Category Archives: cd
Wisdom is represented in all cultures and in all religions which uphold love and practice peace. I have particularly tailored this list of quotes for Christian Republican men and women and the Christian President. I have knowingly excluded the wisdom of other religions and global cultures which practice peace and love because these individuals profess to be Christians.
In this list, intentionally, there are no women quoted. Nevertheless, forgive me that I am a woman who is reminding Christian Donald Trump and Christian Republicans that in this nation, regardless of race, gender, religion and economic status, equality of opportunity and equity of treatment in work and at home is a “Christian value.” As Christians your religion predisposes you to uphold Christian tenets. (see the first quote below) No one wants to be relegated as a criminal inferior regardless of one’s innocence. If you, adherents of Christ, wish to live in His peace that passes understanding, you will demonstrate and be known as His followers by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
However, if you truly are not Christians, than admit it and the country will at least understand your honesty when you follow through on your intentions to abrogate Women’s Rights and stop funding programs (pre-natal, post-natal, nursery care, pre-kindergarden, women’s healthcare, children’s healthcare) to help women and their babies. They will understand when you truncate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs, siphoning off funds and redirecting them to spend $12-15 billion on a wall which will most probably result in a trade war with Mexico and tremendous cost overruns of misspent taxpayer dollars. By the time your wall is finished TAX AND SPEND Republicans will probably have drained around $100 billion counting cost overruns, wall maintenance and border security.
Here are wise words and sayings to give erudite Christian counsel to the current Christian President who may gain peace from them. They are meant to succor. The little people already know and abide by much of this wisdom reflected in all cultures and religions (with the exception of those that oppress women egregiously-which Christianity does not if the Word is rightly divided and not gaslighted/twisted by the institutionalization of paternalistic religionistas).
“Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you.” (Bible) (Golden Rule)
“The first step to greatness is to be honest.” (Samuel Johnson)
For those Republican Christians, who would say they are Christians but are not forgiving and loving…a word to the wise. The truthfulness which Jesus demands from his followers is the self-abnegation which does not hide sin. Nothing is then hidden, everything is brought to the light of day. In this question of truthfulness, what matters first and last is that a man’s whole being should be exposed, his whole evil laid bare in the sight of God. But sinful men do not like this sort of truthfulness. from this site.
“Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you but even with them; forgiving it sets you above them.” (Benjamin Franklin)
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” (The Bible)
“Thou shalt not bear false witness (tell a lie).” (Bible)
“God governs in the affairs of men (and women).” (Benjamin Franklin made this statement when he requested the members of the constitutional convention to pause for prayer for God’s guidance.)
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Bible)
“They that are slow to anger are better than the mighty.” (Bible)
“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Bible)
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to a political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” (George Washington)
“Labor to keep alive in your breast the little spark of celestial fire-conscience.” (George Washington)
“Love one another.” (Bible)
“Thou shalt not steal.” (Bible)
“That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln Gettysburg Address 11/19/1863)
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus Christ of Nazareth
©all photos by Carole Di Tosti, 21 January, 2017, NYC Women’s March
The global Women’s March was three days ago. My soul is still soaring from the momentous and historic occasion. In NYC upwards of 400,000-600,000 (the numbers are inconclusive-police said around 400,000 and Mayor DeBlasio put the numbers higher) women and men of all ages and all races, children, LGBT folks, people from all educational and economic backgrounds and lifestyles marched throughout the day. The main route was from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza down 42nd Street, up 5th Avenue and marchers stopped on 53th Street a few blocks from Trump Tower.
However, because there was a glut of individuals who converged at Dag Hammershold, crowds spilled out into side streets and sidewalks. The police were accommodating, my friends who were there early told me. Other friends I ran into, who had not planned to join in were swept up in the crowd. They marched on sidewalks alongside the marchers in the street; some marched on Madison Avenue going uptown, others on Park Avenue holding signs boldly over their heads. Whether a part of the registered marchers or the sidewalk marchers, waiting to get to an entry point where they would be allowed in, all were in unity, of one mind and spirit, even if they didn’t march the entire route.
