Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tuesday Already? Have I Got a Book For You

All of y'all probably already knew this but since I just found it in the catacombs over at Geopolitical Review, I'm going to share...just in case anyone missed it.

The thing to remember about this is the date of the news report: June, 2004. A year and a half ago. After 9/11 of course, but before all those "youths" became arsonists and set France's pants cars on fire.

Back then, in 2004, Brigitte Bardot had to fork over $6,000.00 for being bad in print. How bad? Welll...she wrote a book (Un cri dans le silence) and in the book she said this:

I am against the Islamisation of France! This obligatory allegiance, this forced submission disgusts me.... Our ancestors, the elderly, our grandfathers, our fathers have for centuries given their lives to push out successive invaders."
What do you think they'd do to her now? Makes me wonder -- would they still be singing this chorus?

...the Paris court found that Ms. Bardot provoked racial hatred by expressing “right-wing and xenophobic views.” One of the more interesting aspects of the wire report was the following:

In its verdict, the court ruled that Bardot had deliberately tried to draw a link between Islam and terrorism by mentioning the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States in a chapter on a Muslim holiday celebrated in France and elsewhere.
But Geopolitical Review nails it from the beginning of the post:

One of the many downsides to socialism is that freedom of speech and thought is inevitably restricted, usually under the guise of either protecting minority rights or shielding citizens from “controversial” viewpoints. This occurs because the natural progression of socialism is to shift responsibility form the individual to the state.
All of this came before Oriana Fallaci and her ordeal.

Bardot's book doesn't appear to be available in English. Too bad. I hear that she did a real sharp right turn in her maturity, long before 9/11 converted Ms. Fallaci. Would that the generations of Hollywood airheads that followed in Bardot's footsteps had bothered to listen to what she had to say. Wouldn't it be interesting if, say, Madonna grew up and her brain returned. She could be on the road for the Republicans. Though I don't think the Republicans would find it all that amusing.

Come to think of it, with Bardot and Fallaci, that's two women being fined for speaking out in their own supposedly free countries. I can't think of any men that this has happened to. And Theo van Gogh's death at the hands of a barbarian doesn't fit this category.

Are any Western men getting fined or silenced by the authorities for speaking out?

Just asking.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Oleo What??

All you aeronautical types will sneer, but ever since I found the term as a child, I have been fascinated by an airplane part called the oleo strut.

What poetry! How could one fit it into a poem without laughing out loud? Perhaps Billy Collins could do it, since his work is meant to make you laugh out loud...or, at the very least, smile broadly.

According to Random House Dictionary, here's what it is:

oleo strut: a hydraulic device used as a shock absorber in the landing gear of aircraft, consisting of an oil-filled cylinder fitted with a hollow, perforated piston into which oil is slowly forced when a compressive force is applied to the landing gear, as in a landing.
In other words, it makes your re-contact with terra firma less jolting.

But has there ever been a more joyful name for a shock absorber? If we were all born with oelo struts that could absorb the shocks, the slings and arrows of fate, why we'd be...almost immortal. And if not immortal, at least a hell of a lot kinder to one another than we are now.

Anyone who arrived with a built in oleo strut would come out laughing, delighted to be here. With an oleo strut the fall from grace to howling birth would be fun. We could dance through life doing the oleo strut with perfect rhythm, always landing on both feet.

Imagine that.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day, 2005 A.D.

Having been dragged kicking and screaming to this event, I find myself relieved that it's over.

And I apologize to and thank all of those who put up with my bah-humbug attitude. That I was not done away with during this jolly season is a tribute to the better angels of all those who had to deal with me. You know who you are and I promise I'll get unguents, ointments and soothing balms for all of you. But for the moment I need to lie here in wonder that we made it.

Thanks for the Christmas tree that I could not bear to get or put up. Isn't it handy to live in the woods so you could just walk a few hundred yards and cut one down? Thanks for the ornaments since I seem to have misplaced mine. Thanks for the presents I certainly didn't deserve.

