Farewell to 2014

Bleak December day
Bleak December day

I’m posting this to show that we didn’t have a white Christmas this year, no matter how hard we wished.

***

Some of the people who read Classical Gasbag on a regular basis have already welcomed in the New Year. Some may already be nursing a hangover. A tip to them: Hair of the Dog. Most of the rest of you will not get around to reading this post until sometime in 2015. To the few who read it today, December 31st, I can only say, “Have you nothing better to do?” I’ve never found the transition from one year to the next to be particularly celebration worthy, though there was that party in 1969/70…but that’s a story for another day. If it is important to you, have a Happy New Year!

***

I was looking over my annual update from WordPress this morning, and decided to compare it to the previous two years. There were only a few sections that interested me, just as there only a couple of things that interest me in the daily statistics that are accumulated.

I started this blog early in 2012. I posted every day for a year, and included a new photo for each of those posts. Since I started the blog on January 30th there were only 337 posts that year. I was proud that I did that many since I had never been able to keep a diary or write in a journal for more than a few days before giving up. I am always interested in who reads the blog, but unless the person “Likes” a post, or comments on a post, I’m not sure who is lurking out there. Every day, however, I get a stat on where the views of the post are from. In 2012, most of the views were from th U.S., which makes sense, and the other top viewing countries were Ireland and Austria. Go figure. My most constant commentator was my friend Bob. Oh, and the most viewed picture was one of Marlon Gaskin.

In 2013 I continued the Post-A-Day goal until I finished a full year, and then my posting dropped off significantly. There were only 124 new posts that year. Most of the views came from the U.S. again, followed by Romania and the Netherlands. Bob was again the person who commented the most. The most viewed picture was one of Marlon.

2014 brought a return of more consistent posting by me. There were over 200. The views came from the U.S., followed by India and Jordan. Bob dropped to second in number of comments, following a young woman who blogs from India. The most viewed picture? It was my last of Marlon.

 ***

I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting in 2015. As I’ve told a few friends, I am way behind in my reading, so I plan on spending more time behind book covers than I do in front of a keyboard. Also, I feel like I’m running out of new pictures to take around here. I took one a few days ago that I had planned to use today, but when looking through the annual report for 2012 I found that I had used the object of the photo before, just in another season of the year. It was one of the top five viewed pictures that year. I have ideas for a few posts, but I’m not ready to punch them in yet.

***

Once again, Happy New Year! I’ll be around next year, and I hope you are as well.

Black Ties

Two black ties
Two black ties

I know that I said I was taking a break from blogging, but the topic seemed important to me; and the idea for the picture came to me around 3:30 a.m. today. Believe me; now I am taking a break.

***

I currently own two black ties. I have owned two other black ties in the past. I bought my first black tie in the 1960’s. It was narrower than the tie in the right side of this picture. Narrow ties were cool back then. Find a picture of Robert Culp in an episode of I Spy and you’ll see what I mean. I loaned that tie to a guy who wanted to wear it during a big first date he was having with a pretty college girl. I don’t know if he got lucky with her because he joined the army the next day and I never saw him, or my tie, again.

I purchased my second black tie in the early 1970’s, after I got out of the army. It was about the same width as the tie on the left in this picture. I didn’t wear it often; but I thought it looked good when I did wear it.

Yesterday I wore the fatter tie in this picture. I only wear one of my black ties now when I go to a funeral. It feels as if I have been wearing one or the other of these ties way too often. I wore it yesterday for the funeral of Cindy’s mother, Flo. I’ve mentioned Flo a number of times in Classical Gasbag over the years. Usually I mention some of the comical things she has said or done. I stopped doing that awhile back because her health was failing.

Now Flo’s health has been failing, and then rallying back, for a long time. I often said to Cindy, and I believed it, that Flo was likely to outlive us both. But this time she didn’t rally back. And that is sad.

I realize that, for me, a period of reevaluation occurs concerning a person when they die. I’m starting that process with Flo. She and I were never close, even though Cindy and I have been married almost a quarter of a century. I never found Flo to be an easy person to like. But many other people found her very easy to like. That says to me that I had a problem, not others. As I say, I’m starting my reevaluation.

Maybe it isn’t too late for me to become a better person. I’m trying.

***

The funeral home gave Cindy a bag that contained the extra funeral programs, a couple laminated obituaries, a DVD of the pictures we supplied, and the guest book. Oh, and a Christmas tree ornament with the funeral home logo on it. That ornament will never be hung on our tree. Even I recognize some things as being tacky.

