Category Archives: Et Cetera

Can’t Cut It: The French Mustard Crisis in France

Why there is a shortage of Dijon mustard in France

First, find the seeds
The Economist – August 9, 2022

For the past few months, France has been gripped by the mystery of the Dijon mustard shortage.

The sharp pale-yellow condiment, a French household staple, has all but disappeared from the country’s supermarket shelves. When scarce deliveries arrive, some shops resort to rationing purchases to a single pot per person. On social media, amateur cooks swap ideas for an alternative ingredient to Dijon mustard in order to prepare vinaigrette, mayonnaise, or steak tartare, a French dish made of raw meat also seasoned with egg yolk and capers.

The sauce has a long history. In Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and home to the mustard that bears its name, the craft of the moutardier dates back to 1634. Yet even in this town, pots of the stuff are near-impossible to find.

The French consume a kilo of mustard per person each year. Much of it is the Dijon variety, a condiment that comes with a nose-tingling kick, not the milder and sweeter sauce slathered on hot dogs in Britain or America. Continue reading Can’t Cut It: The French Mustard Crisis in France

The Saudi Blood Money Golf Tour: No Tiger In Their Tank!

Tiger Woods spurned offer in $800m range to join LIV Golf, Greg Norman says

  • Norman says Woods turned down massive offer from LIV Golf
  • Woods has been against Saudi-financed tour since last year
Associated Press — Tue 2 Aug 2022 

Tiger Woods turned down an offer that Greg Norman says was in the region of $700m to $800m to take part in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.

During an appearance on Fox News with Tucker Carlson that aired Monday night, Norman confirmed what he told the Washington Post in a story two months ago. Norman told the Post in June the offer was “mind-blowingly enormous; we’re talking about high nine digits.”

Woods has been opposed to LIV Golf since late last year, and he delivered his strongest comments at the British Open when he said players who took the money funded by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund had “turned their back” on the PGA Tour that made them famous.

OMFG! Thank you, Tiger!

When an offer was made to Woods was not clear.

“That number was out there before I became CEO. So that number has been out there, yes,” Norman said in the Fox News interview, which took place Sunday at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey, where the third LIV Golf Invitational was held.

“And, look, Tiger is a needle-mover and of course you have to look at the best of the best,” Norman said. “So they had originally approached Tiger before I became CEO. So, yes, that number was somewhere in that neighborhood.”

Various reports out of the United Kingdom have said Phil Mickelson received a $200m signing bonus, while Dustin Johnson received $150m. The 48-man fields, which play 54 holes with no cut, offer $25m in prize money at each event. Norman announced a 14-tournament schedule for next year.

LIV Golf currently has only one player – Johnson at No 18 – from the top 20 in the world.

The source of the funding has led to sharp criticism of the series and the players who have enlisted because it is viewed as an attempt to distract attention from its human rights record and links to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Asked why his rival tour has caused such an uproar among American golf fans, Norman responded plainly, “I don’t know.”

“I really don’t care,” Norman said. “I just love the game so much and I want to grow the game of golf and we at LIV see that opportunity not just for the men but for the women.”

The LIV Golf Invitational is off for a month during the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, returning over Labor Day weekend about an hour west of Boston, and then two weeks later plays in the Chicago suburbs.

Annals of Inequality: Bulletins on How the Other Half (of 001%) Gets By

What the Eco-Conscious Oligarch Will Soon Be Driving

CNBC: — AUTOS

Here’s what Cadillac’s new $300,000 electric sedan will look like

KEY POINTS
  • GM on Friday unveiled the Cadillac Celestiq, previewing an upcoming car that will cost $300,000 or more when it goes into production by late 2023.
  • The car marks a pivot for Cadillac into hand-built vehicles, which are typically reserved for high-end sports cars and uber-luxury models.
  • GM did not release any technical details about the Celestiq such as its electric range, performance or other metrics.

The Cadillac Celestiq show car previews an upcoming electric sedan for General Motors.
GM

DETROIT – General Motors on Friday previewed what its most expensive Cadillac ever will look like as the automaker attempts to redefine the quintessential American luxury brand into an electric vehicle leader.

