Duke, Terry TeachoutHE WAS THE MOST CHRONIC of procrastinators, a man who never did today what he could put off until next month, or next year. He left letters unanswered, contracts unsigned, watches unworn, and longtime companions unwed, and the only thing harder than getting him out of bed in the afternoon was getting him to finish writing a new piece of music in time for the premiere. “I don’t need time,” he liked to say. “What I need is a deadline!”

Though he carried himself like a prince of the realm, he was the son of a butler and the grandson of a slave. Washington, D.C., where Duke Ellington was born in 1899, was one of America’s most segregated cities, but it also had a black middle class that was proud and self-aware. Ellington’s parents belonged to it, and their only son, a high-school dropout whose regal demeanor belied his poor grades and seeming lack of interest in music, went out of his way to acquire its manners. “Every time you walk out [on] the street and you’re exposed to a white citizen, you know,” he said, “you’re acting in behalf of the race.” That was why he never let his guard down: he knew that there would always be somebody looking.

Ellington was, after Louis Armstrong, jazz’s biggest celebrity, as well as the first jazz musician to be widely hailed as an artist of consequence—and not just by his fellow jazzmen, but also by such distinguished classical musicians as Constant Lambert, Aaron Copland, and Percy Grainger. Yet he was also, like Armstrong, a popular entertainer whose music was meant to please a mass audience. Long before the Swing Era, his band was seen in films and heard on network radio, and long after most of the other bandleaders who followed him into the limelight faded into obscurity, he continued to perform on network TV and girdle the globe, playing “Sophisticated Lady,” “Mood Indigo,” “Solitude,” “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart,” and the other hits that had made him famous (if never rich). Twelve thousand people came to his funeral at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City, his adopted home town and the place that he loved best. By then his baggy eyes and sardonic flattery were almost as familiar to the mourners as his rich-textured music.

Underneath his soigné exterior, Ellington was a self-centered hedonist who lived a nomadic existence in which everything was subordinated to his art—and, insofar as possible, his pleasure. His selfishness was unswerving, though it did not exclude benevolence, if only on his own terms. He was at once deeply (if superstitiously) religious and a tireless philanderer who, in the words of an admiring friend, had the sexual appetite of “a romping, stomping alley cat.” He was careful to keep his love life out of the papers, just as he tried never to show his vulnerability to anyone who might take advantage of it—but vulnerable he was, and would always be. While he believed that his music was (to use the phrase with which he described his favorite artists) “beyond category,” he was painfully conscious of the racial slights that beset him throughout his life, even after he became a star.

None of it showed. The rage, the humiliation, the unbridled sensuality: All were kept far from prying eyes. His fans saw only what he wished them to see, and nothing more. So did his colleagues. “I think all the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke,” said Miles Davis. Yet to Ellington’s own musicians, he was a riddle without an answer, an unknowable man who hid behind a high wall of ornate utterances and flowery compliments that grew higher as he grew older.

In 1944 a journalist dubbed Ellington “the hot Bach,” a comparison that is likely to have vexed him. A decade earlier he had claimed that “you can’t stay in the European conservatory and play the negro music.” He insisted that his own achievement was unique unto itself, so much so that he refused to call his music jazz. “I don’t write jazz,” he said. “I write Negro folk music.” He was wrong: His music is one of the cornerstones of jazz. But he was right about the singularity of his music, just as he himself was as singular as a human being can be, an improbably gaudy bird of paradise who spoke at least one undeniable truth in the self-interview that ends his autobiography:

Q. Can you keep from writing music? Do you write in spite of yourself?

A. I don’t know how strong the chains, cells, and bars are. I’ve never tried to escape.

Terry Teachout, the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal, is the author of Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, from which this excerpt is adapted. His other writings include Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Satchmo at the Waldorf, a one-man play about Armstrong.

A traveling art installation comprised of more than 250 pieces of Penguin Books and Penguin Classics cover art, curated by Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley and Mirko ilic, has been presented in six cities and countries across Europe to date, including Belgrade, Maribor, Ljubljana, Montenegro, Ireland and Sarajevo. As the show of these stunning artistic images.moves, it grows in size and popularity. Next stop: Hungary.