My mistake & a rant

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

I haven’t taken any pictures lately, except for the puppy in yesterday’s post, and a picture that I will be using in next week’s Monochrome Madness. So, for today, I went through some pictures that I took many years ago with my Minolta 35 mm camera that was loaded with Kodachrome film. This is a picture from The Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The sky was a brilliant blue that contrasted to the red tinged rocks. So, of course, I scanned the photo and then grayscaled the image. I like the way it turned out, though the original color photo is one of my favorites.

I had planned to submit this image for Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness, but I got busy doing other things and forgot to send to Leanne. Oh, well. I know that I’ve said it before, but Leanne’s website is well worth your time if you enjoy looking at fine photographs.

***

When I got up this morning and turned the television on to watch my normal news and commentary station, I was treated to a BREAKING NEWS story that had evidently been breaking at that point for thirteen hours. It was a slow break. It was also, evidently, the only news worth covering because the story went on for around forty-five minutes, including pauses for commercials, before I became so disgusted that I turned the TV off.

Of course I’m talking about the hostage situation in Sydney, Australia. I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of that situation, but I do believe that the coverage that I was watching was over the top. For me, it began when I noticed that the female co-host of the program was speaking with a voice that was pitched about a half octave lower than normal, speaking with a deliberate, authoritative emphasis.

At one point she interviewed, by telephone, a woman who was in Sydney, and who described how everything was quiet and empty within the area cordoned off by the police, but outside that area traffic was normal and people were going about their normal business. After that interview they broke for commercials, but not before the female co-host teased their return with words along the lines of “When we come back, more from the panic filled city!”

At another point in the broadcast she paused in her Sydney coverage to allow another newsreader to bring in a story about a hostage situation in Belgium. He ended his story with a statement from the police in Belgium saying that it appeared to be a domestic issue, not related what was happening in Sydney. With that, our intrepid co-host shrugged that story off as only being domestic. It gave the impression that the lives of people being threatened by someone other than a terrorist aren’t as important.

It’s good that I waited a few hours before starting this post, because if I had started it earlier, I might have written things that I would later regret. As it stands now, the situation has ended. Despite all of the speculation that was floated on TV this morning, it seems unlikely that this situation was larger than one man who was doing this on his own.

Meet Macon

Mmm! Rug tastes good!
Mmm! Rug tastes good!

We all still miss Trina’s dog, Marlin, but this little feller is bringing a lot of smiles to our faces. Today is our first chance to doggie-sit with Macon. He is from the same bloodline as Marlin, so there are a lot of similarities. Macon seems a little friskier than Marlin did at his age. For example, Marlin liked to attack my shoelaces, and so does Macon, but Marlin waited until I was wearing the shoes; Macon attacked when I tried to tie the laces. I took him outside for his first visit to the backyard. I wish there had been a squirrel there so I could see if Macon disliked them as much as Marlin.

I’ve already started taking pictures and short videos. I often said that I had more pictures of Marlin on my phone than I did of the grandkids. Macon may soon outstrip Marlin in the number count. Let’s face it, puppies are the cutest little critters.

It seems like I’ve spent a good part of the afternoon letting Macon chew and lick on my fingers. Maybe it was the cold pizza I ate earlier.

Anyway, he has already worked his way into our hearts. I think we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.

A music post

Another different barn
Another different barn

I came across this barn on a back road in the northwestern part of Indiana. It is near the abandoned school house that I pictured on Monday, so I’m not sure what county it is in. What can I say other than I love to take pictures of barns.

***

I would guess that a good number of people who read this blog are tired of me mentioning the short novel that I wrote in November. I’m not tired of it, but I do (sometimes) care about my gentle readers. So just a brief note to mention that I listened to a lot of music while I was sitting at the keyboard. Here are a few of the songs that I listened to while tip-tapping away. Oh, and the songs helped inspire the mood for the writing.

I was listening to a version of this song, Brandenburg Gate, when I started writing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTG8v4s0oxk

I was actually listening to a concert version of this song that was recorded in the Netherlands in the 1960’s. I prefer that version because of Brubeck’s piano solo. I think that he was really feeling the music that night. Not that this isn’t a fine version, but it seems a little more mechanical than the live version.

