Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Believer

"The Amateur - Barack Obama in the White House" by Edward Klein   Regnery Publishing, Inc   277 pages   Jacket price:   $27.95 (Amazon $16, I think)

Klein is a New York Times best-selling author, a former foreign editor of Newseek, former editor-in-chief of the New York Times Magazine and is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

Klein interviewed nearly 200 people in and out the White House, many of whom have known Obama for more than 20 years.  His transribed notes run to almost 1,000 pages.

His final sum-up, presented in the Preface, states:  "A president who is inept in the arts of management and governance; who doesn't learn from  his mistakes, and who therefore repeats policies that make our economy less robust and our nation less safe."

Contrast that with David Axelrod's enthusiasm - "He is the living, breathing apotheosis of the American melting pot."  Axelrod's private name for Obama is "Black Jesus."

This is a book that's worth a read.  It doesn't just baselessly accuse Obama of willful stupidy and the soul-deep belief that he is indeed the Second Coming, but it explores in depth the information that led to this conclusion.   

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Loner and the Dominator

"The Obamas" by Jodi Kantor   Little, Brown and Co.  359 pages   $29.99

Kantor is a Washington correspondent for the New York Times and is also the former editor of that paper's Arts & Leisure section.  Credentials established, let us move on with tidbits.

After Obama was elected, Mrs. Obama believed it would be better to keep their daughters in their Chicago school, rather than moving them to Washington, DC, mid-term.  After all, he was traveling continuously and had been for several years.  It wasn't like he was home all that much.

She balked at the restrictions living in the White House necessitated.  She couldn't even walk the dog in the "backyard" without asking the Secret Service or other staff if the coast was clear -- no scheduled Marine One landings, no outdoor press conferences. 

To avoid the tour groups charging through this historic house meant that their daughters would be confined to the residential part of the house. 

They couldn't go visit friends; instead, the friends had to come to them.  Their best friends are two black Chicago couples.  What unites them?  They are all successful with high-priced educations, but they all fear that others are saying knowledgeably behind their backs, "Oh, affirmative action, you know."  

The Obamas especially enjoy Halloween.  For their first in the White House, held for the children of military service members and administrative officials, George Lucas sent the real "Chewbacca" from Star Wars,"  director Tim Burton turned the dining room into a Mad Hatters tea party.  Refreshments included bone-shaped meringue cookies and fruit punch served in blood vials.

A revealing tidbit Ms. Kantor included.  Obama walked out of a meeting and noticed a pile of magazines on a secretary's desk.  He asked, "Whose are those?"  and was told, "They just come (shrug)...But everything in the White House is yours, so technically they're yours."

Next day the scene repeated itself.  He said, "Whose magazines are these?"  "They're your magazines, Mr. President."  Obama grinned and walked away. 

But this was the best quote in the book:  "I'm the President.  Can't I get this done?"

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Valley Gurl!?

"Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy; Interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. 1964"  Hyperion   367 pages   No price to be found.

In fairness to the then-widow Kennedy, she was interviewed only four months after his death; she had two little kids, had lost her home (the White House) and was only 33 years old.  The oral history was, however, her and Bobby Kennedy's idea.  Hordes of people were interviewed from heads of state to White House maids.

As I began the book, what struck me (like a wet fish across the mouth) was the many answers that she started with this word:  "Yeah."

She said that she got all of her political opinions from her husband and seemed indignant that anyone  would question that.  His opinions were, of course, much more knowledgeable than hers.

She and the children were at Glen Ora when JFK phoned and asked her to return to the White House, but didn't say why, at the start of the Cuban situation.  "...or I thought whenever you're married to someone and they ask something - yeah, that's the whole point of being married - you just sense trouble in their voice and mustn't ask why."

On meeting De Gaulle:  "Yeah.  Because I'd ask him things of history -- or all the things I wanted to know, like who did Louis XVI's daughter marry..."  DeGaulle told Kennedy that she knew more French history than many French citizens. 

After a dinner with Khruschev, she was asked if he had any charm?  "Yeah, it's just one gag after another.  It's like sitting next to Abbott and Costello or something." 

Describing something else, she said, "Suddenly some U-2 plane got loose over Alaska or something."  I really got the distinct impression she was playing Cute Little Girl with Schlesinger.  All wide-eyed and innocent.  Still, if you have interest in this time period in American history, this is an interesting look behind the curtains. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Farmer's Sons

My mother's parents were Mennonite immigrants who came to America at the time of the Kansas Land Grants.  They were given a section (640 acres) with which to build and maintain their farm, which they did.  Time passed and the family prospered.  In time eight children were born to the couple - six boys and two girls.