Thanks for the carols at the Christmas Eve service. Thanks for the priest who showed up to preside (even if I do suspect she's a liberal. That was a lovely homily). Thanks for the congregation which showed up to share cookies and cider. Thanks for the very ancient father of the priest. His name is Noel and he served in the South Pacific.

Thanks for showing up for dinner and sharing the Yorkshire pudding. Thanks for just hanging out. It gave new dimensions to just being there.

Who knows what next year will bring? Will there be a next year? If there is, at least I have a long time to prepare for it....and all of you have a year to recover.

I would promise to be normal next year, but I think I promised that last year so let's just go with the flow, huh, guys?

Oh, yeah...and thank you, Lord, that all you sent was lots of rain without the least speck of ice.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Saturday is Pet Peeves

Everyone should have a few fingernails-across-the-blackboard shudders. Things they just can't stand.

By now, surely people are standing three deep to yell that they hate the Christmas that starts before Thanksgiving -- heck, the Christmas that now starts before Hallowe'en and leaves you 15 minutes space to find some Thanksgiving decorations for the table.

Come to think of it, there are actually Christmas stores devoted to nothing but harrowingly cute little figurines and reeking of some fake pine forest smell. Oh, my soul...hell for me will be eternal life in a Christmas tree store with little elves dressed like devils who make me look at garish trees with hideous ornaments and poke me with acrylic six pointed stars if I glance away for a moment.

Then there is the horrendous cacaphony of blaring "seasonal" music. Surely there ought to be a place where people who can shoot straight can line up and take a shot at the speaker of their choice. You might have to be certified or something, but think of the pleasure your "ready-aim-fire" execution of noxious noise would bring to the rest of us. Consider for a blessed moment the godly silence which would ensue. Ah, heaven. A mall with just the waving murmur of people, the sounds of children, the movement and sway of ordinary sound...except for the mall part, that is surely heaven?

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That is enough peevishness. It is, after all, Christmas Eve.

Tonight, the Baron's Boy will be playing the organ at church for carols before the Christmas Eve service. He's been doing it for years and now I see those years coming to an end. Soon there will be graduate school and other places. But for tonight, at least, we will have carols one more time. The Baron will light the candles in the windows of the church -- I do hope he hid them well last year.

Our church in the country doesn't do a midnight service. Everyone around here is asleep by ten o'clock except for the few desperate young parents trying to put bikes and trains together. So we have a service at 7:00, and briefly, cider and cookies before everyone scatters home.

Somehow it is good to worship at a church you know you will be buried from. It gives a continuity and perspective to the time, making a sacred space a temporal and fleeting moment...the church itself, the congregation, is old and dying out. We will have to go soon -- in the next year or two -- to town for services in a congregation headed by an authentic English vicar from the North of England.

But the graveyard here will remain. And eventually, my remains will return to this church, to be buried next to my mother, and I hope with the same Celtic designs on my headstone that the Baron did for her.

Imagine that: the two of us finally at rest and so far from home.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas at Saint Mary's

Yeah, Christmas at an orphanage sounds bad. But when you’re six years old, what do you know? It was Christmas, just like everybody else.

There are parts that stand out for me. One is the hymns we prepared all through Advent so we’d be ready for Christmas morning.(Years later, in middle school, the Gregorian choir was my introduction to midnight Mass. Besides getting to stay up till midnight to sing, there was the excitement of singing “Adeste Fideles to a packed house which emitted enough alcohol fumes to share a little cheer with us, way up in the choir loft). There were strong delineations between the hymns we sang and the Christmas carols we prepared for the school party. Somehow they didn’t mix back then.

Then there was the party at the Naval Air Station. Christmas for the Orphans, put on by the sailors. We all got a present from Santa Claus — he smelled like moth balls — and loads of food. The first year’s party was my introduction to black olives. I put a few in my mouth thinking they were grapes — I should have been suspicious since these “grapes” were next to the carrot sticks and celery on a plate, but back then grapes were my passion and I'd never seen an olive. The deeply salted taste surprise scarred my little gustatory psyche for years. I was twenty three and in an Italian restaurant before I ventured near another one.

