Thursday, September 26, 2013

Barilla Pasta

Another bad business decision and a reply from Barilla.

I posted this on my cooking blog Dinner's Ready andI'm posting it here cuz I won't support a bigot with every twirl of spaghetti or mouthful of ziti and I hope whoever reads this will boycott Barilla as well.

I love to cook, I love to eat even more. But alas, now even Dinner can be political.

Ever since I discovered that Barilla pasta sold in the US is no longer imported from Italy I thought that I would stop buying it.

I will not buy Barilla pasta in the future. Basta, finito. I will go back to Ronzoni or an Italian import.

Used without permission
Barilla's response to my email informing them of my decision to buy a competitor's pasta:

Dear Frank,

At Barilla, we consider it our mission to treat our consumers and partners as our neighbors – with love and respect – and to deliver the very best products possible. We take this responsibility seriously and consider it a core part of who we are as a family-owned company.

We are working hard to learn from this experience, and appreciate you taking the time to share your comments and valuable feedback.




Used without permission

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A New (and Improved?) Provincetown

Finally got around to sorting out some photos I took on vacation. Same old vacation, same old beach, but a brand new PTown.

As my handful of readers know, Leon and I vacation in Provincetown, MA every year, usually in September when the crowds have thinned out and the sun is warm and the skies are blue. This year found a much cooler climate, some cloudy days, a little rain and unusually windy. The beauty of the Province lands is timeless. But the town itself is another story.

New Provincetown as I now call it is close to 99% refurbished. In addition to new infrastructure, like water and sewer pipes which they were working on in the spring and which one doesn't see, there is new pavement on Commercial Street and brick paved sidewalks that  are relatively even with smooth transitions onto the street at each crosswalk. Now one does not have to be so aware of one's step but only of the cars especially the quiet ones that run on electric motors and the bicyclists who go faster than the cars.

The New Provincetown has been getting more and more expensive every year, slowly but surely pricing out even the middle classes. The gap is widening.

I don't know how much money the gays from Boston and New York and wherever make but five nights in PTown - 5 nights being the minimum for many guest houses - can run a small fortune.  If there was a railroad in PTown, Leon and I would be on the other side.

We stay at the campground in PTown - a facility that offers electricity, water, location and not much else. No sewer hookups, no pool, no WiFi, no free showers, no soap, no paper towels. But they have location - and at what we consider an outrageous price for a campground - $59 per night - they are well below what the hotels and guest houses are getting. We eat in most meals and pack our own lunches for the beach.

Our big treat at the cafe cost us $14 for a chai, a coffee, a peanut butter whoopi pie and two lemon cookies. We also had a gelato once and kahlua and white russian ice cream once.

The old Provincetown oozed quaintness with hodge-podge paved streets and uneven sidewalks and required extra vigilance while walking through town. 

There are new colors and new businesses replacing the older ones whose owners retired or died or left for warmer climates.

A lot of the old shops - the few that are left - are tired looking. And the newer shops, all selling overpriced goods, fill any empty spaces each season.

The Lobster Pot is an old fixture in PTown. Many people return year after year to eat there because they have made it a tradition. Too bad because I think it is a very expensive tradition. But Leon and I cannot afford, or should I say choose not to spend our meager vacation funds on eating there. We go to one of the restaurants that offer $15 early bird specials - Fanizzi's or Waterford among a few others.

Two moderately priced restaurants are gone - Tip for Tops'n and Michael Shays. 

The old stand-by Tip for Tops'n where you could get Portuguese kale soup and broiled cod and other Portuguese style food and decent seafood for a very reasonable price and a standard breakfast of a few bucks has been replaced by a new restaurant that we did NOT even go into, where the a la carte entrees run from $23 to $30 or more and the prices on the wine list are out of sight.

During the past 10 years or so many buildings have been resided, repainted, rebuilt, refurbished, remodeled removed or resized. Most now have brand new clapboards or cedar shingles, nice but a very different ambiance to the town. It is all very tidy and crisp.

Even the old Raunch has a new look and a new name.

Flowers are always nice.

Even the old meat rack has become gentrified.

Styles change every year, not always for the better.

The eye candy varies in sweetness and the rest of the scenery is always nice too.

Over at the campground is where we call home.

There are a lot of gay/lesbian clientele there and some love to decorate.

The  National Seashore has a new pavilion too. All those fines collected by the National Park Service rangers by ambushing nude sunbathers over at Herring Cove and Boys Beach added up. Fancy digs.

The natural beauty of the Province Lands doesn't change.

Till next summer....

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Tribute to the Sisters of Mercy

These are the values I was taught in Catholic school. There are some vociferous Catholics, some who are politicians, some who are bishops, who were apparently absent during all of these lessons.

 LINK to a Video about the Sisters of Mercy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pope Francis Interview - First Impressions

I've read the Pope Francis interview in America magazine. I cannot offer a scholarly or intellectual commentary on Francis' take on the Catholic Church in 2013, but I will say, "Wow!"

Francis is not Benedict, and while he gives Benedict some credit for stepping aside, he also is quite critical of the direction and emphasis the Church has demonstrated under John Paul 2 and Benedict 16. Francis is a teacher and a priest of the type I admired and remember while I grew up and throughout my education in Catholic institutions from grade school through graduate school.

Francis is reminding us, first of all of the gospel of unconditional love, of inclusiveness, of embracing all people regardless of whether or not their hands are washed, of works of mercy, of service to the poor, and, at the risk of reading into it too much, of the primacy of conscience.

