I had to write about this

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Still a summer favorite

Hawaiian style shirts go in and out of favor, except in Hawaii. I saw on television this morning that they are currently stylish. I’ve had this shirt for thirteen years, and have worn it every summer since I bought it. You might say that I’m fond of it.

***

A couple of days ago Cindy went in to have a cortisone injection into the ball-and-socket joint of her hip. She was very nervous about the procedure because one of her “friends” told her a horror story about her experience with that procedure. Among the things she mentioned were a gigantic needle used in the process, a patch of skin being removed at the injection site, and pain so bad that she wanted to jump off the table.

Cindy asked me to go along so that, if allowed, I could hold her hand for comfort at best, and break her out if the worst came about. I kind of imagined holding her down on a butcher table and stuffing my handkerchief in her mouth if the screams got too loud. But the nurse said that I couldn’t go into the room where the procedure would take place and seated me in a waiting area down the hall where other patients and significant others could wait. She took Cindy off to change into a gown and enter the forbidden chamber.

I had brought a book, 1984 by George Orwell, to read in that eventuality. However I couldn’t help overhearing some of the conversation the others were having. Actually, it was more of a monologue being conducted by a middle-aged fellow who looked to me a lot like Barry McGuire before he grew a mustache and shaved his head. The young among you might want to Google Barry McGuire. His audience consisted of a youngish woman awaiting a procedure, and her paramour who was wearing a cowboy hat. On the television screen that no one was watching was the non-controversial Weather Channel.

The bald fellow’s story went something like this:

  • 400,000 Muslims have been sent into this country to overthrow the government.
  • a “gas chamber” prison that will hold 40,000 people has been built in Terre Haute, Indiana. The people sent there will never come out. The are another 400 such facilities around the country. I think he likes the number four.
  • He knew this because he worked for National Security! He said that he had been all over the world and knew things the public never hears about.

At that point the woman interjected, “I believe it. They don’t want us to know the truth.”

The guy in the cowboy hat asked, “What did you do in National Security?”

The bald guy said that he couldn’t tell him, because of the security implications. He went on to say that he had been in some scrapes; he had been stabbed in the neck twice.

The flabbergasted cowboy wannabe said, “Twice! What? Where?”

The bald fellow said, “I work with computers.”

Cowboy: “What were you doing with computers that got you stabbed?”

Baldy: “That was because I got drunk in a place where I shouldn’t have been. National Security didn’t give us proper support. We had to walk back 17 miles to our base.” I hope that he got the bleeding stopped before that hike.

Then he said to his audience, “People don’t know what goes on in this country.”

At that point the woman interjected, “I believe it. They don’t want us to know the truth.”

Cowboy: “Yeah!”

Baldy: “People don’t know that there is a nuclear reactor in downtown Las Vegas. It is camouflaged as a casino. You can’t walk into it. When you go in the door (Wait.You can walk into it?) you go down an empty 400 (4 again) foot corridor and that takes you into the real casino that is in another building.” So I’ve been in a number of Las Vegas casinos and have never seen a blank corridor, let alone at the entrance to a building. Just saying.

Upon hearing that the cowboy shook his head at the enormity of that coverup. His lady friend was taken away for her procedure. Also, another woman joined us to wait for her procedure.

The bald guy said that he could tell the cowboy things, but that the cowboy would think him psychotic. He had told a few friends, and they thought he was psychotic. Before he could say anything else he was called for his procedure. The cowboy opened a magazine.

The new patient said, to no one in particular, “Why are all of these TVs here set on the Weather Channel?” She picked up the remote and changed the channel to MSNBC, the liberal answer to Fox News.

Normally I enjoy MSNBS, but I wanted to concentrate on Chapter 5 of 1984. That was not to be. The conversation on TV was about Paul Manafort. The woman said with a chortle, “That man is going to jail! He is going down!” Then she went on a fifteen minute rant about President Trump and Attorney General Sessions.

When the cowboy’s friend returned from her procedure, he jumped to his feet, said “Let’s go,” and nearly sprinted down the hallway. The newer woman continued talking about our President until they came to take her to her procedure. I turned off the TV and returned to my book.

Eventually Cindy returned from the ordeal. She was smiling. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her and the nurse doing the huckabuck as they came down the hallway. The horror stories were not true.

