Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Obamas in a Brown Study
Frankly, neither has ever looked more appealing, more honest, or more authentic.
There is true beauty in this photograph.
May the New Year bring all of us 
into the sobering Light of Truth.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas News 
From a Most Remarkable Friend Who Celebrates Her NINETY-FIRST Birthday in January!

Independent, happy, pretty and productive at age 90

Dear, FT,

Had a "productive" Christmas day!  Spent the morning roasting a 10.5 lb. turkey stuffed only with orange, apple, onion and a rosemary branch; placed on a rack, which was placed on rim of a shallow roasting pan and contained sliced onion, celery, carrot etc. in at least 5 c of water and white wine.  This resulted in a moist turkey along with a very tasty and cream colored gravy!  (I tried to color it with Maggi but more than two dashes would have made it much too salty! and the two only made it a little less anemic.  But it was good!)

Always before I'd stuffed it, but this time the dressing was en casserole.  It was good too –– made with Ciabatta I'd made in the bread machine, cubed –– including chewy crusts –– and toasted in the oven and combined with all the other traditional ingredients.  It was also delicious; but I do like dressing from the bird.

With all the moisture beneath, I didn't have to baste so was free to go help distribute the gift bags (sponsored by the Methodist Church) we'd made –– EIGHTY of them! –– to residents of the rest home in town.  Fortunately there were enough volunteers so that I could return home and collapse before going to dinner!

Janet, our new neighbor, had been the instigator and guiding light for the aforementioned project,

I "plated" the turkey on a lovely large wooded Dansk tray (that I'd gotten years ago at a church fair), decorated it with holly and berries Bill Peters had brought a few days ago for me to decorate the mantle –– which I've not yet gotten around to doing! –– but it made the platter look very festive. 

We squeezed into the car, with the turkey on my lap, and drove to the end of our road, and had a lovely evening with Janet and Steve Anton our new neighbors.  They moved in just a few days before last Christmas and have been so helpful and thoughtful ever since.  We are lucky.  (Janet made all the rest of the dinner.)  We are both recovering slowly ...

And that's probably "more than you wanted to know about penguins!" as Mamma used to say.

What did you do?


[NOTE: Karen is the wife of my lifelong friend and mentor, J. Erwin Solomon. Both of these remarkable people turn 91 in January, and both are still living independently in the custom-designed mountaintop home they built nearly forty years ago on 120 acres not far from the Great Smokey Mountains.]

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Alas! 'Tis Too Too True!
I dare anyone to take offense at this,
but feel free to do your best
if so inclined.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Information regarding
the whereabout and well being 
of this man

The Bard of Murdock
Last seen September 8, 2013
His bright and witty presence in the blogosphere has been sorely missed. We hope he is well and merely resting from his labors, but would love to know for sure. Any information you might have regarding his fate would be most gratefully received.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Man Contemplating Infinity by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)

The other day a friend, –– a self-identified leftist with a probing, inquisitive nature that many find irritating, –– asked this profoundly important question in response to a recent posting of some of Bach’s organ music: 

“Do you believe that in Bach we are reacting to the fullness of a mathematical as well as a musical completeness? Is that what calms us?
“Is it achievable in the material world?”

A not-so-simple “Yes and No” would have to be my answer. Here are further thoughts I hope may be illuminating:

Someday I hope we come to realize that because all things come from God, the only Creator ––- without whom we would have no life, no substance, no consciousness, not even as much significance as a grain of sand –– because of this all things are ONE. 

What may appear to be unique and apart is merely one tiny facet of a magnificent WHOLE so enormous, so wonderfully brilliant and complex we have no power to grasp its full significance.

The aesthetics of Bach and all great Music, of Science, Engineering, Medicine, Technology, Art, Architecture, Literature, Poetry, Agriculture, Horticulture, Gastronomy, Conservatism, Liberalism –– EVERYTHING –– is part of the same ball of wax, and EACH FACET of it –– at its highest level –– is purely aesthetic –– spiritual, if you prefer. 