The Detroit automaker unveiled a “show car” version of the Cadillac Celestiq, an upcoming hand-built sedan that will cost about $300,000 or more when it’s expected to go into production by late 2023. Cadillac is calling the vehicle its new “all-electric flagship sedan.”

Cadillac Celestiq show car
The Celestic show car

The car marks a pivot for Cadillac into hand-built vehicles, which are typically reserved for high-end sports cars and uber-luxury vehicles such as Rolls-Royce exclusive models. Cadillac aims to exclusively offer EVs by the end of this decade.

Cadillac Celestiq show car
The Cadillac Celestiq show car previews an upcoming electric sedan for General Motors.
GM

GM did not release any technical details about the Celestiq such as its electric range, performance or other metrics.

The vehicle will feature five LED interactive displays, including a 55-inch-diagonal screen spanning the front cabin of the car; a “smart glass roof” that includes customizable transparency options; and Ultra Cruise, GM’s next-generation advanced driver-assist system that the company has said will be capable of driving itself in most circumstances.

Cadillac Celestiq show car
The Cadillac Celestiq show car previews an upcoming electric sedan for General Motors.
GM

GM confirmed such technologies will be part of the production car, however declined to provide additional details. The Wall Street Journal first reported the expected price and production of the Celestiq, which CNBC also confirmed through a person familiar with the plans who spoke anonymously because they haven’t been made public.

A show car is meant to preview an upcoming production car. As opposed to a “concept car” that automakers typically use to preview certain elements or design direction of a car or brand that may or may not be produced. Cadillac leveraged a similar launch strategy with the electric Lyriq SUV, which recently went into production.

GM said designers drew inspiration from well-known cars such as the bespoke V-16 powered “coaches” of the era before World War II and the hand-built 1957 Eldorado Brougham.

Cadillac Celestiq show car
The Cadillac Celestiq show car previews an upcoming electric sedan for General Motors.
GM

“Those vehicles represented the pinnacle of luxury in their respective eras, and helped make Cadillac the standard of the world,” Tony Roma, chief engineer of the Celestiq, said in a release. “The Celestiq show car — also a sedan, because the configuration offers the very best luxury experience — builds on that pedigree and captures the spirt of arrival they expressed.”

GM is investing $81 million at its tech center in suburban Detroit to hand build the upcoming Cadillac Celestiq. It marks the first time GM will produce a vehicle for commercial sales at its massive tech campus in Warren, Michigan.

Highlights from a Jan. 6 Late-Night

NOTE: Normally I don’t watch late-night TV. That’s less from snobbery than the fact that normally I’m asleep by then. But I make an exception when the January 6 Committee show runs til almost midnight.

(Full disclosure: I didn’t watch those late shows last night either. But the New York Times did, as a special service for its less hardy subscribers, providing these tidbits.)

 

“He did not call them from a box.
He did not call while watching Fox.

He did not help out Uncle Sam.
His brain is made of eggs and ham.
But, in his defense, it is possible he forgot the number for 9-1-1.”

— STEPHEN COLBERT, on news that Trump didn’t reach out to any security officials on Jan. 6.

“Yes, he is a stain on our history — and thanks to these hearings, we know that stain is ketchup.”

— STEPHEN COLBERT, referring to Representative Adam Kinzinger’s referring to Trump’s inaction as “a stain” on our history.

“The White House announced that President Biden has a mild case of Covid. On the bright side, it’s the first positive news Biden’s gotten in months.”

— JIMMY FALLON

And, the winner’s trophy in the Capitol Underground 100-Yard Dash goes to Jumpin’ Josh Hawley, the Sprinting Senator from  Missouri.

Why is this man smiling? Timothy Miller’s book just hit the NYTimes bestseller list.

 

Two Amazing Sights Today!

#1—

I went out Wednesday to get some groceries, and when I turned toward the garden, a small yellowish blur flitted past me and landed on a plant nearby.

I recognized it, and out came the phone/camera.
It was a Skipper butterfly, probably of the “Fiery Skipper” variety. The camera’s zoom lens worked fine.

