I've decided that the girl's name is Keiko. Haven't come up with a name for the baby yet, though.Add a Comment
I've decided that the girl's name is Keiko. Haven't come up with a name for the baby yet, though.Add a Comment
I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, there is always a twinge of guilt. My youngest daughter ALWAYS says a prayer for the noble bird that sits glistening on our festive table. Maybe you have young ones that have a similar feeling and if you do, “Too Many Turkeys” is at first glance, a very deceiving title as to where it is headed. But it will make kids feel good about toms in general and the story and illustrations are chock a block with turkeys.
It’s the story of Belle and Fred, their tiny farm and the “added benefits” for gardens that come with a turkey who wanders onto the farm. At first glance Belle is horrified at the thought of her prize garden rampaged by the “infernal mess” the turkey, they name Buford, will make. Well, Buford DOES make a mess, but it is a mess with benefits!
Suddenly Belle’s gardens are the envy of her neighbors. A new ingredient has been added, courtesy of Buford! Belle smile benignly and says when asked, “What’s the secret?”, Belle innocently replies, “My special formula fertilizer. A little of this, a smidge of that.” It’s a smidge all right – a smidge from Buford!
The fly er turkey in the ointment is the allure of Belle’s veggie garden and the tiny farm is soon awash with tons of OTHER turkeys. Tricks of every sort are devised by Fred to fool the tenacious turkeys and get them “off the farm.” Well sir, the jig is up and the only way to see clear of this sea of turkeys is a bit of old fashioned neighborliness.
Fred trades Belle’s secret formula for her lush gardens ( and even a generous portion of her secret, for the help of their neighbors in finding new homes for the pervasive poults!
Some of Belle’s seeds, a bunch of the “secret ingredients” plus a turkey each, depart with every helpful neighbor. One hand washes the other, as they say.
All find homes save Buford who, if your young readers peer under the porch on the last page, has found his turkey soul mate and will be “talking turkey” again to Belle and Fred!
Bountiful gardens are no accident and for the agro-interested, this turkey tale is timely for Thanksgiving! Gobble gobble! Happy Thanksgiving Buford!
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The light was getting purple and soft outside.
Almost time for my father to come home from work.
What’s the matter? What you crying for?
Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie.
No, he’s not.
Yes, he is, too.
No, he’s not.
I promise you Daddy is not going to kill Ralphie.
Why don’t you come on out of there?
Would you like some milk?
Here you go.
I’ll see you later? Okay. Bye.
I heard the car roar up the driveway, and a wave of terror broke over me.
He’ll know what I said, the awful things that I said.
|Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want|
“A Full Belly is the Mother of all Evil,” Benjamin Franklin counseled the readers of Poor Richard’s Almanack. For some mysterious reason this aphorism hasn’t had the sticking power of some of the inventor’s more famous sayings, like “he who lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” Most of us are more inclined to see a full belly as one of life’s blessings. The offending epigram, however, can’t be described as an aberration. Franklin’s writings are filled with variations on this advice: “A full Belly makes a dull brain”; “The Muse starves in a Cook’s shop”; and “Three good meals a day makes bad living.” It’s no wonder that one canny writer has taken advantage of the unquenchable American appetite for both the founding fathers and diet books to publish The Benjamin Franklin Diet, a complete guide to slimming down, eighteenth-century style.
Franklin’s antipathy to a full belly reflected his Puritan upbringing, which stigmatized gustatory pleasures as low or impure. When he was growing up, he recalled in his Autobiography, “little or no Notice was ever taken of what related to the Victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable of inferior.” Franklin claimed to have thoroughly adopted this legacy of indifference to food, but there is good evidence to the contrary. He abandoned an early commitment to vegetarianism when, on board the ship that carried him away from bondage to his brother in Boston, he succumbed to the temptation to indulge in a catch of cod. As he confessed, “I had formerly been a great Lover of fish, & when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smeled admirably well.” Reasoning that fish ate other fish, and thus why shouldn’t he, the pragmatic Franklin “din’d upon Cod very heartily.” The famous portrait of Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, painted decades later in France, suggests that he gained no better control of his appetites as he matured. Not even a hero worshipper could call the man thin. A second chin falls heavy below his jaw line, his belly strains against the buttons of his sumptuous waistcoat, and his arms bear a resemblance to fattened sausages.
Not a total hypocrite, Franklin did include passages in his writing that treat the pleasures of the table more positively. Poor Richard’s advice that “Fools makes Feasts and Wise Men eat them” suggests that frugality, more than distaste, motivated Franklin’s advice be temperate. During his embassy in Paris, when Franklin sought to win France over to the American cause, he ate out six nights a week. And without a doubt he enjoyed many of the nice things he was served, such as îles flottantes and champagne.
A proud American, Franklin also sought to introduce his French friends to some of the glories of his native cuisine. He insisted that American corn flour could make a sweeter bread than wheat alone (several of the philosophes were engaged in pursuit of a more nutritious bread recipe to improve the condition of the peasantry, who derived the majority of their calories from the staff of life). Later, after his return to Philadelphia, Franklin sent his friends shipments of Pennsylvania hams – remarkable for the sweetness of their fat, which he attributed to the pigs’ subsisting on corn.
