The BBC has an interesting story about a World War II summit meeting that tells us a bit about how the world has changed, and also, perhaps, about how it hasn’t.
The story took place in 1942, when Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, traveled to Moscow for a summit meeting with Joseph Stalin, the dictator who led the Soviet Union. The two countries were new allies, brought together by their common foe, Nazi Germany.
The initial meetings between the leaders didn’t exactly go smoothly. Churchill requested another meeting, which began at 7 p.m. At 1 a.m. an under-secretary of the British Foreign Office was invited to join the proceedings and found Stalin, Churchill, and Russian Foreign Secretary Molotov sitting around the shredded remains of a suckling pig on a table covered with countless bottles of liquor. By that time Churchill was just drinking wine and complaining of a headache, and Stalin made the bureaucrat drink a concoction that was “pretty savage.” The meeting continued until 3 a.m., when the Brits stumbled back to their rooms, packed, and headed to the airport.
The drinking party was unconventional — although not unusual for the Soviets, whose reputation for long, vodka-saturated banquets continued for decades — but it did the trick. Churchill and Stalin established a personal connection that helped the allies steer their way to victory over the Axis powers.
It’s hard to imagine our modern political leaders having drinking bouts and making bleary-eyed policy decisions at 2 a.m. after guzzling countless shots of booze. We obviously wouldn’t want them to do so. But the importance of making a personal connection remains as true today as it was 70 years ago during the dark days of a global war. Summit meetings still make sense because we want our leaders to be able to take the measure of each other and establish relationships that can stand the stress when times get tough.
Posted in Politics, World | Tagged Alcohol, Drinking, Great Britain, History, Joseph Stalin, Liquor, Personal Connections, Politics, Soviet Union, Summit Meetings, Winston Churchill, World, World History, World Leaders, World War II | Leave a Comment »
Anthony Weiner has declared that he is running for Mayor of New York. You’ll no doubt remember him. He’s the former Congressman who sent compromising photos of himself via text message, then lied about what he had done and kept stringing out the lie, to an increasingly skepticism, until finally he was forced to admit the truth and resign.
He says he’s learned his lesson, and he wants to get back into the fray and fight for the people of New York. But why would any voter want to pull the lever for a politician who showed such contempt for voters that he stuck to obvious falsehoods until it no longer become possible? Who would believe him?
The New York Daily News story linked above says that Weiner may be a formidable candidate, because he has lots of money left over from his campaign war chest when he resigned from Congress. I refuse to believe that money is going to cause voters to forget that this is the same guy who was serving in an important office only two years ago when he decided that lying to the electorate was in his best interest. I hope I’m not wrong.
As far as Weiner himself goes, I think his decision to run for Mayor is pathetic. If he had any class, he would retreat to a private life — but the pathetic thing is that he can’t. Whether it is because he has nothing else that he really can do, or because he craves the limelight, or because he has a war chest and figures he may as well spend it, Weiner can’t resist opening himself and his wife up to intense ridicule. He deserves it, but his wife doesn’t. If he had any class and decency, he would recognize that. That he apparently doesn’t recognize it also says something important about why this guy should never be the Mayor of a major American city.
Posted in America, Politics, Reflections | Tagged America, Anthony Weiner, Liars, New York Ciry Mayor's Race, New York City, Politicians, Politics, sexting | 1 Comment »
In a classic episode of Cheers, Norm — “Norm!” — talked about eating at the Hungry Heifer, a blue-collar dining hall where the portions were immense because all of the food was imitation. Woody, intrigued, decided to join Norm for a meal. When he returned to the bar he explained that the imitation food had to be called by a slightly different name, then raved about the “loobster” and “beff.”
Lately I feel like I’ve been channeling my inner Norm.
When my doctor told me to try to eat more fish and less red meat I groaned. I don’t mind the taste of fish, but it’s a pain to prepare and tends to stink up the house. One day at the neighborhood Kroger, however, I noticed packages of chilled imitation crab and imitation lobster. They were cheap, so I decided to give them a try. Surprisingly, they were tasty, and now they’ve been worked into my evening meal rotation on days when we don’t feel like making a big sit-down meal. I feel good about listening to my doc when I buy them, because they have a “heart healthy” logo, too.
What’s in the imitation crab and lobster? Mostly Alaska pollock, apparently. The ingredient list also indicates that the product includes water, wheat starch, sodium, extracts of crab, oyster, scallop, lobster, cutlassfish, anchovy, and bonito, fish oil, rice wine, egg whites, and corn starch, as well as some more exotic sounding experiments from the chemistry lab, like disodium inosinate, guanylate, titanium dioxide, carmine, and canthaxanthin. For all of that, the imitation lobster and crab taste pretty much like lobster and crab. And, on the laundry list you won’t find anything that looks or sounds like red meat. So, on any random night you might find me munching on some imitation crab leg, feeling good about my dietary habits and food spend, and inevitably thinking: “Norm!“
Posted in Food, Humor, TV | Tagged Cheers, Diet, Doctors, fish, Food, Humor, Hungry Heifer, Imitation Crab Meat, Imitation Lobster, Men's Health, Norm, TV, Woody | Leave a Comment »
Ray Manzarek, one of the founding members of The Doors, has died in Germany after a long battle with cancer.
