Take “A Good Trip” with Shane Mauss

Check out my EU article on stand-up comedian Shane Mauss! (Comedy + Science + Psychedelics):     http://eujacksonville.com/2017/01/23/take-a-good-trip-with-shane-mauss/

Shane Mauss performs Conan, Episode 0408, May 02, 2013 Meghan Sinclair/Conaco, LLC for TBS

 

EVENT: Comedian Shane Mauss LIVE stand-up tour, “A Good Trip” (Comedy + Science + Psychedelics)

DATES/TIMES: Saturday, February 4th (two shows: 8pm & 10pm)
VENUE: The Hourglass Pub, 345 E. Bay Street, Jacksonville, FL
TICKETS: $15 prior to event, $20 at the door, http://m.bpt.me/event/2727243
CONTACT: Jacksonville Comedy Collective, jacksonvillecomedycollective@gmail.com

*Courtesy of EU Jacksonville

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Comedy Plus! The Undefined Jeff Bradley

Check out my EU article on variety comedian Jeff Bradley!  http://eujacksonville.com/2016/09/22/comedy-plus-the-undefined/jeff_portrait-wboxes_big

*Courtesy of EU Jacksonville

Happy Birthday, Flannery O’Connor! (Part II – A Look Inside Her Childhood Home)

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Mary Flannery O’Connor resided here at her childhood home in Savannah, GA from her birth on March 25th, 1925 until 1938. An only child, she lived with her mother and father, until her father passed away from systemic lupus erythematosus, the same disease that took her life in 1964 (she was 39 years of age). This literary treasure (pictured above) opened 25 years ago across from Lafayette Square in the heart of Savannah’s National Landmark Historic District. 

This photo of O’Connor (on the left) was taken around 1930. The picture, one of very few snapshots of her as a child, shows the two children at an apartment complex (since demolished) about a block from O’Connor’s childhood home. The other child on the right was her friend, Betty Jean McGuire.

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Front Entrance to O’Connor’s home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Baby O’Connor’s bassinet
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First Editions of O’Connor’s Work
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O’Connor stamps (June 5th, 2015)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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O’Connor’s childhood kitchen overlooking the garden area outside.

 

 

 

 

 

This garden marks the spot where O’Connor had her 15 seconds of fame as a youth. You can view O’Connor teaching a chicken to walk backwards! Click Here: Do You Reverse? (1932)

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O’Connor attended the Georgia State College for Women, serving as the college’s literary magazine editor and cartoonist and later, she attended the University of Iowa in 1945, where she studied journalism and participated in the renown Writers Workshop.

Once diagnosed with Lupus in 1950, O’Connor lived the remainder of her days writing in the company of peacocks at Andalusia Farm, which has since also been transformed into a museum dedicated to O’Connor. Check it out here: http://andalusiafarm.org/

O’Connor’s work emphasizes the fall of humanity and its need for redemption, as in her short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” whereby the concluding scene suggests a presence of grace or salvation in a sinful world. Check out my previous discussion on this short story here: A Tribute to Flannery O’Connor: Part I

During my tour of O’Connor’s childhood home, it was suggested that perhaps little Flannery was influenced by the direct view outside the window from her crib of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church. For those of you who know O’Connor’s work, it would not be a preposterous connection…

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“To the hard of hearing, Christian writers shout, and for the almost-blind, they draw large and startling figures.” – Flannery O’Connor

Her fiction speaks to the soul’s struggle with what she referred to as the “stinking mad shadow of Jesus.” – Flannery O’Connor

“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” – Flannery O’Connor

“Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” – Flannery O’Connor

“I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek, as my tongue is always in it.” – Flannery O’Connor

“I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.” – Flannery O’Connor

“Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.” – Flannery O’Connor

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” – Flannery O’Connor

 

If you’re planning a trip to Savannah, GA, be sure to swing by for a tour of Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home: http://www.flanneryoconnorhome.org/

A Tribute to Flannery O’Connor: Part I

Remembering Mary Flannery O’Connor: A True Portrait of Southern Christian Realism Fused with an Unapologetic Portrayal of Moral Hypocrisy

Flannery O’Connor was an American writer and essayist of 2 novels, 32 short stories, and numerous reviews & commentaries. She was the winner of 1972 U.S. National Book Award for Fiction for The Complete Stories, and she was the first 20th century writer to have her works collected & published in the Library of America in NYC.