I have loved Art Pepper’s ballads since hearing this one many years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQNkLa4dYxU. I don’t think that I have ever heard a version of Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered that I didn’t like. If you want to hear a good vocal version, find Linda Ronstadt’s recording. I listened to this song while I was trying to write a section where the protagonist was in a mellow mood.

Finally, today, is The Ramsey Lewis Trio’s take on The Love Theme from Spartacus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w__goINrj8c. This song is from the In Crowd album. As I recall, jazz critics at the time did not give the album high marks, probably because it seemed to cater to a more pop audience. I loved the album then, and I still do. I have owned three copies of this album over the years; a vinyl disc, a cassette tape, and now a CD. I was listening to this when I was writing a change in story pacing.

I hope that you enjoy the music as much as I do.

 

 

Daydreams

Abandoned school house
Abandoned school house

I came across this place on my drive back from northern Indiana last week. I was sticking to county roads as much as I could. I’m not even sure what county I was in when I took this picture out of my car window. I think it might have been in Newton County, but I couldn’t say for sure. I’ll have to try to find this building again because I’m afraid that it won’t be around for very long.

This picture will be my submission to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness post this week. I enjoy seeing all of the submissions to the weekly challenge. I believe that you would as well.

***

When I was young, fifty plus years ago, I used to daydream about becoming a folk singer on the scale of the Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger or Peter, Paul & Mary (Believe me, they were big!). In my daydreams I was always on stage in a large auditorium, probably at a large university, singing and playing my guitar to great applause.

Sometimes I was alone on stage, and sometimes I was part of a group. Sometimes, when I was part of a group, I envied the banjo player because I knew I would never master that instrument. Sometimes I was part of a group because the other voices would mask my inadequate vocals. It seems that reality even crept into my daydreams.

My only true talent seemed to lie in picking the songs that we would perform. It was sort of like daydreaming that you are the manager of a baseball team rather than a player. Does that make me humble, or rather, filled with fear of inadequacy?

That was one of my staple daydreams for a number of years. I remember that I stopped daydreaming about being a folk music star around the same time that disco (I can’t bear to call it music) ruined the world…along with double knit polyester clothing for men.

I’m ready to pop in a Best of Hootenanny DVD and transport myself back to a sweeter time; if you don’t count Viet Nam.

Some more little things

Crooked picture
Crooked picture

This picture drives me crazy! One of the things that drive me up the wall is a picture that is hanging crooked on the wall. So what did I do? Why I took a picture of just such a picture. I must be in the mood to torment myself. Perhaps I should make a print of this picture and hang it next to the one on the wall and take a picture of that for some weird sort of self-referential statement. Or, perhaps not. And I also dislike the flash reflection on the picture, but I’m not smart enough to know how to get rid of it. More about the crooked picture a couple of paragraphs down.

***

This post was going to be part of the one I did yesterday, but I’ve been told that some of my posts are too long. That’s the reason I often break them into multiple posts.

The first little thing that got me going yesterday was that when I turned the TV on in the bedroom to watch the morning news, the TV wasn’t working. Before trying to fix it I went downstairs for coffee and to check on whether the TV in the family room was working. It was. So I returned to the bedroom and rebooted the black box (unplug for 30 seconds, plug it back in). Nothing was corrected. Next I unplugged everything from the power strip (TV, black box, DVD player, and stereo) and left them unplugged for a minute before plugging everything back in. Nothing was corrected. Next I tried unplugging the power strip from the wall for two minutes. That’s when I knocked the picture from the wall. I haven’t been able to hang it straight since then. By the way, the power strip wasn’t the problem either. I forgot about the TV and tried to re-hang the picture for half an hour, never getting it straight. And the TV? Somehow the HDMI input plug had been knocked loose from the back of the TV. Once I gave up on rebooting everything it took me about 2 minutes to figure out what was wrong, and to correct it.

The tree is decorated in time for our party tomorrow night, though the bottommost string of lights still isn’t working (check yesterday’s post for an explanation). You can’t tell if you’re looking in from the street, and I’m hoping nobody notices from inside. That’s one thing I can let go of. But not a crooked picture. I’ll be going back to that when I publish this post.

Little things

Wall art #6
Wall art #6

I came across this mural on the side a building that houses a neighborhood bar. The painting on the wall on the opposite side of the building is nowhere near as nice as this one, and I haven’t photographed it. But I might. I’ve decided to use this picture because so much of the rest of this post is full about the little things in life that seem to add up to a bad day.

