Trick or Treat or Curmudgeon?

what is a curmudgeonWhat is a curmudgeon and how do you know if you are one? Perhaps a good place to start would be with Charles Murray‘s book, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead (2014), a brief read about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life.”

Filled with “tricks” – i.e. tips and suggestions – with a particular focus on young people as they navigate the treacherous waters from college to adult life, The Curmudgeon’s Guide is an “indispensable sourcebook for living an adult life” and a lasting treat that deserves a special place on the bookshelf as a timeless reference, of course, only if you ARE a curmudgeon. Read more

Ghosts, Goblins and Great Decorations in The Big Apple

Halloween in NYC“They call it the ‘Big Apple’ because that’s how big our apartments are!”
–Billboard on the Hudson River Parkway, NYC (2012)

Anyone familiar with New York City knows that tight, close quarters and a small amount of personal space is a sacrifice that must be made for living in what has been deemed, somewhat ironically, “The Big Apple.” Indeed, on a 13.4-mile island populated by 1.6 million people, space is a luxury that many – though not all – can’t afford, which is why New Yorkers are often compelled to get a bit creative.

Such creativity is witnessed firsthand while strolling through the neighborhoods of Manhattan in the weeks leading up to Halloween. With a truly limited and “tricky” amount of space to work with, the elaborate displays, spooky props and ghastly décor that line the stoops, gates, stairs, windows and doors of many apartment buildings is rather impressive – and a pleasant “treat” that lifts your spirits to the festive fun of the season. Read more

Aliens, Monsters, Jaws, and Things: 10 Scary Movies for Halloween

Best halloween movies“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) from his 1927 essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”

In the spirit of Halloween – a time of bubbling cauldrons, bloodcurdling screams and cackling spirits – ATG puts forth our top 10 picks of the scariest movies of all time, nine of which were made over 30 years ago, but hold up surprisingly well.

Responsible for spawning numerous sequels, cheap imitators and whole genre movements (zombies, aliens, etc.), these movies play off of man’s primal fear of the unknown, causing our imaginations to run rampant with unthinkable possibilities. Read more

Apples, Apples, Apples — All Things Apples

“Man has been munching on apples for about 750,000 years, ever since the food gatherers of early Paleolithic times discovered sour, wild crab apples growing in the forests in Kazakhstan Central Asia.”Apple Cookbook (2001) by Olwen Woodier

Apple cinnamon cupcakes recipe‘Tis the season for apple pie baking! While bakers everywhere are busy rolling out the pie dough, Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York has been busy rolling out 66 apple varieties for more than a century including Cortland, Empire, Jonagold, Jonamac, and Macoun.

In her book Apple Lover’s Cookbook, Amy Traverso writes about her visit with Susan Brown, one of the horticulture professors and apple breeders at the 50-acre lab in Geneva near Lake Seneca where they breed, develop and produce apples that are ever more appealing to the tastes of consumers, who tend to favor crisp, juicy and firm varieties.

Along with satisfying the taste buds of consumers, the horticulturalists also experiment with fortifying the health benefits (“an apple a day keeps the doctor away”) by breeding apples that have as much vitamin C as oranges and those that have high levels of quercetin, a natural antioxidant that may have a role in protecting the brain cells from Alzheimer’s disease. Read more

Houston, We Have A Problem. And Matt Damon — The Martian — Can Fix It.

The Martian Ridley Scott
Picture taken from Our Solar System by Seymour Simon
“For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars…voyaging between horizons across the eternal seas of space and time.” –Henry Beston (1888-1968)

It seems that Fall has become the season for sci-fi action, space exploration thrillers. Last year (November 2014), we joined Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as they plunged through a wormhole in search of a new home for mankind in Interstellar, and a year before that (October 2013), we embarked on a riveting, turbulent ride with Sandra Bullock in Gravity, which became the month’s highest-grossing live action film of all time.

This year, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, starring actor extraordinaire Matt Damon, is supposedly on course to surpass the latter, blasting off with $55 million on opening weekend. Read more

Mistress America: So Much To Be, So Little Time

Mistress America Movie ReviewNoah Baumbach’s latest film, Mistress America, is an unexpected delight first and foremost for the abundance of laugh-out-loud moments and the many quotable lines delivered in Woody Allan-esque, rapid-fire sequences.

A classic “coming of age” story set in New York City, it follows Tracy (Lola Kirke), a freshman and social outcast at New York City’s Barnard College who finds herself captivated by the seemingly glamorous life of her soon-to-be 30-year-old stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig), only to become disillusioned by the fact that Brooke’s life isn’t as “together” as it appears.

What makes this film particularly brilliant, however, is its ability to capture – with a rare, authentic awareness – both the exhilaration and lamentation of the endless career possibilities available in today’s world of entrepreneurial pioneers. Read more

A New Day for a New World: Happy Explorers’ Day!

Discoverers' Day Holiday“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot

Today is Columbus Day, a day when we celebrate the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, commissioned by King Ferdinand of Spain, to sail the ocean blue in 1492 on his boats the Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina in search of the “New World.”

Given the growing controversy about the validity and integrity of celebrating a man who was not the first to step on the shores of America – and the ensuing insensitivity toward the indigenous Native American population – we might instead consider renaming the holiday “Explorers’ Day”, inspired by Hawaii’s “Discoverers’ Day”, in which we celebrate all explorers worldwide. Read more

One More Cup of Coffee for the Road…

Facts about coffeeIn morning there is darkness, light and then a good hot cup of coffee. Rarely are we able to begin our days without it. Indeed, a sip of fresh, hot coffee in the morning is like magic, turning moans and groans into spoken words.

“Coffee is a daily ritual in the lives of millions of humans around the globe,” Tori Avey writes in Caffeinated: A History of Coffee. It is by far the world’s most popular beverage (more than 2.2 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day). Whether it is the pleasure of holding a warm cup or taking the first sip, it is as if God knew man would need something strong to entice him out of bed in the morning and help prepare him for the challenges of the day ahead.

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#Kindness4Colleen, Kindness For All

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

Colleen Ritzer legacyThe above quote, attributed to the Lebanese-American author Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) most well known for his book The Prophet, has always been one of my favorites. Serving as a counterpoint to a prevailing cultural ethos that too readily equates strength with acts of self-empowerment and self-aggrandizement, it is a reminder of a “quieter” strength, one that doesn’t seek the world’s attention and approval, but instead manifests itself in acts of humility, sacrifice and loving kindness when no one is looking.

While I did not know her, and was made aware of her only recently through a friend, I get the sense that Colleen Ritzer – a Massachusetts native and high school math teacher whose life was tragically and mercilessly stolen from her at the age of 24 – was one of these people. Read more