Tag Archives: Featured

Intangible Treasures

I read with interest this weekend that French bakers want the baguette declared an intangible treasure by UNESCO. It seems the small bakeries in France are being driven out of business by large, commercial bakeries that mass produce a product the traditional bakers  dismissively call “bread sticks”.  They hope the designation will help protect the baguette and the art that goes into making them,  and draw attention to what is truly a national treasure.  They are in competition  with a wine festival and the zinc roofs of Paris. The French Minister of Culture will decide which she will recommend to UNESCO this year.

Intangible treasures are oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, traditional craft methods, and rituals.  https://ich.unesco.org/en/lists has a list of them.  They are absolutely fascinating.  I didn’t see a list from the US. I suppose many of our traditions and cultural practices were brought here by immigrants and aren’t exclusive to our country. I would have thought Jazz music would be on the list, but perhaps it isn’t considered fragile or endangered.

Check out the intangible treasures on the UNESCO list. What ones catch your eye?  What would you nominate for the US list?  How is your baguette technique?


The Soundtrack of our Lives

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

I’m passionate about music and life, so it is not surprising that the two often meld for me. Certain moments become inextricably associated with the music I was listening to at that time. The most familiar example of this is how couples can have a song or performance that becomes “our” song. But that sort of things happens over and over for people like me. We end up associating music with certain times places we have known. I keep hearing the phrase: “the soundtrack for my life.” And that, for many people, colors how they think of moments from their past.

The worst place I ever lived was a shabby little house on the West Bank near Seven Corners, but that place is also associated with the moment I discovered the music of Leo Kottke at the nearby Scholar Coffeehouse. As awful as that house was, Leo’s music was one of the happiest discoveries of my life. Some of the associations we make are complicated.

Sometimes the soundtrack we can’t help associating with something is wildly inappropriate to anyone else. I discovered the Lord of the Rings trilogy early in grad school. At the same time, I was listening to a lot of Ravi Shankar sitar music. Clearly, the epic trilogy is as thoroughly European and Nordic as Shankar’s music is Indian, but when I read Tolkien I keep hearing sitar music. It is, after all, exotic, and I found the novels exotic.

I think of these matters a lot now because I keep encountering two types of music that are linked in my mind to the pandemic. I discovered the music of the traditional jazz band Tuba Skinny just as the virus reached the US and changed our lives. When I listen to YouTube videos of the band, as I do for maybe an hour each day, I keep reading comments from others who say they could not bear the pandemic without the uplift of Tuba Skinny music.

Similarly, early in the virus shutdown period, Mary Chapin Carpenter began recording Songs from Home. She films herself with her animals (White Kitty and Angus, the golden retriever) at her farm home in Virginia. She delivers her performances (filmed on her phone, I think) with a breathy intimacy that is incredibly calming. Unless you somehow hate her music, I urge you to sample some Songs From Home to read the comments of all the people who say their sole salvation in this difficult time is the music she makes for them.

What about you? What music do you associate with particular moments from your past? Do you have “our song” with anyone?

Good Gifts

Our daughter’s best friend since childhood currently lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area where she  attends  North Texas State University for graduate study in vocal performance.  She has a beautiful soprano voice and we are very proud of her.  She is like a second daughter to us. She has sent frequent updates on the storm.  As a North Dakota native, she is probably better accustomed to managing the cold and the bad roads than most folks in Texas right now.  She lost electricity/heat  off and on the past several days, and Wednesday night her apartment complex lost all water due to a busted water main. She got to the grocery store for provisions yesterday.

I was gratified to learn that she kept warm when the heat was off  by wrapping up in a down comforter we gave her for a high school graduation present nine years ago. It was a real good one with a high fill power. I was happy to know she still had it and that it came in handy. How clever of her to take it with her to a place where you never imagine needing that kind of warmth. I hope all the things I give as gifts are so useful.

What have been some of the most useful gifts you have given or received? Any advice for Texans right now?


I have an enormous U-shaped desk in my office. It is far too fancy for me, but it is what they thought I needed when we moved to our new building in July.

I am a messy person who knows where any and all the  documents  are  in the piles on my desk. Please don’t make me clean up. It ruins my organizational strategy.  The larger my desk, the more and bigger the paper piles on it.

In one corner of my desk I have the collection of figures you see in the header photo. I got the Freud bobble head from my son. The red puppet I got in Bremen Schnoor district. He reminds me of Tyll Ulenspiegel. The vampire tomtens I got from my daughter.  I have no idea where the Viking came from. I have no idea what people think about  them, or what they think about me when they see them.  I sort of wish people would ask.

What did or does your work desk look like? How did you make your desk reflect you who you are?


Ash Dash

Ash Wednesday service at our church is typically  very well attended, many folks going who only go to church a couple of times a year.  In accordance with Covid protocols, there is only a live stream of the service with no attendees. What, oh what about the imposition of ashes?

Our pastors are traveling around town today at various venues applying ashes to foreheads and reminding us we are dust and to to dust we shall return.   I told our pastors they were  no different than Door Dash delivery persons this year.  They laughed, and regretted the cold weather.  A high school buddy of mine, Mary Jo, now senior pastor at  First  Presbyterian Church in Fargo,   is smudging people in their cars  as they drive up into the church parking lot.

Mardi Gras was a bust in New Orleans this year,  but I admire those who decorated their homes to emulate parade floats. I like the idea of Mardi Gras lights instead Christmas lights. Husband says we would have a demon cat with horns,  along with trees,  flowers,  and vegetable plants in our driveway.

