Art Appreciation

8 October, 2014

I’ve just discovered Niki de Saint Phalle. Love her version of The Three Graces:

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Photo courtesy of Arts Observer.

More Niki de Saint Phalle goodness via Arts Observer here.

These sculptures were a temporary installation, placed by the National Museum of Women in the Arts as part of the the New York Avenue Sculpture project, which is “…the only public art space featuring changing installations of contemporary works by women artists in Washington, D.C.”

Yay for public art!

But wait – there’s more. Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido is Niki de Saint Phalle’s only American sculpture garden. It’s been closed since last year for repairs, but it will be open this Saturday, 11 October 2014. Details here.

The Ability (a quote from David Foster Wallace)

7 July, 2014

“If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it.”

(from “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace” by David Lipsky)

Ft Murray Cloudy Sky

Thoughts from Etty Hillesum

17 April, 2014

From An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum:

…And finally: ought we not, from time to time, open ourselves up to cosmic sadness? One day I shall surely be able to say to Ilse Blumenthal, ‘Yes, life is beautiful, and I value it anew at the end of every day, even though I know that the sons of mothers, and you are one such mother, are being murdered in concentration camps. And you must be able to bear your sorrow; even if it seems to crush you, you will be able to stand up again, for human beings are so strong, and your sorrow must become an integral part of yourself, part of your body and your soul, you mustn’t run away from it, but bear it like an adult. Do not relieve your feelings through hatred, do not seek to be avenged on all German mothers, for they, too, sorrow at this very moment for their slain and murdered sons. Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears his grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate. But if you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge — from which new sorrows will be born for others — then sorrow will never cease in this world and will multiply. And if you have given sorrow the space its gentle origins demand, then you may truly say: life is beautiful and so rich. So beautiful and so rich that it makes you want to believe in God.’

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Destination: Funeral

20 February, 2014

You know how some people have a destination wedding? Well, I’m having a destination funeral. Oh, it’s not for me, it’s for my dad. He’s going to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

I looked at the Shutterfly site to find a suitable funeral announcement, but there were none there. I thought about adapting a birth announcement–the one with the picture of the baby sleeping and the words “Pure Heaven” underneath. I have a photo of my dad in extremis that would work nicely.

My dad will be buried with full military honors. It sounds like it will be quite a production, with a caisson, a bugler, and a 21-shot salute (3 guns, 7 shots each). My dad converted to Catholicism during his adult life, but I was raised a Protestant so I opted for the chaplain of that stripe. Sorry, Pop.

I’m not much for the war culture, but it was the Air Force that gave my dad a job and the GI Bill, and it was the Navy that gave him a commission and sent him to Vietnam. He earned a place in Arlington National Cemetery, and it is my duty to see that he gets there.

His cremains (yes, that’s the word for cremated remains) are now sitting on top of the piano. His Vietnam Veteran cap sits on top of the box holding the cremains.  The box is wrapped in plain brown paper. I tied a bow around the box at Christmas time (my dad was a festive guy). When I thought to remove the bow in early February, I realized that Valentine’s Day was approaching and red was still appropriate.

I would like that box to stay on top of the piano. I’d like to decorate it with a green ribbon for St. Patrick’s Day. I’d like to put the red ribbon back on for Whitsunday. But by then, the box will be far away in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Happy Holidays

6 December, 2013

Christmas 2013

The Power and the Glory: Driving a Red Corvette Through Cambridge

22 September, 2013

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Obituary for James C. Russell

19 September, 2013

James C. Russell (Jim), aged 82, of Hollywood, California, died on 17 September 2013, at his assisted living home in Eagle Rock, California. He was born in Franklin, Pennsylvania on April 1, 1931, to Allen Cunningham Russell and Gwendolyn Romaine Leber Russell, the second of eight children. He was a graduate of the University of Maryland and George Washington University. He is survived by his daughter, Kelly L.C. Russell of Pasadena, California and her husband Timothy Down; his son, Kenneth A.C. Russell of Portland, Oregon; and two grandsons, Russell Burton and Colin Burton; and also siblings Don Russell of New Castle, Indiana; Anita Russell Mower of Escondido, California; Esther Russell Hicks of Grand Junction, Colorado; Timothy Russell of San Diego, California; and Jonathan Russell of Fort Worth, Texas. He also leaves behind numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his siblings Allen Russell of Coral Gables, Florida; and Gwendolyn Russell Hicks of Parachute, Colorado.

During a long and varied working life, Jim shucked shrimp in a restaurant kitchen (and never ate shrimp again), and he was a teacher at Massenutten Military Academy and at LeConte Junior High School in Hollywood. He served in both the US Air Force during the Korean Conflict and the US Navy during the Vietnam Conflict. He spent many years as a teacher and guidance counselor with the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DODDS) in Europe and in Korea, and he also held several positions in public affairs and in Army recruiting. A passionate Anglophile, he was fortunate enough to witness the procession for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. He was also in Berlin at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and he brought home a piece of it.