View the gallery:

image[12] image[11] image[10] image[9] image[8] image[7]  image[5] image[4] image[3] image[2] image[1] Penguin Covers On Tour Across Europe

Style and the Successful Girl view larger size Style and the Successful GirlCheck out these amazing Gretta Style-Overs before and after makeover photos from Style and the Successful Girl, by Gretta Monahan.

Transform your style, transform your life: Gretta Monahan is Rachael Ray’s resident style, beauty, and fashion consultant, with a host of celebrity clients that rely on her expertise to stay on the A-list. However, Grettas style principles aren’t just for celebrities, but universally apply to anyone who wants to dress for successboth at work and in their personal lives. Now making her proven approach available to all, Style and the Successful Girl is both a style guide and a full-color fashion book, packed with stories, sidebars, and photos to help every reader discover and create their own style. Read more and view an excerpt.


Working mom Mika has a hectic 24/7 lifestyle. A few tailored pieces (like this jacket and straight pants) that can go from day to night and from the work week to special events make it easy for Mika to multi-task.

Style and the Successful Girl

Mika – Before


Mika – After


Kianna is on the career fast-track. Gretta gave her look a boost with modern pieces and a polished hair and beauty routine.

Kiana - Before

Kiana – Before

Kiana - After

Kiana – After


Fabulous Judy found the perfect recipe for looking ageless in of-the-moment leopard print.

Judy - Before

Judy – Before

Judy - After

Judy – After


After losing over 100lbs, Vanessa and Gretta rebuilt her style with a glamorous look to fit her new body.

Vanessa - Before

Vanessa – Before

Vanessa - After

Vanessa – After


Rae triumphed over lymphoma at age 24. Gretta gave her a head-to-toe makeover to match her amazing attitude and strength.

Rae - Before

Rae – Before

Rae - After

Rae – After

(Photo credit: Photography by Gail Hadani)

mastering_the_art_of_french_eatingI was making a quiche, rubbing butter and flour between my fingertips, and thinking about the French immersion course I took before I moved to Paris, about the lessons and my classmates, and a poem that we learned by heart. It’s a slight poem, and mournful. I can still recite the words.

Chanson d’Automne de Paul Verlaine

Les sanglots longs
des violons
de l’automne
blessent mon coeur
d’une langueur

Tout suffocant
et blême, quand
sonne l’heure
je me souviens
des jours anciens
et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
au vent mauvais
qui m’emporte
decà, delà
pareil à la
feuille morte

(Translation: The long sobs of autumn’s violins wound my heart with a dreary lethargy.

All stifled and lifeless, when the hour strikes I remember days gone by and I weep.

And so I go on an ill wind, which carries me here and there like a dead leaf.)

Pretty mournful, right?

The cadence of Paul Verlaine’s autumn song swam in my head as I squeezed water from defrosted spinach, and chopped some steamed broccoli, and whisked together eggs, milk, and cheese. When the quiche was in the oven, I sat down at my computer and Googled “Chanson d’Automne.” And I made a discovery.

During World War II, the BBC and the French Resistance developed a code to signal the start of Operation Overlord, aka D-Day—and they used the first three lines of Chanson d’Automne as an alert. When repeated twice—“Les sanglots longs/ des violons/ de l’automne”—meant that operations would start within two weeks. The lines were broadcast on June 1, 1944. When the poem’s next three lines were transmitted twice—“Blessent mon coeur/ d’une langueur/ monotone”—it signaled that the action would take place within 48 hours and that the Resistance should begin sabotage operations. These lines were broadcast on June 5, 1944.

It turns out that Paul Verlaine’s despondent poem—part of an 1866 series that he oh-so-cheerfully entitled Paysages Tristes, or “sad landscapes”—was actually a symbol of hope.

I leave you with a recipe for quiche and the wish that cooking it may bring you many insightful, heartening, and inspiring contemplations.

quiche_ mastering_the_art_of_french_eatingSpinach and cheese quiche

1 recipe pâte brisée dough
1 lb frozen chopped spinach
1 cup grated cheese (Comté, Gruyère)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk or cream
Salt and pepper

With clean cool hands and a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough on a floured surface and fit it into a 22-cm/10-inch tart pan. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Chill for one hour (allegedly this reduces the shrinking). Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the tart crust until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven.