There is a BEAUTY to all Creation that only a few great geniuses –– like J.S. Bach –– have been able to glimpse and capture, –– but only in part. Nevertheless, ALL of us are PART of "it" and ALL of us no matter how humble or reprehensible have a ROLE to play. We COUNT.

After all what is a single grain of sand? Much more than it appears, if we examine it in depth, and try to probe its mysteries with advanced" scientific instruments such as the electron microscope.  Even then we may only begin to probe its infinite complexity –– galaxies upon galaxies of infinitely small particles each with ITS own identity and ITS role to play.

And then the more obvious knowledge that this tiny grain of sand is only one of infinite octillions of other grains. Put together they make –– a BEACH.

What if our solar system, as I suspect it may be, were nothing more than the equivalent of a SINGLE ATOM in the incredible vastness of the Cosmos –– of Infinity? –– of Eternity?

Mankind in all our Pride, Vanity and vast Conceit is little more than the fabled rooster, who foolishly credited himself with the power to make the sun rise each day, –– or The Butterfly that Stamped made famous by Kipling.

There is no such thing as “PROGRESS.” For us there is only the thrill, the joy, the unending mystery and perplexity of a continual, unending process of DISCOVERY.

Few may realize it, but ALL of us long for God –– for Life, Truth and Love. Most of us stumble and fall perpetually, or run around in circles all our lives, because we are proudly ignorant and misguided, but even so THAT is what we long for. Unfortunately, we also FEAR it, because such knowledge implies tremendous RESPONSIBILITY, and a big part of us wants to remain in childhood –– even INFANCY –– and so we invent theories and cling to notions that keep us at a great distance from what we desire most.

Life is a paradox. We’ll never understand it completely, because we are not meant to. What we ARE meant to do is learn to ACCEPT our subordinate role in relation to the Almighty sustaining Infinite.

Life is a GIFT we are meant to enjoy. It is a MYSTERY to be LIVED  –– not a PROBLEM to be SOLVED –– but we cannot enjoy it, until we accept our true relationship to God, work to understand that His Son was born into this world to show us The Way to ever increasing  knowledge of Our Father whose Kingdom is not of this world, but in the realm where all things meet and become reconciled in the aesthetic of infinite, pure, radiant, eternal LIGHT and unconquerable BEAUTY.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Wonder of English Topiary 
at its Fantastic, Endearing Best
As if we needed any direct evidence that the proprietors 
of Stately Homes and fine Manor Houses 
were all Republicans at heart!
We knew it all along.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Man Who Came 
to Dinner

Monty Woolley, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke, Mary Wickes, et al.
Enjoy this full-length movie version of 
the George S. Kaufman comedy classic

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

David Copperfield

Daniel Radcliffe  ... David Copperfield (Young)

Ciaran McMenamin ... David Copperfield (Adult)

Emilia Fox ... Clara Copperfield

Maggie Smith ... Betsey Trotwood 

Trevor Eve ... Edward Murdstone

Zoe Wanamaker ,,, Jane Murdstone

Pauline Quirke ... Clara Peggotty

Michael Elphick ... Barkis

Alun Armstrong ... Dan Peggotty

James Thornton ... Ham Peggotty

Patsy Byrne ... Mrs Gummidge

Laura Harling ... Emily Peggotty (Young)

Aislin McGuckin ... Emily Peggotty (Adult)

Judy Cornwell ... Peggotty

Ian MdKellen ... Mr Creakle

Karl Johnson ... Tungay

Harry Lloyd ... James Steerforth (Young)

Oliver Milburn ... James Steerforth (Adult)

Cherie Lunghi ... Mrs Steerforth

Kenneth MacDnald ...  Littimer

Bob Hoskins  ...Wilkins Micawber

Imelda Staunton ... Mrs Micawber

Dawn French ... Mrs Crupp

Paul  Whitehouse ... the Pawnbroker

Ian McNeice ... Mr. Dick

James Grout ... Mr Spenlow

Joanna Page ... Dora Spenlow

Nicholas Lyndhurst ... Uriah Heep 

Thelma Barlow ... Mrs Heep

Oliver Ford Davies ... Mr Wickfield

Antonia Corrigan ... Agnes Wickfield (Young)