A life-long sports enthusiast, Jim enjoyed tennis, Washington Redskins football and Dodger baseball. He examined life with a writer’s mind, posting literary e-mails to nurture and entertain family and friends with an acerbic wit, always catching life in a humorous cross-hairs.

A funeral will be held at Church of the Angels, 1100 N. Ave 64, Pasadena, California, on Sunday, September 22 at 2:00 pm. A reception in the Parish Hall will follow.

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Sonoma County: Freestone and Bodega

8 September, 2013

I don’t always trust what I read on TripAdvisor, but I do consult it when traveling.  The Scout is busy in Sebastopol, CA this weekend, and I was curious what TripAdvisor would say about this bastion of all things local, organic and yummy.

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We drove out to Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone, and yes, the scones are well worth the short and beautiful drive.

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The town of Bodega (not to be confused with Bodega Bay) is a few miles down the road from the bakery.  Both towns were principal locations for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Here’s the school:

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The church adjacent to the school:

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Bodega recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Birds, and the Bodega Country Store was well equipped with all things Hitchcock and bird-y.  (I guess they didn’t want to call it Bodega’s Bodega.)

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My favorite Hitchcock is Rear Window, but The Birds gets full points for being enduringly creepy.  The homage to The Birds carried on by the Bodega Country Store has it’s own creepy factor, but tinged with humor.  Tippi Wine, anyone?

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Pizza of Venice

7 August, 2013

Pizza of Venice has arrived in Altadena, CA.  It’s been around long enough to garner rave reviews on Yelp.

Say what you will about economic recovery.  When a place like Pizza of Venice opens on Fair Oaks Avenue in Altadena, there’s good reason to rejoice.

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When the “Fungi” pizza goes for $7.00 (the one on the left), there’s even more reason to rejoice (mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese, no sauce).  The chicken curry pizza on the left (the special on the day I visited) was $13.00.  It was appropriately spicy and delicious.

Congrats to Sean and Jamie, the owners.  Shout out to Leo for his expertise in the kitchen.

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Pizza of Venice, 2545 N. Fair Oaks Avenue, Altadena, CA 91001.  Telephone: 626-765-9636.

Jacintha Saldanha

8 December, 2012

Perhaps you have heard about Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse at the London hospital who answered the telephone call from the Aussie DJ’s looking to have a bit of a laugh at the British Royal Family’s (BRF) expense. Saldanha put the call through to the nurse in charge who then prattled on about Kate’s condition to the DJs unimpeded by any suspicion of “humor” in the making.

Now Saldanha is dead of an apparent suicide. The woman must have been terrified. She was the first line of defense between the BRF and the ravenous world-wide media. Were I in her shoes, my thoughts would have been something like this: How could I have been so stupid? Why did I believe the caller was the Queen? Now I’ve gone and done it. I will probably lose my job. I have disgraced myself and my family by not carrying out the simplest of tasks. I will be an international laughing-stock. There is no hope for my future. I will never work again. Cameras will hound me for weeks, and then my permanent status as a pariah will be cemented forever. Might as well end it now…

Forgive me for conjecturing about the thoughts of an apparent suicide, but I find Saldanha’s alleged act the logical conclusion of a rational person who couldn’t bear her mistake.

Let’s play the blame game, shall we? Royal Family, I know you’re trying to be like us, but you deserve a severe dressing down on this one. When one of you (Kate) ends up in an institution inhabited and run by us mortals, here’s a suggestion: Lady-in-waiting (with staff), 21st century style. Think Valerie Jarrett (Obama’s left-hand woman).

Kate is in hospital. A phone call comes in regarding Kate? All inquiries about Kate go directly to the royal staff on duty no matter what. Ah, so simple, isn’t it? Oh BRF, how do you not have protocol for how to handle one of your own being amongst Muggles?

Am I missing something? Was such a protocol in place at the hospital? Was Saldanha’s mistake not handing the telephone off to the royal staff on duty? In my cursory glance at today’s news, I see the BRF apparently treated the initial debacle with a “Ho, Ho, Ho” and nothing more. Saldanha was, no doubt, waiting for the next, and certainly less sanguine, royal utterance.

Now that Saldanha is dead, the least the BRF could do would be to arrange for her body to be flown to India.

Many of us will pray for the repose of the soul of Jacintha Saldanha, and for her grieving family, friends and co-workers. I urge the Royals to take responsibility for their own lack of management in what should have been a routine hospital stay. BRF, Jacintha Saldanha thought of herself as one in your service. She believed her error was irreversible, and she fell on her sword in service of you and your unborn child. She deserves your highest respect and honor.


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