Not another manic Monday

The old entrance
The old entrance

When I was out in the drear the other day I took a number of pictures that look as good in black and white as they do in color. This is one. Barren fields and cloudy skies don’t offer much in the way of color anyway. I don’t believe that much modern farm equipment would fit between these cement posts.

I’ll be submitting this photo to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. Once again let me point out that Leanne has one of the more consistently beautiful photographic blogs on the Internet.

***

While out that day I tried to play music that would help lift my spirits. One artist has always been able to make me feel good. That’s Sergio Mendes and all of the groups that he has led. So I put in a mix CD of strictly Sergio. I listened to Mas Que Nada https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrZBiqK0p9E. and I listened to Cinnamon & Cloves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xW8uF9eRY1U. And I listened to Night And Day, one of my favorite Cole Porter tunes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpjAvTf6tZs. It barely helped me get in a good mood.

But I’ve moved beyond that mood now…for the most part. I listened to the CD again today and it made me feel good. For me, Sergio Mendes’ groups, even when they sing sad ballads, bring a touch of joy in the music. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m glad that they do.

Let’s try this again

Southeast of Romney, northeast of Linden
Southeast of Romney, northeast of Linden

Yesterday morning started out bright and sunny, so I decided to go out and take some cheery pictures. Well, a few minor chores later I got in the car and headed out with my camera. Of course by that time the clouds had rolled in and snow was spitting. There was no accumulation, but still…

I was driving down a dirt road and came up on this scene. The gloom had descended on my spirits, and this shot seemed appropriate to my mood. I offer it to you in hopes that it gives you something to rise above. Isn’t that what many of us do on a daily basis, or is that just me sitting here in the dark hoping for the sun to rise? Are you depressed yet? You can left click on the image above to see the full gloom of the moment, but not the snow flakes.

***

I’ve written a couple of posts recently on why I haven’t been churning out posts on a more regular basis. The reasons I gave were valid to a point. But the overarching truth is that I don’t have anything to say that seems worth the effort to put into words.

There are things going on in the world that deserve commentary, such as so-called Religious Freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature and signed by Governor Mike Pence. But you know, so many other people have already written on this subject, and have done it better that I could, that I could not do an adequate job of it. I would probably go down the path of quoting H.L. Menken when he wrote “They themselves, as a practical matter, advocate only certain narrow kinds of liberty — liberty, that is, for the persons they happen to favor. Name calling helps no one, it just enforces one idea and makes enemies of many good people.

And besides, the law was passed by a legislature made up of politicians who were elected by the voting citizens. Whether Indiana’s Voters Rights laws make a difference in the make up of the legislature is, perhaps, a separate issue. I suppose I could write about voter suppression and again quote Menken, Democracy, in fact, is always inventing class distinctions, despite its theoretical abhorrence of them.” I don’t think my writing would change any minds, especially here in Indiana. 

I have to admit that even I, in my darker moods, find Menken’s cynicism and misogynistic statements a bit much. I can grin at many of the things that he wrote, and love the beauty of his written words, but I also love uplifting writing as well…in small doses.

But I stray from my original thesis.

Words aren’t coming easily to my keyboard, and they haven’t for a few months now. I hope that soon they will return because I want to write about two anniversaries, one in April and one in May. Wish me luck.

What’s on my mind this morning

Finally!
Finally!

After what seemed like weeks, the recalcitrant daffodils decided to poke their heads above ground level on Sunday. It was a welcome sight. I’ve been searching for green things for quite a while now, and only finding pine trees. Yesterday, Monday, we got a bit of snow in the afternoon. While it was only a trace, it seemed like some cruel joke.

***

I have another medical appointment today, but it won’t involve the old “bleed and pee,” because it is with my ophthalmologist. Today I’ll be going in, getting my eyes dilated, having pictures taken of the interior of my eyes, and getting a reading from the Doctor. I am hoping that the AMD has remained stable. At some point between the checkups, each time, I have a day or two of worry because vision seems blurry in one eye or the other, but it passes. I have been aware of the AMD for about three years now, and after the first two treatments (injections into the eye) there have been no real problems. I don’t expect that there will be any bad news today.

***

This morning the Germanwings Airbus crash occurred in France. This is very sad news. Each time something like this happens I realize that families and friends will be mourning the people that they love. I never have the right words to say.