Usually they skip away quick. But this one stayed and seemed to preen, opening its segmented wings to the sun, and it was still there when I got in the car.

Skippers are small — tiny, really, maybe an inch. But they can be vivid.

#2–

A couple miles away, we passed a familiar sign, bearing a sirptising and unfamiliar number.

Good grief. Was it real?? Again, out came the camera, to prove I wasn’t spreading disinformation.

Since the Fair Wendy bought an EV last December, this sign has become less central for us; but most of the country is still fixated on it.

I checked when I got home: in North Carolina it was early March when gas prices here broke the $4.00 barrier. That’s eighteen weeks flirting with $5. Yesterday the June inflation number came out very high. Today the president is in the Middle East, trying to turn some of it around.

Maybe at least one part of it has now peaked?
We hope!

How was your day?

Holiday Weekend Stories: His Eye Is On The Sparrow

Introduction: Pentler’s Folly

If you ever want to rile up a Friends meeting, here’s a simple recipe: Leave them a lot of money in your will, but with no instructions about what to do with it.

It’s a sure thing: the meeting will spend years haggling over what to do with all that worldly wealth.

In the mid-1970s, a fellow named Charlie Pentler did just that to Palo Alto Meeting in California. I don’t recall how much his estate finally came to; but it was enough, at least, to build a new meeting house, which was what they finally decided to do with most of it, after tying themselves up in knots for several years.

That whole story would probably yield the plot of an absurdist comedy of Quaker manners, if there was a Friendly cable channel to show it on. But before all the ruckus started, the Meeting decided to use a bit of the loose cash in one of Charlie Pentler’s accounts for a different purpose: to make some small grants to local folks for Friendly projects of one sort or another.

Being nearby when this news came, I hied myself to the front of the line, with my cap in one hand and an idea for writing some Quaker stories in the other.

The meeting gave me $1200, and the immediate result was two Quaker short stories, my first. which I labored over for weeks, hidden away on a farm near York, Pennsylvania.

But in a way, almost half a century later, a few dozen more stories are also the ultimate results of their generosity. That’s because the Quaker story bug, once loose in my veins, wouldn’t go away. For many years, like a recurrent fever, it kicked up ideas from my subsconscious, usually when I was least expecting them, and I’ve done my best to capture them on paper before they slipped back into the mist.

Most of these were first written to be read aloud, the earliest to my own children. Some years later, when my kids were older, they were read to the campers at Friends Music Camp, held for many years on the historic campus of the Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio, where I visited for this purpose for more than thirty years.

It started by accident: I visited Olney school one summer with son Asa, just to bask in the locale’s old-time Quaker atmosphere, and met the camp director, Peg Champney of Yellow Springs, Ohio Friends Meeting. I was low on cash and asked what I could trade for a weekend’s board for us.

“What have you got?” Peg asked.

I hemmed and hawed, then: “Um—I have some stories I could read.”
I was in luck. The evening program for the next day had just fallen through. So that evening, campers clustered around me in the main dorm lounge, and I read my stories.

They liked them. Looked forward to more. So one summer visit led to — thirty others. For ninety minutes in each of those years, sitting on a plain camp chair as dusk fell, surrounded by rapt youths, I felt like a famous writer.

The stories aren’t only for children, or Quakers.

I’ll post two of them: one below, the other tomorrow. Read them for yourself, and make your own judgment as to whether Palo Alto Meeting, and the shade of Charlie Pentler, got their money’s worth.

A postscript: some stories feature Quaker ghosts. They too started out to be fiction. The first was told spontaneously in the summer of 1987, during a visit to the historic Friends meetinghouse in Mount Pleasant, Ohio.

Mt. Pleasant Ohio Friends Meetinghouse

My two younger children, Guli and Asa, wanted to know why we had stopped there; and the explanation, to my surprise, came out as a story, about how a Quaker quarrel there in 1828 turned into a riot (it really did) and how ghosts linger with its memory, and can be heard there, still quarreling, on warm summer afternoons.

As the story was being told, Asa, at least, was quite sure he could hear the ghosts when he pressed an ear against the locked door of the meeting house. Asa’s hearing is very good; and ever since then, I haven’t been entirely sure whether the story, and some others, were as fictional as I thought.