If you want to try Benjamin Franklin’s recipe for corn bread you can find it in the appendix to Gilbert Chinard’s wonderful 1958 essay “Benjamin Franklin on the Art of Eating.” This little pamphlet, printed by the American Philosophical Society, contains a number of recipes found among Franklin’s papers, few of which could be described as dietetic. Franklin’s recipe for roasted pig pays great attention to producing a delicious crackling. His oyster sauce is heavy on the cream. And his puff pastry, recommended for encasing his apple pudding, calls for a pound of butter. Frarnklin’s apple pudding makes a tempting proposition for a food historian on the eve of Thanksgiving, especially since, like many eighteenth-century recipes, Franklin’s terse instructions offer just enough detail to inspire certainty that the end result would be inedible by twentieth-century standards. What better reason could there be to break out the mixing bowl!
* * * * *
To make an apple pudding.
Make a good puff-paste, roll it out half an inch thick, pare your apples, and core them, enough to fill the crust, and close it up, tie it in a cloth and boil it. If a small pudding, two hours: if a large one three or four hours. When it is enough turn it into your dish, cut a piece of the crust out of the top, butter and sugar it to your palate; lay on the crust again, and send it to table hot.
* * * * *
The sense of the unfamiliar has always been what compels me about history, it gives me the feeling of discovery and assures me that I am not just finding my own reflection in the sources. I, for example, do not bring a love of boiling to my reading of dessert recipes. Baking I expect – hours of boiling, not so much. I boil few foods, and those only briefly. I boil pasta 7 to 12 minutes, always anxious to drain the pot while the noodles are still al dente. Sometimes I boil green beans, but just for a couple minutes and often I steam them instead. I boil eggs, but I like the yolks soft so I don’t leave them in for more than six minutes. I never boil dessert pastries. But Benjamin Franklin told me to, so for the sake of historical knowledge I threw all my cooking know-how to the wind and set out to slavishly follow his orders.
Difficulties confronted me long before I arrived at the boiling. To begin, Franklin directed that I make a puff pastry, mixing four pints, or a quarter of a peck, of flour with half a pound of butter. How much did eighteenth-century dry pints weigh? And did they weigh the same in the colonies as they did in England? Today the imperial wet pint is four ounces more than the American wet pint (20 oz vs. 16 oz). One thing is for certain, whatever the exact weight of an eighteenth-century dry pint might be, four of them is a whopping amount. I made the executive decision to weight a pint at 16 oz and cut the recipe in half so that I didn’t completely empty our flour bin. Halving the butter as well, I ended up with a very dry mix:
The next direction was to add cold water until a stiff dough formed. Having spent the past twenty-five years of baking trying to add as little water to my pie dough as possible to prevent it turning tough, I needed to tamp down all my better instincts to pour in the cup and a half of cold water that my dry mix required to come together.
The brick of paste that resulted was so hard that it had to be beat into submission to follow the next directions, which called for the dough to be rolled out, buttered, rolled up, rolled out, and buttered again, nine to ten successive times until another half pound of butter had been added.
After an hour of buttering and rolling, I was left with a lovely, pliable, yellow dough, which I rolled out “half a thumb’s thickness” and set on a cheese cloth.
Franklin’s recipe calls next for chopped cored apples to be placed on the dough. No seasoning is done at this stage: no spices added to the apples, no sugar, no butter, no lemon. Just apples. How big? How many? Over how much of the dough? It doesn’t say.
Nor did the recipe explain how to seal the dough. I went for crimping and ended up with something that looked like a giant Cornish pasty.
At least until I wrapped it up in pastry and began the boiling, whence it commenced to look more like a brain. It was hard to commit willful destruction of this beautiful pasty, rather than pop the parcel into a hot oven where it might grow golden and crisp. What was the purpose of building up 10 layers of lamination only to melt out all the butter in a bubbling pot? Again, Franklin was mute.
The cooking instructions said to boil the pudding from two to four hours depending on its size. Unsure of the standard of measurement, I decided on three hours. There were no further cooking directions and perhaps I should have just let it be, but worried that the pudding wasn’t getting cooked on the top, which bounced above the bubbling water, I flipped the package each hour. Perhaps if I hadn’t, the pudding would have developed more of a crust.
For the final step, Franklin directs that the top of the pudding be removed, sugar and butter be mixed in with the apples, then the top replaced and the whole served immediately. When I cut away the muslin and lifted the soggy lid I found that the apples inside had reduced to a beautiful sauce within the boiled pastry casing. I added some chopped butter and brown sugar, then closed the pudding back up and let the flavors meld. I can’t say the result would win first prize in a pie contest, it wouldn’t even win honorable mention. But I can report that the mess tasted quite nice in a bland, comforting, soft, sort of way. Not a bad match for turkey at all.
Featured image: “The First Thanksgiving,” Jean Leone Gerome Ferris (c. 1912). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The last Thursday of November freshmen are returning home to reunite with their high school sweethearts. Except not all are as sweet as they once were. Your old flame may show up with a new admirer or give you trouble because you didn’t spend enough time on Skype on Saturday nights while away at college. Be prepared: pack an arsenal of tunes that catch the sad and sometimes mixed feelings you may have after Turkey-Dumping Day. For your convenience, a list of the 10 great breakup songs for a post-Turkey recovery:
10. Pink’s “Blow me (One Last Kiss)”
One of the more lighthearted tracks to make the list, Pink’s lead single from her sixth studio album The Truth About Love (2012) nonetheless gets the message across: After too much fighting, tears, and sweaty palms, the time comes when turkey is not the only thing you have finally had enough of.
