Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wisconsin Library Censorship Issue on CNN

It's big time for censorship issues at the West Bend Public Library. When CNN reports on it, it has to be big.

Libraries are responsive and responsible to their publics, and it is not unusual for people to push strongly for the kind of materials to which they think their children should not be exposed. These people often believe that their opinions are shared by everyone. As this situation shows, it isn't so. Solutions that appear reasonable to some seem like censorship to others.

As a former library director, I saw parents with varying points of view on what is acceptable for children of any age. Libraries usually do their best to present balanced views. With fiction for teens, often demand drives collection development, as it does with television viewing or Internet usage. There's a lot more sexual content and pornography available to everyone on the Internet than one will find in the library.

My sympathy goes to Michael Tyree, Director of the library at West Bend, and the library board there. It's not fun when the library is attacked.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite died a few days ago. He was a great broadcast journalist. Michael Jackson died almost a month ago. He was a great entertainer. Cronkite got some well deserved publicity, but not nearly as much as Jackson. It continues to puzzle me that people prefer entertainers to great people, especially entertainers who seem bizarre.

The Capital Times has this commentary on Cronkite.

Cronkite was called the most trusted man in America. "Journalism is what we need to make democracy work," he was quoted in the article.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Maria Shriver Answers Questions.

Many of us know about Maria Shriver as first lady of California, respected former television journalist and member of the very political Kennedy family. She also is a sensitive author of books for children. Some of us push aside books by celebrities as likely to be of poor quality, published only because the author is famous. Other adults have no interest in reading books for children. I suggest that people take a look at these. They are good.

What’s Heaven? (1999) And What’s Happening to Grandpa? (2004). Here are two books by Maria Shriver for children that are totally about family love. They were born from Shriver’s family experiences of death and Alzheimer’s disease. Most of us know the stories of her family’s deaths and illnesses. Here we see these universal experiences explained simply and lovingly, with softly focused pastel illustrations by Sandra Speidel.

Shriver said in an interview recently that she was concerned that as a child she had questions, and children today have questions, so she wrote books that address them at the level of young children. As a Catholic, she stays non-denominational and focuses on uncomplicated concepts of heaven in one book, and dementia in the other.

It’s ok for adults to read kids’ books, for themselves, or to their children or grandchildren. These get to the point, are strong statements of love in families, and they are short. They are in print, available in online bookstores and area libraries.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Potato Chips

Crunch!: a History of the Great American Potato Chip, by Dick Burhans. Terrace Books, a trade imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press, 2008.

Before I started this book, I hadn’t eaten many potato chips and thought they were pretty much alike. I learned otherwise as I read this book. The potato chip origin, mythology and business are all in it. It starts and ends with kettle chips, and spends time on the potato chip wars, where Frito-Lay emerged victorious over the national market. I thought the first half of the book could have been done in ten pages, but didn’t see the second half that way. Who would have known there was so much in making and processing potato chips? Fat is explored here, too, with different fats producing different chip tastes and textures. If you want saturated fat (lard), or trans fats, or vegetable oils, they are available, but not all in the same chip.

A small amount of space is devoted to potato chip nutrition, but potato chip devotees are quoted as saying that if people want nutritious snacks, they aren’t likely to eat potato chips anyway. The small localized chip companies apparently are having some success with chips that aren’t uniform like the national brands, and flavors abound. It’s not your grandmother’s potato chip any more, even if it’s made in a kettle again.

Now I am eating potato chips again and having some appreciation for the uniqueness of the different brands. They’re not all alike.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Food and Memories

Food connects us with memories of people. When I think of some people, I think of the foods they brought into the lives of my brothers and me. Here are some memorable foods and their people in my life.

Cambric tea. What? That was the name of the sugar-water I often sipped with my childhood neighbor, Roberta Brown, on her back porch in Park Ridge. Her mother warmed it up and called it cambric tea. We were pretty young. She was afraid to come to our house because she was afraid of Omar, our St. Bernard. We played dolls and colored in our coloring books for several years.

