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Archive for August, 2009

hen2aThe World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 04 from Emma Blackwell.

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courtJames MacGregor Burns has written a short and thoughtful sweep of the soiled history of the Supreme Court.  The soiling began immediately with George Washington and the Founding Fathers.  The three branches of the Federal government sort of looked like they were equal but were not.  The tricky problem of how to “check and balance” the judiciary was basically left to be worked out later.  Washington packed the court with Federalists because anyone not so identified was simply not his kind of man, and that set the pattern for all the succeeding presidents brilliant as well as average as well as incompetent.  Washington made the court political.

Then along came Chief Justice John Marshall, Federalist to the hilt, appointed by John Adams who saw no good in any man unless the man fully agreed with Adams.  Marshall knew the Constitution and he knew what he wanted.  To put his wants and the Constitution in the same holding bag he declared in Marbury v. Madison that the Supreme Court had a power the Founding Fathers had not written down, the power of judicial review.  He and his fellow political appointees on the Supreme Court had the final word on what laws were constitutional and just who had what powers to govern.  It was a nice piece of work that solved a serious weakness in the Constitution, but it left in place the problem of what to do with political mediocrity sitting for life on the Supreme Court.

Burns shows in Packing The Court: The Rise Of Judicial Power And The Coming Crisis Of The Supreme Court that presidents pick judges little better than racetrack betters place bets.  They rarely know the quality of the person but always know their political background.  They rarely know mediocrity from excellence.  They appoint life-holders who  become reactionary and ossified as the country changes, leaving them out of touch with new needs and realities.  Most appointments to the Supreme Court should never have been made.

In the final chapter, Burns writes, “Whether in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century or the Gilded Age at the turn of the twenty-first, the justices have most fiercely protected the rights and liberties of the minority of the powerful and the propertied.  Americans cannot look to the judicial branch for leadership.  They can not expect leadership from unelected and unaccountable politicians in robes.”  Up to and including this point, Burns is correct, but he goes on to add the weakest pages of the book.  His solution is not worth covering, but something does need to be done about our tolerance for slipshod Appellate and Supreme appointments.  The big, transformational philanthropic foundations, the American Bar Association, and the media need to do a better job of explaining what is at stake, identifying excellence that goes beyond a successful legal and political career, and educating the public on who is being appointed and how the appointees are performing.

What do we know about potential Obama appointees?  Of course the White House has a team vetting any number of people, but who is vetting for us, the mythic average citizen?  We don’t need a constitutional amendment shuffling power around.  We need public involvement in the vetting.  Mediocrity and rigidity when exposed to light create a strong odor that is often intolerable even to Federally elected officials.  Charles Marlin

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Giving no gifts is traveling alone in threatening weather on a rutted road you sense is not leading you where you want to go.  Giving gifts is watching friends and family enjoy the last picnic of the season in a park you love.  This is the third month of the third quarter Clarion Friends features the CCCF Operating Support Endowment Fund on our Donations Page.  The name explains everything.  The Clarion County Community Foundation created the fund as a dedicated source of support for keeping the foundation functioning in a healthy way.

While the CCCF can create a fund it has no way of funding it unless donors give their support.  There are no grants from larger foundations, or the Commonwealth, or the Federal government.  The fund breathes and walks only if you nurture it.  Please give a helping hand for one step and one breath.  You will feel better and you will be a richer person for having made the gift.  The process is simple.  Click on the Donations Page and follow the directions.  We will send you an immediate acknowledgement of your gift.

Time is relatively short because at the end of the third quarter, Clarion Friends will rotate another needy fund into the featured spot on the Donations Page.  It will be many months before this fund is featured again.  We all know that we are each pilgrims in this life.  A good pilgrim knows more.  Charles Marlin

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chick chickThe World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 03 from Norma Simpson.

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perkins2There is nothing witty or catchy you can say about Frances Perkins.  She was everyone’s grandmother in her felt hat, black coat, black strap purse, sensible shoes, and no makeup.  Who fully knew that she was the social conscience of FDR, that without her he would not have had enough of a domestic program to call “A Little Deal” let alone The New Deal?  Unfortunately for her it was a time of straight white chauvinist domination in everything, so her contributions were belittled or claimed by others.  She birthed, nurtured, and toilet trained what we consider the domestic achievements of the era, a better and more secure working career and retirement for the average American.

