Archive for April, 2011

Sushi Friday X

April 30, 2011

Oyama Japanese Cuisine

136 Berlin Road #115

Cromwell, CT


I did a partial review of Oyama (“Too Much to Do II”) in which I gave it a B. Things have changed some and I’m raising the grade. I often stop there if I’ve had to go to the nearby mall as it’s the closest place that isn’t one of the new plastic and blue-light variety.

What I like: Plenty of free parking in a shopping center with a cut-rate grocery across the way. The service is friendly and unobtrusive. Teddy, the sushi chef, knows me so I always feel welcome. The television is over the actual bar, so the sushi bar is not subjected to the ESPN/CNN axis that seems to dominate in many other Japanese restaurants. The lunch is substantial with miso that is generally well balanced with tofu and wakame, not too salty, and served hot. The Bento box includes shumai and on occasion brown rice (a plus). The fish is all of the freshest, usually a selection of salmon, tuna, and escolar. The box includes slices of orange.

What I don’t like: The habachi tables are noisy and frequently spewing the odors of fried meat. The Cali rolls follow the inside-out trend with the rice on the outside. Here the effect is sloppy with spikes of rice falling into the soy sauce. The fish slices are huge and awkward to eat in a bite or two. Why not make the slices thinner and offer more? The managers on occasion sit at the sushi bar if there are few customers. I was amused to see one of the manager/owner types sit with her laptop and a big bag of nacho chips. She was not amused when I drew attention to it.

Revised grade: B+


Further Tribute to Ann Petry

April 29, 2011

My mother died on April 28 fourteen years ago. I still miss her as much as I did that first day. Here’s a brief tribute to her, from material that didn’t make it into At Home Inside.

Public appearances

  • Mother disliked lecturing and loathed “pressing the flesh.” She showed her displeasure by paraphrasing an anecdote from Arnold Toynbee. In response to an invitation to lecture, he is said to have responded, “If I just talk my fee is $1,000, but if I have to have tea with the ladies it’s $1,500.” She never told the people making the request about the premium for social interaction, but she adjusted her fees accordingly. More often than not she just declined the invitation.
  • When the mayor of the city of Philadelphia issued a proclamation in her honor, a reception followed in the rotunda of the public library. Mother was terrified. She asked for and received a chair, and got one for me, too. Then she grabbed my left hand and continued to grip it as people filed by to congratulate her. She pressed so hard the back of my hand began to hurt and my fingers went numb. I finally told her I had to go to the bathroom, but she wouldn’t let me leave until I found a substitute protector. So I rounded up my friend Eric, who was tall and athletic, to take my place. They began to chat and by the end of the conversation, he had joined the ranks of the Ann Petry fan club. They corresponded for years afterward.


  • Mother was generous with her time and her money. She remained a member of the NAACP until her death, I think partly because her good friend Judge Constance Baker Motley had been so active in pursuing the cause of integration in Brown vs. Board of Education and other cases. Even when the group was going through difficult times, I never heard her say anything negative about them.
  • Her other great cause was Planned Parenthood. She had been an advocate for a woman’s right to choose because she knew that banning abortions would condemn poor women to death while rich women would hop a plane to the nearest friendly state or country. Her support was personal: She had watched her father try to help frightened young women who arrived at his drugstore nearly dead from botched abortions. Her motto was, “Never again.”

Professor William Dawson

  • At Home Inside mentions her great admiration for the composer, conductor, and arranger William Dawson, who had retired from the faculty at Tuskegee for some years before they met. Mother wrote extensively in her journal after their conversation. “He said that he knows every part, has sung every part of the music he conducts, has committed it to memory, needs no score in order to conduct, has a blueprint he carries in his mind[.] … [He] always wanted to go to Africa, when he was a boy [of] 14 he worked on a farm (Tuskegee’s farm?) with an African boy – the boy taught him a song, and Dawson all those years later could still sing it – sang it or rather hummed it sitting on the sofa in our living room. [W]hen the boy learned to speak English Dawson asked him what the words meant. he said it was a war song, and the African war song resembled, was related t,. one of the American Negro spirituals.”

