Eight Facts and One Musing on Cecil the Lion and his Poacher the lion was 13 years old and the star of Hwange National Park. He was accustomed to visitors and the park’s most photographed animal.

He was wearing a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University research project that had been running since 1999, and had six cubs prior to being killed by a poacher. Those cubs will likely be killed by the next dominant male in the pack.

The $50,000 or so paid by Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed Cecil, is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions the lion and his offspring would have generated in tourism dollars for Zimbabwe and Hwange National Park, a protected conservation area not dissimilar to Yellowstone or Yosemite, for years to come.

I wonder how much revenue Cecil’s head and pelt will command from Walter Palmer’s game room in Minneapolis? It’s not about the money, of course. I’m just illustrating the many facets of a decision that come into play when one actually thinks about it before pulling the trigger.


Smoke Gets in Your Pies ~ Grilled Dessert!

Here’s another tidbit that surfaced in my research for a recent assignment… in case you were wondering what the hottest trend in outdoor cooking is these days, apparently it’s grilled desserts.

S’mores have long held the top spot in the world of outdoor sweets, but some innovative cooks are making sure they have some competition, particularly in the exciting culinary niche of grilled desserts. (Again: apparently.)

Grilled fruits are one of the easiest ways to add a sweet touch to an outdoor feast: pineapple, bananas (in the peel!), peaches, and orange slices all grill well and can be paired with chocolate drizzle, caramel sauce, and warm Nutella.

Slices of pound cake look great with precision grill marks and a dollop of whipped cream, and grilled candy bars are rising in popularity among grill enthusiasts across the country who seal their regional favorites inside flour tortillas with marshmallow fluff. One grilled version of a candy apple uses Red Hot candies and brown sugar, wrapped in foil and served warm in glass dishes with vanilla ice cream. Nom.

Click on some of the links I scattered throughout this post, or try some of these recipes from Taste of Home.


Prison Escape!

For those unaware, there’s been a prison break in upstate New York, and two convicts are on the loose.

I’m obsessed with this story — it has everything a prison escape story could possibly need. Stolen power tools! A potential female accomplice! Night time tunneling! They even left a note behind!

Be sure, I’m not trying to romanticize prison escapes and especially not the two escapees — both murderers. The story will likely lead to some serious investigation into how two prisoners were able to not only procure power tools but also use them to cut a person-sized hole in a metal pipe without detection. I.e., somebody’s in trouble.

But this is a story that’s also right out of the pages of a movie script, and I’m rapt. They were so prepared they had a magnet at the ready to affix the good-bye note to the pipe they used to crawl out of the facility. A magnet.

Don’t come to the Berkshires, though, pals … we have bears. And tourists. <shudder>

Note: If you’re reading this in the upstate New York area or anywhere else these men have been tracked, be smart and safe – keep your doors locked and listen to your gut. Authorities ask anyone who sees them to call New York State Police or 911. 

Earth Mamas

Happy Mom Day! In doing some research for a blog assignment in the past few weeks, I learned about how different countries celebrate Mother’s Day, or their version of it. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

In Nepal
Mata Tirtha Aunshi, Held with the first new moon in April or May

In Nepal, living mothers are honored with festivals and those who’ve passed on are often remembered with pilgrimages to holy baths in Katmandhu. Observed with the new moon in April or May, the celebration is an extension of Hindu religion, and pre-dates the creation of the U.S.-inspired holiday by at least a few centuries.

In Ethiopia
Antrosht, Held when the rainy season ends in October or November

Ethiopians wait out the wet season then trek home for a large, three-day family feast known as Antrosht. Children gather ingredients such as butter, cheese, vegetables, spices, and meats, and their mothers prepare traditional meals, presiding as host, chef, and honored guest all at once.

In Indonesia…
Hari Ibu, Held on December 22

Indonesia’s Mother’s Day, or Hari Ibu, falls on the anniversary of the First Indonesian Women’s Congress in 1928, and was made an official holiday in 1953. Hari Ibu’s traditions are both colorful and festive, including surprise parties, cooking contests, and fashion shows featuring mothers modeling traditional kebaya outfits.

The Food Truck Rodeo Round-up

IMG_0337After the Winter that Wouldn’t End, it seems like years since last spring. But today was the first Official Really Good Day of 2015 in the Berkshires; the sun shining, the breeze blowing, the tourist season yet to peak. Perfect.

