Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

MargaretFullerMargaret Fuller: A New American Life
Megan Marshall
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,  501 pages
Kindle Edition  $2.99,  Amazon Hardcover  $21.83, Amazon Paperback  $11.87

Anyone who has read about the American Transcendentalists knows Margaret Fuller, a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and editor of The Dial, the short-lived journal of the Transcendentalist movement. But most histories of the movement tend to focus on the men, Emerson, Thoreau, and Bronson Alcott, perhaps giving short shrift to Fuller and other women, such as Elizabeth Peabody,  in the movement.

It is a good thing, then to have this biography, which describes not only Fuller’s role in the Transcendentalist movement, but her early life with her disciplinarian father, her sojourn to the Midwest (then thought of as simply the West), her time in New York writing for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, and her journey to Europe where she fell in love with an Italian and had a child with him.

Anyone who knows this history is aware that Fuller died in a shipwreck on her return from Europe, just hundreds of yards offshore with her partner and son. For anyone interested in this period of American history or the history of the Transcendentalist circle this is worthwhile reading. It fills in many of the gaps in Fuller’s life that the general histories tend to omit.

Sacred Music Friday: All people that on earth do dwell

A Service to Celebrate the 60TH Anniversary of The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, Tuesday 4th June 2013

who are Episcopalians?

I love this, courtesy of the folks at Episcopal Church Memes. I’m afraid there’s a lot more truth to this than many of us Episcopalians would care to admit.


the grocery biz

No doubt you’re aware of the announcement that was made the first week of March about the sale of the Safeway grocery chain to Cerberus Capital Management. My immediate reaction was that a grocery chain being owned by a private equity firm is not a Good Thing. I was not much comforted by all the love and light being spouted by the analysts, including on KQED’s Forum, talking about how the chain would now be able to run smaller, more friendly stores with merchandise tailored to each local community.

I can’t help but agree with Thomas Lee in the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote, “As a general rule in business, companies that attract the pockets of large private equity firms, especially ones named after a mythical three-headed hellhound, are in deep trouble.” I have to agree.

It is true that privately held companies have more flexibility because they are not beholden to the stockholders. And privately held companies can and do deliver a good shopping experience and quality products. Witness Trader Joe’s and In-n-Out burger. But a privately held company focused on managing a single business well is not the same as a private equity firm. Cerberus is, after all, the firm that once owned Chrysler.

As Lee writes, “Private equity’s primary goal – perhaps its only goal – is to make money for its investors within five years or so, not necessarily to ensure the survival of Safeway.” He says, “Of course, Cerberus would prefer to generate profits the old-fashioned way: running the business well.” But, of course Lee tell us that if that doesn’t work, Cerberus has the option to “Sell! Sell! Sell!” Sell store real estate. Sell manufacturing and food processing plants. Sell distribution facilities.

The mantra that is constantly being repeated is that the grocery business is changing. That is true. The truism that Safeway is being squeezed by the likes of Costco and Wal-Mart on one side and specialty retailers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods on the other is in fact true. I, myself, am a contributor in my own small way to the sale. I shop at our regional grocery chain, Nob Hill. I shop at our local Rocca’s market. I make my weekly stop at Trader Joe’s after church. I pick up oranges and sometimes veggies at Kachy’s, our local Latino produce market. I buy guacamole and marinated meats at the upscale Latino chain, Mi Pueblo. And sometimes I pop in and pick up a couple of things at Safeway.

So there you have it. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

The sale isn’t likely to close until the end of this year after the regulators have had a chance to mull this over. It will obviously a while after that before we know what the long-term effects are.

At some point we’ll find out.

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In the 1980’s my regular Friday night television viewing included Washington Week in Review and Wall Street Week. When Louis Rukeyser gave the market recap for the week on WSW, he would always refer to the technical index “elves.” He seemed to have little regard for technical analysis (“the forecasting of future financial price movements based on an examination of past price movements,” according to one Web site), but it was always good for a chuckle, or at least a slight grin.

A few years ago I heard a podcast sermon in which the Episcopal priest made reference to the “lectionary elves.” That stuck with me. The Episcopal Church, with a one or two exceptions during the course of the liturgical year, adopted the Revised Common Lectionary a few years back. The RCL was officially released in 1994, and while it was compiled by real people working together, it is easy for me to perceive it as coming from some misty, mystical source.

The RCL is certainly inscrutable at times. The Emmaus story in Luke only appears once in the three-year cycle for Sunday morning, and that is in Year A, the year of Matthew. I’m noticing that this Lent (where we are in Year A) Matthew is preempted for John from Lent 2 until we get Matthew’s version of the Passion story on Palm Sunday.

