When Hollywood Went Wild– Pre-Code Shockers !!


Groundbreaker and Trailblazer NORMA SHEARER-- The First Lady of the Screen

Here’s something I came across that will warm up your chilly Saturday: a compilation of “pre-code” clips from Hollywood’s pre-1934 halcyon days, when men were men and women were… tougher!


You’ll find many of your favorites here, along with some faces you might not recognize. In any event, these ladies and gentlemen steamed up the screen until the existing “decency codes” suddenly and rigorously began to be enforced.

Thanks to Matthew C. Hoffman for his compilation!


Baby, It’s C O L D Down Here !

Frozen Areca Palms

All right, all my Yankee friends and family– I realize you are putting up with truckloads of snow and ice and sleet, and I know that that’s the kind of weather you expect to have up North.  I realized that one freezing, sleety day at the end of 1977 while waiting for a bus. “What am I, nuts?” I asked myself. “As soon as I graduate, I’m moving to Florida.”

And I did; I moved here for a variety of reasons, one of them being the weather. No longer would I have to put up with pangs of guilt as I watched my mother and grandmother shoveling snow from in front of the house, trying to unearth the fire hydrant; no more would I struggle with my father as we dragged the gigantic window air conditioning unit from its summer berth and down into the cellar so it wouldn’t freeze during the  L O N G  Brooklyn winter.

Chilly kitty

Florida weather was all it promised, and more. I’d been down here in the summers of 1970, 1974, and 1975 with my uncle’s family, and when I landed in July 1978 for good I looked forward to an endless series of tropical vignettes from Where the Boys Are— palm trees, lazy, beachy weekends, year-round greenery, and shriekingly brilliant hibiscus shrubs coloring the landscape.

All was well until the winter of 1982-3; I went home to Brooklyn for a dutiful Christmas visit and returned to a blasted, frozen Florida. Shocked! Everyone was shocked… the air smelled rotten green, the sky was gray, and there was a dead cold that creeped into everything. I remember that many of us drove west into the hills near Clermont to see the acres and acres of orange groves that had been shattered. (Now it’s acres and acres of houses.)

Since then, our Florida winters have grown colder. We’ve had more than enough freezes, which kind of takes the fun out of tropical landscaping. The big window box in front of my home office is full of dead areca palms– a glorious sight the rest of the year, but now they’re brown and withered. And don’t even ask me about the bougainvillae, the hibiscus, and all the other green things that normally thrive down here. They tell me we’re on the cusps of two climate isobars here, and so we can go either way, but it’s become a trial to try and nurture tropical plants when a few freezing nights so easily do them in.

But we persist, because this is Florida! It’s supposed to be warm all the time, and these freakish winters we’ve been having are wrong– very wrong. This sort of weather belongs north of the Mason-Dixon line, not here within sight of Cuba. (I can practically see it if I stand on my roof and squint.)

So bear with us when we complain about the cold weather. We hear you saying “we could have stayed HOME and had these temperatures,” causing us to spend our wintry days apologizing to you who come down here to run around in shorts and flip flops, even to go to Mass. And we do realize you help our economy percolate, but still– I think we’ve had enough already with this weather, for residents and visitors alike.

And don’t even get me started about hurricane season.

A Lasagna Kind of Weekend

The Famous Lasagne

The Lasagne


You know sometimes when everything sort of clicks? When it seems like the days have been ordered and  implemented by powers that appear to know what they’re doing? Enya’s lyricist Roma Ryan described and then caught that feeling in a composition called Afer Ventus, the perfect– and my favorite– Enya release.   

This past weekend was a big, loud CLICK.   

Saturday I slept REALLY late, unusual for me these days because my sleeping habits have begun aping those of the elderly. When you think about it, sleep is such a waste of time (if you ignore the whole restorative thing).  Think of all the things you could be doing instead of sleeping! And I don’t mean getting on Facebook at 3 AM. (I mean, really. ) You could be writing, watching the same 25 classic movies on your DVD player, making pot holders  … things like that. I can’t even begin to imagine the sorts of things I could have accomplished Saturday morning instead of sleeping so late.   