Regardless of the weather, the Family Rags had its plans set. We were heading out to the Spring Shindy and Food Truck Rodeo at Shire City Sanctuary in Pittsfield, an artisans’ space (or makerspace) that includes a screenprint shop, a sewing lab, and a commercial kitchen. At this event, artists, farmers, and others sold their wares inside Shire City Sanctuary (formerly Notre Dame Church) while the adjacent parking lot was packed with a horseshoe-ring of food trucks, beer tents, a band, and a magician with a particularly fun green Viking hat.

To the trucks, though… A great mix of many different kinds of nosh, as it should be. Traditionalists could get their steamed hot dogs and burgers, adventurers could grab a wild IMG_0321boar sandwich, and kids of all ages could enjoy a shaved-ice treat in a color-changing cup.

The line-up:

How We Roll, the local favorite, wrapping comfort food into egg roll wrappers.

Aurora’s Gypsy Cafe game meats and traditional Romani fare.

Kona Ice the aforementioned ice concoctions.

The Hungry Traveler Big ole’ sandwiches, burgers, and soup.IMG_0324

The Chuck Wagon Caloric atom bombs including beer-dredged Bratwurst and deep-fried peanut butter, banana, and fluff sammies.

The Farm Mostly vegetarian farm-fresh sandwiches, salads, and quesadillas.

Chanterelle Upscale farm-to-table goodies.

Flavors of Lebanon Greek and Lebanese noms.IMG_0323

…plus two local-brew beer tents, Wandering Star and Big Elm. 

We ended up with two egg roll creations from How We Roll — Your Own Personal Mac n’ Cheesus (self explanatory) and a Thank You Easter Bunny, a fried Cadbury Creme Egg egg roll — and a bison burger from The Chuck Wagon, plus one beer each from both tents… to be fair, of course.

Read more: WAMC



April 29th, 1992

“(I feel insanity)
Riots on the streets of Miami
Whoa, riots on the streets of Chicago
On the streets of Long Beach
In San Francisco
Riots on the streets of Kansas City
Tuskaloosa, Alabama
Cleveland, Ohio
Fountain Valley, Paramount, Victorville
Eugene, Oregon
Eureka, California
Santa Barbara
Winnemucca, Nevada
Phoenix, Arizona
San Diego
Lakeland, Florida”

~ Bradley Nowell, sublime

Photo: showtime by Martin Fisch

Recently Consumed Media: Behind the Mask

We moved recently, and in an effort to keep costs down, became a hulu-and-Netflix-only-for-tv household. Mostly, it’s liberating to be untied from network ratings battles and the impossibly unpredictable schedules of cable programming.  There are things to miss — for me, it’s the nightly news and Jeopardy! — but for the most part the transition has been a fairly painless.

The best part of being a ‘web-based viewer’ is finding stuff you might not otherwise watch. You’re surfing around looking for the perfect show and something catches your eye… sometimes you’re back to browsing within seconds after taking a gamble on a show that turns out to be totally stupid. But other times, you find a little gem.

Behind the Mask, a hulu original, is one of those gems.

What it is:

Created by filmmaker Josh Greenbaum, Behind the Mask profiles sports and business mascots at various stages of their careers, be it at the high school, college, semi-pro, freelance, or pro level. It has two seasons in the can, and earned a Sports Emmy nomination for Outstanding New Approaches in Sports Programming in 2014.

Why it’s good:

The primary reason Behind the Mask rocks is the people it profiles. Some serendipitous wind blew a slew of really interesting people in Greenbaum’s direction… or maybe this is just a side-effect of the mascot subculture. Either way, these are compelling, multi-faceted, root-for-’em type of people hidden behind fur, fiberglass, and mesh-covered eye holes.

Take Kevin Vanderkolk, for instance, who doubles as the NBA Milwaukee Bucks’ Bango. A long-trained gymnast (who married a neurologist) Vanderkolk has athleticism that rivals and in some ways bests that of the players he’s cheering on.

This also isn’t a reality show that tries to contort its characters into society’s ne’er-do-wells. Instead, every mascot featured in two seasons experiences some type of success, which the show celebrates, and their share of defeats. Thanks to compassionate filming and some great storytelling, I found myself celebrating every win and sharing every disappointment. Real reality programming is so refreshing.

Just one thing, hulu…stop selling ad space to SeaWorld so they can assure us their orcas are happy. Thanks.