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Wednesday, November 29, 2023


A mural “Migrant Child, 2019,” by British street artist Banksy, of a child holding a pink flare, is pictured on a building in Venice., Italy (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP via Getty Images).  

GUEST BLOG / By Carita Rizzo for Rolling Stone magazine--Since Banksy emerged as a street artist in the early 2000s, one of the most intriguing aspects of the Bristol-based painter has been his identity. Over the years, various people have been linked to the moniker, among them Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett, a comic book illustrator who also co-created Tank Girl, and Massive Attack co-founder Robert Del Naja, based on the fact that both hail from Bristol and Del Naja also dabbled in graffiti. 

Now, an unearthed BBC recording from 2003 appears to confirm that Banksy is indeed a Robert, just not Del Naja. In an interview between the up-and-coming street artist and former BBC arts correspondent Nigel Wrench, ahead of Banksy’s Turf War show in East London in the summer of 2003, Wrench asked if he could use Banksy’s real name in the interview, citing that The Independent had already used it. 

Wrench then asks if his name is “Robert Banks,” and the artist replies, “It’s Robbie.” 

 An edited version of the recording had recently been used as part of the BBC podcast series The Banksy Story, which was released in July. 

Robert Del Naja

Wrench, after listening to the podcast series, was inspired to revisit the full original recording and discovered the pivotal information about the artist that was never used. 

In the newly surfaced interview, a young Banksy also speaks about whether graffiti should be considered vandalism. “If it’s done properly it is illegal! But I got a good reaction I think from most people from my work. You know, I’ve even had policemen in the past say they kind of like things about it, but… I just think it’s my right to go out and paint it,” he says. “And it is equally somebody else’s right to go out and paint over it if they don’t like it, you know? It doesn’t actually take very long with a bucket of white paint to paint over things. I think it’s better if you treat the city like a big playground, you know? It’s there to mess about in, you know?” 

 The lost audio portion can now be heard on The Banksy Story bonus episode, which was released on Nov. 21 and available on BBC Sounds

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Monday, November 27, 2023


The Vestal Virgins

GUEST BLOG / By Jim Beviglia writing in American Songwriter magazine
--Who could have possibly predicted the success of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” which went to #1 in the UK in 1967, #5 in the US, and has outlasted so many other flower-power and psychedelic-flavored tracks from that era to be one of the most enduring songs of the 60’s? 

It was the first single released by a relatively unknown British band, it was driven by a classical organ part derived from Bach, and it featured some of the most inscrutable lyrics of the era. Yet the moment that Matthew Fisher’s Hammond organ pierces the air, “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” is utterly mesmerizing. 

Procol Harum’s singer Gary Brooker was responsible for writing the music, although Fisher’s organ part was so prominent that he also eventually received a songwriting credit after a protracted court battle. Keith Reid, who served as the band’s chief lyricist, wrote the words that have confounded generations of fans who still can’t help but singing along. 

But what are the lyrics telling us? 

In an interview with Uncut magazine, Reid shed a little light on the song’s origin and meaning. “I had the phrase ‘a whiter shade of pale,’ that was the start, and I knew it was a song,” he said. “It’s like a jigsaw where you’ve got one piece, then you make up all the others to fit in. I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward, girl-leaves-boy story. With the ceiling flying away and room humming harder, I wanted to paint an image of a scene.” 

 The general consensus is that “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” is a snapshot of a drunken sexual escapade gone awry. Yet the song defies a specific interpretation, instead conjuring various shades of melancholy which are embellished by the mournful music and Brooker’s pained delivery. 

Even when you can’t quite understand their meaning, Reid, who was clearly influenced by Dylan’s surreal story songs from the mid-60’s, writes lines that leave a lasting impact, right from the immortal opener: “We skipped the light fandango.”

Attempts to wrangle these lyrics into linear coherence are thwarted at every turn, in part by red herrings (Reid claimed that the line “As the miller told his tale” has nothing to do with Chaucer) and by the demands of pop radio (Two extra verses were excised to keep the running time low.) 

Don’t let it bother you. 

If you spend too much time trying to figure out Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale,” you might miss out on its majestically-rendered sorrow. 