Born: March 25th, 1925 in Savannah, GA

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Died: August 3rd, 1964 in Milledgeville, GA (at 39 years of age)

For Part I of this tribute, I would like to briefly discuss O’Connor’s most popular short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (1953). If you have not read this classic, feel free to download the full-length version here: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/goodman.html

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“The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window […] In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.”

In this excerpt, drawn from the story’s opening, O’Connor provides details about the grandmother’s outfit while her children and grandchildren pile into the car to head southbound for Florida. Most of her clothing is white in color, traditionally a color of purity, but the reader soon learns the grandmother’s characteristics are clearly the opposite of pure. During the road trip, she is self-serving and tries to manipulate her son, Bailey, to change his mind about traveling to Florida. She also sneaks the pet cat on the family trip, despite Bailey’s wishes to leave him at home. Even worse, the family’s death may be perceived as the grandmother’s fault because she tricks them into driving off course to visit an old plantation home, and the pet cat causes Bailey to lose control of the car. The grandmother is completely self-absorbed with her past memories of a so-called better life, and her main concern is that her physical appearance at death will define her as a “lady.”
 
This entire short story is a commentary on how a past life was a better life. The grandmother gets nostalgic about the old plantation home, an old lover, better manners, good men, and dirt roads, all of which existed in a previous life, a better time. Why does everything always seem better once it is gone? Only past moments are savored. The present is taken for granted. Perhaps this savory splendor is not so hard to find…
 
This code of Southern-belle manners that the grandmother yearns to live by is trumped by her selfish disposition, producing a theme of hypocrisy covered by religiosity. After the car accident, the grandmother feigns an internal injury to gain sympathy and fails to mention that she made a mistake about the location of the plantation.
“I believe I have injured an organ, said the grandmother, pressing her side, but no one answered her. Bailey’s teeth were clattering. He had on a yellow sport shirt with bright blue parrots designed in it and his face was as yellow as the shirt. The grandmother decided that she would not mention that the house was in Tennessee.”
Also, after the car accident, the children’s response is quite ironic and foreshadowing. The relentless use of foreshadowing in this story alludes to the sardonic nature of O’Connor’s style, and speaks to her tendency to emphasize the truth regardless of how horrifying it might be.
“We’ve had an ACCIDENT!’ the children screamed in a frenzy of delight. ‘But nobody’s killed,’ June Star said with disappointment as the grandmother limped out of the car.”
The use of the words “delight” and “disappointment” in this passage is odd, yet revealing of the events to follow. The infamous Misfit whom escaped from prison is on-the-loose nearby and conveniently encounters the family after their spill. He proceeds to take each member of the family into the woods, shooting and killing them one-by-one, leaving only the dreadful grandmother alive to discourage him from taking her life. She pleads with the Misfit to pray, calling him a “good man,” and urges him to reconsider his plan to kill her.
“Jesus!” the old lady cried. “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”
 
