Familiar Art with a Familiar Background

Today I wanted to share a different form of Art I experienced over the weekend — one many of you have seen, tried, or heard about.


I went to see the Russian Ballet Theatre‘s production of Swan Lake Saturday evening.

Now, I have an affinity for Tchaikovsky. He and I have been buds since I went to see a performance of his work at the outdoor Ravinia Outdoor Music Festival back when I was in my 20s. His music is upbeat, physical, inspirational and powerful. Think of the 1812 Overture or Waltz of the Flowers.

His music for Swan Lake was amazing as well. As were the dancers.

According to Wikipedia, “(Ballet) its origins are in the Italian Renaissance courts of 15th and 16th centuries. Ballet originated in the Renaissance court as an outgrowth of court pageantry in Italy, where aristocratic weddings were lavish celebrations. Tutus, ballet slippers and pointe work were not yet used. The choreography was adapted from court dance steps.”

Dance steps are an understatement.

These dancers — the principal dancers, the ballerina and ballerino — are the most marvelous purveyors of movement on the planet. They are limber, strong, lithe, and in sync with the music, the movement, and the moment.

When we — I — think of the Arts, I tend to think of painters, quilters, writers, and the like. People with whom I have some sort of contact with. 

I know no dancers nor professional entertainers, but that does not mean that they are not the cream of the crop, top of the game, master creators, all of that.

Tchaikovsky and the Russian Ballet were a perfect combination of emotion, non-emotion, movement, strength, smiles, and perfection. So wonderful to watch.

At the same time Odette was dancing one of the most popular piece in the ballet, Act 2 – No.10 Scène (Moderato), the north-eastern city of Sumy was under heavy fire as Russian troops destroyed residential neighborhoods and infrastructure. Part of Okhtyrka, the city in Sumy Oblast, was destroyed by Russian artillery. For the second day, the city had no heat, electricity and water. (MSN)

The group is a U.S. business with dancers from nearly a dozen countries. (MSJ).   Eight dancers for Milwaukee performance were from Ukraine, along with other dancers from Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Armenia, Poland and Slovenia.

The troupe had nothing to do with politics.

“We are against the war,” said Gulya Hartwick, producer for the Russian Ballet Theatre. “We hope that people come to support the dancers, who are ‘dancing with tears in their eyes.'” Pretty heavy stuff for an art that demands so much physically and mentally of its participants.

It was a beautiful evening. The dancers were point-on, the music delightful, the atmosphere sparkling and full of beauty and love.

I only wish I could say the same thing for these poor people and their country.

Support the Arts.




The Passing of Indian Summer

I love Indian Summers.

For those who live in a perpetual warm climate year round, an Indian Summer is a  period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere during September to November.

It’s a beautiful time.

The days are warm and often sunny, the nights chilly and clear. The air seems to sparkle with highlights that still linger from hot summer days. 

Of course, here in the Midwest, the trees shine in glory with their pageant of the year, turning colors of gold and bronze and red and a warm, soft orange. They remind us that nothing lasts forever … beauty, vitality, all are in a moment’s glory. That as much as we wish it to be otherwise, life turns and twists and goes on.

Today is the madness of the election for the president of the United Sstates. Never in my 67 years have I seen such chaos, hatred, and ignorance from both sides. If there is a true heart that beats for the wellfare of the people, it is well hidden under layers of misunderstanding, frustration, and sensationalism.

Perhaps it is in the folds of warm November days and cold November nights we can find solace, one way or another.

The U.S. Sun wrote an article shares the origin of the phrase “Indian Summer”:

It’s claimed the term was first coined by the Native Americans, and it was used there in the late 18th century. The first reported use of the word was recorded in Letters from an American Farmer in 1778 by American soldier turned farmer J. H. St. John de Crèvecoeur.

“Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer,” he wrote.

 The world has been observing this second warming of the land ever since the pilgrims settled in America; since Europe started building castles, since the Chinese started building dynasties. It may skip a year or two; it may be hot as sin one day and snow the next. 

Nature is wonderful in its beauty and ebb and flow.

The waves of politics will always ebb and flow, too. All we can do is hold on, seize the day, and continue doing what we were brought onto this Earth for.

Continue to live — to live and love and walk with the sun on our faces and the breeze in our hair. To find the good in each other and nurture that feeling so it flows as easily as fall to winter or day to night.