Lead singer the late Gary Brooker in 2006 in concert.

Listen:  Procol Harum performing “A Whiter Shade of Pale” with the Danish National Concert Orchestra and choir at Ledreborg Castle, Denmark, August 2006. CLICK HERE  

The Lyrics were composed by lead singer Gary Brooker, lead lyricist Keith Reid and Matthew Fisher. More from Wikipedia: CLICK HERE

Procol Harum was the name of a Siamese or maybe it was a Burmese cat that someone hanging around the band knew. To rock promoter Gus Stevens Procol Harum sounded better than their original name The Pinewoods. 

 Latin scholars know Procul Harun to mean beyond these things. 

And so it was. 

Like this: 

THE LYRICS (all four orginal verses).

We skipped the light fandango 

Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor 

I was feeling kinda seasick 

But the crowd called out for more 

The room was humming harder 

As the ceiling flew away 

When we called out for another drink 

The waiter brought a tray 

 And so it was that later 

As the miller told his tale 

That her face, at first just ghostly 

Turned a whiter shade of pale 

 She said, there is no reason 

And the truth is plain to see 

But I wandered through my playing cards 

And would not let her be 

One of sixteen vestal virgins 

Who were leaving for the coast 

And although my eyes were open 

They might have just as well've been closed 

 And so it was that later 

As the miller told his tale 

That her face at first just ghostly 

Turned a whiter shade of pale 

 She said, 'I'm home on shore leave' 

Though in truth we were at sea 

So I took her by the looking glass 

And forced her to agree 

Saying, 'You must be the mermaid 

Who took Neptune for a ride' 

But she smiled at me so sadly 

That my anger straightway died 

 And so it was that later 

As the miller told his tale 

That her face at first just ghostly 

Turned a whiter shade of pale 

 If music be the food of love 

Then laughter is its queen 

And likewise if behind is in front 

Then dirt in truth is clean 

My mouth by then like cardboard 

Seemed to slip straight through my head 

So we crash-dived straightway quickly 

And attacked the ocean bed 

 And so it was that later 

As the miller told his tale 

That her face at first just ghostly 

Turned a whiter shade of pale.

Procol Harum bandmember playing the Hammond M102 organ in concert.


By Holden DeMayo—Editor,, daily online magazine
--Library of America is an independent non-profit publisher based out of New York City. Recently, one of its holiday offering caught our attention at online magazine. It’s a new coffee tablecloth cover book that’s ideal to add to your holiday season (especially for real hold in your handbook readers).  Note: Snarky comments about Brits and Christmas are by me and not the serious editors at the Library of America.  My apologies.

Welcome to Library of America's “American Christmas Stories,” a compilation of 59 old, new short stories put together for readers, who have been celebrating Christmas for 150 years or so. The selections by editor of the Library of America are diverse, ingenious and genuinely American Christmas stories. Legendary brit author, Mr. Dickens was not invited. But hello to Mark Twain, W.E.B. Du Bois, Edna Ferber, Dorothy Parker, Pete Hamill, Leo Rosten and Tomas Rivera. In all the All-American team this year is up to 60 contributors. And, all the time you thought Robert Benchley and Christopher Morley were Brits. Ha! We’re an hour smarter than you. 

Here’s what is inside the nearly 500 pages of ho, ho, ho: 

 Ghost stories and crime stories, science fiction, fantasy, westerns, humor, and horror; tales of Christmas morning, trees, gifts, wise men, and family dinners everywhere from New York to Texas to outer space: this anthology is an epiphany, revealing the ways Christmas has evolved over time—and how the spirit of the holiday has remained the same. Ranging from the advent of the American tradition of holiday storytelling in the wake of the Civil War to today, this is the best and widest-ranging anthology of American Christmas stories ever assembled. 

 Author, editor Connie Willis penned the following introduction: There are stories that will make you laugh (Robert Benchley’s “Christmas Afternoon” and Thomas M. Disch’s “The Santa Claus Compromise”) and stories that will make you think (W.E.B. Du Bois’s “The Sermon in the Cradle” and Grace Paley’s “The Loudest Voice”) and stories that will make you cry (Jacob Riis’s “The Kid Hangs Up His Stocking” and Christopher Morley’s “The Tree That Didn’t Get Trimmed”).