The Art of Tea

  • Making and consuming and reading about tea occupied a great deal of my mother’s time and thought. I did include some information but feel the need to round out this aspect of her life. I gave her products from Crabtree & Evelyn because she loved the tissue paper that accompanied their gifts, and at one point I gave her some of C&E tea. She thanked me, writing, “I don’t think I’ve told you how very much I’ve enjoyed the Crabtree & Evelyn Darjeeling that you gave me – ah, it’s a pleasure to drink it. Like Samuel Johnson I am ‘a hardened and shameless teadrinker … who with tea amused the evening, with tea solaced the midnight, and with tea welcomed the morning.’ Well, I don’t go in for all that evening and midnight tea drinking, but I do welcome the morning with it.” And she amused the afternoon with it, too. She approved of a comment in an NYTimes review of The Consolations of Tea, quoting a Japanese master of the tea ceremony that “tea has not the arrogance of wine, the self-consciousness of coffee, nor the simpering innocence of cocoa.”

Family Matters

  • One of the few anecdotes about the Lanes that Mother omitted from her short stories concerned her father who fought an Irishman and bit off the man’s ear. The circumstances remained vague but punctuated a discussion of how the Lanes despised the Irish, while the James family had an affinity for them because an Irish family had helped Sam James escape slavery in Virginia. The neighborhood where he bought his house in Hartford was mostly Irish, and when I read Mother’s notes I came to understand why we ate hot-cross buns every Lent and Irish soda bread on St. Patrick’s Day.
  • My mother was so talented in so many respects that I assumed she could do just about anything. I was eleven when I learned otherwise. Or at least I learned that she lacked the confidence in her abilities. We had an old Home brand sewing machine that had most likely been converted from treadle to electric. The motor sat on the outside, and the whole business had a minimum number of moving parts. One day I discovered that the thread on the reverse side of the fabric was no longer tight. I cadged one of Daddy’s screwdrivers and felt around until I found a small bolt that was loose. After I tightened it, the machine worked perfectly. Mother came in to tell me the machine wasn’t working. I showed her the seam I’d just finished. She stood and looked at me for a long minute. The expression on her face said, “Is this my child?” as if she could not believe someone carrying her genes had the capacity to accomplish such a thing. She asked, “Well, how in the world did you ever do that?” I explained and assured her that she could have done the same thing. She walked away, shaking her head, muttering, “Never in a million years, never in a million years.”


  • Mother waged a lifelong and mostly losing battle against clutter, but she maintained a sense of humor about it. She sent me the following (probably from the New Yorker) because we’d had a similar experience. “Father, ‘obviously a knowledgeable scavenger,’ and son pass a Dumpster full of building materials. ‘… the man’s interest fixed on four large red-plastic paint-bucket lids. Just as he was reaching for the found treasures, the boy cried out: ‘Pa! Resist! Resist!’ They left the scene without the lids.” Mother added, “I had to send you this because it reminds me of you saying, ‘Mother! Don’t!’ at Vassar. Very difficult for a ‘knowledgeable scavenger’ to walk past good stuff that’s being thrown away without acquiring some of same.” I don’t remember that episode, but I do remember a similar incident when she came to visit me in Philadelphia and stood longingly in front of a chair that someone had abandoned on the street. I finally dissuaded her from taking it by pointing out that she wouldn’t be able to carry it on the train and that I wasn’t about to ship it to Connecticut.

