Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cupcakes and Pies

     There are many things I never quite get.  I could probably spend the rest of my life writing about things I dont get and things I dont fully understand.  There are those, e.g. Ara Topouzian, who will say that the list of things I don’t fully understand is endless and that things I do not fully understand is all I write about.  If I only wrote about things I know about, I would probably only have one or two postings. 

     There are trends that mystify me on some level simply because I never bought into them.  The great cupcake trend was one thing of these trends.  Certainly when I was a kid, I liked cupcakes as much as any other kid.  We were excited to see them at birthday parties and special events.  They were prepared by one of the mothers lovingly for whatever event we were at and they were alwaysdisappointing.  A slice of cake was, to me, always better.  Cakes are  better tasting because they have more layers, and hence had more frosting.  The only exception was the iconic Hostess Cupcake with the white icing swirl and the cream filled center.  Every other cupcake paled in comparison.  I do believe the recent cupcake craze was born of the childhood memory of cupcakes and it resonated, loudly, with lots of people.  I would see grown ladies get all excited when a tray or tree of cupcakes was brought out at parties and weddings.

     I could appreciate the excitement but never fully got it.  A cupcake never tasted as good as a slice of a full cake made from the exact same batter and frosting.  This is true for one very simple reason.  A full cake is always moister than a cupcake.  It is a simple fact that has been confirmed by my brother in-law John who has a gourmet cake business.

     The cupcake trend, which the business media refers to as the gourmet cupcake trend, began in the early 2000s.  Individual shops and eventually chains popped up that made exotic cupcakes that sold for $4.50 apiece.  They were all the rage.  Crumbs was a cupcake shop that opened in Manhattan in 2003.  Over the years, Crumbs became a chain that grew to 67 stores in mid-2013.  The number of locations had doubled from 2011 to 2013.  On July 1, 2014, the company closed its operations and went out of business.  In 2011, the gourmet cupcake business grew 8%, in 2013 the market declined by 8%. 

     While the cupcake fad was raging, I was wondering what happened to pies.  What they used to call a hunkof pie was an Americana mainstay of the first half of the 20th Century.  I was wondering when a pie craze was going to hit.  It seemed as logical as the cupcake fad.  To me, a good apple, blueberry, cherry, pumpkin, or pecan pie is better than any cupcake. 

     So, you have heard it here first.  There will be a pie craze.  It probably wont last long but it will be tasty.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Wisdom of the Ages

I was at a Chinese Restaurant recently and received a fortune cookie with the wonderful message in the photo.  This was quite a fortune and definitely a cut above what I am used to seeing in fortune cookies.  While I do not usually put much faith in what fortune cookies say, there are are some, like this one, that resonate with me.  I can only imagine that I have at my command the wisdom of the ages.  For all the things I might have ever wished for from being a musical virtuoso, a world class athlete, a renown man of letters, or being world-class wealthy, I think I would prefer to have at my command all the wisdom of the ages.
I immediately took a photo and posted it on Facebook.  What else do you do with such a fortune as this one?  I included the following words with photo: 

