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All American Anglophile

June 29th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
As any red blooded American should know, July 4th 1776 marks our very first Fourth of July celebration with the signing of the Declaration of Independence – our official break with Great Britain. (Do I hear an audible gasp from all you Anglophiles?) If you’ve ever had the chance to see the film “The Madness of King George” (highly entertaining, at the expense of poor George), you can imagine his utter distress at having lost “the Colonies”. While this is not attributed to what drove him stark raving mad, I surmise it didn’t much help matters. In actuality, he suffered from a blood disease that had gone undetected by the quacks in those days, known as physicians. As a result, history unfairly dubs him “The Mad King” as well as “The King Who Lost America”, as if one dishonorable title were not enough.
There’s an interesting bit of Long Island history known as the  Setauket Spy Ring (sometimes known as the  Culper Spy Ring) which took place during the American Revolution that centered around Nancy’s  “clothesline”, of all things. Talk about American ingenuity. Nancy lived with her husband, Judge Selah Strong, and their eight children on Setaukets Little Bay. Directly across the bay was Abraham Woodhull’s farm. Abe shuttled messages back and forth from his farm to New York City as part of a spy ring for General George Washington to be used against the British. There were many components of this spy ring, but one particular man was chosen for his adeptness in navigating  Long Island’s waters; Caleb Brewster. It was learned that Brewster wasn’t safe landing his boat in the same spot to get his messages to Woodhull for fear of being found out by the British, so they created six different spots for him. But as Woodhull pondered as to how he would know when and where Brewster would arrive, he glimpsed Nancy’s clothesline from across the water. Woodhull and Nancy devised a secret code based on what she hung on her clothesline. If a black petticoat was hanging on the line, it meant  Brewster was in town. The number of handkerchiefs would indicate which location Brewster’s boat could be found. So with guys like Woodhull and his trusty spyglass aimed at Nancy’s clothesline, poor King George didn’t stand a chance.
As “the Colonies” went their merry way (leaving England less so), Congress agreed on an official date to commemorate our new found independence and thus began the festivites. John Adams wrote to his wife: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations….with pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires….from this time forward, forever more”. So right, Jack. So right. BBQ’s, picnics, parades, fireworks, and for some…..birthdays. Happy Birthday, Michael, born on the Fourth of July. My idea of fun is a bit more subdued…. Oh, to swing in a hammock on a lazy summer afternoon, book in hand. Which brings me to a bit of a dilemma.  What to get Michael for his birthday? I’d really like to get him that hammock – there are two perfectly spaced trees at our woodsy retreat but his phobia of getting mauled by a bear is not wholly unfounded. I could get him that book instead. Let’s see….”How Not To Arouse The Interest Of A Bear”. Number One – Do not allow yourself to laze idly in a hammock in the midst of bear country. Or if you do, forego that turkey and cheese sandwich smothered with tantalizing condiments. Number Two – Allow your wife to buy you that hammock and let HER swing in it if you promise to keep an eye out for old Sasquatch. She’ll never be able to yell at you if you don’t. Ha! Ha! Wait, what am I saying? That’s ME with my foot dangling from a horribly painful toothy vice! No hammock. And no book for you, birthday boy. We’ll go out to eat. Or shall I say, we’ll dine out?
And so, this July 4th, while you’re grilling those burgers, give a nod to our Founding Fathers, and a wink to good old King George. Had things turned out any other way, we’d be associated with Beef Eaters of another kind. As it is, I rather like mine charbroiled, with the accent on “well done”. BBQ or BBC? Why not both?
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Psychology 101: The Right – Wing Republican Problem

June 25th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

What is the underlying difference between conservatives and liberals? The truth of the matter is your average republican has a substantially stronger aversion to ambiguity than democrats do. Nobody likes irresolution and uncertainty but a plethora of controlled studies (I will cite the specific studies if necessary but for our purposes…just google psychology of political affiliation, etc.) have overwhelmingly shown that liberal-minded democrats have a much greater degree of tolerance for contradictory interpretations of complex issues than republicans do – period.
One need only listen to AM radio or watch FOX News to see how easily Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly can resolve the most tortuously labyrinthine political problems with such utterly facile, black and white, crude, and non-subtle sweeping generalizations. These conservative media are laughable and I find it hard to believe that any informed citizen can take these folks seriously.
It certainly would be nice if there were such pat solutions for such vexing issues as healthcare, gun control, the economy, foreign affairs, abortion, immigration, role of government etc.  but there simply isn’t. Every important issue is prodigiously difficult and complex and no matter what legislation for any given predicament is presented, the bottom line is a whole lot of people are going to get hurt (usually around 50%).
What I would suggest everyone do is conduct a little semi-controlled study yourself and do what I did – just think of all of your friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and even family members and ask yourself: who has a greater tolerance in dealing with huge, messy complicated problems, your liberal friends or conservative ones ? Don’t you think your republican co-workers are quicker to voice their unwavering opinions and thoughts on any given issue? Finally, ask yourself, why do they always have to SHOUT and YELL?
So what do you think ? WhaDaYaThink ? Oh – about the shouting thing – @ lunchtime starting at 12pm EST, today or tomorrow go and listen to Leonard Lopate on NPR for a little while and then switch the dial and tune into Hannity, Limbaugh or O’Reilly and let me know your thoughts.