Evidently, the grandmother is not concerned with the safety of her family. She does not try to save her family members, and her initial belief is that her moral code as a “lady” will save her from being shot. However, she soon discovers that the Misfit does not adhere to the same beliefs, and she too will be killed. The grandmother can thus be interpreted as a character that represents the duality of the Misfit. The killer explains why he calls himself the Misfit “because I can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment.”
Like the Misfit not having a place in society, the grandmother does not fit in with her family. She is not really welcome on the family trip and views herself as belonging to a past life. She is isolated in her self-righteousness. Just before the Misfit shoots and kills the grandmother, she cries, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!”
Perhaps, this finale signifies the grandmother’s transformation from a phony Christian to a humble woman. In this closing scene, the Misfit is now wearing Bailey’s shirt, symbolizing his replacement of the grandmother’s son. The Misfit is her metaphorical baby, and perhaps, she finally realizes that she is no better than he is. After killing the grandmother, the Misfit comments, “She would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
This controversial ending reveals the Misfit’s perspective of the old woman. Her preaching about salvation and her efforts to be a good Christian “lady” were not genuine; rather, this act was a mere endeavor to save her own life.
What do you think?…
 
Does the grandmother actually transform and earn redemption?
 
Does she finally see her own flaws instead of focusing on the flaws of others?
 
Or, are her words just another cheap attempt to save her own life? 
Please stay tuned for Part II of this tribute… where I will unveil a glimpse into Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home in Savannah, GA.
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Fact or Fallacy in The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

I was introduced to this novel by a local book club. I would have never picked it up on my own volition. However, I couldn’t be more ecstatic that I had the opportunity to indulge in this read!

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro is a thrilling fiction novel based on the most lucrative art heist in history. I’m sure you have heard by now about the 13 pieces of art that were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA in 1990 (worth an estimated $500 million!). These pieces still have not been recovered, and no arrests have been made in decades, until just recently.  On March 18th, 2013, the FBI revealed their theory that the thieves were members of a criminal organization who transported the artwork to the Philadelphia area. In late 2015, never-before-seen footage surfaced from the museum’s video surveillance. And, on January 6th, 2016, a man who was arrested for the illegal sale of a firearm in Hartford, Connecticut has supposed ties to the art heist and is currently under investigation.

Shapiro intricately weaves this factual narrative into her own fiction, keeping the reader engaged from the first page to the last word of this exquisite novel. She has clearly done her homework, as almost every page contains extensive detail related to the world of art. The reader is quickly initiated with exposure to the language of an artist, such as “OTC” = over the couch, and introduced to factually famous forgers from past eras. Shapiro’s lengthy descriptions of the sketching, painting, and finishing processes are educational and fascinating, yet easy to digest, with simplistic diction and syntax. I find her frequent ramblings of artistic methods and techniques to be a parallel to an artist’s mind of obsessive manic thoughts and behaviors. The stream-of-consciousness inner dialogue expressed by the main protagonist, Claire Roth, is familiar, yet unique in style and makes for an impressively rapid read.

The primary artist focused on within this text is Edgar Degas, a 19th century French impressionist painter famous for his portrayal of human isolation in works such as his After the Bath, 1898 series. The most obvious explanation for this chosen artist is his artwork was on the list of stolen pieces from the Gardner in 1990. However, after close examination of the entire novel, one might draw further connections between Degas’ focus on human isolation and the main character, Claire’s lifestyle choices which unfold throughout the novel. The scenes in his actual and fictional series of After the Bath paintings could be representative of individual purification and sanctity.

From the start of the novel, Claire is alone with her artwork, which she adores more than human interaction. When she describes her relationships with men, they are strictly based on intellectual and/or physical attraction, nothing that has lasted beyond use of her great artistic ability. The two men in the novel with whom she seemingly has a romantic relationship end up using her for her artistic prowess (think Bronte sisters meets Big Eyes), an antiquated injustice, surprisingly embedded throughout a contemporary novel. Claire is frequently found staring at art alone in her apartment or in museums, peering out her apartment windows onto the busy streets of Boston, traveling alone to teach art to juvenile delinquents (her only religious commitment), and playing detective without a partner in crime (until the end of the novel when she finally entrusts the help of a dear friend).