That first year, I was young enough to sit on Santa's lap. When he asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told him -- duh -- I wanted to go home to my Mother. Big silence. Then he said "sure, sure, little girl," and passed on to the girl behind me. Since I'd been praying to go home ever since I'd heard about "ask and ye shall receive" I tried it like a key on anyone who gave me the opening -- no longer expecting an answer but impelled to ask anyway. At the party, though, with the band playing carols and all the food, I never ruminated long.

On the long ride back to the city on the Navy bus we sang Christmas carols and ate most of the little boxes of hard candy they’d handed out on the way out the door. To this day, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” makes me think of that dark trip on the warm bus, watching the stars first, and later the street lights as we neared the city again. It's a song I associate with sleepy sweet sadness.

We also had our own Christmas party at school. Everyone got up on stage and did their own solo. Mine was usually “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” because of my favorite line: “Neddy wants a pair of skates, he thinks dolls are folly.” “Folly” was so foreign, so antiquated: I loved the idea that someone could think of a way to use “folly” in a song. Now that I consider it, however, when “Good Golly, Miss Molly” came to be written, my favorite word would have fit in well. But it never crossed Little Richard’s lips. He was obviously thinking of other things in his song.

As Christmas drew nearer, we made loooong paper chains, red and green. The paste was white and came in large jars with brushes inside the lid. Later, after we’d hung them on the tree, we got to put up angel hair as the final touch. “Angel hair” is long gone as Christmas decoration. It was made of fiberglass, finely spun, and little pieces of it became attached to the spots of glue and inevitably created myriad splinters which worked their way into the skin on my arms. I called it “Christmas tree itch”; the agony took days to go away.

The nuns took us shopping the Saturday before Christmas. It’s hard to believe they herded sixty little girls down the street to the dime store near the Florida Theater, but perhaps they took us in groups. Of course, back then, weirdoes weren’t stalking the aisles of stores checking for loose kids, so maybe they did take us all in one fell swoop. We each got a dollar to spend and we deliberated long and carefully over our choices. It really was a dime store. Most years I got my mother my heart’s desire: a box of chocolate covered cherries, which left enough to buy a handkerchief for my brother. One year, though, I splurged and got two sherry glasses for mother and nothing for Mark. I still have one of those glasses, etched with grapes.

There was a nickel to spare from my purchase so I used it to buy some candy for my best friend, Sylvia Rivera. I loved her dark, curly hair. In fact, I deeply envied her dark, curly hair but kept this fault to myself as envy was not a sin I was willing to share in Confession. One day her father arrived from Cuba and took Sylvia out of St. Mary’s. I was totally surprised — so was everyone else — and thus ended one of the world’s great friendships and began my intense dislike of surprises. “She went home” was all we were told. I looked up Cuba in a geography book and found out they grew bananas there. That old devil, envy, popped up again. Not only did she have curly hair, she had a daddy and all the bananas she wanted.

Christmas morning was exciting — that was the big deal. After Mass (you couldn’t break your fast before Communion back then) we came into the dining room to find a stocking on each chair. There were no ordinary Christmas stockings, either. These were the nuns' own discarded black cotton stockings, too worn to darn anymore, but very long and capacious. Much better than a fancy stocking, which couldn’t have held half of the loot in one of those long black things. And instead of the usual burned oatmeal (the older girls really couldn’t cook worth a damn) we had toast and tea and eggs. It was all rather magical, digging up one delight after another out of those big black bulges and sipping tea like a grown up.

In the afternoon I was permitted to go home overnight with my mother. Our tree was tiny — otherwise it wouldn’t have fit in the living room — but the Nativity scene had a tiny yellow light behind the angel. It lit the manger indirectly, as though it was star shine. I was always impressed. Years later, when I had a family of my own, Mother gave me the Nativity set.

The Baron, not as pious as I, would arrange the sheep in compromising positions. I’ve never known a man who could have so much fun with so little material. Little plaster sheep??

Sister Mary Agnes was right about men.