I I had previously marched in Washington against the Viet Nam War (remember the scene in Forrest Gump at the mall?). Throughout the years, I have joined in at various protests (Kent State, gay rights, strikes on SUNY Albany campus, various peace and civil rights marches in Albany, Occupy Wall Street 2011, Black Lives Matter). None of those actions compares to this Women’s March January 21 in breadth, scope and intent. Those marches advocated for a specific action: to uplift the 99%, to end the War in Viet Nam, to demand justice for the abusive law enforcement tactics that killed 4 Kent State students, to assert that Black Lives matter in the face of a history of abuse and unjust killings.
None of those marches were unified on a national and global scale to stand together in concert against everything that one individual and members of a billionaire economic class and their pilot fish have come to represent for people of good will everywhere. This march and these marchers stood and still stand against institutional repression of human rights (including the right to a sustainable environment without threat of upheaval to countries and societies because of climate change). The marchers stood in opposition to the unapologetic behavior of the president and his staff during the campaign and their demonstrated actions of bigotry in not loudly refuting white supremacy, racism, misogyny, gender discrimination, anti-semitism and cronyism.
In Washington D.C., NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, in cities in every U.S. state, in 60 countries, in seven continents, even in the Antarctic Peninsula, there were sister marches. Each shed an incredible spirit of unity and community. January 21, 2017 marks a global day of unity and peace (there was no violence anywhere). We who participated are a part of a citizenry without national borders, a united spiritual consciousness of individuals who believe that liberty, justice and equality of opportunity should be for all, not just the tiny minority who can pay for preeminent civil rights.
In the U.S. untold amounts of money buy freedoms, the crucial freedom to be above the law and to slyly dictate sub rosa what the law should be according to corporate or personal agendas. Swaths of money buy a presidency, pay to keep one out of prison by purchasing the best attorneys, buy global mobility, buy luxury housing, trophy wives, beauty, youth, clean water, quality food, superb preventative alternative medicine with holistic MDs, private hospital rooms with catered meals.
The more the billions, the greater the power and influence, the greater the likelihood of unethical, unchecked behavior. Money is the right of privilege. Money has a higher sanctity than life. Without it, in the U.S. especially, (the national quality of life-the US is not on this list) the individual is in a relative state of economic bondage: forced into or trapped in economic marriage relationships, miserable at low paying, stressful jobs…where one longs for days of “freedom.” or retirement. Unlike European countries (Netherlands, Denmark, etc.) in the U.S. the ratio of salary between CEOs, company owners and their employees, is egregiously unequal.
Equity of opportunity is one reason people marched. In the U.S. the gender wage gap still exists, though there is argument about how to measure it taking numerous variables into consideration. Black women and men, and Hispanic women and men make less money then their white counterparts.
People marched to uphold women’s rights to control their souls/decision-making over themselves and their bodies, a natural right men have and vociferously uphold against anyone mucking with their “masculinity.”
Men and women marched to uphold that women must not be demeaned, belittled, abused, objectified because of gender. (statistics of violence against women globally are here as a referent) Yet they are and the president has an appalling track record on video revealing his paternalism and objectification of women’s appearance, not a good model for young female children.
And people marched to stand against a president who they feel is an illegitimate bounder, who demeaned and unjustly vilified and criminalized opponent Hillary Clinton using shadowy assets delivered by contingents of law enforcement to pressure FBI Comey to tar and feather her days before the election. Others marched for they believe the president’s men occluded results in swing states with cooperating election boards, all funded by Kremlin dollars through Paul Manafort who was fired from the Trump campaign in August 2016, but remained in the shadows advising Trump to go to swing states before the vote.
Kellyanne Conway questioned the purpose of the march. President Trump suggested the marchers should have voted. Conway is paid well to speak the administration propaganda. In response to the president’s retort, people did vote. Hillary won the popular vote. Hillary won the majority in a democratic popular vote, something which to this day (commentary by Press Secretary Spicer) the president denies and affirms that “millions voted illegally,” in keeping with his believed assertions that he won in a landslide, both the popular vote and the electoral college. Research and evidence reveal these are mistaken beliefs which have become fraudulent “alternative facts” at the least. Others state they are outright lies and propaganda to soothe a wounded ego and keep up the brand name of “Trump, the winner.”After all, the man has yet to divest himself or his progeny of his businesses and put them in a blind trust befitting a President of the United States under the Constitution, which he swore an oath to uphold on Inauguration Day.
