Saturday, August 16, 2014

Civilizations and Civilians are All Chasing Immortality

In Emily St. John Mandel's creative, fast paced and futuristic novel, "Station Eleven," Arthur Leander, a 51 year old, thrice married, infamous Shakespearean actor, collapses and dies on stage while performing King Lear. Jeevan Chaudnary, a directionless journalist/paparazzo rushes to the stage to help Arthur, while little Kirsten Raymonde, holding two comic books given to her by Arthur, looks on frightened, from a stage wing.

Weeks later, an airborne invulnerable flu virus, wipes out 99.99% of the earth's population. Twenty years later, living on or off the grid is irrelevant. No electricity. No working cell phones. No available Internet. Gasoline is long gone. Ammunition is scarce. Canned goods are no longer. Small groups of survivors live in big box retail buildings and airports.

Clark Thompson, Arthur's old friend, stranded in an airport, starts an impromptu collection of old world items which eventually becomes the "Museum of Civilization." An adult Kirsten Raymonde, ironically becomes a Shakespearean actress with the "Traveling Symphony." Miranda, Arthur's first wife, a workaholic for Neptune Logistics, travels with Arthur's clouded glass paperweight. All the characters Emily St. John Mandel creates are connected to the iconic actor, Arthur Leander.

Grab your roll away suitcase, bottled water, compass, and pocket knife. Better know how to hunt and build a fire. Take the back roads and stay away from the cities. Rumor has it that a marauding, powerful prophet and his posse, are seeking to re-populate the earth. Tyler, son of Arthur and Elizabeth, (Arthur's second wife), is spewing scripture from The Book of Revelations. He is bullying and kidnapping people he chooses into joining his settlement, and killing those that threaten his idea of immortality.

Mandel's interesting theme of fragility and immortality remind the reader of the frailty of civilization, and illustrates each individual character's search for life's happy purpose and their quest for their own individual idea of immortal life through legacy. She gives us one common denomination in both the pre and post-pandemic societies that make life enjoyable: the ethereal, immortal plays and sonnets of Shakespeare, who himself, ironically, lived in a post-pandemic Renaissance civilization after the Black Death.


As a member of their Reader's Panel, read my review of Emily St. John Mandel's novel  "Station Eleven" (shortened for space) in the 2014 September Issue of Real Simple Magazine, page 39.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Wedding Invitation Is Not a Traditional Paper Invitation, It's an iPad!


   It's official y'all. The paper page has turned, or shall I say, the traditional paper wedding invitation page. It's not 1952 any longer. The little hometown girl is no longer marrying the little hometown boy, and registering their fine china pattern at the local bridal registry shop around the corner. No longer need we call the hometown Mother-of-the-Bride on her land line to ask her where the happy couple is registered.

   This week, Keyshawn Johnson announced the wedding to his long time girlfriend and now fiancee, Jennifer Conrad, with a pre-programmed iPad sent to each wedding guest. Included on the iPad was an index listing all events such as brunches and pool parties, a photo gallery, guestbook, gift registry and a countdown to the big day. On your new iPad, you can conveniently click onto the wedding registry link, order and ship your gift right then and there. No fuss, no bother.

   The guests, of course, adore this new creative (albeit extravagant) wedding invitation. After all, this is Mr. Johnson's second marriage. He plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, they live together and have two children. So, I guess the gig is up. No old fashioned wedding jitters here! At least they are getting married!

   My Mother always said: "Never say never, dear," and I thought I would never say something like this, coming from an extremely conservative, traditional town where I still hand write at least one wedding response every Summer, but, I like this modern, ecological, efficient, convenient way of being invited to a wedding.

   What do y'all think???

http://www.tmz.com/2014/07/31/keyshawn-johnson-announces-wedding-to-fiancee-with-ipads/

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pretty Paper For Your Thoughts on a Hand Written R.s.v.p.

It happens every Summer. The inevitable invitation which must be responded to...in writing! Yikes, you say. Oh no, I don't know how to write a written response. Well, don't fret, dear reader. Once you know how to do so, you'll never forget how to do, and you may put your mind at ease.

