Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Blog is Dead/Long Live the Blog

I have moved my blog to a new address:

from now on, go to

It will be better, I promise.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Highlights of Our Recent Trip to Michigan (20 cents)


1. The restaurant in Greektown which, in spite of its menu, had no fish tonight. At all.

2. The suite at the Athenian Plaza Hotel, a converted warehouse, with frosted glass doors into the hallway, so you can see the outlines of people inside, with frosted glass doors between the bathtub and the sleeping area with the same results, where the living room (ha!) and the sleeping room are separating by four steps, which are unlit at the top, and with the bathroom on the upper level and the bedroom on the lower, where there are gigantic round pillars in the middle of both rooms (just sitting there)and where $20 can get you valet parking, which means that they take your car right across the street to an $8 lot.

3. My cousin's very nice four bedroom coop in a highrise building, with glass walls on two sides and views of the U.S. and Canada, which she hopes to be able to sell for $125,000. (that's about what a parking space costs here)

Bay City, Michigan

1. The omelets at the omelet shop which look so much better on the menu than on the plate.

2. The Bay City Antique Center, which has about 400,000,000,000 things for sale, not one of which you would want in your house.

The Traverse City, Michigan Area.

1. Where the Bluebird Restaurant in Leland serves most things "in the Bluebird style" (which appears to be some sort of fried), but has on the menu whitefish which can be either broiled or served in the Bluebird style. When I asked the waitress how it was broiled, she said that "it is really good in the Bluebird style, and that is what we are known for." But I said, well, I really just want it broiled. And that is how I got it and it was very, very good, and I told her so, that she should not be afraid to recommend it that way. And she answered: "we are known here for the Bluebird style and if I recommended it broiled, I might lose my job". I told her I would not like to see that happen.

2. How about the amorous couple in room 17, who kept everyone else awake at night?
(No one we knew, I am happy to say)

3. Where we had lunch at the old asylum (now being converted into any number of things) and discovered that the food wasn't any better now than it was when the hospital was in full swing.

4. Where in northern Michigan, the calendar said October, and the thermometer July.

5. Where our restaurant on Torch Lake couldn't serve us because they had a complete power failure, but we were served in the same owner's restaurant near Traverse City, which had the effect of saving us about 50 miles round trip.

6. Where my one friend gets up to go swimming every morning at 5:45, and another is an expert on wine, but never touches the stuff.

7. Where the Tapawingo restaurant was told that they could choose our pre-meal appetizers and decided on rabbit pate and fois gras.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Athol Fugard and Joseph Conrad (one cent)

Not a likely combination, but having seen Fugard's riveting play "My Children, My Africa" last night at the Studio, I need to draw the comparison.

In "Under Western Eyes", we saw Mazurov, trying to remain an innocent, caught in a situation where the revolutionaries thought he was a revolutionary, and the conservatives thought him a conservative. And each had power to keep him in line. A dictatorial government and an increasingly monolithic revolutionary movement.

"My Children, My Africa" takes place in South Africa in the 1980s, when apartheid was still the law of the land, but where chinks in its armor began to appear on all sides. The blacks became more prone to dissent and rebellion, and some of the whites more open to reconciliation. It is in this situation that young, attractive, charismatic, intellectual Thami Mbikwana finds himself caught in the middle. A high schooler with academic skills who could easily be a bridge to an integrated society, who loves English poetry, who gets along with a white debate partner (an unusual circumstance to be sure) enters into a revolt against every thing white, and tear down the entire society that has affected his race so badly.

Does he want to? Or is community forcing him to? Does he have no choice? Or has he made a choice?

In many ways, the situations are not very different in that the central character is an individual whose freedom is circumscribed by circumstance.

Both the book and the play are quite heavy (the play is better written). Oh, for the days of Red Skelton's "Confederate Yankee", a delightful old comedy about a hapless individual who is recruited by both sides during the civil war and who, because of his general befuddlement, comes through unscathed.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Under Western Eyes (35 cents)

It is St. Petersburg, 1911. You are living in the last decade of the Romanov dynasty. But of course you don't know that. You just know that the monarchy is in trouble, and the country is filled with revolutionary thought (and occasionally revolutionary activity). People are imprisoned for no reason whatsoever.

You are a young man, a student. You are very worried, because you do not know what the future will bring.