When World War I began, the three oldest sons came to their father to ask his permission to join the Army and fight.  (Mennonites are strict pacifists. ) 

He looked at them and said, "Go with my blessing.  This country has been wonderful to us."  They did and they all came back safely. 


Written by Major-General Winfield Scot, first published in 1835.

Day is gone, gone the sun
From the hills, from the lake, from the skies
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.
Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor, our God keep
On the land, in the deep,
Safe in sleep. 

Love, good night, must thou go,
When the day and the night need thee so?
All is well.  Speedeth all to their rest
Fades the night, and afar
Goeth day, and the stars shineth bright,
Fare thee well; day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, for our days
'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars, 'neath the sky
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

I hope all of you have an enjoyable and safe holiday weekend.  We are able to have this holiday because of our military forces so, "Thank you, Vets!"

We're going to Fiesta Hermosa today, a welter of junk to buy, food to eat, live music and a beer garden.  Our arrival will coincide with lunch, oddly enough...Will have photos tomorrow. 

Richie plans to watch the Indy 500 and the Pepsi 600.  I have two books of interest - the Jaqueline Kennedy tape transcriptions of what she thought of various politicians and "The Obamas" which promises to shed light on activities prior to the White House.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Small Things...

Breadcrumb and Bacon Topping
Three or four strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Mix together and use as a finish for macaroni and cheese or baked beans during their last moments in the oven.  I'm thinking it might also be a good finish for green beans and Cream of Mushroom soup casserole...

Cucumber Salsa
Bernie Kantak, of Citizen Public House in Scottsdale, AZ uses this as a garnish with seared tuna.  How do I know?  Bon Appetit said so!

2 cups finely-diced, peeled cucumber
1/2 cup finely-diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 finely-diced jalapeno

Mix it all together in a medium-sized bowl and add this dressing:  3 T fresh lime juice and 1 T vegetable oil, pepper to taste.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Recently I tried a new ingredient in potato salad.  Normally I used boiled potatoes, sweet pickle relish and chopped onion, plastered together with mayonnaise.  That day, when I'd drained the hot potatoes and put them in a bowl, I added about a quarter cup of pickled jalapeno "juice" as well as a quarter cup of chopped, pickled jalapeno slices.  The jalapenos gave an appealing warmth to the cold salad.

"If it works in potato salad, what about mashed potatoes?" I wondered last night.  They were great with a pork loin roast and honey-ed carrots!*

Garlic-mashed, garlic-smashed potatoes, scoot over!  You're about to get company!

* Honey-ed Carrots
Double handful of baby carrots steamed and drained.
Throw a pat of butter and a squeeze of honey onto the carrots, toss and serve. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thinking About French Summers...

My first trip to France was the whole month of August - never do things by halves!  Michelle met the plane in Paris and we drove down to Bouc-Bel-Air, a small village outside of Aix-en-Provence, where her family lived in a by-now 200 year old mas

The house overlooks the plain below it; pine trees climbed up the hill in back.  Cicadas made a continual background hum, ebbing and rising as the day progressed; big white moths fluttered aimlessly around.  Rosemary grew wild on the hill. 

The windows were tall, with wooden shutters and no screens.  "Screens" as we know them don't exist in France.  The kitchen was small, but wow!  the big meals that came out of it!  Michelle and her late mother Christianne were both masterful cooks.  The biggest meal I ever ate in France was lunch the day we arrived from Paris.  Christienne brought out a hot pizza she'd made and a big bowl of salad.  Mmmm, good.  We all ate well, but horrors - after we cleared the table, Christienne came out with a platter of sizzling steaks and a huge plate of French fries!   "But I thought we'd had lunch?" I said.  "Oh that - just an aperitif!"
And then the cheese course came out with fresh fruit!

We ate lunch - in fact, every meal-- in The Porch which was a room (half walls, windows that opened to the view, and a roof) that extended across the width of the house.  It had a poured concrete floor with a fair number of comfy couches, deep chairs and occasional tables with slipping piles of magazines and books.  The dining room table could easily seat a dozen people.  Mismatched wooden chairs surrounded it.

One of the best parts of the day was drinks before dinner.  We all gathered there before starting to fix dinner to discuss Our Day.   Wines or pastis were on hand along with slices of salame, mixed olives and a baguette. 

I fell in love with pastis - a licorice-flavored liquor that is mixed one part pastis to 7 or 8 parts ice cold water.  It's served in a highball glass - remember them?  Cold rose was the wine with lunch or dinner.  Provence summers are hot and often humid.  The rose was perfect as a light, refrshing drink.  I recommend it!

