Monday, December 31, 2007

Should New Acquaintance be Forgot

And so ends 2007, the year in which I started this blog and made so many wonderful new friends out there in cyberspace. You have all enriched my life in so many ways. You've challenged my mind with your posts, you've helped me with my tech problems, you've taught me so much about your different worlds, you've entertained me with your humour. Some of you have shared your poetry and stories and your beautiful paintings and photographs. You've welcomed me into your lives and shared your innermost thoughts and I am grateful to each and every one of you.

I wish you all health, happiness and prosperity for 2008 and being half Scottish, I'll close with the words of Rabbie Burns in Auld Lang Syne and make a toast (non-alcoholic, of course) to you all.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

or for the linguistically challenged English speakers

And there is a hand, my trusty friend!
And give me a hand of yours!
And we will take a right good-will drink,
For old long past.

Eddi Reader, Scottish singer/songwriter, in a very different version of Auld Lang Syne

NB: Words and translation from the World Burns Club

Friday, December 28, 2007

Jmb's Christmas Season

Apart from the religious aspect, I think that Christmas is for children. They are the ones whose eyes sparkle on Christmas morning as they see presents under the tree and their Christmas stockings filled with all kinds of delightful surprises. They still have the wonder and joy of it all and it is truly lovely to see it.

This year, my granddaughter, who alternates Christmas celebrations either in Italy with her nonni or Italian grandparents or with us here, came with her parents to spend it in Vancouver. Being what I call the perfect age, four years old, she made Christmas day very special for us. She was not so excited that she was up at dawn, thank goodness. She had written a letter, with the help of her mother, to tell Santa that she was going to be in Vancouver for the celebration and he had replied that he would remember that. She played happily in the family room until her uncle came over at about 11 am and then we moved to the living room with the tree and the gifts.

It is a long standing family tradition to play the Luciano Pavarotti O Holy Night collection while opening presents. We used to have the record, but now I have a CD. It still sends shivers down my spine, after all these years. Stockings are a very big thing in our household and they always contain colourful underwear, sox, books, a huge Toblerone and a Terry's chocolate orange along with assorted other small things. We get so carried away with buying little things for each other that sometimes the goodies will not fit into the stocking.

As you can see the little miss has a very large stocking, absolutely stuffed, with a new red hat holding in the overflow.

With her Mum looking on, she explores the bottom to see what else is in there

Her Nanna, namely me, gave her a red dress to wear for the celebratory dinner
along with some tights, decorated with cats

With nine for dinner on Christmas Day I only had time to take a
photo of the table and not the food

Dinner is a very traditional meal, with turkey and cranberry sauce, potatoes Romanov, brussels sprouts and other vegetables, Christmas pudding with a Foamy Eggnog Sauce, all made with recipes we have used for more than forty years. The only thing that varies are the appetizers we serve with drinks. We have celebrated Christmas with Scottish friends for these past forty years, alternating houses each year.

Another celebratory meal at our house during the holidays is with longstanding friends and it always features Prime Rib Roast and this for dessert.

English Trifle, this year Raspberry and was it ever good.

I'm sorry that I was too busy cooking and serving to take photos of the food as Welshcakes does, but it was a very enjoyable season for us with our daughter and family joining us.

I'm also sorry that I haven't been able to visit my favourite blog friends very much at this busy time of the year. There are some intrepid bloggers out there who are not taking a break, but I will be back in the near future to touch bases with you. I hope you all enjoyed this special time of the year with family or friends.

Soon it will be another new year and my how they fly at my age. May I wish for each of you a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year for 2008.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

For unto us a Child is Born

The Adoration of the Magi
Fra Angelico and Fillipo Lippi

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

To everyone who is celebrating this feast, may I wish you and your families a very Happy and Holy Christmas.

From Handel's Messiah the wonderful chorus, For unto us a child is born.

Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Light


I really wasn't going to post this Saturday but I wanted to do this last one before Christmas. I tried photographing some very special Christmas light displays near me but I couldn't get a satisfactory one and it's cold out there. I'm sure you are all going to have some wonderful photographs for this theme but you won't find them here.

But in the Christmas spirit, the lights in my dining room window.

My dining room chandelier, a rather modern brass and chrome affair with a most important feature --- a down light which you can turn on or off.

The not especially attractive and extremely dusty chandelier in my two-storey front hall.
You have to climb on a very tall ladder and balance precariously to clean it.
Reminds me of Miss Haversham's house




Thursday, December 20, 2007

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

This is the first Christmas that I have had this blog and, according to Welshcakes and Leslie, it seems one shows photos of the decoration around the old homestead. I don't have a holly tree so there are no boughs of holly, but there is assorted decoration. Please come right in.

