Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Pope

Sometimes using the wrong verb seems pretty important.  I’m not talking the “May I?” or “Can I?” that is an issue with English majors like my wife.  I’m talking about the recent use on my favorite radio NPR station where they talked about the recent “appointment” of the Pope.  It seemed to me that with all the talk about ballots, there had been an “election” or at the very least a “selection”.  And the reason I am concerned about the distinction is Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.

Only one Pope before resigned from the Papacy and he was in fact “appointed” by the Cardinals because they couldn’t agree on a successor and felt this holy hermit could be easily manipulated.

Turns out they were wrong and he was rapidly and easily coerced into resigning. So they could elect a compromise candidate.

It does bring up the issue of what Pope Francis will do and how well that will fit into the hopes of the Cardinals who elected him. 

The general feeling is that he is truly dedicated to the poor, expressing that from the beginning by his choice of name.  His actions as an Archbishop in Argentina would support that position, but we may get something more.  His history of interface with the Presidents Kirchner, ruling husband and widow, show courage and a resolve to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.  This is a man used to accomplishing things.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio
His popularity with the Islam faction in Argentina may also bode well for the near future of the Catholic Church.  A lesser known fact about St. Francis of Assisi is that he went safely through the enemy lines during the Crusades and met with and (unsuccessfully) tried to convert the Sultan.  Perhaps Pope Francis may have better luck.  His simple lifestyle, the leaving the trappings of the office, like ornate vestments and a bulletproof vehicle, should appeal to the Muslim sense of simplicity in life.

Statue of St. Francis
I am pleased that he explained why he chose Francis as his Papal name.  A favorite joke explains why this might have been a problem.  There have been several saints named Francis; one of the more famous is St. Francis Xavier, a co-founder of the Jesuit order, of which Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio belonged.  The story deals with a man who made several bad choices:

He wanted to fly from Chicago to Boston and had to decide what time to leave: 10:00 AM or noon?  Noon.

Then what airlines, since two had noon flights: American or United?  United.

The plane developed serious engine problems and passengers were given a choice to bail out with one of a limited number of parachutes, or remain on board and hope for landing survival:  Bail out.

When he pulls the ripcord, nothing happens and he cries out, “St. Francis, help me!”

A voice comes from the clouds, asking, “Would that be St. Francis of Assisi or St. Francis Xavier?”

I’m glad Pope Francis cleared that up.

There has been much written recently about Apps and who writes them.  My next Post will make some suggestions for Apps I would find useful.  Join me and comment with suggestions you might have.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fifty Years of Bond

Those of you who watched the Oscars a few weeks ago probably share with me a bit of nostalgia as they romped through what they called “Fifty Years of Bond”.  For me the memories were especially sweet because Mary and I were in from the beginning.

We had been married only a short time when someone leaked the news that one of JFK’s favorite books was From Russia with Love.  Of course if someone famous, especially someone with the name FitzGerald buried in there somewhere, liked a book, nothing would do but that we read it.  And, being pretty voracious readers (I used to put how many books a year I read in my resume), we started and ended up reading all the Bond books Ian Fleming wrote and several written after his death.

Fleming has been criticized for depicting English bullying and snobbery as admirable traits.  I am unsure of any attraction bullying had for me, but being a military officer with less money than would support my wishes and, finding myself in the Philippine Islands at a time where the dollar was exceptionally strong, and having access to Hong Kong which at the time was steeped in English heritage, Bond became my alter ego.

Me and many others.  To date the Fleming books have sold more than 100 million copies.  Although only about twenty per cent as many as Harry Potter’s, J. K. Rowling, many more were sold than those by Beatrix Potter.  And almost all of his books have been made into films.  The first was Dr. No, which coincidently had just opened worldwide in 1962, when Mary and I were visiting Hong Kong.  While it may seem prosaic to go to a movie while visiting one of the most interesting cities in the world, it fit our budget and it was showing without subtitles.

The scene I remember was the famous one in which Ursula Andress, as Honey Rider comes out of the sea in a white bikini.  I’ve always felt she was the inspiration for the joke where the man is marooned on an island for years without company.  A beautiful woman comes ashore in a wet suit and proceeds to give him first, cigarettes, then whiskey and finally asks if he wants to Play Around”.  He misunderstands the phrases and asks, “You mean you have golf clubs in there?”

Bond, played by Sean Connery responds to Honey’s question, “Are you looking for shells?” Responding, “Just looking.” The first of many double entendres weaving their way through the rest of the Bond films.

Much of Bond in the books was autobiographical or at least was based on people and experiences of which Fleming had firsthand experience.  Books written after Connery began to give Bond more nuance in his personality showed more humor and love of gadgetry, which is probably responsible for the great attraction the films and books have enjoyed over time.

Some of the original traits still remain.  Fleming took his martinis seriously and very well might have preferred “shaken not stirred”.  He also was a gambler and Bond’s method for staying inconspicuously at the roulette table for long periods by alternatively betting red and black, and avoiding the more risky system of betting numbers, is one I have used successfully through the years.

As I prepare to watch Skyfall 007 on my Apple TV from my iPad I can’t help but reflect at how, although many things have changed in the last 50 years, much has remained the same.

At least as Bond goes.