Let the good moments surround you and become a part of you.

Like Indian Summers.


It’s Time to Stop Fighting

heartThis post is being written with a lot of trepidation.

I am not a hellion, nor am I a pansy. My age has nothing to  with the depth of my feelings or the dedication of my causes. I am no better nor no worse than any of my peers. I have had ups and downs and rewards and punishments just like everyone else.

I suppose this confession is to reassure you — or most likely myself — that I’m not over-  or under-reacting.

Just last week I started my post by saying It is as if I am handling a puffer fish or prickly bush with my bare hands. For the world of politics is indeed prickly. But this week prickly has turned vile. It is no longer screaming at the TV or sharing a sentence or two on Facebook.

In only a couple of weeks I have watched this political nonsense start to tear families apart.

Sounds so over the top, doesn’t it?

But in the past few weeks I have heard several first hand reports of one family member tearing at and apart another family member because of their political preferences. Yes, the problem between family members probably existed way before the change of the Guard. But this cavern between political preferences has opened wounds that finally were starting to heal. Or at least left alone.

People are just getting nasty.

Kids are ripping on their parents. Adults are blowing up on their kids. Generations are berating each other because of their political preferences. Then one thing leads to another, and things are said that cannot be taken back. And what started as two people disagreeing turns into people digging into the very foundation of what makes us human.

This isn’t right.

With all the anger and hatred and mistrust shuffling between people, it’s hard to see the good in each other. Parents who have given up everything so their kids could have a better life now are nothing but stiff, selfish old people. Younger kids with a chance to make things better are nothing more but self-centered spoiled brats.

Yet these are our children. These are our parents. These are our aunts and uncles and best friends’ kids. These are the people who we depend on for love or friendship or just a smile.

We have to stop ripping each other apart.

We can be involved, we can be passionate. We can march and we can protest. But we can’t change what is at this moment. This administration, the past administration, are a specimens of their own. None have made their way up from poverty, adversity, or war. They have never worked as a waitress or a sales clerk or a garbage collector. They don’t care about “us.” They don’t know us, they don’t see us, they don’t hear us.

And that point of fact is why we should never turn against our family. Not for this.

Not for them.


The Perfect Candidate

united_states_of_america_640With all this jibber jabber within and without the political network, I wondered…

If you could raise a child from day 1 to be president, how would you do it?

My pretend child could be male or female, but the basic rules apply to both. I shall narrate with a female.

First, she would have to be attractive. Not model level, but pleasant to the eyes. A slight tan color to the skin would satisfy all three races. Hair would be slightly curly and a dirty blonde. No bright blondes, no black do’s, no razor straight. Her eyes could be light chocolate or hazel: no baby blues, no intense greens, and no blackish browns. The shape of her eyes should be slightly almond, as a nod to the Asian community, and her complexion slightly ruddy, like the  Eastern Baltic states. She couldn’t be fat, nor should she be anorexic thin. A size 12-14 would do.

Her clothes would be the better side of middle-of-the-road. No designer jeans, no fancy CCs or LV purses. Kohls or Penneys or the Boston Store would fit nicely. No private boutiques, no Good Will. Faded jeans and boots might be her style of choice, but she should know how to wear color-coordinated outfits with an occasional hat now and then.

Education: She should be smart and world-wise. College, yes. No Ivy League stuffiness, nor a 2-year college. A state college would suit most voters. And she can’t be either a Liberal Arts or Engineer major either — too polarizing to the parties. Even Political Science is a slight move towards liberalism. And a degree in communications or marketing would be a tilt towards “selling to the masses.” How about a degree in Business or Administration?

She should be feminine but with a slightly analytical tilt to her. Maybe a brother who’s a jock and another who’s a scientist. She is polite but not subservient. Politically correct, but is able to reach out to those with biases such as color, education, and social status. She should work in a blue collar job through high school so she can identify with hard working low- and middle-class Americans. She should keep a few minorities as best friends so she can later show her besties as “colorful” Americans.

Since marriage and children still will be the cornerstone of American ideals, she should be married to someone who is also fairly good looking. Glasses will make him look smart; a strategically placed tattoo will make him look hip. She should have two children, ideally a boy and a girl, for I doubt that ideal will be gone any time soon. No babies — that will take too much personal time from her presidential schedule. And most people don’t like the word “nanny”, so she must have a living grandmother or grandmother-in-law to take care of her kids.

