Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I am still on my tango kick, so to speak.

The bandoneón is central instrument for tango ensembles, which can also have a piano, often a violin, a guitar maybe or a bass, but ALWAYS a bandoneón. Until I started researching this next book, I knew the sound of the instrument, but not it's name and certainly not its origin. Now that I do, I want to share it with you.

The bandoneón makes that wonderful almost-human breathing, gasping, and sighing sound that gives passion to tango music. We associate its voice with the hot, Latin romance of Argentina's premier art form, but this concertina-like instrument is actually a German, and a religious one at that.

Called bandonion by its inventor Heinrich Band (1821-1860), this wonderful music maker was intended to take the place of an organ in poor churches that could not afford the real article. There isn't any easy-to-find documentation about the bandoneón's eventual use in religious establishments. What we do know is that German sailors and Italian seasonal workers and immigrants brought the first ones to Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century, just as the working class newcomers in the bars on the waterfront were evolving a fabulous new music and dance art: the tango. The new arrival that most influenced how that new music would sound was the bandoneón.

It seems as if it must be a tricky instrument to play. It is played by pulling the bellows apart and squeezing them together. The buttons on the ends change the notes, and here's what knocks me out – the buttons play different notes depending on whether the player is pulling the bandoneon apart or pushing it closed. If you ask me, the musical geniuses who master the bandoneón must each have two or three brains.

The most famous recent maestro was also the great composer, Astor Piazzolla. Here is a lovely little film of one of his compositions in a performance that brings the bandoneón back to its intended locale – a church. The elegance of the scene rivals recent weddings of European royalty. The name of the piece is "Adios Nonino," which given the Italianized Spanish of Buenos Aires, I make out to mean, "Goodbye, Little Grandfather." That may account for the beautiful bride's emotional reaction. Then again, the plaintive voice of the bandoneón could easily have moved her to those tears.

Annamaria Alfieri

Monday, August 29, 2011

Memories of a Hurricane Past

Stone Harbor, New Jersey, August, 1944.

The day began overcast and muggy. As the day wore on the air became more clammy and clingy and there was an eerie stillness. No leaf, flag, or skirt stirred. My brother and I were restless and excited. Our father was nervous, listening closely to the warnings on the radio. Our mother was oblivious, napping on the sofa.

Around four o’clock the sky took on a yellow stain. A little later, the wind and rain began. Our house was only a block and a half from the ocean. My brother and I took up our post on the stair landing, where there was a window from which we could see the boardwalk and the ocean. As we gleefully watched the storm gather strength our father banged doors and windows shut, and our mother slept peacefully on.

Suddenly, as we watched, the little pavilion on the boardwalk, with its bright green roof, was tossed in the air, as if part of a toy village, and disappeared. About this time, our father decided to evacuate us and return to Philadelphia. “Everyone put on your rain gear and grab your most precious possession,” he ordered. “We’re leaving.”

At this point the lights went out and my mother woke up. “What’s going on?” she asked, innocently. Immediately taking in the situation, she said, “John, don’t you think it’s a little late for that?”

But my father persisted and I found myself in my bedroom facing a difficult decision. On top of the bed lay my violin, newly purchased for the pursuit of a musical career. Under the bed was a pair of fuzzy, bunny, bedroom slippers. After a few seconds, I grabbed the slippers.

Finally gathered on the front porch, clutching our personal treasures, we watched the rushing torrent that had once been 86th Street. Although the water was over the hubcaps of our car, my father, led us bravely down the steps toward it. Just then a police car appeared, churning water right and left. The officer rolled down his window and waved us back. “Stay where you are,” he said. “Your house is on the highest point of land.” {Not all that reassuring since everyone knows, the Jersey Shore is flat.) He churned onward.

Back we trooped into the darkening house, to sit in gloom at the kitchen table eating cold cuts and sipping lemonade. (I think my parents had something stronger.)

Two hours later, the sun burst out in the form of a radiant sunset. The winds died down, the rivers receded, and the streets reappeared. It was one of the most tranquil evenings I can remember. Eagerly, my brother and I set out to see the damage. A strange scene met our eyes. The boardwalk that had stretched the length of the beach for almost a hundred years had vanished. All that remained were the pilings that looked as if they had been measured and sawed off at the exact same height by an unseen hand. At regular intervals along the sand, were neat piles of seashells – exotic conchs that had never graced the Jersey Shore before. An apartment house, a longtime fixture on the boardwalk, had been stripped of its seaward wall, and looked like the back of a giant doll’s house – all its rooms visible with their furnishings tumbled about.