In my next post I’m going to hop on the Pope bandwagon, or more accurately the Pope-mobile, and give my observations on the new selection.  I promise some secular interest and hope you’ll join me.

Monday, March 11, 2013


I have been invited to speak to a rather unusual Book Group about an organization I belong to, The American Institute of Wine and Food.  The attraction to me by the group was because they pick one book a year and invite speakers on related topics to address the group at monthly meetings.  This year’s book is Dearie by Bob Spitz.

Mr.Spitz’ genre is biographies.  He has written previous books, one even about The Beatles, but chose for this book a friend he had written about and with for several years before her death, the birth of which was celebrated last year as a 100th anniversary: Julia Child.

Julia - Richard - Robert
Among her many and varied accomplishments, Julia was one of three founders of the AIWF in 1981, along with Richard Graff, who had recently bought Chalone Winery and Robert Mondavi, who was defining the American wine industry.  Northern California at the time was an absolute incubator for change in the food and wine industry.  The three had in mind improving and defining the food and wine culture by supporting two charities: the first, called Days of Taste ® was a program designed to teach fourth and fifth grade children from limited social strata the path of foods from farm to table and in the course of learning that, develop a sense of how taste fits in to the process.  The second was a scholarship program, initially supporting students in the Culinary Institute of America, just then moving from its core base in New York to a branch at St. Helena in California and an educational marriage of food and wine.

Days of Taste grew out of several programs with the same end in mind.  Julia had a cooperative effort with the Dairy industry in California, but the current program owes more to a program developed by the New York Chapter of AIWF, which now has a fantastic website promoting its programs.

The Book Group found my name because through persistence or survival, I am the current Chair of the Orange County (California) Chapter of the national AIWF organization and was the closest Chapter to the library the Book Group uses for their meetings.

Harnessing a Heritage
By Dee FitzGerald
Besides the opportunity to speak on a topic I feel strongly about, I was attracted because the 50 or so people expected read books and I am always looking for an audience for my book: Harnessing a Heritage beyond those who read the first chapter at my website

I have been doing some research on what role Julia played in AIWF. In the early years it was mostly supportive of the organization by her name and contacts.  Even in Orange County at the peak of membership we would raise $20,000 for the charities by wine, food and auction events, some at the Mondavi Center.  And national AIWF enjoyed large donations from the Mondavi Family.  Other corporations or individuals proudly donated $5,000 to be a member of the Julia Child Circle.
Unfortunately those events are not as well supported today and we are looking for sponsors for the charities as well as other revenue streams to support them.  How successful we will be remains an open question.

No one doubts their value, but competition for their support is brutal.

Those of you who saw the Academy Awards will remember the “50 Years of Bond” segment.  In my next post I’ll recollect how Bond has been in my life for all of those fifty years.  I hope for your eyes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

External Wonders - Asking Why

A recent ad running on the sports networks has a five or six year-old asking repeatedly, “Why?” to an increasingly frustrated father figure who eventually says, “Don’t you think you should ask your dad?”  The hook is that he is either an insurance agent or a financial analyst and the viewer is reminded that he knows all the answers.

I was trying to remember when my now eight year-old grandson last asked me, “Why?”  And I couldn’t remember any time since I introduced him to Balboa Island, its Ferry and the famous Balboa Bars.  I think he was four or five.  That short trip elicited at least five “Why?” questions.

When I was growing up my “Why?” phase lasted well into my early teens and encompassed such topics as: Why do we call it “internal combustion”? (there was a guy down the block who was building a car and became a magnet for us kids in the nether time between supper and bedtime), Why doesn’t dad hunt? (His father died when he was very young), why does the sun coming through a magnifying glass get so hot? (Concentration and focus, and so little boys can fry ants).

Of course it was more difficult to find answers ourselves then.  Google has replaced the Encyclopedia.  Kids own Smart Phones with internet access as early as nine (maybe earlier).  And adults have less time or inclination to become the reservoir of knowledge.  Teachers with stricter demands to teach to test, have more structure and less opportunity to answer individual questions.

And maybe there is less wonder at what is happening outside themselves.

Hubble Telescope
I feel there may be a loss in not having that curiosity about the wonders that are outside ourselves.  I worry that there may not be a future Hubble, curious about a world beyond our reach, or a Shackleton, braving elements and scarcities to save his crew from death in the Antarctic.

I shared my concern with my younger son, who has taught elementary students for almost fifteen years now.  He told me not to worry.  That Ethan asks him “Why?” questions all the time.  That there are probably three reasons I haven’t noticed his curiosity: I am not his recognized source of knowledge, the time we spend together is often time shared with his brother and/or father, and answers I may have given in the past were too long, complex, or vague for him to understand well.

“With kids, you have to keep it simple.”

I asked what kind of “Why?” questions he asks.  Tim said, “Start with the most common one, ‘Why is the sky blue?’”

“How did you answer?” I ask.

“Water.  Water disperses the sun, much like a prism.”

I feel better already.  My answer would have taken five minutes.

In my next post I will share some knowledge of a group I belong to: the American Institute of Wine and Food, which I have been asked to do a presentation on for a book group discussing one of the founders, Julia Child.

I think you will find it interesting and hope you will join me.