Religion will be a tricky one. Since more citizens believe in God than not, she can have some sort of religious education. Nothing foreign (like Buddhism or Islam), and nothing too conservative (like Baptists or Catholics). Maybe a Methodist or Lutheran bent, as long as it doesn’t consume her Sundays. She can balance the religious angle by keeping “In God We Trust” on the dollar bill. If she is smooth enough, she can restore the “Pledge of Allegiance” with the God part back in schools, telling the athiests that they still have the Illuminati eye floating over an unfinished pyramid on the dollar bill, so it all balances out.

Once out of college you should guide her to middle-of-the-road politics. She must be able to see the good of unions and big oil along with preservation of wildlife and health care for the poor. She needs to balance the needs of the country (an overbloated deficit in funds) with the never-ending growth of private organizational needs.

She must have an understanding of the U.S. Caste System, where upon minorities gain a little ground every year, but are never really considered part of the “good ‘ol boys club.” She must choose her words well, being careful not to offend those of race, education, social economics, personal choice, sexual preferences, and other variables. Being well educated, she must learn to use the English language to choose the correct words that sound great but mean nothing.

She also must be media savvy, knowing the current pop artists as well as famous movie stars. Going to a PG rated movie with her middle-school children would show she supports the movie industry. She must read up on old time groups like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin so she may be able to “humor” senior citizens.

Once our daughter is brought up primed and groomed for the Presidency, her chances to run the country will be excellent, and peace and harmony will fill the countryside and city side.

And I’ll be rolling in my grave.


Water’s Gate

gateNow Watergate does not bother me..
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth…

…..Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1974


I must admit that about the time Watergate came along I was working my first job as a linofilm typist, and politics did not really concern me overmuch. Today’s generation looks back fondly at Watergate just as they do the Battle of Gettysburg or the Boston Tea Party. Just another history lesson.

The suffix -gate derives from the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, which resulted in the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon. The scandal was named after the Watergate complex in Washington D.C. What I find really funny, though, is that the “gate” part started a whole slew of scandalous escapades. “Gates” abound everywhere.

There are Arts and Entertainment gates:

* Closetgate (2006); controversy after the TV show South Park aired a parody of Scientology

* Nipplegate (also known as Boobgate) (2004); Janet Jackson’s famous “wardrobe malfunction” during half time of Super Bowl XXXVII

There are Politic gates:

* Billygate (1980); Then President Jimmy Carter’s younger brother Billy legally represented the Libyan government as a foreign agent

* Bridgegate (2014); New Jersey Governor Chris Christie allegedly ordered lane closures from Fort Lee, New Jersey, to the George Washington Bridge, because the Fort Lee mayor did not endorse him for his re-election

*  Hairgate (1993); Controversy surrounding a haircut given to U.S. President Bill Clinton

There are Journalism and Academic gates:

* Hackgate (also known as Rupertgate) (2011); Allegations that the now defunct News of the World had hacked into the phones of celebrities, politicians, and members of the British Royal Family

* Reutergate (2006); The controversy over Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj manipulating news photos with Photoshop

There are Sports gates:

* Deflategate (2015); Did they or did they not under-inflate the footballs?

*  Tripgate (2010); Strength and Conditioning Coach Sal Alosi tripped cornerback Nolan Carroll as he ran down the sideline

*  Bumpergate (1982); During the Daytona 500 race, drive Bobby Allison allegedly modified his car so that his rear bumper would fall off, giving him an aerodynamic edge

Funny thing is that these scandals aren’t limited to U.S. soil. Just listen to the names and places:

* Portraitgate (2009, Ireland): Two oil paintings depicting Brian Cowen, Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland, in the nude, were briefly displayed in Dublin art galleries in March 2009 as an act of guerilla art

* Toiletgate (2006,  Elista, Kalmykia, Russia); The allegations by Veselin Topalov and his manager Silvio Danailov during the World Chess Championship that Topalov’s opponent Vladimir Kramnik was visiting the toilet suspiciously frequently during games

* Pastagate (2013, Canada); Controversy in which an Italian restaurant was investigated by the Quebec government for using words that do not comply with their language laws, such as “bottiglia”, “calamari” and “pasta”

* Porngate (2012, India) Three members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in India resign from their offices after accusations that they watched porn during government proceedings.