Belatedly realizing that we might be in danger – of exposed electric wires, gaping chasms, etc., – our parents appeared and dragged us home. When I entered my room, the first thing I saw was my violin. Still snug in its case on the bed – a sad reminder of a musical career – lost forever.

Robin Hathaway

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Mother Tongue...

Last week I stepped by accident or good fortune into Alice's rabbit hole.

All my life I've spoken on occasion a language in musical improvisation. I never encountered a fellow live human I could converse in this tongue with until I stepped into a class at the 92nd Street Y called Creative Music/Improvisation.

As a girl I studied piano a bit at the Bristow Hardin School of Music in Norfolk, Virginia. But I never got the hang of how to read music! Notes and I were at war, like my battles now with computer keys.

I did pretty well in other languages, like French, where I won state tournaments. And Latin, which I majored in, then taught. I had the kids speaking Latin. Drove their families nuts!

Even re-wrote Lucretius' De Rerum Natura as a 20th century dance-drama!

But every now and then my fingers longed to touch the ivory keys.

When the organist got sick at the college prep boarding school in Sewanee, Tennessee, I subbed for her. Pulled the wool over the keyboard and actually played all the hymns and masses for the Episcopal services.

My most fun stint on a keyboard was when my boss was head of the Manhattan Kiwanis Club and hired me on to play for their meetings.

How many women have had the chance to play the piano in the wine cellar of Mamma Leone's restaurant???

My royal salary was lunch and a glass of wine.

When I taught modern dance I recorded my "improvs" for the classes - it seemed to work okay. The audiences clapped.

Time passed. I found places where I could sneak in and talk with an empty keyboard on occasion.

To get back to Alice's rabbit hole - the class at the Y is taught by a real pianist. A composer with a sterling track record in composing soundtracks for films and documentaries. A young musician named David Cieri. He has played at Carnegie Hall.

He sat at one grand piano. I sat at another, equally grand.

You start to press the blacks and whites. He does too, matching your rhythm, tempo, tone, mood.

Neither of you has any idea where this is going! But you are in sync, giving a real concert to the class!

You are speaking in a tongue never heard on the planet since Adam and Eve!

By the way, the next time I have to fill out an application this is what I shall write:

Language - Improv

Race - Yes, as fast as I can

Thelma Jacqueline Straw

Friday, August 26, 2011

Watch Out, the Sociopaths are Coming

The Sociopath Next DoorI just finished reading a book by a clinical psychologist by the name of Martha Stout, called The Sociopath Next Door. It's been out since 2005, so I'm late to the party, as usual, but I did want to talk about it, because pop psych books are cool and especially pop psych books that allow you to nail your neighbor. One person in twenty-five in this country is a sociopath, she says, as measured by one of those tests they give you. I haven't had so much fun since Games People Play. (Nor have I taken the test. I'm pretty sure, though, that I'm not a sociopath.)

Sociopaths have no conscience, Ms. Stout says. They feel no remorse for anything they do and are unable to form loving connections with other people or pets. The way you can tell a sociopath is that he will stab you in the back and then want you to feel sorry for him because you got blood all over his knife. Also they have hard eyes.

I bought the book because I'm writing a story about a sociopath. The guy is based on a man I used to know slightly, one I had the good sense to keep away from. He murdered his first wife, and then he wanted the neighbors to feel sorry for him because he suffered the suspicions of the police. Yeah, that's a sociopath. The book gave me a little more insight into the type, but actually told me nothing surprising, other than the high proportion of these people in our midst.

Most of them aren't murderers. Most of them are simply liars, cold-blooded manipulators, and selfish pains in the ass. When the Inuit identify one of them in their midst they take the sociopath to the edge of the ice pack and kick him off. Not every selfish pain in the ass is a true sociopath, but a handful of your acquaintances are. Only twenty percent of the prison population are sociopaths, which works out to there being more of them outside of prison than in. Makes you think.