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For The Birds

June 24th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor

While bike riding in the nearby Massapequa Preserve yesterday, I came across a glorious sight. Twelve swans floating as one in the creek that’s fed from the large pond a little further upstream. Other people also stopped to observe, one remarking “Six pair”. Everyone knows that where there’s one swan, there are usually two. Thus, multiple swans should turn out in pairs. They mate for life (something we humans can learn from). I spent a few moments drinking in their beauty before continuing on my way.
On my reverse trip, it seems that a Swan Lady had appeared, knee deep in the water, looking magical as the swans surrounded her. Then it became apparent, as the scene tarnished by the  fact that she was feeding them along with a smattering of baby ducks.  We were always told not to. Had something changed? As if reading my mind, she turned to me and said “It’s actually good for them. It’s wheat bread, not white”, she added in defense, as each swan politely took its turn accepting her offering by hand. I was somewhat skeptical but thought that she might be a swan expert, so certain was she in her conviction . She seemed pleased with herself at saying they had finished off the loaf. She had brought two and immediately began doling out the second one as more people gathered to watch. “Do you have any bread for the birds?” she asked a set of toddler twins. “If you do, then you can feed them too”.
On the other side of the preserve is yet another pond, along with a prominently placed sign facing Merrick Rd. DO NOT FEED THE WATERFOWL. It was posted by the Department of Environmental Conservation listing the reasons:
Poor Nutrition
Increased Hybridization
Water Pollution
Delayed Migration
Concentration At Unnatural Sites
Overcrowding
Spread of Disease
Costly Management Efforts
Unnatural Behavior
Cumulative Effects (one person feeds them, then another and so on)
Devaluation of the Species
And so, dear people, please leave nature to itself. It’s quite capable of providing for itself without any “help” from us, however well intentioned. It’s done so since the dawn of time. Take the bread home and spread some peanut butter and jelly on it for your kids. There are other ways of teaching your children about nature, beginning with suppressing the urge to feed the birds. They are not starving. They beg for food the same way your dog or cat does but the added distinction lies in the fact that these creatures are wild. So enjoy them at a distance with all the respect that they deserve. Meanwhile, the Swan Lady has prompted me to request another sign from the DEC to be posted at the Swan Lady’s site. It seems that it is she who needs to be re-educated, not I.
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June 23rd, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor

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Summers In France

June 17th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor

Suzanne bakes bread

In a crumbling millhouse.

They eat it still warm

Outside on the flagstones.

The scrape of iron chairs

Bringing them closer to table

Under Monet’s vanishing sky.

 

A chardonnay

From the village market

Underlines

This peasant’s paradise.

There is nothing to be said

In either language

That a wave of the hand

Can more aptly express.

 

Let silence be

Your perfect French,

Punctuated

By the evening star.