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, lean your ear this way…

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thursday's Food: Fig Cake for Christmas

Not one more Christmas cookie. No squares, no bars, no circles, no little balls dipped in confectioner’s sugar, no Viennese crescents or spitzbuben, no meringues, nor Florentines, or Noels. Not even gingerbread men for grandchildren…

Bah. Humbug. After forty five years of Christmas cookies I am done. Someone else can take up the apron and the marble rolling pin…someone else can cheerfully cover herself in batter and chopped nuts and red and green sprinkles and try to figure out if she can substitute cake flour when she runs out of the regular stuff.

Instead this year, for revenge on that damn fig tree, the one which ate my Autumn and is chipping away at Winter, I am making fig cakes. One for me, and one for Jamie. For him, particularly, since I bought the figs with him in mind.

Here is an interesting recipe. After you look at the ingredients, I’ll tell you why it interests me.

Fig Honey Cake

6 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped dried figs (in grinder or food processor)
3 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
If you’ll notice the amount of honey and the amount of oil, you can tell this cake keeps well. In addition, you could substitute one half cup of very finely ground almonds for a half cup of the flour. It would be a bit heavier, but the nut flour would increase the flavor. I also like the density that nut flours give desserts — like tortes, for instance.

Here are the directions:
1.In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, honey and oil. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Fold in figs and nuts.
2.Pour batter into 2 greased and floured loaf pans.
3.Bake in a preheated slow oven (300° F) for 1 hour or until firm to the touch in the center. Unmold and cool on racks. Cool thoroughly before cutting into slices.
So far, I agree with them on #3, but not much else. That nice slow baking is perfect for this kind of cake.

There are two ways you could go with those eggs. First, you could beat them thoroughly with a wire whip or an electric beater until they’re pale yellow. And then add the oil and honey and put aside.

Next, sift the flour, baking powder and soda, and the spices together. I’d add a bit of salt to this, too. Not much. Maybe a quarter teaspoon up to perhaps half. Salt deepens the taste of things and this sounds a little insipid without it. I'm also considering coriander or cardamom. Then I’d leave that bowl aside, too.

(The Romans used to make fig "cakes" by grinding dried figs into a paste, patting down the resulting mess onto a marble or wooden bowl and then press the outside with ground coriander. These cakes kept very well in a cool spot)

Okay, we have two bowls, wet and dry ingredients. Grind the figs (or you could have done that step first), chop the nuts, and then take a few tablespoons of the flour mixture and coat the nuts and figs. It will keep them distributed through the cakes while they're baking.

Finally, stir the flour mixture into the eggs and honey. Add the floured figs and nuts and fold in.

Divide the mixture evenly between two greased and floured loaf pans (or you could simply grease some parchment paper and fit it to the pans. I like the way it prevents the bottoms from browning too much). You get a more even texture if you take turns filling the pans -- a third in the first pan, a third of the batter in the second pan, another third in the first pan, and so on. It makes the fruit and nuts more evenly distributed, too.

That’s the way I’d do it. And I don't think I'd refrigerate this cake. It doesn't need it with the honey. Wrap in an old linen dish towel and store in a tin.

There’s another possible method, where you separate the eggs and beat the whites to soft peaks and then beat the yolks thoroughly before adding the oil and honey. But then that would involve folding things together properly so the first method is better. Also, if you were going to do that, you’d reduce the flour some while keeping the ground almonds…it just all depends on what you want the crumb to be.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

UPS Sucks

Christmas is in the air, in the blogosphere...and were I plugged into the rest of the world no doubt it would be on the radio and television. All those awful carols, sung to a finely wrought travesty. All those manic, fake smiles of people with too many things and not enough free time to use them all.

So far I've managed all my shopping online, except for one heavy present for The Boy that I schlepped home myself -- or rather, the Baron did -- as I couldn't imagine the postal lady lugging that thing to the door.

Let us praise the Post Office, which comes down our long driveway and toots to let us know they've arrived before coming to the porch with our packages. The postal lady clomps up the stairs in her boots, wearing an apron under her heavy sweater and a smile as she hands over the mail. She only comes down the drive if there are packages so these days I see her almost every day. And inevitably she'll tell me of the latest perfidy of the United Parcel Service.