You can buy Ricard or other brands of pastis at Bev-Mo or equivalent. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How To Get Rid of Lizards

Southern California is a desert, despite our blooming flowers and expanses of green grass.  Lizards love heat.  Ergo we have lizards.  

I first met lizards in Kansas City, Mo., far from any desert.  A junior college fad back in the day was wearing one!  The chameleons wore little tiny collars with a short gold chain as their "leash."  The leash was then pinned to the collar of your shirt and out the door we went to show off our "pets."

We were all fascinated by a chameleon's uncanny ability to blend into the color it was placed upon.  Unfortunately, I got a little too interested in this aspect.  To see what would happen, I put my lizard on a piece of plaid and it promptly died.  Oops.

I've seen them around here, as has a friend.  She doesn't like lizards so I promised I'd find out how to keep them away.  The answer was to put mothballs around any points of entry.  This will also repel raccoons, squirrels, and mice.

Mothballs?  I haven't seen a mothball in 40 years or more!    Before I go invest in a container of something I don't need (I like lizards and we don't seem to have them anyhow) what else can mothballs do?

*  When you wash your winter woolens for seasonal storing, throw a couple of mothballs in with the final rinse.

*  This is silly, because plastic trash bags have ties.  Use them.  The instructions are to put mothballs inside the trash container and then put the plastic trash bag in on top of them.

*  Put a couple in with the good silverware.  It's said to prevent tarnish.

I got this information from a very handy book; the "Readers Digest Practical Problem Solver With Substitutions, Shortcuts and Ingenious Solutions For Making Life Easier." 

Anyone want to go halfsies on a container of mothballs?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Southbound on the 605

Here's something new for Freaky Freeway connoisseurs - on our way home from a delightful visit with the charming Brodskys, we were passed (at warp speed) by a car in the car pool lane.  It was a small sedan and we know it had a sunroof because a 30-something guy was standing up in it.  He was visible from about the waist up and he was enthusiastically waving at other cars.

What I want to know is how the very hell can anybody get that drunk at 2:20 in the afternoon?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Grandfather Clock As a Pet

I inherited the family grandfather clock many years ago when both of us were considerably younger.  Today, I think of it as an old, cranky dog, without the smell, of course.

Much like an aging pet, the clock has run up some almighty invoices at the clock repair places.  The first time it broke down, I made arrangements to take it to the Korean couple who owned the local jewelry and repair store, next to the supermarket.  To my shock, they said the clock was easily worth $5,000!

When I finally got it back about a month later, it worked for a week and then abruptly quit working.  The couple made a house call.  First they slipped out of their shoes at the door and then, wearing socks, tiptoed up the stairs to look worriedly at the clock and chitter-chatter to each other in Korean.  He slid the lid on top back, climbed on the little two-step ladder and looked cautiously down onto the clock's workings.  More muttering with accompanying chirps from the wife.

After poking around for awhile, he pronounced it fixed and they departed, no extra charge.  Since I'd paid them their price - $900 - I was relieved.

Time passed, as it does, and the clock seemed fine.  And then it wasn't fine at all.  The chimes weren't coinciding with the actual time.  I hadn't been all that satisfied with the previous clock workers, so I looked for a new firm.  I would have had to do this anyhow as the Korans had sold and moved away.

Enter Goujon's Clock Repair in Riviera Village.  I made an appointment and laboriously (again) we moved the clock down our stairs (they make a turn, of course.)  Even empty - the weights are unhooked and carried separately - the case alone weighed a ton.  Onto the blanket in the back of my pick-up truck and off to Goujon's, father and son.  After much delibration they nodded and said they could fix it.  And that it was only worth about $3,400. 

Six or eight weeks later, they called and said it was fixed.  Come in, pay them ($750) and take it away.  A year later the clock was fine, but Goujon Pere had died and his son couldn't pay the rrent on the shop, so he locked the door and walked away.  This was very hard cheese on the good folks who had left their various clocks for repair.  I'm not sure that ever did get straightened out.

The clock ticked steadily on for another five or six years, requiring only that the weights be moved up to wind it every two or three days.It ran slow, but that's easy to fix. 

Lately, it has gone back to its old forgetful ways -- the chime didn't match the time.  So I stopped the pendulum, waited a week and started it again.  It was right on time, chimes and all!  I think the clock, given its advanced age, may be getting senile.  I'll have to keep a close eye on it.  If I can remember...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Brits Are Here!

