Archive for June, 2010

As a member of a closeted minority one inevitably suffers.  You can not be open to the public nor can the public reach out to you.  It is a personal and public lose, the richness in sharing with others, present but once then evaporates.  I am therefore stating:  I keep a daily journal.  As of today I have done so for twelve years.

I was not sure in the beginning, so I bought a National Brand No.56-211 with only 150 pages.  Shy and new to the idea, my first entry was “Purchased record for $17.99 plus $1.09 tax at Staples, Hermitage Pa.”  Why I was at Hermitage I don’t recall and so that part of the day is lost.  With foresight I would have begun with the No.56-231 with 300 pages and stockpiled a twenty year supply.

Some days don’t call for a long entry and other days spill over to a second page.  Little bits and pieces I will enjoy recalling in the years ahead.  Great loses and small achievements, the simplicities of the day.  For my eyes only.

I try to spell correctly, however that is to please me.  I don’t try to be profound because profundity often ages to pomposity.  When I die my executrix is to send them with me into the crematorium.  My body and journals will be junk mail.

The discipline a daily journal requires helps to structure my days.  I make notes during the day and usually sit down at the cocktail hour and record the day.  A dry martini and pleasant reflections are a wonderful salutation to life.

When I travel, the journal, pen, small tablet, and paperback dictionary are the first items to be packed.  If you don’t want your underwear scrunching journal pages, secure the journal with a strong rubber band.

I will never be so forward as to recommend to friend or stranger a daily journal.  Too rude.  If someone was to consider it, my only comment would be to avoid cheap binding and small number of pages.  Charles Marlin

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Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, proprietor of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, has forced Mma Precious Ramotswe, my friend and his wife, to give up her beloved old van for a larger, white van.  I know she still mourns the loss of her old van but she knows that things are always changing at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and she must look forward with good cheer.  The daughter of Obed Ramotswe has the bedrock virtues and courage of old Botswana, so she resolutely works to help friends and strangers alike.

Alexander McCall Smith in his latest report on Mma Ramotswe The Double Comfort Safari Club finds  things at home peaceful but abuzz at the agency.  Mma Makutsi turns to her boss for help with a major personal crisis.  Marital disaffection brings friends to the agency for help.  A stranger has a very big problem with the tramp Violet Sephotho which Precious solves much to the delight of her secretary.  An unusual inquiry from America sends Precious and her secretary on a trip north to safari country where Precious comes face to face with a lion in the night.

You’ll want to get all the details by reading the new report.  It is as always a delight.  I want to say right now so you can attest to my saying it first.  Before Mma Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti are married and settled in, Violet Sephotho will come to the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency for help which will turn into another crisis for Mma Makutsi.  As you know, the animosity between those two is long standing.  And still Precious will not fire her.  Mark my words.

I hope you like the snapshot of the cattle Precious inherited from her father Obed before she was obliged to sell them.  The cattle were his profession and honor, and for her they represent the good of old Botswana.  Charles Marlin

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Yes, read the book first, then hope that BBC picks it for a comedy series.  If not BBC, then Hollywood should plan a four sequel movie deal out of Peter Carey, Parrot & Olivier in America.  It is great comedic material whether you read it or watch it or both.  From some strange experience the author claims to have received inspiration for the book from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.

In 1831 Tocqueville came to America, hung around for a couple of years and when he returned to France, published his account of what he thought about America.  He did a separate book On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France.  Other things happened to him, but this is really all that the generations of college students have needed to know.  It was not hard to skip the Tocqueville reading assignment.  Now Carey has upended the basket of truffles.  Tocqueville is Carey’s Olivier.

Truffles, truffles, I am not picking them up.  Carey’s version of Tocqueville is silly enough for me.  Parrot, Olivier’s sometime secretary and companion, is a roustabout Englishman/Australian/American who can make a good omelet whether he has eggs or not.  In Parrot, Carey is channeling Charles Dickens from Parrot’s waif days to global publisher/art dealer.

The book is full of love, mud, wine, leeches, bogus money, ham, birds, oceans, fire, letters, swords, Manhattan, taverns, coaches, useless French manners, and a little bit of Connecticut.  And we must not forget Olivier’s mother in Paris or the bad paintings.  So, this one is good for your summer reading.  Charles Marlin

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The Weekend Journal section of the Wall Street Journal on June 5-6, 2010, ran a dueling set of articles Does the Internet Make You Smarter or Dumber?  They were no better than you would expect and I mention them only because a small boxed insert reported from Nielson that 56 seconds is the average time an American spends looking at a web page.

