The Buffalo News - Life and Arts Latest stories from The Buffalo News en-us Wed, 23 Apr 2014 06:14:43 -0400 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 06:14:43 -0400 <![CDATA[ Sinatra says fifth time will be charm at 617 Main ]]>
Perfetto’s equipment is being auctioned off Thursday. The 260-seat Theater District space was previously Ya Ya Bayou Brewhouse, Breckenridge Brew Pub and Empire Brewing Company. Owner Jay Haynes did not respond to requests to comment.

Nick Sinatra, the real estate developer who bought the Market Arcade from the city last month, said he’s talking to three high-profile Buffalo restaurateurs about the space. Sinatra knows something about successful restaurants, having grown up around his family’s place, the veteran Italian red-sauce standout Sinatra’s on Kenmore Avenue.

“The space is anything but impossible, it’s a great space,” Sinatra said. He said the restaurant faced tough timing, with years of construction on Main Street. “It’s beautifully built out,” he said. “Obviously it’s big, but the right operator can use that space efficiently.”

There should be news on the tenant by late spring or early summer, Sinatra said.

The Market Arcade will be Sinatra & Co. Realty’s headquarters, and it needs a successful restaurant, he said.

“To us, it’s important to have somebody in there who can operate successfully, somebody who we can be proud of, because that’s going to be our flagship, our headquarters,” he said. “We’re going to be taking clients and bankers and other folks who we do business with down there, and we want to be able to say, ‘This is our tenant, and we’re proud of them.’ ”

Diversifying: Lake Effect Ice Cream has taken the next step in freezie-pops with adventurous handcrafted beauties across the spectrum. The list of a dozen flavors includes double-double coffee, a ruby red grapefruit number called Pamplemousse, and a tart lemon-lime number dubbed Flux Capacitor. There’s even a healthy smoothie version called Power Pop, with blueberries, peaches, coconut milk, yogurt, local honey and spinach.

They’re $2.50, and only available at the Lockport ice cream parlor and Lake Effect headquarters, 79 Canal St., 201-1643.

Replated: The former Marco’s Deli sandwich shop at 3024 Delaware Ave., Kenmore, has changed its name. It’ll be Joe’s Panini Grille, said owner Joe Carriero. “The menu’s basically the same,” he said.

Moving: Arriba Tortilla, 591 Main St., East Aurora, will be moving to 40 Riley St., around the corner. The new location will offer more seats and more parking, said manager Robert Kuczmar. “Probably the first week in June we’ll be open there,” he said.

Send your restaurant news to ]]>
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 00:01:34 -0400
<![CDATA[ The medium and his message: Professor looks forward to Van Praagh’s show ]]>
Not UB anthropology professor Phillips Stevens Jr.

“I will observe his methods, listen to his words, and will try to assess audience reaction,” said Stevens, who has discussed Van Praagh’s event, “An Evening of Spirit,” with a senior class he is teaching.

Van Praagh’s appearance is more than just a chance for some close-to-home anthropological study for Stevens, whose work in the 1960s to document the mysterious soapstone carvings of Esie, Nigeria, resulted in his being named a chief of Esie in 2012. It’s also an opportunity to enlighten people who may have read Van Praagh’s marketing materials submitted to the Center for the Arts, which claim that he “introduced the world to mediumship.”

“This is quite false,” Stevens said. “Mediumship has been practiced for millennia, and the Western world has been aware of it for many centuries. Van Praagh is a recent participant in a long line of public mediums with traveling road shows going back to the 18th century.”

Stevens points out that the first recorded mention of mediumship, or communicating with the dead, is in the Bible. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 warns against occult practices, including anyone “who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”

Van Praagh wouldn’t need any special powers to know the historic significance of this region for mediums. Swept by powerful religious movements in the early and mid-1800s, Western and Central New York was dubbed “The Burned Over District,” because so few unconverted people were left here to fuel the fires of religious fervor.

One of those movements was Spiritualism, a religion founded in 1848 on the principle that Van Praagh embraces, that the spirits of the dead are able and willing to communicate with the living. The Fox sisters, who lived near Rochester and captivated and converted people with their demonstrations of communication with the dead through rapping sounds, are acknowledged as the early inspirations for Spiritualism in America.

The Spiritualist community of Lily Dale, founded in 1880 on Cassadaga Lake, is home to dozens of mediums year-round and is visited by thousands of the curious and believers annually.

Stevens has visited Lily Dale a few times and observed mediumship demonstrations, during which mediums choose people to receive a brief message from the spirit world. “Most of the messages ‘from the other side,’ or ‘beyond’ were rather bland, ‘So-and-so wants you to know that she’s OK,’ etc.,” said Stevens. “Occasionally a description of a spirit being ‘sensed’ was fairly specific, and a message was received with wonderment, or tears. I was selected once by a medium, and asked whether he might read for me. It was summer time and I was in shorts, a short-sleeved shirt and sandals. I did have a pen in my shirt pocket. He concluded that I was a researcher, perhaps a professor, perhaps planning to write a book!

“No skeptics attend such sessions,” Stevens said. “Everyone who is there is either a true believer or curious, ready to believe.”

Other popular mediums include Sylvia Browne, who did shows at local casinos regularly before passing over into spirit herself in late 2013; John Edward, who has had two television shows; and Teresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, who stars in a popular TLC reality show.

James Randi, a former magician and skeptic who has offered $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate true supernatural or paranormal powers in a scientific test, wrote that such “pseudo-psychic spectacles” are damaging because they “prey on people at their most vulnerable moments – those who have suffered the loss of loved ones – and these mediums use such grief to make a buck.”

Stevens said he found fault with the description of Van Praagh in the Center for the Arts literature as “one of the most accurate spiritual mediums working today,” suggesting that adding the words “claims to be” might make the description less of an unqualified endorsement. But he fully supports Van Praagh’s appearance. “I would not object to having him here, that’s not the point,” he said. “Present him as an entertainer, OK.”

David R. Wedekindt, director of marketing for the Center for the Arts, said that the center, which is part of UB but generates its own program budget through ticket sales and sponsorships, schedules a mix of educational cultural events, including many cutting-edge dance troupes, and more lucrative shows. “If we make a little bit of a profit on a rock concert, that helps pay for a cultural attraction or a modern dance company,” Wedekindt said. “We’re a not-for-profit organization, so we are looking just to absorb all of our expenses and carry the mission forward.”

Wedekindt said Van Praagh was suggested to the center staff by his new agent, with whom the center works regularly.

“We noted how popular the Long Island Medium has been, and the agent pitched us the idea of doing him. We are always looking for some new ideas and this isn’t something we have done, so we thought, let’s give this a shot and see how it goes. Admittedly, it is a brand new thing for a lot of us here at the Center for the Arts; we’re not too plugged in to the whole ‘mediumship’ scene, but we’re looking at ways we can bring people into the building, maybe introduce some new people to our venue who have never been here before and maybe this is the event that brings them in.”

Van Praagh was promoted on the Center’s Facebook page, and Wedekindt said the first flood of reaction was totally positive. “I was really overwhelmed by the amount of ‘likes’ and positive comments, and the amount of people tagging their friends, saying, ‘Let’s go,’ ” he said.

Then a few people posted skeptical or negative comments about the event. A few of those who objected were “kind of wondering what place this has at a university, but I think that it should be at a university,” said Wedekindt. “Universities are where ideas are debated and exchanged, and it’s the whole point of the speakers series. People come to that knowing that some of these people have some controversy around them, or maybe some viewpoints they don’t agree with, but the whole idea is to see it from another side. Give people a forum and you can choose to come, you can choose to not believe them, you can choose to be happy or not happy with the presentation, but we provide that forum for that person to present their ideas.”

email: ]]>
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 17:03:07 -0400 Anne Neville
<![CDATA[ Strategies to save on higher-priced food ]]>
Though flat in 2013, food price inflation has returned to the historical norm with increases in the range of 2.5 to 3.5 percent. While the increases apply across the board, certain items including fruits, vegetables, eggs and dairy may see larger and longer lasting price increases given drought conditions in California.

Since those items cover a good portion of the foods you would want to eat, you may need to explore some new ways to save on groceries. One of the best strategies is to use coupons, but in recent years, coupon values have dropped, stores have tightened their coupon policies and coupons may not always be available for the items you want.

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 25 percent of online coupons are for processed snack foods, candies and desserts. Fewer than 1 percent were available for fruits and only 3 percent were available for vegetables.

And of course, not everyone has time to clip coupons.

So how do you use coupons to your advantage?

Couponing expert Stephanie Nelson (aka Coupon Mom) suggests tailoring your coupon use to your shopping style.

If you’re the type who has no time to plan before hitting the grocery store, Nelson says you can save 20 percent on groceries just by picking up the store fliers when you arrive at the store and shopping for the sale items on the front page. Be open to buying the brands on sale and use in-store coupons and a store loyalty card for additional savings.

Spending 30 minutes to plan your grocery shopping can save you 35 percent if you use websites such as to check for the best deals at your favorite stores. Then use coupons (digital and print) to increase your savings.