Clearly Rupert Murdoch isn't the only Brit entering our shores.  I just met a new news magazine when it arrived at our front door (not in a reed basket, but the mailbox.)

It's called The Week ( and is a condensed version of what transpired during the past week.  Jolyon Connell started The Week in 1995 when he departed Fleet Street as a reporter to become a publisher.  What makes it different from Time or Newsweek is the fact that all of the news reports reflect a variety of views.  Opening it at random, I found an article entitled "Bin Laden:  Does Obama's boasting cross the line?"  

No less than six different reporters contributed to this story.  And there are evenly-divided number of them on either side - three "Yes, he did" and three "No, he didn't." In today's totally slanted media, this is a new and delightful way to get the unbiased news. 

Health & Science, People, and the Arts - books, film, music, television - take up about half of the back pages.  The Consumer section covers a car review, best Mother's Day gifts, the tip of the week (how to remove various stains) and For Those Who Have Everything, there is this:  the MagicBath baby hot tub which has 10 air jets pumping out bubbles plus  underwater LEDs that give "chromatherapy" by turning blue, indigo and violet in cycles.  The baby lies in this contraption until six months old, then sits in it.  $2,186 from an Italian firm,  I can't recommend anything like that because babies+water+electricity doesn't make any sense, let alone good sense to me. 

Since I cancelled the subscription to Newsweek for their overwhelming Vote For Obama! stance every single week, The Week might prove to be a very enjoyable substitute.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tomato Dressing for Salads

A friend who is from Caracas, Venezuala, sent me this dressing recipe this morning.  I was startled because I'd never heard of a tomato-based salad dressing until I Googled them.  There are all kinds of variations - just add various herbs.  But this is the one I got today:

Tomato Salad Dressing
2 or 3 tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded
1 clove of garlic
pepper and salt to taste
olive oil

Put the tomatoes and garlic in a blender, season to taste, turn on the blender and begin adding olive oil until you get the texture that you want.  Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Too Twee* For Me

"My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner, A Family Memoir" by Meir Shalev   Schocken Books   212 pages   $25.95

The brush went into the paint pot a little too often for this portrait of kindly old Uncle Windbag regaling the assembled family with imaginative events and old quarrels from their shared past. 

Shalev is reputed to be one of Israel's most celebrated writers, but this book was translated from Hebrew to English so perhaps that accounts for any nuances that may hav been missed.

The story describes the grandmother, family life, much of the scenery found in Israel and accounts of Ah, the donkey, who was so clever that she would use a bit of wire to pick the lock on her stall door during the night, escape and fly to London to confer with politicians about the Israeli situation. 

The vacuum cleaner arrived in the village of Nahalal all the way from Los Angeles.  Shalev found it intresting to describe the cleaner's emotions on the journey and after arrival.  In the port of New York, if it hadn't been in a crate, it could have seen the Statue of Liberty. 

Yes, very imaginative, but also Just Too Cute.

*Twee:  excessively or affectedly quaint, pretty or sentimental.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rule, Britannia!

"Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and Her Court" by Robert Hardman   Pegasus Books   356 pages   $27.95

For years I have greedily feasted on the crumbs of dirt  from the Royal tables... Diana, Charles and Camilla, Fergie ... "Now," I thought, "let's see what the Queen thought about all of the above!" licking my chops avidly.

The Acknowledgements sounded promising, Hardman was allowed access to every loevel of every department of the Royal Household.  "All right!" I chortled. 

Sadly any promise of dirt vanished by Chapter 2 which was a review of historical events beginning with the first and most successful royal tour of Elizabeth and Philip, shortly after their marriage.

There were some interesting tidbits.  After Diana's hearse had deposited her body at the grave site and the flowers removed for the return journey, the hearse extrior was found to be pitted badly enough that it had to go into the garage.  People were so desperate that their bunch of flowers made it onto the hearse that they weighted the bouquets with large rocks!

Princess Margaret's "flat" in Kensington Palace was actually a 40-room house.  In addition to the normal use rooms, it had a dog-washing room, an orchid room, an elevator.  The garden that had a gazebo from the Ascot race course. 

Prince Philip has sole charge of Sandringham.  It is considered his fiefdom.  It's also his laboratory.  He had a tractor-washing machine that recycles its own water.  A wheeled cart is used on the 100-acre blackcurrant field to patrol, watering or, in season, picking fruit.  He has a plantation growing baby hazels and oaks for truffles.   There is a 7.4 acre vinyard, expected to produce windsor wine by 2015.

