Monday, May 5, 2014

Pearls of Wisdom from Norah Ephron Part 2


.    Long before I knew this would be one of her last books, I was taking notes, i.e.

 

“Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.

 

You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 pm.

 

Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of thirty-five, you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty-five.

 

At the age of fifty-five you will get a saggy roll just above your waist… even if you are painfully thin.

 

The saggy roll just above your waist will be especially visible from the back and will force you to reevaluate half the clothes in your closet, especially the white shirts.”

 

There’s more!

 

“The empty nest is underrated.

 

You can order more than one dessert.

 

You can’t own too many black turtleneck sweaters.

 

Overtip.

 

Never let them know.

 

There are no secrets.”

 

And she ends this book with the following:

 

“I use this bath oil I happen to love.  It’s called Dr. Hauschka’s Lemon Bath. 

It costs about twenty dollars a bottle, which is enough for about two weeks of baths if you follow the instructions.

 The instructions say one capful per bath.  But a capful gets you nowhere.

 A capful is not enough.  I have known this for a long time.”

 

And listen to this!

“ And if the events of the last few years have taught me anything it’s that I’m going to feel like an idiot if I die tomorrow and I skimped on bath oil today.  So I use quite a lot of bath oil.  More than you could ever imagine.

 After I take a bath, my bathtub is as dangerous as an oil slick.

 But thanks to the bath oil, I’m as smooth as silk.

  I am going out to buy more, right now.

Goodbye”                                   The End of this quote…

 

We, of course, are not going to say “Goodbye.”

 We are going to move on to an even more recent book

 I Remember Nothing which was published in 2010 and which I studied innocently in 2011, just for the following tips which I will share with you.  Gleaning the best…

 

Page 65 – “For example, here’s how we cook steak in our house:

 First you coat the steak in kosher salt.  Then you cook the steak in a very hot frying pan. 

When it’s done, you throw a huge pat of butter on top of it. 

That’s it.

 And by the way, I’m not talking about sweet butter… I’m talking about salted butter.”

 

 

Page 67 – “So this is my moment to say what’s been in my heart for years:

It’s time to put a halt to the egg-white omelette.

 I don’t want to confuse this with something actually important, like the war in Afghanistan.

However, I don’t seem to be able to do anything about the war, but I do have a shot at cutting down consumption of egg-white omelettes.

 

You don’t make an omelette by taking OUT the yolks. 

You make one by putting additional yolks IN. 

 

A really great omelette has two whole eggs and one extra yolk.

 

As for egg salad, here’s our recipe:

Boil eighteen eggs, peel them, and send six of the egg whites to friends in California who think that egg whites matter even slightly in anyway.

Chop the remaining twelve eggs and six yolks coarsely with a knife, and add Hellmann’s mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.”

 I can testify personally…this is Yum.

 

Page 70 – After a long treatise about the well documented dangers and evils of Teflon coated pans, she says:

“I love Teflon.  I love the no-carb ricotta pancake I invented last year which can be cooked only on Teflon.”

 

 Here is the recipe:

 

Beat one egg, add one-third cup fresh whole-milk ricotta, and whisk together.

Heat up a Teflon pan until carcinogenic gas is released into the air.

 Spoon tablespoons of batter into the frying pan and cook about two minutes on one side, until brown.  Carefully flip.  Cook for another minute to brown the other side.  Eat with jam!  Serves one.”

 

To tell the truth, much as I have enjoyed these recipes, reading them, making them, and eating the results, we have to wonder if this wildly cavalier way with butter and Teflon might not have actually impacted Nora’s health.
 
As Ludmila shared the food in her barn, so Norah shared her food with friends and the world. 
 
More to come.
 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Saying Good-bye to Norah Ephron - Part 1 What, you may ask, relates Norah Ephron to Character Education for Kids? Start with good manners and cooking!