UPS Delivers, Sort OfLet us boo United Parcel Service, which ties our packages to trees, or leaves them abandoned on the side of the driveway and hopes we notice their presence. They (illegally) hang them off the mailbox on the road, or if the package is too big, they walk across the road and dump the thing on the porch of the white house.

Now these drivers are familiar with this territory. They know no one lives in the white house. It belongs to the descendants of the owners, all twelve of them — descendants, that is, not owners — so unless someone notices a package on the porch…well, too bad. They’ve ruined a few things that way.

Things have gotten so bad that we’re collecting the pictures to send to the district manager. UPS must think it’s a government agency. It sure acts like one. And the post office seems to have traded places.

Someday, you will hear the story of the blind postmistress in the tiny post office near the river, not too far from here. Why that place hasn’t closed is anyone’s guess. Probably because the post office box users would have to travel another twenty miles to get their mail.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lincoln Springs Eternal

Because I never get through a full week without slip-sliding into the Slough of Despond -- man that sucker has moveable boundaries; always sneaking up on me -- because of that I never have the pleasure of doing a whole week's schedule. For example, yesterday being Monday (which is word day) I'd planned to put up umbrageous.

I found this gem of a word in a book of O. Henry short stories that the Baron hefted home from the library. A very large book, the size of a modest version of the Oxford Dictionary if someone had used a very small font. So it's a book best read at the table unless you are a muscle-bound type. Arnold could no doubt hold the thing up in one palm and read comfortably.

Not I. I heft it with two hands onto the kitchen table and randomly open to a promising title. So far, so wonderful.

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But never mind that. I came here to talk about a new book, not the many shadings of umbrageous. Throwing aside the custom of discussing only about books one has read, I will put forth for your consideration one that I wish I had written. Only somebody beat me to it. And this somebody is a liberal through and through, proving the point that if we go back far enough in history, those on different sides of the current Civil War may find points of agreement.

Team of RivalsTeam of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln is one of those points. Sure, there are people on both sides who think Lincoln was the spawn of Satan, just as there are those of us who think he was so good that books like this new one by Doris Kearns Goodwin will continue to arrive for centuries to come, as new generations refract their own vision of the man.

In this case, the reviewer of Goodwin's book (Arthur Herman in National Review, December 31, 2005) sees the situation the same way I do, for he expresses ideas I've mulled over for a couple of years now, predating the re-election of George Bush in 2004.

Essentially, Bush is repeating Lincoln's experience. He is sneered at by the cognoscenti, just as Lincoln was. Both were/are considered "not equal to the hour." Both were reviled for being "third rate" and "illiterate partisans."

Has there ever been a cruder president than this cowboy we have in office now? Indeed, there has: Abraham Lincoln. But both men could induce loyalty in their divided staffs and could offer loyalty in turn. Both men operated on principle in their conduct of an unpopular war. And both men faced a rival party bent on surrender and appeasement.

I can't wait to read Goodwin's book. She probably won't like it that conservatives will take it as a foreshadowing of Bush's presidency. But if this obvious connection takes her by surprise, then she is intelligent without being wise. And if she knew we’d like it when she was writing it, then bully for her: an author flourishes best with a widespread audience.

Meanwhile, the parallels between Lincoln and Bush as politicians don’t cross over into their personal lives. Bush has none of Lincoln’s melancholia; he never lost a child and he married a woman with an even temperament. Those great gifts were withheld from Lincoln, but he transcended what the fates gave him, just as he has outlasted his assassin's bullet.

May Bush be as fortunate in the outcome of his war. And may he escape Lincoln’s end. People like John Wilkes Booth still hide in the footlights. Their words may have changed, but their hearts remain the same.

NOTE: This book is 994 pages long and the list price is $35.00. Amazon is offering it for $21.00 and teams it with David McCullough’s 1776 for $39.51. As of this writing, Kearns’ book is listed at # 5 in sales.