This character, this personality, this attitude by the president is another reason why marchers left their homes, their activities, their leisure to protest. They felt it imperative to take a stand against the overt trickery, the lies, the deceit, the fraud and the “gaslighting” twisted distortions of truth which characterize the president’s behaviors before and during the campaign and even up to this day. Every human being has the capability to learn humility; the people marched in the hope that there would be a change of attitude. In empathy and pity, the people around the world marched in concert as a remembrance of the the finest principles of American values, human rights, equitable treatment and justice. This was not about patriotism, it was about humanity, goodness, kindness, generosity of spirit, good will and standing in someone else’s shoes.
Of the many symbolic themes which the marches (672 marches in 60 countries around the world), hold, there is the empowerment of the individual within a social community, standing for the good of oneself and each other. This consciousness of united individuals globally now exists like never before in manifested form. Individuals took a stand visibly. They stood for the goodness of equity, for common decency, for equal justice and human rights for all. They marched to oppose war and violence. They marched in the belief that technology has already provided answers to create sustainable energy and sufficient resources for all who live on the planet. It is only a matter of the will of governments and the energy of sane leaders and organizers to work to that end. Where is that will demonstrated in this administration which rebukes climate change as a fantasy and would put America First, in a nationalism reminiscent of a dark period of the 20th century?
Human decency and the golden rule trump politics, greed and the tiny niggardly minority who holds the wealth of the nations at their pleasure while others live in needless misery, bowed and wasted by lack of adequate medical treatment, in the impoverishment of unclean food and water, in jails discriminatorily stocked by a broken justice system. Those who believe and act the golden rule are the majority. Though some did not march this time, they will march the next time, unless there is a behavioral reversal, a gradual humility and sense that someone is different because he has acquiesced to the voice of the people. If the situation worsens and the lies and intimidation and bullying continue, they will march again, and again, and again in peace and unity until the governments which cannot exist in themselves respond to their will and the human mandate for equity.
Phalaenopsis orchids, the most ubiquitous of flowers, hardly garner a second glance when we stroll by the myriad colored hybrids that adorn restaurants, homes, offices, and flower sections of grocery stores.
However, in 19th century Victorian England, if you had orchids in your parlour, you were most probably a member of the upper class. Orchids were a costly rarity, and for much of the 19th century, these plant gems remained in the domain of aristocrats, whose adoration of spectacular orchid originals epitomized the genteel display of power, status, and luxury.
In celebration of those passionate Victorians whose obsessions spawned perilous journeys and whose collectors’ cultivations helped to transform the field of plant research, propagation, and conservation, this year’s theme of the NYBG Orchid Show, is “Orchidelirium.” Representative of all that is exceptional and dynamic about this monumental flowering plant family Orchidaceae (over 30,000 naturally occurring species from tiny to large, with over 150,000 man-made hybrids), NYBG “Orchidelirium” in its intense visual design and intriguing tour layout circumscribes the trending mania that burst onto the scene in Victorian England. The exhibition highlights the finest and most innovative creative impulses of the time and recalls some of the most nefarious of human activity before profiteering, exploitation, and habitat destruction became the anathema they are today.
Marc Hachadourian (NYBG orchid curator) holding the beloved Psychopsis papilio that whetted the Duke of Devonshire’s obsession for more rare beauties. Photo: Carole Di Tosti
Close up of the Psychopsis papilio that started orchid mania and determined the British Duke of Devonshire to amass the largest private orchid collection in the world at his Chatsworth House estate in Derbyshire which you can visit today. Photo Carole Di Tosti
The Duke’s head gardener Joseph Paxton revolutionized greenhouse design and orchid cultivation for the Duke whose expanding collection (eventually his greenhouses were over an acre under glass), inspired his wealthy friends to also display their unrivaled orchid prizes. Soon hundreds of adventurers were commissioned to travel on the high seas and bring back all the obscure, unparalleled beauties they could find. In 10 years the Duke possessed the largest private orchid collection in the world centered at his Chatsworth House estate. The grandiloquent gardens, greenhouses, and impressive buildings in Derbyshire, which recall the wealth and splendiferous grounds of Mr. Darcy’s estate in Pride and Prejudice, are worth the visit if you are traveling to the UK.
