Mama Stortini’s

It had been several years since last we ate at Mama Stortini’s, an Italian restaurant on the border of Puyallup and Sumner, Washington. It is a very good restaurant with a great menu, though we were a little disappointed to find the entree Sampler Platter no longer available (there is a sampler of appetizers); it was a large dish and one suspects it was not cost effective. We also noted the menu includes a number of non-Italian items now, including hamburgers and other sandwiches, no doubt a competitive necessity.

No matter, the individual entrees are delicious. I had one of my favorites, chicken marsala on a bed of risotto and mushrooms. It could have had a little more sauce, but the flavor was just right. Other members of our party enjoyed lasagna (one of Mama’s best items), lobster macaroni and cheese, and seafood fettucini in white sauce. Our appetizer was the cheese bread with housemade tomato feta relish–a great choice which could have made a whole meal. The dessert menu includes cobbler, ice cream sundaes, the obligatory tiramisu, and other  delights. We had spumoni, a chocolate sundae, and an exquisite little individual “Italian Style” cheesecake.

Service was excellent–there was no waiting–and the dining room is comfortable, not over-crowded the way so many restaurants are. Overall, a very satisfactory night out. If you are in the Puyallup/Sumner area, consider Mama’s next time you are in the mood for Italian. Additional locations are in Kent and Northgate (Seattle).

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Remembering The Forgotten Man

Having entered the interesting period of life known as “semi-retirement”, I finally am finding time to catch up on some of the unread books on the shelf. This time it was The Forgotten Man, A New History of The Great Depression, by Amity Shlaes, published in 2007. It is a substantial work at 396 pages with many more pages devoted to a “Cast of Characters”, Timeline, Bibliographic Notes, and more. For those of us who are fascinated by the events that shaped our parents’ lives and created the modern world, The Forgotten Man is indispensable. For those who accept the “standard history” of that time period, it may be disturbing: as always in dealing with human affairs, there is more to the story than at first meets the eye.

The Forgotten Man

Perhaps the best summary of the book is hinted at in the title. Every student of the period is familiar with FDR’s “Forgotten Man” speech and with the recurrent use of the term to refer to the poor and unemployed, cast as victims of capitalism and big business, victims who need to be rescued by big government.

These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power . . . that put their faith once more in the Forgotten Man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

–Gov. Franklin Roosevelt of New York, radio address in Albany, April 7, 1932

The irony is that the phrase originally had a quite different meaning in the work of a Yale professor named William Graham Sumner in 1883:

As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering, A talks it over with B, and A and B then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help X. Their law always proposes to determine what C shall do for X, or in the better case, what A, B, and C shall do for X. . . . What I want to do is to look up C. I want to show you what manner of man he is. I call him the Forgotten Man. Perhaps the appellation is not strictly correct. He is the man who never is thought of. . . .

 He works, he votes, generally he prays–but he always pays. . . .

That really is the crux of the matter, the changed identification of the Forgotten Man that became an excuse for dramatic expansion of the federal government and greatly increased meddling and experimentation with what had been a mostly free market, with A and B rushing to help X, ignoring C, and becoming even more rich and powerful in the process. And the help for X? The government apologists are fond of saying, “it did create jobs”, right? Well, as the author points out, “what really stands out when you step back from the 1930s picture is not how much the New Deal public works achieved. It is how little. Notwithstanding the largest peacetime appropriation in the history of the world, the New Deal recovery remained incomplete right through the 1930s.”

This very interesting book follows the lives of key individuals in America from the late twenties to the eve of World War II, with a Coda to tell what happened later to the main characters. There is also an Afterword in the paperback edition which weighs the pluses and minuses of the New Dealers’ programs, pointing out that the merits of jobs created and projects completed need to be “weighed against damage that comes when officials create projects and jobs for political reasons. . . . In fact, infrastructure spending is often just a nicer name for what we used to call pork. Given the depth of modern capital markets, the New Deal’s old argument that ‘only the government can afford this’ looks particularly weak.”

Shlaes’ book is especially pertinent to us now as we deal once again with the perennial problem of the proper role and size of government. The Forgotten Man is a well written, free-flowing delight to read which can make a significant contribution to solving that problem.

 

Ocean Shores

Although I have spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, and much of that in Washington state, this past week was my first visit to the little coastal resort called Ocean Shores. It is situated just northwest of Gray’s Harbor, a sharkbite shaped bay along the middle of Washington’s Pacific coast. Besides being known for its clams and crabs, the bay is home of Aberdeen, a rough and tumble timber port called the “Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula”. Ocean Shores is a pleasant town tucked into the coastal woods of one of the peninsulas that define the outer boundary of the bay.

 

 

We stayed at a condo/resort/hotel called The Canterbury Inn. Facilities were clean, tidy, and very pleasant, with open views of the beach about a quarter mile away. Although there were some spectacular blue skies and beautiful clouds, days were mostly overcast, cool, and intermittently breezy, comfortable for us humans who are not very heat tolerant, but brisk for Mitzi, the Havanese puppy we brought with us. She spent much of her time being held and sheltered from the elements.

