Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Boy Scout Jamboree, Obama, and Dirty Jobs

So in case you missed it, the Boy Scouts of America turned 100 this year. They celebrated this anniversary with a fantastic Jamboree over the past 9 days. A week ago, on Wednesday, opening ceremonies were held. Many dignitaries attended including Miss America and Sgt. Slaughter. The Secretary of Defense was there. President Obama was not.

Now it might be presumptuous to expect the President of the United States to attend your birthday party. Even your 100th. Maybe the most you should expect is a shout-out from Willard Scott (is he even still on TV?). A Presidential visit is not without precedent. In fact, each of Obama's three immediate predecessors made the trip during their presidency. It's not like it would be a huge undertaking -- Fort A. P. Hill is a mere 70 miles or so from the White House, so about a twenty minute ride in Air Force One. Obama did send a taped message (you can read the transcript here: for the big arena show on Saturday night. All 95 seconds of it.

This week also marked another centennial anniversary. President Obama did attend that one --on Thursday last week. The National Urban League Centennial Conference was the locale for a nearly 45 minute address. Also on Thursday was an airing of The View that featured the President. It was taped on Wednesday at about the same he could have been welcoming the Boy Scouts to the Jamboree opening ceremonies.

Mike Rowe is the host of the popular cable show "Dirty Jobs." He is also an Eagle Scout. He was the "Big Name" entertainment at the arena show and gave a very impressive and heart-felt speech about what scouting did for him. He repeated the Scout Law: "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave and reverent." There was one quality he left off -- clean. He then proceeded to give a speech in defense of dirt. And it was brilliant. He spoke of his first boy scout meeting in which he found himself bruised and bleeding within the first 5 minutes. He told his father when he picked him up after that first meeting that he didn't think scouting was for him. Mike relayed many humorous vignettes of his scouting career, all with keeping in mind his premise, that "A scout is clean... but not afraid to get dirty." The essential point he stressed, though, really made an impression. He stated that what scouting gave him is "the ability to be uncomfortable. And like it." Anyone who has spent a seemingly endless damp night in a tent, frozen to the bone, and just plain miserable knows what he is talking about. He said that scouting is about being out of your element and stretching your comfort zone.

If you haven't seen Mike's TV show, let me set the stage a bit. He spends a day doing the job of ordinary men and women who have unusual and dirty jobs. In most cases there is either an element of danger or disgust, and often there is both. So he is continually stretching his comfort zone as he wrangles and tags alligators, or collects bat guano, or retrieves golf balls from water hazards. The lessons that scouting imparts on our youth do not give one the ability to do any specific job. Instead, they offer a launching pad where every job is within reach. Especially the dirty and difficult jobs.

A key component of President Obama's campaign platform and current policy has been to highlight and promote voluntary service. He credits his work as a community organizer as giving direction to his life, and cites his work in Chicago as an example of how one person can make a difference. Yet here was an opportunity to celebrate our young people who are out there in their communities and doing good turns daily. There are over 4 million scouts in the US, making the boy scouts the largest youth service organization in the country. President Obama is currently the honorary president of Boy Scouts of America and the best he can do is a video message less than 100 seconds long. Not even 100 seconds for 100 years...

I return to Mike Rowe's comments and am struck with whom President Obama chose to spend time last week: the ladies of "The View," and fellow lawyers and community activists at the National Urban League. Not exactly stretching his comfort zone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Banana Bread, Gluten-free and Tasty!!

A friend suggested that I start posting my recipes here. Here's the first:

1 cup rice flour
1 cup buckwheat flour (I used millet flour -- didn't have buckwheat)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup margarine or butter (I used margarine)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 lb peeled bananas (I used 4 average sized ones)
4 large eggs

3/4 cup chopped nuts. The original recipe didn't call for nuts. I used walnuts. Pecans would also work.

Preheat oven to 350

Sift flours with baking powder and salt. (you'll need a separate sifter to avoid cross contamination. I didn't sift and it came out fine)
Beat the butter, sugar and bananas together until smooth (this was a bit odd because the butter was not melted so it was a bit lumpy.) and then briefly stir in the eggs.