While you're thinking, go ahead and buy this book. Ms. Stout writes very entertainingly, whether she's describing the sociopaths you love to hate, or explaining Stanley Milgram's experiments, those horror shows that demonstrated how good people will accept and carry out evil instructions from a sociopathic authority figure. Unless we're careful, we could all be Nazis, but not all of us are sociopaths. And if the idea of being perceived as a sociopath causes you shame, relax. You aren't one. True sociopaths are incapable of feeling shame.

Kate Gallison

Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Things Don’t Change…

In a world of constant change it’s nice to know there is one constant: The seashore.

Last week, I spent the one clear day, among six rainy ones, at Ocean City, NJ with my grandchildren. I hadn’t been to the “Shore” for over twenty years. How do I know this? The last time I went I didn’t wear glasses; this time I had to find a place to stash them when I went for a swim. But that was the only thing that had changed.

Everything else was the same. The bright beach umbrellas, the salty smell of the sea air, mingled with the smell of popcorn, hotdogs, and funnel cake. The children were still building sand castles and drip castles (a refinement of the former), searching for seashells, and digging holes “to watch the sea come up,” a la Robert Louis Stevenson.

Airplanes tugged ads for restaurants across a pristine sky, while kites and seagulls decorated the same sky. The seagulls were a bit more aggressive than I remembered. They came right up to our blanket, greedily eyed our sandwiches, and in one case, snatched a sandwich from a boy’s hand. Maybe they’d seen Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” and been inspired.

A high point of the day was the taffy-making machine at Shriver’s candy store. This store has been on the boardwalk for over one hundred years. I know, because my grandmother used to go there when she was a girl! My grandkids were fascinated to see the great golden globs of taffy being pulled and stretched on one machine, then transferred to another to be chopped into tiny rolls and packaged in not one, but two, different kinds of paper, twisted at each end and popped out ready to be eaten. And the variety of flavors was overwhelming – from root beer to coconut, from mango to chocolate mint. Needless to say, we bought a big bag and our teeth stuck together for the next few hours.

A ride on the Ferris wheel, climaxed the day. A nearly full moon hung over the ocean and the lights of Atlantic City winked in the distance, reminding us of less innocent pleasures available just a few miles away.

Robin Hathaway

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Self Assessment for Crime Novel Writers

by Thelma Jacqueline Straw

Can we "invent, adapt and reinvent our jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever?"

Thomas Friedman wrote in an Op Ed piece (NYT, July 13, 2011) "The rising trend in Silicon Valley is to evaluate employees every quarter, not annually. Because the merger of globalization and the IT revolution means new products are being phased in and out so fast that companies cannot afford to wait until the end of the year to figure out whether a team leader is doing a good job."

He stated that an employer today asks . . . can this person help my company adapt . . . by reinventing the job for tomorrow . . . can he or she adapt with all the change . . . In today's hyperconnected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfill those criteria.

He continues . . . You have to "find a way to add value in a way no one else can (and) strengthen the muscles of resilience."

Translate his terms to Reader, Writer, Agent, Publisher.

Add the rapid changes in what sells, what readers are looking for - paper, e-book, cozy, thriller, series, standalone, occult, private eye, etc.

Silicon Valley becomes Harper Collins, Penguin, St. Martin's, Random House.

Employer morphs into reader and publisher.

I used to collect the books of J.S. Fletcher and mystery novelists of the 20s and 30s, published by Grosset & Dunlap. Today these books would probably not pass the Agent-Editor-Publisher test. Alas, not Reader.

Today's reader is shaped by forces that move faster than light or sound.

The book publisher must be in sync with what the reader wants, in order to stay in business.

Every writer has definite ideas about where the current state of publishing is headed:

  • Going to hell in a handbasket
  • Moving as fast as a cruise missile
  • Neither or both of the above

Do I as a crime novelist change to meet the wishes of my readers? Do I periodically self-assess to insure that my product meets a real need? Am I resilient? Do I change with the times?

Will a reader fork out $29.95 for my darling?

The employee has to fit the demands of the employer.

My employer is the buyer of my book (or part-time owner through his/her library.)

As a writer, I need to be nimble. I have to assess the market, know what kind of writing style, topic, story it is looking for.