 There are old standbys (Mark Twain’s “A Letter from Santa Claus,” William Dean Howells’s “Christmas Every Day,” and Edna Ferber’s “No Room at the Inn”) and familiar authors (Stephen Crane, Shirley Jackson, Katherine Anne Porter, and John Updike), plus some you’ve never heard of. And a couple of hidden treasures nobody’s ever heard of, like Pauline E. Hopkins’s “General Washington” and Mary Agnes Tincker’s “From the Garden of a Friend.” 

 . . . American Christmas Stories embodies what an anthology of American Christmas stories should be. It’s a book that shows just how the modern American Christmas story came to be—and at the same time it’s a perfect candidate to read aloud from on Christmas Eve. 


Bret Harte, How Santa Claus Came to Simpson’s Bar 

Louisa May Alcott, Kate’s Choice 

Mark Twain, A Letter from Santa Claus 

J. B. Moore Bristor, Lucy Marshall’s Letter 

Mary Agnes Tincker, From the Garden of a Friend 

William Dean Howells, Christmas Every Day 

John Kendrick Bangs, Thurlow’s Christmas Story 

Jack London, Klondike Christmas 

Stephen Crane, A Little Pilgrim 

Paul Laurence Dunbar, An Old-Time Christmas 

Pauline E. Hopkins, General Washington 

Jacob Riis, The Kid Hangs Up His Stocking 

George Ade, The Set of Poe 

O. Henry, A Chaparral Christmas Gift 

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, According to Solomon 

Edward Lucas White, The Picture Puzzle 

Margaret Black, Xmas Party That Prevented a Split in the Church 

Dorothy Parker, Inevitable Story of the Snowbound Train 

Robert Benchley, Christmas Afternoon 

W.E.B. Du Bois, The Sermon in the Cradle 

Ben Hecht, Holiday Thoughts 

Heywood Broun, Bethlehem, Dec. 25 

Christopher Morley, The Tree That Didn’t Get Trimmed 

Sherwood Anderson, A Criminal’s Christmas 

James Thurber, A Visit from Saint Nicholas 

Langston Hughes, One Christmas Eve 

Damon Runyon, The Three Wise Guys 

Leo Rosten, Mr. K*A*P*L*A*N and the Magi 

John Henrik Clarke, Santa Claus is a White Man 

John Collier, Back for Christmas 

Edna Ferber, No Room at the Inn 

John McNulty, Two People He Never Saw Mary 

Roberts Rinehart, The Butler’s Christmas Eve 

Katherine Anne Porter, A Christmas Story 

Abelardo Díaz Alfaro, “Santa Clo” Comes to La Cuchilla 

Ray Bradbury, The Gift 

Raymond E. Banks, Christmas Trombone 

Mildred Clingerman, The Wild Wood 

Shirley Jackson, from Raising Demons 

Grace Paley, The Loudest Voice 

Mari Sandoz, The Christmas of the Phonograph Records 

Joan Didion, The Big Rock Candy Figgy Pudding Pitfall 

John Updike, The Carol Sing 

Tomás Rivera, The Night Before Christmas 

Thomas M. Disch, The Santa Claus Compromise 

Pete Hamill, The Christmas Kid 

Gene Wolfe, The War Beneath the Tree 

Cynthia Felice, Track of a Legend 

Ed McBain, And All Through the House 

George V. Higgins, The Impossible Snowsuit of Christmas Past 

Ron Carlson, The H Street Sledding Record 

Steve Rasnic Tem, Buzz 

Amy Tan, Fish Cheeks 

Ann Petry, Checkup 

Sandra Cisneros, Three Wise Guys 

Connie Willis, Inn 

José R. Nieto, Ixchel’s Tears 

Nathan Englander, Reb Kringle 

Nalo Hopkinson, A Young Candy Daughter 

 To purchase a copy 



The Library of America (LOA) is a nonprofit publisher of classic American literature. Founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, the LOA has published over 300 volumes by authors ranging from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Saul Bellow, Frederick Douglass to Ursula K. Le Guin, including selected writing of several U.S. presidents. Anthologies and works containing historical documents, criticism, and journalism are also published. Library of America volumes seek to print authoritative versions of works; include extensive notes, chronologies, and other back matter; and are known for their distinctive physical appearance and characteristics. Although, LOA is non-profit the volumes it publishes are for sale to the public, even Brits. :)


Nope.  This is a collection of American writers, but for those who cannot divorce yourself from Dickens CLICK HERE for "A Christmas Carol."