9. Passenger’s “Let Her Go”
Passenger’s second single from the album All the Little Lights (2012) made the list not only because of the soul-wrenching, melodic tune but also because of its spot-on content. Looking into the heart of a dumper, the lyrics forcefully delineate the paradox of love: you don’t really know whether or how much you love someone, until he or she is gone.
8. Christina Perri’s “Human”
The lead single from Perri’s second studio album Head or Heart (2014), this pop power ballad features almost no drumsticks (pun intended). Instead it showcases the American singer’s ethereal voice. And the lyrics hit the nail on the head: Being happier and hotter without your ex may be the best way to get even. But don’t worry if you fail spectacularly, ’cause you’re only a little human.
7. Hilary Duff’s “Stranger”
Tapping into the style and sound of Middle-eastern belly-dance music, Hilary Duff’s single, recorded for her fourth studio album Dignity (2007), is a bouncy yet husky song about suddenly seeing an unkind stranger in the torso of your beloved. After listening to this tune, put on the dumper’s apron before slicing the turkey.
6. Jaymes Young’s “Parachute”
Despite its blunt language, Seattle-born singer Jaymes Young’s fragile ballad made the list because of its lyrics about being lied to and instantly knowing that it’s time to take the “l” out of “lover.”
5. Taylor Swift’s “I knew you were trouble”
Taylor Swift’s bass-heavy dubstep drop, recorded for her fourth studio album Red (2012), is aptly warning us about the trouble-makers–those types that make you fall in love only to leave you behind.
4. Sam Smith’s “Stay with me”
Although it’s not quite a turkey-dumping song but rather a desperate-for-love ballad, this gospel-inspired hit from British songwriter Sam Smith’s debut studio album In the Lonely Hour (2014) still made the list. Critics deemed it overly sentimental, but “brutally honest” is evidently a better description.
3. David Guetta’s “Titanium”
French DJ and music producer David Guetta is hard to pass over when it comes to ferocious breakup songs. This 2012 hit from his album Nothing But the Beat gives you relationship hardship and a shot of resilience to help take the pain out of Turkey-Dumping Day.
2. Fefe Dobson’s “Stuttering”
“Dobson can sing,” say the critic. Yes, indeed. The tune and the debated music video leave you stuttering and wondering: Can the green-eyed monster make you that crazy? Yes, it can, not least when the cheater isn’t your man.
1. David Guetta’s “She Wolf”
Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” gets an honorary mention for its heartening lyrics but it’s David Guetta who takes the first place with another ballad, featuring vocals from Australian recording artist Sia. Reflecting on the most poignant of breakups, this impassioned chorus on the feeling of being replaced takes us inside the mind of someone who is “falling to pieces.”
|Sharing the Good things in Life with my BFF|
|And a Good Time was had by All!|
“Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go.
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.”
Remember this Thanksgiving poem of six verses by Lydia Maria Child? Originally called “The New England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving”, it spoke of fun, frolic and festivities with these original lines:
“Over the river and through the wood,
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “Oh dear, the children are here.
Bring a pie for everyone.”
How about a picture book perfect to go along with Thanksgiving prep or the trip to Grandma’s house this holiday season? “Baking Day at Grandma’s” displays in wonderfully evocative deliciously homey art by Christopher Denise, the wholesome New England coziness of a trip to Grandma’s for a day of baking fun.
Only as an additional picture book perfect plus, THIS Grandma happens to be a huge, maternal fur laden, bespectacled bear whose house is nestled deep in the wintry countryside.
Three small bruins are on an adventure, passing icy ponds, dressed in Nordic caps and sweaters, towing the smallest of the three in a wooden sled. Destination? Grandma’s house! Arriving at Gram’s, they are greeted by a shawl around her shoulders, image of “grandmotherhood” itself, in the persona of a bear. Kids will just imagine being scooped up in a furry hug by those gentle paws. Of course, Mr. Denise, the author’s husband has fashioned an amazingly cozy Grandma’s house for this baking day. His attention to detail is faultless with its log cabin lines, farm sink, hand turned victrola, wide pegged wooden floors topped with a glass fronted cupboard, AND even the MIXING bowls pattern I remember from MY childhood!!
This bear trio measure, stir, lick wooden spoons and bake to their heart’s content with their kindly Grandma guiding the day’s activities of hot cocoa and old-time music and tapping feet, passing the time while the kitchen timer ticks away! Love that hooked rug they prance their paws upon.
Brownies iced and bagged AND wrapped to perfection with red ribbons are the ultimate take away from a day spent with someone you love DOING SOMETHING you love.
And as those bears don their outdoor togs for the trek back home with warm hugs all around, Ms Denise has created the picture book that will cause YOU to want to ring up your own children’s Grandma and ask HER to echo the lines that dot this picture book,
“It’s baking day!
It’s baking day!
It’s baking day at Grandma’s!”
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Autumn is here again – in England, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, in the US also the season of Thanksgiving. On the fourth Thursday in November, schoolchildren across the country will stage pageants, some playing black-suited Puritans, others Native Americans bedecked with feathers. By tradition, Barack Obama will ‘pardon’ a turkey, but 46 million others will be eaten in a feast complete with corncobs and pumpkin pie. The holiday has a long history: Lincoln fixed the date (amended by Roosevelt in 1941), and Washington made it a national event. Its origins, of course, lay in the Pilgrim Fathers’ first harvest of 1621.
