Saturday, October 11, 2014


A couples weeks ago, Sharon's annual kidnapping (every year she plans a surprise day trip around my birthday) took us up north to Salinas. Steinbeck country. And that was exactly why we went. We had lunch in John Steinbeck's boyhood home. It has been turned in to a place to have lunch, with mostly sandwiches and salads, though they also have an entrée that changes weekly and desserts.

And after lunch we went a couple blocks to the National Steinbeck Center where they have displays covering many of the books that he wrote. Such as The Red Pony, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and Travels with Charley. And of course, The Grapes of Wrath. Probably his most famous book. And one connected to Kern County, since The Joad family ends up in Weedpatch for a time.

Needless to say the good people of Kern County weren't happy with the way they were depicted back when the book came out in the 1939. And his depiction of the conditions those immigrants faced was called exaggeration by many. And in 1939 the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to ban the book from county libraries and schools.

Despite the efforts of local librarians, the ban lasted for a year and a half. In November of 1939 the library in East St. Louis voted to burn the book on the library steps, but didn't after the news of their intention went national. And the week that this occurred had the biggest sales of the book to date.

Which just goes to show what Gretchen Knief, a Kern County librarian said to the supervisors. “Banning books is hopeless and futile.” And so often leads to even greater dissemination of the ideas in the book.

This was a lesson John Steinbeck learned well. On a CD about The Grapes of Wrath, from the National Endowment for the Arts, Tom Steinbeck, John's oldest son, told an anecdote about his father, having a huge cabinet filled with the books, that he didn't want his sons to read. John would put the key to the cabinet on top of it, all with great show. Then at night his two sons would slip down climb on chairs and each others shoulders, to reach the key and open up the cabinet to get at the forbidden books. Things like Mark Twain and Coleridge. They years later John told Tom, that Tom should have oiled the cabinet hinges so he could have slept better.

But he had forbidden the books he'd most wanted his children to read. And they had. And I guess it turned out OK, since Thomas Steinbeck has had several books of his own published.

You know, that might be a good lesson for me too. As soon as I get a book published I might have to see about getting someone to ban it. That should do wonders for sales.

 Click to learn more about the banning of The Grapes of Wrath 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fining Wine

Wine making is an important California industry. It's even becoming more important in our own local area. And some of us make wine as a hobby. So when I saw a post recently on the Internet titled something like “Things Wine Makers Don't Want You To Know” I had to check it out. Now I can't answer to techniques for any particular wine maker, but there was one topic mentioned that seemed worth reading more about. And that was the fining of wine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

All's Fair

Over the summer back in Oklahoma I had the opportunity to sample some white zinfandel jelly. I really enjoyed it. So once I got back from my trip I went out on the Internet and searched for a recipe. Well once popped up immediately. Exactly four ingredients. Wine, pectin, sugar, and a bit of butter to prevent foaming.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Growing Up Geeky

When I went to high school, I guess I was one of the geeks. Though I wouldn't have classified myself with them. They were weird. I went to the other side of the library so I wouldn't have to socialize with them. Though every now and then I'd have to cross over to their side of the library to check out the books over there and they'd talk to me. “Have you read Little Fuzzy?” One of them asked me. No I hadn't, I thought the cute little animals on the cover looked silly.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Los Gatos Canyon

Near Coalinga (southwest of Fresno) back in 1948 a plane load of Mexican citizens were being flown to El Centro to be sent back to Mexico. The plane crashed in Los Gatos Canyon. Depending on where you lived the news didn't have much coverage of the event., so when Woody Guthrie heard about it, no names were given. In his poem, “Deportee”, he said that “you won't have a name when you ride the big airplane”. And for years the mass grave up in Fresno only listed “28 Mexican Citizens” on the small headstone.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Out of This World

The recent strong winds from out of the west help generate some very impressive lenticular clouds. These are the “flying saucer” shaped clouds that form from time to time around Tehachapi. OK, they can form elsewhere, but we do get our share.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Say it Ain't So

Science denialism is a problem in this country. (OK, it's a problem in other countries too, but I don't live there so...) We have so many varieties: creationists, global warming deniers, vaccine avoiders, Flat Earthers, folks that don't think germs cause disease and so on. These people, you probably know some, don't like what science has told us, so tell us that it just can't be so.