His Eye Is On the Sparrow

[Note: This story is essentially true; it happened in summer 1961. I was 19, between freshman & sophomore years in college. The camp was in the Hudson Valley of New York]

I

It was Marcy Siegel who first realized that a killer was about to strike.

“No!” she shrieked. “Don’t”

But it was too late. The killer squeezed the trigger, squeezed it smoothly, silently, remorselessly. The rifle popped loudly, and the sound bounced back from the low hill in front of them.

The victim jerked and fell to the ground.

Then Marcy Siegel screamed, and so did the others.

II

Camp Pontiac was not much different from dozens of other such places: A long rambling row of cabins spread out along the shore of a cool blue lake. Behind them were softball fields, basketball courts, and other athletic equipment. A big lodge divided the boys’ cabins on the east from the girls’ on the west. In the big lodge we ate, heard announcements, and griped about the food.

I didn’t gripe about the food, though, at least not so the Inters could hear. “Inters” was short for Intermediates, which meant age 11 or so.

I couldn’t let them hear me gripe because I was one of their counselors. It was up to me to set an example.

A big bubble at Camp . . . Camp is a big bubble.

Many of my kids could use a good example too; Pontiac was an expensive camp, where most campers arrived hauling huge trunks crammed with stacks of brand new shirts and shorts and socks, twice as many as they’d ever needFortunately this was 1961, or there would have been cell phones and tablets too. Instead, when Visiting Day came a few weeks into the season, parents and other relatives brought or sent each of my kids bags and bags of candy, more than a single child could be expected to consume in a week.

In hopes of controlling the sugar craziness, we told them to eat as much as they could by bedtime that night, and then confiscated the rest. But there wasn’t much left by then, because what they couldn’t eat, they ended up throwing at each other, or us. For the rest of the season there were brown splotches on our cabin porch where M&Ms were ground into the wood floor.

That had been the low point; mostly the kids were bright and interesting, even if they wore us out. Besides, several of them had an air of underlying sadness that all the candy and new clothes couldn’t quite conceal: I called them the orphans.

They weren’t officially orphans, of course, but they might as well have been: they were shipped off to boarding schools for nine months of the year, and then trans-shipped off to camp for the summer. Their parents were evidently otherwise engaged, and had the money to keep the kids at a comfortable distance. I admit I cut the orphans a little extra slack sometimes; maybe I’m just a sucker, but it felt like they needed it.

Days at Camp Pontiac had a regular round of activities, swims, and assemblies. A kind of focal point came every weekday after rest period. That was when we gathered in front of Herbie the Head Counselor’s cabin for mail call and any last-minute afternoon announcements.

Herbie was big, blustery, sun-blond, and not really very athletic. But he was a longtime Camp Pontiac staffer, who knew what was what, and he was always ready to set us straight. He’d burst dramatically out of his cabin,  blow a whistle hanging around his neck on a nylon cord, make a joke or two, and pass out the mail. Then he’d collect  postcards the kids were constantly encouraged to write to their parents, at least weekly. The camp provided the postcards, and Herbie dropped them ceremoniously through a slot into a big locked wooden box attached to the front of his cabin.

“Okay!” he’d shout when this ritual was completed. “Let’s get out there and have a great time!” With one more blast of the whistle, he’d send us scampering to the afternoon’s activities.

Another big Camp breakfast about to get scrambled.

There were a lot of options at Camp Pontiac; there had to be, for as much as they charged. This variety was why I was there at all: in the winter, when checking the Summer Job Directory at college, the counselors’ lists in the camp section were a series of painful reminders of just how un-athletic I was:

Could I swim? A little, but not enough to teach it or lifeguard; as for hitting a baseball or shooting a basket, forget about it. And tennis? Don’t be silly. Volleyball, just barely.

Page after page, the activities lists at camp after camp were nearly identical. I was about to give up on getting away from my college in Colorado for the summer when, near the end of the section, Camp Pontiac appeared. Its list was longer than most, and even included horseback riding. Not that I could ride a horse either; but it gave me hope.