Claire makes a “deal with the devil” at the start of the novel as well, agreeing to forge a famous Degas painting in exchange for money and fame. She finds that the overpowering guilt and shame counteracts her talent and takes us on an expeditious race to prove her innocence and that of her counterpart for the remainder of the text. “I push myself harder, paint faster and faster, hoping that by finishing the painting, I’ll also be finishing off my demons” (Shapiro 154). Perhaps, through completion of her new artwork, Claire could also find closure with the death of her ex-boyfriend, for which she was slanderously blamed.

Above all, Claire’s strongest desire throughout the novel is to be a widely known and highly acclaimed artist in a successful world known more often to men and to clear her name from past wrongdoings, which she refers to as “an indelible stain” (159). Flashbacks to her past transgressions slowly reveal details to the reader in a manner that is intriguing and suspenseful, and the flashbacks carry the themes of guilt and shame throughout the text. Claire’s obsession with her reputation is highly narcissistic and somewhat delusional, thus mirroring the loneliness and isolation depicted in Degas’ featured artwork.

In a tell-tale heart fashion, Claire comes clean at the end of the novel, perhaps her only saving grace, and once again purges herself from all evil and sin, while leaving her counterpart to rot in jail. Her redeemable art masterpiece and ultimate salvation (actually, show-worthy by the end of the novel) is comprised of multiple window views, offering self-reflection, as well as symbolic enlightenment of one’s soul. Claire describes her artwork as such:

“Not just the public face of loneliness, but who we are in many dimensions. Unseen from the inside. Or unknowingly seen. On display from the outside, posturing or forgetting. Separations. Reflections, refractions” (Shapiro 8).

Even Claire’s program at the juvenile detention center comes to an end, representing her closure with a life full of mischief and crime. Ultimately, the lines between legal & illegal, fact & fiction, original & copy are all blurred from the POV of Claire Roth, and thus, the plot often becomes obfuscated to the reader as well. “There’s illegal and there’s illegal” (15). Claire’s overt tendency to sway from one line of conscience thinking and behavior to the other may unveil an unreliable narrator, hence, I was constantly setting down the book to look up on the Internet what was fact and what was fiction. This forced me to learn a great deal about the world of art, to question the reality of my own favorite artworks, and to further my own understanding of the concept of truth intertwined with story.

Shapiro is without-a-doubt highly educated regarding art history, so to what extent is she deluding the reader through Claire, the vessel protagonist of clarity?

Where does the historical accuracy & artistic authenticity stop and the story begin?

And does the protagonist ultimately obtain redemption, or is she merely a copy of a copy?

 

Happy Reading 🙂

~ Jessica Grace

 

Lemon Chicken Parmesan

Savory, flavorfully moist chicken dish, perfect for stay-at-home date night or a quick, healthy meal for the kids!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 (8 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon (cut into thin wedges)

Serves 2-3 (generous portions). Total prep time = 25 minutes. Total cook time = 20 minutes.

1) Gather all of your ingredients. Combine 2 tbsp flour with 2 eggs in a small bowl. Stir well. This is will be the mixture that holds the breading on the chicken.

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2) Combine the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, lemon pepper, garlic powder & salt in a separate small bowl. Add any other seasonings you might like. Mix thoroughly until the seasonings become a blend.

3) Cut each chicken breast in half horizontally so you have 6 pieces total. One at a time, dunk the chicken breast into the egg mixture until it is completely covered. Then, dunk into the seasoning until the chicken is fully coated. Place chicken on a dish to get ready for frying. Repeat for remaining pieces.

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4) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (bake). Wash your hands and pour yourself a glass of wine. You deserve it. It’s been a long day.

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5) Pour the vegetable oil & the olive oil in a large skillet on the stove-top. Make sure it is on medium-high heat. Has anyone ever turned on the burner, wonder why it’s not getting hot and then realize you turned on the wrong burner?… How many glasses of wine did you partake in from step 4 to step 5?FullSizeRender (4)

 

6) Once the oil is hot, place the chicken on the skillet to fry for 1-2 minutes. Flip the chicken over and fry another 1-2 minutes. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may fit 1-6 of your chicken pieces.

