Mornings & other things

April 2017

I took this picture a couple of years ago. I believe that I took it one day while I was out driving north of Lafayette. But since my memory isn’t what it used to be, it might have been south of Lafayette.

***

I’ve mentioned a number of times before how I abandoned Facebook a long time ago. I got tired of the endless political debates, and the thinly veiled bigotry that was appearing for my “reading pleasure” by people who should know better, and whom I thought I knew. It got to be too much. In the past six or seven months I’ve started to feel the same way about Twitter. The Tweets have become too mean-spirited on both sides of stories. I haven’t given up on Twitter entirely, but I only check in on it once or twice a week at most. I feel like there should be more happiness in the world. I noticed how much this disheartening aspect of modern life was getting to me this morning when I realized how much I was yearning for a road trip to get away from the daily negativity. Vacation can’t come soon enough this year.

Speaking of this morning, I woke up this morning with a wisp of the dream I had evidently been having. It was a bit of a song titled My Toodleoops and I. Toodleoops seemed to be a nickname for a non-existent former girlfriend. Though, upon reflection, perhaps it was Toodle Loops, a fictional brand of boxed cereal. I’ll never know because I can’t remember anything about the dream.

And while I’m writing about waking up in the morning, what is normally your first thought upon awakening? My first thought is almost always the question “What time is it?” The second thing is usually the question “Do I need to put my pants on before I go downstairs to start the coffee.” The answer to that one depends on whether or not we have house guests. Two days ago, however, my day started in my mind with Linda Ronstadt singing I Can’t Let Go. Catchy but distracting.

That morning start was not nearly as strange as one I experienced two and a half weeks ago when I woke up thinking about the opening of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another …” and I wondered what might have I been dreaming. But before I could truly form that thought, I started remembering the novel A Hall of Mirrors which was the basis of the movie W.U.S.A. which starred Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. I must have had one heck of a dream!

Early morning thoughts. Wow.

What’s wrong with me?

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.

Short updates

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.

Little things mean a lot…make that too much

 

Counseling while waiting

I took this photo in New Richmond, Indiana on July 4th while we were waiting for the fireworks to begin. Cindy took the time to counsel a friend who called. There never seems to be time off.

***

We bought another bookcase about a week ago. The bookcase deserves a post all to itself, so rather than go into the details, let me just say that I have begun filling it. Since filling it meant moving some books to the basement I took the opportunity to also catch up on cataloging our books.

The bookcase we added, along with the one already in the basement and the file cabinets, should hold all of my graphic novels, our biographies and autobiographies, and our books on historical subjects.

Cataloging the books and arranging them on the shelves should be simple, don’t you think? If you think that, you have never dealt with me. It isn’t just a matter of plugging information on the books into a data base and then ferrying them to the basement where I’ll just put them on shelves and in drawers. It is more involved than that.

I have been using a database software program called Data Crow. I like it very much. Up until recently I loved it. It used to be that all I had to do was enter the ISBN or the title of the book into a search field and the software would search the Internet, primarily Amazon, and fill in data fields for which it found information. Lovely!

But that function has stopped working. I could just enter the name of the book and the author into the data base and let it go at that, but I have grown used the program finding a graphic of the cover, the publisher and other information. So now I look up everything and enter it manually. It has added a lot of time to the process.

And there are small things that bother me. For instance, there is the problem of the distinction between an autobiography and a memoir. I know that an autobiography generally covers a person’s life from birth to whenever it is being written, and that a memoir just covers a specific portion of time or one subject. I can make that distinction when I list the genre, but sometimes the author or the publisher has trouble doing so. For instance, True Compass. the autobiography of Edward Kennedy tracks him from birth to imminent death, but the book is subtitled A Memoir. What the? In my case I call it an autobiography. When putting it in the bookcase it makes no difference because I mix biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs together.

That leads me to the next little thing. When arranging the biographical books should I do it alphabetically by author or by the person about whom the book is written? Keeping all of the books about President Franklin D. Roosevelt together on the shelf seems to make sense, but I also see the argument for arranging by author. What do you think?

If I keep everything by one author together, how do I deal with genre’s? Thomas Hardy wrote novels and poems. I have a half-dozen or so novels by Vladimir Nabokov, but I also have his autobiography, Speak Memory. Or is it a memoir? His novels are in a different part of the house. Should I move Speak Memory from the basement? What do you think?

No big deal, you say. Perhaps for you, but I was thinking about these things at 5:30 this morning. Let me know what you think.

Horns of a dilemma

Waiting for spring
Waiting for spring

I took this picture earlier this year. Outside today it feels like spring, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil predicted. Well, who depends on a large rodent for weather predictions?

***

I know that a dilemma is not an actual horned animal. Though often when I read the phrase “horns of a dilemma” I imagine a children’s book illustration of an angry water buffalo. If only life were so simple. No, the phrase means having to choose between two bad options. No matter your choice, it won’t be a good one.

