30 January 2005

Pere Lachaise near Menilmontant...

Morrison Grave 3
Originally uploaded by jmichaeli.

Whenever I go to Paris, usually once or twice each year, the first place I visit is Cemetiere Pere LaChaise. It is filled with monuments to many famous people: Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Rossini among them.

The most visited, and probably most world famous, is the grave of Jim Morrison of The Doors. Each time I go there are always people around the grave. Not only that, but there is usually a police guard and/or barricades.

Originally, there was a bust of Jim on top of the stone, but it was stolen so many times the city won't let it be replaced.

A couple of years ago, the lease came up for renewal, (you lease graves in the cemetery not purchase them) the management did not want to renew. The city of Paris went ballistic. Turned out that next to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, Jim Morrison's grave is one of the biggest hightlights for tourism.

the soft parade has just begun...

SpongeBob answers...

SpongeBob answers
Originally uploaded by jmichaeli.

well, he's not being as nice as he usually is but he needed to make a point, I guess.

no matter what...


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

29 January 2005

bread and circuses...

There is a term that was used extensively by food critics in the past that is not as frequently used but still is appropriate: "bread & circus." The bread, of course, refers to the food and the circus deals with the ambiance, service and overall comfort for the diners.

I mentioned in the previous post about going to dinner for a friend's birthday last night. I am not going to mention the name of the restaurant because I am not a restaurant critic. Suffice it to say that it is one of the 4 star restaurants in Chicago and has been written up and on national television.

I should also mention that I previously worked at one of the top restuarants in Chicago, Jimmy's Place, that is no longer open. I was bartender, wine steward, wait person, assistant manager & did some of the bookkeeping. So, I do have a knowledge of fine dining and the nuances of food - especially service because I worked the front of the house not in the kitchen.

The experience we had last night was not to be believed in terms of quantity. It was a 9-course dinner of the chef's choice with a cheese cart and candy cart at the end. As with any dinner of this proportion, there were hits and there were misses.

The hits were definitely in the seafood category, from the caviar to the crab to the hamachi. All were exquisite with slight variations of traditional serving. The biggest miss for me was the foie gras. I am a foie gras nut. Each person at the table was served the foie gras in a different preparation. They all were great combinations. They all had one problem - they were undercooked. Yes, foie gras is best served undercooked, medium rare, but these were almost raw. I have had raw foie gras on salads and as garnish and it worked extremely well. When you are preparing it with heat, it does need to be cooked so that it can be cut and not mushed. It also was not cleaned properly. The stringy vein was left in each portion. I know it's picky, but I like my foie gras.

The real struggle was getting through all of the courses. One of the people at the table described getting to the end of the meal like the last moments of a wrestling match. You just couldn't quite see yourself able to finish and wanted to die. I wouldn't go that far, but it is an apt description.

The circus part of the meal was the service. The service was well-timed so that everyone got their courses at the same moment, napkins were replaced if you got up to use the washroom, wines were presented and served properly, and the table settings were exquisite.

There was one glaring mistake that no one but I would have noticed. There was one course where one person finished before the others and the bus person removed his plate. That is a big, big no-no in fine dining. Plates should never be cleared until everyone has finished. Like I said, I would have noticed that because of previous experience, but I would have thought the waitstaff would be well aware of it.

One of the other things that was important was the personality of the wait staff. Usually, in restuarants like this, the staff tends to be a little stuffy. These people were warm, open and inviting of all questions. They made the experience very pleasant without being overpowering and noticed - they were in the background to make everyone's experience notable.

Well, there was one exception and it probably was my fault - at least my perception. The sommelier was very helpful in choosing the wines since I didn't know what food was being served; he did. I had very particular varietals in mind but not knowing their wine list, which was extensive, I would have searched forever. He agreed with my first choice, made an excellent recommendation for the second and pointed me in the direction for the type of red I was looking for. This is where the problem came into play.

I told him that I wanted the red slightly chilled. The look bordered on "this man doesn't know what he'd doing" to rolling his eyes. What I had asked for was a french red burgundy that is normally only seen as a white. I had hoped for a red Meursault but he pointed out a Chassagne-Montrachet that fit the bill. The first time I ever had this type of wine was at a restaurant named Lou Landes in Paris. It was to die for! Since it is normally a white, it should be served slightly chilled. As it warms up while you are drinking it, the aromas and flavors open up from subtle to demonstrative. The sommelier didn't like this or maybe didn't know about it.

This Montrachet did exactly that. What bolstered my opinion that his nose was so out of joint is that he served the first two wines but didn't touch the Montrachet. The table waitperson did that, and she did a great job, asking if I wanted it more chilled, sitting out, etc. I have to commend her greatly.

I hope the wine steward at least tries chilling wine like this once in order to see the benefits. The people I was with trust me in wine judgements and go along with my suggestions. One of the men pointed out exactly what I described above and he knows something about wine but had never heard of doing this before last night.