While the shell is baking, defrost the spinach and squeeze it dry (I usually use my bare hands. It’s very satisfying). Combine with the milk, cheese, and beaten eggs. Season well. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared crust. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, or until the quiche is puffed, set, and lightly golden.

afoot_in_st_croixIt happens on every research trip. By now, you’d think I would have learned.

A seemingly innocuous piece of advice slips into a casual conversation between a departing tourist and a new arrival. After the hi, how are you’s and the obligatory so where are you from’s comes the inevitable transition to the veteran’s activities of the previous week. This is a discussion topic of which every traveler should be wary.

I’m talking about the “can’t miss” recommendation.

I fall for it every time.

What kind of a writer would I be if I didn’t check out this “must see” location? After all, the whole point of my visit is to search out fictional inspiration. This treacherous line of reasoning frequently gets me into trouble.

And so it went on my most recent trip to the Caribbean island of Tortola. The recommendation was for Smuggler’s Cove, an isolated out-of-the way beach with stunning views of neighboring Jost van Dyke. Could this be the site of a critical scene in a future novel? There was only one way to find out.

The next morning I asked for directions from the owner of the inn where I was staying. In typical Caribbean fashion, she provided me with the following route:

“Go past the Bomba Shack…” (In the Caribbean, a rum shack is almost always a navigational compass point) “…turn left at the bottom of the hill across from the public parking lot. There’s a little sign, next to a big boulder. You can’t miss it.” (This is generally an indication that I will, indeed, miss it.) “After that, just follow the road.”

I set off in my put-put rental jeep, which was running on about 1.8 of its 4 cylinders. I would soon realize I needed the brakes as much as the missing horsepower.

I found my way past the rum shack, but predictably got stymied looking for the signed turnoff. After parking in a private parking lot for a large resort, I pulled out a map that had come with the rental. I rotated the sheet several times, trying to reconcile the innkeeper’s instructions with the cartographer’s cartooned island depiction. The only mapped road I could find appeared to run through the resort.

A West Indian man strolled past, apparently on his way to Bomba’s.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I’m looking for the road to Smuggler’s Cove?”

“Yeah, sure,” he replied. He looked at me as if this was one of the silliest questions he’d ever heard. “It’s right there.” He pointed at a concrete-covered hill I’d wrongly assumed to be someone’s driveway.

“That’s the road?” I asked.

Nodding his head, he made a dramatic gesturing motion with his arms and then continued his trek to the rum shack.

With encouraging words to the gerbils powering the jeep’s engine, I switched to the lowest gear, mashed the accelerator to the floor, and began to slowly inch up the concrete’s near vertical pitch.

The “road” quickly narrowed to the width of the jeep, and the concrete petered out to a dirt path littered with sharp volcanic rocks. After a couple of tight turns, the jungle closed in on either side. I couldn’t see more than ten feet past the front bumper.

God forbid I meet someone coming from the opposite direction, I thought grimly. There was no room to turn around and no way I was backing the jeep down the hill. I felt certain I was about to pop a tire, and, of course, I’d lost all cell phone reception. It was easily the worst incline I’d ever driven – and mind you, I’m from Colorado.

Plodding forward, because there was no other choice, I eventually reached the summit. From there, it became clear that the makeshift road had been designed to skirt around the resort boundaries, presumably due to complaints about people driving through their private grounds. Once I completed the cut-around portion, the going was far easier.

I soon reached my destination, a pristine beach with a jaw-dropping view –packed with about fifty other people who’d all been given the same “must see” advice.

I spent a wonderful afternoon at Smuggler’s Cove. I even met a potential future fictional character in an enterprising Tortolan who ran a full mini-bar out of an ice chest and a fold up table.

When it was time to leave, I took the flat, paved road through the resort, confidently waving at its employees as if I was a paying guest.

At dinner later that night, I struck up a conversation with a lovely couple that had just arrived on the island.

“What do you recommend we do while we’re here?” they asked politely.