For a thorough history of British politics, the part the Queen takes in government, the relations with various Prime Ministers will be interesting to serious readers.  I did find much of it interesting - how the various houses are run and by whom.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day At The Jazz Club

The refrigerator magnet, given to all of the women present.

There was  good turnout largely due to the fact that the featured band was JazzAmerica, composed of young people from age 13 to 22, the majority being 15.  They had to bring their mothers along - they aren't old enough to drive!

We were pleased to see so many people - but taken aback by the sign on the closed,dark bar door:  Power Failure

Happily the jazz club is able to overome dire emergencies like this one and the kitchen was offering not-very-cold Becks Beer as well as the usual hot dogs and coffee.  One of the ladies had made and contributed a  upcake cake.  This would never have occurred to me, but the baker put all of the cupcakes tightly together in a square and then frosted the whole damned thing!  If you like icing, this one's for you.

We took seats and settled in.  The house, pick-up band was tootling merrily along.  As I idly glanced around the room, I started!  At firt glance, the woman in the pink-purple matronly outfit and huge hat looked exactly like Queen Elizabeth II, right down to her sensible shoes.  She was even wearing thick-framed glasses in an unpleasant orange-ish tone.

After some stage re-organiztion, JazzAmericca took to it and began playing.  JazzAmericfa is a 501c(3) non-profit co-founded by Buddy Colette in 1994.  This organization has never charged tuition.  Visit at ...

With 15 members, their sound was a lot biggr than the usual set-up of six.  Darynn Dean, 15, is the female vocalist and she was very, very good.  She sang a tribute to Julie London's "Be Bye, Blackbird, accompanied only by the bass.  It was an amazingly good pairing. 

The group leader/instructor fancied himself a wit and favored us with a couple of groaners.  Example:  In 1765, Finland got itself a national anthem.  It ran to 11 stanzas so they had to cut it - otherwise it wouldn't finish.  Long ago in Australia, all of the former prisoners that had been shipped there were given new trials and many of them were exonerated  - but freedom didn't last -- it was a kangaroo court. 

All things considered, it was a good afternoon.  I was glad though that Bob (Brodsky) wasn't there.  There were three saxophones in the first line.  Bob has a barely-contained aversion to the music of a saxophone and three of "the damned things!" would have put him over the edge. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

THAT Time Cover

The one captioned, "Are You Mom Enough? Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes - and how Dr. Bill Sears became their guru."  It's a photo of a purported to be 3 year old (nearly four from what I've read) standing on a footstool so as to be able to nurse his mother's left breast. 

I admit that I found the photos disturbing on several levels - Conventional Wisdom and the Bible remind that there is "a time for every season" and I seriously doubt this IS that time. That mother is quite possibly clinically insne.  She defiantly defends her position by saying that her mother nursed her until she was six years old!  I think there's something fishy about both of them sexually.  Child abuse also flickered through my mind.

Enjoy your 15 minutes, Toots. 

Pediatric doctors encourage breast feeding for the first six months.  And bless their hearts, 75% of new mothers do start , but only 44% can stick to it for six months. 

I read the article and was amazed to learn that the mother is never to let go of her child.  She is to keep it in a sling, on her body, from dawn to dusk and then to put the kid in the parents bed so that they can all sleep together.  I thought, "Poor kid - already been in the womb nine months - no freedom now, even though you're out."

As it happened, this issue was lying face up on the coffee table while we were entertaining friends.  John (father of a 16 month) commented on it.  He said that he and his wife have a friend who is doing attacement parenting.  He said, "She's worn out, you can see in her eyes that she doesn't have a life, but she's determined to do it.  Her baby eats whenever it's hungry; no schedule at all," looking quite disapproving.  

"Raffish," a medical doctor, pointed out that bed sharing between adults and a very young child is extremely harmful to a child.  All too often, an exhausted parent (and all new parents are exhausted, 24/7) can roll over onto the child and not realize it.  Sudden Infant Death (SID) risk rises as well.  As for Sears assertion that "parents should respond immediately to their child's crying because "excess crying can damage the brain and lead to developmental disorders,"  he snorted and said, "Maybe to the parents" and flipped the magazine back onto the table.

"T" also snorted, but he said, "How disgusting!"  We had a quorum. Congratulatory nods all around.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Carbon Footprint Fanatic

"How Bad Are Bananas?  The Carbon Footprint of Everything" by Mike Berners-Lee  Greystone Books   232 pages   $16.95

I picked this book up to make  a stab at learning what the hell carbon footprints actually are.  But I had great difficulties understanding anything in it.  I am math challenged and it's not old age - I have always used a calculator to balance my checkbook. 

