Valentine’s Day and Other Snowstorms

darth vader valentine

“Let Love Be With You”

Apparently, the most unlikely people manage to fall in love…even Darth Vader, that star-trotting imperialist from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, etc. Nevertheless, Happy Valentine’s Day to all you romantically ambitious and/ or contemplative types out there. Insofar as I’m concerned…I’m married.

At present, my wife and I are attempting to disinter ourselves from the fourth (or is it fifth or sixth?) snowstorm of the season.  We’re waxing philosophical between shovelfuls of snow and ice, pondering the unanswerable; as follows:

Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does the universe, the laws which govern it, exist the way it does and not in some other way? Why does it exist at all? Or is everything that we perceive merely a will-o’-the-wisp of human expectancy: philosophy’s anthropic principle?

According to the latest weather report, we should expect 3-4 more inches of snow tonight. Isn’t it romantic? I presume Darth Vader would think so!

Photo: Cinémur

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Wringing in the New

Funny-cartoon-happy-new-year-2014

“Le meilleur de tous les mondes possibles.”

Let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping that 2014 will be a whole lot better (or, at least, not any worse) than 2013. Of course, since I’m a quietly amused pessimist, I invariably expect the worst if only to allow for less disappointment and increased surprise. But this probably stems from the fact that I’ve read the complete works of Voltaire (in the original French…er, sort of) with whom I share a spirit of skepticism along with a passion for coffee.

However, we here in NYC began the year with a snowstorm and a snow job (namely, Mayor de Blasio); the latter, I predict, will be much more difficult to dig ourselves out from under. Nevertheless, after 12 years of the Emperor Bloomberg it was only natural that the imperial opposition of crackpots should have their turn on the throne…at our expense, of course.

For those of you who might have wondered where I’ve been over the past year, oftentimes disappearing from blogging for months at a time, I’ve embarked on a series of studies. Coursera and edX offer an incredible panoply of free online courses of which I’ve indulged myself. Everything from Music to Classical Studies to Architecture, Philosophy to Literature to History (a few of my favorite things) were there to illuminate and delight me. Indeed, I never had such a workload of course material since I attended college/ university in physical form, some three or four decades ago (yes, I’m that old).

Again, Happy New Year to All. Best Regards from me, my wife Steffie, and our fascinating if inscrutable cat Zoltan. See you soon. Ciao!

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Happy 2013

new year 2013

Happy New Year to Everyone out There or Thereabouts. Best Wishes & Regards!

And, in closing, some utterly adorable cat-napping (stewed to the whiskers):

catnapping

This is what I’ll look like after an hour or two into the new year…only not as adorably reposed. Signing off until next year.

Polar Bears At Sea Again

polar bear

The usual gang of adventurous, flamboyant, and/ or berserk swimmers.

As has been tradition for time immemorial, on New Year’s Day thousands of New Yorkers will ring in the New Year by taking a dip in the Atlantic Ocean on the shores of Coney Island.

This year, the Coney Island New Year’s Day Polar Plunge [the Polar Bear Club] is even more important than ever. To be hosted 64 days after Superstorm Sandy devastated the area, this year’s New Year’s Plunge is an opportunity to reflect on the relief efforts to date, and raise awareness for the recovery ahead.

As for myself, I’d sooner dance a bolero atop the antenna on the Empire State Building before taking a polar plunge (or any plunge) at Coney Island on New Year’s Day. But I do love this kind of splashy spectacle; a tradition that undoubtedly says more about New Yorkers than we’d probably care to tell.

Dystopic Jingle Bells

santabeer

Tired of watching video of drunken Santas accost innocent bystanders? These still photos are significantly more low-impact than our video roundup. Use them to teach your children that not every Santa carries a flask full of SoCo and an iPhone with a DMB wallpaper. (We have it on good authority that the REAL Mr. & Mrs. Claus dig Annihilation Time and Double Dagger.)   Source: Gothamist

Even though the price to pay for it is being middle-aged, thank God I was one of those baby boomer sort of kids. If I had seen anything like this in those days, it would’ve been comparable to seeing Godzilla, instead of Santa Claus, coming to town.

 

Is The Pudding Singing In The Copper?

christmas pudding

When I was a child, growing up in the wilds of Brooklyn, pudding was synonymous with My*T*Fine Pudding; since 1918, the “premium cook-n-serve pudding” for many Americans. Directions: stir 4 cups of milk into the mix, heat on a medium flame until the mixture thickens, pour the bubbly brew into serving dishes, allow to cool and you’re done.

In England, pudding is a big event, built on an even bigger process and richer tradition. My*T*Fine’s appearance would truly raise a few eyebrows over there and be dismissed as a concoction more befitting a hasty snack (or candy) than anything even resembling a pudding…let alone a Christmas Pudding.

Whereas My*T*Fine’s traditions are circa 1918, English pudding’s origins are set in the Middle Ages. It contained a hearty array of ingredients such as chopped poultry and rabbit; later on, sugar, raisins and candied apples and oranges were added. In the 14th century, a variation on this pudding called porridge emerged that included beef, mutton, raisins, currents, prunes, wine and mixed spices. This was served as an appetizer to the Christmas feast and not as an entrée or dessert. In 1595, it became plum pudding with the addition of spirits, dried fruit, eggs and breadcrumbs.

In 1664, the Puritans (always the “life” of any party) banned plum pudding as being epicurean and unfit for a God-fearing people. However, in 1741, King George I resurrected a modified pudding that replaced meat with more sweets, usually sprinkled with brandy and set aflame. This pudding eventually became an established tradition under Prince Albert during the Victorian Age: the traditional English pudding known to us today.

Cooking times vary, but the strictly traditional Christmas Pudding involves a whole lot of time and preparation. Over eight hours to cook (or steam) the pudding itself, but days (even weeks) are required to marinade the various fruits in brandy, cider, or both.

Steffie, my English wife and nymph of my daily orisons, has a collection of fruits and nuts marinading in various brews that are true around our apartment. We’re currently listening to Handel‘s Messiah; and as these solemn Christmastime chorales descant, the scents of marinaded lemons and oranges and such do the same.

The festive atmosphere, quite tenuous in these cynical and uncertain days, becomes more durable in imagination and more pleasurable in spirit as days of Christmas tradition and of Christmas’ fanciful moments of childhood are recalled. This will ultimately sing in the copper on Christmas Eve when the Christmas Pudding is ready. Also, our supply of My*T*Fine (chocolate) pudding will be there for the kid in me and, indeed, for the kid in both of us…which is, after all, what Christmas is all about and deserving of a song and a good pudding.

Source: ClassBrain

Happy Fourth To Everyone

Happy Fourth of July to All My Friends and Followers, no matter where on earth you’re from: the concept of liberty is universal, the desire for justice is eternal, for all rational, genuine human beings.

Below are some artistic representations of the vagaries of American ideals down through the centuries:

Yankee Doodle or the Spirit of ’76 (circa 1875), published by J.F. Ryder after Archibald M. Willard

Our Banner in the Sky (19th century) Frederic Edwin Church

Our Flag (1864) Frederic Edwin Church

The Sponsors (1992) Laila Shawa

The Beauty of Her (2003) Catherine Abel