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My first book will be published within the next month or so, and it is an anthology of my essays presented before the famed Chicago Literary Club in each of the 15 years I have been a member. Most of these were presented after club dinners at the aptly-named Cliff Dwellers Club, on the 22nd story, overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan.

The topics of the essays range widely: from fries, to Kenya, to Toyotas, to beacons, to Sam Johnson and James Boswell, to political colors, to spokesmanship, to changing office culture, to Belgium frikots to breakfast with Mr. McDonald, to name a few.

Below is my Introduction to APPLE PRESSINGS. Stay tuned for more, as publication approaches.

 

CHAPTER 1

Introduction

I came to think of these writings as the apple pressings of my mind.

In making apple cider, pressings are the remains of the crushed apples after the juice is squeezed out by a press. The essays herein were written at our Wisconsin retreat, Applewood Lodge, thus named because there are more than 200 apple trees of miscellaneous lineage spread across the property. They, or their antecedents, were likely planted by the owners of the fairly ancient house, now reduced to an overgrown foundation of large boulders, which once stood near the entrance,

Not long after Vicki and I acquired Applewood and built our weekend country house in 1989, I put together a traditional hand-operated wooden apple press, in hopes of teasing succulent fresh apple cider from the red, green and yellow apples adorning our trees every fall. Grinding the apples was sweat-busting work, thus the press has now been resting unused in our storage shed for some years.

Just as the pressings – also known as pomace or must – are what is left after the precious juice is squeezed from those hardy apples – these essays are the essence of what remains in the wake of travels, research and reflecting. The yield is these 15 essays, each completed annually between 2005 and 2019, under the auspices of the renowned and historic Chicago Literary Club, of which I’ve been a member over that time.

As for the back story of this compendium, I was invited to join the Literary Club by John Notz, a Lake Geneva friend who noted an article I’d written for a local newspaper about the winter mountain hut restaurants that Vicki and I ravenously visited in our ski trips to Arosa, Switzerland, from the late 1970’s through the early 2000’s. Each of the subsequent Literary Club essays here is also preceded by a short back story on why or how I came to think it worth writing.

I retired from a full-time career in public relations at the stroke of the Millennium, at the tender age of 56. I felt like a 16-year-old on summer vacation, but with a somewhat larger allowance. Yes, I have since been guilty of filling my time with an abundance of leisure activity, but I’ve also become active with several not-for-profit organizations, founded two university award programs in cause-related community relations, and done some travel and writing, much of it here, with the Literary Club.

My sweet wife of more than 40 years, Vicki, has served as my more-than-willing editor and grammatist, and our aptly-named cat, Cider, has often trod the keys in attempts to add his random edits. Each essay indicates the date presented before the Literary Club, and is reproduced as it was presented.

I hope you enjoy these sometimes-tasty, and always tart apple pressings, dried and ready for you to read, inside the covers of this non-edible volume. You might even consider it “must” reading. A glass of crisp apple cider might help them go down all the more smoothly. So, cheers, and enjoy!

 

 

 

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Of course! Then why are 13 states still, after many years, refusing to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which clearly establishes that men and women are born with equal rights. Let’s do it, and this applies to both Democrats and Republicans who consider themselves to be good Americans.

I wrote on why we should care about “dark sky” issues a few years ago for the local newspaper in Lake Geneva. Despite a modest recent upsurge in interest in space exploration, it still applies to our relationship with the dark sky.

 

ALL THERE IS?

Driving northwest from Chicago, toward Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, as we begin to cross farmland, I notice domes of light pop up on the horizon. I soon learned that these are artificial light emissions rising up from villages and towns and shopping and industrial areas. These light domes are what astronomers call light pollution, and they increasingly make the sky seem to glow while interfering with man’s ability to see the stars clearly. Scientists now know that some 50 percent of the light on earth seen from space is wasted energy, serving no purpose, accidentally spilling upward. An estimated one and a half billion dollars a year of such wasted light energy is emitted skyward from the U.S. alone. Now, some two-thirds of the night sky around our globe is clouded by such man-made light pollution.

One of the often overlooked dimensions of conservation in our natural habitat is man’s wasteful and damaging pollution of the night sky with un-needed and easily attenuated man-made light. This is one aspect of atmospheric pollution we can readily control.

Way too many of our street lights, security lights, and shopping lights, from major cities like Chicago to small towns like Lake Geneva are robbing our people, young and old, of seeing the wonders of the night sky. The Milky Way, the massive galaxy of which the earth is a part, is invisible to most people in cities and even small towns. Most of the starry sky is invisible, because of modern light pollution.

When the University of Chicago opened Yerkes Observatory, the world’s first astrophysical laboratory and still home to the largest conventional telescope ever created, on the shores of Lake Geneva in the tiny village of Williams Bay, it was because there was little to no light pollution. The village, some 85 miles from Chicago, had yet to be electrified in 1897 when the famed observatory opened, and the large lake provided the observatory almost absolute darkness for viewing toward the east, south, and west.  Even today, when most modern research telescopes are located on mountain tops in remote unpopulated areas, we were recently able on a clear summer’s night to stand on the lawn outside Yerkes and, prompted by an expert observer, begin with our naked eyes, to make out the Milky Way and other long unseen mysteries of the stellar umbrella.