SAYING GOOD BYE TO NORA EPHRON
         
One of the most delicious dishes in the world is hot pasta with fresh cold tomatoes, cold pressed virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese.  It may sound strange, but it is exquisitely wonderful.  Here is Nora Ephron’s recipe:
Linguine alla cecca   (check-uh)
“It’s a hot pasta with a cold tomato basil sauce, and it’s so light and delicate that it’s almost like eating a salad.  It has to be made in the summer, when tomatoes are fresh.  Drop 5 large tomatoes into boiling water for one full minute.  Peel and seed and chop.  Put into a large bowl with ½ cup olive oil, a garlic clove sliced in two, 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, salt and hot red pepper flakes.
Let it sit for a couple of hours, then remove the garlic.  Boil one pound of linguine, drain and toss with the cold tomato mixture.  Serve immediately.”
I hadn’t actually referred to this recipe since I first made it in 1983, and I have to admit it’s even more  simple to make the way I do it now.  Trust me, it is heaven.  Page 100 of Heartburn.
That recipe is one of the wonderful things about Nora’s book Heartburn which was made into a movie with, guess who, Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.  On page 77 of Heartburn, she writes:
“The next man I was involved with lived in Boston.  He taught me to cook mushrooms.  He taught me that if you heat the butter very hot and put just a very few mushrooms into the frying pan, they come out nice and brown and crispy, whereas if the butter is only moderately hot and you crowd the mushrooms, they get all mushy and wet.  Every time I make mushrooms I think of him.”
But I get ahead of myself.
Choosing one’s topic for one’s annual ’81 Club paper is serious business.  Over the years, we have studied the challenge of which topic to choose with almost the same zeal as we study the challenge of writing about that topic.  I’m proud of my papers, as are we all, and looking back I see that they are usually about women…usually high profile women such as Mme Marie Curie or Mme Chiang Kai-shek…and nearly always have some references to movies. 
But as I was worrying about selecting a topic worthy of presenting to ’81, I was  distracted by some reading from a long time favorite author, Nora Ephron.
 And that is how this paper today came to write itself.
Now Nora has been with us in the popular media for quite a while…about 55 years to be exact.  Each of us has her favorite “Nora” work…such as Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail  or more recently, Julie & Julia , all of which bear watching as movies again and again.
 And most of us know that Nora died unexpectedly June 26, 2012 at age 71 in New York City.
  Unexpectedly, that is, to us, her fans.
NOT unexpectedly to Nora. (folder with clippings)
 Reading the fine print in Frank Rich’s article called “Nora’s Secret” in New York Magazine, August 27, 2012 issue, we learn that Nora had been struggling with a terminal illness for six and a half years, and had been in a hospital deathbed the last five weeks of her life.  For nearly all of that time, only a half dozen or so immediate family knew that she was ill…and those people did not know much detail.
But we can do the math.  We can figure out that some of her most telling and eloquent books were written while she was ill…such as I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, in which she wrote:
“My friend, Henry Grunwald, died a few months ago.  He was what we refer to as one of the lucky ones.  He died at eighty-two, having lived a full, rich, and successful life.  He had coped brilliantly with macular degeneration – for almost two years, most of his friends had no idea he couldn’t see – and then he wrote a book about going blind that will probably outlast all the rest of his accomplishments, which were considerable.
He died of heart failure, peacefully, in his sleep with his adoring family around him.  The day before his death, he asked to be brought a large brown accordion folder which he kept in his office.  In it were love letters he had received when he was younger.  He sent them back to the women who’d written them, wrote them all lovely notes, and destroyed the rest.  What’s more, he left complete detailed instructions for his funeral, including the music he wanted – all this was laid out explicitly in a file he had labeled  “EXIT”
I so admire Henry and the way he handled his death. It’s inspirational.” (end quote)
INSPIRATIONAL?  Inspirational indeed.   Remember Nora wrote this about Henry Grunwald in 2006 when she had already been diagnosed with her own terminal illness.
Now that part about the EXIT file is indeed interesting, but even more compelling are the pearls of wisdom at the end.

Stay tuned for "pearls of wisdom" www.childrensebooksbyjoan.com

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

THE MONUMENTS MEN PART 6 The Finale


THE MONUMENTS MEN  Part 6  The Finale

 

Moving on to Italy and the Tuscan and Florentine treasures…

 

In Italy, museum officials had evacuated their holdings to various countryside locations such as the Tuscan villa of Monteguifoni, which housed some of the Florentine collections.

As Allied Forces advanced through Italy, the German army retreated north, stealing paintings and sculptures as they fled.  As German forces neared the Austrian border, they were forced to store most of their loot in various hiding places such as a castle at Sand in Taufers and a jail cell in San Leonardo.