And, for the traditional poem CLICK HERE "The Night Before Christmas." By American Clement Moore.

Sunday, November 26, 2023


Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha's "Helen of Troy."

It was that goddamned smile. 

There on the steps of Powell’s Saloon in North Beach that led to the basement where he first saw her. 

His mind exploded. 

He was transformed back to his senior English class at Sts. Peter and Paul School. His teacher, a wiry older priest introduced him to Christopher Marlowe, who in 1604 penned “was this the face that launched a thousand ships? And burnt the topless towers of Ilium. Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss…” 

Tom Gresham stared at Annee, she of the strawberry blonde curls and the slight silly gap between her front teeth and her collection of freckles across the rise of her cheeks and nose. 

He crossed himself. If the smile alone melted him causing his entire being to flow down the shopworn wooden steps to form a puddle at her feet then what was he in for when she allowed the soaked trench coat to slip off her bare shoulders? 

Naked, there would never be enough ships for that smile. 

Arriving with no clothes, Annee rummaged through the bars lost and found bin until she found a small jacket and a  co-ed’s blue and white plaid skirt that she could wear to dinner. “Stop staring and close your mouth,” she teased. 

Why? How? 

What a story she would tell him later at dinner. 


By Thomas Shess, Author of CANTINA PSALMS, a novel.


Saturday, November 25, 2023


Hey, Early Birds!

Another Coffee House opens in the hearat of North Park's Coffee House Nirvana. Above is a free invitation to attend the Pinky’s Café ribbon-cutting event. 

 Mayor Todd Gloria will be attending. November 25 between 11:15 am and 11:45 am. 2864 University Avenue, San Diego CA 92104 

 TODAY’S event is free but an RSVP is asked or just show up, they’ll be thrilled to see you. CLICK HERE 

Friday, November 24, 2023


CLICK HERE. “Is time travel really possible? Here’s what physics says:  Now you see him, now you don’t.

GUEST BLOG / By Michael Marshall, BBC series “Future.”

Thursday, November 23, 2023


Yams to the left of us, Sweet Potatoes to the right.


GUEST BLOG / Katy Mathis, Writer, Food Network via CNN--There’s a bit of confusion in the food world around yams and sweet potatoes. What exactly is the difference — and what exactly are we cooking with? Let us lay some root vegetable knowledge on you. 

Although sweet potatoes and yams are both root vegetables, they are not related to one another and differ in taste, texture and appearance. 

Sweet potatoes originated in North America, first joining market shelves alongside the white potato as far back as the late 1600s. But back then, the sweet potato was also white or yellow in color. In the 1930s, a new orange version was cultivated, and to differentiate it from the white sweet potatoes, farmers borrowed the slang phrase “yams” that slaves from West Africa had used to describe them. Sweet potatoes reminded them of an African vegetable called nyami. 

Today, the name “yams” has stuck as an interchangeable term for “sweet potatoes” in America. Generally speaking, if you’re reading a recipe (from Sweet Potato Pie to Candied Yams, and everything in between), it means you can pick up sweet potatoes to make it — even if they’re labeled “yams” at the grocery store. 

The Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes 

There are indeed many differences between nyami – African yams – and sweet potatoes. African yams might also be referred to as Nigerian yams, true yams, Ghana yams, puna yams or white yams. Appearance African yams have thick, brown, bark-like skin and yellow coloring. They can easily weigh up to 55 pounds. 

American sweet potatoes have thin, papery skin and that widely-recognized orange flesh (but can also come in a variety of colors, like yellow or purple). 


African yams are much starchier than sweet potatoes and are closer to the texture of yucca. They taste earthy, a bit like a potato. Sweet potatoes are known for their smooth potato-like texture and sweet flavor. 