Fragrant Dancing Ladies Orchid, Oncidium, Rosy Sunset ‘F’ NYBG Orchidelirium. The oncidium orchids carry a lovely fragrance of roses or chocolate. Photo: Carole Di Tosti
Our love of orchids has been tempered with an ethical imperative about conservation and preservation of habitats that was absent back in the time of the exploitative, predatory Victorians. Throughout, this prodigious show highlights the extent of the Victorians’ often piratical obsession, not only through its exquisite, floral pageantry but by showcasing the historical artifacts, books, pictures, narratives that adorn the pathways where the lusciously fragrant Oncidium Rosy Sunset ‘F’ orchids dance (they smell like chocolate), and the Miltoniopsis Herralexandre (pansy orchids) charm with their smiling faces that bloom with scintillating color. The narrative discloses “movers and shakers like Benedikt Roezl, the “Prince of Orchid Hunters,” who was the most famous and successful orchid collector of the era.
The exhibition is breathtaking in its conceptualization, scope, design, and presentation. It is partly conceived as an expeditionary journey that snakes through the greenhouse galleries and suggests the diversified habitats that recall the various continents spanning rain forests, mountains, and deserts (orchids live in all continents with the exception of Antarctica), where orchids luxuriate. One first enters the conservatory’s Palms of the World Gallery Reflecting Pool and is struck by the explosion of whites, fuscias, variegated roses, pinks, and maroons of reigning Phalaenopsis which cascade dripping Spanish moss from elevated dispositions in the trees. The featured display symbolizes how far orchid cultivation has come from hunters poaching species in the wild to the massive hybridization and cultivation of
Around each turn is the unusual, like the vanilla orchid whose pods are not beans and which is the only orchid of natural economic value from which we derive all our vanilla flavoring. According to Marc Hachadourian who walked with us along the orchid trail, the vanilla seed pod of the orchid is what is taken, dried and cured and as a result of that curing process or fermentation, that’s where natural vanilla comes from. So the Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla which is the real vanilla extract, comes from the seed pod of an orchid. Marc referred to the black flecs in Vanilla Haagen dazs ice cream which are from the vanilla orchid seed pod. “You see, you’ve been eating orchids your entire life and didn’t know it.”
As we move along the trail, Marc informs us of the tremendous diversity of orchids which are highly adaptable to all terrains and climates and are the reason why researchers use them in their plant studies. Along the pathway through the galleries that mimic the various terrains where orchids grow, you will encounter the desert orchid Eulophia Petersii.
Everyone loves saving money, but sometimes I don’t want to go the extra effort to do so. This time, however, I did take the extra steps and I saved hundreds of dollars. I was thrilled!
If you’re following my posts on Facebook (facebook https://www.facebook.com/JAOwenby/) you know my upcoming novel was sent to my editor January 15th. I sent her 75 pages of my manuscript in order for her to present a scope of work and price. This is what she wrote back:
“I’ve spent some time with chapters of Tears in the Sun, and overall your development and plot are strong. You’re a good writer, and the story is intriguing. You only need light developmental editing.”
I was so excited I didn’t sleep that night! The next day I finally got over myself and looked back at what I did that saved me money, and I laughed. The one thing…
View original post 348 more words
Interesting post by Barb Drummond.
Some more from Charles Glass, in his ‘Tribes with Flags’. I knew Train travelled to Britain, but I had no idea he had done the Grand Tour to the Middle East as well:
This is Twain on Damascus in 1867:
“She measures time not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise and prosper and crumble into ruin. she is a type of immortality. She saw the foundations of Baalbek and Thebes and Ephesus laid; she saw these villages grow into mighty cities and amaze the world with their grandeur – and she has lived to see them desolate, deserted, and given over to the owls and the bats. She saw the Israelitish empire exalted, and she saw it annihilated. She saw Greece rise and flourish two thousand years and die. In her old age she saw Rome built; she saw it overshadow the…
View original post 435 more words
Italy, like no other place on earth for its food, is also like no other place on earth for its wines. In the US we are just beginning to understand how the wine making history, terroirs and microclimates of the various wine regions of Italy, have contributed to an abundance of so many wonderful wines. It is almost impossible to wrap one’s head around all the amazing wine possibilities that Italians have lived with all of their lives and for centuries.