So there’s another little piece of my wonderful mother. I’m paying further tribute this afternoon by sipping tea, and tonight  I will conclude the tribute by making her favorite broccoli and pasta dish from The Greens cookbook. (“Quick Stuff”)  

Bad Hair Years

April 28, 2011

I subscribe to the Family Tree magazine newsletter. While it’s generally a marketing tool for the products FTM sells and I’ve never found anything relevant to my own search, it does contain useful information on family history and history generally. A couple of weeks ago it had a helpful compendium of Civil War era documents in acknowledgement of the attack on Fort Sumter.

I saved one post from a year ago about getting the most from each record, which contained an excellent analysis of the five “W”s and then some of examining a document. FTM also alerted me to “Who Do You Think You Are?” last season. Quick note: for reasons that escape me I haven’t looked at a single episode from this season. Plan to rectify that situation in the near future.

Some of the newsletters went missing, purged in the great email dump, so I missed the original request for nominees of family pictures with bad hair. Had I known, I would have entered the unidentified young lady whose photo was in a collection that my mother saved. It could not compete with the winners though I like to think it might have been in the running. They all made me feel better about some of the truly awful hair days I’ve had.

Those beauties also make the dos of the 1980s look low-key (except maybe for the second from left in the third row). The Afros look pretty tame as well, except for this one.

Who’s Your Mommy?

April 27, 2011

Let the mommy wars begin … quaffing. Or not. When I first saw Mommy’s Time Out pinot grigio in the liquor store a couple of years ago, I thought it was a joke as the date was somewhere around April 1. I had never known the owners to play tricks on their customers, but there’s always a first time. The first trick may have been that the wine is 70 percent garganega and 30 percent pinot. So why is it allowed to call itself PG?

Anyway, I’ve not gotten around to trying it, and on the basis of what I’ve read, I probably won’t. Nicole gave it positives: light, super refreshing, and delicate. Others were less enthusiastic. Wineguider, a fellow WordPress blogger, found it “very easy to drink” but Bob Galivan writing in the Examiner gave it one star out of five, calling it insipid, metallic, candy ginger. To quote Mad magazine, blecch.

Ditto for the red version titled “Rosso Primitivo” aka primitive. Wine Cask says the logo is the best thing about the wine, calling it biting, acidic, unbalanced, unrefined, and unpleasant. Since I’ve never seen it the store, I’m even not tempted to try it.

Now this cute wine is battling another cute wine, calling itself MommyJuice, which comes in chardonnay for the white and a red that’s mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

Mixed reviews, here, too. Simply Stacie, who was flogging the wines, opined that the red is smooth, moderate tannin with fruit, tobacco and florals, while the white was refreshing with a “lovely” fruit essence. Random Blogette rejected the red because she doesn’t like them – sort of like saying one doesn’t like cars. The white was described as lacking the oak of a “normal” chard but as clean and crisp. I hope every French vintner, most Australians, and a growing number of California wine makers will explain that oak was not “normal” for the first 400 years or so of winemaking.
Back to the fight. Juice wants a declaratory judgment that it’s not violating Time Out’s trademark. Trademark protection, as The Daily Mail points out, exists to prevent brand confusion. The site has a great side-by-side photo of the labels. I don’t think they could look more different: Time Out has clean lines and a spare image with minimal color, that line drawing of a chair in the corner facing the wall with a glass and bottle on a table within reach. Juice has what looks like an Anglo version of Kali, the Hindu goddess with four arms who is said to represent death (sort of), sex, and violence. The images of her are pretty gruesome, depicting her overcoming evil spirits with a head in one hand, a bowl to catch the blood in another, a trident in a third, and a blood-covered sickle knife in the fourth. She also wears a necklace of severed demon heads. Juice’s mommy is sitting in a yoga pose (recommended for before one drinks wine, not after), but she has more innocuous stuff in her four arms: computer, house, cooking utensils, and a teddy bear.

As for telling Time Out from Juice, the contents may be equally reprehensible, but somehow I think even the most wine-addled mommy could manage to distinguish the labels on the bottles.