It’s oddities like that which make me appreciate the term “lectionary elves.” But I use it with complete respect, of course.

follow me on twitter: @MikeChristie220 I tweet whenever I publish a new blog entry.

The Interestings

interestingsThe Interestings: A Novel
Meg Wolitzer
Penguin Group (USA) LLC,  481 pages
Kindle Edition $8.99, Amazon Hardcover $15.79, Amazon Paperback  $13.44

The Interestings is the story of a group of friends over the span of decades.

Jules is a lower-middle class high school girl who has the opportunity to attend an arts summer camp on scholarship where most of the attendees are upper class New York kids. She is welcomed into the group and those relationships continue throughout their lives.

Wolitzer does some interesting footwork with her chronology. The book begins with their high school summers at the Spirit in-the-woods arts camp in the mid-1970’s. She then jumps ahead to 2008 where we see what their lives have become. But she quickly takes us back to their college years and then chronologically moves us ahead through weddings, careers, children, and deaths. She takes us through and past 9-11, quickly passes by 2008, and closes the story in 2010 with the friends in middle age and their children through college. All of this is done seamlessly and deftly.

Wolitzer is a fine storyteller. I found the characters believable and I cared about what happened to them. I was a bit annoyed with the fate that she dished out on a couple of the characters, but what she did was consistent with the storyline and character development. I certainly can’t fault her.

If you are looking for an engrossing contemporary novel based on character development The Interestings is a worthwhile choice.

follow me on twitter: @MikeChristie220 I tweet whenever I publish a new blog entry.

Sacred Music Friday: For the Beauty of the Earth

The Saint Paul Cathedral Choir sings the John Rutter arrangement of this classic hymn.

in the Monterey Bay orbit

Gilroy is in an interesting location. It is at the very southern end of Santa Clara County. Leave Gilroy on U.S. 101 heading south and you’re in San Benito County. Head east through Hecker Pass and you find yourself in Santa Cruz County. One of the very first things you see on the other side of Hecker Pass on Highway 152 is the Santa Cruz County fairgrounds.

Officially all of Santa Clara County is part of the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose market. When we had DirecTV satellite service we got all of the San Francisco stations. Now that we have cable that is true as well, but we also get the Monterey-Salinas CBS and NBC stations. That is not true for the next town to the north, Morgan Hill, which has the same cable company.

Most of the Monterey/Salinas radio stations come in clearly here in Gilroy. I listen to both of the NPR stations in the region, KAZU in Monterey, and less often to KUSP in Santa Cruz. I love the traffic reports on those stations. Very often it’s something like “no major incidents to report” or “heavy traffic on Highway One through Santa Cruz.” That’s it. Terry and I both like the weatherman on the Monterey NBC station, an elder statesman with a relaxed attitude.

In general, the radio and television media in the Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz market reflects the somewhat slower pace of life in the region. And that’s a Good Thing.

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our newest kitchen tool

You’re aware that Terry and I are suckers for kitchen gadgets. I decided a while back that I was tired of fighting with that hand-held wheel pizza slicer. Terry was off to do a couple of errands, so I pulled out one of those ubiquitous Bed Bath & pizzacutterBeyond 20% off coupons and asked her to score a proper pizza slicer. She brought home the real deal, and at $9.99 less 20%, how can you complain?

I had to make pizza from scratch, of course, to try out the cutter and it did its did its job well. I had a bit of a problem a week later with our Papa Murthy’s take and bake and the paper tray, but I think it’s simply a matter of cutting the pizza on a flat, solid surface rather than on the (unheated of course) gas stove top with its gaps where the tray bends. And I think it was still better than using the handheld rollingpizza pizza cutter.

Terry and I both thought that the tool would work well when I cut corn tortillas to make tortilla chips. I tried it and it did the job wonderfully.

Pizza or tortillas, I seem to have a problem creating pieces of equal size. I need to work on that.

Regardless, we’re delighted to add this to our kitchen gadget collection.

paying it forward

When we go to Capitola we generally park in the parking lot above the village. They used to have parking meters there. I’m nowhere near as good at paying it forward as some people, such as my friend and former manager Sue, but in Capitola I’d always put more money in the meter than necessary, and we’d usually drive away with an hour or more on the meter, leaving the time for someone else.

Now they have the central pay stations that so many municipalities are switching to, so I can’t do that any longer.

I guess I will have to find another way to pay it forward.

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