I think that everyone should do this kind of dinner once in her/his lifetime. McDonald's is great and has its place, I love just the plain old cheeseburgers, but you have to broaden your scope. I couldn't do this over and over. [The doctor would have a fit with my cholestrol!] But once in a while you have to treat yourself, be kind to yourself and give yourself little unexpected moments of pleasure. Be in the present. Stop listening to your past telling you what you should and shouldn't do all the time.

no matter what...

28 January 2005

ummm, yum...

Off to dinner tonight with friends to celebrate one of their special birthdays! Can't tell you why it's special. SHE'D KILL ME! Suffice it to say, it's passed "over the hill," and more like "across the entire mountain range!" [Oh, she's really going to kill me now.]

Birthdays are the one holiday/event that belong to each of us solely. All the others we have to share with other people - Christmas, Easter, Lincoln's Birthday, 4th of July. A birthday is just ours. Yeah, other people may share the same birth date, but the celebration still only belongs to ME.

nothing better to do...? part III

My tax dollars are really getting a bang for their buck this week. The new Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings [great pun!], went right to work identifying the enemy in Vermont - lesbians.

Consider the course of recent events. Spellings somehow learned that an unaired episode of "Postcards from Buster" features the cartoon's title character visiting Vermont, where he encounters lesbian couples and learns about maple sugaring. The education secretary declared that "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode." Presumably she meant lesbianism, not maple sugaring.Character Education by Steve Hely The New Republic, 1-28-05

Wow, a twofer: lesbians and maple sugaring. I feel much safer knowing she's on the job.

Luckily, Spellings spoke out in time, and PBS does not intend to distribute the episode. But what if she hadn't? Lesbians have demonstrated their power to penetrate not only the world of maple sugaring, but the world of cartoons about maple sugaring as well. How much more of a wake-up call do we need?

Steve Hely has a lot more to say to help Secretary Spellings [I really do love that name.] to save us from ourselves.

For too long we've allowed the Department of Education to go unequipped, while lesbians and children only grow stronger. The sooner the Secretary of Education has human intelligence and first-strike capability, the better.

And he has great names for educational covert operations squades to help her out for easy recognition:"EdSquad: Thunderclap;" :EdForce Mongoose;" and "EduStrike Hawksclaw.'

Please, you really have to read the entire article to see what a great idea this is. It could happen!

The New Republic, 1-28-05

especially, if you have noting better to do...

26 January 2005

nothing better to do...? part II

We were visited at school today by the district's coordinator of quality assurance for the National School Lunch Program. She came to do an audit of the kitchen/lunchroom at school. She needed to check that the number of applications for free lunches matched the number of lunches served versus what was actually being served. Just another sign of the federal government with their fingers in everything.

She came also to prepare us for the actual federal auditors coming later in the year. We've been through federal audits before for things related to NCLB. So far there has not been a problem that we couldn't take care of.

This time, however, we were found not to be in compliance. Why? Becasue the number of lunches served didn't match the number of applications versus the number of lunch tickets collected.

Okay, no problem. However, the law states that even if a child isn't eligible for a free lunch and has to pay, we have to give them a lunch because the law says that no child can go unfed! [Just like No Child Left Behind?]

So what's the big deal? If we have to feed every child, why do we have to count every one of them? And if anyone is missing/lost a ticket, we still have to feed them. So, why bother?

If the audit doesn't go well, a couple of things could happen: 1) people would be fired or 2) we would loose money from the federal government.

Well, one thing is certain. This has given people federal jobs that they wouldn't have had before. This gives a whole new meaing to the term "bean counter!"

especially, if you have nothing better to do...

24 January 2005

blogging is strange...

Not doing the content, but figuring out how to do certain things. I just spent most of the evening trying to find out how to add a link to an entry. It would be easy if the button showed up like it's supposed to, but I couldn't get it in either Safari or Explorer. By accident I found this Help Page and it works!

Now if I can only remember it. [I saved it as a PDF to my desktop... snicker!]


to previous SpongeBob SquarePants post:

"Dan Martinsen, a spokesman for Nickelodeon, where SpongeBob beats the pants off the competition, was flummoxed: 'It's a sponge, for crying out loud. He has no sexuality.'"

With other great comments from Maureen Dowd...

I loved the "SpongeBush" creation in her OpEd along with the parallel.

Maureen Dowd

[free registration may be required]

23 January 2005

nothing better to do...? part I

What is it about the very far radical-right and discovering homosexual tendencies in cartoon characters? Where do they find the time to watch cartoons? Why do they look for these types of things?

They say they are protecting the young, but when they point these things out, and not just gay characters but other things also, don't they actually emphasize and pique curiousity?