The market changes as swiftly as the sun or the ubiquitous Internet!

Do I have the grace or the courage to ongoingly evaluate my direction?

Do I listen to my peers, keep an ear to the rumbling ground, absorb the ever-present nudges the business climate gives me through print, advertisements, the media?

Am I gutsy enough to flow with the tides of both local and global markets, the stone cold sales figures of publishing?

It's an individual choice.

Major Company – Small Press – Self-publish
Agent – Sans-Agent

There is no one answer that fits all of us.

We all march to a different drumbeat.

But we need to listen and assess.

N.B. I am aware there are many sides to this topic and welcome your comments. tjs

Friday, August 19, 2011

Seven Ways to Achieve Success for Your Book

1.  Write a brilliant book. Or anyway do the best you can.

2.  The week your book is released, do a blog tour. Guest post on as many blogs as will have you. (THE BRINK OF FAME came out this week. Here are the links to my blog tour.)

3.  Create a brief, interesting trailer. Don't spend a lot. Make your friends forward it to everybody they know.

4.  Get your book into the hands of a famous person, preferably the President of the United States (it worked for Walter Moseley). Make sure the photograph of your book in the president's hands is seen by as many people as possible.

5.  Make a big QR code for your book and post it in prominent places.

6.  Offer to pay some famous person whose support will lower the tone of your book a thousand dollars not to be seen reading it. If this person accepts your offer, leak the arrangement to the media.

7.  Go to the animal shelter and adopt a cute puppy. Threaten to kill the puppy if people don't buy your book.

Good luck in your publishing endeavors!

Kate Gallison

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Excellent Cadavers

My life is mapped out: it is my destiny to take a bullet by the Mafia some day. The only thing I don't know is when.

—Giovanni Falcone

The reason Falcone knew the Mafia would kill him one day is that he spent most of his life trying to break their violent stranglehold on his native Sicily. He and his closest friend, Paolo Borsellino, both came from a neighborhood in Palermo where some little boys grew up to be Mafiosi. They grew up to be Judice, prosecuting magistrates. Falcone led the most successful prosecution of Mafia criminals in Italian history, the Maxi Trial of 1986-87, which lead to the conviction of 360 thugs.

After several failed attempts to take his life, the Mafia finally did their worst: on May 23, 1992, they planted a half-ton bomb under the highway between the Palermo airport and the city center and detonated it as Falcone’s car passed, killing him, his wife Francesca Morvillo, and three body guards.

Less than two months later, another car bomb assassinated Borsellino along with five policemen.
Afterwards, posters appeared all over Sicily, that read, “You did not kill them: their ideas walk on our legs.” The Sicilian people have kept that promise. Twenty years later, memorial photos of Falcone and Borsellino still adorn every public bus in Palermo. The Facebook page for Sostenitori Delle Forze Dell'ordine, an organization devoted to efforts against organized crime, regularly displays their photos and their words.

The story of these heroes is the subject of the best true-crime book I’ve ever read, “Excellent Cadavers,” by Alexander Stille. It was made into an HBO movie starring Chazz Palminteri.

I was reminded of all this on Monday by my friend Leighton Gage’s blog about a crusading judge in Brazil, Patrícia Lourival Acioli, who was murdered last week by the death squads (made up of policemen!) that she had so bravely prosecuted. I hope she will be remembered and her ideas carried on, as Falcone and Borsellino’s have been. You can read her story at Murder is Everywhere.

The Mafia is a human phenomenon and thus, like all human phenomena, it has had a beginning and an evolution, and will also have an end. — Giovanni Falcone

Annamaria Alfieri

Monday, August 15, 2011

Can One Word Make a Difference?

A few weeks ago our children gave us tickets to Wolf Trap, an outdoor theater in Virginia. The program was a showing of “Casablanca” on an enormous screen with the Washington Symphony Orchestra playing the score (with the exception of “As Time Goes By, which Sam plays as usual.) A fantastic experience! The place was packed with people of all ages, who had one thing in common — a love for this movie. It was encouraging to see so many young people clapping after those classic lines, such as, “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling here!” and, “We’ll always have Paris,” and everyone weeping during the Marseillaise. One old gentleman had to be helped to his feet, when the audience rose with one accord to sing.