How did your family acknowledge Lent?  Ever been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras? How would you decorate your house as a float?

a new year – hopefully

YA and I ordered take out from our favorite Chinese Restaurant over the weekend.  I set the table nicely with red plates, chopstick holders and even lucky red envelopes (with chocolate coins).  But our only guest this year was Nimue, who made herself at home on the table. 

This completes my year of no festivities.  Last year I was all ready for Pi Day when the world turned upside down.  I had all the ingredients for my pies, had a to-do list of what needed to be done in what order, including baking times and temperatures.  I even had little placecards done with the names of all the pies.  Then on Friday, the day before, I had to cancel; the pandemic had arrived at our door.

Since Pi Day, there have been several other occasions when, during “normal times” I would have entertained: my Girlfriend High Tea in May, our neighborhood Memorial Day gathering, a new neighbor welcome party in June, my birthday bash in August, Leaf Pile in October and, of course, the Great Gift Exchange at Solstice.  This list doesn’t include book club meetings or other breakfasts/lunches/dinners with individuals.  I would have always said that I entertain a lot but when everything is listed out like this, I realize that it’s an enormous part of my life.

So now that we’ve celebrated Chinese New Year on our own, we’ve come full circle.  Unfortunately there won’t be a gathering for Pi Day this year either, but I am hoping we can do a Pi and a Half Day in September.  Fingers crossed. 

What’s the most interesting party you’ve ever been to?


Todays post comes from Steve Grooms.

My sister and I were blessed with two Christmases each year. Our mother was fanatical about the one that happened in December, so our Christmas celebrations were always over the top. Our other Christmas was a day in March when our father returned from the New York Toy Fair. Each years he took a train to New York while lugging huge boxes of samples of stuffed toys his company recently developed. On the last day of the fair, all the company reps dashed around swapping their samples for the samples of other toy makers. Daddy would come home lugging three storage cases filled with whatever he had been able to grab at the fair’s end. So wild was that last day exchange that even he didn’t know what he had been able to bag.


We were lucky in other ways. Kids growing up in the 30s and 40s didn’t get many toys because of the Depression and the War. Then the nation was rocked by the great Baby Boom. It suddenly became profitable to sell toys in America. Suddenly homes had television sets, a new way to market toys to all those kids. Boys in the 50s were likely to play with cap guns and cowboy garb, while girls were expected to play with dolls. And then there were all the new toys that might appeal to boys or girls: Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky, kaleidoscopes, board games, View Master, card games, Mr. Potato Head, the nose flute and so many more.

My Teddy

Then, as now, toys frequently broke or went missing, so I have no memories of many. And yet I have a persistent emotional attachment to a few childhood toys. I dearly loved an old teddy bear. Although many cap guns came and went, some breaking almost the first time I used them, I owned one that made me supremely proud. I’ll talk about it a bit later. My luck with some toys went the other way. Getting an Erector set proved to me that I lacked the discipline required to create the impressive structures some boys assembled. A science kit pretty much showed me I was not meant to be a scientist.

How about you? What toys did you treasure when younger? Which of them claimed a permanent place in  your heart?

Casting Call

Well, we have had non-stop national drama for the past four years,  and I am so looking forward to a respite.  I was imagining the other day what political figures I would cast in plays by Shakespeare, imagining who on the national scene would make a good Lear, Lady Macbeth, or Beatrice. The possibilities are endless and amusing, so go to it, Baboons!

 What roles would you cast current national or international political figures in plays, movies, musicals, or operas? Don’t limit yourself to Shakespeare.  What are your favorite  political dramas or comedies?

Happy Birthday, Abe

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  He was born on this date in 1809. (So was Charles Darwin. What a year!) We only started to celebrate  Presidents’ Day in 1971, when Washington ‘s and Lincoln’s birthdays were lumped together on the third Monday of February  after Congress passed a law in 1968 to encourage more three day weekends. To capitalize on  Presidents’ Day on Monday, I am taking today off and am thus giving myself a four day weekend.

I have determined that the only way I am going to make it through the next three and a half years of work is to take more time off.  I have a sad history of reluctance to taking vacation or sick leave. Right now I have accrued 750 hours of sick leave and 200 hours of vacation time. It shouldn’t be a problem to take the odd day off now and then.  I don’t quite understand my reluctance to stay home. Lutheran guilt?  I identify too closely with The Little Engine That Could?  Who knows? I only know that I am a more cheerful and productive person after a day off.

I love three day weekends, although it seems like work tends to pile up when Monday is a holiday.  Tuesday through Friday seem exhausting on those weeks. Husband wants Juneteenth declared a  holiday.  That would be great, I think.

What new Monday holidays would you like to see declared?  What are your memories of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays when you were in elementary school?


I will admit that while I was on furlough, I spent way too much time surfing on my phone (wow… talk about a phrase that would have made no sense 20 years ago!)   Lots of stamping sites, Vlogbrothers and Mark Rober YouTubes, too many dance compilations to the song Uptown Funk and of course The Trail.  This led to what I consider massive numbers of wasted hours as well as monies spent that could have gone to better purposes.

One of these purchases happened two weeks ago, after I knew I would be heading back into Corporate America part time.  It’s a Conference Call Bingo mousepad.  If you’ve spent any time on zoom or other online calls the past year, you’ll probably recognize some of the squares:  “Can everyone see my screen?”  “Can you repeat that?”  “I have to jump on another call.”  I laughed out loud when I saw it online.  It arrived over the weekend and I’ve had several chances to use it already.  I’ve been using paperclips as “the dauber”.   No bingo yet, but I’ve come pretty close a couple of times.

When was the last time you played Bingo?