When I think of The Doors, I think of Jim Morrison’s deep, throaty vocals — but I think equally of Ray Manzarek’s keyboards. Both of those elements made The Doors musically unique, and both were equally important. Mazarek’s deft chops on the keyboard helped to burn countless Doors’ songs into the brain synapses, where they will remain forever and can be hauled out and remembered, note by note. Most of The Doors’ great songs had a great keyboard riff in their somewhere, but my all-time favorite is Riders On The Storm. For us wannabe musicians, who don’t know anything about those black and white keys, it’s one of the great air piano songs ever. I’ve “played” that extended keyboard solo on desktops, tabletops, car dashboards, and the air above the walkway around the Yantis Loop, always with a smile on my face and those lilting notes lifting my heart. I’ve put a YouTube video of Riders on the Storm below, and it still sounds fantastic and absolutely fresh.
Thank you for that, Ray Manzarek. You were one of those creative forces who helped to change the course of popular music, and you made my life a little bit richer through your genius.
Posted in America, Music, Music videos | Tagged America, Jim Morrison, Music, Music videos, Ray Manzarek, Riders On The Storm, the Doors | 1 Comment »
If you live in Oklahoma or other states in the Tornado Alley region of the United States, you learn to live with terrible storms that occasionally sweep through the region. But sometimes you can’t live with those storms.
Yesterday was one of those days in the Oklahoma City region, and the devastation — emotional and physical — is horrific. A series of tornadoes hit the area, and one of them tore through Moore, Oklahoma, leveling the Plaza Towers Elementary School, ripping off the roof, toppling walls, and killing a number of schoolchildren. The current death toll stands at 91 people, with hundreds more injured, but that number is expected to rise as search and rescue teams comb through the debris.
The storms were unbelievably powerful, with winds reaching up to 200 miles per hour. I’ve seen the tree-toppling punch of storms where winds reach 70 and 80 miles per hour, but I can’t imagine the strength of 200 m.p.h. winds that can shred sturdy buildings like humans can shred tissue paper.
I also can’t imagine the anguish of parents whose little children were taken from them by a storm. Our hearts go out to the battered residents of Oklahoma City as they search for survivors and struggle to deal with this extraordinary tragedy.
Posted in America, weather | Tagged America, Moore, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma!, Tornado Alley, Tornadoes, weather | 1 Comment »
For years, we’ve had ground cover in our front beds. It was some kind of leafy, viney plant that produced little blue flowers during the spring. It kept the beds covered, looked reasonably good, and — most important of all — was virtually maintenance-free and imposed no significant weeding duties.
Several years ago, however, some grass invaded one of the beds. It was a gradual invasion at first, and I thought it could be controlled by pulling the grass plants out of the beds. But I was wrong. Grass plants apparently establish some kind of intricate below-ground network of roots. Once grass plants get established, it’s virtually impossible to pull them out one by one, because the roots remain and new blades of grass just grow out. And it was impossible to identify all of the growing grass, because the shorter, newer blades were hidden by the ground cover. As a result, my weeding efforts were doomed to failure, and there was no viable alternative. We couldn’t spray the grass with some kind of powerful herbicide because the grass was mixed with the ground cover, and spraying would just kill the ground cover.
So, despite my best efforts, with each passing year the encroachment got worse and worse. This year, the beds were totally overgrown with tall grass, making the house look like it had been abandoned. Because there was no other choice, we finally exercised the nuclear option and decided to strip out all of the plants in the beds, grass and ground cover included. We had it done today, and I think our neighbors were appreciative. When I went out to look at the work tonight, our neighbor across the way gave me a thumbs-up and said “looking good!”
Posted in Family | Tagged Family, Grass, house and grounds, Lawn Care, Lawns | Leave a Comment »
I hate Sawmill Road.
Those of you who live in Columbus know what I am talking about. For those of you who don’t live in our fair city, think of a landscape denuded of nature and replaced with the worst imaginable combination of asphalt, concrete, strip malls, overhead power lines, parking lots, ugly signs, chain stores, and cars, cars, cars.
When you are on Sawmill Road, waiting — and, with the ridiculous traffic congestion that you always find there, you are assured of doing lots of waiting — depressing sights await you in all directions, unbroken by green space. It’s like the worst aspects of commercial development have been mashed together by some giant economic forces and crammed into a grim four-mile stretch of road.
Shortly after our family moved to Columbus in 1971, I took driver’s ed. The part of the course where you actually drove a real car took place on Saturday mornings, with the driving instructor supervising and several students trading places behind the wheel. After I got picked up we always drove north to Sawmill Road. It was a country road then, with trees and unbroken farmland on both sides. About a mile up you would find Tuller’s Fruit Farm, a family farm and apple orchard with a rambling wooden store. We would stop there for a cup of cider and a glazed doughnut before continuing with our lessons.
Sawmill Road was a pleasant drive 40 years ago, and now it is a nightmare that you avoid unless you absolutely must go there. During the intervening years no one did anything to limit the wretched excess, and now the damage is irreparable.
Posted in America, Columbus, Environment | Tagged America, Columbus, Commercial Development, Environment, Green Space, Sawmill Road, Traffic, Tullers Fruit Farm | 3 Comments »