The master of ceremonies gave some background on the making of the film. Among other things, he said that the script called for Bogart to say, “Here’s luck to you kid!” But the irrepressible actor adlibbed with, “Here’s lookin’ at you kid!” and the line became immortal.

Writers, take heed, one word can make a difference.

Robin Hathaway

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Troy, NY: Home to The Travelling BBQ Championships

You can’t help but gape as you wander the streets of the city of Troy, once among the wealthiest of American cities, known as the Collar City when the Arrow Shirt Company detachable-collars-and-cuffs factories and the Iron Works were going full blast in the first decades of the last Century on the banks of the Hudson River. The ancient red brick commercial buildings now empty, but the stately Victorian townhouses fully occupied. Cock an ear, I swear you can hear the ghostly sighs of the children and immigrant women at their machines in the mills and the grunts of the Irish laborers on the docks. But that aside, Troy is a grand old city that has adapted.

On a Saturday in July, I left my adopted city, Albany, to motor seven miles north along the Hudson to the two-day Annual Troy Pig-Out in Riverside Park – succulent barbequed ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, and blues and rock bands having replaced shirt cuffs, collars, horseshoes and iron cannon as the City’s new export. The Troy Pig Out is officially sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Association, who supplied a team of 38 KC BBQ Society licensed judges to select the Grand Champion from among 30 competing chefs from all over New York, from New England, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

I ate very well this time but not as memorably well as last year. The year before, I saw a giant pig on a spit (Remember, being from NYC, all pigs look like giants to me) from which you’d get to eat a slice. Alas, no pig on a spit this year. When, on the next afternoon, the judges selected the Grand Champion and awarded him ‘Victor’, a life-sized golden pig, I was absent so I don’t know who won. Guess I just prefer real pig.

Robert Knightly

Friday, August 12, 2011

Recalled to Life

The recent summer weather, although typical for the Delaware Valley, was a fat sweaty giant with its foot on my head. To work under those circumstances was but a distant dream. This morning I woke at six to a new day that was cool and not excessively humid. I'm starting to feel like my old self again. Maybe better.

Got up, had some coffee and grits, booted the computer. Faced the day. Faced the next couple of months. Felt a stirring under my ribs that could even be called energy. Great heavens! Next Tuesday my new book comes out! The Brink of Fame by Irene Fleming.

Must buy two glass sangria pitchers for the upcoming launch party, 7 - 9 PM at the Lambertville Free Public Library. (You're invited, by the way.) What else shall I do for this book? I've done so little, scheduled no signings, prepared no readings. It was hot. My neck hurt. Last winter I made a trailer:

I was supposed to email it to everybody I knew and ask them to pass it on. But that's so pushy. Today I opened my email to find a newsletter from Jennifer Fusco called Market or Die, and another from Diana Pemberton-Sikes of The Clothing Chronicles on improving my life through wardrobe choices, a gospel I have always believed in. Ms. Fusco wants me to have a QR code. I made one of those some time ago, too, although I have no clue what to do with it. Here it is:

Point your smartphone at it, if any, to see my web site,

The sad fact is I'm no good at marketing. I guess I'll have to die. Or not; as I was saying, I'm feeling quite energetic this morning. At any moment I may jump up and do something other than writing on my WIP, where I'm trying to advance librarian protagonist Mallory Fry's love affair with the charming janitor while saving her from the designs of a small town serial killer. I may, I don't know, clean my closet, sort my makeup, or phone a bookstore and see whether they would like me to stop in and sign.

Must think about self-presentation.

Someone might even be watching.

Kate Gallison

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Most Elegant American

I was driving and listening to music this past week, when it occurred to me that Duke Ellington has to have been the most elegant American ever to live.

Other candidates for the title might be Gary Cooper or Katherine Hepburn, who certainly had the bone structure and the clothes.

A strong argument might be made for Cole Porter, who could manage to write a song like “Let’s Do It,” and still remain high tone!

But no one but the Duke was so unerringly elegant in his art. Listen and watch.

Can you beat that?

