Monday Open Thread

Good Morning, MTs. How are you today? A few stories that caught my eye:

It was the Tonys on Sunday night! I missed it all, of course, but thanks to Our Katie, who faithfully quipped her way through the broadcast, I didn’t feel too out of it. My congratulations to “Memphis”, “Red” and to winners including Denzel Washington and Catherine Zeta Jones, who won for her role in “A Little Night Music”. I entertain fantasies of seeing Night Music when we’re in NYC; I wonder if I can convince DH to go to a show on a date… Anyway, this LA Times article captures the highlights, although I leave it to you all to fill in the minutae, please!

I spent part of this morning out in my garden doing my winter planting – broccoli and swiss chard seedlings went into the ground, as did broad bean and pea seeds, plus a general tidy and trim of the branches. But summer is never far from my mind, particularly summer’s gardening bounty, all summed up in the perfectly ripe tomato. As such, I read this article a few weeks ago with great interest. I’d never heard of growing plants upside down before, but I’m going to give it a try with at least a few tomato and cucumber plants.

Upside-down gardening, primarily of leggy crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, is more common partly because of the ubiquity of Topsy Turvy planters, which are breathlessly advertised on television and have prominent placement at retailers like Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Bed Bath & Beyond. According to the company that licenses the product, Allstar Products Group in Hawthorne, N.Y., sales this year are twice last year’s, with 20 million sold since the planter’s invention in 2005. Not to be outdone, Gardener’s Supply and Plow & Hearth recently began selling rival upside-down planters. “Upside-down gardening is definitely a phenomenon,“ said Steve Wagner, senior product manager for Plow & Hearth.

The advantages of upside-down gardening are many: it saves space; there is no need for stakes or cages; it foils pests and fungus; there are fewer, if any, weeds; there is efficient delivery of water and nutrients thanks to gravity; and it allows for greater air circulation and sunlight exposure.

Sounds interesting to me. Has anyone tried this? How are your gardens growing?

And Finally: Ozzy Osbourne may contribute a lasting legacy beyond heavy metal, a music festival and a reality show performance that forever shattered the Father Knows Best image. The recovering drug and alcohol addict’s genome is being studied to see how it is that he’s consumed enough substances to kill several horses yet still survived, according to this article. No word yet on whether it’s the bat blood, the genes or his wife, Sharon, that really holds the key to his longevity.

So what’s up with you? As always, it’s an open thread, so have at it!


Monday Open Thread

Good morning, MTs. Hope you all had a good weekend. A few stories here that caught my eye:

I’ve always loved Shakira’s music and admired her passion for improving the lives of poor children in her native Colombia and across Latin America. But this profile of her in the New York Times Sunday magazine only increases my respect for her. The journalist follows Shakira to a conference that seeks to gain assurance and financial support from governments for early childhood education. Shakira works through ALAS, a non-profit set up by her and various other Latin American singers and performers.

Celebrity philanthropy, rock ’n’ roll philanthropy, is no longer a novelty, but what Shakira and ALAS were trying was indeed new. They were looking to use the power of pop to help the populations not of distant impoverished lands but of the Ibero-American world from which they come. They have a policy focus — early-childhood nutrition, education and medical care — that is on a scale beyond the reach of private charity. It requires the steady effort of the state. It cannot be addressed by rich countries’ check-writing. So the trick is to take pop celebrity, marry it to big business and permanently alter the way Latin American governments help care for the young and the poor. What the golden-haired young woman staring at her laptop was trying to do was a tall order, given the fragility of celebrity influence, the dubious track record of Latin American governments in providing social services and the lengthening shadow of a global recession that was straitening everyone’s budget. But she is not someone whom it would be reasonable to underestimate.

In reading the profile, I learned that Shakira had donated money to build four schools in and around Barranquilla, Colombia, her home city. Wow – talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Definitely worth a read, IMHO.

In other news, this article from The Age examines why so few women have become chefs in restaurants in the past. It’s a combination of reasons – relatively poor pay (a chef can earn around A$50,000 for upwards of 60 hrs/week), unfriendly work hours for women who have families, and a  hostile work environments dominated by men. Some of these things may be changing, including the sexual harassment.

Both Martini and Sibley say kitchens have changed over the past two decades. Sexual harassment is unacceptable. Unwieldy, heavy kitchen machinery has made way for lighter, smaller slicers, mixers and stick blenders, making it physically easier for women and therefore more appealing.

“Who wants to whip Italian meringue by hand or pass hand-chopped chicken through a sieve?” asks Sibley. “Girls aren’t stupid.”

The improved conditions have encouraged more women to train as chefs. Twenty years ago, cookery students at Melbourne’s William Angliss Institute catering college were 80 per cent male; now, males make up 60 per cent of the students.

Have you ever worked as a chef in a restaurant? Have you wanted to but been discouraged by one or more of the above-mentioned factors?

Finally, congratulations to Liza Minelli for winning a Tony award for her show, “Liza’s At The Palace.“ I love that woman.

What’s up with you today, MTs?


A Broadway connection

We are very excited in our house – a Broadway musical that we have a small connection to did very well in the Tony Nominations!  The show is In The Heights, and if you have a chance to come to NYC to see it, I can’t recommend it strongly enough!

Leah and I saw this show just at the end of its off-Broadway run, and we told everyone we know how wonderful it is. Then it moved to Broadway this winter, and took off.

“In the Heights” is the story of a (mostly Dominican) neighborhood in Washington Heights, and what it means to be “home” and who your “family” is, etc.  It’s the kind of show that draws you in immediately and keeps you focussed for the whole time.  

And, this new musical, by a very young Latino guy,  got THIRTEEN Tony Nominations!!  It definitely caught the critics by surprise – one radio guy I heard was stunned that the show had done so well with fans and in the nominations!

Our connection?  It’s a small one.  But Lin Miranda, who wrote the story and stars in the show, graduated from my daughter’s HS, and has been a substitute teacher there in the recent past (not anymore, I”m sure, now that he’s a Broadway sensation!).