Then, like a gift from heaven, there it was–something I could actually do, and maybe even teach: riflery.

It’s true. When I was about twelve and living in rural California, my father bought me a single-shot .22 rifle. We never went hunting, but several times I took it out behind our house, facing an empty open field, and used up a box of shells plunking away at tin cans and bottles. I always hoped a bird or a rabbit would stray into my line of fire, but none ever did.

Two years later, a high school youth group offered target shooting lessons, and I jumped at the chance. I liked shooting; what 1950s American kid wouldn’t? I enjoyed the classes, too: (This was Back in the Day when the NRA was mainly about safety— no, really.) The instructors were sticklers about safety rules. But unlike a lot of rules in my world, theirs made perfect sense. They taught us to listen to the instructor’s commands, and to move together in sequence:

Ready!
Move up to the firing line.
Pick up your rifle.
Load and lock.
Ready on the Left?
Ready on the Right?
Ready on the firing line.
Commence firing!

Then:

Cease firing.
Rifles down.
Move back from the firing line.

We followed these rules because they kept us safe, and focused on the real objective, which was blowing little holes in the black bullseyes of the targets at the other end of the range.

Besides appreciating the discipline, I also liked the classes because in shooting, bigger didn’t mean better; what counted was control, concentration, aim, a steady trigger finger. A skinny kid like me could be a better shot than some burly, swaggering jock. We even had girls in the class, and some were better shots than most of the guys.

Besides, the results suggested I had a knack for it. My shooting scores were decent, and with practice got better. I was picked for the rifle team, earned a Sharpshooter’s medal, then added several bars to it. Our team won a few matches, and lost some, but in all I carried my weight. I hadn’t ever done that in a team sport before.

But then it ended: my family moved, and the new place didn’t have a rifle range available to teenagers, and that was that for my shooting career. Or it was until that day I sat reading through the Summer Job Directory at college.

My spirits lifted: Riflery was a skill I could legitimately offer Camp Pontiac. And it wasn’t that common; lots of people could hit a baseball; but how many could hit a bullseye? This, I thought, just might be my ticket back East, to New York, which I’d never seen before.

And so it was. One sunny morning in mid-June I was on a train chugging up the Hudson Valley from Manhattan. A few hours later, in my brand new Camp Pontiac tee shirt, I inspected the rifle range.

It was small, only six target stands, and backed up against the slope of a wooded hill, with nothing behind it for many acres. It looked good: safe, cozy and familiar. This I could handle.

I asked Herbie if I could try out the range; the campers weren’t due til tomorrow. He wasn’t too keen on the idea, but let me take a few potshots. I put two bullets through the bull’s eye, several more close to it, and was getting ready for my last shots when I noticed a fluttering in the trees halfway up the hill.

Lifting my eye from the rifle sight I saw birds flitting through the branches, seemingly unconcerned about the slugs kicking up dirt a few feet below them.

Come on, tweeties, I whispered urgently to them. Come on down here. Let me find out if I’m really still a sharpshooter. Come to papa. But they didn’t.

III

Everything went well that summer until the morning the killer appeared. Several times a week I met groups of campers at the range, showed them what to do, explained the importance of following instructions, gave out ammunition, and barked the commands:

”Campers ready! Move up to the firing line; pick up your rifle; load and lock. Ready on the left? Ready on the Right? Ready on the firing line, commence firing!”

I called out these orders from a spot behind the line, where I could see everybody and the targets beyond, to make sure every rifle was pointed in the right direction at all times. There weren’t going to be any accidents on my watch; the camp couldn’t afford it, and neither could I.

And it was going fine. In fact, the whole summer was going great. Camp, I soon discovered, was not just a matter of shepherding kids around. Over on the girls’ side, there were many pretty college age counselors, and the big lodge had a canteen where we could meet them after our boys were asleep. That year too, the Twist was the big dance, and I discovered to my surprise that I could actually do it.

So I was a popular guy, with kids when the sun was up, and with various female counselors after dark and on our precious days off. This, I concluded, was living.

That’s how it was the morning Marcy Siegel and her twelve year-old colleagues showed up, giggling and pigtailed. They were a little nervous about this business with guns, but eager too.