The most diligent shoppers can save 50 percent or more on groceries by searching for the best deals at stores in their area and visiting two or more of those stores per week to take advantage of those deals, Nelson says. Once you find the deals, match up the coupons to help you save more.

Other ways to save on the healthy foods you want to eat have less to do with how you shop and more to do with what you buy.

Look for deals and coupons for frozen vegetables and fruits and use them to supplement fresh produce. Try to avoid precut produce items, which will add to your costs. And only buy bulk produce if you are going to use it. You save nothing if it goes bad before you can eat it.

Limit your purchases of organic produce to the dirty dozen – the fruits and vegetables most likely to carry pesticide residue even after washing. (Looking for a list of those items? Go to the Environmental Working Group at Also try to shop in season. Produce that is plentiful will cost less and go on sale more often.

For nonproduce food items, try buying store brands, which generally cost less than national brands. And always compare unit prices (found on the shelf tags underneath products) when deciding on package size.

Consider shopping “manager specials,” but be sure the items aren’t too close to their expiration dates.

And don’t forget to sign up for store loyalty programs to get additional savings on a range of items. ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 17:00:08 -0400 By Nedra Rhone

New York Times

<![CDATA[ Fresh asparagus signals start of spring ]]>
A simple stir-fry is the answer.

Asparagus is the star of this dish. Play up that green color with strips of red bell pepper for contrast. Go with the protein of your choice: beef, chicken, shrimp, extra-firm tofu or, as here, boneless pork chops. Serve the stir-fry with steamed white or brown rice and, perhaps, an after-dinner bowl of green tea ice cream in keeping with that spring color scheme.

Roll-cutting the asparagus is a simple technique to add eye appeal and enhance the vegetable’s mouth-feel. Lay a spear on the cutting board and make a diagonal cut. Roll the spear one-quarter turn and make another diagonal cut. Keep turning and slicing until the asparagus spear is chopped up. Some people prefer to trim and peel the butt ends of the spears. Save ends for stock or soup.

Any leftover stir-fry and rice can be turned into fried rice for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.

Asparagus Stir-Fry

To save time, prep all the vegetables while the pork marinates.

1 pound boneless pork cutlets, trimmed, cut into 1½-inch strips

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more if needed

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 piece (1-inch long) fresh ginger, peeled, minced

1 bunch green onions, trimmed, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, roll-cut into 1½-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips, 1½ inches long

1 tablespoon chili sauce, or more to taste

Marinate the pork in the soy sauce in a small bowl, about 20 minutes.

Heat wok or skillet over medium-high heat. When metal is hot enough to sizzle a drop of water on contact, pour in the oil. Move the wok or skillet to coat the entire surface with oil. Stir in the garlic, ginger and green onions; stir-fry until fragrant. Add asparagus spears; stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes. Add red pepper strips; stir-fry, 2-3 minutes. (At this point, the asparagus should be cooked but crisp-crunchy). Transfer vegetables to a bowl; set aside.

Add more oil to the wok or skillet if necessary. Turn out pork strips and marinade into the pan; stir-fry until the meat turns white and is almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Lower heat; return vegetables to the wok. Season with chili sauce. Stir-fry for a minute or so to combine flavors. Serve with steamed rice. Makes: 2 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 497 calories, 29 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 17 g carbohydrates, 43 g protein, 1,527 mg sodium, 5 g fiber. ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:57:49 -0400 By Bill Daley

Mcclatchy newspapers

<![CDATA[ A Confidante in the Kitchen ]]>
It was a moment that might have appeared in an essay by food writer Laurie Colwin, whose recipes were on the menu that night. Gould is a writer whose first novel will come out this summer, and the apartment belongs to her friend Sadie Stein, a contributing editor for the Paris Review. Both hang out with a young, literary, food-obsessed crowd, and they had met up with two friends to eat baked mustard chicken and that creamed spinach, debating and paying tribute to a writer whose work overflows with stove-centered gatherings just like this one.

Colwin was an author, self-described “refined slob” and passionate, idiosyncratic home cook who died in 1992, when the members of this salon were still in grade school. During her life, she gained a reputation first and foremost as a novelist and a composer of delicately calibrated short stories. But in the years since her death, at 48, her following has only grown, and her highly personal food writing, collected in the books “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking,” has attracted a new, cultishly devoted generation of readers. Her musings, anecdotes and quirkily imprecise, not-altogether-reliable recipes show up with regularity on food blogs. Which only makes sense, because even though Colwin expressed wariness about technology and cranked out her essays (most of them for Gourmet magazine) on a mint-green Hermes Rocket typewriter, there is something about her voice, conveyed in conversational prose, that comes across as a harbinger of the blog boom that would follow.

“I think of her as kind of a proto-blogger,” said Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, which in 2012 inducted Colwin into its cookbook hall of fame. “I would say she’s a transitional figure between M.F.K. Fisher and Julie Powell.”

Ruth Reichl, the writer, editor and former New York Times restaurant critic, said: “You want to be in the kitchen with her – that is her secret. She is the best friend we all want. She never talks down to you.”

In turn, friendships have formed around her work. Stein, 32, first picked up “Home Cooking” when she was 9 or 10; her parents had it around the house in Hastings-on-Hudson. “I quietly commandeered the book for my own use,” Stein recalled. Years later, a shared passion for the Colwinesque view of food and life brought her together for those dinners with Gould; Ruth Curry, who works in publishing; and Lukas Volger, a cookbook author and entrepreneur.

Acolytes like Stein and Gould don’t merely read Laurie Colwin. They revisit her passages over and over again, and develop a guardian-angel-style attachment to her. When Reichl arrived at Gourmet as editor-in-chief, in 1999, she discovered in her office a cache of about 400 letters from mourning fans who had written to the magazine after Colwin’s death. Reichl’s “very first act” as editor, she said, was to have the letters messengered over to Colwin’s husband, Juris Jurjevics, a founder of the Soho Press publishing company who lives these days in Brooklyn.

Among those who did know her, Colwin was a catalytic force. Vibrant and vigilantly observant, she drove fast, despised elevators, collected colanders, specialized in spot-on mimicry and had what might be called a Proustian enthusiasm for domestic splendor.

“She was a great cook, but the fiascoes were kind of fabulous,” Jurjevics recalled. “She cooked haggis once that was like the advertisement for ‘Alien,’ with the cracked egg.”

Later on, Colwin and Jurjevics moved into an apartment. (They married in 1983.) “She was not somebody who went out a great deal,” recalled her friend Alice Quinn, now the executive director of the Poetry Society of America. “But she loved, loved, loved having people over to her home.” The food she served was “always very simple,” Quinn said. Guests might have found flank steak, watercress salad, chocolate cake.

That lack of pretension continues to endear her to readers. (Open Road Integrated Media recently signed a deal to release all of her works as e-books.) As Nozlee Samadzadeh put it: “You can’t be a snob when you’re cooking on a hot plate. But you can eat very well.”

Samadzadeh, a 26-year-old programmer and editor behind a blog called Needs More Salt, encountered Colwin after falling in love with a recipe for tomato-and-corn pie that was published on the blog Smitten Kitchen. (Deb Perelman, the creator of Smitten Kitchen, said that Colwin’s work is “so relatable that you feel like it could have been written five minutes ago.”) Before long, Samadzadeh found herself gorging on Colwin’s books, trying out the scattershot recipes and silently asking herself a question at one life juncture after another: “What would Laurie Colwin do?”

Rosa Jurjevics asks herself the same question. Now nearing 30, Colwin’s daughter, also a writer, rents an apartment where she holds onto her mother’s favorite French mug, serving bowls, photos, recipe binders.

Jurjevics was only 8 when her mother died, overnight, of a heart attack. For fans of Colwin’s essays, she is a pivotal figure: the girl who made “spider webs with the fancy chicken-trussing strings, which I do remember doing,” she said. She was there to witness the process of her mother’s experiment with the legendary “black cake,” a Caribbean dessert whose ingredients steep in their own fruit-dense flavors for months.

Jurjevics can’t always relate to the predominantly heterosexual, comfortably upper-middle-class demimonde captured in her mother’s fiction, but she picks up her mother’s voice, her phrasing, her opinions, her way of looking at the world, on every page of “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking.”

She has gone back to those books countless times. The novels, she said, “may be wonderful, but they’re not what I’m looking for. I just want more of her.”


Time: 45 minutes

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, additional for buttering pan

a cup light or dark brown sugar

a cup light molasses

2 large eggs

1 a cups all-purpose flour

a teaspoon baking soda

1 a tablespoons ground ginger, or to taste

1 teaspoon cinnamon

f teaspoon ground cloves

f teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons lemon brandy or vanilla extract (see note)

a cup buttermilk (or milk with a little plain yogurt beaten into it)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and set aside. Cream remaining 4 ounces butter with the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy, add molasses, then beat in eggs.

2. Add flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.

3. Add lemon brandy or vanilla extract and buttermilk and turn batter into pan.

4. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (check after 20 minutes). Cool on a rack.

