Joining Special Forces (1/5/2020)
My buddy, Morty Resnicoff, talked me into applying for a transfer to 10th Special Forces. I had attended the 7th Army NCO Academy in Bad Tölz, south of München, where the 10th SF was garrisoned. I told Morty that those Green Beret guys didn't seem to be very concerned about uniformity, what a nice kaserne it was, and how beautiful the Alpine country was. So he said "Let's transfer."
In 1962 the major action was still the Cold War, with the mortar of the Berlin Wall not quite cured. Viet Nam was not yet a thing. We were assigned to an artillery battalion in a small town west of Würzburg, so the idea of a transfer into a legendary outfit was exciting to a pair of bored 20-year-olds. After all, we were volunteers, not draftees.
Morty did all of the research about requesting the transfer and meeting the SF requirements, which were mainly physical. We got a pass and drove down to Bad Tölz in
Morty's Austin-Healy Sprite. They sent us down to Lenggries, a satellite post, where we
went through the physical test (push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and their associated -downs).
Then we drove back to Wertheim and submitted our paperwork.
Shortly thereafter, I was called into the Battalion Commander's office. He told me that he had two orders on his desk concerning me. One approved my request for transfer, the other promoted me to E5: he would sign the one I chose. Going to 10th SF required that I extend my enlistment by one year, which was a bummer. So the promotion was my choice.
Morty's request for transfer bogged down in the bureaucratic maze of military personnel matters. He finally took things into his own hands and started calling various offices until he found the then-current resting place of his paperwork.
Artillery units often had aircraft for observer purposes, and many officers were qualified pilots. They were required to fly a certain number of hours to keep their pilot status and receive pilot pay. Morty cajoled one of those pilots to fly him around to the headquarters concerned so that he could rescue his marooned transfer request and walk it through its journey up and down the chain of command.
So Morty got his transfer. He was sent to parachute training with the Bundeswehr, and ski school in Norway, and I believe he also went to an intensive language school. He came back to Wertheim for a visit once, and looked pretty good in his Class A uniform with bloused boots and a Green Beret.
LA Union Station (11/30/2019)
Seated in Los Angeles' Union Station, with its high ceiling with large hanging light fixtures and tall, open windows, I was staring up at the small birds coming and going from their nests in the lights.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder, and said "When you're looking up at the birds, keep your mouth closed."
NYT Tiles (11/29/2019) Added to my morning routine in the fairly recent past, is the NYT "Tiles" puzzle. It took me a while to get the idea that it was image "elements" that were to be matched, not entire little image blocks. So now I whiz through, getting my match score up into the 40s sometimes. But there is one puzzle set that defeats me much sooner everytime. That is a/the set based on color.
Monitor screens are not highly discriminating presenters of color. Two greens, for example, might not be the same, but very close. Their appearance moreover might be affected by the color of their background - remember the viral meme about the color of a dress? So two "green" blocks of color in the puzzle appear, on my monitor, against their backgrounds, to be the same, so I click on them. "No match" the puzzle algorithm tells me, without the least wiggle room for subjectivity. So I don't think I will even try that one anymore. Who needs frustration to start the day?
Gathering eggs (11/26/2019) Jim Watson's farm was a bit northwest of Silverton, county seat of Briscoe County in the panhandle of Texas, on the south edge of the Palo Duro Canyon. He was my dad's uncle, and I was visiting him with my grandmother, his sister.
Jim's wife, Tildy, took me out to the chicken pen to gather eggs. She told me that there was a hen's nest behind an old signboard leaning up in a corner of a shed and sent me to check it. In the shed, I reached behind the signboard, and felt something furry. I looked around the board and saw a cat. I left the shed and told Aunt Tildy that there was a black and white cat sitting on the nest so I couldn't get the eggs. She cried "Oh, no!" and started running toward the house, yelling. "Jim, get the gun, there's a skunk in the chicken pen."