My confident tone was reassuring as I explained that a rifle is not a gun, that safety was primary, and how following my commands in unison would keep us all safe. They were wide-eyed, somber-faced and obedient when I said we were ready.

The first round of shooting went off without a hitch, though few of the girls could, as shooters say, hit the broad side of a barn. When we took a break I spoke encouragingly, gave them a few pointers, and said we’d do a second round so they could try to raise their scores. This time they were eager.

”Group One,” I shouted, “Move up to the firing line!”

Six subteens plopped down in their stalls.

”Pick up your rifle!”  They obeyed.

“Load and lock!”  There was a clicking and snapping of metal.

I started to say, “Ready on the Left!”  But just then I glanced out toward the target stands, and the words stuck in my throat.

A bird, a sparrow, had flown down from the trees above and was perched, big as life at about four inches long, on the third target stand. Its little head moved in quick jerks. One tiny claw flicked up to scratch its squat neck in a blurry rhythm.

My mouth went dry. I had wanted to see something like this, not just all summer—no, for years, ever since I stood knocking tin cans off a fence post in California. And now, here it was.

My fingers tingled. I had, I figured, about ten seconds to decide what to do, if I was going to do anything, about this. I took a couple of deep breaths, and then spoke:

“Rifles down. Yes, down!” Heads turned toward me, faces quizzical, but my stern voice brooked no questions or challenge. “Move away from the firing line!” They scrambled nervously back in my direction.

As soon as they were even with me I said, “Wait here.”

In a second, I had flopped into position in the third stall, and was aiming down the loaded rifle sight, over the shiny dark barrel. That was when Marcy Siegel realized what was about to happen, and screamed.

IV

I don’t think any bullseye ever felt better than that one shot. When the rifle made its single pop, the bird leaped off the target stand, then swerved right into the ground. I dropped the rifle and trotted out to the stands. There it was, limp and still, with a spot of blood bright on the tiny dark grey feathers where an eye had been. I walked back to the stalls, practically crowing about my shooting.

In fact, I was so full of pride at my kill that it took a few seconds to realize I was now surrounded by twelve near-hysterical girls.

To them, I was not a good shot; I was a killer, a cold-blooded, brutal murderer.

Really, they were so cute when they were angry. I patiently explained about how common such birds were, and how predators killed them by the dozens, and that actually I was no different than one of those sparrow hawks we saw circling overhead every day. No big deal; there were plenty more birds where that one came from, and anyway, didn’t they see what a good—no, what a great shot it was?

They weren’t buying it. My rationalizations about life and death in the wild cut no ice; my bragging about the fine shot did not impress. Marcy and a couple others started to cry.

I could see it was time to backpedal. I apologized for upsetting them, assured them that the bird did not suffer, and calmed them down as best I could. When it seemed that order had been restored, we finished up the second round and I sent them back to their counselors. They seemed back to normal as they went.

Once they were gone, I walked back up and took another look at my prey. No, I thought, they didn’t understand; they were too young. This really was the best shot I’d ever made. But probably it would be wiser, I figured, not to mention it to the other counselors.

V

This policy lasted exactly two days. Then, after mail call, when Herbie blew the whistle to send us off for the afternoon’s softball tournament, he called out to me to stay behind, and beckoned me to follow him into his cabin. I had never been inside it before; it was unofficially reserved for the senior counselors.

As soon as the door was closed behind us, he rounded on me, fury in his face: “What the HELL were you doing on the rifle range the other day?” he demanded.

Busted. Looking mostly at the floor, I explained what had happened. “I don’t know why I did it,” I concluded sheepishly. “But a bird never came down on the range before. It was probably the only chance I was going to have, and I guess I couldn’t pass it up.”

Herbie softened a bit as he listened. There was a good chance he had relatives in the army; and for all I knew he’d been in the army himself. I think he appreciated good marksmanship, at least in the abstract.

“And anyway,” I added lamely, “I was very careful about the safety procedures. None of the kids was anywhere near the firing line.”

Now Herbie snorted. “Oy vey,” he said. “Maybe not close to it, but they weren’t far enough away. Do you have any idea how many of them went back to their cabin and wrote home about this?”