Kirstin Downey has written The Woman Behind The New Deal: The Life Of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary Of Labor And His Moral Conscience, a biography that makes you wonder how we ever achieve anything in Washington given whom we normally appoint and elect in office.  FDR, bless his political soul, knew he had a classy jumper in her even if he treated her like a wagon mule.  So if you want to know how a woman can make it in New York politics, then move on to become a historic cabinet secretary in Washington, read this book.

I did not get the feeling she was the most likable person in any room but she had many loyal friends and associates although they never matched the mass of her detractors.  Added to that imbalance she was burdened with a mentally unstable husband as well as a disfunctional and unstable daughter.  She when she found a friend she kept them if at all possible.  If you read the book you will agree that she deserves more than a postage stamp, a federal building, or the fledgling Frances Perkins Center at The Brick House, her ancestral homestead in Newcastle ME.  I say put her face on our Social Security checks.

For more information about the Center and its future, go to www.francesperkinscenter.org/  If you have Perkins ephemera this is the perfect place to receive it before you or your heirs lose  or scatter it.  They will also not decline a cash donation.  Charles Marlin

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The World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 02  from John Rexrode

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c1Truman Capote’s birthday is coming up September 30th.  He was born in 1934 and died August 25, 1984.  To celebrate his birthday it is altogether proper for one to dine on what he told E. J. Kahn, Jr. in 1984 was his staff of life.  Kahn was a reporter and writer and a New Yorker man, who published The Staffs of Life in 1985, drawn from his series in the New Yorker.  The Truman  Capote recipe for the staff of life was an Idaho potato, that is the variety Russet-Burbank, smothered with sour cream, heaped with the freshest biggest-grained beluga caviar, and washed down with 80-proof Russian vodka.

Conceding that TC knew he was speaking for the New Yorker and that he had many short days himself, it is possible for everyone who admires him to celebrate September 30th by serving the Truman Capote recipe.  A few short cuts will not be out of line.

I checked several sources on the internet for caviar looking for the less expensive choices.  Forget the beluga, you are looking down the line for something available and far less expensive.  American Salmon Caviar or Roe, please I don’t want to fight over the names, is described as “initially buttery to the palate,” and “intense salmon flavor.”  It sells for 9 oz. tin at $80, 8 oz. for $29, and 8.8 oz. for $25 depending on where you shop.  Black Bowfin Roe at 8 oz. for $56.  Golden Whitefish Roe at 8 oz. for $19.90, and 8.8 oz. for $20.  Wasabi flavored roeat 8 oz. for $20.  Wasabi is neither mustard or horseradish although it has the flavor and fire of horseradish.

If you did not happen to inherit and keep your grandmother’s mother-of-pearl plates and spoons you can buy your own at $45 per plate, and $4 to $38 for each spoon.  You can however take a shortcut and use white plastic spoons and a small glass bowl from any store.  Vodka is just vodka regardless of what the advertisers  try to make us believe.  What Russian ever paused to taste it?  None.

c2And if at this point you have drifted back to TC’s story, A Christmas Memory, of how he recalled his great aunt Sook Faulk cooked for, loved, and nurtured a lonely little boy along side her fruitcake making and kite flying, you are reading the right blog.  Not only do you have the wonderful story, TC’s powerful reading of the story, you can now have the original recipe passed from Sook to her niece Marie Rudisill and from her to her book, Sook’s Cookbook: Memories And Traditional Receipts From The Deep South, Updated Edition.

TC was an American wonder and we are justly proud of him.  You can not name  a comparable Englishman, Canadian, Aussie, or Frenchman.  Celebrate and dine on Truman Capote.  Charles Marlin

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01aThe World Funky Deviled Egg Plate 2010 Competition entry # 01 from Opal Johnston

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Stress wears a many colored coat and uses unlimited aliases.  It is familiar to every level of education, income, and age.  The damage it does involves good mental health and physical well being.  The damage does not go away when the level of stress is reduced.  The accumulative affect shortens life and may be a principal cause of death.