Stir this into the flour mixture until blended. Add nuts and stir in.

Pour into a large loaf pan and bake for about 1 - 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer comes out clean and the bread is just firm.

I used a tapered bread pan that measured a little more than 8" x a little more than 4" at the top and it was too small -- the batter, which was very wet, overflowed and dripped. I'm more familiar with yeast breads that are more dough than batter. Anyway, fill a pan about 2/3 full to avoid the overflow. Also, the top was too browned. Probably should cover with foil after it has set, maybe 45 minutes in to the bake.

This recipe would work well as a muffin. We all tried it tonight and enjoyed it. Matthew had a second slice.

Also, this recipe had a lemon frosting that I omitted. 1 tbls lemon juice mixed with 4 tbls of confectioners sugar then drizzled over the loaf.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Modern Tales of The Pasquinade

This year I attended my 25-year High School reunion. As a senior in high school, and because it was more interesting than schoolwork, I created an underground newpaper, and called it The Pasquinade (pasquinade: a satire or lampoon, especially one that ridicules a specific person, traditionally written and posted in a public place. For a month I had bugged a few classmates for articles worthy of publication. Only a few responded with actual written material. Once I had enough copy assembled, I spent the better part of a weekend copiously editing, typing and laying out the four page masterpiece.

It was an instant sensation -- the lede was a serious expose' about grade swapping to maintain athletic eligibility. The inside pages were chock full of quotes from friends and teachers (taken out of context for maximum humor), silly inside jokes, and general irreverance. It had a glorious run of exactly one issue. Springtime arrived soon after the release of Volume 1, and this teenaged boy's mind turned from typewriters to tubetops. That, and being self-published meant I was out of money. A few months later school was over and it was off to college and all thoughts of The Pasquinade faded like sundrenched newsprint.

Fast forward to March, 2009, and my friend from childhood and current Facebook friend posts The Pasquinade in his photos. He mentions that since it's been 25 years the statute of limitations was up and the responsible party should come forward. So I did, to a surprising chorus of huzzahs. I really didn't think it would have been remembered all these years later, but apparently the stir it created was indelible. If I'd known the impact it made on the collective psyche of my high school classmates, I might have been tempted to include some of my admittedly unconventional political thoughts, or even to have written a second issue. Alas, that one edition will have to remain exhibit one for my Presidential library.

So in November we had our 25th reunion. I reconnected with many old friends, but was pleasantly surprised to see Ann, the star athlete and one of my few confidants from that era. We reminisced, and spoke of our common experience with a very special teacher who took a personal interest in both of our lives. And then Ann mentioned that she was currently working back at the old high school as a guidance counselor. One of the anecdotes she related was that The Pasquinade was alive and well, and now being used as a teaching tool. REALLY? Are you kidding me??!!!! My underground newspaper had been co-opted! Now, in between lessons of mainstream journalism, was my anti-establishment screed as show-and-tell! While certainly there is some ego stroking knowing The Pasquinade is still being reviewed, the dissident in me is absolutely horrified to know that my underground newspaper has become part of the curriculum.

This is not unprecedented; in fact it is the norm. Ideas of one generation that seem radical on the surface at first exposure, gradually become mainstream. By the time the next generation reaches positions of power, it's not even a second thought. Consider this: in my lifetime, there have been two black and two female Secretaries of State, two female Vice Presidential candidates, 3 female and 2 black Supreme Court justices, and of course our current, foreign-born (JUST KIDDING!!) black President. A generation ago, a woman's place was in the house and a black's was at the back of the bus. And that's just politics. Changes across the board in entertainment, sports, business and journalism have opened doors to those not born male and white, unlike during the generation of my parents. And so this is a natural progression, where the radical becomes mainstream, the avante-garde mundane, and what's left of The Who plays the Superbowl. Or even that the editor of an underground newspaper would someday be a school board member. Still, it does my heart good to know that I have never lost my snark nor my willingness to speak out, even at some personal risk.