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How To Read Thomas Pynchon

June 15th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

I’ll begin this blog by stating the obvious: Thomas Pynchon is a genius almost beyond words. Anyone who has read anything by Pynchon will be amazed at how much esoteric information is packed into each and every one of his 7 novels. His novels are prodigiously dense and complex, full of allusions and alliterations, word-play, symbolism, irony and just about every other literary technique under the sun. He is considered by many scholars to be perhaps the most brilliant, unique, awe-inspiring postmodernist writer of the past half-century and nobody has seen him in 40 years. Yep, not unlike J.D. Salinger,  (recently deceased) Pynchon is a recluse and all we have is a picture of him from his high school yearbook from Oyster Bay, long Island, New York.
Thomas Pynchon writes a little like Vladimir Nabokov (his puns, references, allusions, long sentences, etc.) who not surprisingly was a student of the master of prose, Mr. Nabokov at Cornell University.
I just finished reading The Crying of Lot 49 (published in 1966, but was written when Pynchon was in his early 20’s; how is it possible for him to know so much already? Was he reincarnated?) and I was completely overwhelmed and “blown away” with his brilliant prose style, labyrinthine plot features, and just the wealth of references. Next on my reading list is Gravity’s Rainbow but I’m going to need a little help on this one; I’ve tried to read this about 10 years ago and had to put it down because of the incredibly vast array of references, themes, and allusions to: science & technology (Pynchon worked at Boeing as a technical writer), obscure historical events, punning weird names, believable conspiracies from huge corporations (paranoia is a theme throughout all of Pynchon’s work), hundreds of characters, reams of postmodernist themes and devices, entropy, industrialization, mathematics, literature, religious cults and so much more. I just purchased The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Pynchon and I’m a lot smarter now than I was a decade ago. So I’m ready to tackle Pynchon’s exhaustingly monster masterpiece.
Thomas Pynchon is not for everyone. If you’re going to read him you’re going to have to put in a whole lot of work into it yourself. However, I obviously believe the hard work is well-worth it – you’ll be a whole lot smarter, think differently and never look at mundane things, ideas, or objects the same again, and most importantly you will be entertained beyond your wildest dreams.
This can be a huge essay but I’ll stop writing here and allow you to have the pleasure of reading and researching those deliciously esoteric factoids yourself. Enjoy ! So whadayathink ? What do you think ? Do you like Thomas Pynchon ? Do you like to be challenged when you read (to this degree) ?

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I Love NY – Don’t Frack It Up

June 14th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
Fracking – The extraction of natural gas from the earth using un-natural methods.
Fracking – The decimation of the land affecting all living things.
Fracking – The polluting of groundwater to the detriment of all.
Fracking – The promise of jobs in exchange for a lesser quality of life.
FrackingBig business versus the rest of us.
Fracking – An easy fix for an uneasy existence.
Fracking – The means to an end of life as we know it.
FrackingThe lazy man’s solution to alternative energy.
FrackingIrresponsible measures taken in a grand show of national independence.
Fracking – The invasive drilling of the earth with no regard for the consequences.
Fracking – A dirty word for a dirty business.
Fracking A bad idea for a good many reasons.
Not in New York. NOT ANYWHERE. For more information and what you can do to stop it, Google “No Fracking” or contact NY Officials directly at amillionfrackingletters.com….
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The Egg Lady