Cooking Methods 

Both can be mashed, roasted or boiled or fried. 

Seasonal availability 

You can buy sweet potatoes all year long, but their flavor peaks in the fall and winter. Select sweet potatoes that are heavy for their size, and make sure to avoid ones that have sprouts or soft spots. Store them in a cool, dry, ventilated space and use them within 15 days of buying them. Make sure to handle them gently because they bruise more easily than regular potatoes. 

Types of Sweet Potatoes 

A few common varieties are white, Jewel, Japanese, Beauregard and Boniato. You can use them interchangeably, but if you taste two varieties side-by-side, you might notice that they have different flavors and levels of sweetness. 




Thanksgiving decor image via Megan Bryan 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023


Lee Harvey Oswald and CIA officer George Joannides. Photo: JFK Assassination Records Collection and CIA Freedom of Information Act files

GUEST BLOG / By Scott Sayare
, a freelance journalist contributing to New York Magazine. CLICK HERE. For New York Magazine’s Unsolved Mysteries: The Secrets of the JFK Assassination Archive: How a dogged journalist proved that the CIA lied about Oswald and Cubaand spent decades covering it up. 

Quote from the article: Then-new CIA Director Robert Gates pledged to disclose, or at least submit for review, “every relevant scrap of paper in the CIA’s possession.” “The only thing more horrifying to me than the assassination itself,”Gates said, “is the insidious, perverse notion that elements of the American Government, that my own agency had some part in it.” 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023


Carving out his place in history.  Out of his gourd?  No, he's in it.

Here’s a story by CNN’s Jeanne Moos to share over Thanksgiving dinner. 

Flashback a couple of Mondays ago when a Lebanon, MO-based financial advisor decided to set off on a 39 mile paddle down the mighty Missouri River inside a half ton, home grown pumpkin? 

Was he out of his gourd? Actually, quite opposite he was it it. He carved out enough space to spend 11 hours inside his real pumpkin kayak that he boarded and he set out from Kansas City, MO determined to squash all records in his wake. That is if there were Guinness world record pumpkin records to be smashed in the floating 1,200 pound pumpkin division. There is now.

Paddlin' Steve Kueny in his pumpkin he named Huckleberry

Thanks to Edward Jones financial advisor Steve Kueny 39 miles is the new record for pumpkin paddling. 

Happy Thanksgiving from down river Napoleon, MO. 

Monday, November 20, 2023



At 30, Bill Gates launched the Microsoft Windows operating system
on November 20, 1985. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023



braham Lincoln (in the center) at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863. 

Made from the original glass plate negative at the National Archives which had lain unidentified for fifty-five years until 1952 when Josephine Cobb recognized Lincoln in the image. 

 To Lincoln's left is bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon. To his far left is Governor Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania. The photograph is estimated to have been taken at about noontime, just after Lincoln arrived, before Edward Everett's arrival and about three hours before Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. 

 Library of Congress note: Photo is a reprint of a small detail of a photo showing the crowd gathered for the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Penn., where President Abraham Lincoln gave his now famous speech, the Gettysburg Address. 

 Lincoln is visible facing the crowd, not wearing a hat, below a flag and twigs from a small tree. Josephine Cobb first found Lincoln's face while working with a glass plate negative at the National Archives in 1952. (Source: NARA, Rare Photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg, 

Saturday, November 18, 2023


Chiefy Cafe (canine friendly) in San Diego posted a classic sign at its Hillcrest location order counter. We’ve all been there.  "May I have a Cafe Mocha Vodka Xanax Latte to go, please."

Located in Ralph's shopping center, 10th & University, San Diego


Friday, November 17, 2023


GUEST BLOG / By Kevin Acee, San Diego Union-Tribune Sports Writer
--Padres Chairman Peter Seidler died Tuesday morning. Seidler, who turned 63 earlier this month, had been battling an illness for months. His wife and children were with him as he passed away peacefully. The family has requested the cause of death remain private at this time. 

 “The Padres organization mourns the passing of our beloved Chairman and owner, Peter Seidler,” Padres CEO Erik Greupner said in a statement. “Today, our love and prayers encircle Peter’s family as they grieve the loss of an extraordinary husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend. Peter was a kind and generous man who was devoted to his wife, children, and extended family. 