My front door wreath above with my Christmas tree below

Let me tell you that putting up the Christmas tree is one of the shared activities that I consider potentially divorce making, along with wallpapering and camping. First of all, the "old scientist" is rather a curmudgeon about a Christmas tree, but I insist on it every year. We never had one when I was a child in Australia, so I'm making up for that. The tree is about six to seven feet tall and requires two people to manhandle it into the stand and secure it. Much discussion ensues about which side is best for the front and is the tree leaning to the left or right or back or front or.... Actually even buying the darn thing is usually good for heated words. Funnily enough this year, we thought the first one we picked up was fine and we could not be bothered looking at any more, so the usual strife was avoided for once.

Finally it is in place and the lights are added. I have to say that I do not care for these new LED lights. They do not give a good bright display, even if they are green or environmentally friendly. Fortunately the jolly Santa (his cheeks were so red we always called him the alcoholic Santa) which was our treetop decoration for so many years broke and now we have this star thing instead. The tree sits in the same corner as it has for the past thirty years and the lights and decoration are only on the "public side", not all around. I believe that it has only fallen down once in all those years, fortunately while I was still decorating it so I was able to catch it and yell for help. The stockings are underneath, waiting to be filled by Santa on Christmas Eve.

Now it is obligatory to have a bird on your Christmas tree, or so the insert with this decoration said. It brings good luck or some such. It was a gift from my Scottish friend with whose family we have shared Christmas for forty years.

A small anthropomorphised mouse in her finery. My daughter was trying to improve the quality of the decorations a few years ago and came up with this one.

One of three decorations made and given to me by a neighbour who moved away twenty five years ago. This is a half walnut shell with tiny dried flowers and made into a basket. I wrap them very carefully to store them, for they are little works of art.

I'm very fond of red as everyone knows and I especially love red poinsettias which remind me of Australia where they grow outside and not as houseplants. So you see my coffee table, an old seventies teak style with lots of red Christmas things.

Another red collection

Even more red stuff

Of course it wouldn't be Christmas without a crèche although this is a particularly ugly one, but a family tradition. I believe it cost about five dollars more than forty years ago when we had little spare cash. I hide it under pine branches and cones and light candles so that it doesn't look so bad. Well it does, but it's just always been put out for Christmas.

Did I say that the figures are really garish looking plastic and glued to the floor?

Of course not all poinsettias are red these days and I have several others in this colour in the family room. I have seven in all, scattered around.

Well there is more I could show you but I'm sure you have lots to do yourself at this time of the year, haven't you? Won't you have one of my just baked cookies before you go?

Have a happy Christmas celebration at your house

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pavarotti and Zucchero --- Miserere

I'm not so sure that the collaboration between Pavarotti and Eros Ramazzotti in my recent post actually worked so well. The great song they performed together, Se Bastasse una Canzone, If a Song were Enough, was a pop one written by Ramazzotti and I thought that Pavarotti's performance was rather stiff and unemotional. I think that when he sang this song, Miserere, with Zucchero it was much more successful. The song was written by Bono and Zucchero in 1992 and Pavarotti and Zucchero performed it live in concert at that time. Does it work? What do you think?

Zucchero is an Italian rock singer with a very different sound, being heavily influenced by rhythm and blues. He has been a very successful singer since the early eighties, his momentum building him into the international star he is today. He has performed or recorded with many varied singers including Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Sting, and Elton John, among others.

He was the person to discover Andrea Bocelli which is an interesting story in itself. Having written Miserere, Zucchero wanted to make a demonstration tape with himself and a tenor to send to Pavarotti so that he might convince him to record it with him. In 1992, he auditioned young tenors and chose Andrea Bocelli to make the demo tape. Zucchero said of this young tenor:
"Andrea was just unbelievable! He had something not one of the other tenors possessed. He had soul." When Pavarotti received the demo, he was extremely impressed with Andrea's voice, "Zucchero! Who is this guy?" Pavarotti demanded. "Thank you for writing such a wonderful song. Yet you do not need me to sing it - let Andrea sing 'Miserere' with you, for there is no one finer."*

Of course, Pavarotti recorded it, but Bocelli went on tour with Zucchero to perform the duet in concert and he was so well received that he gained a solo spot on the program. Thus his successful singing career was launched.

Now do click and listen, don't just read the text. I think this is a great song and a great crossover performance. As the Italians say, Vale la pena - It's worth it.

* Taken from here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pavarotti and Ramazzotti

Recently, when I posted about Eros Ramazzotti, one of my commenters, Sean, made a remark that if he had to choose between Zucchero and Ramazzotti, he would choose Pavarotti.

Of course with this video you don't have to choose because here they are together. The great Italian superstar tenor and the great Italian superstar cantautore together sing Se Bastasse una Canzone, If a Song were Enough. This is for you, Sean. Enjoy.