Who now remembers who these intrepid migrants were – not the early ‘founding fathers’ they became, but who they were when they left? The pageant pilgrims are undifferentiated. Who knows the name of Christopher Martin, a merchant from Billericay near Chelmsford in Essex? He took his whole family on the Mayflower, most of whom, including Martin himself, perished in New Plymouth’s first winter. They died Essex folk in a strange land: there was nothing ‘American’ about them. And as for Thanksgiving, well that habit came from the harvest festivals and religious observances of Protestant England. Even pumpkin pie was an English dish, exported then forgotten on the eastern side of the Atlantic.
Towns like Billericay, Chelmsford and Colchester were crucial to American colonization: ordinary places that produced extraordinary people. The trickle of migrants in the 1620s, in the next decade became a flood, leading to some remarkable transformations. In 1630 Francis Wainwright was drawing ale and clearing pots in a Chelmsford inn when his master, Alexander Knight, decided to emigrate to Massachusetts. It was an age of austerity, of bad harvests and depression in the cloth industry. Plus those who wanted the Protestant Reformation to go further – Puritans – feared that under Charles I it was slipping backwards. Many thought they would try their luck elsewhere until England’s fortunes were restored, perhaps even that by building a ‘new’ England they could help with this restoration. Wainwright, aged about fourteen, went with Knight, and so entered a world of hardship and danger and wonder.
One May dawn, seven years later, Wainwright was standing by the Mystic River in Connecticut, one of seventy troops waiting to shoot at approaching Pequot warriors. According to an observer, the Englishmen ‘being bereaved of pity, fell upon the work without compassion’, and by dusk 400 Indians lay dead in their ruined encampment. The innkeeper’s apprentice had fired until his ammunition was exhausted, then used his musket as a club. One participant celebrated the victory, remarking that English guns had been so fearsome, it was ‘as though the finger of God had touched both match and flint’. Another rejoiced that providence had made a ‘fiery oven’ of the Pequots’ fort. Wainwright took two native heads home as souvenirs. Unlike many migrants, he stayed in America, proud to be a New Englander, English by birth but made different by experience. He lived a long life in commerce, through many fears and alarms, and died at Salem in 1692 during the white heat of the witch-trials.
The story poses hard historical questions. What is identity, and how does it change? Thanksgiving pageants turn Englishmen into Americans as if by magic; but the reality was more gradual and nuanced. Recently much scholarly energy has been poured into understanding past emotions. We may think our emotions are private, but they leak out all the time; we may even use them to get what we want. Converted into word and deed, emotions leave traces in the historical record. When the Pilgrim William Bradford called the Pequot massacre ‘a sweet sacrifice’, he was not exactly happy but certainly pleased that God’s will had been done.
Puritans are not usually associated with emotion, but they were deeply sensitive to human and divine behaviour, especially in the colonies. Settlers were proud to be God’s chosen people – like Israelites in the wilderness – yet pride brought shame, followed by doubt that God liked them at all. Introspection led to wretchedness, which was cured by the Holy Spirit, and they were back to their old censorious selves. In England, even fellow Puritans thought they’d lost the plot, as did most (non-Puritan) New Englanders. But godly colonists established what historians call an ‘emotional regime’ or ‘emotional community’ in which their tears and thunder were not only acceptable but carried great political authority.
John Winthrop, the leader of the fleet that carried Francis Wainwright to New England, was an intensely emotional man who loved his wife and children almost as much as he loved God. Gaunt, ascetic and tirelessly judgmental, he became Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor, driven by dreams of building a ‘city upon a hill’. It didn’t quite work out: Boston grew too quickly, and became diverse and worldly. And not everyone cared for Winthrop’s definition of liberty: freedom to obey him and his personal interpretation of God’s designs. But presidents from Reagan to Obama have been drawn to ‘the city upon the hill’ as an emotionally potent metaphor for the US in its mission to inspire, assist, and police the world.
Winthrop’s feelings, however, came from and were directed at England. His friend Thomas Hooker, ‘the father of Connecticut’, cut his teeth as a clergyman in Chelmsford when Francis Wainwright lived there. Partly thanks to Wainwright, one assumes, he found the town full of drunks, with ‘more profaneness than devotion’. But Hooker ‘quickly cleared streets of this disorder’. The ‘city upon the hill’, then, was not a blueprint for America, but an exemplar to help England reform itself. Indeed, long before the idea was associated with Massachusetts, it related to English towns – notably Colchester – that aspired to be righteous commonwealths in a country many felt was going to the dogs. Revellers did not disappear from Chelmsford and Colchester – try visiting on a Saturday night – but, as preachers and merchants and warriors, its people did sow the seeds from which grew the most powerful nation in the world.
So if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year, or you know someone who is, it’s worth remembering that the first colonists to give thanks were not just generic Old World exiles, uniformly dull until America made them special, but living, breathing emotional individuals with hearts and minds rooted in English towns and shires. To them, the New World was not an upgrade on England: it was a space in which to return their beloved country to its former glories.
Featured image credit: Signing of the Constitution, by Thomas P. Rossiter. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
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The weeks of drinking gallons of Ovaltine, in order to get…
the Ovaltine inner seal to send off for my Little Orphan Annie…
secret decoder pen, was about to pay off.
Remember, kids, only members of…
Annie’s secret circle can decode Annie’s secret message.