Indeed, the entire country of Italy from one corner to the other is layered in the ancient history of winemaking and the appreciation of the beauties of living and enjoying good food paired with wonderful wine. To give you an idea of how much Italians know and understand the ancient wine making business, there are 500 grape varietals in Italy that can be made into a multitude of wines as varied as Proseccos, to dessert wines, to rich full bodied reds and creamy, soothing, light whites. In France, there are only 15 grape varietals that compose French wines. So for every Italian wine tasting I go to like VINO 2016’s tasting that featured over 125 wine exhibitors in the Hilton Midtown grand ballroom on February 8th-9th, I enjoy sampling wines from Italy’s different regions. Slowly, but surely I am learning about the multitude of grapes, their terroirs and microclimates which have produced some of the most incredible Italians wines that pair wonderfully with lip-smacking, delicious, quality Italian food.
VINO 2016 is preparing me for visiting Italy again to visit relatives and to visit some of my most favored wineries whose wines I’ve tasted recently. Some are featured on this blog; others are featured in my Blogcritics posts: the exemplary Slow Wines like Cantina Della Volta and Badia A Coltibuono and Slow Wines from the Piedmont like those from The Fiorenzo Nada winery, Carussin winery and the Cà ed Balos winery, and the storied, amazing Tuscan wines of Pietro Beconcini, These represented regions in the North. I also sampled wines from Abruzzo (see the post on this blog of the story of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and winery Valpeligna Vini) and Puglia in my first post about the Negroamaro and Primitivo wines from Cantina Sampietrana produced from their wonderful organic Alberello bush vines.
After attending workshops on wines from other regions at VINO 2016, I went to the grand tasting in the ballroom and spent some time learning about Puglian wines from Stefano Civino who represents Cantina Sampietrana. One wine I didn’t discuss in my previous post about Cantina Sampietrana is their amazing 52 Brindisi D.O.P. Riserva 2012 (see photo). It is an award winner, a beautiful red statuesque wine, with moderate fruit and earthy palate, barely noticeable tannins and sumptuous, lasting finish. Paired with spicy meats and full flavored cheeses and salumi it is a knockout. I figured it would be best to let Stefano Civino discuss for himself Cantina Sampietrana and an exemplary vintage of this marvelous blend of Montepulciano (20%) and Negroamaro (80%) via Wine TV with host Jessica Alteri.
VINO 2016, Italian Wine Week, is an unforgettable event that occurs once a year around the first part of February. This year VINO 2016 took place at the Hilton Midtown, NYC (February 7-9). It is a festival of Italian wines where producers, importers, retailers, journalists and wine educators gather to learn about Italian wines and sample some of the marvelous vintages that are being produced throughout the 20 regions of Italy. This year there were approximately 125 producers represented and since I cannot get to all of them though I would have liked to, I had “a little help from my friends” who made recommendations.
My friend, wine connoisseur Chris Black, who hails from Hungary, suggested I stop at a exhibitor he enjoyed, Cantina Sampietrana, a cooperative which produces wines from Puglia. The region of Puglia is Italy’s heel and Southwestern most province. Its coastline fronts the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. I have never been to Puglia, but I have tasted delicious Puglian wines and knew I would not be disappointed by the wines from Cantina Sampietrana. Chris was right to send me there as the wines I tasted were superb.
Co-op representative, Stefano Civino who joked that he is “the face of Cantina Sampietrana,” told me that his father is a wine producer and member of the cooperative which was established in 1952. Stefano himself has extensive experience in the wine making business, not only from an international sales and marketing standpoint, but he actually goes into the vineyards. He told me he joins his father in various aspects of vine development; for example, he recently helped to prune the vines. Not only does this exemplify the expert’s desire to remain in touch with the land and vines, it manifests the passion to understand and experience all aspects of expert cultivation which helps to produce top quality wines.
Catina Sampietrana (whose location is the historic centre of San Pietro Vernotico, a little village in between Brindisi and Lecce in Puglia), produces both reds and whites from mostly indigenous varietals. What makes these wines wonderful? The type of cultivation that requires working with the vines by hand as they grow in bushes, and the bio-dynamic growing techniques; the vines are certified organic using NO Monsanto pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. I talked to Stefano at length; he knows a great deal about wellness and eating organic, clean food to promote a strong immune system. Of course drinking clean, delicious wines paired with clean food is an important part of good health.