Accused of selling out to commercialism, Pavarotti was heavily criticized by many for his appearances with rock and pop singers in his Pavarotti and Friends concerts, which he organized to raise money for various charitable organizations. He sang not only with the Italians, Zucchero, Ramazzotti and Jovanotti, but he also collaborated with Sting, Bono, Michael Bolton, Eric Clapton, Elton John and the Chieftains, among others.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Small


It's been a really busy week so I searched the archives desperately. I have posted this before but not for Photo Hunt. So here you see the small Canada Goose goslings, with their much larger parents who do not like this stranger photographing their babies.


Friday, December 14, 2007

The Wine Exchange

In a recent post I talked about the wine exchange, as I call it, where guests take along wine to social occasions and the hosts usually don't open it because they have arranged suitable wine themselves. Perhaps they drink it later or take it to someone else's house and thus the wine exchange.

Gold medal commenter, the Political Umpire as usual provided an excellent comment that I could not resist sharing with you, if you missed it. I also want to give my thoughts on the scenarios he posited. However, you have to remember that I am astemia, as I say when I am in Italy, which always shocks them no end, but since they have a word for it, surely I am not the only teetotaler there. Now the Ann Landers of wine advice takes on the following questions for PU:

1. I always take a nice wine to friends X, because I know Mrs X is a wine buff and appreciates it. They never open it, however, but offer either non-alcoholic drinks or, occasionally, a very cheap supermarket wine (I do not believe Mrs X, with her evident knowledge, is unaware of this). Should I continue taking nice bottles, but unsubtley hint they open it, take an inferior one (the contrast with previous offerings would be noticed), or take a different gift the value of which would not be evident (thus enabling me to economise discretely if I so wished).
JMB: It's obvious that Mrs X is a cheapskate since not only does she not offer you decent wine of her own accord, she keeps your offering for herself and Mr X. Since you are a oenophile PU, I know you would appreciate a good bottle of wine and she must know this too. However, it would take more gall than I have to ask her to open the bottle which I had brought. Although some could carry it off I'm sure and if you think you can, go for it. You could try the inferior wine route but make sure it's drinkable, for she might surprise you and open it. However, I myself would take another type of gift next time which is sending a message of itself.

2. Friend Y is not a wine buff, or even much of a drinker at all. He took a bottle to Friend Z's house, nonetheless, following convention. Friend Z is a wine buff, and served a nice bottle, but when Y was leaving Z gave him his bottle back, saying 'we didn't drink it, we'll have it next time we come to yours'. I happen to think this was ungrateful and patronising of Z, though he wouldn't have intended it that way.

JMB: Well Z was certainly not a gracious host. He should have accepted the wine and sent it on the wine exchange circuit if he did not wish to drink it himself. What he in fact did do was very awkward for Y and hurtful to boot and I'm sure spoiled the evening for him.

3. This one comes from the Times, not personal experience: couple A go to restaurants frequently with couple B. Couple A don't drink. Couple B do, and always order a very expensive bottle, then at the end of the evening say 'shall we split the bill?' Suggested remedy was for couple A to find a fiendishly expensive non-alcoholic thing on the menu and see if the offer continues.

JMB: This is a situation with which I am familiar, although with a slight twist. We often dine out with another couple, close friends, with whom we always split the bill, just for convenience. I do not drink but the others do not usually order an especially expensive wine, although it seems all wine is expensive in restaurants nowadays since they mark it up so hugely. We value the friendship very highly and do not worry about the extra few dollars we might pay for a very enjoyable evening.

Obviously this is not the case above since they are writing to the Times. I can't imagine that even two of the most expensive non-alcoholic drinks would equal an expensive bottle of wine. I would be inclined to order the lobster or the most expensive entrée in addition and see what happens. Since it would be out of the ordinary I think the message would be obvious. Perhaps we should have separate checks?

Well I think it is clear that Ann Landers (if she were still alive) would not feel insecure about her job. I can't seem to make up my mind about a definitive answer to the above dilemmas. Despite my advanced years, instead of having all the answers I am still winging it, just like everyone else.

At the luncheon for 15 at my house today, I received four new bottles of wine, only one of which was drunk since I had opened my own wine, but the others joined the motley collection in my cellar. Unfortunately five boxes of chocolate were hostess gifts and since I am abstaining from chocolate this season I think I will start the chocolate exchange.

Thank you Political Umpire for asking my advice on these difficult wine related questions. Too bad that I don't have any real wisdom to impart.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On the eighth day of Hanukkah

Tonight is the eighth night of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. You may be surprised to see a post about it on a non Jewish person's site. But I wanted to share something special with you. Of course we gentiles all know what a menorah is. It looks like the image at the left, right?