Lincoln springs eternal, does he not?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday's Fortunes

When we moved to the country, we kept a vegetable garden for those first few summers. Neither of us knew much about vegetable gardening, though the Baron had a few elemental ideas from watching his father's efforts with his vegetable patch. I had none -- my idea of gardening was to cross pollinate day lilies and see what you got in a few years. It was a hobby I had as a kid, something I did instead of what I'd been sent out to do: mow the grass.

So between the two of us we had a thimbleful of understanding. Our huge ignorance soon bloomed into a disinclination to plant anything since people would inundate us with tomatoes and zucchini, etc. One good old boy swore that the okra I was growing was actually marijuana. Right, you are, Jimmy. And what are those big yellow blossoms on my plants then?

When we did have our garden, we were told to get old Mr. Carroll to come down to plow and harrow the area first. Virginia clay is rock hard where it hasn't been worked or amended, so it needs mechanical assistance to begin to resemble something more like soil and less like brick. Cracked brick, when it dried out.

In late March, we'd call over to his house and his missus would send him over when the soil was dry enough to work. Soon, you could hear the chug of his tractor coming up the driveway, and he'd swing into the front yard and begin his work. First he broke up the soil, going back and forth on the rows longways. Then he attached whatever piece he needed to smooth out the soil and leave it ready for planting. Had we not been so ignorant, we'd have thrown lime and manure into the rows before he made the last pass, but the Baron and I did not come to gardening naturally and back then we didn't know enough to ask.

Maybe old Mr. Carroll thought we had some citified way of doing things after he left. Or maybe he went home and told Mrs. Carroll about those tomfool people over near the colored church who didn't put nuthin' on that clay.

He never did take any money for his labors. All he wanted was a flask of whiskey, which the Baron always made sure to have on hand. When the plowing was done, the old man would stay in the seat of his tractor and reach down for the bottle the Baron held up to him. He'd take a swig, smack his gums, and sigh. Then he'd begin to tell us about life where we lived, about growing things, and about growing old -- the last of which he was doing at a rapid rate.

It's been more than twenty years now, but I still remember Mr. Carroll, and standing by the turned earth, and how it and the smell of diesel oil made that particular fragrance in the cool Spring air which meant "time to get out the radish and the lettuce seeds.

He's gone now. Died years ago. The thing I remember most now (besides the wry recognition of how little we knew about growing things in clay) was what Mr. Carroll said once, after the third swig or so. "Seems like," he sighed, "once you finally know everything it is you need to know to get by, you're too old to make any use of it..."

At the time, he seemed philosophical. Now I know what it was: Mr. Carroll was feeling the pinch of despair that comes with age. He was too old to acquire wisdom and he knew it. Or rather, whatever bit of wisdom was going to come his way already had, and life wasn't going to get any better than it was right at that moment. For old man Carroll, that knowledge wasn't enough to take him over the hump. At some point in the race, maturity begins to be overtaken by dementia and it's downhill from there...

So he sighed, screwed the top back on his bottle and shoved the bottle into the big front pocket on his bib overalls. Then he turned the tractor around in one smooth movement, waved to us behind him, and headed back down the driveway.

Now, of course, I realize that the whiskey was his way of getting past Mrs. Carroll. He could do a little plowing for the innocents from town for "free", and have a nice flask to warm his soul on the way home. Not a bad trade for either of us.

The last few years, I've been thinking about starting another vegetable garden. Only this time, it’s going to be a raised affair, one where I can sit and weed, one which never gets plowed or disturbed. One which attracts the earth worms. A place to throw eggshells and coffee grinds all winter.

Come to think of it, I've been wanting chickens, too, or guinea hens, but I don't know if I'm ready to deal with a rooster. How do you mellow out the mean ones? I guess learning to use a shotgun comes first, hmmm?

Well, that's for another year. For this one, I just want to be able to sit low again and weed the flowers around the house. With enough physical therapy, I'm going to have a left knee with attitude instead of this mess which seems to point out even more than it did before the ladder caught my foot between two rungs and torqued my knee to some whole new plane.