From Whitman to Hughes to the Talent at Read to Succeed

April 26, 2011

Each time I go to Read to Succeed (“Notes for a Poetic Evening”) it gets better. I see folks I’ve seen before and some new faces. One of the women told me that she had read both of my books and had referred Can Anything Beat White? to the archivist at her church, the same church my cousin Harold James attended.

Monday night was poetry slam night, and it was electrifying, led off by Diamond Dove, who runs a theater school and creates poetry on the fly. In true improv style, he received suggestions in the form of words or phrases from the audience and created a lyrical, intense, work that included a piece of a song.

It may have been the longest and most professional poem but the students’ works fulfilled the Robert Graves requirement that it inspire enough to make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up.

The poems I enjoyed the most opened and closed with Langston Hughes’ line “I, Too, Sing America.” They were creative, caring, and beautiful. Re-reading the original when I came home, led me back to Hughes’ inspiration, Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” And even though it was written almost 150 years ago, tonight I heard the carpenter, the mechanic, the mother, and the seamstress singing their songs. And they were songs that Langston Hughes would recognize.

            Here’s what I read:



The shadows lie barely visible over the grates for warmth,

Their newspapers, bags and tattered things

form odd shapes with their huddled bodies.

The wide boulevard glitters with light,

Hiding the shadows,

The sparkles appear in limn,

flash of chrome, headlights in the night,

Neon offers the shadows a silhouette.

The shadows hide from the chrome,

the glare and the lines of  light.

A woman sparkles past,

Her hands, her neck, her ears, her feet,

Even the coat of the dead animals she wears

Glitter in the lines of chrome.

Only her eyes are dead.

The shadows move in show, approach the glitter,

She wraps herself in the protection of the light,

It flashes and refracts, but cannot burn within.

She moves.

The shadows claim her for their own.

Happy Earth Day!

April 23, 2011

This entry is actually a combination of stuff I saw Earth Day 2010 and today.

I’m not sure why it only gets a day, which seems to be expanding to a week, but that’s still not enough. It should be every day.

Anyway, to celebrate, I took a walk and cataloged the various flora and fauna along the way. Before I set out last year I saw the neighbor’s big black cat. He was on his side of the street investigating mole runs. He’ll probably celebrate by coming over later to torment Isis. [He moved last fall as did his co-resident who ate the baby robins last summer.]

I went last year to look at the hawk’s nest down the street. The happy pair of broad-shouldered hawks finished building their nest a couple of weeks before. The female kept squawking at the male because he wasn’t moving fast enough. She was sitting on eggs, but they hatched about two weeks later. Those birds terrorize the rest of the avian population, as well as bunnies, mice, and small household pets. But they sure are magnificent looking. The male screamed at me last year, and he got me again about a week ago. I guess I was too close to his food supply, which may or may not have included the two noisy puppies running around in their pen across the street from the tree where he perched.

Both this year and last I visited the fat little Shetland pony. His more elegant looking companion, the Morgan horse, has been replaced by another slightly larger and less friendly pony that isn’t as scruffy as the Shetland but not terribly prepossessing.

On the flora front, the daffodils and forsythia are still going strong  because of all the cool weather. [Both years.] I drove south on Route 17 through Glastonbury this afternoon and the main road became a version of the yellow brick road as every property had huge stands of forsythia out front. Deer hate them, so they’ll be around even when all else has been consumed.

The crocuses only just departed late last week. Early magnolias have burst out, as have tulips elsewhere. Mine look like they’ll explode some time next week, though the deer may have lunched upon a good portion of them. The lilac adored all the snow and has leaves and buds everywhere. It’s going to be a race to see whether they bloom in time for me to give my mother-in-law the annual gift of her favorite flower on Mother’s Day. The roses are just starting to leaf out. They suffered damage in the snow, so I didn’t have to do much pruning. The butterfly bush looks as though it is no more, ditto the clematis. I’ll definitely replace them both if needed.