Note: Lemon brandy is hard to find, but recipes for homemade lemon brandy can be found online and in cookbooks. Do not use lemon extract.

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Creamed Spinach with Jalapeño Peppers

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

2 10-ounce packages whole-leaf frozen spinach (do not thaw)

4 tablespoons butter, additional for buttering pan

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

a cup evaporated milk

Black pepper

g teaspoon celery salt

6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into cubes

1 pickled or fresh jalapeño pepper, chopped, or more to taste

a cup soft buttered breadcrumbs (see note)

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Meanwhile, cook the spinach according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid, and chop finely.

2. Butter a shallow 8-inch-square casserole dish or other shallow 4- to 6-cup baking dish. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan and add flour. Blend and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Do not brown. Add onion and garlic.

3. Add the spinach liquid slowly, then add evaporated milk, some black pepper, the celery salt and the cheese. Mix well and add jalapeño and spinach. Cook until all is blended.

4. Turn into the casserole dish, top with buttered breadcrumbs and bake until lightly browned, about 45 minutes.

Note: To make buttered breadcrumbs, combine z cup fresh soft breadcrumbs with 1 to 2 tablespoons melted better and toss well.

Yield: 8 servings

Baked Mustard Chicken

Time: About 2 hours 45 minutes

b cup Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

f teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and black pepper

2 cups fine dry unseasoned breadcrumbs

2 chickens, 2 to 3 pounds each, quartered, rinsed and dried

1 tablespoon sweet paprika, or as needed

3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine mustard, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and z teaspoon black pepper. Place breadcrumbs in another large bowl.

2. Working in batches, coat chicken quarters on all sides with mustard mixture. Shake off excess mustard, then coat completely with breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan.

3. Dust the chicken with paprika and scatter butter pieces on top. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and crispy, 2 to 2 z hours. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:57:10 -0400 By Jeff Gordinier / New York Times

<![CDATA[ The simple art of hard-boiling eggs, with a heaping side of geekery ]]>
So this year I threw down the gauntlet. On our Daily Dish blog and on social media, I posted a challenge to all those hard-boiled naysayers: You tell me how you do it, and we’ll give it a try.

Not to get all smug, but my method won out again. Though I did pick up a couple of refinements along the way.

What makes the perfect hard-boiled egg? Our requirements are few but strict: The whites should be firm but creamy and not tough. The yolks should be completely set and orange (not yellow).

It should go without saying that any egg that turns up with a trace of green ring around the yolk is instantly disqualified with a sneer.

The weird thing, after all the flak I’ve taken, is that most of the people who sent in ideas this year actually recommended some slight variation of my technique (see accompanying article) – a little different timing, a covered pot, salted water ... something like that.

Maybe the critics have given up on me. Or maybe they’ve listened to my pleas and given it a try, have seen the error of their ways and become converted. (I know, on the Internet? Well, it’s a dream.)

One technique we tried was suggested by a chef friend. He lowers the eggs into boiling water and cooks them for nine minutes exactly, then puts them into an ice bath. This was the second-best technique we tried, but the yolks turned out just a little underdone. They were orange, to be sure, but slightly runny.

Still, that was miles better than our experiment with baking the eggs, which was another suggestion that several people made. Our luck was not good: 13 minutes at 350 degrees, and we had what were very good over-easy eggs.

One thing I noticed about a lot of these suggestions: It seems like the simpler the task, the more specific and sometimes complicated the instructions.

One very good cook suggested a method that involved bringing water to a boil, taking the pot off the heat, adding the eggs and letting them sit for a few seconds off heat, then returning them to the heat and simmering them at a reduced temperature for 12 to 15 minutes, then plunging them into cold water.

That’s pretty convoluted (and also a bit vague on the crucial details, like how low a simmer and for how long). In the hard-boiled egg world, there’s a big difference between 12 and 15 minutes). We went for the 15-minute mark and wound up with a green ring. Maybe our simmer was too high?

We also tried some variations on my technique. We tried cooking the eggs covered and uncovered, and in salted and unsalted water. Neither made any difference that we could detect.

The issue of timing was slightly more interesting. To try to find the exact right cooking time, we pulled sample eggs every 60 seconds between 10 and 15 minutes.

At the upper extreme, though the yolk seemed to keep the same texture, the whites did seem slightly tough. This makes sense. Because the whites contain pure protein with no fat, they are set at a lower temperature than the yolks. Though the eggs are cooking off the heat, the water was still in the 165- to 170-degree range; that’s enough to affect the whites but not the yolks. And at the lower extreme, the whites and yolk were slightly underdone.

It wasn’t enough that you would complain if you weren’t comparing side by side, but it was noticeable to us.

And to take home the crown in the Great Egg Smackdown, that just wouldn’t do.

Here’s how to prepare ideal hard-boiled eggs

How do you cook a perfect hard-boiled egg? It’s really quite simple.

1. Arrange the eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a pan and cover completely with room-temperature water.

2. Set on high heat, and when the water just begins to boil, cook for 1 minute.

3. Turn off the heat and let the eggs stand in the pot for 12 minutes.

4. If you’re going to use them right away, drain the eggs, shake them in the pan to crack the shells and plunge them into an ice-water bath to cool for a few minutes. If you’re going to store them, plunge them into the ice-water bath uncracked and let them sit for an hour or so.

Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:46:25 -0400 By Russ Parsons

Los Angeles Times

<![CDATA[ Online cooking groups dish up friendships ]]>
“She’s one of my best friends,” says Woodward of the bride, Peabody Rudd.

Although the two have never met in person, they’ve baked together online via a blog called Tuesdays With Dorie ( ). Woodward, a stay-at-home mom of three, started the blog in 2008 as she tackled cookbook author Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours” – recipe by recipe. She asked family and friends to join her in baking and blogging, the idea caught on, and people just joined in.

“I’m still sort of shocked. I started it on a whim,” Woodward says.

Cyberfriendships like Woodward and Rudd’s are increasingly common as cooks head to the kitchen with laptops, iPhones and other devices. Cooks are finding themselves tied together as much by mouse clicks as apron strings. Fostered by various social media platforms, Web-based cooking communities have formed, offering friendship along with recipes, giving exposure to various members’ blogs and offering the possibility of cyberexchanges with famed cookbook authors.

These author-focused cooking groups are like the neighborhood cooking clubs of old but on a much broader scale, says David Leite, New York City-based publisher of the online food magazine Leite’s Culinaria. Social media, he says, allows readers, cooks and authors to interact freely with one another to a degree never imagined before.

“It’s a globalization of what has always gone on and it’s becoming a huge phenomenon,” Leite says. “What the Internet and social media have done is retire the gatekeeper. It’s been democratized.”

That democratization is key. For while these groups offer terrific attention – authors say they love it – this type of community is developed at the grass-roots level. Take the two groups devoted to Greenspan, for example.

“They are not driven by Dorie or her publisher,” says Betsy Pollack, a Lexington, Mass.-based blogger and a coordinator for French Fridays With Dorie ( ), a second group formed by Woodward to cook through Greenspan’s “Around My French Table.”

“They came from a community of people who were interested in cooking the recipes she had,” Pollack says. “It is up to an individual to say, ‘I really like this book and I want to share it with other people. Let’s start a group.’ ”

Matthew Lardie, a blogger from Durham, N.C., did just that. A member of Tuesdays With Dorie, he started Wok Wednesdays ( ) because there wasn’t an outlet for folks interested in stir-frying like he was. Now, the rapidly growing group – 432 members at last count – is working through Grace Young’s “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge.”

What does a cook get out of participating in such a group?

Well, for some members of the Baked Sunday Mornings community ( ), it will be their photographs in the next cookbook from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, co-owners of Baked bakery and cafe in Brooklyn. The group has been working its way through three earlier books from the bakers. So trusted have members become that Lewis and Poliafito asked a number of them to test recipes for the next book. Including their photos is meant to underscore their contributions, says Lewis, who describes many of the group’s members as friends.

“Cook with people for four or five years and they become your coffee klatch,” says Trevor Kensey, an Irvine, Calif.-based blogger and a member of French Fridays. “Food bloggers share a lot of themselves. Over time, you get this long-form narrative of what’s going on in people’s family.”

Kensey says participation in French Fridays means pushing culinary horizons by cooking dishes he normally wouldn’t, honing skills and getting immediate feedback from other members checking his work.

“I’ve learned there is no dish I can’t make,” he says. “I’m not intimidated by anything. If I want to make it, I can. The group has given me a lot more confidence. I’ve learned to trust my gut in making substitutions and recipe tweaks.”

For Rob Baas, a blogger from Alvaton, Ky., the appeal of Wok Wednesdays is watching how members tackle the recipes and trying recipes he would otherwise not do. (“Heck, I ate eggplant for the first time in 25 years because of Wok Wednesdays!” he wrote in an email.) He also likes interacting with Young, who is a frequent presence on the site.