Having just seen a documentary on light pollution called “The City Dark” on PBS, that talked about the disappearance of details in the night sky for so many people, and even the possibility that too much light at night could contribute to health problems for some, I experienced an “aha” moment about modern society. Part of the film’s premise is that light pollution was taking away the visual connection to the vastness of the universe among younger generations, and perhaps contributing to a growing self-centeredness. I wondered if the lack of public and governmental support for a manned space program is partly because we are being increasingly disenfranchised in our relationship to the cosmos.

Have today’s generations begun to believe that our increasingly urban life here on earth, under our expanding localized bubbles of light, is “all there is” for mankind? Or are we still part of a cosmic continuum that offers endless learnings, exploration and even a relative eternity of succession for our species and life now on earth? Pointing our man-made lights downward and lifting our eyes once again to the night sky may point the way to fresh possibilities.

Is it a year? Is it an age? Is it the 100th anniversary of prohibition? Is it the year of the next U.S.Presidential election?  Is it perfect eyesight? Is it a theme?

Stay tuned…

It’s SuperBowl Sunday, and I was ambushed on CBS Sunday Morning when they cut to a feature about how the losers tonight might flock to the many Waffle House restaurants around Atlanta. The hashbrowns looked good. But then they mentioned that the 2,000-restaurant chain preserves their original Waffle House location as a museum!

Well, that kind of preservation based upon pride in a historic commercial space might not be so surprising. Except, and here’s the rub, McDonald’s, the most famous and largest (37,000 restaurants worldwide) quick service restaurant choose to tear down Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s, in DesPlaines, Illinois, late last year.  Why, after having restored and rededicated that original design Golden Arched stand in 1985, which was first opened in 1955, did the parent corporation appear to so visually abandon its roots?

Maybe it was because the nearby corporate home office in Oak Brook was being moved to a new modern location near Chicago’s Loop. Maybe because of some water problems with the nearby DesPlaines River. Or maybe because management has lost touch with its roots. I suspect, some of each. Sad that little Waffle House cherishes its beginnings, while mighty McDonald’s chooses not to. As a proud McDonald’s retiree, I’d hope for more.

cider and his Packer snowman buddy are ready for the big game today!

Happy Haloween to beloved cats everywhere!

Apple Pressings

Hodge, Samuel Johnson’s beloved cat, surveys London’s Gough Square, looking toward the home of his master, who would go to the market to buy oysters for him. Johnson, greatest wit of 18th century London, wrote the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language in this now restored house, which we visited a couple years ago when researching “Samuel Johnson and His Clubbable Friends” for my essay presented to the Chicago Literary Club (www.chilit.org).

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I don’t often weigh in on Trump online, because, where does one start? However today, I’m motivated, because in addition to smiling through the assassination of a Washington Post journalist, Trump has lashed out at his former treasured personal lawyer Michael Cohen as nothing but a “PR person who did small legal work.”

Then, of course, he decided to crunch down on the porn star that he had Michael Cohen buy off after he had an affair with her while he was married by decrying her as a “horseface.”

My only comment is that the President of the United States is a very small person; too small to waste any time on, if he hadn’t been raised to such an exalted position by people who are amused by such revelations.

As an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, and someone who is proud of my lifetime of work building communications bridges between organizations and the public, I am offended by this very small person who is temporarily cluttering up office space in the People’s House.

Wired 1

NO! Trump has declared that over and over. Along with admonitions of “fake news.”

The truth is that the press of this country are the full-time keepers of the First Amendment — of the right to the truth. The people of the press are not always successful at telling the truth, sometimes because their sources lie to them, sometimes because they are not good enough at their craft, or sometimes because they can’t step beyond the personal agendas we all have. Journalists must try to suppress such bad behavior for the sake of truth and balance.

The press, too, are often the bearers of bad news, news we often don’t want to hear. But if we are to live full and honest lives, we deserve to have the truth available to us, even though sometimes we cannot bear to look.

Tonight, I watched a fairly new movie, “Shock and Awe,” the story produced by Carl Reiner of the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain’s lonely battle to tell the truth about the fast roll of the Bush Jr. administration into war in Iraq in 2003.  Virtually every other major media was seduced by high level spin that Iraq was heading into nuclear capability and that with a powerful stroke the U.S.could turn Iraq toward democracy and help defend Israel and turn the nation into an oil pump for our nation.

Of course, none of that was the truth, and Knight-Ridder alone revealed as much, though they were largely ignored by most. The reason they got it right, while other media did not? Knight-Ridder worked the story hard instead of relying on government press releases and relied on mid-level government sources for their info, and not the highest level of government that had an agenda, not based upon facts but upon political aspirations and blind vengeance.

The press, when they operate independently, serve to protect the interests of the people, even from the accidental or intentional malfeasance of the government they elect.

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