 

Beginning in late March 1945, Allied forces began discovering these hidden repositories in what would become the greatest treasure hunt in history.  In Germany alone, US forces found about 1,500 repositories that contained art and cultural objects looted from institutions and individuals across Europe, as well as from German and Austrian museum collections

 

 

Some repositories of special note were:

 

Berchtesgaden, Germany – 1,000 paintings and sculptures stolen by Hermann Goring.  The cache had been evacuated from his country estate, Carinhall, and moved in 1945 to protect it from invading Russian troops.

 

Bernterode, Germany – four coffins containing the remains of Germany’s greatest leaders including Frederick the Great and  Field Marshal Paul Von Hindenburg

 

 

Merkers, Germany – General George Patton in April 1945 found

 Reichsbank gold, along with 400 paintings and other crates of treasure.  More dismal discoveries included gold and personal belongings from Nazi concentration camp victims.

 

Altaussee, Austria – This extensive complex of salt mines served as a huge repository for stolen art including Vermeer’s The Astronomer and The Art of Painting, and paintings from the Capodimonte Museum in Naples stolen by Hermann Goring.

 

San Leonardo, Italy – In the jail cell of this very northern town Allied officials discovered paintings from the Uffizi that had been hurriedly unloaded by retreating German troops…paintings by Botticelli, Filippo Lippi and Giovanni Bellini.

 

This is a very superficial listing, and the scope of the project truly defies imagination.

 

By July 1945, US forces had established three central collecting points within the US Zone in Germany, and American organizational skills started to take over.

 

The first director of the collecting points, Captain Walter Farmer,  and 35 others who were in charge of the Wiesbaden collection point, were compelled to draw up what has become known as the “Wiesbaden Manifesto” on 7 November 1945 declaring “We wish to state that, from our own knowledge, no historical grievance will rankle so long or be the cause of so much justified bitterness as the removal for any reason of a part of the heritage of any nation even if that heritage may be interpreted as a prize of war.”

 

Among the co-signers was Lt. Charles Percy Parkhurst of the US Navy.

 

Regarding the occupation of Japan, as the war neared its end in

Japan in 1945, George Stout and fellow Monuments Man Major Laurence Sickman recommended creating an MFAA division in Japan.  Consequently the Arts and Monuments Division …of the Allied Powers in Tokyo was established.

 

Langdon Warner, archaeologist and curator of Oriental art at Harvard’s Fogg Museum, and early mentor of Laurence Sickman, advised the MFAA Section in Japan until September 1946.

 

To sum it all up, the American museum establishment led the efforts to create the MFAA section both in Europe and Japan.  Included in this group were current museum directors, curators and art historians, as well as those who wanted to be museum directors, curators and art historians.

 

Upon returning home from service overseas, these men and women led the creation or improvement of some of the leading cultural institutitons in the US.  Many major museums employed one or more MFAA officers before or after the war, including the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

 

Many other Monuments Men were professors at esteemed universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, New York University, Williams College and Columbia University, among others.  Paul J. Sachs’ famous “Museum Course” at Harvard educated dozens of future museum personnel.  S. Lane Faison’s passion for art history was passed on to hundreds of students and future museum leaders at Williams College in the 1960s and 1970s, some of whom are currently directors at major US museums.

 

 

Other MFAA personnel became founders, presidents, and members of cultural institutions such as the New York City Ballet, the American Association of Museums, the American Association of Museum Directors, the Archaeological Institute of America, the Society of Architectural  Historians, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as respected artists, architects, musicians and archivists.

 

Two Monuments Men officers were killed in Europe, both near the front lines of the Allied advance into Germany.

 

They were Captain Walter Huchthausen, an American scholar and architect attached to the US 9th Army, killed in April 1945 by small arms fire somewhere north of Essen and east of Aachen, Germany

 

And Major Ronald Edmund Balfour, a British scholar attached to the Canadian First Army, killed in March 1945 by an explosion in Cleves, Germany.

 

May they rest in peace.

 

THE END

 
www.childrensebooksbyjoan.com

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Monuments Men Part 5 Where It Gets Serious

In 1943 the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) program was established by the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies to help protect cultural property in war areas during and after World War II. 
This group of about 400 service members and civilians worked with military forces to safeguard historic and cultural monuments from war damage and, as the conflict of WW II came to a close, to find and return works of art and other items of cultural importance that had been stolen by the Nazis or hidden for safekeeping.