Well, not always. The No 1 Dinosaur, he of the famous three simple rules of blogging, which I mentioned recently here, and one of my regular medblog reads, collects menorah (plural - menorot) and for each of the eight days of Hanukkah he has been posting one of his collection of more than two dozen, with a little story about each. This has been an education in itself and each is more delightful than the one before.

Dino started his series with a general post about the menorah and mused about how he began his collection, of which he had the following to say:
Some are cute; some are whimsical; some are cool; all are gorgeous, in my humble opinion, of course.
To give you an idea of what is in store for you if you go visit his site, with his permission, I give you one of my favourites, although how can I choose. Dino calls it the quirkiest, the wildest, the most "Do I really have the nerve to buy this thing?" menorah in my collection.

Please follow this link to the culmination of his series, with his newest acquisition on display and then go to Home and scroll down the page to see the rest. Enjoy.

Here is what Dino calls his boring old ordinary menorah,
fully alight tonight, on the last night of Hanukkah.
But just wait till you see his pièce de résistance
then scroll down for them all.

Thank you Dino for sharing your very special treasures with us. Happy Hanukkah to you and to any of my readers who are celebrating this Festival of Lights.

Monday, December 10, 2007

'Tis the Season to Eat, Drink and be Merry

That's just what I don't need. More food. What's more, rich fancy food. But it's that time of the year when it seems we all entertain and are entertained. We even go out to eat in fancy restaurants. Since I am, in theory, always watching what I eat, in a continuing weight struggle, around this time of year I try to avoid some of these events that involve food and so far I have been successful, with only one event I couldn't avoid.

But this coming week will probably be the worst for me this season. I have a lunch or dinner every day this week, Monday to Friday. Worst of all I am the hostess on one occasion, with 16 people for lunch. The truly idiotic thing is that all eight people at Monday's lunch will be at my house three days later. Also I'm not talking about people I see once a year, but people I see almost every week. Why do we feel compelled to socialize even more in this season? If we didn't see each other regularly it might make some kind of sense.

Another thing we do, because we have been brought up correctly, is take the hostess a gift. Flowers or chocolates or some such thing. Plus we do what I call the wine exchange. I do this too and I don't even drink. We all take a bottle of wine with us and since the hosts always have taken care of the wine, they end up with motley bottles of wine in their collection. You have to be very careful too not to take to someone's house a bottle of wine that they brought to your house. Well I suppose you could always say you knew they liked it so brought some for them. However they probably got it in the wine exchange from someone else and have never even tasted it.

So this week, when I am hostess, no doubt someone will bring me chocolates which as you know, being the Achilles' heel of JMB, I am foregoing this year. Plus I have indeed taken care of the wine. But if I survive this week I think I am fine until Christmas Day when I have ten for dinner. At least when the lunch or dinner is at your house you don't insult the hostess if you don't eat everything. But then you have the problem of leftovers. It's just a minefield of temptation one way or another at this time of the year.

I think next year I should go on a retreat for the Advent season, surfacing only for Christmas Day. But this week I will be out and about, eating more than I should, drinking non alcoholic beverages and being very merry.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Long


I'll bet the first thing that springs to my mind for this word is not your first choice. Although I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

Long primarily has a spatial sense but I'm thinking of a sense of time. Yes a long book. A book that takes a long time to read, for it has many pages. Some people say that they don't like to read a long book, but if I really like a book, I want it to go on forever. So no book is ever too long for me. It's too long if I don't like it, however long or short it may be.

The first long book that I read was Gone with the Wind and I was about 14. A group of girls in my class at high school had one copy and we passed it from hand to hand. Over 1000 pages. My turn came on a Friday afternoon and by Monday I could pass it on to the next in line. What a marathon read that was.

I call these long books chest crushers for I am fond of reading in bed. So here are some chest crushers from my book collection.

I love the cover of this one, all embossed and with gold lettering

A very recent acquisition, 1014 pages on the TBR pile

Granddaddy of my loooong books, 1349 pages

Did you know that A Suitable Boy is only 14th on the list of longest novels published? Check it out here.

Yes indeed, chest crushers

Who knew books were so hard to photograph? All kinds of reflections! With ten minutes of available time to spare, I hastily photographed a selection and these are the best.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

I've been swizzed, I've been taken, I've been cheated!

Over the years I've become a big fan of certain Italian pop superstars. Originally I explored Italian contemporary music as my interest in the language grew. Some I can leave but some I quite like and listen to a lot, owning multiple CDs of each singer. One is Nek whose CD In Due I enjoyed on my iPod at the gym this morning. But I think my favourite is Eros Ramazzotti, one of the most successful cantautori or singer/songwriters in Italy today.

His popularity extends far beyond Italy for he releases every new CD in Italian and Spanish. I don't know how popular he is in the English speaking world but he has collaborated on recordings with Cher, Tina Turner and Ricky Martin. Usually I can get his CDs locally, one copy maybe in the World Section or I can always get them online.