I am becoming irritated with the “news people” who are trying to report on the crash with very little information. I gave up on actually listening to them after about fifteen minutes as they scrambled to find something “new” to say about the crash. Rather than say that there was nothing more to report at that moment, and promise to come back when there were substantiated facts, they continued to repeat the few things they knew as if it was something new. They called people on the telephone who were supposed to be experts asked them to speculate on what might have happened. To the credit of the people called, they would not speculate. The last straw for me was when they called an”expert” who was obviously reading from the same sheet of paper that the news reader was using. Is air time so hard to fill that they have to resort to these ploys?

Unrelated items

Wall art #12
Wall art #12

Here is another photo of a mural that is tucked away in a narrow alley. Once again I was unable to get a head on shot of the painting; and I wasn’t able to digitally manipulate the perspective to make the picture appear to be head on without distorting and degrading the image. But the mural is worth seeing this way for now.

***

I was watching the news this morning and realized that I was only half paying attention. I also realized that I was tuning out what they were showing and saying because I was tired of the negative stories. That doesn’t mean that I want sugar-coated drivel in the newscasts that I watch, but rather I just want to get away from it.

That’s when one of my favorite daydreams kicked in. I was living in a home built into a hillside in Wyoming or Montana or South Dakota, anywhere as long as it wasn’t in a town or city. Think of it as my hermitage (lower case h). Of course I’m not talking about a rough cabin with dirt floors. Oh no; my hermitage is spacious with central air and heating, a large pantry and walk-in freezer to stock for winter, cable or satellite TV, as well as all of my music and books. I never said that I wanted to rough it. I just want to get away.

The major drawback to this fantasy is that Cindy would never agree to live somewhere like that. She couldn’t abide living anyplace where there was a possibility of being snowed in for more than a couple of days. And there is also the fact that she doesn’t want to live anywhere that doesn’t have city water and sewage. Oh, and she needs more people around than just me.

I did say that it was just a daydream. My mood and daydream disappeared when the sun came up.

***

I am usually pretty careful when I am in the kitchen. If I have any doubts about what I’m doing, I pull out a cookbook and check my steps. That didn’t happen the other night.

I decided to fry chicken for dinner. Cindy loves my fried chicken, and I usually like it as well. It is a meal that I have cooked more than any other since we have been married.

I started pulling out the ingredients that I use when preparing the chicken. Generally I use flour, salt, pepper, some Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, and occasionally other spices. I mix the ingredients together, dredge the chicken, and put it in a frying pan with hot oil. Well the other night I went to get the flour and noticed that there were two containers of a finely ground white substance setting side by side. I had recently purchased a bag of flour and assumed that we had so much that the second container was overflow from the first. So I grabbed the container that had the smaller amount.

I was wrong in my assumption. The second container wasn’t flour. It turned out to be powdered sugar. By the time I realized what I had done, the breast that I was frying for Cindy was already coated and in the frying pan. I grew up in a household where you never threw anything usable away, so I went ahead and coated my dark chicken meat and fried it as well. What the heck. It might be good and I could claim another new recipe.

I didn’t tell Cindy what I had done until she took her first bite. When she did, I asked her how it tasted. “It’s sweet,” she said. That’s when I told her what I had done. After having a good laugh, she went ahead and tried to eat some more of the chicken. She scraped the coating off of the breast, ate some, and declared that the sugar had permeated the meat. She ate a bit more and then gave up.

I won’t be typing up this recipe for any friends.

St. Patrick’s Day – 2015 with music

Blue sky, white barn
Blue sky, white barn

Nothing green is out yet, but the blue sky and warm weather are making it feel like spring. Soon, my friends, soon there will be green shoots and early flowers.

***

It’s time to wear something green, drink green beer (if you are so inclined), and listen to Irish music. Guess what? I’m suggesting some Irish songs for you to hear, and I’m supplying URLs for the songs.

If you think that I’m going to include Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral, or Tura Lura Lura by James Shannon, you are wrong. That song was written in the U.S. for a Broadway musical. If you Google it, you’ll get all types of references to Van Morrison and The Band playing it in the movie The Last Waltz. Go and find it on YouTube if you wish.

The first song that I’m recommending is Molly Malone by the Dubliners.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdxLxnhGnvo. I learned this song when I was a boy. It is one of my favorites. Feel free to sing along.