“Oh, there’s this beach that you have to visit.” I replied. “Smuggler’s Cove. Take the road down past the Bomba Shack, then turn left at the big boulder…”

mastering_the_art_of_french_eatingFor me, the only thing better than eating in Paris is reading in Paris. Happily for us Anglophones, the City of Light offers a bevy of quirky, quaint, and eclectic English-language bookshops, a veritable book lover’s feast. But if you’re anything like me, shopping makes you hungry. Here, then, are some of my favorite bookstores, paired with a nearby restaurant, so you can read and snack to your heart’s content.

The Abbey Bookshop (29 rue de la Parcheminerie) — The small space overflows with new and used books, and the author reading events sometimes spill over into the small pedestrian street outside with people sipping wine and chatting about literature late into the night. Owner Brian Spence offers astute reading suggestions and is wonderfully supportive of local writers. Food tip: I love the chilled soju cocktails and Japanese tapas at Lengué (31 rue de la Parchemnierie), the restaurant next door.

shakespeare & coGalignani (224 rue du Rivoli) — This is an elegant grande dame of Paris, with dark wood paneling and a polished calm. The store offers a solid assortment of photo books, English-language guides on France, as well as gorgeous art books. Food tip: After browsing here, continue your decadent tour with a visit to the luxurious tea room, Angelina (226 rue du Rivoli), for a pot of their famously thick hot chocolate.

Shakespeare & Co (37 rue de la Bûcherie) — A Parisian landmark for book-lovers, this rambling shop on the Left Bank hardly needs an introduction. A visit here is part shopping expedition, part pilgrimage to honor the men and women of letters who once browsed the shelves. The young and penniless still lend a hand in the store in exchange for lodging—they’re called Tumbleweeds. Food tip: After a visit to Shakespeare & Co.’s narrow, crowded, claustrophobia-inducing aisles a brisk walk is in order. I suggest strolling across the Seine to the Ile St-Louis and getting an ice cream from Berthillon (31 Ile St-Louis). My favorite flavor is black currant sorbet.

WH Smith (248 rue du Rivoli) — The bright and bustling British chain stocks the latest in UK and US bestsellers, and also offers a wide selection of English-language magazines and newspapers. I’m also fond of the British snacks (like Twiglets, or salt and vinegar crisps) on offer on the second floor. Food tip: I like to buy a bag of chips and eat them in the Jardin des Tuileries, located just across the street.

The American Library in Paris (10 rue du Général Camou) — Though this is a membership library—not a bookstore—there are wonderful, free author events here every Wednesday evening (full disclosure: I used to organize them). Recent speakers have included Diane Johnson, Lionel Shriver, and Richard Russo. Food tip: Les Deux Abeilles (189 rue de l’Université) is a lovely tearoom with delicious quiche and a chocolate-almond cake that I dream about.

(Photo credit: Kristin Espinasse)

afoot_in_st_croixThere’s just something about an island.

A brazen hunk of cured lava or sand-dusted coral emerges from the depths of the sea. Despite the constant threats of weather, wave, quake, and volcanic eruption, the spot is soon inhabited by a colorful cast of independents – brazen souls who dare to tempt the cruel whims of fate.

It makes the perfect setting for a book.

Add to this the vast number and variety of islands spread across the globe and you’ve got enough source material to keep a writer busy for the rest of her life.

Yes, I am intrigued by islands.

Through the ages, islands have stood at the crossroads of history, as essential transportation hubs in the oceans’ liquid deserts, as flashpoints in territorial disputes, and as arenas for epic showdowns between dueling global superpowers.

The geographic construct has posed challenges to both invading pirates and besieged peasants. Depending on the sharpness of its boundaries and the temperament of the surrounding sea, an island can be an open drawbridge, impossible to defend against outside intrusion – or a confining barrier that is impossible to escape.

Practically every race, religion, language, and culture has a representative island. People emanating from the most landlocked countries often have a waterlocked counterpart that reflects their specific nationality.

And while these tiny bits of landmass have borne a disproportionate share of human slavery and trafficking, that dark suffering has spawned some of the world’s most creative folklore. The imaginations of the oppressed have flowered vivid monsters, tragic martyrs, and mythical tales of triumph and defeat.

No matter how narrow its isolating band of water, every island is unique.

An island can be the hub of a massive transportation web, a buzzing transfer station, or the last sleepy stop at the end of nowhere. It can be an elite retreat, a cosmopolitan city, or a near empty preserve.

