640 Food

It’s not just for breakfast anymore

(Well, actually, it is. For the time being, anyway.)

There I go again, saying I’d abandon the Dewey (R) System and then going ahead and using it anyway. Like I said, the number of hits on this blog is anemic; today, just by accident, I may have found at least one reason why, other than the blog’s having no coherent theme and the likelihood of its being off-putting in polite company. Reason number three: it seems that anyone using a PC without a high-powered microscope probably can’t see the little gewgaws on the right-hand side, the bits and bobs that are so very important to my work here. And, oh, yeah, reason no. 4: this blog is all about me, and as I’m learning more and more, it ain’t all about you.

Be that as it my, I’m asking you all for a favor. I would love to speak with anyone who has any knowledge whatsoever of the origins of the federal School Breakfast Program. By anyone, I mean anyone. Even if you happened to be watering the plants or washing the windows and overheard something when federal officials blew through your town back in the early 1960s and asked all the local city, town or school officials whether students were getting anything to eat for breakfast, please let me know.

I’m doing a research project (full disclosure: it’s with my dad, who used to work for the Agriculture Department) on the School Breakfast Program and a whole passel of other federal child nutrition programs. It’s not a big, dark, secret, Deep-Throat-meets-Michael-Moore type of thing. We’d just like to know how the program got started, who was there when they started it, what research they did, especially in the field, to support getting the federal government involved in school breakfast. I have a whole big  list of other questions I still haven’t finished writing yet. We’d like to know how many sites they visited and who they brought with them.  Respond to me here and I’ll figure out how to get in touch with you without getting all the spammers involved.

Thanks!

John Leonard

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As if I didn’t already know it, the number of hits I’ve been getting show that things are basically pretty stagnant on this site, so this will probably be it for a while. I don’t have that much time for it right now anyway, and if I ever do have time for it again, I really need to think about what I’m going to do with it — goofy vs.  serious; organized vs.  random;  snarky vs.  restrained; keeping up with the Joneses vs. being myself; substantive vs. light and fluffy; special effects vs. plain old black and white  — plus the whole Dewey (R) thing is ridiculous. Every site I go to for reference has a different Dewey (R) number for a given topic. The whole system is getting too arcane to be useful.

I need to decide what the tone of this journal is going to be and make sure it’s consistent from one post to the next. I need to plan ahead; there’s a reason publishers have editorial calendars. I need to decide whether I’m going to do real journalism again, and, if so, what about?

Am I going to have live quotes? I think I ought to; I wish the Chicago Tribune felt the same way, especially when it comes to its front section.

The paper seems to have given up on the concept of going out and hoofing it to get the story. I can’t afford to do that myself, and if the Tribune can’t afford it either, then why don’t the editors just pack it in? If I had a paper and I stories that said things  like “according to a report on CNN,” or if ran quotes that are clearly just press releases, I’d give up the ghost. Their local section is good, and so are the sports and business sections. I don’t see why the editors can’t just run those.

I doubt I’ll be running anything more than once a month for a while. If I can’t come up with something thoughtful, focused, organized, timely and filled with content, I probably won’t bother anymore.

Our pastor said this past week, “It isn’t always about you.” Point taken.

Chinese New Year's on Argyle Street, 1/31/2009

Chinese New Year's on Argyle Street, 1/31/2009

770.2 Miscellaneous photography

After watching the Chinese New Year’s parade, we and a friend of ours got some pho down the street. I have seen many varieties of pho before that included tripe, but this place had them all beat: you could get pho with penis. Next time I’m there, I may ask every single person in the restaurant if they had pho with penis. Not such a big deal, I suppose; bull gonads are quite a delicacy in some parts of the American South.

977.311 Chicago

770.2 Miscellaneous photography

Really wiped out today. More pix later.

The Lovely Bride

Dia de los muertos in Pilsen: The Lovely Bride

This is not part of the Dia de Los Muertos celebration

This is not part of the Dia de Los Muertos celebration

Train station on Madison

170 Ethics

I witnessed a scene at the post office this morning that I believe changed my life. I’m not sure how deeply or for how long, but I hope I won’t forget it anytime soon.

It goes like this: the short, elderly woman in front of me had two boxes, each at least a cubic foot in size. She was having trouble holding them. They looked like they could have fallen out of her hands at any moment. But what do I do about it? Zip, zilch, nada, nichts, niente.

Another elderly woman a few places ahead of us comes up and offers the woman her place in line, much closer to the front. Selfish me thinks there’s something going on. Fortunately I got that thought out of my head as soon as possible. I realized the second woman was just doing a good deed, for no other reason than she thought it was the right thing to do.

The woman with the boxes was still juggling them when the man in front of her offered to hold them for her. This whole scene was significant to me because I haven’t seen a whole lot of acts of generosity like that since I came. I still like Chicago, but I get turned off at all the times people honk at me or try to pass me on the sidewalk. I feel like a bumpkin, movin’ kinda slow at the junction. Just me and a lot of beautiful people walking on air with their great jobs and their cool friends, going to clubs so exclusive they don’t have windows, and they don’t put their name on the outside.

I can’t tell you how snotty some of the people around here are, but then again, that used to be me. I was never very good at being cool, though; I always felt guilty when I gave someone the cold shoulder.

818 Book reviewing

(More observations on Lord of a Visible World)

Just a quick note on some of the comments editors made when they passed on H.P. Lovecraft’s manuscripts. On page 330, he lists some of these responses in a 1934 letter: “Verbose—long-winded—slow—nothing happens—novelette length for short story idea—etc. etc. etc.”

I’ve heard them all levelled at my own works of fiction, and more. I’m still too gunshy to try to have my work published, but I know I have to take the plunge one of these days. At least I’m writing more than I used to. And I’m trying not to care what my critics might say. I try to remember, Led Zeppelin got their share of bad reviews, some of which they deserved, but it didn’t slow them down.

We saw Doubt tonight. As she exited the theater, one woman who had just seen it gave it a big thumbs down, but I thought there wasn’t a false note in it. It was so good it made me wish I had written it. Criticism really doesn’t seem to mean anything. It seems to depend completely upon the expectations of the reader, viewer or listener.

Well, I finally finished Lord of a Visible World. The last couple of letters he wrote sound positively elegiac. He’s walking through woods he’s never seen before, even though he’s lived in Providence all his life. Somewhere on his journey, he meets two kittens who seem to act as spirit guides, helping ease his journey to the other side (of the road, in this case). He turns around, and they’re gone. He comes back to look for them the next day, but they’re nowhere to be found. Sounds like something straight out of Arthur Machen. Very moving. The whole book has been, despite, or maybe because of, Lovecraft’s many flaws. Joshi’s done a fantastic job.

I’m glad I rescued this book from oblivion; it was due to be removed from the stacks at the Maynard Public Library. If I hadn’t volunteered when I did, it would have ended up in the dumpster, while all those damn romance and mystery novels would have crowded up the shelves. I’ll say one thing for the MPL, though. It does have a good ratio of quality, high-brow literature for stuck-up folks like me to stuff like Marley and Me and The DaVinci Code.