He also consistently exhibited heartfelt compassion for others, especially those less fortunate. His impact on the city of San Diego and the baseball world will be felt for generations. His generous spirit is now firmly embedded in the fabric of the Padres. 

Although he was our Chairman and owner, Peter was at his core a Padres fan. He will be dearly missed.” 

No public memorial has been announced, though the Padres do plan to honor Seidler during the 2024 season. The Padres have taken this week to grieve as an organization, setting aside all non-essential business activity. 

The manager search will be halted temporarily, with a source saying the new manager will be named next week before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Seidler is survived by his wife, Sheel, and three young children, his mother, Terry Seidler, and nine siblings. His brother, Tom Seidler, is the organization’s Senior Vice President for Community and Military Affairs. 

Seidler’s grandfather, Walter O’Malley, moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958, and his mother and uncle, Peter O’Malley, owned the team until 1998. Seidler was part of the group that bought the Padres in August 2012, moved to San Diego and quickly became active in philanthropic and causes such as homelessness. 

He became Padres Chairman in November 2021 with the retirement of Ron Fowler. 

 Seidler, who exuded joy in virtually every encounter, whether with media or players or people he met at the ballpark, became a hero to Padres fans both for his commitment to record payrolls and his enthusiasm. He once declared the 2020s would be “The Padres decade.” 

Two days after the Padres lost to the Phillies in the 2022 National League Championship Series, the franchise’s first time advancing that far in 24 seasons, Seidler was asked about the Padres’ payroll for ’23. “I kind of like spending money,” Seidler said with a grin. “You can’t take it with you.” 

The team’s $256 million commitment to players in 2023 was third-highest in the major leagues. Seidler, a two-time survivor of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma who has battled health issues for years, said in a July conversation with The Union-Tribune that he intended for the Padres to remain in his family for generations after he died. A source confirmed Tuesday that is the plan. 

Other Voices:

--MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement: "I am deeply saddened by the news of Peter's passing. Peter grew up in a baseball family, and his love of the game was evident throughout his life. He was passionate about owning the Padres and bringing the fans of San Diego a team in which they could always take pride. Peter made sure the Padres were part of community solutions in San Diego, particularly with the homeless community. He was an enthusiastic supporter of using the Padres and Major League Baseball to bring people together and help others."

--Ted Leitner, San Diego Broadaster: For the rest of my days when I think of the joy of my #padres beating the Dodgers in the ‘22 playoffs I will think of him. And the happiness he brought to San Diego. How much he wanted to win for our city that he loved and that loved him. Thank you Peter Seidler. Rest my friend. 

-- CBS News correspondent Major Garrett, a San Diego native and lifelong Padres fan, said he counts himself “among the lucky to come to know Peter…“He was generous, curious and smart in all matters,” Garrett posted. “I will miss him. All of San Diego will miss him. For many reasons. Yes, the Padres. But for so much more. Thank you. RIP.” 

 Bob Scanlan, Padres Broadcaster: “…Absolutely heartbroken about the passing of Peter Seidler. One of most positive spirits I've ever encountered. Always concerned about helping others & making world better place for humanity. San Diego, Padres fans, MLB lost a great & beloved man. Prayers with the Seidler family. 

--San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria shared that he is “deeply saddened,” calling Seidler a “true visionary leader who had a deep love for the game of baseball and the Padres, and also an unwavering commitment to our city.” “As Chairman of the Padres, he made the organization about so much more than baseball; he made the team an incredible community partner,” Gloria said in a statement. “Peter was perhaps best known for his great compassion for people experiencing homelessness, and everyone who worked with him will remember him for his kind and humble spirit.”

Note: blog (since 2011) appreciates and thanks the Union-Tribune for sharing selected articles with responsible, independent local, non-profit journalism. 