Islands possess a rare beauty, an unavoidable closeness with nature. Resources are inevitably scarce, creating a heightened environmental awareness. As such, islands have provided refuge for delicate species that never could have existed on our crowded continents, a treasure of wondrous proportions.

Standing at an island’s edge, water lapping at my feet, I’ve puzzled over the mysterious firmness of sand, solid despite its myriad separate members, yet constantly changing shape and shade. I’ve laughed at the comical routine of a hermit crab, struggling to carry an oversized shell up onto a beach, and I’ve marveled at the spectacle of insects, humming, chirping, biting…performing.

For this writer, islandography has become a near obsession, a call to search out and investigate, to learn, experience, and be influenced.

There are thousands of islands waiting to be explored.

And so many stories left to tell.



mastering_the_art_of_french_eatingThe first time I ever ate savory cake, I was at a cocktail party in Provence. I had just completed a seven-week French immersion program and I was eager to test out my brand new language skills. Still, when I found myself being introduced to the village mayor, my heart started to pound with nerves.

The mayor had a bald head, intelligent eyes, and was missing a finger from a hunting accident. He was interested in my husband’s job as a diplomat, and in the various countries we had called home. “Did you enjoy living in Beijing?” he asked in French.

“It was a wonderful experience, but sometimes challenging,” I said. “La ville est très salée.” Everyone within earshot laughed uproariously. It took me a minute, but eventually I realized that somehow in my fluster, I had confused “sale”—which means dirty—with “salée,” or salty.

Perhaps I was distracted by the delicious cake salé, or savory cake, on offer at the party, a booze-soaked loaf studded with bits of ham and Gruyère cheese. I had “salé” on the mind you might say.

Years have passed since that party, my French has improved considerably, and I’ve learned how to make my own savory cake, one with walnuts and Roquefort cheese that whips up quickly for a lovely lunch or drinks party (see recipe below). Every time I make it, I think of that balmy summer evening and my funny French language gaffe—and though I’ve made plenty of linguistic errors since then, I’ve never confused those two words again.

Savory cake with roquefort and walnuts/
Cake au Roquefort  mastering_the_art_of_french_eating_post_1et aux noix

3 eggs
150 grams flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Scant 1/2 cup sunflower seed oil
1/2 cup milk
100 grams Gruyère, grated
150 grams Roquefort (or domestic blue cheese)
80 grams walnuts, toasted and chopped
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Butter and flour a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with the flour and baking powder. Add the oil and milk slowly, alternating between the two. Stir in the grated Gruyère and season lightly (remember, the cheeses are very salty). Crumble the roquefort into the batter and add the nuts. Stir gently to combine.

Transfer the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

spirit_keeperIn my previous post I made a big deal about how we are what we eat, which is, I believe, why the First Americans would occasionally chow down on the oozing heart of a vanquished enemy.  In this blog I intend to explore this idea further and consider a few of its many implications.  By delving deeper into this one little difference between the Europeans and the First Americans, I hope to arrive at last at my real point, which is why that moment of meeting in 1492 is so important, why you should care, and why we need to have this conversation now.

I think we can all agree the Europeans of 1492 knew little about health and nutrition.  They never worried about vitamins, minerals, proteins, or carbs because they had only the vaguest notion of how their own bodies worked.  Oh, they knew it had something to do with the balance of humors, but they figured there was no problem some leeches and a good blood-letting couldn’t fix.  Even today few people understand how to eat to achieve optimal health.  So I suppose I’m going way out on a limb to suggest that in 1492 the First Americans understood more about nutrition than the average person does today.

Now I’m not saying the Indians were sitting around counting calories, organizing menus, and balancing the fiber and fats in their diets.  What I am saying is that the First Americans were keenly aware there’s far more to food consumption than just a basic chemical exchange.  That’s why the killing of game, the catching of fish, or the harvesting of crops always involved prayers or rituals to restore the balance of Nature.  If you’re going to take the life of something so that you can live, the least you can do is say “Thank you,” right?  Otherwise there’s a karmic deficit and your soul begins to shrivel.