I know from working with kids that the more you tell them they shouldn't do something, the more they want to do it. Their curiousity gets the better of them because an "adult" doesn't want them to see it. They do anything to go out or their way to see what all the fuss is about. Instead of protecting them, they become inticed.

By the way, I never watched Tinky-Winky or SpongeBob, but I hear the little ones talk about them, but none of the kids want to wear a dress or carry a purse. [Bugs Bunny has done the best drag over and over, but noone ever said anything about him!]

Well, that's not exactly true. The 3-4 year olds have absolutely no prejudice and play equally with the trucks as they do in the pretend kitchen. They switch back and forth all of the time. Sometimes, the trucks end up in the kitchen and the baking pan gets hauled by a truck.

What scares me is when they share, without request, what goes on at home with drugs, bring x-rated playing cards for show and tell, and use language that my grandmother would only say in Italian so noone would understand her.

What about Barbie? Have they stopped and looked at her story? She had many different jobs, drove wild sports cars, never seemed to want for money. She dumps Ken after 43 years. How many wedding dresses did she pick out? They had to have had some intimate relations in all those years, but there were never any children! Sounds like Barbie is a pro-choice feminist to me. What kind of a role model is she to all those young people?

Where are all the "family values" supporters? Oh, yeah, they're saving the children from cartoon characters.

especially, if you have nothing better to do...

missed yesterday...

Didn't get a chance to write anything yesterday. I was at a class all day on "Self-Expression & Leadership." It was excellent. The class will continue until May 3rd. More on it at another time.

21 January 2005

how quickly they learn...

Elementary students try to hijack school bus

Friday, January 21, 2005
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Three 11-year-old boys and a 10-year-old girl tried to hijack their school bus near Punxsutawney this morning.

"State police said the four hatched the plot yesterday. Just after 8 a.m. today, one of the boys pulled a knife from a book bag and held it near another student. He demanded driver Janet McQuown, 52, stop and get off the bus.

"A police new release says she pulled over along Pine Tree Church Road in Oliver Township and "the knife was removed from the juvenile's possession." It doesn't say how.

"The bus, with the hijackers and about 40 other children, arrived safely at Mapleview Elementary, where the unnamed offenders were taken into custody.

"Two were turned over to juvenile authorities and two went home with their parents.

"The news release did not immediately say what the hijackers intended to do with the bus."

What's the reason something like this can happen with 11 year olds? Where did they get the idea? Television? Listening to adults? Video games? Fear?

Working with kids I see a lot of "adult" behavior. They pick it up from everything around them. They mimic things. It's the natural way that they "play" in order to put together their adult lives.

They are exposed to many things that only adults should handle. They are still putting together their own system of values. Since kids don't have the skills to completely discriminate between what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, or what is fair and what is not fair, they don't know how to play fair yet. It's not a fault; it's how each of us but our own ethos together.

Still, this kind of behavior should concern everyone. Children are the future of the world. The children in Palestine, Isreal, Northern Ireland, Iran, China and the United States are all exposed to influences with no one explaining things to them or giving them the chance to ask questions. No one listening to them. Their fears. Their anxieties. Their laughter.

We should be more afraid of this than a lot of other things.

20 January 2005


Bush answers the question...

"When President Bush was asked last week by The Washington Post why Osama bin Laden had eluded capture, he replied, 'Because he's hiding.'" - NYT, 1/20/05

19 January 2005

blonde jokes...

I have a penchant for blonde jokes. Yeah, yeah, I know you can use just about any color hair to tell joke, but there is something about the color blonde that makes it even funnier. I'm sure it goes back to Marilyn Monroe and her role in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" and some of her other movies. If you really stop and think about the roles Marilyn played, she and they were pure genius.

So, please, forgive me. From time to time I have to share some of my favorite blonde jokes.

A businessman got on an elevator in a tall building. When he entered the elevator, there was a blonde already inside and she greeted him by saying,"T-G-I-F."

He smiled at her and replied, "S-H-I-T. "

She looked at him, puzzled, and said, "T-G-I-F" again.

He acknowledged her remark again by answering, "S-H-I-T."

The blonde was trying to be friendly, so she smiled her biggest smile and said as sweetly as possible, "T-G-I-F" another time.

The man smiled back to her and once again answers, "S-H-I-T."

The blonde finally decided to explain things, and this time she said,"T-G-I-F. It means, Thank Goodness It's Friday. Get it, duuhhh?"

The man answered, "S-H-I-T - - - Sorry, Honey, It's Thursday."

There are days like this all of the time...

18 January 2005

landmark education...

If you look down and to the right where the links are, you will see a link to Landmark Education. I don't want to spend a lot of time on Landmark, but I'm sure I won't have much of a choice.