Italian pop/rock music has its own definite sound. It's very different from British or American pop/rock and it doesn't seem to get much radio play in the English speaking world. Zucchero, another very successful Italian superstar had this to say in an interview, about releasing an album both in English and Italian.
The radio in England or America will not play your music unless it's sung in English. That's the main reason, because honestly it's not easy to translate from Italian to English. Sometimes it's ok, but sometimes it's very difficult because you lose the poetry. You lose the harmony and the deep meaning of the lyrics sometimes because it's not easy to translate into another language. I personally prefer to sing in my own language but the radio in England and America won't play the music if it's not in English.
But back to Ramazzotti, for whom I have a slight preference over the others. I was delighted to hear that he had a new CD being released in North America at the end of October. I looked online first, as I usually do, but only available for pre-order. Recently in the music store I went over to the International Section and there it was. But wait, was it in Spanish or Italian? I've been caught before, so I always check carefully. No, Italian, great. It's two CDs. That meant really expensive and Italian CDs are never cheap here. $30 plus tax. It's only money, so I bought it.

I could hardly wait to rip off the cellophane and play it when I got home. The first song was great, the second.........what the heck? That was an old one. I grabbed the CD case and saw this little sticker.

The Ultimate collection on 2 CDs
14 classics plus 4 new songs plus 17 new versions.
New collaborations with....list

So basically it's a best of compilation with a few new songs, some old songs and some old ones reworked with new collaborators, like Cher, Tina Turner, the Chieftains. What a gyp Eros. Nothing new for two years and now this. Oh well, I do like it so I'll just enjoy it and forget about the fact that I've been swizzed, I've been taken, I've been cheated. I definitely have to read the fine print next time.

Apart from Welshcakes, I'm sure few of you have even heard of Eros Ramazzotti. However I think you might like this one with Ricky Martin, Non Siamo Soli, We are not alone. They won't allow anyone to embed the video but the link will take you right to it at YouTube. Do click over and let me know what you think.

If you'd like an encore, with some gorgeous images, try this one which I could embed. L'Ombra del Gigante. The Shade of the Giant.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Be the Blog --- What on Earth does that Mean?

Be The Blog award

Recently I was given this award by Ian at Failure is the Key to Success. and I do thank you for that Ian. It's a funny title for an award really, Be the Blog. Originally it came from the Me and My Drum blog, and Mark meant it to recognize successful bloggers, with his idea of successful being that they make a blog their own, stay with it, are interactive with their readers, and just plain have fun.

Now Ian, totally out of the blue, made a comment on my very first post back in February so he has seen this blog evolve from its simple beginnings to what you see today. Still relatively simple in many ways, the blog has the original simple classic template which I have never dared to change. Who knows if the whole thing might disappear? I can't risk that.

At first there was only text. Then an image appeared, followed by a YouTube video as I learned new skills. Finally a blogroll and then the sidebar grew like Topsy. Over these months I cannot believe the technical skills I have learned but also the blog content seems to have changed.

What started out, in my mind at least, as a way to leave behind for my adult children some memories of things I've done and places I've been, this blog seems to have taken on a life of its own and often I write about notions which randomly pop into my mind. But they always have my stamp on them, so yes I have made the blog my own. I'm very curious about things so you always get snippets of information which I've learned regarding whatever topic I'm waffling on about. Lucky you.

So far I've stayed with it, although often I haven't a clue what I am going to post about next and I get a bit anxious. I'm one of those people who are micro managers, the nice word for control freak, you might say. I do like to have one post in mind or, even better, as a draft, but often I don't.

There's an awful lot written about "finding your voice". I don't consider myself a writer by any means but I do think my voice does come through this blog in some way. I focus on things that mean something to me and I talk about them using my personal experiences or my perspective. Even when I'm acting as tour guide for some place I've been, I'm sure I let in little glimpses of myself. I probably have turns of phrase that I use often without realizing but maybe readers notice. Do you think you know who I am?

Thank heaven for computers, for I seem to change every word again and again before I hit publish. I imagine Jane Austen, writing in longhand in a book with pen and ink. All those words flowing out of her mind in one cohesive stream, paragraph after paragraph. I wonder if it is true or if she had things crossed out, with arrows going from one part of the page to another, everything all smudged.

Am I interactive with readers? Definitely. I never leave a comment unacknowledged. Before I ever had a blog I had an online presence as a medblog reader. What I learned from that was that I liked to have my comments answered and I've followed that rule in my own blog. In fact I think quite a lot of one's personality comes through in one's comments. Some people know me only as a commenter for they don't ever read my blog, so that's all they know of me. I think I know something of others from their comments, so the reverse must be true.