The author has a set formula at the top of whatever he's talking about (paper vs. plastic bags) like this:  12 g co2e = carbon burned making a recycled paper bag.  80 g co2e is th amount used to make a "virgin" paper bag, like a department store bag. 

Paper bags have to be heavier, thus one has two to four times the carbon footprint of an equivalent plastic bag.  He should have told the City of Los Angeles, which is moving steadily to ban all plastic bags, that. 

The book's chapters are divided into weights - the least used is under 10 grams (sending a text message, walking through a door, drying your hands) and the biggest is one million tons which would be a volcano, the World Cup, a forest fire, a war.

He posits that carbon is like money and it can't be managed well unless you understand it. 

I can tell you that he believes a single red rose could have the same climate change impact as almost 10 lbs. of bananas.  What a rose has to do with bananas or carbon footprints/climate change, I couldn't begin to tell you.  I believe the more transport required to move the product (roses or bananas) is the source of the carbon footprint.  At least I got that part of it right.

I think...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Psst ... Wanna Buy a T-Shirt?

The What On Earth catalog arrived here yesterday.  Mostly the t-shirt captions are silly, but these are true: 

was not what one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up.  

What Doesn't Kill You Only Delays the Inevitable.

You're Never Too Old for Naptime!

Organized People Are Just Too Lazy to Look for Things.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What I'd Do Is Sue!

"What Would Michelle Do? A Modern-Day Guide to Living with Substance and Style" by Allison Samuels   Gotham Books   276 pages   $24

Samuels wrote a December, 2008, Newsweek cover story entitled "The Meaning of Michelle" and as far as I could tell, that was probably the only personal contact she ever had with Mrs. Obama.  Obama didn't endorse it by writing a little something to thank the author, for one thing. 

Given the prissy, school-marmish tone used throughout the book, understandable.

It;s all iffy stuff and suppositions on the author's part.  Here's from a random page, to give you an example.  "Michelle's volunteer work no doubt influenced her desire to ..."  I did find the direct, attributable quotes interesting.  Here are some to amuse you:

"She has a plan and a list for everything and everybody.  She puts me to shame and I'm the president."  Barack Obama

"I often tease Barack.  He's incredibly smart, and he is very able to deal with a strong woman which is one of the main reasons he can be president because he can deal with me." Michelle Obama

"I have freed myself to put me on the priority list and say, yes, I can make choices that make me happy."  Michelle Obama

"I began to exercise because I realized that my happiness was tied to how I feel about myself."  Michelle Obama.

Two narcissists for the price of one - what a deal!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Not A Lot Left...

After Camelot, A Personal History of the Kennedy Family - 1968 to the Present" by J. Randy Taraborrelli   Grand Central Publishing   602 pages   $29.99

Looking at the third generation of Kennedys, there seems not a lot to build upon.  Old Joe, however not squeaky clean he was in business or his personal life at least seemed to have plenty of energy.  He instilled this go-get-em in his and Rose's kids (or else they were all born with Attention Deficit Disorder)  and by and large, the third generation has turned energy into arrogance and entitlement.  "Do you know who I am?"  "I'm a Kennedy, I can do as I please."  Carolyn Kennedy Schlossberg seems to be the only one to have behaved and made something of herself.  John was a screw-up, very much his own man; messy, careless and spoiled.  Sometime's it's not a good thing to be adored.

Taraborrelli covers a great deal of material in the ensuing 44 years after 1968, but he also re-shovels old dirt.  No wonder the book is 602 pages. 

Copies are rarely as good as the originals and it's true of today's Kennedys, Shrivers and Smiths.  From Joe and Rose Kennedys marriage in 1914 to 2012, it's been a downhill road in only 98 years.  What's that old saying?  First generation makes the money, the second guards it and the third generation blows it. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Very Weird Cover Photo

"Bossypants" by Tina Fey   Little, Brown & Co.   275 pages   $26.99

It's a head shot of Fey looking into the camera.  She is wearing a white, man's shirt and a striped tie.  Her left hand is clasped around her right forearm.  Her right palm is pressed against the side of her face.

What's weird about that? you ask?  It's been Photo Shopped and those hands and forearms belong to a man, a hairy, beefy man. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean - "I'm a man in a woman's body"?  "I'm a woman but I'm as tough as a man"?  Basically, it creeped me out.