 

 

Besides the usual assortment of generally good seafood restaurants, Ocean Shores is home to Galway Bay, an Irish restaurant, pub, and gift shop, well worth the visiting. Their fish and chips was outstanding, cooked with a good beer batter rather than the light coatings currently the fad in the Seattle area. Their soda bread is excellent, comfort food at its best, and the perfect accompaniment to their clam chowder. Another dish we tried is called Forfar Bridie, a Scottish dish invented by a Forfar baker in the 1850’s, described in the menu as “beef and lamb slowly braised in white wine, flavored just right with sautéed onions, carrots, potatoes,  garlic and herbs.  Then baked in a puff pastry and covered with our famous Whiskey Cream Sauce.” It reminded me of a sort of partially disassembled shepherd’s pie on a plate, and, aye, it is “flavored just right.”

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We will certainly return to Ocean Shores, about two hours west of Olympia, and definitely return to Galway Bay. They will be hosting, incidentally, their 15th Annual Celtic Music Festival October 16-21, 2018. We can hardly wait.

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Defending America

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In 1993 Newt Gingrich produced a wonderful video course called Renewing American Civilization. My wife and I had the privilege to serve as local representatives of the course, persuading two local public TV stations to broadcast it (one of them re-broadcast it six times). We felt this was quite an accomplishment, especially in liberal Portland, Oregon. The course is still available from Amazon and well worth reviewing:

https://www.amazon.com/Renewing-American-Civilization-Newt-Gingrich/dp/155927462X

Now Professor Gingrich has created a new online course, Defending America. I have not worked through the course yet, but it promises to be a thoughtful, timely, and useful update on the state of our beloved country, the “culture wars”, and how best to preserve all that is true, good, and beautiful in our civilization. The six lessons are titled “Poisoning The Melting Pot”, “Faith Under Attack”, “Destruction of Opportunity”, “Thought Police Run Amok”, “Defending the 2nd Amendment”, and “Draining the Swamp”. The titles alone say, “This is going to be good!” Find out more here:

https://www.defendingamericacourse.com/p/defending-america

 

Best Wishes!

Utah Shakespeare Festival 2018

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Another great season of theater in southern Utah is approaching. Offerings this year include perennial favorites The Merchant of Venice and The Merry Wives of Windsor as well as Henry VI Part One and Othello. No doubt the latter will be great; I, alas, cannot go to it. Othello for me is too tragic, Iago too evil, the pathos too deep. It is, as it were, a tear too far for me. The others, though, “Bravo!” in advance, especially The Merry Wives, a downright rollicking play.

Other offerings include Roger Miller’s Big River, a musical depiction of Huckleberry FinnThe Foreigner, about a visitor who pretends to not speak English and so overhears what he shouldn’t (reminiscent of What The Deaf Man Heard); The Liar, about a master who cannot tell the truth and a servant who cannot lie (oh, the possibilities!); An Iliad, about, well that’s obvious; and Pearl’s In The House, a musical about the great Pearl Bailey.

The award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival is reliably excellent, so start making plans now for a week, or long weekend, of great theater starting June 28 and lasting through September 8, with an abbreviated Fall schedule from September 11 through October 13. Please visit the following site for more details and to reserve your tickets:

https://www.bard.org/

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Best Wishes!

Hoaka Delos Reyes, Master Stone Carver

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The interaction of great artists with their chosen medium is the stuff of lore and not a little mystical. Michelangelo spoke of seeing the figure in a block and carving away stone to free it. Similarly, Hawaiian artist Hoaka Delos Reyes is quoted  as saying about his learning of the craft, “The stone started to shape me, not the other way around.” It all started many years ago when his son asked him to make a stone poi pounder for him, an easy request for a man who was a builder in stone and cement. Then came the condition, his son wanted it to be genuine, made the old way, no modern tools. What followed is related in the article, “The Stone Caller” by Shannon Wianecki in the February/March issue of Hana Hou!, the inflight magazine of Hawaiian Airlines.

It is the story of a man responding to a calling, for Hoaka soon found there was only one man who knew the old way of working stone, George Fujinaga, a crusty old  stone carver who looked askance at young men who naively wished to learn the art in a weekend. It proved to be a schooling of many years. That meant learning the types of stones, learning to recognize their spirits, learning how to work them and with them, how to “listen to them”, how to call to them and hear their answer. In the process the artist comes to know himself as well.

The day came when the apprentice’s skill exceeded his master’s. Not long after that, George passed away, but not before asking his wife to tell Hoaka that “he had been waiting for you all his life. Now he can go to sleep, knowing that you will carry on the work.” It is an inspiring story of diligence, faith, and hard work. Read more at the following links:

http://maui.hawaii.edu/hooulu/2015/11/23/hoaka-delos-reyes-master-stone-carver

https://mauimagazine.net/making-it-maoli/3

 

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Best Wishes!

Synopsis of FBI Corruption

Joseph DiGenova is one of the nation’s premier lawyers. One of his recent speeches was published in the February issue of Hillsdale College’s Imprimis. This is an excellent review of the sorry state of the modern FBI leadership, not to be confused with the rank and file agents, most of whom must be pulling their hair at recent events. Well worth the read:

https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/the-politicization-of-the-fbi/