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At Frank Lloyd Wright’s home.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2021 in rare books

 

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The Emperors of Chocolate

Joël Glenn Brenner’s The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars is a Willie Wonka’s Chocolate history for adults. She begins with a look at international marketing and selling chocolate in the Middle East and then presents a history starting in the 19th Century when Milton S. Hershey and Frank Mars began making candy. As the story by Roald Dahl suggested, the candy industry is highly secretive. Spies were known to be sent to work in competitors’ factories. Some companies foiled these efforts by only allowing the most trusted employees into the inner sancta of their factories. 

Brenner continues through the 19th and 20th centuries as Mar’s descendants and Hershey’s appointees* passed the baton to later generations. I learned a lot about the chemical make up of chocolate and how tricky it was to invent milk chocolate. There are about 1200 chemicals in cocoa so it’s especially hard to create a fake chocolate that actually tastes like real chocolate. Also, some of those chemicals are poisonous. Arsenic and the like are in small quantities, but a food company can’t use them as ingredients. 

Reading The Emperors of Chocolate I learned a lot about the management style of Forest Mars, Sr, and his children who took over after after him. All were difficult to work with, but did pay their employees extremely well so many employees did stick around and were loyal as they saw that the company was successful. I’m amazed they would put up with getting dressed down in front of all their peers for every mistake. I did appreciate how Mars is a very egalitarian company. Employees got bonuses for coming to work on time. Even the CEO has to punch a clock and fly coach. There’s no difference in treatment between the factory workers and the executives.

Milton Hershey’s tinkering with recipes and self-taught techniques are described in detail. He seemed like such a kind man and a bit of a absent-minded professor. That dreaminess did hold the company back because in the 1960s and 70s they had a lot of catching up to do as they had no marketing plan at all. They were comfortable with their chocolate pretty much selling itself. I knew a little about the Milton Hershey School, but the book goes deeper into it. Since the Hershey’s didn’t have children, they built and funded a school for orphans. With a mission to see that The school not only educates the students, but provides job training, sports and an array of extra curricular activities. When he was alive Hershey would eat with the kids and aimed to be a genuine part of their lives. 

The two companies were rivals and the competition was often fierce. There are stories about how Mars turned down the opportunity to place M&Ms in the film E.T. Hershey’s Reece’s Pieces took the risk and their investment really paid off, much to Mars’ chagrin. 

The book is filled with fascinating stories of the history of America’s biggest candy makers. I recommend it for anyone who’s likes history.

*Milton Hershey had no children.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2021 in history, non-fiction

 

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Poem (Rap) of the Week

“I Wish”

This week I’m sharing a rap song by Tom MacDonald whose “Fake Woke” has gone viral. I liked the nostalgic footage above. Enjoy.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2021 in poetry

 

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Heard on The Crown

I’m just starting to watch season 4 of The Crown and heard Margaret Thatcher recite this poem to buttress her decision to reshuffle her cabinet.

No Enemies

by Charles MacKay

You have no enemies, you say? 
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor; 
He who has mingled in the fray 
Of duty, that the brave endure, 
Must have made foes! If you have none, 
Small is the work that you have done. 
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip, 
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip, 
You’ve never turned the wrong to right, 
You’ve been a coward in the fight.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2021 in 19th Century, poetry

 

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On “Growthful” & Rubin Report

Is “growthful” a word?

In the video above, Eric Metaxas kids Rabbi Wolpe about his use of the “word” growthful. In the spirit of kidding, I’ll add that “growthful” isn’t a word, dear sir.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2021 in fiction

 

Review: The Winter’s Tale

1981 BCC Production

I didn’t think I’d like Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. I chose it for my online Great Books Book Club because I thought we should read Shakespeare; it’s winter and I’d never read this. Before beginning the play, I looked at some summaries on YouTube. Both summaries showed the main character, King Leontes.

When I started the play, I was put off by King Leontes’ unhinged ravings. He wrongly assumes that his wife Queen Hermione and his best friend since childhood, Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, have had an affair and that Hermione is pregnant with Polixenes’ child. It’s clear that the saintly Hermione and Polixenes have done nothing wrong. Yet Leontes raves and raves. His courtiers try to persuade him to cool down, to see that he’s wrong, but he ignores all reason. Camillo, the King’s confidante, tips off Polixenes telling him that the King is out for his head. They both escape to Bohemia.

Soon Hermione gives birth to a daughter. Paulina, my favorite character, takes the baby to Leontes, hoping that will make him change heart. The plan fails. Leontes decides that Paulina’s husband must take the baby to a desolate land and abandon her. 

Obstinate and indignant, Leontes holds a trial for Hermione. Couriers sent to an oracle return and present the trusted the oracle’s pronouncement, which exonerates Hermione. Still Leontes digs in, ignores the “testimony” and sentences Hermione to prison. As a result of his mother’s imprisonment, Leontes beloved son falls ill and dies.

The first three acts of The Winter’s Tale are full of bullheadedness and tragedy. The second acts offers hope and romance.

Leontes is a vexing character surrounded by reasonable and admirable ones. It was hard to believe he never considered that he might have been wrong and it that he remained in power for a generation. The play’s tone changes so much in the last two acts that The Winter’s Tale feels like two plays.

I wound up enjoying the play and understanding or putting up with Leontes since his senseless wrath put all the events in action and showed the goodness of those around him in stark contrast. 

I started by reading the first two acts and then watching the 1981 BBC Production. Later I changed to watching while reading. Although this production is old, I enjoyed the performances and got used to the older style sets and lighting.

The end has some far-fetched elements, the word “Tale” in the title serves to let the audience know that it’s not a realistic work. 

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2021 in British literature, drama

 

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A Winter’s Tale

I’m reading Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. To keep all the characters and events straight, it helps me to get a summary. Here are two short videos I found.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2021 in fiction

 

Education Report

The 1776 Commission Report

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2021 in history, non-fiction

 

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Chicago’s Sweet History

I expected more from Chicago’s Sweet Candy History.

Written by Leslie Goddard, Chicago’s Sweet Candy History consists of lots of historic pictures with facts about candy companies and confectioners under each. I wish there’d been more exposition, more text. It provides a good overview in snippets, but I wanted more details about the facts.

I was also surprised that there was no mention of the Brach Candy heriess’ disappearance and murder. Helen Brach lived not far from me and in the 1980s her disappearance was big news. She’d gone to the Mayo Clinic and stopped at a shop but never was seen from again. Thirteen years later police learned that she was murdered by a horse trader. If that story is missing, what else is?

I’m glad I didn’t buy this book. It’s a good collection of pictures with some information, but if I had been able to see this at the library, I doubt I’d even check it out.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2021 in history

 

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Good Morning Zoom

Is this a parody or a clever gimmick intended for children? I wanted more satire. This disappointed. There are a lot of riffs on the Good Night Moon book, which is something of a literary lullaby. Good Morning Zoom tries to explain the Lockdown culture. I think something else could do that better.

I saw this beside the cash register at my local book store. It’s intended as an impulse buy. Try to resist as I did.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2021 in book review, humor

 

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