Young says she feels compelled to participate in the group because wok cooking can be intimidating to newcomers, and she wants to help. But she notes approvingly that Wok Wednesday members often jump in and help one another before she can post a comment.

Rubbing cyberelbows with cooking notables is clearly a draw for members in community cooking groups.

“It’s thrilling when Dorie leaves evidence in a comment that she was there,” Kensey says. “People stare at it and are very thrilled by it. I know I am. ... Where else does this really happen where the elite, the star, mixes so well with her fans?”

Greenspan says she enjoys the interaction with group members and does take note of their reaction to recipes, and has responded accordingly.

“I’ve offered more alternatives,” she says. “I’ve made some gluten-free variations when I could. I made raisins more optional than I used to. Who knew there were so many raisin haters out there?” ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:46:17 -0400 By Bill Daley

Chicago Tribune

<![CDATA[ The Daily Dish ]]>

‘Goonies’ sequel is rumored

After spilling the beans while out signing autographs earlier this month, “Goonies” director Richard Donner is adding more fuel to the rumors that his 1985 hit could have a sequel in the works.

In a new TMZ video, Donner says that Steven Spielberg, who wrote the original storyline, came up with the idea for a part two.

“Hopefully we’re gonna get this done, period,” Donner says.

“Steven came up with the idea of doing a sequel after 30 years,” he adds. “We’ve been trying for a while ... and then he came up with another story line. He’s right on.” Asked if the original cast will be taking part, Donner says, “God knows it’s up to them. If they have any sense they will; if they don’t they won’t.”

Festival lineup announced

Eminem and Outkast are headlining another music festival.

The rap acts will perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October in Austin, Texas. Pearl Jam, Skrillex, Beck and Lorde will also take the stage at the 13th annual festival in Zilker Park.

Lana Del Rey, Calvin Harris, Foster the People, Broken Bells, The Replacements, Iggy Azalea, the Avett Brothers and Zedd are also slated to perform. The three-day event will feature eight stages. It will take place over two weekends, kicking off Oct. 3 and Oct. 10. Three-day passes are $225. Single-day tickets will go on sale at a later date.

Eminem and Outkast are also headlining the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago in August.

Country Hall of Fame adds 3

Ronnie Milsap, Mac Wiseman and Hank Cochran are the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The trio was unveiled Tuesday during a news conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn.

The multidimensional Milsap has transcended genres, but his most powerful moments have come in country music, where he won a string of major awards in the 1970s, including Grammys and the Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year. Wiseman was an original member of Flatt and Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys. He made his Grand Ole Opry debut with Bill Monroe.

Cochran, who died in 2010, is being inducted posthumously in the songwriter category. They will be inducted later this year.

Bon Jovi helps less fortunate

Rock star Jon Bon Jovi is showing some brotherly love to the less fortunate in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, he attended the grand opening of a low-income housing development that bears his initials. The 55-unit JBJ Soul Homes will be occupied by low-income tenants and the formerly homeless.

Bon Jovi’s Soul Foundation and the Middleton Partnership provided the lead gift for the $16.6 million complex. The project also received public funds.

Residents will have access to social services provided by Project HOME, a group dedicated to ending homelessness. The four-story building includes retail and office space.

- News wire services ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 19:15:44 -0400
<![CDATA[ Bills on Monday Night? We'll know soon ]]>
We’ll find out at 8 p.m. today about the accuracy of that report two weeks ago from Fox Sports Wisconsin that the Buffalo Bills will have a home date on Monday Night Football with the Green Bay Packers.

The National Football League said Tuesday that it will announce the 2014 schedule todayWednesday.

I was skeptical of the accuracy of the Fox Sports Report – which got widespread attention in the Buffalo broadcast media – even before sources with the Bills and ESPN said they knew nothing about the Monday Night Football game and added that no one else could have the knowledge either.

It is extremely rare for there to be leaks about the schedule until a few hours before it is released. The only other report about the 2014 schedule occurred in Jacksonville was later refuted.

But hey, you never know.

There also is skepticism in Green Bay.

Interestingly, a Green Bay radio station predicted recently that Green Bay would play the Bills in a 1 p.m. Sunday game in October.

I hope fans predicting the Buffalo Bills schedule in a team contest don’t lose because they put too much credence in the Fox Sports Wisconsin report.


Good news. HBO has renewed my favorite new cable comedy. “Silicon Valley,” as well as the Julia Louis-Dreyfus series “Veep.” “Silicon Valley” gets twice the live audience of “Veep.”


I’m told that Channel 2 has purchased the rights to the new syndicated TV show that John Tesh is doing next fall with his wife Connie Sellecca and may run it at 11:30 a.m. after the 11 a.m. news. It is based on his syndicated radio show.


I highly recommend Billy Crystal’s HBO special based on his Broadway show, “700 Sundays,” about his father and his family life. It is funny, it is emotional and it is beautifully performed. But be warned, it also is a little coarse at times.

Of course, I was predisposed to love it. Crystal is my age and grew up on Long Beach, Long Island, which was about a 20-minute ride from my home. One of my best childhood memories was watching Larry Brown, the famous college and pro basketball coach, play for Long Beach against my high school. Brown was the best high school guard I ever saw growing up. Until the special, I hadn’t realized that Crystal also played basketball at Long Beach. There is a trivia note on the internet that says Brown and Crystal were on the same high school team but that’s inaccurate. Brown is several years older than Crystal.

I also hadn’t realized that Crystal’s dad was such a legend among jazz performers who played in his New York City club.

It’s a great show. You’ll have several more chances to catch it on HBO this month and it also is On Demand.

email: ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:54:40 -0400 Alan Pergament
<![CDATA[ Will they float? Colbert and some TV series floundering in the water ]]>
This evening’s Letterman is the one where we’ll presumably get some sort of sense of the Late Night Royal Succession on CBS. Letterman’s guest will be Stephen Colbert, Letterman’s announced successor for whenever it is in 2015 that Letterman decides to ride off into the sunset to play “Will It Float?” and “Is This Anything?” with his preteen son.

Let me, at this point, disagree vigorously with the fed-up Letterman show staff and declare my loyalty to both of those long vanished off-the-wall Letterman show features, despite our host informing us that they’d been yanked because the show’s staff hated them.

I didn’t. Their absurdity was delightful, especially when protracted beyond the point of all reason. But then, I didn’t have much say in the matter. So one day – and a sad day it was – there just wasn’t any “Will It Float?” to be seen.

Among the unknowns at this stage of late night polo is the state of Craig Ferguson’s soul and ego after CBS’ quick announced preference for Colbert to take over Letterman’s show when he retires. Will Ferguson, in anger, find a way to remove himself from the after-midnight time slot while collecting the money his contract is said to have guaranteed? I certainly hope not. I hope he stays put. I think Ferguson is an absurdly talented guy and, beyond that, an enormously interesting one. Who else in the history of comic snark went on the air and explained he had no interest in making Britney Spears jokes – that, in his view, the young woman was in serious life trouble at the time and that he knew far too much about substance abuse to find any of it the slightest bit tempting to join TV’s more heedless and dimwit snarksters?

I’ll grant you I’ve never watched Ferguson nightly or DVR’ed him. Life is too short and too full for me to fit him in. But I’ve always liked his show when I’ve been able to see it – especially his much-praised opening monologues. He’s a very funny and talented man. I also suspect that he’s a very decent one, too, and that no one should be in a hurry to say goodbye to those.

Let me, then, declare my fealty to some things on prime time TV that I’m reasonably certain I’ll have to wish goodbye as they vanish into that ever-expanding population of pop culture fireflies that briefly light up the night and are then extinguished, only to be seen again in syndication if they’re very, very lucky:

“Law and Order: SVU” – In the large pile of Internet “On the Bubble” deathwatches, the show’s cost is said to be among the factors that may yet doom it despite immense fan affection. As I tried to point out Sunday, the unmistakable signs of writer’s room desperation have yanked the show so far off its moorings that it may take TV script doctor geniuses to repair it. We’ll see early results Wednesday night.

“The Mentalist” – You knew something had gone pretty far awry when they picked up its stars in California, where they played members of the California Bureau of Investigation, and plunked them down in the middle of Texas as members of the FBI. There was a new female stunner on the show (Emily Swallow) and it seemed to say goodbye to the old one (Amanda Righetti) whose real-life pregnancy was announced by her never being filmed below her clavicles.

You knew the writers were desperate when they started dropping Patrick Jane and his buddies down in Texas mansions to catch wealthy art thieves after previously making wonderfully clear that Jane was a devotee of well-brewed tea and ratty old couches and the downscale life of an ex-carny. That episode seemed such a far cry from the very soul of the writer’s room that it was clearly a shout to us all that they were bored stiff with the 99 percenters they usually wrote about and yearned to mix it up with a few updated “Columbo” plots where an unimpressed Jane could stick it to 1 percenters with vastly more money and power than they deserved.

All of that was well and good, but the implicit message to this fan of the show was this: “now that we absolutely can’t milk the ‘Red John’ tale for another drop, we’re really bored stiff with having an ordinary cop procedural with an extraordinary con man in the lead role.”