June 12th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
“There it is”. I’ll point it out each time on our way to our country place. Sometimes I just say it to myself. Other times we drive by so fast I won’t see it coming. But always, I look for it. The ramshackle old farmstead with its cluster of outbuildings left abandoned now. It didn’t look much different back then, back in the 1970’s when my family and I first made our jaunts to the mountains that are so familiar to me now. We can find our way in the dark, and oftentimes do. I remember we always stopped at The Egg Lady’s. I know there used to be a sign for it somewhere – “Eggs”. A more prominent one announced – “Worms”. Guess fishing was in its hey day then. Anyway, we’d always stop for a couple of dozen eggs before continuing on our way.
The Egg Lady (or so she was known to us) lived all alone and ran a sort of gentleman’s farm, minus the gentleman and without the gentle manor lifestyle. In addition to eggs, she sold chickens, rabbits, worms, and even dirt. (If you can’t find dirt here, you won’t find it anywhere). Eggs were cheaper in the country – a dollar a dozen, and fresher too. Big, hearty, orange yolks swimming in their puddles of goo. Not like the puny yellow ones you get in the city. What would be the difference – they both come from chickens, right? Ah, but the country hen has free range (all the rage now) and is fed as a chicken should be fed, with scraps of leftovers in addition to its ration of mash, pellets, and cracked corn. The other guys (or gals, to be politically and biologically correct), the ones with the puny yellow yolks, are assembly line chickens, trapped within the confines of their clinical cages, and no table scraps for them. So why would they be expected to produce a better egg? It was well worth stopping at The Egg Lady’s.
She was attired as a farmer’s wife might be expected, going about her daily chores, but in stark contrast to her Beauty Parlor Blue hair she always wore stylishly arranged. She’d emerge from her weather beaten farmhouse that was worn down to its gray siding, stripped of its paint long ago. She hastily gathered enough eggs to make up the two dozen asked for, and placed them in recycled cartons she kept readily on hand. The chicken coops were intermingled with an assortment of rabbit hutches scattered haphazardly across the ground, and although an enormous barn stood alongside, it was never utilized for their benefit. When winter came, she simply covered them up with tarps of plastic. One day, there weren’t enough eggs outside so she had us come into the farmhouse for more. Standing in what should have been a functioning kitchen, were precariously piled newspapers, towering stacks of dishes, and all manner of odds and ends covering every available surface, so that it was virtually impossible to actually sit and eat a meal if one were so inclined. The sink was full of dishes that looked as though they had been there for an indeterminate length of time. It was even rumored that she had animals in the house. (What in heaven’s name was in that barn?) The truth dawned. The Egg Lady was a packrat, a hoarder, not the tidiest of housekeepers, and worse – we were eating her eggs….. But, I reasoned, the inside was pure and untouched. It was deemed safe enough. And besides, they tasted great.
Our relationship with The Egg Lady continued for some time but came to an abrupt halt when she raised the price of a dozen eggs from a dollar to a dollar fifty. (What! Highway robbery). They were suddenly the same price as those we could buy in the city. Still, they were way better. However, this is what hatched the plan, so to speak. It was decided that we would keep chickens of our own. House them in a proper coop (as opposed to housing them in a house), and give them enough food and water to last the week until we could arrive for the weekend and replenish their supply. Our first tenants came in the form of 6 baby chicks I was given as a surprise. But in a matter of weeks, they developed into 6 fine roosters (even more of a surprise). No eggs there (and no surprise there). Then one day, a baby chick stumbled into our driveway in the city. From whence he came, no one knew, but he picked the right house (someone must have told him) and we promptly scooped him up and drove him the 200 miles to chicken heaven where, in a matter of weeks, he too turned into a handsome rooster.  It wasn’t until we finally purchased 6 fully grown hens (we weren’t taking any more chances) from a nearby farmer, that we finally had a full fledged country breakfast and have continued the tradition ever since. This is the first year a brood of five chicks were hatched. It’s only a matter of time before we know…..
As for The Egg Lady, the farmstead has stood abandoned for several years now, she having passed on to perhaps a true gentleman’s farm where it’s hoped she doesn’t have to work so hard. Everything looks as it always did. I can finally see the sign I couldn’t seem to see before, in large hand blocked letters – EGGS. But no one ever stops anymore. I can’t help looking, though. As if I can glimpse her trailing through the barnyard in a sort of time warp, coiffed in blue elegance. But the meadowgrass is all that breathes, in a gentle whispering wind.
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Antiquing – One Piece At A Time

June 6th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
I have a passion for old things. I’m not sure where it came from, whether it was something instilled in me long ago or just intrinsically part of my make up. There is no doubt that whenever crossing the threshold of an antique shop or any historical structure, every fiber of my being is attune to what I might find and you will probably see the glimmer of a smile beginning to form at the thrill of the hunt. Yet, there are so many mixed emotions when embarking on these excursions; one of reverence for the very thing itself that has survived the years, of sadness at the passing of time, and for the things held in limbo now. It’s an ever present reminder that everything is so temporary. That nothing truly belongs to us. All our earthly possessions outlive us and pass into other hands. And so, it’s rather sobering, this trip through time, found in a jumble of assorted treasures which brings me back to my senses, enjoying the hunt after all.
Ever notice that there’s a certain odor attached to old things? The minute you walk through the door. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it’s a medley of the smell of old books, furniture that has warped and aged, the mouldering of things that have passed hands and centuries, not altogether unpleasant. On the contrary, it stimulates the imagination. That odor is unmistakable and ever present in all things old. If history had a smell, that would be it. The very essence of Lincoln conjured through one’s nostrils. If you’re an antique buff, you know what I mean.
I was once a great collector of things, of anything old, and through the years amassed a good deal, holding onto much of it. And since I’ve no desire to rid myself of any of it and have  no available space to acquire any more, I’ve come to a crossroads in my quest to quench my passion. But search I must, if only to cast a wistful eye. Every now and again I’ll come across something unique to add to my collection but those days are rare, and things of that nature are becoming more scarce. Instead, I reminisce on all the country auctions I religiously attended, and can recall the occasion I won the old duck decoy for practically nothing – $17.50 to be exact – it’s worth hundreds and I once had a notable dealer in the area ask to purchase it from me. Then there’s one of my many china dolls from the Civil War era, found hidden away in the cellar of an old parsonage down a lonely country road, with a wisp of a smile as though she’d finally been rescued. Each item has a story to tell of my own recent past but mute to its origin leaving me to imagine what once was. Whose was it? How did it end up here? What happened during its span of 150  years?
Antiques. They aren’t just things. They speak to us. It’s not just a chair with its arms worn smooth – it was a favorite. Not just a table with its nicks and dings – it saw many evenings of home cooked suppers with family and freinds. Not just a chest with a groove in one place just the size of my hand where you open the lid – it was opened and closed so many times to get that extra blanket or linen for an unexpected overnight guest. They are the untold stories of people’s lives, that have heired their most prized possessions to the next generation to care for, and we in our turn will do the same. In the meantime, I will do the honor of enjoying them each day, one piece at a time.
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The Nursery Grime