I shook my head, confused.
“Five,” he roared. “FIVE!”

A postcard.

I was still confused. How would Herbie know that? But then in a flash it was obvious: the postcards. The box. It was not a regular mail box that could be opened only by an actual employee of the United States Postal Service. I glanced to my right, and there it was: the outside lock was for show: the box opened into a wire basket, right there in his cabin. And of course, there would be one just like it on the girls’ side.

No wonder the camp gave out the postcards. It was so the head counselors could read the notes home before sending them. And chances are, some never got sent. Like, Herbie explained, the five from my target practice escapade.

”You mean you didn’t send them?” I squeaked. The idea of tampering with the U.S. mail was genuinely shocking.

”Are you kidding?” he snapped. “What do you think the parents would do if they read that?” He rolled his eyes at my naivete. “We can’t afford that. You can’t either.”

Herbie let me go a few minutes later, with orders never to do any such meshuggenah thing again. I promised him I wouldn’t.

And I didn’t. Of course, this self-restraint was made easier by the fact that no bird ever again came near the target stands while I was on the range. A few weeks later, Marcy Siegel and her buddies made another visit to the range, eyeing me suspiciously the whole time. But everything went strictly by the book, and soon they seemed to be enjoying their shooting as much as the other campers did.

Maybe, I thought, this whole business was blowing over.

It seemed to be. The weeks passed swiftly, with kids keeping me busy during the days, and pretty female counselors to flirt with in the nights. By late August, when camp ended, everything seemed fine again. Heading back west toward Colorado and another year of college, I was determined to return there the next summer. Camp was fun; I missed the kids; I missed the female counselors. But next year would be even better-now I had experience to offer, as well as a specific skill.

Early the next spring, I sent an eager letter to Camp Pontiac, telling them how anxious I was to come back and do my best for them and the campers.

I never got an answer to that letter, nor to the follow-up I sent as May approached and I began to get desperate. My career as a camp counselor was over, no doubt slammed into oblivion along with that tiny sparrow. That year I ended up in ROTC summer camp, marching in full uniform around an Air Force base in Kansas in one hundred degree heat, without a cool blue lake or an eligible female anywhere in sight.

All this was sixty years ago, but I still miss Camp Pontiac sometimes, and wish I could slide one more postcard into that slot in Herbie’s box. If I could, the card would read like this:

”Dear Marcy Siegel, wherever you are, I’m sorry. I really am.”

That would be it. Although I admit I’d like to add a PS, which would say: “But really, Marcy, it was a great shot, a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Do you understand that any better now?”

I wonder if she would.

 

Posies for Peg is a  collection of my stories, in memory of Peg Champney, founder of Friends Music Camp. Available here.

 

 

 

Gators Are Comin’! And They Aren’t Kidding

[NOTE: It’s 200 miles south from my place to Myrtle Beach. I wish it was farther. They’ve been moving north.]

Alligator Fatally Attacks Man at the Edge of a South Carolina Pond

Such attacks are rare in the United States, typically occurring about once a year, but the latest one on Friday was the second in less than a month.

June 26, 2022

A man was killed on Friday after being dragged into a retention pond by an alligator near Myrtle Beach, S.C., the first such deadly attack in the state since 2020, the authorities said.

Fatal alligator attacks are rare in the United States, typically occurring about once a year, but the latest was the second in less than a month. The body of a man who had been retrieving Frisbees from a lake in Largo, Fla., which serves as a habitat for alligators, was found on May 31. Continue reading Gators Are Comin’! And They Aren’t Kidding

Video Treat of the Week: “Song of Myself,” Stanza 5

From the far out West, up against the curling, capricious lip of the Pacific, comes a dispatch from our Coastal Ocean & Fire Correspondent, Mitchell Santine Gould.

With it is a stunning animated setting of Stanza 5 from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, a keystone of the poet’s classic Leaves of Grass.

Mitch is a longtime student and celebrant of Whitman, and as we’ll see, does not lack deep artistic talent himself. His work deserves more attention, and will get a small measure of that here.