 

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I’ve been thinking

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Quality Control takes a vacation

I opened a pack of ankle length socks a few days ago. I don’t wear them often. Normally I wear them when I’m doing yard work, or if I’m on vacation and wearing shorts. So I was somewhat surprised when I found this pair upon opening the pack. At first I wondered if Cindy had bought them for me, and had purposely looked for unequal lengths because of the toe that had been amputated some years ago. I looked at the package, and, no, they were supposed to be the same length. If I wear them, it will be in the back yard, behind the fence.

***

As I’ve written previously, I just can’t get enthused about writing. I had hoped that it would pass, but it hasn’t. The only thing that gets me fired up to put things on paper, or in Classical Gasbag, is the situation in this country. I don’t want to do that.

When I consider what is happening in the U.S. I get depressed and I get angry. Those are not emotions that I want to exhibit. I talk to Cindy and one or two close friends about current events, but I want to limit it to that. And so, I remain silent.

Perhaps I should change the direction of this blog since my standby options no longer bring forth words. I’ve changed before, though on a gradual basis. But I don’t know where to turn focus. I would appreciate any ideas. I’ll give them strong consideration.

2018 Reading Challenge – Update #2

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If you aren’t aware of what my person reading challenge encompasses, you can read about it here.

I posted recently that I am currently in a writing slump. I also went through a reading slump, but have climbed out of it somewhat. Here is what I have been reading recently.

The American

The American by Martin Booth was my choice for the “From page to screen” book. The book was originally titled A Very Private Gentleman, but appears to have been changed to match the movie title. I can only assume that the American in the title refers to George Clooney’s character in the movie. The book centers around a person who is nearing the end of his chosen, illegal career. He is proud of the work that he has done, but realizes that he as reached a point where he wants to settle in somewhere. There is a lot of interior dialogue which offers insights to his personal history. I enjoyed the book. If you come to this book after having seen the movie, as I did, or vice versa, be prepared to accept that there are major plot changes, new characters, removed characters, and other differences. For instance, the very private gentleman is not an American.

Tarzan: The Beckoning

Next I chose to read, and view, the graphic novel, Tarzan: The Beckoning by Thomas Yeates. This book finds Tarzan and Jane in a more modern-day environment, fighting illegal ivory trade. If you’re wondering how a man born before WWI can still be alive and kicking, Tarzan fans know that he has become immortal, but they may not know that Jane is also immortal. At any rate, some familiar Tarzan tropes are present, such as a plane crash and amnesia. It is an interesting graphic novel, and the art is very good. My only complaint is that the final chapter seems to come to a rushed conclusion.

 

 

The Elements of Eloquence

I have a category called “A book of any kind,” that I think of a as my miscellaneous category. This year I chose The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase, by Mark Forsythe. I bought a copy of th book as a gift to a friend, and thought it looked interesting enough to purchase a copy for myself. The book explains, with examples, thirty-some figures of rhetoric. Don’t let that turn you off, because Mr. Forsythe’s writing is engaging. Once you read the book you’ll find yourself noticing examples in the things you read and hear. I notice them especially in television commercials. I have been noticing them a lot on the morning political talk shows, most noticeably Morning Joe. The namesake of the show, Joe Scarborough, has the annoying habit, while on a diatribe, of stringing together a group of complaints and starting each sentence with the same words. This is called anaphora. I’m happy to know the term for what he does. It doesn’t make it any less annoying, but now I have the name of what he does.

The Last Gunfighter: Slaughter

The western I chose this year is The Last Gunfighter: Slaughter by William W. Johnstone & J.A. Johnstone. This is a collaboration between a dead man and his living nephew. It is hard for me to say how much William contributed to the book since I’ve never read anything that he wrote while living. I understand that William was dead for three years before his reading public was informed of his demise. But that is just tittle-tattle, let me say a few things about the book. To me, it read like a the pitch for a western movie made in the 1930s or 40s. The drifting cowboy comes to town and stops a war between the ranchers and the oil drillers. With him he brought his faithful horse who comes to him when he whistles, and his dog who is very intelligent. The dog understands everything he is told, saves his owner from being shot, and could probably throw down the rope and pull Timmy from the well without going for help. He is that good! One thing different from the movies is that the hero got neither of the attractive female characters.

Walking With Grandfather

Next I read Walking With Grandfather: The Wisdom of Lakota Elders by Joseph M. Marshall III. This was the book recommended by a friend. My friend was Cindy, who bought it while on vacation a couple of years ago, and passed it on for me to read. It offers a perspective on life based upon the lessons the author learned from his grandfather, while growing up on a Sioux reservation. It is an interesting, informative book that doesn’t preach. I enjoyed it.