The author note on the back flap states "Tina Fey lives in Denver with her ferret, Jacoby."  She does have a sarcastic, reverse irony sense of humor.  She covers a variety of subjects including "Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions On Breast-Feeding, the Electoral Process, Italian Rum Cake"

She thoughtfully includes the script for an appearance with Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton while Fey played Sarah Palin.  In some circles, this would be referred to as "padding."  It's frequently put to use when the writer  can't think of anything to say. 

Frankly I didn't find her bossy at all.  She should have known my 1st grade teacher, Miz Fricke. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Dog the Size of a Volkswagen

"Giant George - Life with the World's Biggest Dog" by Dave Nasser with Lynne Barrett-Lee   Grand Central Publishing   255 pages   $24.99

George is a six year old Great Dane.  He's seven feet long, 43 inches tall and weighs 245 pounds.  The Guinness World Records lists him as both the world's tallest dog ever and world's tallest living dog. 

In photos with owners Christi and Dave Nasser, the dog dwarfs them.  His front legs are so long that his favorite sitting position is:  butt on the sofa or chair or golf cart, back legs folded under and front paws on the floor supporting his not inconsiderable weight. 

By all accounts, Great Danes as a breed are uniformly gentle - given thenormal size of these dogs, what do they have to prove anyhow?  George hates water and fears dogs that are a lot smaller than he is!

When the Nassers got him in November, 2006, he was a puppy of 17 lbs.  From that to 245 is an incredible weight gain (he eats 110 lbs. of food per month.)  His "deposits" (four or five pounds) are handled with a snow shovel!

Despite appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, the Today Show, a YouTube video with more than 2.5 million hits, 75,000 fans on Facebook and another 2,500 on Twitter (how the hell does a dog twitter,) George is primarily a beloved family pet.

It's so nice to see that stardom hasn't changed his great disposition or personality.  A lot of people could learn from this dog! 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Das Kaiser (Grill) Undt Der Madchen

It's a story as old as dirt -- girl meets boy, they fall madly in love; the boy suddenly cools and drops her like a bad habit; the girl scornfully takes his number off of speed dial ... years later, they run into one another and the spark is re-lit.  And then the boy runs off with a new girl. 

Years ago when we first started going down to Palm Springs, we had a plethora of new restaurants to explore.  I smile when I remember Two Ugly Sisters Bistro (now something else) which was owned by a gay couple.  Fritzi worked the stoves; Ernst the front of the house.  And all of the customers toted a giant, red, high-heeled shoe with a key across an alley to the toilets.  Palm Springs has always been funny about the plumbing facilities.

Kaiser Grill was (and still is) a sophisticated-looking place.  Clean lines, marble floors, impeccable napery and servers in white shirts, black pants and long aprons.  Their shrimp cocktail was served as usual, but the serving plate had a generous dollop of guacamole and chips.  Works together beautifully!

Richie liked their version of meatloaf and I would (almost) slap my Mother for trying to steal one of my grilled prawns in pancetta with a citrus reduction.  Couldn't get enough of them; a must stop when we were in town.  This state of bliss continued until the evening I got a bitch slap across the tastebuds.  They'd discontinued My Favorite Dish because they'd gotten a new chef who wanted changes. 

I cast their phone number into limbo.  I wouldn't be going back.  I even sent them a e-mail suggesting one night a week - month, even - be Oldtimers Night when they would serve the shrimp or the meatloaf and whatever else was missing.   To no avail.

During our alst visit, Richie expressed a desire to eat there, probably because it's closest to our hotel.  At the reception desk, I said "Smoking side of the patio, please," only to be told, "Oh, no, dear!  We don't allow smoking on the patio any longer -- the State of California would get after us!"

Funny ... most of the restaurants along Palm Canyon have patios, including Palm Springs Roadhouse which had a patio full of people eating and smoking.  But we were here and we were hungry. 

The shrimp cocktail arrived on a bed of juliened celeriac? with a sour-tasting sauce.  Richie disliked it so much, he called the server over to complain, something he almost never, ever does.  He brusquely suggested the chef get a new way of serving a shrimp cocktail. and promptly 

And do I need to say, "No grilled prawns and no meatloaf"?  We both sulked a bit as we ate our grilled filet mignons.  The ceremony is off again -- here's your ring, Kaiser.

Kaiser Grill, 205 S. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs   760-323-1003 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Meet The New Rockettes!