Annamaria Alfieri

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Reason I’m Napping Instead Of Working Today…

Sleeping Woman – Edouard Vuillard

This morning I reached in the cupboard for
a coffee mug and knocked a box of cereal
off the top of the refrigerator
which struck the bridge of my nose
causing a small laceration,
and now, whenever I put on my glasses
they irritate my nose,
so I can’t wear them,
and without glasses,
I can’t work,

Robin Hathaway

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Loss of a Pet

by Thelma Jacqueline Straw

On August 9 it will be just one year since I sent my best little friend into that vast realm beyond recall. From which there is no tangible return.

It has been an eternity . . .

I'm a great believer in the nudging of what some people call Divine Providence. When I first thought about writing this for the year's remembrance of the death of Miss Priss, I was afraid readers would see it as too sentimental.

Suddenly on my screen appeared the moving piece by Bob Sullivan of MSNBC , on the recent death of his beloved golden retriever. Lucky died of an enlarged heart June 11, 2011.

I had my answer. Knew I could share Bob's and my thoughts about the passing of a cherished animal companion.

Bob's words:
"No one, nowhere, will ever love me like Lucky did."
"This kind of loss leaves you searching for answers..."
"There is just something about losing a dog, and either you know about it, or you don't."
"Another fellow will just wander up to your campfire when the time is right."
(Bob Sullivan/ Bob Sullivan Blogroll)

The death of a beloved pet ranks right up there with the death of a loved human - a parent, a spouse, a child.

But there is a difference. There is a unique bond between a human and an animal. The unconditional love, the total dependence, complete forgiveness. People often write this about dogs, but no dog is closer than a precious feline companion.

I'd had cats all my life. About fifteen years ago my red Persian Paddy died and I looked all over the Tri-state area for another red Persian. But it was not kitten-time.

Finally, late one rainy day, I found one - at a run-down pet shop that had seen better days, on 2nd Avenue near Grand Central Station.

A tiny, bedraggled kitten peered at me from a filthy cage. She didn't make a sound - but my inner ear heard her beg.

She was a Persian and she was the color of copper and red-gold.

From the very first trip home she never talked. She made her wants known by swishing her gorgeous plumed tail. Or by staring me down with round, soulful eyes.

It was destined that her name would become Miss Priss.

Her sense of play and fun was unique - she delighted in racing down the length of the living room on her hind legs - laughing the whole way.( Noone ever saw her do this but me!)

She had a perfect sense of time. When Daylight Saving changed the clocks, her inner timetable remained the same - to the minute. She would appear silently, wherever I happened to be, and wait patiently until I jumped up to do her bidding!

She loved to go out in the neighborhood for rides in my grocery cart. And how she loved the frequent meetings and gatherings held in her home. My guests were her guests - the buzz of conversation was hers. She was The Hostess!

The only time I ever heard her yowl in all those years was the night I kept her from the party: On November 11, 2009, we threw a party in honor of Bob Knightly's new novel. Fearing Miss Priss might get out of the apartment, I shut her up in her carrier, in a room away from where the action was. After several hours of friendly talk and laughter by old friends of the author, a couple of us heard an unholy howl! The only one in fifteen years!!!

She was used to being the life of the party! She stood her isolation as long as she could - then let it all hang out!

Miss Priss and I were soul-mates. I often looked at her expressive face and thought: Who Are You?

Who Were You Before You Became a Cat?

In the spring of 2010 I knew the winds had shifted. She began to hibernate into her carrier, her special little cave, coming out only to eat a little and use her facilities.

She s-l-o-w-e-d down. Like a wonderful old car that just couldn't run any longer . . .

In the end, she was the delicate weight of a soft feather . . .

Miss Priss, may your special guardian angel always hold you.

And protect you.

Nothing can hurt you now.

You are safe.

And free.

May you rest in eternal peace, my beloved little friend . . .

Friday, August 5, 2011

We're Going to Learn to Live Without Money Now

I was around back in the old hippie days, folks, when young couples voluntarily embraced poverty to move into the woods, cut their own wood, grow and can their own food, and send their kids to school quivering with mortification in clumsily handmade clothing. Worse than that: I used to be married to a newsman, all of us trying to live on his pay, the grownups, the kids, the dog and the cat. I cooked out of a cookbook called Good Recipes for Hard Times. The food described in that excellent book is cheap and tasty, but the food in Julia Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is way more impressive. Living with money is better than living without money.