Remember, Annie is depending on you.
Set your pins to B-2.
Here is the message.
12. 11. 2…
I am in my first secret meeting.
…25. 14. 11. 18.
Pierre was in great voice tonight.
I could tell that tonight’s message was really important.
That’s a message from Annie herself. Remember, don’t tell anyone.
Ninety seconds later I’m in the only room in the house…
where a boy of nine can sit in privacy and decode.
Ah! “B.” I went to the next.
“E.” The first word is “be”!
“S.” It was coming easier now. “U.”
“Be sure to.” Be sure to what?
What was Little Orphan Annie trying to say? Be sure to what?
I was getting closer now.
The tension was terrible. What was it?
The fate of the planet may hang in the balance.
Almost there! My fingers flew.
My mind was a steel trap.
Every pore vibrated.
It was almost clear.
A crummy commercial?
The elections, thankfully, are finally over, but America’s search for security and prosperity continues to center on ordinary politics and raw commerce. This ongoing focus is perilous and misconceived. Recalling the ineffably core origins of American philosophy, what we should really be asking these days is the broadly antecedent question: “How can we make the souls of our citizens better?”
To be sure, this is not a scientific question. There is no convincing way in which we could possibly include the concept of “soul” in any meaningfully testable hypotheses or theories. Nonetheless, thinkers from Plato to Freud have understood that science can have substantial intellectual limits, and that sometimes we truly need to look at our problems from the inside.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit philosopher, inquired, in The Phenomenon of Man: “Has science ever troubled to look at the world other than from without?” This not a silly or superficial question. Earlier, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American Transcendentalist, had written wisely in The Over-Soul: “Even the most exact calculator has no prescience that something incalculable may not balk the next moment.” Moreover, he continued later on in the same classic essay: “Before the revelations of the soul, Time, Space, and Nature shrink away.”
That’s quite a claim. What, precisely, do these “phenomenological” insights suggest about elections and consumerism in the present American Commonwealth? To begin, no matter how much we may claim to teach our children diligently about “democracy” and “freedom,” this nation, whatever its recurrent electoral judgments on individual responsibility, remains mired in imitation. More to the point, whenever we begin our annual excursions to Thanksgiving, all Americans are aggressively reminded of this country’s most emphatically soulless mantra.
“You are what you buy.”
This almost sacred American axiom is reassuringly simple. It’s not complicated. Above all, it signals that every sham can have a patina, that gloss should be taken as truth, and that any discernible seriousness of thought, at least when it is detached from tangible considerations of material profit, is of no conceivably estimable value.
Ultimately, we Americans will need to learn an altogether different mantra. As a composite, we should finally come to understand, every society is basically the sum total of individual souls seeking redemption. For this nation, moreover, the favored path to any such redemption has remained narrowly fashioned by cliché, and announced only in chorus.
Where there dominates a palpable fear of standing apart from prevailing social judgments (social networking?), there can remain no consoling tolerance for intellectual courage, or, as corollary, for any reflective soulfulness. In such circumstances, as in our own present-day American society, this fear quickly transforms citizens into consumers.
While still citizens, our “education” starts early. From the primary grades onward, each and every American is made to understand that conformance and “fitting in” are the reciprocally core components of individual success. Now, the grievously distressing results of such learning are very easy to see, not just in politics, but also in companies, communities, and families.
Above all, these results exhibit a debilitating fusion of democratic politics with an incessant materialism. Or, as once clarified by Emerson himself: “The reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.”
Nonetheless, “We the people” cannot be fooled all of the time. We already know that nation, society, and economy are endangered not only by war, terrorism, and inequality, but also by a steadily deepening ocean of scientifically incalculable loneliness. For us, let us be candid, elections make little core difference. For us, as Americans, happiness remains painfully elusive.
In essence, no matter how hard we may try to discover or rediscover some tiny hints of joy in the world, and some connecting evidence of progress in politics, we still can’t manage to shake loose a gathering sense of paralyzing futility.
Tangibly, of course, some things are getting better. Stock prices have been rising. The economy — “macro,” at least — is improving.
Still, the immutably primal edifice of American prosperity, driven at its deepest levels by our most overwhelming personal insecurities, remains based upon a viscerally mindless dedication to consumption. Ground down daily by the glibly rehearsed babble of politicians and their media interpreters, we the people are no longer motivated by any credible search for dignity or social harmony, but by the dutifully revered buying expectations of patently crude economics.
Can anything be done to escape this hovering pendulum of our own mad clockwork? To answer, we must consider the pertinent facts. These unflattering facts, moreover, are pretty much irrefutable.
For the most part, we Americans now live shamelessly at the lowest common intellectual denominator. Cocooned in this generally ignored societal arithmetic, our proliferating universities are becoming expensive training schools, promising jobs, but less and less of a real education. Openly “branding” themselves in the unappetizing manner of fast food companies and underarm deodorants, these vaunted institutions of higher education correspondingly instruct each student that learning is just a commodity. Commodities, in turn, learns each student, exist solely for profit, for gainful exchange in the ever-widening marketplace.
Optimally, our students exist at the university in order, ultimately, to be bought and sold. Memorize, regurgitate, and “fit in” the ritualized mold, instructs the college. Then, all be praised, all will make money, and all will be well.
