About Me

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New Jersey, United States

Friday, March 24, 2017

Words That Can Haunt Me, Part 14: Supercilious

supercilious: haughtily disdainful as a person, or in expression or bearing. Synonyms: arrogant, scornful.

When describing my reading preferences - and some who love me may say at other times as well -  supercilious is probably an accurate description of my demeanor. I'm more measured here because it's easy to edit my impulses while typing and I long ago made a commitment to not bash authors on my blog.   

Now, were I more careful when speaking aloud about authors, supercilious might haunt me less. But aside from many years of the mouth moving before the brain has fully engaged - and I make no excuses for that bad behavior - the volume of my reading in the post full time work years has also tripled, at least. And, over these past seven years, I've met some very discerning fellow readers who often share my disdain for cheap sentiment, clunky metaphors, and speeches given by characters to ensure an author's MESSAGE is unmistakable. I realize what is melodrama to you may be moving to me and vice versa. But being spoon fed by an author to "feel" something reminds me of the intrusive violins used in some films. Under those circumstances, I want to tell that author or filmmaker, "Let me figure out what I think or feel, will you please?"

p.s. I started with snob as the 14th haunting word for this series. But, the dictionary definitions for that simpler word didn't fit me as well as supercilious. The fancy-schmancy word will make the word snobs happier anyway. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Almost Halfway Round The Globe

Over the six year duration of our "Eat The World" project, we've now sampled the cuisine of eighty seven independent nations. What recent eating experience took you to a foreign land? What did you eat? Would you return for more of whatever you had?

At our current rate - we're almost halfway round the globe now - the project could be completed by 2026, especially with the help we've been getting lately from the friends who have become frequent fellow food travelers. Regular readers will not be surprised to learn how quickly I was able to provide a list of countries not yet tasted to a few of those friends who want to host a dinner for us to keep the project humming. You want a list? That's like to asking me to recommend a good recording or book or film. Be careful what you ask for.

The last country we "visited" was Georgia - Western Asia, not US South version - via a restaurant called Old Tbilisi in NYC. At this point, unless Google searches have let me down, we've largely exhausted the local eating out possibilities. But, El Salvador is in our near future on a visit to DC in April and I'm hoping an eating adventure or two awaits us on vacations later this year. Until then, I've got my sous chef apron and knives ready to go and my ears open waiting for your suggestions. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

They're Dead Anyway

In which of the tiers below would you place each US President who has served in your lifetime? Try to recall the overall condition the country was in when the person first took office vs. the day that same person left the White House before placing them. And to help minimize online sniping, leave out the five living ex-Presidents - i.e. Carter, Bush I & II, Clinton & Obama, OK? Sorry to my daughter and her cohort; I know leaving out the last four Chief Executives leaves you with no one to place. 

Tier 1 is reserved for the historically venerated, like the four on Mt. Rushmore and anyone you'd add to that monument. Among the now dead Presidents who served during my lifetime, I place no one in that tier.

Tier 2 would be the middling group, i.e. the bell curve Presidents. Historically, I think here of John Quincy Adams, James Polk, Calvin Coolidge. For my money, all of the dead Presidents who have served during my lifetime reside in that middle muddle, except Gerald Ford. For the record, that group includes Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, & Reagan.

Tier 3 is for the real losers. In this dismal historical company, dullards like Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, and Warren G. Harding come to mind. I know at least one of my sisters will be unhappy I don't place Nixon in this pack (she might also be surprised I didn't elevate JFK to Tier 1) but all things considered, I'll stand by my placement of both of them in Tier 2. 

Tier 4 is the limbo group, i.e. Presidents who either had no chance for history to assess them because they died too soon - William Henry Harrison & James Garfield - or ... they were never elected but ended up a President anyway. Gerald Ford lies alone among the dead Presidents of my lifetime in this weird group.

Even though this Presidential scholar did not provide a rationale for the placement of his seven dead guys, if you comment here and put at least a few of your dead guys in tiers (who does this hurt?), I'll share my perverse logic with you. Deal? 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

What's Next, Erik?