Lastly, am I having fun? Maybe fun is a bit strong, but am I enjoying this experience? That's a yes and I think it's a great challenge too. I like that especially about this blogging experience.

I would like to leave you with something I read early on in my blogging career at one of my medblogs. It's the No 1 Dinosaur's three cardinal rules of blogging.
  • Write well.
  • Say something.
  • Mix it up.
One could hardly do better than follow this simple but very effective advice.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Blogpower Round-up No 4 --- Advent Edition

Advent is the period of time leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Formerly a period of fasting and penitence, now it's more a season of anticipation and hope but also of reflection. On the four Sundays before Christmas, the colour purple in the Advent wreath and also in the church vestments reminds us to reflect, while the rose or pink colour reminds us to be joyful.

Today I am presenting a round-up of posts of Blogpower members which have been submitted as being what others considered worthy of special mention and many of them are reflective, anticipatory and even joyful.

With today being the first Sunday of Advent one post in particular ties in with the theme of penitence. After sharing his faults and errors of commission with his readers in Confessions, Crushed by Ingsoc is repentant and ready for a new beginning.

Welshcakes reflects on the film, Malèna, set in Sicily during World War II, and asks us to consider why, in her quest for survival, Malèna became what others called a collaborator. But did she truly have a choice?

In Latin Lunacies, Welshcakes points out some of the idiosyncrasies of her beloved Italians, but, in all fairness, she cites an equal number of things about the Brits which disturb the Italians.

Over in Morocco, Lady Mac, in Musing........., wants us to join her in pondering free will and miracles and the question of whether they can possibly co-exist. And what constitutes reality? Yes, many questions there, but no clear answers.

Moving to a different religion, Islam, Beaman says of his poem, The Religion of Peace, " My poem can be taken two ways and I will let the reader decide." I choose to think it positive myself. What do you think? But in another poem, Marzuq: One word, Beaman thoughtfully portrays an old Arab man, secure in his faith in Allah. Read the whole poem; this is but a taste.
In poverty stands he firm with eyes
On heaven’s door; his gaze implies
A comfort held; his smile bright sceptre
The creation of his protector.
Although, strictly speaking, these posts were in January and May, we did not have round-ups then, so nominated now, they were included here.

Still on the topic of Islam, Kizzie, an unveiled Muslim woman herself asks Why do we discriminate against Veiled Women?!! meaning discrimination experienced by veiled women at the hands of other Muslim women. As she says, it's a choice. If a woman chooses to wear it, it's her right. Isn't it democratic to consider the veil an act stemming from freedom of choice and freedom of expression? Finally she asks, Isn't tolerance one of the teachings of the prophet?

James Higham, while normally decrying the regionalization of England by the EU, reflects on what England, where the sun never sets, that green and pleasant land, means to him, an expat in many countries over the years.

However in his current country of abode, Russia, in one of his very popular series of stories about riding on the tramvai, James watches in amazement as the woman driver and conductress deal with a problem encountered on a recent journey.

Rather cynically, Crushed reflects on democracy, or perhaps not? in the UK and why he exercises his vote the way he does.
Democracy? Hah! They just rotate the teams when the people tire of them. They're the same team really, just one has policies that put more money in my bank, one has policies put more money in yours.
But when talking about his chosen profession Crushed is in his element and gives us the inside information on how to be successful at it. The big bonus for him is that he loves it.

Ian Appleby takes to task some recent posts on blogs which sarcastically decry government regulations which improve safety for children and people in the workplace. Ian believes that what's at stake is that regulation eats into their bottom line. Never mind a few crippled workers or children, or the odd bit of toxic waste, eh?

Forgotten Superstar, Jo Stafford, is highlighted by Richard Havers. He doubts that few under 65 will remember her, but she was the number one ranked female singer of the pre rock era. Interestingly enough she studied classical music, intending to be in opera, but the depression put paid to that plan.

In a different kind of musical post, the Russian Wolfhound taunts us in Not name-dropping, telling us all about his visit to a great concert in Lisbon and how he met the MASSIVE STAR and went to a bar with the band after the concert. But WHO? He's not saying. Clues in the comment section.

In this very fine post, War, Respect and Remembrance, while regretting a recent incident of disrespect to wounded British soldiers, Welshcakes also reflects on war itself, talks of women's role in it, then and now, and she anticipates the day when peace will be the norm.

With another hard hitting post, A Taxing Job? Welshcakes tackles the subject of prostitution and whether it should be legalized or not. Looking at all sides of the issue, she comes to no conclusion and invites her readers to share their opinions.

Meanwhile Gracchi proposes The Dickens Football Team, captained by the indomitable Betsy Trotwood, a leader of men and women who has the ability both to comfort those in distress and to be ferocious with fraudulent divers. She is tough but fair. He anticipates they would definitely beat the socks off a Wodehouse Team led by that effete cricket playing toff.

