Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fan Mail from Some Flounder!? Delmar Lemming Summer Project

As the heat settles onto the hills and the green goes brown, I suggest some quiet summer pursuits that may take you back in time. In the days before instant communication. People sometimes sat down with a piece of paper and pen and wrote letters. Now if you can't think of anyone familiar to write to, I suggest fan mail.

I mention this because I just saw the Mike Leigh film All or Nothing which featured a premier performance by all the central characters, but particularly the taxi driver (played by Tim Spall) and his disfunctional family. All four of them are superb in this film. In fact, I was tempted to write to Mike Leigh himself as I do admire him inordinately. But instead, I have chosen Tim Spall as my subject.

After sobbing through the final scene of the film (don't worry, I am not going to give anything away --- you have to see it for yourself!), I resolved to direct a gushy fan mail to this amazing actor. I was reminded of the Bullwinkle cartoon moose line: "Fan mail from some flounder?" But I answered, as Rocky the Squirrel did in his day No, this is what I really call a message!"

So watched this space and tomorrow I will run my fan mail missive by you. Happy summer fun and diversion! Delmar Lemming

Friday, July 16, 2010

Angelique Kidjo Brings Magic to Las Palmas

Angelique Kidjo (http://www.kidjo.com/), the voice of West Africa, lit Las Palmas on fire last evening with her wonderful mix of soul, blues, pop and melodic African rhythms.
The great expanse behind Perez Galdós theater was packed with devoted fans, dancing and singing along with the magical voice of Benin.
Ms Kidjo and her exquisite band provided an amazing array of songs from her childhood in the 1960s. In addition to the infectious African pop beat, she sang a stunning tribute to James Brown. "When I was a child, I wanted to be James Brown more than anything in the world," she announced in lovely English. "But we all know that is impossible...everyone in Africa knows there is only one James Brown."
No sooner had she finished this tribute, then Curtis Mayfield's ghost appeared miraculously in the form of "Move On Up!" with its very positive wishes. This tune was dedicated to all the people of Africa, as Ms Kidjo called for unity for this great continent.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Red Onions = Cebolla Roja

The red onions have been harvested with only a few tears. We tied them in bundles and hung them in the barn to dry. It creates a great atmosphere in that shadowy space.
The sight of tose onions reminded me of another onion harvest in France many years ago. I had just finished reporting for the Greenfield Recorder and took some time out to milk goats, make cheese and buttermilk and till the soil.
Our onion crop was spectacular that year in southern France, near Montpellier. On one sultry summer afternoon in the blazing sun, my picking partner, Simone, and I found ourselves weary and without water way out in the field.
"My throat is parched," I complained. "And my mouth is as dry as a lime kiln!"
My friend Simone, an ever resourceful Swissman, picked up a big onion from the ground. He peeled that precious treasure and -- I swear to you -- took a big bite of that crunchy onion. He bid me to do the same. It was unbelievable, quenching our thirst with the juice of an onion! -- Delmar Lemming

What? You've Never Heard of Sue Grafton??

In case you have never heard of Sue Grafton, her detective novels begin with A Is for Alibi and run through the alphabet until they reach U Is for Undertow. This amazing author promises to finish her series with Z Is for Zero which will end in 1990 when Kinsey Millhone turns 40. I think that's it anyway.
I mentioned about the paucity of mobile phones and PCs but the novels are always interesting in that they are largely set outside the politics of their day. We do not get any references to the presidents of the day or much of that arena. There is some references to the Vietnam War in O Is for Outlaw but this is in reference to a Vietnam War vet who cannot get it together.
Anyway, I plan to use the Sue Grafton series in class next fall as I have gotten ahold of some of the CD audio readings of Judy Kaye. She brings the novels to life in a very compelling way and it should be fun to play short extracts in class throughout the academic year. Again, enjoy your summer reading! -- Delmar Lemming

Kinsey Millhone, Recommended Summer Reading

(Delmar Lemming, like most of his neighbors in Santa Brigida, is laying low with the heat this summer and recommends reading a good novel. We have been working our way through the Sue Grafton detective series with its offbeat sleuth Kinsey Millhone. In case, you have never heard of her, here is a little biography to get you started. Happy reading!!)