When I finally got out of bed, I decided to make ricotta after seeing the recipe in Ready Made magazine. That’s a magazine for hipsters who want to learn how to make clever, inexpensive furniture from milk crates, or toilet paper holders from discarded high tension wire. But there was the recipe, and it looked simple, so… why not?   

You take a gallon of whole milk, a quart of buttermilk, some cheesecloth, a colander, and a large bowl. Don’t go to Jo Ann Fabrics for the cheesecloth– they will think you’re a visitor from the 50’s, or you’ll get a whole song and dance about how they normally DO carry it, but they’ve sold so MUCH of it that now they’re OUT. Hello, purchasing department?!?!   

I found my cheesecloth in Publix when I was shopping for the ingredients.   

Here we go. So you take a large pot and pour in all that milk. Turn the burner to Number 5, which is medium heat. Stir it occasionally, making sure that you scrape the bottom with your wooden straight-edged spoon. When the milk is getting hot to touch (use your pinky), that means that curds will begin forming… and they do, like magic! As soon as you see those first curds, remove the cooking pot to a cold burner. Curds will begin forming, so begin removing them with a slotted spoon. (I like the big round spoon that looks like a large bathtub thingy that catches hairs before they go down the drain.) You’ll be placing those curds into a strainer that has been lined with five layers of cheesecloth, which has been set over your large bowl. You’ll get lots of curds– the whey stays behind in the cooking pot. (I hear you can drink it, somewhat sour as it is.) The curds will continue dripping some whey through the cheesecloth and the strainer and into the bowl, and what you have left is pure, white ricotta. Amazing! It tastes GREAT. You can add a bit of salt– I didn’t– and after gathering the cheesecloth and squeezing out more whey, you can transfer the ricotta into a small bowl; add some whey if it’s too dry. You do want it somewhat creamy so that it will spread easily…   

Sunday morning I accompanied our good friend Jon to a Nichiren Buddhist service here in town, because I was curious about the practice that has brought him great peace and clarity. Lots of chanting, as you would expect, but it was FAST  and soon I was caught up in its rhythm; loud as it was, I found myself falling into a very relaxing, almost somnolent state. I heard what sounded like many people humming a long, sustained, vibratory note, but that wasn’t the case at all as was explained to me afterwards but the extremely involved participants. That was amazing!   

That feeling lasted all the rest of the day as I decided to use all that ricotta in a lasagna that I decided to make. I didn’t have the hours needed to make the wide noodles or the sauce, which I’d prefer, so Mssrs. Ronzoni and Bertolli helped. And what a creation!   

Layers of noodles, garlic-sausage sauce, shredded mozzarella, and ricotta, all baked at 375 degrees until the top layer was almost firm, the edges crispy. And wine. And dessert. Quite a load to drag off to six o’clock Mass, right? Doesn’t sound very Lenten, though we’re actually not supposed to fast or abstain on the Sundays during Lent because those days are considered “Little Easters,” with any bounty enjoyed and shared with friends and family.   

Finally, a stop at my friend Carol’ s website to catch up on her latest watercolors. You should go see them !   

Afer ventus.

I Met Helen Thomas– A UPI Legend

Photo is From the KRUU-FM Website


This week I had the pleasure of doing an Urban Think! Bookstore  book sale for Helen Thomas and her co-author Craig Crawford. They’ve published Listen Up Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do. The title speaks for itself because, after decades of intense president-watching, Helen knows the score.  You’re familiar with Helen; but just in case you need a bit of help, she is the older lady who sat up front at White House press briefings, often causing the presidents to sweat by asking direct, informed, and often probing questions. It’s no small measure of the respect afforded her that she was the only member of the White House press corps to have her own chair in the press room. One might therefore conclude that she spoke ex cathedra, but she actually respected her fellow reporters as much as she respected the work she did for UPI starting in 1943. 1943– that’s the middle of World War II ! And she’s still with us, offering up pithy advice and no-nonsense observations based on how his constituency expects a president how to act.     