Chocolate chip cookies and date bread. Who could forget Sweetie Pie’s cookies that awaited us whenever we visited her or she visited us? Sweetie Pie was my maternal grandmother. Her cookies were very good, and the memory probably makes them better. Once when we were older children, she tried store cookie dough on us, but we caught her forging her stellar product. She went back to the originals. She also was famous for date bread. Where would we have been without it?

Pinwheel cookies and chocolate pudding. Delicious. These were Grandma Allen’s specialties. Who could not love them and her? She baked a lot of other things for us, too. When we spent weekends with her in Oak Park, she told us we ate like birds, meaning we didn’t eat enough to satisfy her. She gave us old fashioned cooking. Aunt Lina lived with her after Grandpa died, and I remember Aunt Lina chasing brother Eddy around the house trying to kiss him.

The food memories abound with Father. When he liked a food, he loved it and proclaimed how good it was. He praised cauliflower until I decided it must be good even though I didn’t like it. Father also was fond of beef brains There was no mad cow disease then. He would bring them home from Fritz Ripp’s meat market and fry them immediately with enthusiasm, regardless of what really was on the menu. He brought home a jar of dried grasshoppers once.

At Christmastime we were required to eat lutfisk, which Father cooked; he carried on this tradition for many years. He is the only person I know who liked it. I had to make the horseradish sauce. It was a kind of bonding with him. He also made glogg for three days on the back of the stove during the Christmas season. He was even enthusiastic about dog food, although he didn’t eat it; he simply thought our dogs were lucky to have such good food.

Father’s big claim to fame was the Door County fish boil. He embraced this Door County tradition whole heartedly. When the parents entertained, it often meant having a fish boil outside. My brothers and I were his assistants, so we know how to do it, too. He entertained Governor Warren Knowles with a fish boil in our yard along the bay.

Mother had the good sense to let him do his thing with food. She was the person who cooked normal food for us. She was famous for her recipe program on WDOR, which is probably the longest running radio program in Wisconsin history. It went from 1951, when the station went on the air, to mid 2005, shortly before her death. She was the convenience food queen. She told other people how to cook.

White sauce and muffins. Accolades for these go to Mrs. Robertson, my home economics teacher in 7th and 8th grade. Without her I never would have learned to cook or sew. I think white sauce is the one thing everyone should know how to make. It is flexible enough to work in sauces of all kinds. With cheese melted into it, we had a lot of macaroni and cheese after I was a mother. Mrs. Robertson’s muffin recipe was very good, too. It wasn’t sweet cake like muffins of today.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

amazing church news

It must be a new era if the Vatican actually praises John Calvin.

It's true that Calvin had a powerful influence on Christianity, especially in the United States. The pilgrims were Calvinists, if I remember history correctly. And I like to quote Fr. Samter, who used to say that Plymouth Rock should have landed on the pilgrims instead of the other way around.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Walk in the Prairie

It’s July on the prairie. It’s beautiful. At Governor Nelson State Park the blanket of white, yellow and purple flowers among the green grasses is beautiful. A walk through it is like a walk through heaven. The work of prairie restoration looks like a great success.

It was a great day in the state park. I had the unusual opportunity of observing a pair of sandhill cranes among the grasses from about forty feet away. They didn’t fly away. One sat down among the grasses and became invisible to me. The other ignored me. I loved it.

The beach on Lake Mendota was populated by plenty of children with their accompanying adults. The lake draws kids. A few people were working on their tans.

The weather was perfect, somewhere near eighty degrees. It was mostly cloudy. The humidity was just high enough to bring up the scents of the grasses and flowers. The wild black raspberries were just ripening. I ate a few, without pondering the question of legality of picking anything in a state park. That’s the only time the mosquitoes appeared. Were they guarding the raspberries, or just lurking there in the shade?

With 4th of July fireworks expected tonight, I prefer the prairie.