But all is not well. In these times, faced with potentially existential threats from Iran, North Korea, and many other conspicuously volatile places, we prefer to distract ourselves from inconvenient truths with the immense clamor of imitative mass society. Obligingly, America now imposes upon its already-breathless people the grotesque cadence of a vast and over-burdened machine. Predictably, the most likely outcome of this rhythmically calculated delirium will be a thoroughly exhausted country, one that is neither democratic, nor free.
Ironically, we Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, it seems, we still had a unique opportunity to nudge each single individual to become more than a crowd. Once, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the quintessential American philosopher, had described us as a unique people, one motivated by industry and “self-reliance,” and not by anxiety, fear, and a hideously relentless trembling.
America, Emerson had urged, needed to favor “plain living” and “high thinking.” What he likely feared most was a society wherein individual citizens would “measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.”
No distinctly American philosophy could possibly have been more systematically disregarded. Soon, even if we can somehow avoid the unprecedented paroxysms of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, the swaying of the American ship will become unsustainable. Then, finally, we will be able to make out and understand the phantoms of other once-great ships of state.
Laden with silver and gold, these other vanished “vessels” are already long forgotten. Then, too, we will learn that those starkly overwhelming perils that once sent the works of Homer, Goethe, Milton, and Shakespeare to join the works of more easily forgotten poets are no longer unimaginable. They are already here, in the newspapers.
In spite of our proudly heroic claim to be a nation of “rugged individuals,” it is actually the delirious mass or crowd that shapes us, as a people, as Americans. Look about. Our unbalanced society absolutely bristles with demeaning hucksterism, humiliating allusions, choreographed violence, and utterly endless political equivocations. Surely, we ought finally to assert, there must be something more to this country than its fundamentally meaningless elections, its stupefying music, its growing tastelessness, and its all-too willing surrender to near-epidemic patterns of mob-directed consumption.
In an 1897 essay titled “On Being Human,” Woodrow Wilson asked plaintively about the authenticity of America. “Is it even open to us,” inquired Wilson, “to choose to be genuine?” This earlier American president had answered “yes,” but only if we would first refuse to stoop so cowardly before corruption, venality, and political double-talk. Otherwise, Wilson had already understood, our entire society would be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty death of machinery, more unsightly even than the death of an individual person.
“The crowd,” observed the 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, “is untruth.” Today, following recent elections, and approaching another Thanksgiving, America’s democracy continues to flounder upon a cravenly obsequious and still soulless crowd. Before this can change, we Americans will first need to acknowledge that our institutionalized political, social, and economic world has been constructed precariously upon ashes, and that more substantially secure human foundations now require us to regain a dignified identity, as “self-reliant” individual persons, and as thinking public citizens.
Heading image: Boxing Day at the Toronto Eaton Centre by 松林 Ｌ. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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Happy Almost-Thanksgiving and Happy Poetry Friday (original poem and link to Poetry Friday below)
To enter our latest giveaway, a copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, check out Carmela's post.
I'm the third TeachingAuthor to chime in on our annual Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving--woo woo!
As we begin a season of reflection and celebration, we are pleased to share some of our favorite books on thankfulness and being grateful that will help young readers on their journey to understanding gratitude.Add a Comment
A few years ago, Oyate had a list of books about Thanksgiving that they did not recommend. The list was on their website.
Given the number of books that are published every year about that holiday and the ways that Native peoples continue to be misrepresented in children's books, you would be right to guess that their list is long.
That list is not at their website any longer. In a redesign a few years ago they decided to remove it and their Books to Avoid section. They decided that, although a list might seem efficient, it didn't give people the critical thinking skills they need to develop in order to make decisions on their own. I agree--I'd prefer people develop those skills and apply them their selection/deselection activities.
On the other hand, teachers use lists of good books all the time. Generally speaking, they assume that the person who put that list together has the expertise necessary such that their evaluations can be trusted.
I personally have not read all of these books, but I definitely learned a great deal from Oyate's work. I strongly encourage teachers and librarians to get materials published by Oyate.
My guess is that I'd concur with their decision about each of these books, and I'd also guess that any given book on the list got there because it put forth one or more of what Judy Dow called a myth in her Deconstructing the Myths of the First Thanksgiving. If one of these books is on your shelf and you're considering weeding it, I recommend you read it and Dow's essay and then make a decision. I've also shared Oyate's list of recommended books here.
Own your knowledge. Own your decisions.
Accorsi, William. Friendship's First Thanksgiving. Holiday House, 1992.
Aliki. Corn is Maize: The Gift of the Indians. Harper & Row, 1976.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Ansary, Mir Tamim. Thanksgiving Day. Heinemann, 2002.
Apel, Melanie Ann. The Pilgrims. Kidhaven Press, 2003.
Bartlett, Robert Merrill, The Story of Thanksgiving. HarperCollins, 2001.
Barth, Edna. Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of Thanksgiving Symbols. Clarion, 1975.
Borden, Louise. Thanksgiving Is... Scholastic, 1997.
Brown, Marc. Arthur's Thanksgiving. Little, Brown. 1983.
Bruchac, Joseph. Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving. Harcourt, 2000.
Buckley, Susan Washburn. Famous Americans: 15 Easy to Read Biography Mini-Books. Scholastic, 2000.
Bulla, Clyde Robert. Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims. Scholastic, 1990.
Celsi, Teresa. Squanto and the First Thanksgiving. Steck-Vaughn, 1989.
Clements, Andrew. Look Who's in the Thanksgiving Play! Simon & Shuster, 1999.