Even at eighty-nine, you can tell that she misses nothing. Those great, big, beautiful eyes sweep a room, taking in all its nuances and assessing the realm. Though I did not sit in during her face-to-face with the Tiger Bay networking group here in Orlando, I could hear the hundreds of people in attendance roaring at her comments. And, as befits an intelligent woman of the fourth estate, her steadily professional non-partisanship occasionally tipped over into jabs at our past Republican leaders. You can thank George W. Bush for that; his snubbing disrespect of her was based, I believe, in his unwillingness and inability to address the hard questions that Thomas posed, much like that Palin person’s fetching little way of dealing with reporters. Hey, can you imagine if  Helen Thomas had gotten to question Palin? The resigned Alaskan governor might have been reduced to a smoking ash heap on the carpet.     

Helen and Craig graciously signed many, many books for the attendees, and then I had them sign one for me; I introduced myself as their bookseller, and I tell you– you are drawn in instantly by Thomas’ warmth and generosity of spirit. I’ve worked with Craig previously on other events, and he never loses the smile. Afterwards, when she was being escorted out and toward their next gig, they detached themselves from their posse and made a point of thanking me for vending the book. Authors at these events rarely do that. That’s class !    

If you are so inclined, get yourselves a copy of this fascinating book. While presented as a series of object lessons for presidents, it’s also filled with anecdotes about all the presidents that Helen Thomas has had the opportunity of working with, and Craig’s incisive observations gleaned from working as one of the District’s most intuitive political commentators. It’s funny, yet smart and full of telling little barbs. And not once do the authors launch partisan attacks– they simply state the facts, as good reporters do. (Are you listening, FOX?) You can tell that Helen in particular is dismayed at the way the once-respectable GOP was handed over to the outermost fringes of the right wing by Ronald Reagan, and how that faction has a stranglehold on the party today, but you can also sense her urgent call for our current Democrat leaders to get to work.       

Still… I’m glad she’s a Progressive. I salute you, Helen Thomas!

Doin’ Mushrooms: The SPORE Project

My friend Doug Rhodehamel has come up with a VERY COOL art project worthy of your participation. He’s one of the laffingest guys I know, and keeps me highly entertained and amused when I hang out with him. I’ve been charmed over the years by his many quirky and provocative art installations here in Orlando. 

His SPORE Project is– well, let’s have him tell you about it in his own words… 

“this May 2010, turn your trash into art and take part in the largest art installation in the world! thousands and thousands and thousands of paper bag mushrooms will be planted around the world! show your support for art education and creativity! 

kids! and big kids! and adults who still brown bag their lunch! and adults who don’t brown bag their lunch, but like to make stuff! yes! you! even if you don’t think you can make anything, you can make paper bag mushrooms! i promise! start saving your bags! they make great mushrooms. parents! teachers! educators! this is a perfect project for you! it costs almost nothing and is basically made from trash. there are fast-food restaurants in every part of the world. they have bags! ask for some! i’ve been saving mine. you can also get a pack of lunch bags from your grocery store. they’re cheap! 

so what exactly is going on here? you have the opportunity to be part of this project ! during the month of May 2010, i am asking everyone who has an interest in supporting art and creativity to create and plant some paper bag mushrooms. you can make a couple of a few or several thousand if you want to. paint them or do whatever, but be creative! have fun! 