What’s wrong with me?

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Monday morning

This was my car yesterday, the day after Easter. By 3 p.m. all of this snow had melted. Today it is raining with the temperature to go into the 60’s F. We may get snow again before the end of the week. Life in Indiana.

***

It has been about a month since the last time I posted anything. It isn’t from lack of ideas. I’ve had a few ideas, jotted down some notes, started a few drafts, and let them never progress beyond that point. In some cases it is good that I stopped. For instance the idea for a blog post on belts died a worthy death. It is hard to believe that it even reached the draft stage. The truth is that I just don’t feel like writing.

Not only have I not written anything here, but also I never finished a couple letters that I started. Nor I haven’t written an email in months. I haven’t worked on my never-to-be-published novel. Most of the text messages I have sent were copies of Tweets that I liked.

Sometimes a felicitous phrase will come to my mind, but generally it stays there until I forget it. If I jot it down, it is not used. What’s wrong with me?

Perhaps you thought this post signals the breaking of the dry writing dam. Nope. I started this post in hopes of renew my love of writing, but it hasn’t happened. So consider this short post an explanation for my absence, and a promise that I’ll try to get back into the writing swing. But not right now. I don’t feel like writing. What’s wrong with me.

2018 Reading Challenge – Update #1

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In case you missed it and are curious, the details of this year’s reading challenge can be found here. As in past years, each category calls for a separate book, so you cant’s use the same book to fulfill two or more categories. So saying, here is my first update on the books I’ve read so far.

Forests of the Night

Forests of the Night by David Stuart Davies is the mystery I chose to start the year. It is set in London during World War II. Due to an accident during the protagonist’s military training, he never saw action, and was unable to return to his previous employment. He has set himself up as a private detective. He is hired by a couple to find their daughter. His case soon turns into a murder investigation. As in most mysteries, his personal and professional life merge. I enjoyed this book, which was the first in a series of books. There is a lot of detail about the hardships of living in London during the war. I would recommend this book.

 

Profiles in Courage

Profiles In Courage by John F. Kennedy was my second book of the year, and was first published in the 1950’s. I first read this book in 1965. It was required reading for all incoming freshmen at Indiana University that year, as I recall. The then Senator Kennedy won a Pulitzer Prize for this book in 1957. President Kennedy’s assassination was still fresh in our memories, so I doubt if many students shirked that requirement. It was only years later that I heard that most of the writing was done by Theodore Sorensen. The book is about the courage shown by seven different Senators who voted contrary to the opinion of their party and constituents, for what the Senator believed was in the best interests of the country. Their actions often caused them to lose subsequent elections. It isn’t something you see in these days. I wish more politicians today were as courageous.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

The Girl In The Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz is an authorized continuation of the Millennium series conceived and started by Stieg Larsson. I chose it as my Part of a Series choice. Larsson died after finishing the third book in the series. There are many people who believe that nobody else could or should write about Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist, but the publishers obviously disagree. I have to admit that most attempts to carry on a series after the death of the original author seem to lack something for me. The most obvious examples for me are the James Bond and Sherlock Holmes stories. Nobody who followed Ian Fleming and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle caught the heroes as well as far as I’m concerned. Saying that, I enjoyed this book. Some of the character reactions seemed off, but for the most part I have no trouble accepting this book into the Millennium series.

 

Swords and Scoundrels

Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight was the book I read as my Science Fiction or Fantasy selection. The book falls into genre of Sword & Sorcery; and it has plenty of both. The two main protagonists, Vocho and Kacha, are former members of the Duelist Guild. Both are excellent swordsmen; each looks out for the other; each has secrets; and each has weaknesses. I enjoyed reading this book. Since it is the first volume in a trilogy, I will be reading the other two books as time provides. It is difficult to read everything that I want to read because I try to read a variety of types of books for the challenge. I’ve done this to myself.

 

 

Numero Zero

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco is my choice for a book written in the 2010’s. It was Eco;’s last published novel before his death in 2016. He revisited a familiar topic, conspiracy theories. As is often the case, I find myself wondering how much of the theory is right and how much is wrong…or is there coincidence involved. This novel is shorter than any other book I’ve read by Eco, but it still full of densely written lists and transitions from one event to the next. I’ll admit that I occasionally scanned or even skipped over entire paragraphs. But in spite of that quibble, I found the book quite enjoyable. Reading Umberto Eco is well worth your time.