That is a shocker.  I sat down to inspect Clarion Friends on a pass/fail response to the 56 seconds rule.  John’s flowers, most of my book reviews, the Met And Eat Clarion County, the deviled egg competition, and Rare Gifts series all easily passed under 56 seconds.  Even our Pages with the exception of Donations passed.  Since no one seems to want to use the Donations page, it may go in the NA column.  The recipes failed to pass.

The part that hurts is that on occasion I try to write something important to Clarion County Community Foundation and to other small community foundations.  I may not use a lot of words but the thoughts are not superficial.  They could mean a great deal to the reader if given some time to breathe.  Those posts should not be forced to pass.

To solve this problem I am thinking of creating an on-line coupon attached to each post that calls for more than 56 seconds.  The coupon will entitle you to make a donation of $100. or less on the Donation page.  The coupons would have a two day expiration so the reader would need to act quickly.

If a reader has a better idea, please add a Comment, but remember to keep it brief.  Seconds count.  Charles Marlin

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I bought Kris Lane, Colour of Paradise: The Emerald In The Age Of Gunpowder Empires looking for the romance of emeralds.  Aside from the lush color plates there is no romance to be had in the book.  This is a scholarly history of the global commodity trading in emeralds from the bloody mines of Colonial Columbia to the Safavid Dynasty in Persia, the Mughal Empire in India, and the Ottoman Empire from Eastern Europe to North Africa from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries.

It was an unholy alliance of everyone who had something bad to bring to the mix.  The abuse and extinction of American native populations and the enslavement of Africans kept the colonies bubbling.  The European maritime empires of the Spanish, Portuguese, and Flemish fueled the lust in Europe for gratuitous wealth and power.  The Catholic Church provided technical assistance.  Merchants of all hues scattered across the globe were the dirty middlemen.  Prominent among them were Sephardic Jews and New Christians–Iberian ethnic Jews forced to convert to Catholicism.  Because green as the color of Paradise was reserved for the Prophet Muhammad and his descendants, the ruling despots of Persia, India, and the Ottoman Empire made the emerald not just fashion but a potent currency of power and privilege, a kind of diplomatic derivative not unlike the financial derivatives of recent infamy.

The emerald trade was intense, volatile, deceptive, unforgiving, and if ever controlled it was in an offhanded way.  Most of those affected by it fared badly.  A few prospered.  There are families scattered everywhere who may still enjoy the advantages secured by emeralds of this period.  Readers of history will welcome the book.

The title of the post belongs to Kris Lane.  It is an occasional irritant when an author has a better phrase than I.  An uninsured risk.  Charles Marlin

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Clarion River at Canoe Ripple Road Clarion County


Cozumel—Clarion     The proprietor is from the island of Cozumel, south of Cancun, so this is the real thing.

Michelle’s Cafe—Clarion     The best coffee in town and where many of us hold regular office hours.

This is a photographic trip around Clarion County for the places we love to meet friends and enjoy a meal where we do not have the dishes to take care of. These are the best known places in every community and without them our sense of community would be tested.

I began the series by taking a couple of river shots because those views belong collectively to all our communities. If you think I may have missed your favorite Meet And Eat place, send a comment. I picked 16 to show three at a time, but there is nothing special about the number 16. We can add more.  Charles Marlin

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It’s a criminal topic but also a nice introduction to the natural wonders of Puget Sound.  Craig Welch aptly titled his first book Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers, And The Hunt For Nature’s Bounty.  This is an environmental cops-and-robbers where the geoduck are diamonds, pinto abalone are gold bullion, Dungeness crabs are rubies, and shar’s fin is emerald.  The runaway star is geoduck.

A baby geoduck has a tiny foot for tunneling into the seafloor.  It can grow up to fourteen pounds and live more than 150 years.  The shell stays buried in the muck but the clam far outgrows the confines of its shell to become a hand full when captured.  The tip of the geoduck siphon is just above the muck so that is how they are located.

The author used public records of state and federal investigations, interviews with fish cops, biologists, and thieves to pull together a smooth flowing narrative.  Research, writing, and structure are sterling.  Puget Sound residents should be proud of the book and determined that it be widely read.  It’s a great book to add to your Puget Sound vacation.  Charles Marlin

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