If they could find room for it on a less competitive night than Sunday, the combination of actors and fictional characters on the show remains immensely appealing, however boring it may be to the writers and however straining it may be to the show’s moneybags.

“Almost Human” – I’m not a fan of sci-fi series in general, but this one wasn’t bad, and it’s said to be halfway out the door, taking the great Lily Taylor in a TV series with it. I’ve seen worse.

“Rake” – The most inappropriate time slot ever doomed this show. Someone at Fox apparently said “Let’s take this rewrite of an Australian series about a horny, hooker-loving degenerate gambler and bottom-feeding courtroom showboat and put it on at 8 p.m. Good night, kids, and have sweet dreams of cokeheads and vicious old lawyers dying of heart attacks in midintercourse.” No wonder it’s moribund.

“Mixology” – I haven’t been a fan of sitcoms since the days of “I Love Lucy” (which I never thought was a tenth as cool as “T-Men in Action”). But there was a very sturdy premise to this show that didn’t mire it in the world of standard freaky sitcom families – one long night in a meat rack bar where everyone is trying to score a 4 a.m. companion and is, therefore, playing every schlock hookup trick in the barroom book. I found it both funnier than I had any right to expect and much-more open to off-the-wall plot twists than TV sitcoms usually are. One of its producers was – no kidding – Ryan Seacrest, a man, it seems to me, America needs to start seriously rethinking as soon as possible.

In fact, if you ask me, a fictionalized Seacrest – loquacious TV reality host and mogul producer – could, with the right star in the role, turn into a great TV show.

email: ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:51:09 -0400 Jeff Simon
<![CDATA[ Lake Effect takes the freezie pop gourmet ]]>
“I’m so excited about these freezie pops I can’t even tell you,” said Jason Wulf, one of the schoolteachers who moonlight as premium ice cream kingpins in Lockport.

He’s serious. Extensive research led Wulf and Lake Effect partner Erik Bernardi to the “ice candy” sold in Filipino markets.

As he wrote on Facebook: “There was once a young boy who was a very active kid. He would run around during the summer, seemingly defying the ever present threat of dehydration. But this boy had a secret, a portable power source. Apart from the occasional rest stop at the local video arcade to cool down, this secret item was his only fuel.

“This small tube of rocket fuel is known to most as the freezie pop.

“We, at Lake Effect, are resurrecting the freezie pop and elevating it to new heights. We conducted extensive research and found a freezie pop container that has rounded edges (no more cutting the corners of your mouth on the sharp edges).”

Since the pops are made by hand in small batches, expect Lake Effect to switch up the flavors often.

They’re $2.50, and available at only the Lockport ice cream parlor and Lake Effect headquarters, 79 Canal St., 201-1643.

email: ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 10:56:43 -0400 Andrew Z. Galarneau
<![CDATA[ State landscape panel honors Clarence firm for Lockport community garden design ]]>
Tedeschi said the New York State Nursery and Landscape Association has awarded Jacrist its Environmental Beautification Award for 2014 in the category of commercial properties under $25,000 for the Washburn Street garden.

Tedeschi also is the executive director of Imagine Community Gardens, a not-for-profit organization that converted three vacant lots into a vegetable garden.

The 25 gardening plots each produced at least $300 worth of produce.

“What an absolute honor it is to have had a part in transforming these city lots into a site residents can be proud of and that has had such a positive impact in their lives and the surrounding neighborhood,” Tedeschi said.

The city has approved a second garden for this year at Ontario and Hawley streets. ]]>
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 09:35:58 -0400
<![CDATA[ Despite cancer, Valerie Harper is still lighting up TV screens ]]>
Early last year, Harper was told she had three months to live. Harper, a nonsmoker who had a cancerous tumor removed from her lung in 2009, has a rare form of lung cancer that had spread to areas around her brain.

“I was supposed to be dead a year ago,” said Harper, 74. “We are all terminal, let’s face it. I did the shock and grief. My husband, Tony, took it terribly. He said, ‘That’s not true. I don’t accept that.’ ”

Despite the devastating prognosis, “I kept going,” said Harper, who became a TV icon in her Emmy Award-winning turn as the endearing window dresser Rhoda Morgenstern from 1970-78 on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and her spinoff series, “Rhoda.” “I thought it was important.”

And she thought it was important for her fans, whom she calls her “extended” family, to know about what was happening. “People write me letters – not just about this – that are so loving and supportive, for years,” she said. “I know there are a whole bunch of Rhoda rooters out there.”

Harper has kept an extraordinary pace since her diagnosis. She reunited with “MTM” stars Moore, Betty White, Georgia Engel and Cloris Leachman for the finale of TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” last fall. She did “Dancing With the Stars” last season – Harper and her partner, Tristan McManus, were voted off after their fourth dance – and has a quirky guest starring role in Martha Williamson’s (“Touched by an Angel,” “Promised Land”) new series “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which premiered Easter evening on the Hallmark Channel. She’ll be on one more episode on Sunday.

“The message of all of this is don’t give up on your life worrying about death,” Harper said, during a recent interview at the Hallmark Channel offices in Studio City.

Last week, Harper took to the media to clarify a magazine article that quoted her saying, “I’m absolutely cancer free.” Harper isn’t “absolutely” cancer free. But she has responded well to the medicine she has taken for the last year.

“Every subsequent brain scan is less and less and now my brain scan looks normal,” she said. “It’s great that it’s cleared up in my brain scan, but it could be anywhere the spinal fluid is.”

Long before she was cast as Rhoda, Harper was a professional dancer who appeared in the corps de ballet at the Radio City Music Hall as a teenager as well as in the chorus of such early 1960s musicals as “Wildcat” with Lucille Ball and “Take Me Along” with Jackie Gleason and Robert Morse.

But it had been a long time since she danced when she joined “Dancing With the Stars” last fall. “I turned it down many times,” she said. When the series approached Harper after her diagnosis, she told her husband, ‘Why should I do it? I have cancer.’ He said, ‘That’s why you should do it. Think of the people you will inspire.’ ”

She got letters of thanks, including one from a woman who wrote her, “My mom has cancer and I can’t get her off the couch. But she saw ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and went to dance class the next day.”

Harper and McManus have remained close and even meet for an occasional dinner. “I had such a great time working with Valerie,” said McManus. “I didn’t know much about her beforehand. Generally with the show I try to get to know my partners. I was really surprised at how interested Valerie was in me as well. There was an honesty about it. It was like we were building a relationship as well as a partnership.”

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” revolves around four civil servants who become an elite team of lost-mail detectives determined to deliver the undeliverable. The uplifting family show reunites Harper with Williamson, who has been a good friend since the actress did her first “Touched by Angel” episode, as well as series star Eric Mabius (“Ugly Betty”), who worked with Harper in a 2001 TV movie, “Dancing on the Harvest Moon.”

Harper’s Theresa is the group’s new, slightly eccentric supervisor. A legend in the postal service, all she really wants to do is act. Harper performs the life-affirming “No Time at All” from “Pippin” in the first episode and in the second offers advice to her staff on not wasting a moment of life as Glinda in an amateur production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The role was tailored for Harper. “Valerie is somebody who would take a challenge like this and turn it into an opportunity to encourage other people,” Williamson noted. “The first thing she and Tony said to me when I told them about the show was we want to use this show as an opportunity to encourage other people.” ]]>
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 17:03:27 -0400 By Susan King

Los Angeles Times

<![CDATA[ Gibbs and Love Canal featured in PBS documentary ]]>
But the narrators aren’t the real stars of the documentary “A Fierce Green Fire.”

Western New York activist Lois Gibbs is one of the much bigger, lesser-known stars of the film about the environmental movement that premieres at 9 p.m. today – Earth Day – on WNED-TV.

According to a PBS release, “the film’s title is derived from pioneering ecologist Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” (1949), which describes his awakening after shooting a wolf while working as a U.S. Forest Service ranger: “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.”

Gibbs is center stage in the second act about pollution narrated by Judd. The film documents the grass-roots activism around the world from the 1960s-2009 that begins with the conservation movement and ends with the scary danger of very little being done about climate change – except for talk.

The 12 or more minutes featuring Gibbs’ struggle to get the state and then the federal government to accept the fact that the incredible amount of birth defects that children in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls acquired was due to toxic waste should remind Western New Yorkers how courageous she was in battling governmental forces whose denial of the circumstances may be even more mind-blowing today.

In file footage and recent interviews, Gibbs recounts the story of how she and fellow Love Canal residents realized that “if fish and birds are dying, then we’re going to die” because so many chemicals were buried where they lived.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:40:18 -0400 Alan Pergament
<![CDATA[ The Daily Dish ]]>

Moore considers departure

Kenya Moore says she’s seriously considering leaving “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” after her televised brawl with co-star Porsha Williams.

“We all agree that we don’t condone violence,” Moore said in an interview on Monday. “We’ve become angry with each other, we’ve threatened each other and gone to the edge. But at the end of the day, we know there’s a line. If there are no consequences, then where does it end?”

