Thursday, November 29, 2007

Still missing L.M. Boyd

Can this be true? You've long known that desk job can make you fat. Here's why: researchers have found that the enzyme that fights creation of fat just shuts down when we sit down. Here's the good news: just standing up is almost as good as exercising. Hmmm, I suppose the Hallelujah Chorus, part of Handel's Messiah, works your top and your bottom.

All the health benefits of red wine without staining your dentures. Harvard researchers have packed the good stuff of your favorite Merlot into a pill. No pesky cork to contend with. Goes well with red meat.

Ever wonder how art got started? Natalie Angier weaves a delightful tale (based on a book by Ellen Dissanayake) that credits Early Mom with creating art. Furthermore, she says art is not on an elite stage just for social peacocks. Rather, she says, among traditional cultures and throughout most of human history, art has also been a profoundly communal affair, of harvest dances, religious pageants, quilting bees, the passionate town rivalries that gave us the spires of Chartres, Reims and Amiens.
Ponder that.

Researchers with too much time on their hands have also discovered men with deep voices get more action than squeakers. Imagine James Earl Jones calling his cat.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Santa Claus HQ

Remember I told you the Mystery Woman had a thing for Santas? Here's a sample of her whimsical collection. A ten-year affair.

Getting them to Texas required two trips. And there are a few boxes still in Minneapolis. That's after she gave away half her table tops.

I'm new at posting photos and don't yet know how to splice together text and pictures. The Asian Santas, for example, are the three little guys on the white background, next to last. The rest, I think, explain themselves. However, we couldn't find the Navajo Santa. It's on the tree somewhere.

If this is too much schmaltz, skip it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Put another log on the fire

At the risk of being stoned by the crowd, here's breaking news: our Christmas tree is up and all the presents are in the house except two. That's one advantage of retirement -- there's time to better mess with holiday stuff.

I snapped what could be a great photo of the Mystery Woman and her seven-year-old granddaughter, Allison, each standing on the sofa and the arm of my favorite reading chair so they could reach the upper branches of the Christmas tree. It was a Kodak moment. And, I hope, a memory that Allison will repeat years from now to her children as they decorate the future trees. Memories are more precious than presents. Last longer, too.

Speaking of memories, the Mystery Woman collects Santas of every kind, shape and origin. We have Norwegian Santas, black Santas, Asian Santas, etc. Did I mention every decoration on the tree is a Santa Claus? More than 200 Santas, maybe 300. And that doesn't count the fifty sixty Santas scattered around the great room. We trucked them down from Minneapolis. Kinda neat.

Thanksgiving was fun, filling and fulfilling. Old family and new friends. Christmas holds the same promise.

Be good to one another. That seems to work best.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving: turkey and duct tape

My sweetie knows how to duct tape a turkey. Does yours?

You think I'm kidding, but no. This is the gospel truth. The Mystery Woman and I have a dozen relatives coming for Thanksgiving dinner. Naturally, we've been busy with the make-ready necessary to feed so many people. She's been the busiest.

But I thought she had popped the final cork when I saw her break out the duct tape. I think I screamed. The Mystery Woman is, after all, unorthodox.

I was certain she was taping up the little wings so the bird would fit in the pan. But I was wrong. In my terror, I had failed to notice the turkey was in a clear plastic brine bag and she was merely taping up the garment so it would not leak overnight in the fridge.

What? You think I over-reacted? If so, you do not know the true depths of her unorthodoxy. This is a woman who suggested Post-it Notes might make good kindling for the fireplace. She made that solemn observation as she was tearing the duct tape with her teeth.

Turkey dinner. Red wine or white?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mr. Whipple

Mr.Whipple died yesterday. In his memory, squeeze the Charmin.

Moving on. Use smaller serving spoons and plates. That's one way to keep from over-eating this Thanksgiving.

Most true grit is spoken through the spouse's clinched teeth.

Migraines can be life-threatening. To put this in perspective, more people died from Migrainous Stroke last year than were murdered with handguns. Migraine is disease, a headache is only a symptom. Plus, the disease has many symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, auras (light spots), sensitivity to light and sound, numbness, difficulty in speech, and severe semihemispherical head pain. One Migraine attack alone can last for eight hours, several days, or even weeks.