I tried the Tacco Barocco Negroamaro 2013, which is 100% Negroamaro grapes made from 50-year-old Alberello bush vines. It is deep red with the fragrance of wild berries. Its oak aging from 9-12 months adds a note of spices to the velvet smooth elegance on the palate. The 2013 Salento IGT has a lasting finish; the tannins are mildly present but flavorful. As a red I would drink it with appetizers of Prosciutto di Parma and mild to sharp cheeses. It would go well with pasta and meat sauces, steaks, and grilled meats and vegetables.
Next was the Tacco Barocco Primitivo (meaning early) 2014 which is 100% Primitivo grapes. The 2014 Salento IGT is ruby red. Refined in oak for 9-12 months, it has a deep, rich, spicy nose and is layered and mellow with a hint of deeper texture on the palate. The tannins are not overpowering and give this wine an expressive finish. It would go great with slow cooked roasts, braised, savory meats, quail, wild boar and moderately sharp cheeses.
The Vigna Delle Monache Salice Salentino DOC Riserva 2011, a fuller bodied wine and quite delicious is made from 100% selected Negroamaro grapes. It has a darker ruby red color. Aging in French oak barrels for 12 months and in bottles for two years adds to the stature of the wine. Its bouquet is of black cherry with a scent of pleasant vanilla. The palate is velvety and profound with a lasting finish.This would go great with well-seasoned earthy dishes, roasts, savory game, poultry, pork and spicy salumi or Grana Padano cheese.
When I go to Puglia, I do plan to stop at Cantina Sampietrana and sample the next sequence of these wines vintages and try some of their other wines. They have tastings and if you call before hand (see the website information or contact your tour guide and arrange a visit), you will have a fun time and be assured that all the vineyards you are looking at are cultivated with passion, assiduous care and astute attention to sustainability and zero negative environmental impact.
The last day of VINO 2016, Italian Wine Week at the Hilton Midtown, NYC (February 7-9) I ran into Chris, a friend and wine connoiseur. This was in the grand ballroom where over 125 Italian wineries and their representatives were exhibiting their wonderful wines. During such amazing tastings, I try to feature one or two regions of Italy and concentrate on their wines. But I always know I am giving the other wineries short shrift. So many wines, so little time! It helps when a friend covers one area and I another and we swap notes.
Chris recommended I stop at Valpeligna Vini and try the 2010 Montepulciano which he really favored along with meeting the two brothers Marco and Giuseppe Iacobucci who were representing the wine cooperative that produced the wines. When I stopped by to see if I agreed with Chris, I spoke to Roberto Polidoro who told me an interesting story and cleared up a few facts about the wines we associate with Montepulciano that for me, Frances Mayes made famous in her book Under the Tuscan Sun.
Did you know that Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a particular grape that evolved in Abruzzo (the province running from the Appinnines, East of Rome to the Adriatic coast), and it is not to be confused with the wine referred to as Montepulciano, actually Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a Tuscan wine which is a meld of Sangiovese and other grapes? I did not. Italy has over 500 indigenous varietals that are found in the twenty regions of Italy. To give you some perspective, France has only 15 varietal grapes. So when one begins to learn about the great wines of Italy, you will learn amazing stories about the evolution of their many, many grapes and you will want to continue learning about them once you begin to get your “feet wet,” and try another grape varietal or blend which is at the heart of another superb Italian wine.
This is the interesting story about the Montepulciano grape varietal, which did NOT originate in Tuscany, even though it takes the name of the town of Montepulciano in the province of Siena. The grape that grew in Tuscany in the area of Montepulciano was the Prugnolo grape varietal. Prugnolo was cultivated around Montepulciano, Siena since the Renaissance. All the European Renaissance courts from Venice to Paris adored Prugnolo. However, it was around the XVIII century before the French Revolution in 1789 that the Mazzara Nobility had the Prugnolo grape transplanted in the Peligna Valley because of the appropriate climate, soil and other features. The farmers and vintners in the Peligna Valley liked the wines produced by the Prugnolo, but didn’t use that appellation; they used a short-cut to name it, like saying “that Montepulciano grape.”