A look back

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While out driving one morning

It is still winter, but we have had some warm sunny days lately. I took this picture while returning home from the library a few days ago.

***

A friend of mine recently moved to Cologne (Köln), Germany (Deutschland). She has been posting pictures, and sending me pictures that she has taken in the short time she has been there. I must admit to a wave of nostalgia sweeping over me when I started looking at those photos. I’ve written before about being stationed in Heidelberg when I was in the military. Some of those memories popped back into my mind.

I decided that rather than just jumping into my writing, I should first go back and look at everything that I had previously posted. I found that a) I hadn’t mentioned Heidelberg in a post for nearly five years, b) one of the few stories I mentioned was about drinking wine with a guy with whom I was stationed, and c) when I did mention Heidelberg it was mainly in relation to music albums that I bought there. By the way, writing about music was originally a focus of Classical Gasbag.

In this post I want to expand on my story about drinking wine with my buddy. As I mentioned before, my friend’s name was, and perhaps still is, Lou. When we were able, and when the weather permitted, we would walk to the student section of downtown Heidelberg, buy a bottle of wine, and cross the bridge to sit on the bank of the Neckar River.

Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, was said to love the beauty of the Neckar River and Neckar Valley. I agree that the valley is beautiful, but when I was in Heidelberg, the Neckar was one of the most polluted rivers that I had ever seen. Lou and I, however, weren’t as much interested in the river as with the coeds who came to the river bank to work on their tans.

But we also spent the time passing the bottle back and forth while we talked about the state of the world. In our case, the world revolved around the war in Vietnam and rock and roll. We talked about what we would do when we got out of the army. We talked about the girls we had been dating when we were shipped to Germany. And we occasionally talked about politics. I’m sure that our conversation became more profound as we neared the bottom of the bottle.

By the way, the wine we chose was not a wonderful Riesling, but rather a cheap bottle of strawberry flavored wine that Lou introduced into my life. I guess you could say that it was a German version of Boone Farm. What were we thinking?

My Crazy Idea

Politics & Recipes

I am sure that all of you who live in the U.S., and probably many who live outside of the U.S, are wondering about our current gun laws and what can be done to limit or end all of the shootings that occur here. The most recent  shooting to gain national attention occurred February 14th in Parkland, Florida.

Wayne LaPierre

I’ve mentioned before that we should listen closely to the students who are giving voice to their concerns, and who are offering solutions to the growing problem of shootings. I echo their opinions. And yet, The NRA, headed by Wayne LaPierre, and President Trump have suggested an  alternative solution. Simply stated, they want to have teachers to carry guns in order to shoot, and presumably kill, people who are intent on killing students and faculty. That sounds simple enough. Or perhaps simplistic is a better word.

Rather than argue about…

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Short updates

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New monitor

I haven’t been writing much lately. Oh, I get ideas for topics all of the time, but I just lack the incentive to sit at the keyboard and put my thoughts out there. I haven’t even worked on my (probably never to be released or even completed) novel. I had dedicated February as my personal Na-No-Wri-Mo since I promised Cindy I wouldn’t work on it in November. I was excited about it. But I haven’t progressed much beyond sketching out two non-sequential chapters. I disappoint myself. I fear that I spend too much time thinking, and not enough time doing. Cindy could tell you that I am the living embodiment of procrastination.

I tried to stop being sidetracked by current political events by spending a week avoiding political news and commentary. There was no Morning Joe, no Meet The Press Daily on our television. I turned off the radio when NPR’s Morning Edition ran segments on political issues. I didn’t have to avoid much of the local news coverage of national politics because they severely limit their coverage. I didn’t look at Twitter for a week. I couldn’t totally avoid some aspects because the national evening news would have a story now and then, but since I usually watch NBC, they were spending most of their time talking about the Olympics. Thank goodness for sports!

And I had other things to take my mind off of politics. I treated us to a new desktop PC and monitor (see the picture above). Our old desktop was getting slower and slower, and was still running Windows Vista. It was finally time for a change. You are probably sneering and saying, “Desktop?” and I am unapologetically saying, “Yes! I use a laptop, but I prefer the desktop.” I feel more at ease with the desktop. Always have, always will as long as they are available. Plus, the older I get, the more I like the larger screen.

