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???

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 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


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!