Williams surrendered last week to authorities and was charged with a misdemeanor charge of battery for the fight, which was televised as part of the Bravo show’s reunion special on Sunday.

Williams and Moore have had friction during the entire season, so it wasn’t surprising that the two began to argue and trade ugly accusations during the reunion special. But then things got physical. Both women stood up and Williams grabbed Moore’s hair, pulling her down and dragging her across the floor. On the show, Williams said she “blacked out” but was regretful about the fight.

Lohan makes sad disclosure

Lindsay Lohan says she suffered a miscarriage during the taping of her reality TV series.

The 27-year-old actress made the disclosure during Sunday’s final episode of “Lindsay,” the OWN cable channel series.

Lohan said the miscarriage was the reason that she was unable to appear on the program at one point. She said she was sick and unable to move.

She didn’t offer any further details on the program about her ill-fated pregnancy.

Lohan began taping the OWN reality show shortly after leaving her sixth stint in rehab last summer.

Oscars producers to return

The producers behind the last two Oscar telecasts are coming back for a third time.

The film academy announced Monday that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will return to produce the 87th annual Academy Awards. The two were responsible for the 2013 show hosted by Seth MacFarlane and this year’s telecast starring Ellen DeGeneres.

Film academy chief Dawn Hudson said Zadan and Meron “are masters at tapping into the zeitgeist.” This year’s show set social media records when DeGeneres’ star-studded selfie became the most re-tweeted image ever.

The 87th Oscars will be held Feb. 22, 2015.

Baldwin to aid library

A struggling public library in Rhode Island is getting help from actor Alec Baldwin – again.

Officials at the Adams Memorial Library in Central Falls say Baldwin will headline a fundraiser June 7 at Fete in Providence.

In 2011, Central Falls became the first city in Rhode Island to declare municipal bankruptcy and the library closed for a month as a result. The city emerged from bankruptcy in 2012.

Baldwin read about the city’s woes and donated $10,000 to the library in 2011 and another $5,000 in 2012. He also gave $2,500 to two local school chess teams last year. ]]>
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 17:32:59 -0400
<![CDATA[ Best friends for life look back ]]> Nicoletta was born in 1912 – the year, she will tell you, the Titanic sank.

Louise was born three years later.

Together, the two women have been friends for almost that long – ever since they were babies, in the era of Woodrow Wilson and Babe Ruth.

So, yes. We’re talking about a friendship that has lasted almost a century.

“Best friends,” said Nicoletta Sebastiano, 102, who lives in Clarence. “Best friends.”

Louise Spampata, 99, of Williamsville, puts it this way: “We grew up together.”

If Western New York gave out an award for enduring friendship, “Nicky” and Louise would surely be in the running for the prize.

The two women – known as Nicoletta D’Ugo and Louise Mary Riccione back then – were both born in Buffalo around the start of the First World War. Their families were friendly, having come from the same Abruzzo region of Italy, a little place called Furci.

“They were very close,” said Sebastiano, of the two families, on a recent evening when she sat near her best friend as they talked about their lives.

The pair played together as children and young girls. They didn’t attend the same schools or church, though. Sebastiano’s family moved when she was a baby to Williamsville, where she went through grade 12 in a public school and became valedictorian of her high school.

“I was a bookworm,” said Sebastiano, laughing. “I would stay up and study all night. Oil lamps.”

Spampata, who grew up on Schiller Street in Lovejoy, attended public school through the eighth grade in Buffalo, then started working as a young teen.

But the two women stayed close, no matter what.

Their friendship lasted through their marriages – Sebastiano at age 26 in 1938, Spampata in 1951 at age 36 – and the birth of Sebastiano’s four children, three of whom lived past infancy.

It lasted through their jobs – Sebastiano ran and taught at two business training schools, the Kensington Business Institute in Buffalo and Kelly’s in Niagara Falls, and Spampata worked at a number of places, including the department stores AM&A’s downtown, plus Berger’s and Sears. (She retired in her 80s.)

Their connection lasted through sad times, too, like the deaths of their husbands and friends.

Spampata’s husband, Vincent Spampata, a baker who co-owned Vin-Chet bakery, died in 1999.

Sebastiano’s husband, James Vincent Sebastiano, died in 1979.

It was at the start of her marriage in 1938 that Sebastiano had the idea to form a club that would be built on her deep friendship with Spampata. They called it the “Pandora Club.”

“Everybody was having clubs. So I said, ‘I’m going to start a club,’ ” recalled Sebastiano, who speaks or has studied four languages.

The club had 12 original members, many of them sisters, cousins or distant kinfolk. They paid dues – 25 cents a month, to start – and held monthly get-togethers in each other’s homes, where there would be big feasts, conversation, and companionship. Some women would crochet or knit.

“We just talked about happy things,” remembered Spampata. “We had a big meal at every meeting. A hot meal. You know what I mean? Spaghetti.”

“Everybody tried to outdo each other,” recalled Spampata, of the women’s cooking efforts.

The Pandora club members used some of their dues to do kind things, like sending flowers to loved ones in the hospital, or having Masses said for the soul of a deceased family member.

“We made sure the Pandoras had a Mass said,” Spampata recalled.

The club meetings were held in the evening, the women said, because everybody was so busy with work and family obligations.

“Well, we were busy,” said Spampata.

And about the club’s name?

“Pandoras are inquisitive, aren’t they?” Sebastiano asked, her eyes twinkling.

The club lasted for decades, petering out only with the deaths of most of the women involved. There is one other surviving member, the women said.

Over the years, the two women have done many things together, because of their friendship. They took swimming trips to Canadian beaches, in sporty 1930s-era swimsuits, taking along Sebastiano’s mother as a chaperone. They went out to dinner in nice Buffalo restaurants – even bringing their husbands on occasion. They even took vacations with their families in tow.

Through it all, they formed bonds that last to this day.

“We just enjoyed being together,” said Spampata.

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 17:04:25 -0400 Charity Vogel
<![CDATA[ Perfetto closes in Theater District ]]>
Perfetto’s equipment is being auctioned off Thursday. The 260-seat Theater District space was previously Ya Ya Bayou Brewhouse, Breckenridge Brew Pub and Empire Brewing Company. Owner Jay Haynes did not respond to requests for comment.

Nick Sinatra, the real estate developer who bought the Market Arcade from the city last month, said he’s talking to three high-profile Buffalo restaurateurs about the space. Sinatra know something about successful restaurants, having grown up around his family’s place, the venerable Italian red-sauce standout Sinatra’s on Kenmore Avenue.

“The space is anything but impossible; it’s a great space,” Sinatra said. He said the restaurant faced tough timing, with years of construction on Main Street. “It’s beautifully built out,” he said. “Obviously it’s big, but the right operator can use that space efficiently.”

There should be news on the tenant by late spring or early summer, Sinatra said.

The Market Arcade will be Sinatra & Co. Realty’s headquarters, and it needs a successful restaurant, he said.

“To us, it’s important to have somebody in there who can operate successfully, somebody who we can be proud of, because that’s going to be our flagship, our headquarters,” he said. “We’re going to be taking clients and bankers and other folks who we do business with down there, and we want to be able to say, ‘This is our tenant, and we’re proud of them.’ ”

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Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:06:45 -0400 Andrew Z. Galarneau
<![CDATA[ The Daily Dish ]]>

Miss America intervenes

Miss America is asking a Pennsylvania school district to reconsider the punishment of a senior who asked her to prom during the question-and-answer portion of an assembly.

The York Dispatch reported Sunday that Nina Davuluri posted a statement on the Miss America Organization’s Facebook page saying she contacted Central York High School to ask officials to rethink the three-day in-school suspension issued to 18-year-old Patrick Farves.

Davuluri says her travel schedule will prevent her from attending the dance with Farves.

School officials knew Farves intended to ask her to prom and warned him not to do it. Fellow students cheered afterward, but Farves was suspended for misbehaving.

He apologized for disrupting Thursday’s event. Davuluri was there to talk about the importance of science, technology, engineering and math studies.

‘Captain America’ triumphs

Captain America continues to vanquish box office foes, triumphing in ticket sales for the third consecutive week and dominating over megastar Johnny Depp’s new movie.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” added another $26 million to its coffers, according to studio estimates Sunday, while Depp’s sci-fi thriller, “Transcendence,” opened in fourth place with $11 million.

“The Winter Soldier” stars Chris Evans as comic book hero Capt. America and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. The Disney release has earned more than $200 million to date in North America – the 12th Marvel film to do so.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak, follow.

1. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” $26.6 million.

2. “Rio 2,” $22.5 million.

3. “Heaven Is for Real,” $21.5 million.

4. “Transcendence,” $11.2 million.

5. “A Haunted House 2,” $9.1 million.

6. “Draft Day,” $5.9 million.

7. “Divergent,” $5.75 million.

8. “Oculus,” $5.2 million.

9. “Noah,” $5 million.

10. “God’s Not Dead,” $4.8 million.