Katrina keeps blowing bad wind. In Saturday elections, only 52,614 people voted in New Orleans. That's down a bunch from 113,000 who voted in the mayor's race last year. The out-migration is mostly black residents. Which explains how whites now have a majority on the city council after losing control in the mid 80's.

Enough, you say? Agreed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A fitting tribute

A sharp-eyed friend from Palm Springs sent this in. It's an obit for Velma Dawson.

Please note the second to the last sentence.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Norman Rockwell, Walter Mitty and Penelope

Sorry for the hiatus. Every return to Texas also includes time consuming check-ups with half a dozen or more of my dependents, the doctors. So far, I'm looking good.

Here's some unsolicited help for the men on your Christmas shopping list. Buy "Where Dreams Die Hard," by Carlton Stowers. It's a little book, only 205 pages. At first, you'll think the book is about six-man football in small Texas towns, which it is. After all, the author is/was a sports writer. But the book is so much more.

Carlton writes about life as we used to know it.

He writes with truth about the strengths and weaknesses of the high school boys who play this wide open kind of football. Gentle, but with the bark off.

He writes about the humor that helps in small towns. For example, when he asked the postmistress about the economic engines at work in the small town of Penelope, she replied: there's me, the granary and the Dr. Pepper vending machine. When he asked someone who was the richest person in town, the reply was: we don't have one.

But most of all, he writes about the real stuff of small towns throughout America:
"My visit confirmed that there remains in our society the basic good upon which we've historically flourished. Though but a faint star in the multitude, Penelope is the proof I had come to find. Its people are a composite of the clichés too often mocked: hard-working and God-fearing; rising above the two-dollar, rush-to-the-bank on payday woes, to embrace the day and extend a helping hand."

If the man on your Christmas list is a sports fan, he will love this book. If not, no matter. The book combines the best of Norman Rockwell and Walter Mitty.

End of tout.

Footnote: we met Carlton recently at the Books on the Bosque event in Clifton, Tx. Carlton has written dozens of books about sports, true crime, mysteries, etc.

It was a remarkable weekend.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Conference for readers and writers

We rolled into Clifton, Texas, on a magic carpet knitted together by words.

Whoa, Nellie. That's powerful writing. More accurately, that sentence is powerfully over-written. But I kinda like it, nonetheless.

Words did take us to Clifton over the weekend. The occasion: the fourth annual Books on the Bosque, a conference for readers and writers. Our little band of co-authors was billed as the keynote speakers and we sold some books.

Once again, I was reminded how some people love words. The nine other authors presented passionate insights into their lives as writers. Jan Peck stunned me when she said she worked for two years honing a children's book that was only 200 words long. Each word was obviously important.

I've always been a slap-dash kind of writer. During the early days of our little weekly newspaper, I had to double as a speech writer to feed the family. I would pore over the research from the Lt. Gov's office from nine until around eleven p.m. and then sleep, perhaps to gestate. Because at four a.m. I would get up and start writing speeches for the lite guv. By eight a.m., I would often have two speeches written. Then it was back to my day job at the newspaper.

The speeches were not works of art, but I cashed the check.

I've never considered myself a real writer. More of a journeyman. And I do enjoy writing. And writers. Mostly.

Best opening line of a novel: "Goddamn rooster!" (paints a picture real quick.) Sadly, I cannot remember the author or the book. Any help?

Best lines from a children's book: Life was hard on the Indian reservation. "My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people all the way back to the very first poor people." From The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Best spoof: (after J. K. Rowling outted Dumbledore): "Author hints at Existance of Two More Mohicans." There are more nuggets at the blog site.

I would like to tell you more about Clifton. It's an amazing little town. Later.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Salty talk about whiskey and pajamas

First, a bit of housekeeping herewith: after 10 months of fairly regular writing, I can now boast that more than 10,000 people have clicked on my blog. Boast, you say? Aren't many bloggers netting that many a day. Yes. But they are not as cantankerous as I. Many thanks to you and you and you. Awww hell, you know who you are.