Wednesday, April 25th, the Budweiser Clydesdales were in town, making an appearance on Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs.  The gimmick was that the wagon was "distributing beer" to the bars along the way.  Thus it took a long time for them to get all the way down Palm Canyon to the Palm Springs Roadhouse where Richie shot these pictures.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Yankee Doodle Pin-Stripe Mustang Convertible

(Sorry - tilt your head)
This is #6 in a series of only 60.  The California plate is:  6 of 60

This commemorative car and its siblings (?) were only sold in New York state via Ford dealerships of which there were 62, but only 60 cars available.  I guess they worked that out in a New York minute!  (Sorry, couldn't resist but should have.) 

We were at the jazz club.  I'd gone out for a cigarette and was admiring the ocean and another lovely day.  A man came out the jazz club door, walked up to the passenger-side door, clicked it open, put something on the seat then shut and locked the door again.  "Ha-hah!"  I thought, "That must be the owner." 

I made eye contact and told him that I'd shot a couple of pictures for the blog that I write.

He waved that off.  "People take pictures of it alla the time -- I'm going down the freeway, 'nother car pulls up aongside of me, slows... down comes the passenger window and out comes the cell phone.  I'm used to it." 

He went on, "I hadda fly to New York 'cuz they were only sold there and then drive it back to California -- you gotta problem with dat?" in a mock growl.  I grinned and said, "I gotta a husbin' born in Brooklyn -- you gotta problem with dat?"

He grinned at my audacity and said, succinctly, "Longue Eye-land."  I nodded and said, "He grew up on Long Island - Huntington."  He nodded.

He started to put a quarter in the parking meter and I said helpfully, "You can park for free in the bank lot" gesturing toward my right. "But I can't see it from the club and there's a lot of Angel fans." he said darkly. 

Hearing about the car auction, flying to New York, probably having to drive to a specific dealership, buying the car and then driving it to California -- and then to be terrified to leave it on the street where you can't see it?  That's a New York kind of thing.  They understand it.  The rest of us never will.

My chief concern now is that Richie the Ardent Dodger Fan will take it into his head to take his 4Runner into One Day Paint for a Dodger touch up. 

Photo sidewise because while I changed it inside the computer, am working from the disc which didn't change it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An Interesting Ad

Normally I avoid political discussions not held around my own dining room table.  There I know the combatants!  It's somewhat risky to start up in public, but this is too timely to resist.

Go to   today and read the article about "New Political Ad" and see the ad itself. 

Just opened my flak umbrella - have at it!

"It's Not You, It's Me"

Spencer's, 701 W. Baristo Road (in fact, Baristo dead ends in front of the restaurant) Palm Springs  760-323-1003

Every time that we go to a restaurant new to us, I approach the place with enthusiasim, eager to try their food.  Being somewhat of a controlling personality, I've probably also Googled the menu and know what I'm going to order before we leave the house. 

Such was the case with Spencer's.
The outdoor, roofless room
The sommelier lady passed by frequently; she and Richie had an extended discussion about which red wine for his 10-oz steak with porcini dust, garli mashed potatoes and roast broccoli ($39.)  The garlic kind of threw everything off a bit - a merlot would be too soft, but a hearty red would over power the porcini.  She brought a sample of the wine she recommended; he sipped it, made a face and said, "I don't like it" and ordered a Rodney Strong Cabrnet.

Lobster Potstickers below; Wellington sandwiches above
Continuing my quest for The Perfect Caesar Salad, I orderd it ($11) to come before the lobster pot stickers ($14) and "Wellington" sandwiches ($13.)
The Steak

I definitely didn't like the salad presentation and I wish now that Richie had gotten a shot of it for you.  A group of long, romaine lettuce leaves contained in a U-shaped - what?  It tasted like cardboard but looked like Parmesan cheese.  It wasn't. 

The lobster pot stickers were plentiful (six instead of Roy's three) and the Wellington sandwiches of slow-cooked beef with a creamy mushroom sauce, horseradish  and pate were beautifully presented.  I could only manage one of thoem; Richie had the other for lunch the next day.  God bless hotel rooms with mini-refrigerators. 

The pot stickers all by themselves, no sauce, were flavorful enough.  I discovered this next day when I ate them for lunch.  The soy-ginger-jalapeno sauce had to be naked soy sauce, because that's what it tasted like.  The red sauce on the plate was a "chili aioli" (mayo) and if they'd "painted" with the soy sauce and served the chili aioli on the side it would have worked out better.

Dinner and drinks, $120 plus $24 tip.

I was curious about Spencer's; we went to Spencer's and now I know about Spencer's.  Case closed.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Learning Curve changed its format for adding blogs.  I thought I was doing well with it (witness all of the photos recently) but clearly I did something wrong this morning because the computer ate my work.  I will devote myself to a deeper study tomorrow morning.