There’s a show on the Food Network where pastry chefs compete for the title of “Sweet Genius.” Sweet Genius, hosted by cake maestro Ron Ben-Israel, challenges the chefs to make desserts with unusual ingredients like cactus, aloe vera, hot sauce and even baby formula. Nine times out of ten, the chefs try to hide the weird ingredients in some kind of batter or frosting, thinking they’ve beat the system, only to be devastated when Chef Ron says—with absolute, deadly seriousness—“I can’t taste the cactus in your cake….”
It’s incredibly silly and maybe even stupid, but I’m hooked: I love the show, and I even love watching Chef Ron stretch the concept of campiness to previously unheard of levels. It wasn’t always thus.
As your birthdays come at you with greater regularity, you (or at least I) become a little depressed. It is nothing serious or life threatening, but it leaves a mark on you.
I first noticed it while getting in and out of a car. I used to spring in and out like a jack-in-the-box and go about my business swimmingly. Now I feel like a salted pretzel that is being unwound.
Covering the latest happenings at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library can be dangerous for me; not physically, but in the sense that once I get to the library, I pretty much never want to leave. After conducting my business, I rack my brain trying to think up an excuse for how I can stay there, perhaps relaxing with a stack of magazines in the Roberta S. Kaufman Reading Room, for the rest of the day and avoid my other responsibilities completely. I haven’t come up with a satisfactory excuse yet, but I’m open to suggestions.
In sacred Ebbets Field many years ago, there was a sign in right field. It was about four feet tall and it stated “Hit Sign—Win Suit.” It was an advertisement for Abe Stark’s Men’s Clothing Store. Any batted ball that hit the sign would get the hitter an expensive suit from Brooklyn’s leading clothier.
The one impediment was a tenacious guard who played right field, Carl Furillo. Carl has been called the best defensive right fielder in the history of baseball by some. He was known as the “Reading Rifle” because of his powerful throwing accuracy and because he hailed from Reading, Pennsylvania, son of an Italian immigrant family.
On a warm morning this spring I’m at Alley Pond Park hoping to see migrating songbirds. At a familiar cattail pond I’m taken aback because it is little more than half its usual size due to the lack of rain. On a stick in the shallow water there is a lone male red-winged blackbird negotiating it like a tightrope walker. At least one female mallard and two males are in the pond. The sides of the males’ heads’ have an iridescent purple hue. Some mourning doves stand at the water’s edge. I’ve not seen doves here before, and I wonder why?
On a stone bathroom there’s a male house sparrow with a rich chestnut-colored head. On its upper white breast is a cluster of black dots, which will become a solid mass and cover its throat during the breeding season. In its bill is what looks to be a discarded piece of clear cellophane that was once part of a snack wrapper. Is it to become part of a nest inside this small structure?
After the pom-poms, the drums and the uniformed marchers have gone, we are left with our inner thoughts and memories.
Many years ago, my son Gregg and I went over to Pinelawn Cemetery on Wellwood Avenue in Farmingdale with a flat box of flowers. We placed these flowers on the graves of fallen servicemen. It was Gregg’s idea and I was more than happy to accompany him on his holy mission.
Doctors and public health experts agree that birth control is a basic and essential component of women’s preventive health care. Following the medical community’s recommendation, the Obama administration mandated that employers provide health insurance, including birth control, for its employees. An exception for religious organizations was made, exempting them from providing birth control coverage, subsidizing the cost of birth control, or referring for birth control. Employees of these organizations were ensured access by requiring the employer’s health plan to provide birth control coverage directly to these women free-of-charge.
What is this elusive thing called talent?
Many Americans use the terms genius and talent interchangeably. Awards are constantly showered on these clever and skilled persons, and while some accolades are richly deserved, some recipients are over-praised.
Meryl Streep is a gifted actor who can assume the identities of many famous subjects. Her performance as Margaret Thatcher was ingenious. She also portrayed Julia Child and her acting was apt and on target. She has also spoken in various accents and dialects, including Italian (Bridges of Madison County), and Polish (Sophie’s Choice). Her singing in Mama Mia! was also quite good for someone who is not a known vocalist.
On May 28, Memorial Day, we are given a chance to honor our nation’s fallen heroes and reflect on their bravery in making the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard our freedom. This year, as we remember those who have died in America’s wars throughout our history, we can also commemorate the end of the Iraq War and honor the memories of the thousands of brave men and women who were killed in action.
In December, the Iraq War officially ended. From the time the war began in March 2003, to when it ended in December 2011, more than 1 million troops fought overseas. Over 4,500 American troops were killed and an additional 30,000 were wounded. As President Obama said, the remaining troops left “with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops.” This year, especially, we remember all those who lost their lives in Iraq.
“What am I going to do with my life?”
This question is being asked all over our country as college graduations take place. The caps and gowns will soon be discarded and the job search will begin. The celebrity speakers have disappeared and their vague statements are all in the past.
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