Or perhaps this an old Mr. Carroll moment: I know what I'd need to do the things I like, but I have enough wisdom to know those capacities are not coming back.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Snark Sighting for Thursday's Food Ruminations

Robin Wright is a reporter from The Washington Post. Her job appears to entail the occasional flight aboard Air Force Two as she accompanies various Cabinet-level officials around the world. According to her, it’s a rigorous life. Not because they’re in any danger, but because she and her colleagues have to endure the food they are served.

*The wing-dings are so awful they almost caused a mutiny among the staff.
*The burritos made one person sick.
*The carnivores complain that they’re tired of always having meat.
*The flan is evidence that even desserts can be ruined.
*Vegetarians and people with food restrictions are not taken into account.
And so on, etc., ad nauseam.

I swan. What a bunch of spoiled brats. As children, they were probably all labeled “picky eaters” by their parents who threw up their hands in disgust over their offsprings’ limited and sullen eating habits. As adults, they are a big bunch of babies who need to grow up and face the fact that moving with the big boys means you either eat what they serve or you bring your own food.

No one with any brains gets aboard a plane planning to eat the jet food. There are too many nutritious subsitutes available at your local grocery store to have to settle for “a teeming bowl of pork and beans,” if such a dish is not to your liking. And if you’re a finicky eater, try the gourmet aisle for the yuppie, spoiled-brat version of MREs. Smoked salmon comes in small foil bags now, as do oysters, chicken, and vegetables. How about protein bars for the food-restricted? Ever heard of fruit? How about suffering in silence...oh, that's right. Against the code of "J" school.

Really, these whiners ought to be served MREs as part of their Air Force Two experience. Why not? If it’s good enough for soldiers on the ground, it’s certainly good enough for reporters in mid-air.

Really, lady, if this is what you have to complain about, you need to get a real life, because the one you're complaining about now is an embarrassment of riches.

Just get off the plane.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wednesday Is For the Garden, All Covered In Ice

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been ten days since my last post."

"But it's not all my fault, Father...in fact, I think you ought to call God down here so we can have a little chat -- just the three of us -- before you dole out the penance. That would only be fair..."

"What do you mean it's not about 'fair'? It's always about fair. Just ask anyone with a grievance, or anyone under the age of eight, or any misunderstood victim of this or that...it damn darn sure is about "fair." And I have my list right here, thank you. Fairsies first, and then we'll get to my sins."

"First thing, right off: pain isn't fair. Nor are pain medications. Sure they kill the pain, but have you ever tried the side effects?"

"Ummm...no, I don't think I want to give up the pain medication just yet. So maybe we'll skip that one. But how about all that ice on the ground? I can't even step outside without the risk of undoing all the surgery on my knee...is that fair, I ask you?"

"Well, yes...the house is warm and cozy. The living room's a bit chilly, though...we never did insulate it that well. Ah, no. I don't have to sit in there. And you're right, that's what God made sweaters for. I was just saying..."

"Yes, it's true. The ice on the ground does a good job of killing off some of the more obnoxious insects we had last summer. You have a point there...oh, never mind about calling God into this. He'd be even worse than you. So we may as well deal with this ourselves..."

"Now about my sins...I hope you understand what a horrible childhood I had. We need to get that straight first..."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ransom Captive Israel

The first Sunday in December.

Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel...

It echoes down the ages.

And ransom captive Israel...

Captive still, after all these millennia.

Israel is the paradigm for how all of us live:

Captive, bound on all sides by those who do not wish us well.

And yet, in Israel, life goes on.

Orange blossoms fill the air,

Babies are born,

Old people die, but not in captivity.

Young people and grandmothers are blown into the heavens.

Israel grieves.

Israel blooms.

Israel is in the desert but she is not the desert.

Israel is God's heart, beating in the rhythm of creation.

Of destruction.

Always, somewhere, Israel lives and breathes with the breath of He Who Is Who He Is.

And His breath warms We Who Are Who We Are

In this first Sunday of December

In this first Sunday of Advent.

In the beginning of the third Christmas without Shelagh.

No. Wait. That is another meditation.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel...