SOFT JELLY LADIES ROLLED IN SUGAR

I received a box of goodies today from my pen pal in Norway.
John and I were high school classmates, at Loma Linda Academy. Forty years later, he’s now a museum curator in Kristiansund, Norway.
I’m still toughing it out here in the Inland Empire.
We write to each other at least every month, and now and then we surprise each other with a package. I’ve sent him American magazines, packaged snacks, candy, stuff like that. Last time I sent him a baseball mitt and a couple baseballs. He still had his old mitt from boyhood, but he had no way to play catch with his son. I was happy to help him out.
He has sent me Norwegian food delicacies, Scandinavian novels and comic books, even a Santa troll! This time he sent me snack items. A LOT of snack items.
I’ve already started in on them.
I opened a package of “Notter & Frukt,” which is nuts with candied fruit. Obviously, my friend remembers that California is the frukt & notter state!
There also are packages of notter & baer. Nuts with dried sweetened berries.
And there are candied nuts, and chocolates and lots of other goodies. Obviously, I now am well-prepared for holiday binge eating.
One of the delicacies in the box is a packaged wedge of “Torrfisk,” which is dried fish. It looks like jerky. John warns me that it is an acquired taste. I’m very brave, though.
The box also includes the makings of “polse med lompe,” which is a common fast food item in Norway, my friend tells me. You take a lompe, which is a sort of tortilla made of potato and barley flours, lay a stripe of mustard and a stripe of ketchup down the middle, add a steamed hot dog, pile on some dehydrated onions (sprostekt lok), fold it up and eat it.
It’s good!
You could create this dish, approximately, with American ingredients. Use a brown, whole-wheat tortilla and French’s Fried Onions with your plump, juicy, steamed hot dog. Don’t forget your ketchup and mustard.
Close your eyes and pretend you just bought it from a sidewalk vendor in Oslo.
Let me tell you about one last thing in the box from Norway. There are several bags of “Laban Seig Damer,” which are colorful jelly candies shaped like little humans. Little humans with boobies.
The English version of the candy’s name, which appears on the back of the package, is “Soft Jelly Ladies Rolled in Sugar.”
Isn’t having a pen pal in Norway fun?
Let me tell you, I definitely have decided on the title for my next novel:
“Soft Jelly Ladies Rolled in Sugar.”

REDLANDS EVERY DAY

You can enjoy the scenery in Redlands, whether you live there, work there, or not.
One of my favorite local photographers, Marge Beasley, has released the latest annual editions of two calendars featuring her work.
One is the 2008 “Redlands through a 35mm Lens wall calendar, and the other is the 2008 “Photos by Marge” desk calendar.
Both calendars showcase Beasleys most popular photographs of Redlands and East Valley landmarks.
Beasley takes her photos the old-fashioned way, with a non-digital Canon 35mm camera.
Included in the calendars are images of the University of Redlands, citrus and palm groves, the San Bernardino Mountains and Kimberly Crest mansion.
The 2008 Redlands Through a 35mm Lens wall calendar is $19.95 and the 2008 “Photos by Marge” desk calendar is $14.95. Both are available at these Redlands locations: Celebrate Redlands at 19 E. Citrus Ave., Suite 102; Paper Partners at 308 W. State St.; Citrograph Printing at 113 E. State St. and Gerrards Market at 705 W. Cypress Ave.
The calendars are personally signed by the artist. For businesses and organizations wishing to purchase quantities of 15 or more, special rates are available.
Beasley, born and raised in Berkeley, moved to Redlands in 1963 and for 18 years worked at Redlands Camera. Contact her at (909) 793-8742 or visit her website at www.photosbymarge.com.

STOP TIME! IN THE NAME OF LOVE!

Caught the Diana Ross show at San Manuel. Let me tell you, she has got it goin’ on.
She doesn’t look like she’s in her 60s. In fact, she looks like she’s in the 1960s. The woman hasn’t aged in 40 years.
I was in the 30th row or so, but still …
She looked great.
Maybe it was the attire. She made four costume changes, and each clingy evening gown was more flattering than the last.
Maybe it was the Dreamgirls hairstyle.
Maybe it was her energy, her take-charge style, her commanding presence. When she wasn’t singing, she was chatting up the fans, and when she wasn’t chatting up the fans, she was chatting up the band or scolding photographers or bossing around the lighting technicians.
Maybe it was her voice, which sang all those great old songs as if they were great new songs.
What’s her secret? Does she have a portrait of herself, in her attic, that is aging horribly? Does she drink the elixir of life from a secret fountain known only to herself? Does she have unlimited visiting rights in Michael Jackson’s bariatric chamber?
Ha! Michael Jackson WISHES he could look this good.
I made two amazing discoveries about Diana Ross the other night. The first, of course, is that she has discovered the secret of eternal life.
The second is that even though she once scored 14 consecutive No. 1 hit songs with the Supremes, then four more as a solo artist, and even though she has won seven American Music Awards, and a Golden Globe, and a Tony Award, and an Academy Award nomination, and has been declared by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the most successful female singer of all time, Diana Ross has never won a Grammy Award, pop music’s highest award.
Of course, neither did the Beatles. Or Elvis Presley (except in a gospel category).
Oh, well, at least Milli Vanilli, A Taste of Honey and Christopher Cross didn’t get overlooked …

MAILBAG/UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Lots of email response to my Nov. 11 column on illegal immigrants. Here’s a sample so far …

From “Late Knight”: There must be a new strain of STUPID going around to make you think that our constitution covers the whole world. It seems as though you bleeding hearts could find another group besides the blacks to compare everything to. Something about that word illegal you fools don’t understand.

From Sandy Mishodek: WOW! What chutzpah! I just read your column on the illegal immigration issue and Underground RR comparison. While I’m not sure I entirely agree with you, I loved the comparison of Mexican laborers to slaves, as well as the idea of “rescuing” them on an Underground Railroad type of system. Obviously, the humanity issue is missing from the debate, which, of course, you nailed perfectly. Again, I love the thinly-veiled sarcasm typical of your writing. Dangerous stuff in this empire of yours where intelligence and civic debate is suspect. Beware of the verbal missives from the “Minutemen” types.

From David Reynolds: I suppose you are one of those bleeding hearts that does not believe any borders at all. That is what they call a one world system run by the Unitied Nations. I hope you do not think that would be wonderful? If you think all these illegals are so wonderful, why don’t you take a bunch into your home and take care of them? You write about lofty ideas , i.e. The American Dream and The Constitution, but those are for Citizens of the United States. They are not for illegals that have broken the laws and jumped ahead of others who are following the rules about becoming citizens. You say 100,000 slaves escaped in 40 years. If that is correct, that is only 2,500 PER YEAR!! I would not be surprised if 2,500 illegals crossed the border every day now. What do think will happen to America then, if it hasn’t already? Most of L.A. and S.B. are already third world countries along with other areas? Since these are already lawbreakers, is it any surprise such a large percentage in prisons are illegals. Do you think they do not drive (you probably think they should have licenses) and how many have insurance? Have you tried to get into an emergency room lately and what about overcrowding in our schools? And they do take away jobs for a lot of young people and will work for a lot less than the going rate. I would hope that one would take your job, you doofus, and see how you would like that, but you elites would never believe that would happen. And I do believe that companies and people that hire them should go to jail along with writers that promote these ideas. You are espousing ideas to create chaos and anarchy in my country.

Linda Ronstadt at San Manuel

Caught the Linda Ronstadt show Nov. 8 at San Manuel. My review is running in the newspaper on Sunday or Monday (Nov. 11 or 12), but I’m posting it here now. I’m also adding, here and only here, an excerpt that I decided, at the last minute, to delete from the print version. It’s kind of mean, I guess.

By John Weeks
Staff Writer

There may have been a few flummoxed people in the crowd at Linda Ronstadts sold-out show in Highland on Thursday.
Maybe they havent kept up with Ronstadts career. Maybe they only remember the pop princess from 30 years ago who ruled the charts with hits like Different Drum and Youre No Good.
So maybe they were flummoxed by the mariachi band. And the Mexican dancers. And the fact that Ronstadt sang entirely in Spanish.
But if these people were murmuring at all, they were drowned out completely by 6,000 others who raised the roof with their shouts and cheers at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino.
Ronstadt, whose eclectic career has earned her devout followings in several genres, presented her Canciones de Mi Padre show, based on her 1987 album of the same title.
The title means Songs of My Father, and during her show she shared memories and anecdotes about both of her parents, as well as her grandparents.
She was brilliantly backed by Los Camperos di Nati Cano, the Los Angeles mariachi band that has collaborated with Ronstadt on all three of her Spanish-language albums.
In fact, the band was onstage for the entire 75-minute concert. It performed for 15 minutes before Ronstadt made her appearance, and kept performing when Ronstadt took several breaks during her short set.
Ronstadt performed for maybe 45 minutes, total, which might have seemed on the skimpy side for people who paid from $40 to $60 for tickets.
An encore or two would have helped pad things out, but she didnt oblige.
Her fans didnt seem to mind. Ronstadt still is one of the best singers in the world, as she has been for most of five decades now.
The 11-time Grammy Award winner is not the skinny stick on roller skates that we remember from posters of the 1970s. Theres much more of her to love now. And the fact that she is a larger instrument probably imbues her voice with added resonance and complexity.
She completely captivated her audience with a commanding, wall-shaking performance of songs that enchanted and excited her listeners, even those who didnt understand a single word.

DELETED EXCERPT:

One other quibble: She dressed abominably, in a schlubby pantsuit with a giant scarf wound thickly around her neck. She looked bundled up for winter.
She cut an incongruous figure next to the bright, colorful dancers and musicians who surrounded her on stage. She looked like a snow-suited Minnesota crossing guard who has been teleported through some wormhole into a swirling, festive Old California folklorico.
She’s a big gal, sure, but couldn’t she have worn something loose and comfortable yet with a little flair, a little appeal? A colorful fiesta dress, perhaps?