Mitch animated this stanza, and one can only begin to imagine how fabulous future installments might be.

The animation is only three minutes plus.

Yet in those brief moments it evokes much of Whitman’s continuing appeal and mystery: his modest origins, comfort with nature in all its aspects,

unabashed sensuality, human warmth, and easy, encompassing untheological mysticism.

From Stanza 5:

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valvèd voice.
If I may be pardoned a sectarian aside, Whitman overlaps at many points with Quakerism, though he did not join. As a youth he heard and was fascinated by the then-radical preaching of Elias Hicks; later, although not subject to the military draft in the Civil War, he spent many months doing an unofficial noncombat service in military hospitals, especially with gravely wounded and dying soldiers; he wrote essays in tribute to Hicks and George Fox; and more — which Mitch has been exploring and documenting for many years. (One small key chapter of it, from Quaker Theology, is here.)
And I can’t close without slipping in an unanimated addition, the next, sixth stanza of Song of Myself, which sticks in my memory perhaps more than any other:

Song of Myself 6

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

[The full text of Song of Myself is here.]

Thanks, Mitch — send more!

Our Great, Red Hot Also but No Good, Very Bad Economy

From Politico Nightly:

INFLATION IS REALLY … BRINGING ME OVER, MAN — My [Politico] colleague Victoria Guida tweeted something very smart today. When the latest dismal inflation numbers hit, she said: “Inflation is really bad, but this is still strange. We are in a recession in vibe only. The Fed targets vibes for a reason, though. Expectations matter in economic behavior.”

The tweet perfectly captured this bizarre economic moment.

By the usual numbers — unemployment, job openings, consumer demand and the like — the U.S. economy is red hot, with few signs of impending recession. There are still something close to two jobs open for every person seeking work.

Consumers keep pouring out cash, much of it saved during the pandemic. And now they aren’t just doing it on stuff that gets delivered to your door. Restaurant and bar spending is way up. People are flying more and staying in hotels. The party — it would seem — is seriously thumping. Wages are rising around 5 percent annually.

But if it’s so hot, why does everyone hate this economy? And I mean everyone.

The University of Michigan’s latest consumer sentiment gauge crashed to a record low 50.2, down from 58.4 in May. Polls on Americans’ views on the economy make it look like we are in a Great Depression. Americans are sour not just on the current economy but also on prospects for the future.

The main reason, of course, is our morbidly obese inflation rate. Prices soared 8.6 percent on an annual basis in May and rose 1 percent from April. That is quite terrible. Especially grizzly: the month-to-month bit demonstrating we have not — as so many hoped — hit “peak” inflation. Gas and food prices continue to explode higher, with pump prices hovering at nearly $5 per gallon.

Those wage gains we discussed are allswallowed up, and then some, by inflation. And Americans don’t think anyone has a clue what to do to arrest the rise in prices.

At the same time, we all still have Covid-era hangovers and get hammered by horrible news all the time, from gun violence to European wars to replays of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The vibes, man, are not groovy.

And those unmellow vibes themselves could help trigger recession, bringing us back to Victoria’s point about the Fed watching sentiment measures so closely. This many people feeling this glum (while seeing Covid relief money vanish) can slam the brakes on consumer spending, which is pretty much the whole economy. (OK, 70 percent.)

The most vexing problem is that the Fed can’t worry that much about the bad vibes at the moment — because it has to bring down the inflation causing those vibes. And that means lots of interest hikes. If those hikes intersect with consumers starting to shut their wallets anyway, more than the vibes will be bad.

Best Photo from the Queen’s Big Shindig Is a Picture-Within-the-Picture

Okay, pop quiz:

Why is THIS the most memorable photo from the Big Royal Platinum bash in London? Can you see it?

Most people, especially Brits (I expect) will see prime minister and  convicted flagrant Coronavirus scofflaw Boris J, with wife Carrie, arriving for one of the many platinum photo ops — and recall that BJ was being (non)royally booed by the crowd. That’s what got this moment into the news videos.

But that isn’t what grabbed my attention. Continue reading Best Photo from the Queen’s Big Shindig Is a Picture-Within-the-Picture