I find myself making that choice now. A few days ago I was writing about how I felt that avoiding politics in Classical Gasbag was the proper choice for me as a person. Today I’m not sure. Watching the news, listening to friends and acquaintances who are not U.S. citizens, and drawing upon historical precedents have brought me to a place where I can’t publicly ignore what is happening here.

Our President and his minions are constantly labeling our free press as the purveyors of fake news and the enemy. Meanwhile they put forth lies and label them as alternate facts. This is a familiar tactic to people who read history. I recommend that people read about “Big lie” on Wikipedia and see if it strikes a chord.

Perhaps I am writing this from a political perspective. I feel so close to it that I’m not sure. To me it feels like our Constitution, particularly the first amendment, is under attack, and that scares me. What scares me more is the number of fellow citizens who believe, or want to believe, the lies that are coming from our President and his minions.

OK, so here is some political ranting: Part of me wants to blame that phenomena on the apparent decline in people who see the worth of an education other than for gaining a better paying job. What is wrong with education for the sake of education? Of course I lay the blame for that type of thinking on Richard Nixon who during the 1952 Presidential election labelled Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson and his supporters eggheads. Yes, the same Richard Nixon who as President had an enemies list and brought Watergate into our political vocabulary.

I don’t plan on going on and on about politics in Classical Gasbag, but neither do I plan on remaining silent when things truly bother me. I just hope that I can remain civil enough that I don’t offend too many people.

So much to say, but I can’t

Wall Art #15
Wall Art #15

I took this picture in West Lafayette last week. It is at the end of the parking lot where I had lunch with a friend. I really like the colors in this wall art.

***

There are a number of things that I want to write about, but I don’t feel they are appropriate, for one reason or another,  to put in this blog. When I started Classical Gasbag I wanted it to be a place where I could freely expound upon anything that crossed my mind. It hasn’t turned out to be that way. There are a few reasons that I don’t feel that I have the freedom to write in that manner. Here are three of them.

Reason #1: I don’t want my wife, Cindy, to be embarrassed by what I write. Over the years she has told most of her friends and family about Classical Gasbag and has encouraged them to read it. I know that there have been occasions when one of her friends has asked her if what I wrote bothered her. Recently I cancelled a drafted post about a dream that I had. Cindy might have been embarrassed by the details.

Reason #2: At some point last year I decided that I would stop writing about politics in Classical Gasbag. Politics has been a very touchy subject among even some of our closest friends. I don’t want to antagonize anyone else if I don’t need to. So the closest I will come to writing about politics is to recommend a new drinking game. Listen to any speech by President Trump and take a drink every time he uses the word “really.”

Reason #3:  I don’t often lose my temper, but when I do I can write scathingly about whatever has angered me. But that doesn’t help anyone, not even me. If letting fly with mean-spirited slurs and curses made me feel better, perhaps I would do it. I’ve found over the years, however, that I feel no better if I do it. So I don’t. It helps no one and may hurt someone. What would be the purpose in doing that? It’s not for me.

Life is a series of choices. I choose to try to be a better person…at least in this blog.

Coping

The Big Lie
The Big Lie

I got this in the mail the other day. It is from our insurance agent who has failed to return any of the last four or five calls we have made to her office. I believe it was Joseph Goebbels who said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it.’ Well, Verna, you can tell us how much you care as often as you wish, but I don’t believe it.

***

So I went to bed reasonably early rather than stay up watching election returns. When I turned off the TV the returns were trending in a direction that I didn’t like, but I had hopes that I would wake up to more cheerful news. Alas, that was not to be. Actually, I woke up at 3 a.m., needing to pee and made the mistake of checking Twitter before I closed my eyes again. Well that ended my sleep.

I spent some time trading texts with a friend in Thailand; expressing my woe and receiving kind words of solace in response. I tried watching the early newscasts but just couldn’t handle it. So I decided to go for a drive and listen to happy music.

Since Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature I have been listening to a lot of his albums. I started buying Dylan albums in the 1960’s and have been listening ever since. Today I had planned on listening to The Times They Are a-Changin’ but knowing the contents as well as I do, I decided against it. I can accept that the changes we may see won’t be to my liking. I can abide with the song’s dictum “Get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand” since I’m also pretty sure that no one in the new Republican party would want my help. But that wasn’t the reason I didn’t listen to the album.

I was feeling depressed and decided that I didn’t need to listen to “Ballad of Hollis Brown” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RfJhIT1_h4 which is a song about a mass murder/suicide. Nor did I want to listen to “Only A Pawn In The Game,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbL2PpBwQmY about the murder of Medger Evans. And “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUrqRDjAt4w always makes me feel sad. All of the songs on the album are worth listening to, but not for me, not today.

So I picked, at random, an early Kingston Trio album from my CDs to play in the car during my early morning drive. I put it in the player as I backed out of our driveway, and “M.T.A.” came on with Dave Guard quoting Thomas Paine. “These are the times that try men’s souls.” It is going to be a long day.