* Bottlegate (2001, Ohio); Rowdy fans of the Cleveland Browns threw plastic bottles and other debris on the field after a controversially overturned call in the final minute of the game led to the Browns losing the game to the Jacksonville Jaguars


You get my drift.  So I figured, if there’s so many scandals out there with gates on them, why not create a few of my own?

* Grannygate: Busted for keeping grandson up way past his bedtime and offering him sugared drinks

* Catgate: When coaxing live cats to lay on the toy train track didn’t work, I offered my collection of stuffed unicorns as test subjects

* Employeegate: There are enough infractions in this scandal that this blog cannot list them all. I am on double secret probation until I am 85

* Flippergate: numerous violations of the “put the TV flipper back on the end table where you found it” rule. The scandal is that I never remember the rule — until I lose the flipper

* Irishfestgate (2012); I boasted to my 6 foot, 225-lb. son that I could keep up with him beer-for-beer at Irishfest. Guess who won, and guess who was sick for two days

There are a whole slew of gates for those who are curious — check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scandals_with_%22-gate%22_suffix.  I’m sure if you scoured your past you’d find a lot of gates, too. But thankfully, since most of us are just regular guys/gals, the media won’t be knocking on your door — er, gate — any time soon.

Just be smart, and keep your gate locked.

Just in case.







Creative Cooking Lessons

mcI am happy to say that the elections are finally over. Ballots have been cast, candidates have been turned into winners or losers, and life goes on. There was a lot of nastiness on television these last few days; a lot of sour grapes both before and after the polls closed. I know that politics is a serious world, but I think that candidates and pundits alike could take a cue or two from some of the most serious — and competitive — people on the planet.

The kids on Master Chef Junior.

Some of the kids are as young as 8 and have to stand on a stool to cook. Some are 12 and tall and lanky and move around gracefully. Some are articulate, others talk just like an 8-year-old. They are chubby and tiny and skinny and of all nationalities. They come with glasses and pigtails and braces. Yet they are alive and excited and they love what they do.

Now I know you say that’s TV and those kids are little prodigies and they don’t have to deal with unemployment and underfunded schools and brow-beating bosses. And you are right. But that doesn’t mean that the pressure isn’t on in their little world. They are competing for a lot of money and a lot of publicity and, of course, bragging rights. They are competing on a stage that they’ve been on for only a few years (after all — how many years can a 10-year-old have been cooking?) and are cooking things without a printed, written recipe.  They are digging into their little brains and coming up with things like chicken liver pate on a crostini, Brûlée pears, chicken wings with a Vietnamese marinade, Yuzu salad, and Chicken Parmesan.

But you know what else they do? They high-five each other. They congratulate each other. They share their ingredients and hug each other when they fail. They say things like, “I kinda feel bad for Isabella; she’s really nice, and no one wants to see her cry.” They aren’t there to hang each other out to dry; they aren’t out to sabotage or fight or scream at each other. I’m not saying they’re not competitive; it’s just that there’s not a bad attitude in the bunch. Their downers disappear in the freshness of their attitude. They are an inspiration to the curmudgeons among us.

There’s a lot of apathy in the world these days. A lot of frustration and impatience and intolerance. A lot of people hate their jobs, their family, their situations. They are fed up with the leaders and the followers, the policies and the politics. Lest you think I point a finger at you, I, too, am guilty of the “hate” rap at times. My patience is thin, my understanding of the world, thinner. Everyone around me has an attitude; often ~I~ have an attitude.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I have no idea what the lives of the competing chefs are like. I have no idea about their living conditions, their families, or their pressures. What I do see is an attitude of lightness. Of being in the now, working towards tomorrow, and having fun doing it. These kids blend their innocence with their love of cooking and food, making them the competition of the future. These are the kids that will make our work place a better place. Kids who will find enjoyment in the stress of a world they love. They will have hard times ahead of them, but they’re starting life out on the right foot. The foot of fun. The foot of creativity.

We so have to dump this defeatist attitude, this “I hate the Republicans/Democrats” mentality. It’s time to get over whatever it is that bugs us. If something in your life doesn’t “do it” for you, find something fun to do that does “do it.” Don’t let those bad feelings about the way of the world fester into something that, left unchecked, turns into a disease you can’t escape. Trust me. It’s just not worth it.

One of the kids from MCJ said it best:  “My dad’s favorite saying is:  Number one rule: always have fun.”