***

It started yesterday morning when I was taking my shower. I noticed that the water was not draining from the tub. Did I mention that it was 3:30 a.m.? I was up early but my mind wasn’t working properly. I just assumed that drain was plugged, so when I finished my shower I was ankle-deep in soapy water. The next part is fuzzy in my memory, but somehow as I was towelling off after my shower, I dropped my towel into the tub where the shower water sat waiting to be emptied. I was half dry, from my top down, without a dry towel. So I used my tee-shirt to finish the job. That’s was when I realized that the tub drain was in the closed position. It couldn’t drain the soapy water.

I went back into the bedroom and dressed, went downstairs for a cup of coffee, and returned to shave. I had turned the lights off in the bedroom when I had left it to dress, and now, when I flipped the light switch back on, the light bulb above my sink popped. I decided to skip shaving.

You’re probably wondering why I, a happily retired man, was up so early. It is simple. I was driving north to visit my mother while my sister, She Who Must Not Be Named, and her husband went to an appointment. It was an early morning appointment and I needed to be there no later than 6:30.

I got on the Interstate and headed north. I glanced at the dashboard clock and almost lost control of the car. The clock said that it was 6:35. Now, I realized that I hadn’t reset the clock when Daylight Savings Time last kicked in (thanks former Governor Mitch Daniels) but I still couldn’t drive that far in an hour. But, by golly, I would try. Soon I was cruising up the highway at 80 MPH. I went on that way for about 45 minutes before the rest of my brain woke up and I remembered that my destination was in the Central Time Zone, but I was still in the Eastern Time Zone, so the dashboard clock was really off by two hours from my destination. I could slow down.

I arrived at my sister’s house with plenty of time to spare. We talked for a bit; she showed me where all of my mom’s favorite snacks were located; then she and my brother-in-law left for their appointment. If you have been reading my posts, you know that Mom has been struggling with realizing what is real and what is imagined. Her new medication has been helping, but it certainly isn’t a cure-all. For a few hours she gave me a commentary on her recent life, both real and imagined. She has a number of conspiracy theories active in her mind. It took a bit of thinking on my part, but I realized that her theories were not the grand “Big Business and Big Government are out to get me” type that we see on TV and in the movies. No, my mom’s paranoid theories are all about individuals that she knows. And, for whatever reason, a large number of them involve sex. I’m not sure why that is true, but all of the romance novels that she has read over the years might have something to do with it.

So, my sister and her spouse returned from their appointment, we chatted for a while and I took my leave. I stayed off of the Interstate on the way home, sticking to county roads as much as possible, on the lookout for picture worthy barns, and other sites. That was the good part of my day…always searching for the positive.

I got home, searched unsuccessfully for the reason a string of lights on our Christmas tree wasn’t lighting. I also started putting out other decorations and wondered why I still have a couple of plastic totes full of decorations and have no place to put them. And just the thought of our annual party on Saturday night is overwhelming me.

It is the little things that wear you down.

White snow

1st snowfall of the season
1st snowfall of the season

I took this picture a few weeks ago when we had our first measurable snowfall of the season. I had gone out to pick up a pizza because our favorite place in town doesn’t deliver. They were having a slow business night, and this was the only other car near mine.

I wanted to take a picture of the snow falling around a light pole, and took this one as an afterthought. When I got home and looked at the shots on the PC, I decided that this was a better picture. By the way, this is the color shot. I’ll be submitting it to Leanne Cole’s blog for her weekly Monochrome Madness. Please check out her website if you enjoy excellent photography.

***

This morning I was listening to a commentator on television who was enraged that five St. Louis Rams players emerged onto the playing field yesterday raising their hands in the gesture that has become synonymous with the controversy around the shooting of an unarmed teenaged boy in Missouri by a policeman.

My feelings about the rights and the wrongs of the shooting don’t matter. My feelings about the commentator don’t matter. What matters to me is the feeling that, to a large number of people, the football players don’t have a First Amendment right to free speech. I understand that the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association issued a statement condemning the players actions. The Association was exercising their speech rights when they did so.

The actions by both the players and the Association remind me of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968 when they gave the Black Power salute during their medal ceremony during the Olympics. They were condemned for their actions by the head of the International Olympic Committee and a number of writers and commentators. It isn’t a perfect parallel, yet it is another case of black athletes making a silent statement in a public forum, and being condemned for it by predominantly white men.

Of course, that’s just my view. If you disagree that’s your right.