According to Sue Grafton's wonderful thrillers, Kinsey Millhone was born in 1950. Her unusual first name was her mother's surname before her marriage to Kinsey's father. Kinsey lived with her parents until they were killed in a car wreck when she was five and survived in the car for several hours before she was rescued. She then moved in with her aunt (her mother's sister) Gin, who was the only relative still in contact with her mother, the rest of the family having disapproved of the marriage and cut off contact with her. From her Aunt Gin, Kinsey took on eccentricities, including a taste for peanut-butter and pickle sandwiches. In high school, Kinsey was a self-described pot-smoking delinquent. After three semesters at the local community college she realized that academic life was not for her and she joined the Santa Teresa police force. After two years, Kinsey decided life in uniform wasn't for her, and quit the police squad to become an investigator for California Fidelity, an insurance company. Eventually, she became a self-employed private investigator, solving various disappearances and murders, clearing names and dodging hitmen. Kinsey is short and weighs about 118 pounds. She has short, dark, thick hair that she trims with nail scissors. She has little interest in her own physical appearance. Her wardrobe boasts mostly jeans and turtleneck sweaters, though she also owns an extremely wrinkle-resistant "little black dress" for those occasions when dressing up is unavoidable. As a typical Californian, however, she loves physical fitness and jogs three miles every day. She is also a junk food fiend. She is hampered by a ringing in the ears, caused when she shot an attacker from inside a trash can. Kinsey has been divorced twice. Her first husband, Mickey, an ex-cop, appears in O is for Outlaw and her second husband, Daniel, a struggling musician, appears in E is for Evidence.

You could term Kinsey a loner, with no children, she lives in an extremely compact studio apartment converted from a single-car garage. Her landlord is an octogenarian, Henry Pitts, a retired commercial baker who enjoys crossword puzzles; Kinsey harbors a crush on Henry. Henry's family are of durable stock, his siblings all being well into their 90s. Kinsey has had several relationships in the series, beginning with Charlie Scorsoni, continuing through Jonah Robb and Robert Dietz, until the more recent novels in which she has begun an affair with longtime friend Cheney Phillips, a police detective.
Having lived for most of her life with very few family members (for most of the series, her "family" consisted of Henry and his siblings, plus the local tavern owner, Rosie (who married one of Henry's brothers), and generous employees in nearby offices), Kinsey received a shock when her cousin Tasha reached out to her. Meeting Tasha and her sister, Lisa, for lunch revealed they are very similar in appearance. Kinsey and Tasha form a business relationship in M Is for Malice.
As Sue Grafton points out at the beginning of O Is for Outlaw, Kinsey and her world are all based in the 1980s, a pre-mobile phone and computer era. So there is a certain comfort in living with people who are not always connected, characters who live more by their wits, perhaps. --- Delmar Lemming

Blues, Gospel and Soul in Santa Brigida!

We were pleased to catch the Sharrie Williams concert the other night in Santa Brigida. This wonderful singer from Michigan blessed us with her beautiful voice, accomplanied by a first rate band of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums.
Ms Williams began her concert just after Spain's World Cup victory. "I know your national team has just won a big football game, so let's celebrate!"
I mention this because I was impressed by how seamlessly this singer drew the crowd into her magic web of mirth and music. She made us feel truly blessed, part of a sacred community.
Sharrie had travelled a long way to that stage, she told us. "Some 13 years ago I was a all strung out on crack and coke," she recounted in unbidded testimony. "But the Lord entered my life and now I revel in that glory."
She mixed soulful blues with a gospel edge that stunned even those who did not understand English. Sharrie Williams showed that language is the least of our obstacles in life, we all danced to the same beat: her sacred rhythmn,