The SPORE Project is a worldwide effort developed by me– Doug Rhodehamel– to promote awareness for the support of art education and creativity in day-to-day life. and that’s why my project illustrates the importance of self-expression, resourcefulness, and creativity– specifically, how to look at one thing– a simple paper bag– and see what it can be instead of merely what it is. this encourages people to know and appreciate the importance of art. 

art is essential: it promotes intelligence and creativity, and it’s a great expressive outlet that inspires people toward new perspectives on life, which we all need– frequently! creativity is needed in every aspect of life, as it teaches us to think differently while allowing us to consider other options.  

the idea behind the paper bag mushrooms grew innocently out of lunch in high school. while sitting around waiting for the meal break to end, i squished my lunch bag into a mushroom and gave it to my friend. this became a daily routine. this became a daily routine. years later i figured out a way to stick them in the ground. i then began placing them in my friends’ lawns while they were at work. it was meant as a joke, but other people loved them and asked me to cover their yards with mushrooms as well. i began making hundreds, then thousands. i did them for festivals, art shows, parties, and just for fun. i began getting calls from teachers asking if i could show their classes the art of making paper bag mushrooms. even businesses and corporations began to get involved. this is where the SPORE Project began. 

like it? then okay, after you have planted your mushrooms, simply take a digital photo from your camera or phone or whatever you are using and send it to: 



1. your name or group’s name 

2. your city and state 

3. your country 

4. how many mushrooms you made 

in may 2010, i will begin to post all the photos and information on this site along with a world map, so we can see how much of the planet we’ve covered with mushrooms!  ultimately, i’d like to see a mushroom on the moon before 2030. that’s 20  years to figure that out. any ideas? 

and there’s even a SPORE store so you can purchase SPORE Project merchandise.” 

Sounds great, right? I’m personally looking forward to helping Doug with his noble effort! My lawn was the focus of a mushrooming a few years ago, and you can see it– and all of Doug’s fascinating and amazing artworks and installations– at: The World of Doug Rhodehamel

Thanks for reading ! 


Republicans vs. Democrats


WHAT a political climate we live in! I’ve never seen it so crazy, characterized as it is by a floundering Democratic party and a hijacked-by-teabaggers Republican party.  Everyone seems polarized, and everyone on both sides accuses the other of heinous positions: Republicans have all become experts at  defining the meanings of “communist” and “socialist,” all magically learned without the benefit of serious scholarship; and Democrats, when not crawling across Antarctica saving every creeping thing,  erroneously think that all Republicans are Sarah Palin supporters (when most thoughtful Republicans wouldn’t waste their time shaking a stick at her).

We’ve come to this “nyah nyah” level of politics after more than 200 years, mainly because not enough people are willing enough to want to form a demilitarized zone of discussion. Senators and Congress members stare stonily across the aisles, refusing to budge .

Perceptions of “the other side” have always existed, though not in such hateful measures. In yesteryears, we were blessed with educated observers spouting pithy, witty comments, and everybody laughed. Nobody demanded apologies; nobody cried and formed a support caucus in order to nurse wounded egos.

In that tradition, here is a list of differences between the two major parties as observed by the great Nancy Stahl back in 1979; Nancy’s “Jelly Side Down” column ran in many newspapers for years. In the excerpt from her book  If It’s Raining, It Must Be the Weekend  that I post below, the cultural references are hilarious as well. My apologies to no one.

1. When Republicans mention “my club,” they mean their country club. Democrats mean Book-of-the-Month Club.

2. Republicans get tennis elbow and ulcers. Democrats get heartburn and sties.

3. Democrats drive six-year-old green Pontiacs with roof racks. Republicans drive six-month-old Cadillacs with bumper stickers that say “I Like Ike.”

4. Republicans own horses. Democrats bet on them.

5. Republicans drink Drambuie and Cafe Capuchino after dinner. Democrats drink creme de menthe and Sanka.

6. Republicans get face lifts and hair transplants. Democrats get nose jobs and silicone transplants.

7. Republicans have nannies for their children. Democrats have grandmothers.

8. Republicans hire good cooks. Democrats marry them.

9. Republicans read Vogue and the National Review. Democrats read The New Republic and Photoplay.

10. Every three weeks, Democratic women make an appointment to have a manicure and get their hair shampooed, cut, and blown dry. So do Republican men.

11. Republicans play golf. Democrats bowl.

12. Republican men wear monogrammed silk pajamas. Democrats sleep nude.