Following the writing-in-pajamas theme, more than 4.2 million Americans now work from home full time, or claim they do. That's up nearly 100 percent from a 1990 tally. And nearly 20 million more work at home some of the time. Well, that's one solution to traffic congestion. But if you work at home, how do you know whether Monday is a holiday?

This is the last time I'm going to tell you this: if you are having trouble setting up your home office filing system, name your files with nouns. Don's use adjectives, which are subject to your mood swings.

Gotta love the ingenuity of those Afghani farmers (read: mobsters). When told to stop growing poppies used in the opium and heroin trade, many did. Then they switched to harvesting cannabis, which is the active ingredient in marijuana and hashish.

Not yet a wine drinker? And you long for a return to yesteryear when Jim Beam was every man's best buddy? There's a whiskey model of the California Napa Valley wine tour. It's called the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Now, if we could just trade Alan Alda for John Wayne.

That's all. You'll hear more from me later. When I am ready.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

JFK assassination talk still chokes me up

Last week, we had a book signing gig at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas. That's our book on the left.

The event was an emotional experience for me. A couple of times during my presentation, I choked up. Dealey Plaza. The Sixth Floor Museum. That's hallowed ground. Plus, I was weary from three days and a thousand miles on the Interstate (our semi-annual migration between Minnesota/Texas).

But I've choked up before when we discuss those terrible days when we were young reporters covering the assassination of President Kennedy and the subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. At first, my reactions surprised me. But no longer. My tears seem to come when I am describing the Kennedys. They were beautiful people.

It is especially difficult to describe filming of Jackie coming out of the Parkland Hospital emergency exit and standing beside the hearse. His blood dried dark on her pink dress. Her grief on display "so they would know what they have done."

I have no such difficulty talking about Jack Ruby standing right next to me in the moments before he shot Oswald. Murder just a few feet in front of me. Part of a day's work for a young reporter.

This weekend, we have another book gig. This time we make an appearance at Books on the Bosque, November 9 & 10, at Bosque Conservatory in Clifton, Texas. I've learned to bring a handkerchief.

FYI -- our book "When the News Went Live" is now in the fourth printing. Now in paperback, it is affordable enough for J-schools.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Texas Bound -- best tout ever

Are modern cars still outfitted to play audio cassettes? If so, or if you can play cassettes in the privacy of your own home, then I have a tout for you.

Up front, I'll declare my prejudice -- I love most things Texan. There are notable exceptions. You know who I'm talking about.

But I meander.

Here's the tout: go online to buy "Texas Bound" and settle in for some mighty fine story telling.

This is important -- buy Volume I, recorded in 1993. Be careful you get the tape and not the book. Oh, the book's OK, of course, but the tape will be music to your ears, especially if you've been living out of Texas.

Here's the deal. The tapes and books are part of a fund-raising scheme that was cooked up by the Dallas Museum of Art. And it works. The premise is that the collection of short stories were written by Texans and the tapes were narrated by Texas actors and actresses. I think the rules have been flexed to allow writers and actors to participate if they've just passed through Texas.

Volume I is rich with great stories. Some funny, some sad. Here's the list:

Host: Tess Harper

TOMMY LEE JONES reads LARRY McMURTRY'S "There Will Be Peace in Korea"; DORIS ROBERTS reads WILLIAM GOYEN'S "The Texas Principessa"; TESS HARPER reads ROBERT FLYNN'S "The Midnight Clear"; TYRESS ALLEN reads REGINALD McKNIGHT'S "The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas"; JUDITH IVEY reads LYNNA WILLIAMS'S "Personal Testimony"; NORMA MOORE reads ANNETTE SANFORD'S "Trip in a Summer Dress"; ROGER ALVAREZ reads TOMáS RIVERA'S "Picture of His Father's Face"; RANDY MOORE reads LAWRENCE WRIGHT'S "Escape"

Fifteen bucks plus postage.

My favorites include "Personal Testimony" about a 12-year-old girl who discovers she can make summer money writing personal testimonies for others at her Baptist church camp. And coming in a close second is "The Texas Principessa" which is about a Texas grand dame the goings on at the Italian villa she inherited.

Trust me, this is a great Christmas present. Even if you're foreign born.

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