There is an Irish band from the U.S., Solas, that is excellent. Here is the URL for their version of The Wind That Shakes The Barley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e38eestclU.

I came to enjoy listening to Clannad years ago. Here is Tá Mé ‘mo Shuí https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDmDnwgcxJQ. I could listen to this type of music all day, most days. I wish I knew what the lyrics meant. I shouldn’t ask for that because I might not like the lyrics and it would ruin the song for me. Ignorance is bliss.

Finally there is Brennan On The Moor, one of my favorite songs by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkxuWte_iKg. They were the first Irish group that I listened to back in the 1960’s. You can find a version by them on YouTube from that era, but the sound quality isn’t as good.

There are many other bands on CD and YouTube who are worth listening to, such a The Chieftains. If you don’t like beer, at least try the music.

 

 

Still waiting

Waiting for spring
Waiting for spring

I’m still waiting for spring, and the green. I took this picture a couple of days ago. When I got it home and uploaded it to our computer, all I saw were grays, whites and muddy browns. There were a couple of small splashes of color at the trailer and under one of the trees. I decided to play around with the image, so I started with colorizing it, bringing out the greens and reds. I liked the way it looked, but then I remembered that Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness was coming up, so I went back to the original image and grayscaled and brightened it. That was OK, but since tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, I added a touch of green. I think this will do.

***

St. Patrick’s day in the U.S. is a solemn day set aside for drinking and carousing. Rivers and canals are dyed green; green beer is drunk (along with anything else alcoholic), people wear green clothing lest they get pinched ( a favorite of beer drinking men on the lookout for non-green wearing women), and parades are held in every major city. Everyone claims to have Irish blood in them, which they use as an excuse to drink more. The beer drinking men who like to pinch women also like to wear buttons that say, “Kiss me, I’m Irish.”

I never quite got into the St. Patrick’s day celebration. It isn’t an official holiday so I never got the day off work. And to be honest, I never found it necessary to have a reason to drink. I assumed that any woman who was willing to kiss a drunken lout was no one I wanted to rub lips with…well, not since college.

But that’s tomorrow (unless you are on the other side of the International Date Line in which case it is today). Tomorrow I’ll be posting about Irish music; the one tradition that I love.

Is it spring yet?

Green leaves please
Green leaves please

I noticed this lovely tree as I was leaving the doctor’s office a few days ago. I was in the building getting still more blood drawn for labs. At times I wonder if they are merely taking so much blood in order to build a stock for vampires. Think about it; a few tubes here, a few tubes there, it all adds up.

But that has nothing to do with the tree. I saw the tree and the brown grass, and thought about how soon everything would be turning green. I’m anticipating that day more this year than I can recall from past years. Oh, please come soon.

***

I slept with the windows open in the bedroom last night for the first time in months. I may have jumped the gun since it was only fifty degrees outside when I fell asleep, but the freshness in the air was glorious. I’m glad that the wind was not coming from the direction of Tate & Lyle, because that would have put a damper on everything.

I woke up this morning around five, hearing the sound of a train moving through town. The tracks are about a quarter-mile south of our house. Early morning, before people are out in their cars, is the only time I can hear the trains from our house. Cindy doesn’t like the sound of the trains, but I do. When I was growing up outside of Rolling Prairie, I would listen to the trains from my bedroom and be soothed by the sound. The tracks were about a half mile from our house. I would lay in bed, hear the trains, and wonder about what and who they were carrying. What did the engineers, brakemen, and other crew think about while they were rolling through the countryside?

I think that growing up, hearing the trains at night, is what caused me to fall in love with the song Fast Freight when I first heard the Kingston Trio recording. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1rWyyYfQaw. I still have to listen to the song when I play the recording. I hope that you like it.

Searching for an angle

Wall art #11
Wall art #11

I went downtown the other day looking for more murals to add to my Wall Art series of pictures. The good news is that I found some wonderful murals. The bad news is that they are on alley walls, like this one.

The alley is so narrow that I was unable to back up and get a straight-on shot of the work. I took this picture by backing up from the entrance to the alley. As it was, I had to stand in the street in order to get this much in the shot.

