelling. History and high society is filled with some of the greatest galloping tattlers, like...

Upon arriving in Paris, many years ago, I found a message from Monina saying why didn’t we look up Ted Peckham at the Paris Ritz.  We called on Mr. Peckham in the lobby and found him to be tall and tanned with the even features of the pre-war leading man with bright blue eyes that didn’t miss a beat.  Mr. Peckham was full of smiles and radiated well being.

“I’ve seen so many people I know,” he said. “I just ran into Bobo Rockefeller.”  The blue eyes swept the lobby.

Even after finding so many over-the-top characters in Mona's life this one proofed to be top of the list.  Mona told us that Mr. Peckham ran an international escort service before the war.  “The escort had to be Tout-Paris or in the Almanach de Gotha or in the New York Social Register.  I was very snobbish,” Mr. Peckham said. 

Later he took up dress design and at the year of our meeting was designing jewellery.  

“I deal in anything that amuses me I’ve sold everything from yachts to Paulette Goddard’s garter belt even jewellery to Kenny Lane and a bracelet to Eva Gabor with a huge ugly lion’s head and a lot of bad diamonds very effective.” 

“Mona said I should tell you about the time I went to the Ritz Thrift Shop in New York and bought all the furs-yellow ermine, long capes with Joan Crawford shoulders.  A friend of mine gave me a free air-conditioned cabin on a freighter he owned and took my furs to Damascus and Lebanon.  Those I couldn’t sell privately I sold in the souks.  It was a huge success.”

Another specialty at the time of our meeting was his own version of the Tupperware party.  His Louis Vuitton luggage packed with jewels, he went to Texas, California and Florida and a few points in between.  “I never go to a town where I don’t know anybody,” he said.  “My friends give a ‘cocktail party’ I get a piece of black velvet and put jewellery on it.  That’s the hors d’oeuveres.  A woman who doesn’t bring her check book doesn’t get to eat.”

“I live by my wits, but honestly,” Mr. Peckham said.  “It takes imagination.  I’m sort of a cream puff with a concrete base.

I’ve been coming to this hotel since I was a boy.” The blue eyes closed briefly.  “The older I get, the smaller the room.  But I don’t care.  I meet such nice people in the elevator and lobby.”

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  “Sell any jewellery there?” I ask.  “No, the people are so conservative,” he said.  His mother was Frances Miles, a silent film and Follies star.  It was his mother who first brought him to Europe. 

“My mother knew a couple of Follies girls who’d married peers.  They’d pass names on to each other. I met Lady Mendl through one of them, and the escort service started in 1936 when I was eighteen.”

The escort service had branches in London, New York, Paris, Vienna and Budapest, and was managed by the Paris boulevardier Andre de Fouquieres. Mr. Peckham also furnished stag lines for New York deb parties (“I could get 200 men in two days”) and in London arranged for Americans to be presented at Court.
How?  Oh, I knew a lot of old duchesses,” was the cryptic reply.  “I didn’t know what I was doing-if I’d known I couldn’t have done it.  I didn’t know how lucky I was or who the people were.  I wish I’d kept an address book, now I keep them religiously.”

Mr. Peckham pulled out a green address book, the biggest I’ve seen since Rene showed me his.  “I have six of these,” he said. 

I’d been looking with some attention at Mr. Peckham’s shirt, unable to describe the color. “Cerise!” he said. “You are shocked, but I think it’s all right with a conservative suit” (his was a grey pinstripe). “I’ve been influenced by women all my life,” he said. 

As we started to shake hands to say good-bye, Mr. Peckham said, “I just had my fortune told by Countess Mary Tolstoy.”

How, we asked, is 1970 going to be?


“I knew it was going to be anyway,” Mr. Peckham added.  “I believe in magic.  You have to make your own, and I’m a wizard at it.”