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Posts by Sally Speller

Smoking: A Love Story

I just quit smoking for the fifthJon Hamm in Mad Men time. For me, it's all or nothing. I could never be one of those people — dilettantes! — who are able to smoke socially and then go for indefinite periods of time without a cigarette. I suppose this has to do with physiology, personality, and the times in which I grew up.

In one of my earliest memories, I'm sitting on the living room floor, my dad is smoking a cigar, and sunlight is flooding through the picture window illuminating the variegated blue, gray, and purple layers of smoke. I was mesmerized! 

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Dolly Birds and Dandies: Swinging London in Film

Teenagers in London's Carnaby Street. Wikimedia CommonsPost-WWII London, by the mid-to-late 1960s, was reimagining, rebuilding and rearranging. Its economy was strong, and nearly 30% of its population was aged 15-34. With these factors in play, and with that undefinable "something" that brings creativity and zest to a location for however brief a time, London emerged as the style capital of the world, its youth culture arising from the heady influences of new music and street 

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Wonderfully Odd Movies

My favorite stories are the ones about the ordinary people who, while going about their daily lives, encounter strange and/or inexplicable events. How they behave in the midst of weirdness is more interesting than the phenomenon itself. I've always been a sucker for a well-told vampire tale. (Sorry!) Or an off-center ghost story or strange-baby story... Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite, wonderfully odd movies.   Ricky, a film by Francois Ozon based on Rose Tremain's short ... Read More ›

My Favorite North African Vegetarian Recipes

The cuisine of North Africa Viktor Vasnetsov. The Flying Carpet (1880)(Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) was influenced by the many peoples who settled there: African, Islamic, Arab, Berber, Ottoman, French, Italian and Spanish. It has its roots in the beginning of civilization itself.

In addition to use in bread and pastry dough, wheat, an important staple in North African cooking, is made into bulgur and couscous. Bulgur, or cracked wheat, is made by partially cooking the wheat grains 

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Terence McKenna and the Logos

Terence Kemp McKenna, by Entropath, Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes naked Sometimes mad Now the scholar Now the fool Thus they appear on earth: The free men. — Hindu verse from Avadhoota Gita

Terence McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000), America's most beloved psychonaut, bard, ethnobotanist, folk hero, and freewheeling philosopher, rose to fame in the 

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A Secret Commonwealth: The Otherworld in Nonfiction

Most people have experienced brushes with the Otherworld, that liminal place where dimensions overlap and reality shimmers, shivers, and breaks apart: seeing ghosts, dreaming "true" dreams, meeting that strange and uncannily helpful "person" at just the right moment... These situations are more common than we collectively admit — but attitudes are shifting. According to the Institute of Noetic Sciences, "The paranormal is no longer a fringe subject. Need proof? Only 32 percent of Americans report no 

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Far Memory: Ancient Egypt Through Western Eyes

Ancient Egypt has long held a fascination for the West. The idea of Egypt was transmitted to Roman culture through Greek accounts, and after Late Antiquity, existed in the European imagination as an exotic and ancient location in the Bible's Old Testament account of the 6th century BCE Israelite diaspora.

The Western Mystery Tradition had its earliest beginnings in the cult of Isis, which reached Rome in the 

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The Times We Had: Old Hollywood Memoirs

Hollywood, 1923, Library of Congress PAN US GEOG - California no. 272

In the late 1800s Harvey Wilcox and his wife Daeida purchased 160 acres in the rolling California hills for a housing subdivision. They called it Hollywood. In 1911 the first filmmakers arrived from New Jersey; in Hollywood they could shoot outdoors without electrical lighting for over 100 days each year. Others from the east coast soon followed, coming not only for the sunny climate but to escape the clutches of the Motion Pictures Patents 

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I'm With the Band: Muses, Groupies, and the Go-To Guys

When I was a child in the 1960s and 70s, I was convinced that everybody was having a good time but me... As it turns out, I was right!

This was rock's Golden Age, a hedonistic time of "sex and drugs and rock and roll" (when no one knew any better), a time that produced some of the most amazing popular music of the 20th century.

Here are a few of the best books by people who hobnobbed with rock and roll royalty — the wives and girlfriends, the groupies, and the go-to guys, those indispensable fellows (and gals) who "managed" things, 

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The Fause Knight Upon the Road: A Little Bit About British Folk Music

Until the advent of recorded sound, the indigenous music of England, Scotland, and Wales was passed down through the generations by word of mouth.

The most well known forms are sea shanties, which are mostly call and response songs (a type of work song often sung acapella, used to coordinate movement during tasks like sailing, harvesting crops, or waulking wool); 

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Fiction of the Paranormal

"And she proceeded to burn perfume..." [Gulnare of the sea]. Picture Collection, NYPL. Digital ID: 1704102.From ghost-hunting reality-TV shows to feature films like The Hereafter, the paranormal has gone mainstream. Book publishing, too, has jumped on the paranormal bandwagon.

Paranormal buffs can now chose from a plethora of series, thrillers, and detective stories, as well as stories about ghosts, zombies, vampires, witches, and faeries. 

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Indian Cooking: My Favorite Resources

Radha at night. Mughal painting ca. 1650., from Wikimedia commons

Are you looking for a healthy, flavorful, whole foods approach to cooking? Wherever you are on the vegan to meat-eating spectrum, Indian food offers a wide variety of tastes, colors, and textures guaranteed to appeal to every palate.

The most popular Indian cuisines 

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