Still, with the politicians' greedy eyes our pensions and the stock market dropping like a shot bird, it's time to drag out the hard-times stuff again and try to live without money. The magazines have always given us handy tips on how to do this, but they were generally compiled by people who had jobs, writing for magazines. Diana Vreeland, as I recall – editor of Vogue, the Anna Wintour of her day – advised us to rinse our hair in flat Champagne. Really, it's pointless to waste it. I envision her sending the maid around after the party to collect all the half-finished glasses and empty them into the hair-rinsing basin. Family Circle and Woman's Day had more practical tips generally, but a lot of their suggestions seemed beside the point to me.

Here are Kate's handy tips on living without money, collected during the lean years:

  1. Become a philosopher. Seriously, you can train yourself not to lust after material objects. Even shoes. You don't have to lust after shoes.
  2. Walk. Okay, for that you need shoes. But they don't have to be expensive shoes. They say walking is the best form of exercise, and you don't need a gym or a trainer. For weight training, do arm curls with soup cans. Concentrate on form.
  3. If you're unsure of the correct form of an arm curl, check out YouTube. I know you already have a computer, or you wouldn't be reading this blog. There are many fitness videos on YouTube, as well as yoga poses and dance instructions, even tap dancing. Yours for free.
  4. Patronize your local public library. They have magazines you can read while sitting in the free air-conditioning. They have movies on DVD and music CDs you can take home. Oh, and books. Lots of books.
  5. Play with your children, if you have any. They don't last, you know. Soon they'll be teenagers and refuse to give you the time of day. Enjoy them while they still like you.
  6. Dress bravely. While it's true that expensive clothes look better than cheap clothes, as a general rule, there are ways to dress well without breaking the bank. For in-depth advice on this matter, The Clothing Chronicles of Diana Pemberton-Sikes can't be beat.
  7. Do not cut your own hair. My hairdresser is Frankie Giordano at The Hair Cuttery in New Hope, PA. He's a genius, and he's not all that expensive. If you're lucky there will be someone sort of like Frankie near where you live.
  8. Never spend a penny you don't have to, but when you have to, do it with a good grace.

I haven't mentioned do-it-yourself auto repair or home improvement skills, although we did these things back in the day, because you can end up costing yourself more than you save. Only you know what you are capable of.

And that's about it. Good luck to you in the coming hard times, and keep smiling. Always remember: We are morally superior to the rich.

Kate Gallison

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Thoughts of Youth

I was thirty-one when I wrote the essay I share with you today.

I am a pack rat. I keep stuff, but not the way Aunt Jeanne keeps old newspapers and the lingerie of her young days, seventy years ago. I keep books and essays I wrote years ago that I never did anything with. But when I run out of space in the file drawers, paring down the junk paper is the only choice. In the latest purge, I came across the following essay from my day job as a corporate development expert and management trainer, working in a Wall Street bank. These words pre-date my five books on business subjects. I share them today, verbatim from what was in the file, (that I had typed on a typewriter!). I want them to see the light of day before I destroy them forever. They seem a whole lot more amusing than anything else I can think of to say this week. As you will soon see, what I said turned out not to be true. The ruling class then is pretty much the ruling class now, especially on Wall Street. Nothing has changed in that regard, but here is my wishful, youthful thinking from 1972:

The Coming of the Corporate Ice Age, or Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

For the past nine years, I have observed corporate America from near the bottom of the organization chart. About two years ago, I became consciously aware of making cosmic generalizations about what I saw.

Last year because it was fashionable, I started to call this hobby of mine “corporate anthropology.” Since then, I've gotten into a whole new field which I'm calling “corporate geology,” which isn't really right, because it's not the study of rocks, but of fossils or soon-to-be fossils.

In writing all this down, I have one big problem. I don't know exactly what happened to the dinosaurs. I guess I could go up to the Museum of Natural History and find out what happened to them, but instead I'll begin by expounding my theory of what happened.