Many of the men and women of the MFAA went on to have prolific careers.  Largely art historians and museum personnel, they had formative roles in the growth of many of the United States’ greatest cultural institutions.

But even before the U.S. entered World War II, art professionals and organizations were working to identify and protect European art and monuments in danger of Nazi plundering.  Commonly referred to as the Roberts Commission, this early group was dissolved in June 1946 when the State Department took over with the formation of the MFAA.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower facilitated the work of the MFAA by forbidding looting, destruction, and billeting (or camping out) in structures of cultural significance.  He also repeatedly ordered his forces to assist the MFAA as much as possible.

This was the first time in history an army attempted to fight a war and at the same time reduce damage to cultural monuments and property.

“Prior to this war, no army had thought of protecting the monuments of the country in which and with which it was at war, and there were no precedents to follow…All this was changed by a general order issued by Supreme Commander-in-Chief Eisenhower just before he left Algiers, an order accompanied by a personal letter to all Commanders…the good name of the Army depended in great measure on the respect which it showed to the art heritage of the modern world.”

As Allied Forces made their way through Europe, liberating Nazi-occupied territories, Monuments Men were present in very small numbers at the front lines.  Lacking handbooks, resources, or supervision, this initial handful of officers relied on their museum training and overall resourcefulness to perform their tasks.
There was no established precedent for what they confronted.  They worked in the field and were also actively involved in battle preparations.  In preparing to take Florence, for example, which was used by the Nazis as a supply distribution center due to its central location in Italy, Allied troops relied on aerial photographs provided by the MFAA which were marked with monuments of cultural importance so that pilots could avoid damaging such sites during bombings.

When damage did occur, MFAA personnel worked to assess the damage and buy time for the eventual restoration work that would follow.  Monuments officer Deane Keller had a prominent role in saving the Campo Santo in Pisa after a mortar round started a fire that melted the lead roof, which then bled down the iconic 14th century fresco-covered walls.
Keller led a team of Italian and American troops and restorers in recovering the remaining fragments of the frescoes and in building a temporary roof to protect the structure from further damage.

Restoration of those frescoes continues even today.

Frequently entering liberated towns and cities ahead of ground troops, Monuments Men worked quickly to assess damage and make temporary repairs before moving on with Allied Armies as they conquered Nazi territory.


American and Allied Forces discovered hidden caches of priceless treasures, many of which had been looted by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, while others had been legitimately evacuated from German, French or Italian museums for safekeeping.  Monuments Men oversaw the safeguarding, cataloguing, removal and packing of all works, regardless of their origin.

In the next installment...moving on to Italy and the Tuscan and Florentine treasures.  Stay tuned.www.childrensebooksbyjoan.com

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Monuments Men Part 4 It's La Belle Ferronniere detour

It’s impossible not to diverge here with the story of La Belle Ferronniere.

Resisting bullying for children - Emily Breaks FreeWe can justify this detour because at the end of the day it is the story of another piece of misplaced art as a result of another war, World War I, and more intriguingly, has surprising Kansas City connections. 


In 1919 a returning World War I veteran named Harry Hahn and his French war bride attempted to sell what they thought was a painting by Leonardo da Vinci in New York.  The renowned art dealer, Sir Joseph Duveen declared the picture – La Belle Ferronniere – a fake without ever seeing the canvas.  The Hahns sued Duveen for slander, setting off a legal battle that would last for decades, in the course of which art authentication was forever changed.  But that is another paper.

The fun part of the Hahn story is the back story about Harry Hahn himself.  In 1917 he enlisted in the army, serving first in Texas and then in France.  Although he boasted that he was a highly decorated captain and an aviator, there is reason to suppose he was actually a sergeant and a mechanic.   In 1919 he married a French girl named Andree Ladoux, who lived with her godmother, Josephine Massot, a milliner.

One of Josephine’s friends was an eccentric woman of dubious aristocracy named Louise de Montaut, whom Andree called her “aunt.”  Mme de Montaut possessed a painting that she had always been told was by Leonardo da Vinci, and when Andree and Harry Hahn got married on July 12, 1919, she – amazingly – gave them this picture of potentially immense value as a wedding present.  Although there is some reason to doubt that she ever actually gave it to the Hahns as a gift.  From this point, the “facts” become even more tangled, and are very likely part truth and part myth.