Francis speaks highly of the mystics, especially fellow Jesuits, for whom he seems to have special affection. In my limited understanding, the mystics were contemplatives and teachers who had a reverence for the mysteries of the universe and of life and interpreted these mysteries in light of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Their emphasis on mystery resulted in their profound humility and an openness to what is called the Holy Spirit.

Francis, in praising the mystics, seems closer to espousing a "creation-centered spirituality" than he is to any moralistic theology. What a refreshing change. Dare I say prophetic?

Use your own vocabulary here, all major religious groups and philosophies and even atheists, have a vocabulary to describe the experience of transcending the quotidian. In other words, or to over simplify, the mystics took the stance that we ultimately have no real power; that authoritarian control is not real control, that the creative mystery is beyond our control; that we are, in fact, a part of that mystery, that we stand in awe before that mystery. This is my reading of the Francis interview.

Francis talks about discernment and making mistakes, and being a sinner, and learning and evolving. These are dynamic concepts, processes, not the principles of JP2 and B16 which by comparison were static and set-in-stone and black/white.

Francis embraces history and this place and time in history; and that our world is constantly changing and the Church must listen and as a result, change too.

He is saying, finally, that there are present realities, real people, real lives, real suffering, here today that the Church cannot ignore. He mentions gays, divorced and remarried Catholics, women using contraception or who have had an abortion - to say that they each have, live, a unique set of circumstances, unique lives and journeys, and that those lives and journeys deserve our respect. That God can be found in each and every person. What a concept. Haven't we heard this somewhere before?

What I consider one of Francis' most profound statements is this: (Emphasis mine)

"We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.” 

Francis, as well as saying that pastors should be among and in touch with their flock, seems to be wrist-slapping here and I'm sure some will see it as a slap in the face. The many cardinals and bishops and priests who have towed the line under John Paul and Benedict, especially those who were elevated to cardinal or bishop by them have just had the rug pulled out from under them.

And that is what worries me the most. There are very powerful conservative Fascist forces within the Church, Opus Dei and Legionnaires of Christ among them, that I would bet are planning a strategy at this moment to derail Francis. Assassination in this climate is, deplorably, an all too real possibility.

I can see the seeds of a novel, which I would write if I had the talent and the background knowledge:

Two factions of the Catholic church, those loyal to the sitting Pope Francis and those loyal to the Pope Emeritus, Benedict vie for power. Benedict's supporters maintain that he is the true pope and that Francis was elected fraudulently. Benedict loyalists have unlimited money and influence and wage a very effective campaign to oust Francis. Benedict is very ill and is merely a puppet of the heretic church that wants to complete the overthrow of Vatican II reforms and make the church into a purist, politically powerful organization. The church of the people, led by Francis does not have money or power. They are no match for the heretics. World events play into the story to make it relevant to the rest of the world and people around the globe have an interest in the outcome....

I hope my novel never becomes reality. I wish Francis good health and safety and a long and effective time in office. Francis eschews optimism while favoring hope. While I am not quite optimistic, I do hope.

I was not impressed with his discourse on the role of women in the Church - his language seemed much too paternalistic and sexist - he still seems to have a we/them vocabulary, "we" meaning we male clerics and "them" meaning those (macho) nuns and perhaps some lay women as well. I thought his comments were rather condescending, especially the reference to female machismo "because a woman has a different make-up than a man" which subtly implies an inferior status.

NOTE: There was an omission/mistranslation in Francis' comments about women see NCR -What the Pope really said.

I am impressed that he spoke about the things he enjoys - listening to music and reading and watching movies and that he appreciates great art - and that he is quite adept at discussing the arts. This part of the interview was refreshing.

As an aside, Cardinal Dolan on NBC's Today show this morning was laughable. Talk about a politician. Talk about someone who hasn't the integrity to think for himself but checks to see which way the wind is blowing before opining. His boisterous and overplayed cheerfulness is so phony and so obviously practiced. It is a shield he's constructed to protect him and to deflect any attempt to discern what he is really thinking, or if he thinks at all.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Interjecting Some Frivolity In The Blogosphere

While I was on vacation I continued to peruse the blogs and there is always so much negative depressing, anti-gay, hateful news going around.

So I want to give you all a little escape from reality.

While I was going through my vacation pics and preparing some comments on the New Provincetown, MA, I happened to search for this movie - one of Leon's and my favorite escapist movies - on Netflix (to no avail) -  because our copy is on video tape and the VCR no longer works.

But someone put it on YouTube and I'm posting the link HERE. I imagine that it will not be there after the copyright owners find it on YouTube. This is the full hour and a half movie, unfortunately it is not in HD.

OK, folks, you're either going to love it or hate it.  It is so bad, it's good. It is so straight, it's gay. It is campy and funny and full of great lines, visual humor and eye candy (Jonathon Schaech). It's the Australian blockbuster (?) Welcome to Woop Woop by the same people who brought you Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

It's about an all but abandoned uranium mining town in the Outback that is inhabited by a group of residents that refused to leave when the mine was shut down. They avoid interbreeding by going out to find a mate and bring the person back to Woop Woop as a virtual prisoner. The town is ruled by Big Daddy and there are some interesting, to say the least, characters among the populace.

They are all stuck in time and have only two Hollywood movies that they watch: South Pacific and The Sound of Music. The movie is basically about Jonathon Schaech's character trying to escape the town and the wrath of Big Daddy.

If you decide to watch this movie - be sure to catch the clip after the ending credits. Enjoy!


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