It has been documented by travelers at the time (Michele Torcia) of 1792 that the grape referred to as “Montepulciano” was being grown everywhere in the Peligna Valley. The irony is that the nature of the micro-climate, the soil, the suns and winds and the cultivation techniques impacted the Prugnolo and actually changed the life blood of the grape’s morphology and thus evolved a completely different grape varietal which those of the then Abruzzo-Moliese (now Abruzzo because the two provinces split in 1963) region were growing. They referred to it as “Montepulciano.”
Thus, who would think that from the Prugnolo, a different grapevine evolved and it was the familiar named grape varietal, Montepulciano. After the split of the provinces in 1963, it became Montepulciano D’Abruzzo because the Peligna Valley and other areas in Abruzzo are where the Montepulciano grapes are grown.
The full-bodied, bold character of the “that Montepulciano grape” is best realized in the Peligna Valley where Marco and Giuseppe Iacobbuci and other vintners combine their efforts in their cooperative, Valpeligna Vini. And I must say the wine of the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo D.O.C. is sensational and very different from the Tuscan Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a blend.
I tried the Don Peppe 2010. Its color is dark, deep ruby red. There were lovely notes of black cherry melded with vanilla. It was complex and layered and had a long, strong finish. The tannins were not overwhelming but balanced. Such a wine is great with Grana Padano and other sharp cheeses, salumi, and of course, red meats, roasts and pasta.
Italian wines like the Italian people themselves have within them an amazing story to tell. If we remember that all of Italy’s peninsula is a phenomenal food and wine region (I like to say you can’t get a bad meal in Italy), with the evolution of grape growing morphed by nobles and peasants alike, by monks and clergy who were diligent vintners. The wine tradition goes even further back to the ancestors of today’s Italians, for example, Etruscans, Samnites, Greeks, Romans because often the wine which was fermented, was SAFER and more delicious to drink than water. Indeed, there are similarities to today and upon doing a bit of research, it is amazing what one discovers: the more recent Montepulciano D’Abruzzo grape varietal is a welcome, wonderful addition to Italy’s indigenous varietals.
For me the story of this grape represents the ingenuity of vintners and how they are constantly developing and enhancing their vineyards with improved techniques to tease out the finest most luscious quality wines. As an added note, this does not involve use chemicals (pesticides, herbicides) over a thousand of which are banned in the European Union. The Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is strictly the morphology of the terroir, the microclimate of the Peligna Valley, the sun, wind and rains of the region as it develops from year to year and enjoys its enriched life. These wines of Valpeligna Vini are all bio-dynamic. They are grown with the passion and tender care of the vintners whose vineyards are on the Maiella hillside in Abruzzo. For further information check: Valpeligna Vini.
One of the best kept secrets in Manhattan for enjoying a night of rollicking, hysterical fun, lip-smacking sumptuous pizza and a bit of wine to restore one’s nerves during a hectic work week is Commedia dell’Artichoke at the Gene Frankel Theatre. Presented by Frances Black Projects in association with CAP21, the production is a hyper blast party of stupendous fun which runs until February 6.
Commedia dell’Artichoke is a ripping comedy like no other you will see in the city for its inventiveness, extemporaneous joyride, audience participation and prescient, trending humor. It’s conceived by the ingenious team of Frances Black, Carter Gill and Tommy Russell, who have honed their artistic statement into a whimsical whirlwind, a compendium of ancient and modern social satire about how the wealthy stick it to the classes beneath them and how the working classes push back with resilience, humor and verve. The show boasts Devin Brain at the director’s helm who skillfully guides the unique performance art of Carter Gill, Alexandra Henrikson, Tommy Russell and Shannon Marie Sullivan. All of these actors are scintillating.
Over the course of the evening, Gill, Henrikson, Russell and Sullivan broadly portray 10 characters in the Commedia dell’arte style, with grotesque masks, antic characterizations and hyper-mannered behaviors. Not only are the actors superb comedians with expert timing, they sing and dance with sheer abandon. The show has an extemporaneous feel, added to by the audience participation: anything can happen. Surprising moments are completely appropriate to the winding, picaresque storyline.