Morgane Slemp ... Clara (Young)

Amanda Ryan ... Agnes Wickfield (Adult)

Clare Holman ... Rosa Dartle

Tom Wilkinson ... Narrator (as old David)

Monday, December 23, 2013

~A Visit with Pa Grouch ~

 'Twas two days before Christmas
And Papa Grouch here
Made a pact with the Devil
To stay home this year. 

~ § ~

The cupboard was bare
And the table unclad
Because of this grumpy
Self-centered old Dad, 

~ § ~

Who'd decided it all
Was too much of a strain
That denuded his wallet
And caused him great pain.

~ § ~ 

Mama was despondent
The babe on her lap
Did nothing but howl
And spit up its pap.

~ § ~ 

The children were mopey
Their eyes sullen slits
They thought Papa'd gone mad
And had lost all his wits 

~ § ~

When on the front lawn
There arose a great clatter
The neighbors had come
To see what was the matter 

~ § ~ 

With no wreath on the door
Or lights on the eaves
They thought Papa'd grown poor
Or been looted by thieves 

~ § ~

So up to the housetop
With garlands they climbed
Stringing green'ry and lights
Till they got all begrimed 

~ § ~

The ladies walked in
With caskets of food
Then set up a tree
While the children they wooed

~ § ~ 

With carols in harmony
Sung at the door
With lighted red candles
That dripped on the floor.

~ § ~  

Then in marched Tom Turkey,
Who went straight to the oven,
Saying, "Pluck me and stuff me,
I'm dyin' for lovin.'" 

~ § ~

He made not a squawk
While they chopped off his head
Plucked out all his feathers
And stuffed him with bread 

~ § ~

And onions and apples
And sausage and sage
And quite enough butter
To pay a week's wage.

~ § ~  

The cranberry mold
Like a rubicund belly
Shook and shimmered itself
Like a gem made of jelly.

~ § ~ 

The scent of cinnamon
Ginger and pine
Along with the turkey
Smelled simply divine

~ § ~ 

A baker on crutches
Who only could hobble
Said, "Soon that old bird
Will be ready to gobble." 

~ § ~ 

The men midst cold ashes
Placed branches for Yule
Their crackling splendor
A marvelous tool 

~ § ~

For cheering and warming
Pa Grouch with his pain,
Who was soon moved to say,
"I've no right to complain.

~ § ~ 

"With neighbors like you,
I feel it's a shame
I ever indulged
A desire to maim

~ § ~ 

"The Spirit of Joy,
Good Will, and Good Cheer.
I promise you all
I'll be nicer––next year." 

~ § ~ 

Then placing his thumb
At the tip of his nose
He waved them Good Night
And to bed up he rose.

~ § ~ 

But I heard him exclaim,
As he moved past our sight,
"Don't let the door hit your butt,
When you leave. Now Good Night!" 

~ FreeThinke ~
Christmas, 201
Have a Jocular Christmas!
~ § ~ 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

George Frederick Handel
Collegium 1704
conducted by
Vaclav Luks

Overture 0.00
Comfort ye, My people 2:56
Ev'ry Valley shall be exalted
And the glory of the Lord
But who may abide
For unto us a Child is born
Glory to God
I know that my Redeemer liveth
The Trumpet shall sound
Worthy is the Lamb

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Gift of the Magi

by O. Henry (1862-1910)

A fanciful vision of "Della" by Charles Dana Gibson

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."
The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling—something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. Her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practiced hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation—as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him.

Quietness and value—the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do—oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.
Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two—and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.
Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again—you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice—what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you—sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year—what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs—the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jeweled rims—just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

No, not Jim. This is the author, O. Henry, himself