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7) Quickly remove the chicken and place on a side dish with paper towel to capture the grease. After another swig or two of wine, you may transfer the chicken to an oven baking sheet.

 

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8) Place the desired amount of shredded mozzarella cheese on top of each piece of chicken.

 

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9) Insert the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and let cook for 12 minutes.

 

 

10) Garnish all of the chicken with the thin lemon wedges & mangiare bene!

From my Italian kitchen to yours!

 

Lemon Chicken Parmesan

Pairs well with sweet potatoes & mushrooms in a Worcestershire sauce, and of course, some white vino! Cheers!

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If you have any suggestions on how to improve this recipe, please feel free to leave a comment below…

Boston Day Party

Boston, Massachusetts is home for more than 250,000 college students, but you don’t have to be a zealous enrolled pupil to consume the history lessons that pervade this city.

Upon first glance, Boston may be described as a strange combination of the Big Apple meets “the D.” Although, after you pahk the cah in the garahge and start hobbling along the cobblestone streets, you will find the rich historic & cultural value that this city has to offer.

The possibilities are endless. You could expand your knowledge base on the U.S. Colonial Period, the American Revolution, the Civil War, contemporary art, and even film and sports trivia. Getting around the city is easy! Just hop on the Super Trolley tour, the MTBA subway, or the heel-toe express (warning: the streets are not continuously named left to right), and you can be anywhere in minutes!!

Since I just gratefully spent the Thanksgiving holiday in the city that built America, here are some of my esteemed gems for your itinerary. You will be thankful that you visited:

Faneuil Hall Marketplace. – Your choice of breakfast sandwiches, empanadas, lobster rolls, pizza, smoothies, teriyaki chicken, and much more to feast on bright and early at this food court heaven.

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  • The Cheers Bar. – Wash down your grub with a beer at this pub. (Yes, it is the bar in the television sitcom from the 80s – originally called the Bull & Finch Pub).

          

  • Boston Gahdens & Fenway Park. – Catch a game! Both the Boston Bruins & Boston Celtics play at the TD Bank Gardens. If you’re more of a green monster fan, partake in the Fenway franks.

  • The North End. – If you plan to hike the 2.5 mile Freedom Trail, let’s face it, all that walking will make you hungry. This Little Italy of downtown Boston far surpasses the Little Italy of NYC. This area of Boston is known to be where the revolution was planned, and you can visit Paul Revere’s home nearby as well.

  • The Super Duck Harbor Splash. – Think the Magic School Bus meets a river cruise. This 45-minute narrated tour of the Boston Harbor is pretty unique. On the tour, you can catch a glimpse of the Navy shipyards and the NFL-funded Spaulding Hospital, which opened 2 weeks early to accommodate victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Stripe fish, blue fish, harbor seals, flounder lurk below as you enjoy the sights and smells of the harbor.

But this wasn’t always a good fishing spot, as it was not a clean harbor in 1970s. Now, this estuary thrives on the bay salt water and fresh water from the Neponset River, the Charles River, and the Mystic River.

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  • Old Granary Burial Ground (est.1660). – Sounds depressing right? But Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Phillis Wheatley, family of Benjamin Franklin & five victims of Boston Massacre all lay here so it’s worth a gander.

  • Cambridge. – Just over the Harvard Bridge is Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University accompanied by a wealth of museums if you are looking for some more history, art, science and such. Also check out the underground trails between the colleges. Back in the day, students navigated these to make it to class in spite of bad weather.

  • Boston Public Garden. – Take a stroll where you can ice skate in the winter months and see George Washington ride his horse all year round.

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  • Brattle Book Shop. – This 3-story wonderland features affordable used books, magazines, and rare antiquarian reads that could easily take up your whole afternoon. Just make sure your friends don’t leave for dinner without you! www.brattlebookshop.com

Have you visited Boston? What was your favorite historical spot? What was the most delicious food you tasted?

Please feel free to share any suggestions for exciting travel to the city on a hill…