I have been involved with Landmark since November 2004. I have friends that have been involved with it for a lot longer and I have met people there who have been involved for many years. Landmark Education refers to itself as a "Curriculum for Living." It's true. It would be difficult in a couple of paragraphs to explain everything that is Landmark. It has its supporters who sometimes come off as fanatics and it has its detractors who equally come off as fanatics.

Just as in anything, you get out of it what you put into it. Suffice it to say that over the last few months Landmark has made a big difference in my life and I have seen and know of others who have been transformed. It makes promises, but it tells you that you have to work for them.

From time to time, I am going to share different things that I've been going through as a result of and because of Landmark. This is an important part of Landmark because one of the things it wants you to do is share. The act of sharing makes one present to the possibilities in life and the importance of being authentic with yourself and others.

I will try not to make a direct endorsement, but I have to tell you it will be difficult. I invite you to find out more about Landmark by clicking on the link, talking to someone who has done the Forum, Advanced Class or any of the seminars, or email me. We will be willing to share our experience with you, give you a sense about Landmark, and answer any questions you may have.

I also invite you to one of the introductory sessions Landmark has at their centers around the world. You can find where they are, when they are scheduled, what are the phone numbers and talk to someone at the center nearest you. They are more than helpful.

Open yourself up to new possibilities. Even if you think the ones you have are great, there are always more to create.

17 January 2005


Washington is all hustle and bustle getting ready for the inaugaration/coronation this week. Even Cadillac is unveiling its new line of limousines for the occassion. George will ride in one of the new coaches.

I will state quite clearly, here and now, I am definitely not a fan of the man or the dynasty. I have an inherent distrust for anyone who comes across as a fanatic. My definition of a fanatic is someone who redoubles his efforts but forgets his cause while changing stands along the way for expediency and sticking to an all pervasive unflinching -ology.

That said, the plans for the festivities seem to border on a coronation rather than an inaugaration for a second term. There has been so much talk about the demand for tickets from his constituents that Democrats have joked they are willing to sell theirs. [Each member of Congress is allowed 400 tickets no matter to what party they belong.] Republicans have been calling them to see if they're going to use them or want to give them up.

Let's see 400 X $250 = $100,000! This is an entreprenurial capitalistic society, afterall. There wouldn't be any political fundraising laws involved. Republicans are all for big business. Why not?

King vs King...

On this day observing Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday even his own family has to interpret what he said. I always understood that he was a follower of Ghandi's "satyagraha" to an extreme as a means of change and that he believed that ALL people had the same rights, responsibilities and privilege. It seems that though Coretta Scott King stands by his teachings to the fullest, his daughter and niece participated in marches recently that clearly were based on discriminating against gays, saying that they "knew" that King would be totally opposed to same-sex marriage in any form.

If this is true, then King was not a follower of his own beliefs. I also wonder how they can connect that Bayard Rustin, one of King's closest advisors and the person who organized the famous 1963 march on Washington, was an openly gay man? I have always wondered how people can second guess the dead!

and so it starts...

I've tried this blog thing before and the most difficult thing is keeping up with it, but I would like to try and make a commitment to add to it at least a couple of times a week. Sometimes it might be something important, but most of the time it will probably be just some things that have been on my mind, my life, my thoughts about the state of the world, my distastes, my likes, music, b.s., etc., etc., etc.

I've been reading blogs for awhile now and they are playing a big part in the way civilization is evolving. It's the time of instant response, instant rebuke, and instant interpretation. I wonder, however, if the instantaneousness of this whole thing is allowing for time to reflect on what's being read, yet alone written. Is there anyone who is looking at the signs of what is happening - the semiotics.

Semiotics is an important concept of study. According to Martin Ryder,

"Linguistic and Cultural Semiotics is a branch of communication theory that investigates sign systems and the modes of representation that humans use to convey feelings, thoughts, ideas, and ideologies. Semiotic analysis is rarely considered a field of study in its own right, but is used in a broad range of disciplines, including art, literature, anthropology, sociology, and the mass media. Semiotic analysis looks for the cultural and psychological patterns that underlie language, art and other cultural expressions. Umberto Eco jokingly suggests that semiotics is a discipline for studying everything which can be used in order to lie." (1976, p7). Whether used as a tool for representing phenomena or for interpreting it, the value of semiotic analysis becomes most pronounced in highly mediated, postmodern environments where encounters with manufactured reality shift our grounding senses of normalcy."

Blogging, in a way, is both the means and the end of semiotics. It is manufacturing reality as well as analyzing it. It is art. literature, sociology and mass media all rolled into one. It looks at cultural and psychological patterns, as well as creates them. It is almost oxymoronic.

So, why do I want any part of it? I, like everyone else, have a need to be listened to. The "act" in my life has always been that no one listens to me, so why bother. I've thought myself a failure for that and I'm getting over it. People either listen or they don't. I know longer care. I am going to be inspiring and powerful. As a result - FREE!

and so it starts...