Cohen, Barbara. Molly's Pilgrim. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1983.
Conaway, Judith. Happy Thanksgiving! Things to Make and Do. Troll Communications, 1986.
Crane, Carol and Helle Urban. P is for Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet. Sleeping Bear Press, 2003.
Dalgliesh, Alice. The Thanksgiving Story. Scholastic, 1954/1982.
Daugherty, James. The Landing of the Pilgrims. Random House, 1987.
Davis, Kenneth C. Don't Know Much About the Pilgrims. HarperCollins, 2002.
DePaola, Tomie. My First Thanksgiving. Putnam, 1992.
Donnelly, Judy. The Pilgrims and Me. Grosset & Dunlap, 2002.
Dubowski, Cathy East. The Story of Squanto, First Friend to the Pilgrims. Dell, 1990.
Fink, Deborah. It's a Family Thanksgiving! A Celebration of an American Tradition for Children and their Families. Harmony Hearth, 2000.
Flindt, Myron. Pilgrims: A Simulation of the First Year at Plymouth Colony. Interact, 1994.
Fritz, Jean. Who's That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? Putnam & Grossett, 1975.
George, Jean Craighead. The First Thanksgiving. Puffin. 1993.
Gibbons, Gail. Thanksgiving Day. Holiday House, 1985.
Gibbons, Gail. Thanksgiving Is... Holiday House, 2004.
Greene, Rhonda Gowler. The Very First Thanksgiving Day. Atheneum, 2002.
Hale, Anna W. The Mayflower People: Triumphs and Tragedies. Harbinger House, 1995.
Hallinan, P. K. Today is Thanksgiving! Ideals Children's Books, 1993.
Harness, Cheryl. Three Young Pilgrims. Aladdin, 1995.
Hayward, Linda. The First Thanksgiving. Random House, 1990.
Hennessy, B. G. One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims. Viking, 1999.
Jackson, Garnet. The First Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 2000.
Jassem, Kate. Squanto: The Pilgrim Adventure. Troll Communications. 1979.
Kamma, Anne. If You Were At... The First Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 2001.
Kessel, Joyce K. Squanto and the First Thanksgiving. Carolrhoda, 1983.
Kinnealy, Janice. Let's Celebratae Thanksgiving, A Book of Drawing Fun. Watermill, 1988.
Koller, Jackie French. Nickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration. Atheneum, 1999.
Marx, David F. Thanksgiving. Children's Press, 2000.
McGovern, Ann. The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 1973.
McMullan, Kate. Fluffy's Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 1997.
Melmed, Laura Krauss. The First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story. HarperCollins, 2001.
Metaxas, Eric. Squanto and the First Thanksgiving. Rabbit Ears Books, 1996.
Moncure, Jane Belk. Word Bird's Thanksgiving Words. Child's World, 2002.
Ochoa, Anna. Sticker Stories: The Thanksgiving Play. Grosset & Dunlap, 2002.
Osborne, Mary Pope. Thanksgiving on Thursday. Random House, 2002.
Parker, Margot. What is Thanksgiving Day? Children's Press, 1988.
Peacock, Carol Antoinette. Pilgrim Cat. Whitman, 2004.
Prelutsky, Jack. It's Thanksgiving. Morrow, 1982.
Rader, Laura J. A Child's Story of Thanksgiving. Ideals Children's Books, 1998
Randall, Ronnie. Thanksgiving Fun: Great Things to Make and Do. Kingfisher, 1994.
Raphael, Elaine and Don Bolognese. The Story of the First Thanksgiving. Scholastic, 1991.
Rau, Dana Meachen. Thanksgiving. Children's Press, 2000.
Roberts, Bethany. Thanksgiving Mice! Clarion, 2001.
Rockwell, Anne. Thanksgiving Day. HarperCollins, 1999.
Rogers, Lou. The First Thanksgiving. Modern Curriculum Press. 1962.
Roloff, Nan. The First American Thanksgiving. Current. 1980.
Roop, Connie and Peter. Let's Celebrate Thanksgiving. Millbrook, 1999.
Roop, Connie and Peter. Pilgrim Voices: Our First Year in the New World. Walker, 1995.
Ross, Katherine. Crafts for Thanksgiving. Millbrook, 1995.
Ross, Katherine. The Story of the Pilgrims. Random House, 1995.
Ruelle, Karen Gray. The Thanksgiving Beast Feast. Holiday House, 1999.
San Souci, Robert. N.C. Wyeth's Pilgrims. Chronicle, 1991.
Scarry, Richard. Richard Scarry's The First Thanksgiving of Low Leaf Worm. Little Simon, 2003.
Schultz, Charles M. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Sewall, Marcia. People of the Breaking Day. Atheneum, 1990.
Sewall, Marica. The People of Plimoth. Aladdin, 1986.
Sewall, Marcia. Thunder from the Clear Sky. Atheneum, 1995.
Siegel, Beatrice. Fur Traders and Traders: The Indians, the Pilgrims, and the Beaver. Walker, 1981.
Siegel, Beatrice, Indians of the Northeast Woodlands. Walker, 1992.
Silver, Donald M. and Patricia J. Wynne. Easy Make and Learn Projects: The Pilgrims, the Mayflower & More. Scholastic, 2001.
Skarmeas, Nancy J. The Story of Thanksgiving. Ideals Publications, 1999.