You are determined to ignore the political and social unrest. You study. You want to be an engineer. You go to class, you stay in your room. You have no friends.

A minister is killed in a well planned ambush. There is a knock on your door. A fellow student. He is sweating. He tells you he is the assassin. That a new Russia is just around the corner. You are panicked.

Why has he come to you? Because you are the last person the authorities would suspect.

What do you do? Do you help your fellow student? Do you turn him in?

Mazurov tries the former, and winds up doing the latter. That's when the trouble starts.

The assassin is captured and killed. Mazurov convinces the authorities that he has never been a rebel. But the revolutionaries learn that their cohort went to Mazurov for help and that therefore he must be one of them. And a very important one.

So the authorities decide that Mazurov is to be a spy. No choice. And they send him into the heart of the Russian revolutionary community in Switzerland, where he meets, among others, the mother and sister of the murdered murderer.

This is the basis of the plot of Under Western Eyes, by Joseph Conrad. A wordy book, sometimes hard to get through. But with an intriguing central character, who is caught in web after web, simply because he tried to stay neutral.

There is a lesson here. Maybe.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Yriarte's Venice (1 cent)

Charles Yriarte was a 19th century French author, who devoted much of his life to travel and to writing of his travels. In the 1870s, he wrote a book on Venice, which was published in English just before the turn of the century. I found a beautiful copy and bought it and, much to my surprise, read it.

I learned quite a bit, although the book presupposed more knowledge of Venetian history than I had (my friends at Wikipedia helped me along). The book told of the origins of Venice (during the last days of the Roman empire, future Venetians escaped their pursuers and wound up on a series of islands off the Adriatic coast), how they built the city off-shore, of their need to defend themselves and consequently to develop ocean going expertise. The growth of trade. The independent kingdom. Its expansion on both sides of the Adriatic. Its assistance during the crusades; its rivalry with Constantinople. The effect of the fall of Constantinople to the Turks - a trading partner was gone. The end of independence with the coming of Napolean, the Austrian rule after the Napoleonic Wars, and finally the unity of Italy.

And the architecture (mixture of east and west), the churches (in what was not a very religious city), art, lace making, the publishing industry.

A very nice introduction (albeit too detailed for common man) to a unique place.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

and don't forget morris louis

The Photos to go with the weekly diary

A Problem?

When I started keeping my log for the week, I saved, but did not publish, and edited a number of times before publishing today. But then I found out that the publication date is not today's date, but is the date of my first entry. So you have to scroll down a couple of postings.

Also, I could not figure out to carefully put photos on this type of blog, so I gave up.

News You Can't Use

From our July driving trip:

The seedless black raspberry jam from Das Jam Shoppe (talk about a weird name for a shoppe) in Fairview MO. is top quality, although I don't exactly know why as a company motto, they site Job 26:7 "He hangeth the world upon nothing."

On the other hand, the wild elderberry jelly from P.J. Enterprise of Batesville, Arkansas is too tart.

Friday, September 28, 2007

See Post Below on Michael Mukasey Before Reading This One. Then Proceed

Ran into another friend today. He went to college with Justice Anthony Kennedy. Says no one remembers him either.

There is a pattern here.

No Dry Cleaner Left Behind, and Why I Go to Cosi

So, I go into Zips this morning to pick up my dry cleaning and laundry. Zips charges $1.85 per item. But there is a poster on the wall saying that they will charge teachers only $1.50 per item. It's a special deal.

The Sign says "For Teacher's
$1.50 per item"

What is this country coming two?

So, I go into Naan and Beyond, our corner Indian carryout for lunch, and order a Caesar salad (I know, not very Indian) with tandoori lamb. The salad is acceptable. The lamb tastes like a fully grown sheep slaughtered about three years ago.

Want to exercise your jaw? Go to Naan and Beyond. Otherwise, stick with Cosi.

Istanbul Was Constantinople, Now It's Istanbul, Not Constantinople

I have remarked before how the New York Times uses the terms Myanmar and Yangon, while the Washington Post uses the older terms Burma and Rangoon. Today's Washington Examiner (which uses Myanmar and Yangon) contains a box explaining when the country's name was changed, and how some people identify the name with the current regime and refuse to use it). Today's Post and Times both contain headlines on the first page, using Burma and Myanmar respectively, as you would expect.

But - can you believe this? - the Post's Express edition has a headline using Myanmar.