Each time I finish a book by Erik Larson, my first thought is "What will he write about next?" Which non-fiction authors captivate you like that?

"Dead Wake: The Last Crossing Of The Lusitania" (2015) - like all of Larson's books I've read - is compelling first page to last. This author's narrative gift is so strong that even though I knew how the story would end, I was never out of its grip. The telling details Larson chose from the mountain of books cited in his bibliography were - as always - nearly perfect. For example, early in the account he describes two young girls who ask - on day two of the fateful seven day journey - if they can help a seaman paint the underside of one of the lifeboats. Then, after the Lusitania goes down, Larson returns to one of the girls - fifteen year old Gwendolyn Allan -  as her lifeless body is brought onto a rescue vessel. Of the 1198 casualties, the bodies of more than 600 people - unlike Gwendolyn's - were never recovered.

Two revered historical figures - Winston Churchill, First Lord Of Great Britain's Admiralty at forty years old, and Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. President in 1915 - don't shine brightly in Larson's book.   Among numerous missteps the author cites, the most galling for me was Wilson's insensitive chirping to his soon-to-be second wife: "I have just put the final touches on our note to Germany and now turn - with what joy! - to talk to you. I am sure you have been by my side all evening for a strange sense of peace and love has been on me as I worked." The note Wilson was referring to - the preface for the mush to his future bride - was itself a mild rebuke to Germany. Considering 123 American lives had just been lost four days before, Wilson's tone deafness here is staggering. And bad as that is, some of Churchill's political shenanigans at the time were more reprehensible.

For those of you who have read "Dead Wake", let's talk, OK? If you haven't, put this one on your list. You won't be sorry.      

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Six Word Memoir

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

The above is what has been termed "flash fiction", a novel in six words. Though I'd always heard this particular example attributed to Ernest Hemingway - a master of concise fiction - Wikipedia claims there is some dispute about that. No matter, I'm using it only as the jumping off point for today's bell curve mission.

How would your memoir read if you only had six words to tell it? Based on years of history, I'm confident no responses will materialize - online or off - unless I go first so, my first cut concludes this post. Who doesn't have time to read just six words, right? So, publish your memoir as a comment if you're so inclined; I think others will be intrigued by your attempt to tell your story, or at least by your brevity. But, at minimum, share your six words with me in some fashion. I am interested.

Stable start, eclectic "career", still searching.       

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Ides Have It

Those who read my post on the Ides of February may remember the pledge I made that day to use the ides of each subsequent month in 2017 in a kind and gentle fashion. So, what positive energy are you ready to release into the world to help offset the mayhem that Brutus et al unleashed on March 15 all those years ago?

* You've never bought a coffee for the next person in line at WAWA? Why not? Cheaper than Starbucks and to my taste, better coffee.

* A few people liked my idea from 2/13 of using a magic marker to write something affirming on a banana for anyone in your home who happens to read it. After making the initial suggestion, I learned an onion works just as well as a message board. Doing this on a supermarket banana or onion just ups the ante.  

* Ask for sarsaparilla at your favorite bar. 

Let me know how it goes if you try any of the thirty three ides ideas I make here in 2017. And, if you contribute any ideas online - unless it will get me arrested - I promise I'll try at least one and report back. See you on April 13.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Six Years

What have you discovered about yourself over the past six years?

With tomorrow marking the six year anniversary of my first published blog post, I've recently been more introspective than usual. And despite my occasional disappointment, hurling reflections, posing questions, and fielding comments here since March 15, 2011 has been a net positive for me.

Most significantly, I've discovered public writing juices all my other creative impulses and keeps me attuned to how easily cliché can sneak into any creative endeavor. Even on days when all I write are these few brief paragraphs, if I'm not vigilant, hackneyed phrases or tired combinations of words can help suck the freshness out of a short post.    

I've also learned things about some of you and benefited from your supportive and critical feedback. Thanks for that.