Sorenson, Lynda. Holidays: Thanksgiving. Rourke, 1994.
Stamper, Judith Bauer. New Friends in a New Land: A Thanksgiving Story. Steck-Vaughn, 1993.
Stamper, Judith Bauer. Thanksgiving Fun Activity Book. Troll, 1993.
Stanley, Diane. Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation. HarperCollins, 2004.
Steigemeyer, Julie. Thanksgiving: A Harvest Celebration. Concordia, 2003.
Tryon, Leslie. Albert's Thanksgiving. Aladdin, 19983.
Umnik, Sharon Dunn (Ed.). 175 Easy-to-Do Thanksgiving Crafts. Boyds Mills Press, 1996.
Waters, Kate. Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast. Scholastic, 2001.
Waters, Kate. Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy. Scholastic, 1993.
Waters, Kate. Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl. Scholastic, 1989.
Waters, Kate. Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Boy in Pilgrim Times. 1996.
Weisgard, Leonard. The Plymouth Thanksgiving. Doubleday, 1967.
Whitehead, Pat. Best Thanksgiving Book, ABC Adventures. Troll Communications, 1985.
It's a good thing we have a holiday dedicated to thankfulness. Otherwise I would rarely give my blessings a thought. I am one of those "the glass is half empty" people. So here is what fills my glass this year.
Sorry, Carmela, but I have to begin with one you already mentioned, our terrific Vermont College MFA group, The Hive. Outside of my family, they are my longest sustained relationship. Most of us met on the airport bus going to campus on a July evening in 1998. Rarely a day goes by that at I am not in contact with at least one of them. Collectively, they are a never-ending source of energy, enthusiasm and advice. I truly do not know how I survived as a writer without them. Thank you, lovely Bees!
Next up on the gratitude list is my own local critique group, WINGS (Writers in North Georgia). Every month (with occasional sabbaticals) since October 2001, I have driven the hundred miles, round trip, to meet with this group of five in Conyers, Georgia. Driving that far in Atlanta traffic is no small matter, but the reward is worth every nerve-wracking mile. Connie, Nancy, T.K. and Stephanie as well as our Fearless Leader Susan (plus member-in-absentia, Maureen) are the best writers and critiquers one could ever hope to find. Almost everything I have published is the result of their sharp eyes and spot-on suggestions. I could not fly without my WINGS.
Lastly, I am grateful for SCBWI, The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (we writers do like our acronyms!) I learned about SCBWI from a Hive member while I was at Vermont College and wasted no time joining. SCBWI is more than just an organization of like minded people.
It is an endless supply of all a writer needs: the latest publishing information, editorial contacts, writing conferences, and most of all Opportunity (with a capital O). The conferences alone provide the opportunity to meet editors and agents, to submit manuscripts to houses that would otherwise be closed to unagented authors (like me), to have work critiqued by industry professionals. SCBWI, you are worth every penny in membership dues and conference fees.
To enter our latest giveaway, a copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market, check Carmela's Friday post. (http://www.teachingauthors.com/2014/11/thanks-giving-CWIM-giveaway.html). Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman
We are so excited about our next children’s picture book release, Ten Thankful Turkeys. Stay tuned here for more details and promotions we will be doing. You’ll want to gobble up these deals before they disappear.
We are so excited to announce the release of our latest children’s book, Ten Thankful Turkeys. This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book. You can get the kindle version of this book for a special launch price of $.99 for a limited time or FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited. We also have paperback versions on sale now at Amazon for $8.99.
Be sure to gobble up this deal before it disappears. :-)
Title: Ten Thankful Turkeys | Author: Angela Muse | Illustrator: Ewa Podleś | Publication Date: October 4, 2014 | Publisher: 4EYESBOOKS | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 2 to 8 Summary: This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book.
Angela Muse was born in California to a military family. This meant that she got used to being the “new kid” in school every couple of years. It was hard trying to make new friends, but Angela discovered she had a knack for writing. In high school Angela began writing poetry and song lyrics. Expressing herself through writing seemed very natural. After becoming a Mom in 2003, Angela continued her storytelling to her own children. In 2009 she wrote and published her first rhyming children’s book aimed at toddlers. Since then she has released several more children’s picture books and released books in her first young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, in 2013/2014. Her husband, Ben Muse writes suspense/thriller books that can also be found on Amazon.
Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest closes: November 23, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the Angela Muse and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Copyright © 2014 Mother Daughter Book Reviews, All rights reserved.
10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston & illustrated by Rich Deas “Looky!” says a silly turkey swinging from a vine. Gobble gobble wibble wobble. Whoops! Now there are nine.” Girls and boys will gobble up this hilarious counting story about ten goofy turkeys roller-skating on a fence, doing a noodle dance, and more! Give …Add a Comment
If your name wasn't selected in the drawing for our 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (CWIM) giveaway, I have good news for you: Writer's Digest Books, publisher of the CWIM, has generously donated a SECOND COPY for us to give away! See details at the end of this post. And congratulations to Sue H, who won the first copy.
If you're a long-time TeachingAuthors follower, you know about our tradition of setting aside time in November to give thanks. It started in 2011, with our Ten Days of Thanks-Giving, inspired, in part, by Esther post about thank-you haikus, also known as Thankus. In 2012 we expanded to Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving, which we repeated in 2013. This year, we've decided to stretch our Thanks-Giving posts to a full Three Weeks of Thanks-Giving!