Anyway, La Belle Ferronniere was brought to America, not by the Hahns when they returned to Junction City, Kansas, in 1919, where Harry became a car salesman, but by Mme de Montaut who arrived in New York June 1920.  Even before the Hahns left France they had begun to make efforts to sell the painting in the U.S.

 Only three days after Mme de Montaut and the painting arrived in America, Joseph Duveen received that famous early morning  phone call from a reporter at the New York World who asked his opinion of the painting that had been offered to the Kansas City Art Institute for something like $250,000.  Although he had never seen the Hahn picture, Duveen did not hesitate to declare it a fake, pointing out that the original was, after all, in the Louvre, and so this could be ONLY a copy.

The painting in the Louvre is a late 15th century portrait of a woman thought to be Lucrezia Crivelli, mistress of the Duke of Milan, or possibly his wife.  Another of his mistresses, Cecilia Gallerani, is depicted by Leonardo as the Lady with an Ermine which we have seen on the cover of the Monuments Men book.

What a tangle.  So the lawsuit between Duveen and the Hahns went on for years.  By 1996 there were 29 leins worth almost $42 million on the painting.  And this book, by John Brewer, has so much suffocating detail…Suffice it to say the names of Frank Glenn and Thomas Hart Benton are also part of the Kansas City story.

At the end of the day, amidst and as the result of all the intervening squabbling, the painting La Belle Ferronniere was auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York City on January 28, 2010.  There was lots of press surrounding the auction.  According to Sotheby’s catalog,
 “ recent technical examination of the infamous portrait including pigment analysis, indicates that the Hahn painting dates from the seventeenth century… thus confirming a previous scholarly opinion that it was not by Leonardo…although it might possibly have been painted by the French baroque painter Laurent de la Hyre.”


The presale estimate was $300,000-$500,000, and it actually sold at auction for $1,300,000 to an anonymous American private collector.  Alan and I were among the many people who wanted to see it…and I will say it was a beautiful painting as you can see from the book cover.

And so our detour ends…its back to The Monuments Men.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

The #MonumentsMen Part 3 Then...there are the Nazi albums

And so, resuming our story about the #MonumentsMen…

Then…there are the Nazi albums

During the course of his research into the whereabouts of lost art and the efforts to save it, Edsel discovered the existence of two large, leather-bound photograph albums which documented portions of the European art looted by the Nazis.  The two albums were in the possession of the heirs of an American soldier who was stationed in the Berchtesgaden area of Germany in the closing days of World War II.

The albums were created by the staff of the Third Reich’s Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (more comfortably known as the ERR), a special unit that found and confiscated the best material in Nazi-occupied countries.  In France, the ERR engaged in an extensive and elaborate art looting operation, part of Hitler’s much larger premeditated scheme to steal art treasures from conquered nations.  The albums were created for Hitler and high-level Nazi officials as a catalog to give Hitler a way to choose the art for his own museum in Austria.  A group of these photograph albums was presented to Hitler on his birthday in 1943.  Nearly 100 albums were created during the years of their art looting operation.  We do not know what happened to the other 98.

These must have been amazing albums, and only the two Edsel albums are known to have survived the war.  Robert Edsel worked with the owners of the two albums to acquire them for preservation.  In November 2007, at another ceremony at The White House with the Archivist of the United States, Robert Edsel announced the existence of these albums to the public, as well as his donation of the albums to the National Archives.

National Archivist Allen Weinstein called the discovery “one of the most significant finds related to Hitler’s premeditated theft of art and other cultural treasures to be found since the Nuremberg trials.”

So in summary, these extraordinary measures taken by Robert Edsel very much put The Monuments Men on the map for the current generation.  The photos in the books are fascinating and are information for a whole new generation of Americans.

One of the iconic Da Vinci paintings, Lady With an Ermine (Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani) (see book cover and page 251) is reminiscent of and frequently mentioned in the same breath with the painting La Belle Ferronniere.  The authenticity of La Belle Ferronniere as a painting by Leonardo da Vinci was disputed in an infamous 1929 court case. According to information provided by Sotheby’s where it was auctioned about four years ago, the work was likely painted by a French artist in the seventeenth century.

It’s impossible not to diverge here with the story of 
La Belle Ferronniere...So stay tuned for more anon.

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