Thursday, November 16, 2023


 Via Argenteria in the center of Palermo’s old town. 
Culinary Backstreets takes us to Palermo’s Il Vizietto Bistrot 

GUEST BLOG / By Segolene Bulot and photos by Segolene Bulot-- In the historic center of the city, nestled near the vibrant Vucciria market, lies a unique dining experience in Il Vizietto Bistrot. A former abattoir, the space has been transformed into a restaurant that beckons patrons in search of a delicious meal. After all, the name Il Vizietto means “bad habit,” embodying the restaurant’s philosophy – a place to indulge, to enjoy, anchored by a carefully curated menu filled with Sicilian staples. 

 A must visit when in Palermo, Sicily: Il Vizietto Bistrot 

Sisters Maria, Karima and Rosaria Ferrante opened Il Vizietto Bistrot in 2020, and the project has survived several challenges, a global pandemic among them. Maria, Karima, and Rosaria Ferrante even considered naming it Bordello – “che bordello” is a common way of referring to a real mess in the local vernacular – an ode to the chaotic process of opening their bistro. However, they recognized the need for a name that transcended cultural connotations and embraced the idea of indulgence. 

 When we visit, we’re greeted by Mafalda, a close friend of the Ferrante family, who often lends a helping hand. She proudly shows us the black-and-white photographs adorning the restaurant’s facade, offering a captivating glimpse into the neighborhood’s rich history. Over the years, the once-eccentric Vucciria neighborhood has transformed, giving rise to many new bars and restaurants. However, thanks to places like Il Vizietto, Maria, Karima, and Rosaria’s culinary haven, echoes of the past still linger, allowing locals and visitors to savor the lively neighborhood ambience. 

Talented writer as she
is beautiful, Segolene Bulot
wrote this article.
Reopened recently after the pandemic forced its closure, Il Vizietto’s transformation includes a redesign that fosters an open atmosphere, a harmonious melding of space: interconnected rooms, an integration of indoor and outdoor spaces in the same seamless way the restaurant combines flavors. Thanks to Palermo’s favorable climate, the doors often remain open, tempting passers-by. The open kitchen, separated by a glass window, allows customers to witness the culinary orchestra led by Rosaria. As we arrive, we watch her preparing sugo di pomodori – a rich tomato sauce to accompany the iconic polpette di sarde (sardine balls). 

 Sicilian cuisine’s allure lies in its ability to create exquisite flavors using humble ingredients, and the polpette di sarde are a true testament to the culinary prowess of the island’s cooks. Sardines, an affordable and easily accessible local ingredient, take center stage in this traditional dish from the cucina povera siciliana – “the cuisine of the poor.” The recipe combines a blend of eggs, cheese, parsley, mint, raisins and pine nuts, rolled into balls and then deep fried. The result at Il Vizietto is a tantalizing balance of sweet and savory; tender on the inside, crunchy on the outside. 

 We spoke to a group of locals at the next table: Melania, Luciano, Davide, Giorgia, and Alessio, who had gathered there that day to celebrate Luciano’s birthday. They frequent the bustling Il Vizietto, drawn, they say, to the restaurant’s welcoming atmosphere and the genuine hospitality of the Ferrante sisters. 

 Spaghetti al nero di seppia 
Luciano, a devoted customer, confesses his undying love for Il Vizietto’s spaghetti al nero di seppia – a pasta dish infused with the rich flavor and color of squid ink – and their fritto misto di pesce, an indulgent medley of fried seafood that never fails to impress. After the savory dishes, Il Vizietto’s desserts are equally irresistible. The biancomangiare siciliano – a Sicilian adaptation of a curious medieval dish originally made with chicken breast, cornstarch and sugar – here combines a flat white cream with almond pudding infused with orange blossom water, a nod to local Middle Eastern and North African influences. This elegant dessert, once reserved for noble banquets and monastic menus, has become a beloved Sunday lunch treat for Sicilians. For a frozen option on a summer’s day, the semifreddo di mandorle is a Sicilian twist on the French almond parfait – made here with locally sourced almonds, an abundant resource in the region. And, of course, no Sicilian dessert repertoire is complete without the cannolo – a tube-shaped pastry filled with sweet ricotta – a true mainstay of Sicilian culinary fame, and yet another excuse to indulge at Il Vizietto. 