The beauty of the production is that the silly absurdity of some scenes allows the actors’ musical breakouts, which prompt our unexpected laughter. And that ebbs into somber thoughtfulness about the wisdom of what we have experienced; this is expert, clever, comic pacing. We appreciate the pithy jokes about “The American Dream-nightmare,” trending political slogans, social media topics, gender loops and much more. The humor is sardonic, darkly funny, socially meaningful. All makes complete sense, and you have the time of your life romping in the intellectual brilliance and ridiculousness of these characters who “know the score.”
The original musical numbers are beautifully integrated, with appropriate accompaniment by band leader and multi-instrumentalist Robert Cowie. The music helps shape the plot dynamics and organically evokes the scenes. The actors/characters bring Cowie into their ensemble as their dutiful “conductor” of fun. He good-naturedly accompanies/instigates the songs, fanciful tunes and dances.
This “gypsy” music echoes the ideas of love and empathy. In a deus ex machina rescue, the villain, Adam Smith’s “Vile Maxim” incarnate, La Capitana (portrayed with audacious, Trump-like ferocity by the operatic Alexandra Henrikson), is deflected from enacting dire financial doom upon our hero, Carter Gill’s brash, endearing everyman and pizza “entrepreneur” Pulcinella. As the production concludes, hope and a stay of financial execution are achieved for another day. All ends well in the perfect unity of comedy.
If I had to explain to you specifically how we arrived at this superb finale, I couldn’t. The journey is labyrinthine, fraught with diversions and robust antic scenes from Pulcinella’s conflicted life, leading back to the beginnings when Pulcinella, whose pizza we have enjoyed, explains his New York City dreams to become a “self-made man.” With gyrating plot arcs which double back on themselves, vignettes which make sense in their nonsense, and brilliant jokes that kill as they are tossed off like salad leaves for you to either graze on or disallow, this is as close to Commedia dell’arte style as you will see in our savvy, super-cool city.
Scenes spiral out from protagonist Pulcinella and his retinue. The conflict pounces on our poor hero in the form of villain Capitana and her sycophant lackey Tartaglia. Capitana, a crazy caricature of the stereotypical mannish woman boss, signifies the American nightmare of the business class that will stop at nothing to make American business “great,” “big” and “hard” again in order to blow away China (the sexual allusions are funny).
In keeping with these undemocratic notions, Capitana must wipe out Pulcinella and develop the area (her projected store possibilities are riotous) into “greatness.” It is a displacing event all too familiar to real-estate-pressured New Yorkers. Along the way, we meet other Commedia-style “stock” characters in Pulcinella’s life, modernized but with their Commedia flavor (thanks to Commedia consultant Christopher Bayes) present. The comic scenario has been ramped up to satirize urban life, mega-developers vs. the little guy, crazy cultural tropes, corporate business models, etc.
The hijinks are nonstop. And as you enjoy the entertainment, you also swallow the characters’ irony about our city’s social infirmities: its hyper-development, its classism, its intransigence against democratic wellbeing for all. We laugh as Pulcinella comments about having to work and work and work some more and work your butt off and do more work, ostensibly to make it to the first rung up the ladder of success.
And as for climbing up into the clouds where the Bloombergs and Trumps abide, there’s always a Capitana to toll the financial death knell or pour acid into one’s bleeding bank wounds. These types manifest the cryptic financial screed of being “bigger and better” (as Capitana does to Pulcinella) by raising the rent to “one dollar more than you can afford.” Though it isn’t stated, the message is clear and we have come to know it as brutal irony: “It’s nothing personal, just business.”
The actors’ high energy spins out other rapid-fire scenes about the ridiculousness of who we choose to love, the zany relationships we become involved in, and a guy’s proper etiquette toward a gal. Such pointed jokes ground us in ourselves. The sharp humor brings us to the remembrance that in the theater as in life, we are in this together. As we laugh, we encourage each other to enjoy the journey. We can control some things, but other events just unfold. We dare not stand in the shadows nor miss the passing parade or the fun will dissolve. Just dive in and don’t consider how it will turn out because what you prepare for won’t necessarily happen in the ways you expect.
Pulcinella’s artichoke pizza is one of the better pizzas in the city. You certainly do not want to miss his hard work and the effort it took to concoct his super recipe of deliciousness and fun. The production is comic genius. The show should be extended or brought back again in another venue. See it while you still can. Commedia dell’Artichoke will be at the Gene Frankel Theatre until February 6.