Iconic artwork is up for sale

In the portrait, the little boy’s blue eyes twinkle as he looks straight ahead. His apple cheeks shine. There’s a gap in his teeth, and his reddish-brown hair is just slightly tousled. He’s an All-American boy.

He’s Dick, of the illustrated “Dick and Jane” series that helped teach generations to read from the 1930s to the 1970s.

He’s also Nancy Childress’ childhood neighbor and the model for the drawing by her father, Robert Childress, that along with Jane, Sally, Spot and others brought the pages of the reader to life.

Nancy Childress is selling her father’s artwork at auction in New Hampshire on April 30. Along with Dick, there are other portraits and black-and-white drawings of John F. and Jackie Kennedy.

Robert Childress didn’t just use the neighbor boy as a model for the series that he illustrated during the 1950s and ’60s: Nancy was Sally, her sister Susan became Jane, and their mother was also one of Robert Childress’ inspirations.

Auctioneer Ronald Pelletier of Brookline Auction Gallery said estimates for the roughly 50 lots of Childress art run from $100 to $2,000 and because it is an “absolute auction” there is no reserve bid, meaning the lowest bid wins.

Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:52:27 -0400
<![CDATA[ Undy 5K organizer wants word to get out about colon cancer ]]>
She doesn’t mind a little embarrassment if it can save lives.

Losing your mother to colon cancer can do that to someone.

“There are a lot of cancers that sneak up on you but colon cancer is not one of them,” said Fraser, chairwoman of the Buffalo Undy 5000, a 5K race and fun run to benefit the Colon Cancer Alliance, which focuses on treatment and prevention.

She’s organized the run three times since her mom, Barbara Hogg, died from from the disease a little more than two years ago, at age 59.

“I don’t want other people to go through what our family went through,” said Fraser, 33, a married mother of two who lives in North Buffalo and works in nonprofit communications. “It was a horrendous experience.”

Hogg, whose maiden name was Ganley, was one of 11 siblings who grew up in Syracuse. She was the niece of Joe Ganley, a former longtime columnist for the Syracuse Post Standard.

As a young woman, she met Mark G. Hogg (pronounced Hogue), a Syracuse University student from Western New York, married him and moved to the Town of Tonawanda. The couple raised Fraser and her younger brother, Mark W.

Hogg, a teacher’s aide in the Ken-Ton school district, took care of her health. Three of her sisters battled breast cancer, so she religiously got mammograms.

Colonoscopies? Those never occurred to her, her daughter remembers, because nobody in her large Irish-Catholic family had ever had colon cancer.

“Her surgeon told me that her colon cancer was probably growing for close to 10 years,” Fraser said. “Just one colonoscopy during that time, we could have had a very different outcome.

“I don’t blame her,” she said. “I just think colon cancer needs to be talked about more and people need to understand why, rather than saying, ‘I don’t want to go through the prep of getting a colonoscopy,’ the discomfort you’re going to feel in your 24 hours of prep is nothing compared to the discomfort you’re going to feel if you’re diagnosed with colon cancer.

“That’s what I have to say about it, and I nag everybody. It’s my new job: ‘Oh, happy birthday. You just turned 50? Are you going to go get screened?”

Many families need to hear such advice. Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., behind only lung cancer, even though 90 percent of cases are preventable, according to the American Cancer Society.

People 50 and older, as well as those with a family history of colon cancer, are encouraged to get a colonoscopy every five to 10 years, depending on whether precancerous polyps are discovered during one of their procedures, said Dr. Patrick Boland, a medical oncologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute who mostly treats patients with colon and rectal cancers.

Sixty percent of Americans in those risk groups are following the guidelines, according to a study published this year in “CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians,” but 40 percent are not.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” said Boland, who plans to run the Undy 5000 this year with “Bowel Movement,” a team of more than 20 others who specialize in gastrointestinal diseases at Roswell.

“A lot of people come out to this event because they have some type of personal connection,” Fraser said, “but a lot of people come out because they want to look goofy and run around in their underwear.” That’s fine, she said, as long as they support a good cause, and learn something.

Most participants wear underwear over their shorts or sweatpants, as the Fraser and Hogg families plan to do.

“We’ve had people just wear underwear,” she said. “It’s mostly guys wearing goofy underwear. We’ve also had people bring their dogs – because dogs are welcome in Delaware Park – and put underwear on their dogs. There also will be a giant, inflatable walk-through colon.

“I can’t explain what it feels like to stand there and look out at the park,” Fraser added, “and see all of these people here who’ve all come together for this one cause. It completely warms my heart. It makes me proud to be a Buffalonian. I just think our city is amazing.”

A total of about 2,000 people participated in the first two runs, which raised more than $180,000 for the Colon Cancer Alliance, a national organization that helps coordinate 20 similar runs in cities across the country. Register for this year’s race at or stop out before the 9 a.m. fundraiser on Saturday.

Proceeds support the alliance, which channels part of the funds into colon cancer screenings in low-income Western New York communities as part of Independent Health Foundation’s Good for the Neighborhood program.

“There are others experiencing what our family did, there are some fighting like hell, and there are others who’ve gotten through it,” said Fraser. She said the Undy 5000 and her work with the alliance gives her hope.

“I think that by doing things like this … by using our voices and sharing stories, we can hopefully change the statistics,” she said. “That’s always what it comes down to for me: It shouldn’t be the second-leading cause of cancer deaths if it’s one of the most preventable cancers.”

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Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:49:22 -0400 Scott Scanlon
<![CDATA[ Billy Crystal remembering his father, again, in ‘700 Sundays’ ]]>
“I never felt that I was done with the show,” said Crystal, now 66, relaxing in one of the overstuffed white sofas in his Beverly Hills office, decorated with posters and pictures from his films such as “When Harry Met Sally,” “City Slickers” and “Mr. Saturday Night,” as well as photos of him with such friends as Muhammad Ali.

“Then I turned 65 and realized I had been 50 years without a father,” said Crystal, serious and contemplative. “That is a long time. It felt like I wanted to do it one more time. So I said let’s do a limited run.”

Last November he opened a run on Broadway. “The ticket sales were unbelievable,” Crystal said. But about three weeks in, he realized “maybe it is time to stop” and that the limited Broadway engagement would ring down the curtain on “700 Sundays.”

HBO, with whom Crystal had done comedy specials as well as the Comic Relief shows, had long pursued him to tape the show. And in early January, nine cameras captured two performances of “700 Sundays” at the Imperial Theatre. The special premiered Saturday evening on HBO and will has multiple viewings today and throughout the month.

“In one night we will hit more people than we could ever imagine playing to,” Crystal said. “I also wanted to document for my kids and my grandkids that this is the family. This is my story.”

Nostalgic, sentimental, funny and four-hankie sad, “700 Sundays” is a valentine to Crystal’s past.

“It’s the best character I ever had to play,” he said, smiling. “It’s a really great character to play because I go through everything. It just gave me a chance to plug in to all the different things that I do.”

Crystal takes us back to his days growing up with his parents, Jack and Helen, and his older brothers Rip and Joel in Long Beach, Long Island. Though the community was sleepy during the off-season, the Crystal household was lively.

His Uncle Milt founded the famed jazz label Commodore Records, and his father operated the Commodore Music Store in Times Square and produced jazz concerts featuring the likes of Billie Holiday. A lot of these jazz greats would visit the Crystal home. The first time Crystal saw the 1953 film “Shane” in the theater, he sat on Holiday’s lap.

Crystal honed his comedic chops performing with his siblings for his colorful, often eccentric family. But in 2001, Crystal didn’t have much to laugh about. Uncle Milt died that July, and then Uncle Berns was taken ill. “I spent that summer getting him on his feet,” Crystal said quietly.

“Then 9/11 happened. Then my mother died in November, and my godmother died that same week. And this man, (sports broadcaster) Dick Schaap, who was one of my closest friends, died in December. It was like a body shot. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Smiling was hard. You could almost feel like cracks in your face.”

Out of that pain came “700 Sundays,” which was directed by Tony Award-winner Des McAnuff (“The Who’s Tommy,” “Jersey Boys”), whom Crystal described as a “gentle nudger.”

“He was incredibly respectful of the family and their story, but always was strong enough to say how about this or about that. He knew what I wanted to do, but yet he was a bulldog enough to say, ‘I don’t like that.’”

The show opened at the La Jolla Playhouse in early 2004 and moved to Broadway in December of that year. After the Broadway run, Crystal toured with the show.

But performing “700 Sundays” is different this time for Crystal.

“Doing it then was very cathartic, it was more emotional,” he said. “Now, 10 years later, I found it equally freeing but not as painful. That made the performing of it a little more joyous and a little more carefree. When I came to the emotional parts, those sections became a really wonderful thing to act.”

The show, McAnuff said, has also evolved over the decade “because it’s improvisational and because Billy never stands still. It’s constantly changing. One of the wonderful things about Billy as an artist is that he’s indefatigable.”

The HBO presentation opens with scenes of Crystal revisiting his now-empty family home. “I thought it was a great way to center the story,” Crystal said.