In the run-up to last week's Federal election in Australia, Colin Campbell highlighted the ad in which an online prankster had listed the now former Prime Minister John Howard's Sydney residence, Kirribilli House, for sale on the internet real-estate site Domain. Do check out the property details.
The month of November sees the celebration of World Toilet Day and Colin introduces us to the fascinating website of the World Toilet Organization, with its especially useful section on how to ask, where is the toilet? in many languages. He reminds us never to take the modern sanitation sytem for granted for many do not enjoy this luxury.

Grendel, taking note of the arrest of the British schoolteacher in Sudan for allowing a teddy bear to be named Muhammad, is wondering in Holy Cow what evil may fall on his head, since his children decided on the name of the great Egyptian god Ptah for their nice fluffy cow.

No doubt inspired by Al Gore's Nobel Prize, the Fake Consultant, in On Greener Torture, or, These Days, Environmentalism Matters, offers some excellent practical solutions for making torture more environmentally friendly. Surely a good thing, no?

Considered by the nominator as the uber ultra geeky but interesting post of the day, Shades of Grey waxes on about the solution to the overheating problem in Data Centres. If you think I can summarize it, think again and hustle over there yourself. Enjoy!

Although his membership in Blogpower is only days old, Bob Piper quickly appears in a round-up with Annapolis doomed to Failure, in which he speculates that the Middle East Peace conference in Annapolis will fail, for Hamas is not represented.

Without dealing with Hamas, without dealing with the plight of the Palestinian refugees, without resolving the crisis in Gaza, the situation will get worse, not better, irrespective of the fine words spoken in Annapolis .

In Get Back, Get Back, Bob thinks that the Labour Party should stop soliciting donations from wealthy supporters and return to their grass roots supporters in the trade unions.

Another recent BP member Newmania, in his own unique way, discusses the final ruling against fox hunting in the UK with The Hunters Hunted, but he points out the very real fox as a pest problem.

While in his personal world, Newmania has this strange feeling that all is too quiet, he is, actually dare he say it, content. He worries that Nemesis is surely licking her dry lips even now.

The Croydonian plays matchmaker in Who to invite to the Office Christmas Party, as he tries to match up some very famous available singles in the world of politics and government. For example Monsieur Sarkozy with Dr Rice.

Commenting on an Algerian minister's statement in a newspaper interview that it was the Jews who were responsible for the election of Sarkozy, The Croydonian also refutes his statement that images of Sarko appeared on Israeli stamps during the campaign.

Matt Wardman highlights the fact that most Muslims are highly critical of the Sudanese government's arrest of the British schoolteacher in the bear affair. He quotes a Muslim author who discusses Adam, the talking prayer bear, owned by hundreds of Muslim children and coincidentally named after another prophet important in Islam.

Shooting down the argument for gun availability is Matt Wardman's next goal as he takes on, section by section, an article in defence of the wide availability of firearms in the USA, from a statistical point of view. As Matt says: To wrap up - if the gun is not there, it really is very difficult to shoot someone (or yourself) with it.

The very popular UK webcast 18 Doughty Street went on hiatus this month but according to Matt Wardman the ultra techie blogger Mike Rouse has plans to upload the entire archive to and make it a lot more user friendly in the search options.

Louis, or Brummie as he's more informally known, takes issue with the time honoured tradition of grammar school versus secondary modern school selection for the eleven year olds in the UK in Eleven Plus....Three? He makes a very good case for this most important decision being put off for another three years, which would benefit latebloomers.

The Cornubian usually covers the Cornwall beat, but in Another Misuse of Terrorism he decries the recent case in New Zealand of the government using anti terrorism legislation against Maori political and language activists.

CityUnslicker, our man in the City, in Time to call it, thinks that after being anticipated by economists for a long time, the peak of the housing market in the UK has passed and prices are beginning to fall. He's very glad that he's not planning a move.

While analyzing the results of his informal reader poll on who would make the best Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK, the CityUnslicker is amazed that Alistair Darling, the current Chancellor, actually received any votes at all, since he considers him the worst holder of that office in many years.

Congratulations are in order for the Thunderdragon, who during the month of November posted his one thousandth post. As he is only 22, one can only speculate at the number this opinionated small c conservative is capable of churning out in his lifetime. Well done, Sir.

At Critical Faculty Dojo, Phil wonders why the BBC is so shocked that lawyers were beaten with batons and arrested by the police in Pakistan, when protesting the declaration of a state of emergency in the country. The assumption being, as he sees it, that lawyers should have been immune because they were lawyers. As if the rules that apply to the rest of humanity should not apply to them.