June 1st, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
Nursery rhymes. The charming, innocent, sing-song chantings of a by-gone era. Ah, maybe not so charming, and ever wonder why they’ve disappeared from the lips of modern day children? The answer lies in the verses themselves which dawned on me the other day with something of a shock. Who knows how the mind works, but a childhood rhyme buried, yet still lodged firmly in the recesses of my brain suddenly sprang to life, and when spoken aloud hit me on the head with the proverbial hammer. I began to dredge up other “harmless” rhymes that I found equally as horrifying. Then I did a little research and came up with the following information. See if you recognize some of them that your own unassuming self may have uttered once upon a time. Some of it could be fodder for a creepy horror flick. Others have political connotations of historical interest. All of it is very entertaining…..and not just for kids.
1) The Worms – Folk song originating in the 18th century during the Crimean campaign sung by British soldiers. There are various versions. Here’s one I partially recall:
“Did you ever see a hearse go by and think of the day that you might die. (memory lapse here)….The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, into your stomach and out of your mouth”.
Really??? YUK. I can’t believe I sang that with a sweet little smile on my face. Of course it was accompanied by a rather catchy tune.
2) Ladybug, Ladybug – English origin circa 1744.
“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children will burn”.
Wow. Who dreamt that one up?
3) Ring Around The Rosie – This one originated as a result of the Bubonic Plague. When the disease was contracted, rose colored sores developed, around which rings would form. Posies (flowers) were carried to ward off the stench of the dead.  “Ashes” referred to the burning of the corpses to stop the spread of disease. “We all fall down” was due to the vast number of people that succumbed to the sickness. Here’s the delightful little ditty:
“Ring around the rosie. A pocketful of posie. Ashes, ashes. We all fall down”.
4) London Bridge Is Falling Down – Originated in England circa 1744, referencing the deterioration of the London Bridge built in 1176. “My fair lady” may be tied to Matilda of Scotland who was responsible for building a series of bridges, or perhaps linked with Eleanor of Provence who was in charge of bridge revenues.  I remember this game well…..two children held their hands high in order to form the arch of the bridge, while a group of other children walked around them. At a particular point, the arch would drop and one child would get trapped. Nothing scary here, just some good old fashioned fun:
“London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady. (Here’s where the arch drops entrapping the one kid who gets swayed back and forth). “Take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up. Take the key and lock her up, my fair lady”.
5) Old Mother Hubbard – Exact origin and meaning disputed. English 1805.
“Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her poor dog a bone. But when she got there, the cupboard was bare and so the poor dog had none”.
Listen Mother Hubbard, if you don’t get your act together and put that dog on a proper diet, we’ll remove him from the premises. And as for you, we’ll get you some Meals On Wheels.
6) Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater – USA 1825.
“Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife but couldn’t keep her. Put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well”.
Clearly spousal abuse in it’s basest form. I think she should hook up with Cinderella and turn that pumpkin into a luxury coach, turn Peter into a footman.
7) Rock-A-Bye-Baby – English 1765. One theory is that the baby was the son of James VII who was smuggled into the birthing room to provide a Catholic heir.
“Rock-a-bye-baby, on the tree top. When the wind blows the cradle will rock.  When the bough breaks the cradle will fall. And down will come baby cradle and all”.
Guess he got found out, huh?
8. The Old Woman In A Shoe – England 1794. One possible reference is to Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II who had eight children.
“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children she didn’t know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread. Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed”.
She’d never get away with that now.
9) Three Blind Mice – England 1805. An earlier version of this refers to Queen Mary I for blinding and executing three Protestant bishops.
“Three blind mice. Three blind mice. See how they run. See how they run. They all ran after the farmer’s wife who cut off their tails with a carving knife. Did you ever see such a sight in your life as three blind mice?”
Again, another one for the animal rights advocates. Oh…….and what about the bishops? Whose advocating for them? Any volunteers?
So……..the next time you hear some kids singing what sounds like just some kids singing, listen closely to the words.
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