Again, I’m not suggesting the First Americans were big believers in Karma, but my understanding is that they were huge believers in the concept of Transformation.  They recognized that an individual is actually many completely different people in one lifetime, which is why they often changed names and why adoptions were so common and so important.  Transformation also explains how they regarded food—they transformed the corn, the fish, or the deer into themselves.

But the North American concept of Transformation is not just some theoretical blah-blah to explain how to restore spiritual or karmic balance.  It is a very practical application of an actual law of the physical universe, one which the First Americans seemed to recognize even in 1492, or nearly 300 years before Lavoisier gained fame by explaining the Conservation of Mass.  (Oh, and it’s worth noting that although the First Americans were often criticized for savagery, it was fellow Europeans who lobbed off Lavoisier’s head, thus proving matter is, indeed, constant regardless of how many pieces a person is chopped into.)

At any rate, though the First Americans published no studies describing the chemical and molecular breakdown of matter, they did recognize, long before Columbus set sail, that different foodstuffs made them feel, well, different.  They also knew very well what happened when a carcass was left to rot, such as when the body of a deceased loved one was laid out on a scaffold.  While they were in their prime, the First Americans understood they were consuming the gifts of the earth, and when they died, they knew the earth was going to consume them in turn.

In other words, the First Americans didn’t just understand the basic laws of the physical universe in some vague, theoretical way; they applied those laws on a daily basis.  After all, the premise underlying every thought, word, or deed in pre-Columbian America was the acceptance that there is always balance in Nature.

Which brings me finally to why I’m so hopelessly fascinated with that moment back in 1492 and why, in fact, I wrote The Spirit Keeper.  It’s because in spite of my 100% European ancestry, my hardy Irish heritage, and my lily-white genetic make-up, I’m nothing like a European anymore—in fact, I don’t think any of us are. We can’t be if

I grew up in Indiana, where my family always had big gardens.  Under the gentle coaxing of sun and rain, the chemicals of the earth were sucked up by the strawberries and corn, and when I ate those foods, those chemicals were turned into me.  But where did the chemicals in the earth come from before my family laid claim to that scrap of soil?  A lot of them came from the people who were here before us, the First Americans who lived on that soil, laughed, loved, and died on that soil, and when they died, they rotted here, and so our beans and squash and tomatoes and potatoes are all heavy-laden with the chemicals that were once those other living beings.

It’s a simple fact of physics, a basic law of the universe, the inexorable way of Nature.  We are what we eat.  And so we are, all of us, nothing but the chemicals of the dead, filtered up through the earth again and again and again.

And this is why I feel such a keen obligation to have this conversation, to commemorate that moment of meeting in 1492, and to beg for us as an amalgamated culture composed of Europeans, First Americans, Africans, Asians, and whoever else wants to climb aboard to learn the lessons of our shared history.  We need to learn those lessons before the lapping waves of time wash away all traces of that unique opportunity to study ourselves.

After all, we’re all in this together now, like it or not, as we are all born on this planet of parents born here and their parents the same and their parents the same and all our ancestors slumber together in the soil that feeds us all and will in turn someday feed on us.

And that, by the way, is the punchline of the cosmic joke that was that singular moment in human history in 1492.  It’s not just that we are what we eat.  It’s also that we will become what we are eaten by.  The European laws of physics eventually gave us atomic bombs, but the Native concept of Transformation suggests something even more earth-shattering:  we will inevitably become that which we destroy.

In conclusion, I believe we need to have this conversation now because it’s time we recognize who and what we really are as members of the human species.  We are not Europeans.  We are not Americans.  We are earth chow.  We are stardust.  We are clever little monkeys, and if only we’re willing to look at ourselves objectively, we might be able to figure out what it is that makes us so damned clever, what it is that really makes us tick.

But the clock, too, is ticking, my friends.  Time is running out.  One moment leads to another, and another, and another, and before you know it, all turn to dust again.  Vanity of vanities—all is vanity.

In these blogs I’ve pointed out just a few of the lessons we can learn from comparing European/First American views on one tiny facet of life—the consumption of food.  There are so many other fascinating topics of conversation:  clothing, shelter, family, community, language, and on and on and on.  But why should I do all the work?  It’s someone else’s turn to talk now.