It seems the wind just insists on littering the entire front of the property with branches from the tree. I thought I’d gotten all but the smallest. Then we had another storm, and the place is covered again. Larry retrieves them too, so at this point I think it’s a conspiracy to keep us scouring the lawn.

Skunk cabbage in the marshland down the street adores all the water under its feet, but there is nary a sprout of jack-in-the-pulpit to be found. Maybe later? Mr. Red-wing Blackbird warned me off his nest again. I love the way they pop up out of the marsh and sing their hearts out, only to flit away from the nest.

Will continue to celebrate Earth Day tomorrow by going for spring plants at the local firehouse sale. Also will ask my neighbor if the bear has come out of its cave or if he’s seen any coyotes recently.

Righthaven’s Judicial Rejection

April 22, 2011

It’s taken a day or so but here’s what I’ve gathered about Righthaven, its history of litigation, and the judicial ruling that unmasked its business arrangement with two newspapers.

Preface: I’m a fierce proponent of copyright protection and would normally side against any entity, individual or corporate, that rips off someone else’s work. Here’s the exception that proves the rule.

It’s almost impossible to find any information of any sort directly from Righthaven on the web (more about that below). Maybe it’s because anti-Righthaven posts have overwhelmed the search engine. Even excluding words like “troll” doesn’t pull up anything helpful.

The background: According to Wired Righthaven sued 250 or so bloggers, accusing them of using content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post. Based on the Review-Journal’s chaotic and hyperlocal web page, I’m not sure why anybody bothered. The Post is almost as bad, having fallen apart in the wake of the demise of the Rocky Mountain News. Righthaven’s big fish was Matt Drudge, who settled just two months after he was sued.

All was going along swimmingly for Righthaven, which settled a great many other cases, until the Electronic Frontier Foundation took up the cause of the Democratic Underground, which stood accused of using five sentences from the Review-Journal with a link to the balance of the article.

EFF describes itself as “the leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the digital world.” (Hope I didn’t just infringe on a copyright.) It sued Righthaven right back, alleging the company didn’t own the copyrights it was seeking to enforce.

The ruling: After much back and forth and to and fro, Judge Roger Hunt not only decided that the company did not own the copyrights, he released the underlying document so that the other folks defending themselves against Righthaven could have access to the information has well.

The document: What Judge Hunt released was the agreement between Righthaven and the Review-Journal’s parent company, Stephens Media, which did own the copyrights to the photos and words. Paid Content reported that the agreement allowed Stephens to decide whom to sue. As a further indication that Stephens was a full partner, the two companies split the proceeds of the suits equally. Judge Hunt rightfully concluded that these provisions are not indicia of Righthaven’s exclusive control, as it had been asserting. It must have really infuriated the judge, too. In fact the Citizen Media Law Project says that’s exactly what Righthaven did in the Colorado case against an autistic, severely diabetic twenty-year-old.

Writing in the Las Vegas Sun, a competitor of the Review-Journal, Steve Green opines that Righthaven’s lawsuits have actually brought news organizations less copyright protection because Righthaven lost the two cases that have gone to court and that copyrights obtained for the purpose of suing the alleged infringer are worth less than copyrights intended to protect content.

As mentioned, it’s almost impossible to find any direct comments from Righthaven. Green says that the company is co-owned by a Las Vegas attorney and the Stephens. Besides Wired’s quote from the CEO that leaseback to the newspapers didn’t diminish Righthaven’s ownership, there was a statement from an attorney in Green’s online column that contributes absolutely nothing.

Stay tuned for Righthaven’s response in early May. Meanwhile, think about Citizen Media Law Project’s statement that the doctrine of fair use could remain even more confused well into the future, which does no service to anyone.

Library Kindle

April 21, 2011

Quick update: Isis returned from the vet in much better shape this year than last. She was still groggy and I limited her food. She staggered a bit, but then she crawled into my office chair and has been asleep for the past two hours. Hence I’m now using my laptop as an actual laptop.  I predict she’ll be back to normal tomorrow. The only distressing thing is that she seems to have lost another pound and she is eating more. We’ll see how things go over the next few weeks as the temps heat up.