I considered going into the alley and taking photos of sections of the mural so that I could come back home to stitch the sections together. I probably would have, but at the other end of the alley were three guys standing, smoking, talking, and giving me the hairy eyeball as I tried to get this picture. It is likely that they would have just watched me, but, you know, who stands and talks in an alley? I guess I’ve seen too much crime drama.

As I said, I found some other wonderful alley murals. I took pictures of some of the others on angles as I did with this one. With those I used software to fiddle with the perspective and try to make it look like a straight-on shot. Unfortunately the murals were so long that I couldn’t do it without distorting parts of the picture. Also, the end of the mural that was furthest from me when I took the photo, appeared blurred compared to the nearer end.

I’ll be giving more thought to how I can better present these images. They are too good to only be seen by people who peer into alleys.

 

Norm’s Reading Challenge Update #1

Wall art #10
Wall art #10

This is the last picture of a mural in my files. That isn’t to say that it will be the last that I post. I know the location of another two or three murals but I haven’t gone out to capture the images yet. I hope that you have been enjoying these pictures.

***

Back in January I set myself a reading challenge for the year. Just click on the link to go back and see what type of books are in the challenge. I’ve read my first three books, and can check off three categories: a mystery, a book recommended by a friend, and an autobiography. The books are:

A Way With Murder
A Way With Murder

A Way With Murder by R.J. Jagger. Like many of the books that I buy, I found this one on sale. I have to admit that I was drawn to it by the cover. It reminded me of art work that used to be on the covers of paperback mysteries that I would buy back in the 1960’s and 70’s. I was disappointed with this book. There were too many coincidences, too many characters with strange unlikely names, and new characters being introduced late in the book. The novel was set in 1952 but some of the language seemed to be drawn from modern usage. I’ll be donating my copy of this book to the library later this year.

 

Kafka on the Shore
Kafka on the Shore

The second book I read was Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. This novel was recommended by a friend. This is one of the best books that I have read in years. It reminded me of books that I read in college. I heard echoes of Borjes, Günter Grass, Cervantes, and Vonnegut among others. I’ll be returning to this novel, likely more than once. I recommend it to anyone who likes to think. I also plan to buy more books by Murakami in the future. Thanks, Anju, for telling me about the book and author.

 

 

Who Am I 003
Who Am I

The third book was the autobiography, Who Am I by Pete Townshend. I wanted to read this book not because I’m a big fan of The Who or of Townshend himself, but because the group was big during a very fertile period of rock and roll. I must admit that I was disappointed with this autobiography. While it came in at over five hundred pages, there wasn’t a lot of interesting (to me) information.  It seemed to me that Townshend spent more ink writing about his various music projects than he did about his family. He writes that his wife felt abandoned at times, and I can believe it. His creative projects were more important to him than his family. I guess that I’m not really disappointed in the book, but I am disappointed in him.

Now I’m on to my next book, a fantasy. Expect another update in a few months.

Movies, a magazine, and a book

copenhagen
Copenhagen

Saturday evening is my time to watch movies. Cindy always plays cards with her friends, and there is seldom anything worth watching on regular TV with the exception of an occasional IU basketball game. I started watching early yesterday because Cindy went in and worked before her card game. First up was Diamonds Are Forever, the 7th James Bond movie (not counting the, in my opinion, execrable Casino Royale from 1967), starring Sean Connery. From there I went to the Inspector Morse mystery, The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn. starring John Thaw. Finally I watched a DVD that I had borrowed from our county library, Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is a movie based on a play by Michael Frayn. I believe that it can be found on YouTube, but I like the DVD because it has a section that explains the historical background. Oh, I should tell you that I highly recommend this play. I want to think about it for a while, and then go back and watch it again…probably more than once. I know that while watching it last night I only caught a lot of the surface meaning. It is denser than that.

When I finished watching it I was ready to sit and think deep thoughts. But, I’m not really a deep thinker so instead I read the Bob Dylan interview in AARP Magazine. The article was ostensibly to cover his newest album which contains ten songs from the great American songbook. I shan’t be purchasing that album. I know the songs, and I know Dylan’s voice. It is possible that I would enjoy some of the music, but it doesn’t seem likely.

From that article I went back to reading the autobiography, Who Am I by Pete Townshend. The book is part of the reading challenge that I have set for myself this year (more on that in a soon-to-be post). His humility seems almost as faked as mine is. I mean, can a person (me, not him) who writes about what they did in one evening pretend to be humble?