Wow. If I have just been bestowed with the wisdom of the ages, I hope I use it to benefit mankind. 
If I have had it all along... I have clearly squandered this gift.
These are good points.  I have to conclude that I have not had command of the wisdom of the ages all along.  If I did have command of this wisdom, it follows that I should have been aware of it at least on some level.  Given that I have not felt in command of such and that I have not had any influence on world hunger, world peace, poverty, pollution, preserving endangered species, or simplifying the US tax code is a clear indication to me that I have not had command of the wisdom of the ages. What if, the wisdom of the ages includes the intelligence not to tackle unsolvable problems such these?  What if, in some dichotomous twist, that one never knows if they have command of the wisdom of the ages?  These are sophomoric questions from back in the day when we all thought about becoming hippies.  The bottom line is that I doubt I have had command of this wisdom all along.
Maybe everyone, or at the minimum everyone with an internet connection, has access to the wisdom of the ages.  The Bible, The Koran, The Tao Te Ching, The Bhagavad Gita, and The Book of Mormon are all available online.  Every word of every philosopher of note is also online.  The poetry of the great masters of poetry in the world are online as are the great classic novels and epics.  Online, one can also access, history books and scientific treatises from antiquity up through when they started copywriting things.  In theory, almost everyone has access to the wisdom of the ages.  Access, however, is not command.  Command to me means like command of a language i.e. the ability to communicate in the language.  Likewise command of the wisdom of the ages means one should be able to utilize this wisdom in some fashion.
Clearly, if I have command of the wisdom of the ages, it is newly acquired.  Yet, I feel no different than before I cracked open that fortune cookie.  It must be noted however that since I read that fortune, I have been trying to be more and more profound with each word I speak or write.  
When at a loss, I do what I always do:  I google it.  I googled “wisdom of the ages” and quickly realized that my fortune was not all that special.  It seems that one of the great gurus of self-help, Dr. Wayne Dyer, wrote a book in 2002:  Wisdom of the Ages: 60 Days to Enlightenment.  It is available, used, for $.01 plus $3.98 for shipping.  This is much cheaper than the Chinese dinner but then without the fortune I never would have found the book.  


Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams

July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014
Sadly, today we learned that Robin Williams passed away.  He was born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago and died today, August 11, 2014 in his home in California.  Per the New York Times, “the county sheriff’s office said in a statement that it 'suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.'  A further investigation was under way.”  His publicist said that he had been suffering from depression as of late.
       Robin Williams is best known for his high energy, frenetic delivery, rich with ad libs, that left everyone rolling in the aisles.  From my perspective, he burst on the scene on February 28, 1978 when he made a guest appearance on Happy Days as an alien known as Mork from a planet named Ork.  I watched that episode and was totally amazed by the antics.  I remember thinking that his performance was so strong there would most likely be a spinoff.  Clearly, this was a universal feeling, a spin-off sitcom, Mork and Mindy, aired on September 14, 1878.  
     I religiously watched the first few years of Mork and Mindy.   I am sure there were plots to the show.  Of course, I remember Pam Dawber’s lovely presence on the show.  But, the reason I watched the show was to see Robin Williams in action.  I am sure they had a script and I am equally sure that the dialogue written for Mork was but a suggestion upon which Williams ad libbed.  It was incredible how he could be a Scotsman one minute, an Orthodox Jew the next and then alternate between being a southern cracker and Russian.  He had an uncanny ability to switch between characters very quickly.  Not only was he deft at this staccato style but each switch raised the level of camera.  Even his Snickers commercial embodied this style and is hilarious.
     Robin Williams reminded me of Jonathan Winters in the way they both slipped into and out of other characters in the routines and the importance of ad libbing to both of their comedic styles.  It is no wonder that Williams and Winters were friends.  It is also no wonder that both suffered from bouts of depression.   It is almost as if one would have to be bipolar to have the frenzied highs both comedians were capable of.  It is almost as if they have to balance all the funny, frenzied, positive energy with equal portions of depression.  
     I loved his movies.  Specifically, I was amazed by The Bird Cage, Jumanji, Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin, and, surprisingly, RV.  While I prefer his comedies, I was most impressed by his dramatic performances in Good Will Hunting and his very creepy role in One Hour Photo.  We will have these wonderful films as a legacy to this very talented man. 
     There are so many great moments for which Robin Williams can be remembered.  One of my favorites is this bit from a stand-up routine on golf.  I have watched it many times and never tire of it:  Robin Williams golf routine.  I am sorry for the loss of this immense talent that brought so many moments of laughter and happiness to so many.   The news of his passing had such an impact, I just had to write these words and express my sorrow and sadness for our collective loss.
     As we Armenians say, may God illuminate is soul.