The following is, in general, the basic format, wording and layout acceptance and regret for a party, dinner, or wedding:


Mr. and Mrs. James Smith
accept with pleasure
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. John Carpenter
for Saturday, the fourth of July
at seven o'clock

-or-

Mr. and Mrs. James Smith
regret they are unable to accept
Mr. and Mrs. John Carpenter's
kind invitation for
Saturday, the fourth of July
at seven o'clock

So, there we are, just the basics. Variations of this format may be looked up in any complete book of etiquette. Be sure to use quality note paper (can be plain ecru which is not expensive) and use a fine tip, black ink pen. Best wishes and happy writing:))

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's Expensive to be Rich 'Darlings' but Costly To Be Poor

Learning It's expensive to be rich, but costly to be poor, petite little Malka Trevowsky, a Russian Jewish immigrant, rises to become America's favorite Italian Catholic Mother and TV personality, the quintessential queen of ice cream, Lillian Dunkle.

Too young to work, Malka's unhappy Mother, shuts six year old Malka and her Sister Flora out of their one room tenement every morning telling them not to return until they have money. Soon, Malka's n'er do well Father abandons the family of six. Searching for him, Malka steps off a street corner, and the greatest opportunity of her life, through tragedy, emerges.

A born businesswoman, exhibiting all the strong personality traits of an entrepreneur, Malka methodically plods along, working to be the first with the most of the best, in the cut throat ice cream industry. She utilizes her frugal, creative resourcefulness learned in childhood to build her ice cream empire, one penny, one paper cone, and one 3.5 ounce ice cream scoop at a time.

Told from the elderly voice of Mrs. Lillian Dunkle, Susan Jane Gilman's fictional novel reads like an historic biography. Her detailed portrayal of tragic, despondent family members and chaotic family life inside the diseased, dirty, segregated tenements of the Lower East Side of New York City during the early 1900's, is not a typical portrayal.

Late in life, Lillian Dunkle's large ego, which ironically makes her successful, skews her sense of reality and she lands in serious trouble with the law. Yet, as compared with her childhood, the prospect of prison with one's own bed and three squares a day, seems like a piece of cake with ice cream!

Read my review in the June Issue of Real Simple Magazine, p. 28 and enjoy!!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How to Take "Elevenses" Tea

So, most of us know the Queen and the British take Afternoon Tea at 4:00 p.m. Those that are aware of this tradition, are as well familiar with the delectable menu of delicious scones, clotted cream and yummy jams. However, have y'all heard of "Elevenses?"

As a student at St. Anne's College, Oxford, I experienced my first "Elevenses" on our first morning of class. After our 2 hour lecture and discussion, our Professor announced at 10:30 a.m., we were all to adjourn to the house next door. We were all ushered into an ivy covered, brick house with a charming great room. There within these old walls, was a simple setting of tea cups, tea pots and cozies, and what the Brits refer to as "crackers", or what Americans call cookies. Couches, coffee tables and conversation abound. Yea!

So, for the next half hour, students and faculty alike were sipping tea and munching, mulling around  and chatting about, having a wonderful time having Elevenses. What a nice way to get to know our professors personally. What an unofficial opportune opportunity as students to practice our conversational skills with adults. As well, what a great way for those students 'in the know' to show off a bit of 'where with all' about taking tea, such as, how to 'Play Mother' whilst holding a conversation, and after a few days, remembering how others take their tea!

So, here are a few simple tips on how to have "Elevenses:"
  • If you volunteer to "Play Mother," know well how to pour a "cuppa." Pour the cup 3/4 full, leaving room for milk and room to avoid spillage. Then ask: "With sugar, milk, or lemon?"If "Plain" is responded, it is not necessary to place a teaspoon on the saucer.
  • Add the sugar first, then add milk if milk is taken. Never use cream as it disguises the flavor of the tea.
  • Add the sugar first, then the slice, not wedge, of lemon. No need to squeeze the lemon, as it will dissipate naturally, therefore no risk of squirting your neighbor in their eye with the acidic lemon!
  • Unless, and even if you are 6 years old, please do not add lemon to tea with milk, as it will curdle the milk.
  • When stirring the mixture, try not to clink and clank your teaspoon against the cup.  
  • Place your teaspoon on the back of the saucer. 
  • Place any food on a separate plate, not on your saucer.
  • The word napkin, which is derived from the French word "naperon," means "little tablecloth." Please blot the corners of your mouth with your napkin, do not wipe your mouth.
  • Remember, pinch the handle of your tea cup, and know that pinkies are passé!
  • Always introduce yourself if no one introduces you. New friends to be met!
  • When finished with your tea and crackers, place your used plates on a side table, never onto the serving table.
Enjoy your Elevenses and cheers!






Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Is High Tea Higher in Societal Rank than Afternoon Tea?

Every time the topic of having tea pops up, then comes the inevitable question:

 "Are you going to have High Tea?"