If you don’t like what stress is doing to you or rather what you are doing to yourself, there is a way out.  The way is inexpensive but slow, requires a lot of self-discipline and honesty, and has nothing to do with pharmaceuticals.  It is private and self-directed and comes in twelve steps.  Yes, there are twelve steps but the big obstacle is not going to meetings.  With this program you write your own twelve steps.

If you want the harvesting of stress to succeed you need to keep private while you are writing the twelve steps to go on your Harvest Card.  That means you do not drain your interest and energy by talking about the steps.  The steps are for you and you only.  That means you only accept phrasing that fits your needs as you now understand them.

1. I want my life to . . . . Identify three or four attributes or personal qualities you want to showcase as your character profile.  Mix the solid ones with ones that may need some attention particularly if they contribute to stress reduction.

2. When issues and people create stress for me, I will describe but not call them by name.  Names always carry power and a past history which may not be good for your health.  Names add heat.  Descriptions may allow for more than one response and give stress space to dissipate.

3. I will broaden my sources of information and my observations.  With more and varied sources and observations available you are not captive of anyone or moment.  You are acting more than reacting.

4. I will understate my negative judgements.  Cut the devil down in size and spend less energy and time on him.  Identify the four or five judgements that eat on you the most and make them less significant.

5. When stress increases I will stifle the temptation to talk with moments of silence.  Don’t try to be a saint or live by a standard you can not keep.  You are looking for a healthy balance of talk and silence, a balance that makes you healthier.

6. I will smile and greet others.  You know who you interact with in a pleasant way and who you generally ignore without so much as a smile.  Isolating yourself is an accumulative stress builder.  Let every smile and greeting add up in your favor.

7. I will reward myself for effort and thought that is healthy.  Don’t judge yourself quickly or look for a hard and fast measure of success.  Effort and thought are worth a reward, so treat yourself well.

8. I will help my community through a community foundation just as I am helping myself.  By rewarding yourself with better health and a longer life you are doing the same kind of work as community foundations.  They heal their sick and help those in need and they build up the community in order for it to do better in the future.  You and the community foundation are fellow pilgrims.  By looking outward and more strongly connecting to your community you add years to your life and the life of your community.

9. I will select on a rotating basis a cause within the community foundation to support with my thoughts and actions.  You are in effect acting like a parent by adopting a community child to watch over and to love.  Stress is a devaluing of life, but this is a value adding relationship.

10. I shall . . . .  This one may be the hardest to write as everyone is a secretive animal.  You look around and know that you are different from everyone in so many ways and so you keep secrets.  No need to let others know everything about you.  Absolutely, except you do need to talk to yourself.  This step is where you, knowing yourself better than others do, find something that is adding stress and create a solution to in some way lower the stress.

11. I shall keep my Harvest Card private and fresh.  As you work these steps you need to be free to move forward or perhaps to stay in one spot or move back if you got ahead of yourself.  When your card remains private no one can judge you.  A quarterly rewrite will refresh your commitment to controlling stress and living in a healthier way.

12. I shall say aloud my twelve steps as a daily pledge.  Just keeping your Harvest Card in the glove compartment, desk, or coat is not good enough and you know it.  It must be an everyday physical commitment.

Live longer or die early.  The choice is yours.  Charles Marlin

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Yes, I know he has been around a long time, but I have never returned a phone call or tried to chat up Senator Arlen Specter.  It was the party thing that held me back.  But tonight he came to the Clarion Holiday Inn to see me, so in anticipation I showered and put on a really nice shirt which I don’t think he noticed.  There were other Democrats in the room so he didn’t speak directly to me all that time, plus he was thirty minutes late.

My first date impression is that while he is a bit old there is still some fire banked.  As for those nasties at Lebanon PA who attack him earlier, they made a mistake.  You don’t give a Jewish boy who loves comedic stick material like that without  his turning it into steel stilettos.  He kept his answers short and simple and his style casual.  He works a room with more power in person than he gives out on television.

If he calls me would I go out on a second date?  Well I have always enjoyed being easy and free, but never cheap.  So yes, he can call me again.  Is Pennsylvania still interested in him?  Again I would say he will be a hard one to turn down.  Charles Marlin

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