Fritto Misto seafood combo

Polpette di sarde 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023


GUEST BLOG / By Patti Pietschmann, the Ultimate Cruise and Travel Diva who has taken more than 400 voyages and written about them
.--Nestled on a hillside in Hollywood, California, there's an exclusive (membership only) fun spot called the Magic Castle. 

It's one of those popular places LA Types take visitors from out of town. It's also famous for playing tricks on those of us who move to Los Angeles and are unaware of what's in sotre. For instance you might be having a drink at the bar and suddenly something happens! But I'm not going to spoil the fun. 

Now, thanks to Princess Cruises you will soon be able to experience some of the magic with the inaugural of the line's Sun Princess which will feature the new installation of Spellbound by Magic Castle. 

Once aboard you'll find the Spellbound experience nestled behind a non-descript door through which passengers will experience sleights of hands by talented magicians, surprises in themed rooms and theatrical cocktails delivered with a twist. 

 Guests will wander through eclectic and mystical artifacts and paintings to peak curiosity. In the Music Room, guests will meet the spirit of Isabella who will share her stories of sailing on Sun Princess. 

The venue will also feature a vintage Parlor Bar featuring Artemis the owl who is revealed through interaction with skilled illusionists before entering the intimate 30-seat, Spellbound theater, to experience close-up magic that will blow guests’ minds. 

 "We are excited to introduce Spellbound by Magic Castle and take the art of magic around the world aboard the new Sun Princess,” said John Padgett, president of Princess Cruises. "This collaboration with The Magic Castle that combines the allure of magic with the thrill of cruising. Spellbound no doubt will become an iconic guest favorite on Sun Princess.” 

Spellbound is designed to capture the essence of the original Magic Castle, where stars gather, legends have been born and magic has left audiences spellbound for decades. “We are bringing some of the most authentic aspects of The Magic Castle in Hollywood to Sun Princess, complete with incredible magicians and illusionists, so that Princess guests can experience a taste of the world class magic that is showcased nightly at the Magic Castle,” said Erika Larsen, president of Magic Castle Enterprises. “It's an exciting opportunity for guests to immerse themselves in a magical experience typically reserved exclusively for members and their guests," says Larsen.

Performances by world-class magicians handpicked from around the globe will fascinate audiences with mind-bending tricks, awe-inspiring illusions, and mesmerizing acts that promise to leave guests definitely entertained. 

 Spellbound debuts aboard the 4,300 passenger, 175,000-ton Sun Princess in February 2024. Tickets for the inaugural Mediterranean, Europe and Caribbean cruises are available now at 

TRAVEL TIP BY PATTI: While there are many good travel agent/advisors out there, may I recommend Pavlus Travel at The friendly folks at the agency can help you with your travel needs and save money.



Monday, November 13, 2023


GUEST BLOG / By media reports
--Atmore News publisher and co-owner Sherry Digmon and Atmore News reporter Don Fletcher were arrested recently for revealing Escambia County Grand Jury investigation secrets. Atmore is a city in southern Alabama with a population of 36,000.

While it’s illegal for a grand juror, witness or court officer to disclose grand-jury proceedings, it’s not a crime for a media outlet to publish such leaked material, provided the material was obtained by legal means, legal experts said. Theodore J. Boutrous, an attorney who has represented media organizations, called the Alabama case “extraordinary, outrageous and flatly unconstitutional.” 


He said the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment forbids punishing journalists for publishing information of public importance, even if the information came from a source who broke the law in leaking it. “And that applies to grand-jury information,” he said. 

 Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said the Atmore, Alabama arrests follow a number of other recent cases in which local prosecutors have used warrants, threats and criminal proceedings to harass or pressure journalists. 

 Such prosecutions can be costly, especially for small news organizations, she said. They also serve as “a dead crow on a fence,” a warning to would-be leakers and other journalists that they will face legal jeopardy if they disclose secret or sensitive information or pursue aggressive investigations.

 Sherry Digmon, the Atmore paper’s publisher and co-owner, is also a member of the county school board. She recently voted against renewing the contract of the county education superintendent — an official who was publicly supported by Stephen Billy, the district attorney.

Reached at the newspaper’s offices on Wednesday, Digmon declined to discuss the case. “I wish I could,” she said. “I would rather not answer. I can only refer you to my attorney."