So, here we go. The unspoken, intimation of the question is as follows:

Is 'High Tea' higher in stature, formality and societal rank than Afternoon Tea? 

The sad answer, dear reader, is unfortunately a "No."

High Tea was originally served on high tables at 5:00 pm for the working classes, mostly the miners up from the mines, who had not eaten anything all day. High Tea is a heavy meal consisting of hot meats and savory fishes, with vegetables and breads.

Afternoon Tea, dating back to the 1800's, is the familiar, quintessential British tradition served mid-afternoon consisting of a light three step menu first of cucumber and salmon sandwiches, followed by scones with jam and clotted cream, then finally cakes, chocolates and sweets. Sometimes champagne is included!

Then comes the question about how to eat the scone. Keeping with the Christian tradition of "breaking bread," the scone (and for that matter all breads) should be "broken" not cut. Each bite of bread should then be further broken and individually buttered or in this case spread with the clotted cream, then the jam on top. This order assures one the jam will not spill out all over the place as the jam is thinner and more malleable than the clotted cream. Less of a mess.

Breaking off each bite of scone, then spreading each piece individually with clotted cream then jam is more laborious, but neater to eat than spreading the whole of the broken half of scone with clotted cream and jam, then trying to maneuver a lady-like bite out of the whole mountain-like huge pile of decorated scone. Again, less of a mess to maneuver and consume.

After you pour your tea into your china tea cup or mug, add the sugar first if you take sugar, then add your milk if you take milk. This way, the sugar will dissipate easier in the hotter liquid. Never use cream in your tea as it is too rich and disguises the flavor of the tea. Never add lemon to your tea if you have milk, as the lemon will curdle the milk. Honey is a nice alternative to sugar and milk.

Pinch the handles of your china tea cup. Never put your fingers through the handle as a finger may get stuck! Putting your pinkie finger out is also passé! No need. Try to not "clink" your teaspoon inside your teacup whilst stirring your tea and please place the teaspoon behind your teacup solidly on the saucer.

Take your time, and enjoy the experience of having your tea, whether Afternoon Tea or High Tea. Cheers!  





      

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Modern Media Savvy Teenagers and Their Manners Today

Tired of telling your modern, sophisticated, multi-cultural, multi-media connected, multi-tasking teenagers to do the same things your Mother nagged you to do 40 years ago, like sit up straight and stop fidgeting, or clean your room?
Now, there are the new nags. Worn out warning your teenagers to put down their iPhones and stop texting, stop playing with their iPads and pay attention, or pull those iPod ear plugs out of their ears and listen?
Turns out, your teenagers are listening and paying attention :))

According to a Stage of Life.com study, teenagers are extremely optimistic about their life and optimistic about society and the world in general. Here are listed some of the statistics:
  • 97% of teens learn their manners at home.
  • 92% of teens say social media contributes to our now less civil society.
  • 91% of teens say civility, manners (our behavior) and etiquette (the rules) are "important" in their lives.
  • 87.6% of teens feel they have the power to make a difference in the world.
  • 87% of teens say they personally practice civility, good manners and polished etiquette either "all" or "most" of the time.
  • 80.6% of teens are optimistic or "hopeful" about the future year rather than "fearful."   
  • 75% of teens think about the state of our world either "always" or "often."
  • 62% of teens feel as though chivalry is still alive and well in society.
Since the Mall is a teenager's world, High School and College students say the following about uncivil behavior:
  • 47% witness uncivil behavior from classmates.
  • 27% witness uncivil behavior in public places (The Mall).
  • 6% witness uncivil behavior at home. 
At the Mall, the behaviors that bother teens the most is:
  • 38.9% of teens do not like seeing others being rude to service workers (waiters, cashiers, etc.).
  • 18.9% of teens do not like to hear others cursing. 
A mannerly measure of Teenager's extracurricular behavior:
  • 70% of teens learn positive behaviors at their place of Worship.
  • 65% of teens see bad behavior in school.
  • 61.5% of teens see bad behavior through friends.
  • 43% of teens said Clubs and Sports had a positive influence on their behavior.
Teenagers in general said family lifestyle during their upbringing was the single greatest influence in their lives, and had the single greatest impact on their behavior. 

Teenagers really do want and appreciate discipline, and the majority of my students enjoy learning new life skills giving them confidence for what is an increasingly smaller and more competitive world.

*Statistics are from the Stage of Life website regarding High School and College students and  "Teenage" Stage of Life. See: www.stageoflife.com.