With great solemnity, As a Dodo mourns the loss of The People's Data, which first came into existance in ancient Babylonia, circa 3800BC. The final last gasp was the loss of the financial records of 25 million UK citizens. The Government was forced to declare The People's Data lost and presumed gone forever, in the hands of internet fraudsters and identity thieves.

On the US political scene, in Pandering and Propaganda at Their Worst, Ruthie looks at an ad for Tom Tancredo, Republican candidate for president and denounces angrily the fact that he's using scare tactics in his campaign, with illegal immigration as his one issue.

Matthew Sinclair takes a hard look at Immigration and Society in Britain. Looking at the many factors he concludes: my problem with immigration is not economic. My biggest concern is ..... that it will lead to the slow death of the values that define what is best in our society. He also thinks that limiting immigration is a good idea.

For an encore Matthew takes on John Rawls, the great influential twentieth century philosopher, in The Problem with Rawls, highlighting what he considers the huge weaknesses in Rawls' theory of social justice.

Recently Colin Campbell discovered that the tables have turned on men in adland. Whereas once women were portrayed in a negative manner he found an article called Dissing Men: The New Gender War which says among other things: new research shows that media portrayals of gender have largely done an about face in the past decade or so. Go read the whole thing. Interesting.

This time of the year is also one of conspicuous spending by many. Ruthie decided to brave the mega Mall of America, on the dreaded Black Friday, to photographically record the occasion in The Temple of Consumerism. Despite the temptations Ruthie didn't spend a dime.

Alas, Mutley was not so restrained on his recent venture into the Castle Point Shopping Centre, supposedly to buy a new cardigan or "woolly" as it's known in the Devon vernacular. He was caught up in a Shopping Frenzy!! , which he later regretted somewhat, on his return home.

Mr Mutley was very excited this month as he made his plans for a trip to Australia. While his route was a little unconventional, Muts assured us from on high over Korea that, while the trip was rather eventful with his horsey companions, he had every expectation of arriving safely. Alas, it was not to be.

This season will be a trying one for JMB, as she describes her Achilles' heel in Chocolate. She plans to avoid it at all costs. It seems many of her commenters are similarly addicted but will not be joining her in a self-imposed withdrawal, since they have every intention of indulging.

While feeling under the weather recently, Jams O'Donnell reposted the real story of his alter ego and blog name. The Poor Mouth is a short book, written by one of his favourite authors, the Irish novelist/humorist Flann O'Brien. He made it sound so good I've put it on hold at the library. I'm also relieved to hear that he does not harangue people using a bullhorn, as his avatar might suggest.

Never Trust a Hippy has started and participated in a big debate about bloggertarians. Basically Paulie believes that libertarians in the blogosphere are often purely negative and don't contribute much to political debate. Not everyone agrees with him - but it's an example of Blogpower making the blogging world's headlines!*

Reviewing the recent film An American Gangster, The Russian Wolfhound, who certainly recommends it highly, notes that putting the word American in the title seems to guarantee an excellent film and he cites some examples. Of course, omitting Madonna from the cast also helps.

With the recent addition of George, a new puppy, to her family, Liz has many stories and photos to share. In her tongue in cheek post, We Never Let Dogs sit on the Furniture, she tells of an interesting visit to the vet with a poorly George. I think that this puppy has brought much joy into the lives of Liz and her family but also into ours as we ooh and ah at the regularly posted photos.

George -- not sitting on the furniture

That's it for the November Blogpower Round-up and it has been my pleasure to host it. These posts highlight the fact that this is an exceptionally vibrant group of bloggers, to which I am proud to belong and pertinent facts about Blogpower can be found at Defending the Blog.

I know that Advent does not feature in all your lives, as it does in mine. Perhaps you are celebrating Hanukkah in a few days, or Eid al-Adha at the end of the month, or Rohatsu soon. Perhaps you are a humanist and just celebrating how truly amazing life is. Peace be with you all in this coming month. Next month, please join James Higham of Nourishing Obscurity, your host for the December round-up.

*The summary for this post was provided by Gracchi.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- RED


I'm not known as the lady in red for no reason at all. It seems RED is my favourite colour and the number of red items in my wardrobe is rather impressive, even I have to admit. So here are a few examples, starting with my favourite hat, my Rodeo Red Akubra, made in Australia, of felted rabbit fur with an inlaid feather hatband for decoration, bought on the internet. I also have it in black for a less splashy look.

Now nothing livens up that little black dress more than a three quarter length
red linen jacket and scarf, don't you agree?

My Italian red suede handbag, all ready to go.

You know I don't seem to have any red shoes at the moment. I guess I'll
just have to remedy that. But here are some gloves.

Finally, something I bought for myself one day, on a whim. A beautiful red Bopla dinner plate. I have just the one, for the store went out of business soon after and I've not seen it anywhere else in Vancouver. It makes a lovely serving plate.

I did enjoy this week's Photo Hunt!