There they were in those lush jungles, huge, pea-brained creatures ruling the land by sheer power and size. They were completely committed to the status quo, had spent generations evolving into the kind of animals that were best at living in the jungle. They knew all they had to do was to be consummate consumers of as much vegetation as they could and they would grow even bigger offspring who could take over for them. Since they never had to worry about where their next meal was coming from, they never bothered to learn new skills, and eventually lost their ability to learn any. Then, a nasty thing happened – the environment, which they had dominated by being totally committed to it, changed on them. The ice age came; the jungle disappeared and with it the dinosaurs.

So it is with the corporate dinosaur – the wealthy WASP American Male. It is necessary here to make clear distinctions between the corporate dinosaur and another creature who greatly resembles him. There are wealthy WASP American men working in corporations who are not corporate dinosaurs. They have one basic distinguishing characteristic – the size of their brains and/or their contributions to whatever the company does is roughly commensurate with their status in the organization and /or the amount of green stuff they consume.

The corporate dinosaur, on the other hand, is making it because at least four of the following:

  • A father who is the head of another large corporation
  • A Roman numeral after his name, (or two initials or an initial followed by a middle and last name). This may change depending on the fashion, but he'll always use one or the other.
  • Membership in the right club
  • Good "connections." This means he knows a lot of rich people just like him and is especially helpful in financial corporations, where he can be paid to hang around with them if they do their investing and/or banking through the company.

There he stands, striking just the right confident pose, unaware that behind the potted palm nearby an artist from National Geographic is sketching him so that future peoples will know what he looked like.

This creature's gait is slow; he exhibits poise and calm even during ritual combat. Not so his distant cousin, who lives, during daylight, in great frenzy.

Newly arrived from the immigrant classes, the neo-dinosaur is also white, male, maybe not Anglo-Saxon, probably not Jewish – the truly tragic character on the scene. This species has spent a couple of generations getting into the jungle. Not having evolved there, he has to use wit and cunning to survive and succeed. Smaller than the classic dinosaur (suffering particular disadvantage because of his smaller and more vulnerable pocketbook), the neo-dinosaur has managed to make some gains. But, he's still second on the philo-genetic scale; most of the plants in his part of the jungle are plastic, his consumption rate is lower (although he lives on the illusion that it is rising, that he is catching up). He has set up neo-dinosaur training camps, designed to look as much like the authentic camps as possible, where he sends his offspring (particularly males) to be trained in dinosaur ways. He keeps before him the dream of arriving at the ancestral place of the old-line dinosaur and strives after semblances of movement in that direction, reaching beyond his means to live in more and more expensive clearings in the jungle, far away from the "lower animals". He spends his three weeks’ vacation at the water hole most recently abandoned by the real dinosaur.

The neo-dinosaur's wits are still sharp enough to hear, especially when he gazes at the ice cubes in his bar-car martini, that the glacier's on the move. His response is to be resentful, to hold his ground for his territorial instinct is strong and he has fought hard for his piece of turf. Most of the old line dinosaurs have lost their ability to perceive this change in the jungle.

For both these great beasts, extinction is nigh. Small animals—mammals even—are beginning to adapt and thereby make changes in the environment. The jungle is changing faster and faster. The dinosaurs own heavy consumption rate is destroying the very jungle they depend on. Their offspring are deserting the training camps to go and live on roots and bananas with the lower animals Even the females of their own species are beginning to question the wisdom of traditional dinosaur ways. But as the changes and disappearance of the jungle continue, all we hear from the dinosaurs is the sound of munching and an occasional chorus of, "Where Have All The Flowers Gone."

Annamaria Alfieri

Monday, August 1, 2011

10 Ways to Chill Out

  1. Do nothing
  2. Drink cool beverages
  3. Doze in air-conditioned room
  4. Daydream
  5. Eat ice cream
  6. Read books set in cold places*
  7. Take a cold shower
  8. Don’t wear any clothes
  9. Listen to cool jazz
  10. Think cool thoughts

*10 Cool Books to Beat the Heat:
  1. Call of the Wild – Jack London
  2. Bodies in Winter – Robert Knightly
  3. Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson
  4. Winter Solstice – Rosamunde Pilcher
  5. Fear Itself – Elena Santangelo
  6. Italian Shoes – Henning Mankell
  7. The Snows of Kilamanjaro – Ernest Hemingway
  8. Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates – Mary Mapes Dodge
  9. Steve Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series
  10. Anything by a Russian novelist

Robin Hathaway