And speaking of my laptop, I have had to take in for repairs twice in the past two weeks. That is where it is now. Both times I have experienced software problems that don’t allow me to sign in. I have been able to get into Safe Mode each time, but nothing I did solved the problem. After the first time I took it in, the laptop worked fine for three days. But that was it. I fear that this time, rather than try to get it functional without losing data, they will simply restore it to the factory settings. At least I was able to save all my data while in Safe Mode. But I will lose some of the software that I use frequently. I’ll find out when the repair people finish with it. I would cross my fingers, but that would slow down my keyboarding even more.

***

One more update. I started paying more attention to national news on the day of the school shooting in Florida. That shooting and President Trump’s Twitter response, caused me to start thinking about writing a post concerning it. But when I started seeing the student’s statements and Twitter postings, as well as their actions, I knew that I could not say anything to match them. I recommend that you follow what the student’s are doing and saying. The young people can still teach us.

40 year anniversary

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The blizzard of ’78

Forty years ago today, January 25th, a record-setting blizzard struck Indiana. Well, it struck other areas as well, but I live in Indiana, so that’s how I think of it. And it was memorable to me for more than just the weather. I’ll get to that part in just a bit. For a little information on the actual storm you can go to http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/indiana-spared-years-blizzard-1978-77397/ where there is also a link to more pictures similar to the one above.

My memory, however, begins at work, a few hours before the storm arrived. At that time I lived three blocks from where I worked. As usual I had walked to the office. I didn’t feel up to par that morning, but I felt good enough to work. As the morning progressed I started feeling worse. So when I left for my lunch break I told my supervisor that I was taking the afternoon off as half a sick day. As I walked home I felt weaker and a bit light-headed. I got to the house where I rented the upstairs apartment, climbed the stairs and let myself in, undressed and collapsed into bed. I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the next morning.

When I awoke I found that we had been hit by a blizzard, and that I was snowbound in my apartment. I was still weak, but that didn’t stop me from lighting my first cigarette of the day. I was sitting in my living room, drinking coffee and smoking when I realized that I only had a half a pack of cigarettes to get me through. That didn’t bode well for a person who was currently smoking two and half packs a day. Still, I didn’t worry overmuch. I figured I could go out and buy a carton of cigarettes before I was out of them completely.

I felt really weak and tired, but I bundled up and went downstairs to walk to a mom-and-pop grocery store that was a couple of blocks away. When I tried to go out however, I found a snowdrift about three feet high that was blocking me from opening the door. I was too weak to push it open. Well, that wasn’t good.

I went back inside and once again collapsed on the bed. When I awoke two or three hours later I reached for my cigarettes and counted them. I had four left. I lit one and started thinking. Maybe I had a pack or a partial pack in a jacket pocket in my closet. I hustled to the closet and started searching through my jackets. All I found was a cigar that a jubilant new father had given me quite a while previously. It was better than nothing.

I decided to smoke the cigar before finishing my last few cigarettes, so I removed the It’s a Boy! wrapper, stuck the cigar in my mouth, and gently bit into the end of it. The cigar was evidently older than I had remembered, because it crumbled in my mouth when I bit. Talk about nasty!

I finished off my remaining three cigarettes within a few hours. It was another two days before I was recovered and strong enough to get out of my apartment. When I walked to the store I found that they were completely sold out of tobacco products, not to mention things like milk and Twinkies.

To wrap up this story, tomorrow, January 26th, will be my fortieth anniversary of non-smoking. I’ll see if I can go another ten or twenty years.

***

By the way, thanks to my friend Anju who graciously let me use the picture she took as the new header photo on Classical Gasbag.

Never too old

Politics & Recipes

It is difficult to give much thought to a topic these days and still be somewhat current. I’m the type of person who needs time. I’ve found that if I rush to take a definitive stand on an issue, it is usually haphazardly thought out and subject to being critically picked apart…often by myself.

I decided a short time ago that I would write something about the recent and overdue upheaval in our country over the issues of sexual predation and monetary inequity visited upon women. I was floundering to find a rock upon which to build my case, when it was presented to me by a pundit, Princeton professor Eddie Glaude Jr., on one of my favored political TV shows.

Roy Moore

But then I got sidetracked and have spent too much time being enraptured by the consideration of things such as political elections in other states; the mental stability…

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