This entry was supposed to be about Righthaven, but I need another day to wrap my brain around the implications of media companies that sell and lease back their copyrights, the impact on innocent (and not so innocent) people who seem to be hijacking things other people write, and the limits of fair use.

So for today I’ll explore what I suspect will be an ongoing issue, which is using Kindle to borrow library books. They will arrive on the scene toward the end of the year. Everyone who has written about the issue agrees that many questions remain. My first one: When will my local library join? It probably won’t because the numbers are limited to 11,000, but with Interlibrary Loan, a girl can always hope that somewhere in Connecticut there’ll be a Kindle portal available.

Paid Content thinks the big issues will be how many books will be available. Why not all of them, just as publishers offer their dead trees-and-ink editions to libraries? The other issue for the electronic economic compendium of blogs, tweets and so forth is how many copies of each book a library will be able to “loan” at a time. I don’t have an answer for that one but there’s no reason that libraries could acquire only one or two copies and have an electronic “hold” system in place just as they do for DTAI editions.

For Gigaom, which bills itself as “tech news, analysis and trends,” the big question is right in the headline: ownership rules all, and Gigaom wants to know who or what has electronic hands on the goods. The corollary, which will be key to privacy experts, is how much Amazon and others will be able to see the notes that people can leave. Amazon says only the borrower will be able to see the notes, but if the patron borrows or buys the book later on, the notes will remain. Gigaom is concerned, rightfully, that Amazon may change the rules. (Check out the Google grab, which started with out of copyright books and is now wending its way through federal court.) On the Kindle issue, I almost never write in my own books. If I want to make notes, I write them on a piece of paper or in a computer file, so I won’t be writing in Kindle editions. I do see the attractiveness to Amazon for setting up a Facebook-y, Twitter-y, “meet singles in your area who make the same kind of notes in our ebooks.” I’m giving myself the creeps, and the cat has now replaced the computer in my lap, so it’s time to file.

No More Migrations

April 20, 2011

The first entry of this blog (except for the promo for the book) was “Tribune Troubles,” which appeared on MySpace on December 8, 2008, and here on December 9.

Annual Vet Trip

April 20, 2011

WARNING: Don’t eat while reading this post.

My concentration is thready today as I have to take the Goddess for her annual checkup, aka lube, oil, and filter. In this case, shots, nail trim, teeth cleaning.

Last year (“Significant Impressions) turned out to be worse than the post and the followup portrayed as I think the antibiotics upset her stomach and it took her about a month to recover. Also, after she wolfed down all the food she threw it all up again. So I’ve resolved to give her small bits when she first comes in and encourage her to go to sleep in her own bed.

But first we’ve got to get through tonight, in which we withhold food and water after 10 p.m., including plants we have growing in water. (Why was it 11 last year?) Then put up with a night of pissed-off, hungry, thirsty puss.

Tomorrow a.m. I’ll put on a heavy sweatshirt before I try to get her in the crate because she manages to dig in and hold on. It may take some time to get her in the crate – last year I had to move the bed — ours, not hers. Then we get in the car. At an average distance 0.1 of a mile from the house she starts to dry heave and foam at the mouth. She used to throw up but since she has no food or water, there are no productive results. I do think her drop in weight in earlier years had to do with vomiting up a pound or so of food on the ride over.

The vet’s office is seven miles away but takes about 20 minutes because of stop signs, lights, and school buses. It is the longest 20 minutes of my life. Once we arrive, she’s OK if there are no other animals around, particularly canines. In the presence of canines, she growls and hisses. Once I drop her off, I’ll come home and pace nervously until it’s time to pick her up. When we arrive home, I will give her a SMALL amount of food and hope that she’s OK. Stay tuned …