Because the house has changed over the years, Crystal called the city manager of Long Beach to get the original floor plans. From those plans, his childhood home was rebuilt on a sound stage in New York.

It was an odd experience walking through this re-creation of his home. “Because it wasn’t really the house, I was a little removed from it, but it sure was phenomenal to be there again.”

He only got emotional once.

“My mother had a Hastings stove and it was mint green,” Crystal said. “We found the right model but not the color.”

He asked McAnuff in post production if they could change the color digitally.

“He calls me up right before we lock the picture,” Crystal said. “He said, ‘Are you in the neighborhood? I want to show you something.’ ”

The stove, Crystal said, was mint green. “That made me cry.”

Crystal said he’s “in the zone” in terms of his career. Despite weak reviews, his 2012 comedy “Parental Guidance” made about $120 million internationally. Last summer “Monsters University,” in which he reprised his beloved vocal role as one-eyed Mike Wazowski, earned more than $740 million worldwide.

His 2013 autobiography, “Still Foolin’ ’Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?,” was a best-seller, and the audio book version earned Crystal a Grammy nomination.

And he’s also returning to series TV next year in FX’s “The Comedians” with Josh Gad (“The Book of Mormon,” “Frozen”).

“It’s the story of a veteran comedian and a young comedian who team together reluctantly to do a late-night sketch show,” Crystal said. “It’s a documentary on the making of the show. It’s very unpredictable and very real. It doesn’t feel like a sitcom at all.” ]]>
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 17:49:23 -0400 By Susan King

Los Angeles Times

<![CDATA[ Jeff Simon: With Rhimes’ ‘Scandal’ showing the way, has ‘SVU’s’ Olivia Benson been ‘Shondalized?’ ]]>
Her conclusion, then, was that she was the center of the swirl of chaos and wretched behavior that writer/creator Shonda Rhimes routinely packs into each episode of “Scandal” on Thursday nights. And so Olivia (Kerry Washington) ended last week’s season finale on a private plane with Jake (Scott Foley) on her way to a new life across the ocean arranged by her unspeakably corrupt father (Joe Morton burning up the set weekly).

I seem to have gone the first half of my life encountering the first name “Olivia” only twice. It was, as far as I knew for decades, only the name of Olivia Newton-John and Mark Twain’s beloved and eminently proper wife, the one whom he lovingly teased on the exceedingly rare occasion when he heard her curse by saying “my dear, you have the words but not the music.”

Then, successively, TV offered us no less than three wildly charismatic Olivias: Olivia Soprano (Buffalo’s Nancy Marchand), the nightmare mother of Tony Soprano; Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), the deeply soulful cop on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”; and then Olivia Pope (Washington), the virtuosic Washington “fixer” based originally on a very real “crisis manager” named Judy Smith until the show decided to become a weekly soap opera grenade exploding in American living rooms.

To no one’s surprise, Thursday’s season finale of “Scandal,” began with a real explosion in a Washington church where the president was supposed to speak until he was warned off. The episode ended with Olivia and Jake on that Lear jet on the way to God-knows-where, a destination certain to last no more than two episodes when the show returns to ABC next season.

Between the big boom and the final lurch into “time to get out of Dodge” territory, the following things happened: the President (Tony Goldwyn) found out that when he first ran for governor of California, his father (Barry Bostwick) raped his wife (Bellamy Young); Olivia’s No. 1 computer hacker, “cleaner” and torturer Huck (Guillermo Diaz) was shown where in suburbia lives the estranged family who mistakenly believe he’s dead; Olivia’s father is back in charge of evil spy operations B613 after making a deal with the president, imprisoning Olivia’s super-evil mother (Khandi Alexander) and knocking off the president’s teenage son with a special vial of instantly fatal meningitis germs that B613 keeps around for special occasions.

I’m not even going to tell you about the two members of Olivia Pope’s team of “gladiators” caught en flagrante delicto having the kind of sex that HBO’s “Game of Thrones” first specialized in. (A fact for HBO watchers to consider at some length: President Obama has declared himself a fan of “Game of Thrones” and also an occasional watcher of “Scandal.” Feel free to spend the next five minutes running variations on “HUH?”)

You couldn’t expect such wisdom on the narrative methods of “Scandal” creator Rhimes but there it was on Thursday’s Jimmy Kimmel’s “Behind the Scandalabra” special in Kimmel’s usual time slot. Between bits of Grade D-minus comedy purporting to be a Spanish language version of “Escandalo,” Kimmel interviewed the Rhimes on her show.

He had, believe it or not, one rather acute and nicely phrased question. Why is it, Jimmy wanted to know, that she insists that each show pack a couple of seasons worth of plot explosions into each episode?

Rhimes’ answer was both interesting and revealing. She wants “Scandal” to be a show to which each viewer feels he or she must pay rapt attention, lest they miss something important. She didn’t want viewers to think they could be folding laundry while it’s on without worrying about letting something slip past them.

“Scandal,” then, is both a state-of-the-art exhibit of modern television programming anxiety and a device for commandeering the American living room completely.

Rhimes wants nothing less than her viewers’ total attention. Not even enough divided concentration to fold socks, pajamas and underwear will be brooked while her soap opera fantasia of Washington maniacs plays out its insane and potential fatal games of bumper cars.

Rhimes has become a rarity in our time to the point of singularity: she is a TV writer/creator/show runner who almost is as much a celebrity as her stars. And her method of doing so is to meet the 21st century’s various different media pathologies head on. “Scandal” is a TV show virtually designed for TV rather than to be miniaturized. excerpted and co-opted for smart phones, while at the same time maximizing post-broadcast social media water cooler time for each show.

If it seems as if her show has been stark staring nuts all this time, it hasn’t been nuts at all. There is more method to her madness than there is in, perhaps, any other TV show.

And that’s why “Shondalizing” in apparent imitation the story of prime time’s other Olivia – Olivia Benson of “Law and Order: SVU” – is the big scandal of our current TV season.

When last we left “Law and Order: SVU,” Olivia Benson was not only competing with the other Olivia on TV for the title of most prodigious consumer of red wine, she had fictionally admitted on New York TV that she had tortured and beaten a handcuffed unarmed man.

Yes, we out here in “SVU” land knew that the evil guy was perhaps the major villain in the history of the show, but that’s still an absurd amount of melodramatic weight for one fictional cop to have to carry while still on the job.

“Law and Order: SVU” has, then, now joined “Scandal” among the ranks of TV shows that have almost no discernible relationship with plausible reality whatosever despite their origins in reality.

That, I submit, is a long and deeply dispiriting way down for a show that spun off from TV’s greatest reality-based fictional franchise, a “Law and Order” kingdom of shows always accompanied by disclaimers of realistic intent.

We’ll see on Wednesday’s “Law and Order: SVU” how they intend to make this right. Frankly, I doubt they can.

I truly hate to say this but simply as a matter of acceptable fiction on TV in prime time, I think the tale of Olivia Benson in prime time is over. A shark has been jumped.

It’s too bad Olivia Benson doesn’t have a daddy who can put her on a private plane to Europe with a playmate.

“Scandal’s” Olivia Pope will make an awaited return. Olivia Benson, in my melancholy view, has been “Shondalized” on one of the last TV shows that should have permitted it.

She’s now hopelessly damaged goods.

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Fri, 18 Apr 2014 16:30:27 -0400 Jeff Simon
<![CDATA[ Editor’s Choice: ‘can’t and won’t’ by the unique Lydia Davis ]]>
When you search out the actual story on Page 46, you find that to indeed be the full text of the story “Can’t and Won’t” minus its rather crucial first seven words “I was recently denied a writing prize (because etc. etc. etc.).”

Here from Page 23, in its entirety is a “story” I like rather a lot called “The Bad Novel.” “This dull, difficult novel I have brought with me on my trip – I keep trying to read it. I have gone back to it so many times, each time dreading it and each time dreading it and each time finding it no better than the last time, that by now it has become something of an old friend. My old friend, the bad novel.”

When, in the March 17 issue of the New Yorker, Dana Goodyear wrote about Davis, there was, apparently, no way to avoid leading off with Davis’ story “Letter to a Frozen Pea Manufacturer” which began with an actual Lydia Davis letter to General Mills’ subsidiary Cascadian Farm: “The peas are a dull yellow green, more the color of pea soup than fresh peas and nothing like the actual color of your peas, which are a nice bright green. We have compared your depiction of peas to that of the other frozen peas packages and yours is by far the least appealing.… We enjoy your peas and do not want your business to suffer. Please reconsider your art.”

Lydia Davis is a writer who thoroughly considers her art. It is unique – a singularly appetizing casserole of fragments reminiscent of poetry, e-mails, social media tweets and variations on French writers from Flaubert to Maurice Blanchot. What never ceases to astound her readers is that taken as a whole in a new collection like this – or, for certain, in her “Collected Stories” – there is nothing the slightest bit small. It’s her way of examining Blake’s “Infinity in a Grain of Sand.” – Jeff Simon ]]>
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:04:32 -0400