Uncle Jim came out of the house with a gun and came running to the chicken yard. Before he got there, the skunk (not a cat, silly me) came out of the shed and ran under the fence and into the corn field (maybe it was cane?).
Jim followed it into the more-than-head-high stalks, out of view before he had taken three steps. Aunt Tildy and I stood and waited in suspense for what I remember as a long time, just staring at the wall of tall green stalks. Then there was a loud pop, followed by silence.
Uncle Jim came out of the field and said "Well, I got him, but he got me, too." He walked up to us, and boy! he really smelled bad.
These days the faint perfume of a skunk out in the country is a nostalgic bit of scenery for me, but the fainter, the better.
What's in a Name? (11/22/2019) Some years ago I taught a children's class in animation for the Austin art museum at Laguna Gloria one summer. There was nothing memorable in the curriculum -- maybe flip books, drawing movement cycles and some simple stop motion -- I believe the class met every morning for a week. Helping me was Bill Van Buren, a great young guy who worked for me (when I had anything for him to do).
I don't mind saying that I am not a good teacher: I was never trained in teaching, and I am not a patient person. I'll gladly pass on whatever experience has taught me, but the learners must bring their own motivation. While motivation was in short supply in that drop-your-kids-off summer program, the kids were interested and cooperative - except for one little boy.
His name was Jacob. The thing he enjoyed most, and was quite good at, was disruption, sowing contention, mayhem and argument all about him.
As soon as class started he was at the center of a developing turmoil, and I called out "Jonah! Stop that." Bill said "Jacob" quietly to me.
About six minutes later, Jacob was in an argument with some other students. "Jonah!" I said ("Jacob." Bill murmured). "Go back to your seat."
Only a short time passed before Jacob was in another squabble. "Jonah!" I yelled ("Oh, well," Bill said. "Something biblical.").
A Bit About Navigation (11/21/2019) You undoubtedly already know this, but just in case you don't -- a web page can be searched with CtrlF. Upon using that key combination, a window opens, and a search term can be entered. You can try it now. Ctrl + F -- enter "bubble gum" in the text window (just a suggestion).
Getting off of Wordpress (11/20/2019) The support team at Lunar Pages, the webhost of Jackotis.com, notified me that my blog was under attack through one of the Wordpress PHP modules. I looked into the problem and found that I didn't know how to fix it, so I took the blog down from Wordpress. Here are all of the posts in a simple HTML web page. There is no navigation at this point and I apologize for that. My intention is to work on cleaning up the site, updating links, etc., as well as posting more frequently. Far and away the most traffic on my site is for the blog, but I doubt that it's real visitors. It appears to be robots and hackers, hammering on the servers. But since I took it off of Worpress, the amount of real traffic should be more apparent.
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More on Audio Narration (11/21/2017) Since my previous post on the subject, I listened to a book set in south central New Mexico in the 19th century . The reader pronounced the Spanish word "bosque" (meaning woods or forest) as if it rhymed with English "mosque" -- a reasonable mistake to make. In Spanish it is pronounced "BOHS-kay" but Anglos pronounce it "BOSS-key." It refers to the riparian wooded bottoms of rivers in the Southwestern US. My grandpa, who farmed a few irrigated acres near Socorro, NM, called the nearby Rio Grande river bottom woodlands "the bosky." I roamed the bosky as a kid, with my dog and a single-shot .22 , 'exploring.' In central Texas, around Waco, there is a Bosque River and a Bosque County - both pronounced "Bosky." The reader of the book is one of my favorites, George Guidall. My oldest certain recollection of him is as the narrator about twenty-five years ago of a couple of Robertson Davies novels when Books-on-Tape really were on tape cassettes. The Cunning Man and Murther & Walking Spirits were the novels, I believe. Well-done narrations of well-written stories. I emailed Mr. Guidall about the pronunciation of bosque and he thanked me pleasantly in return.
Audio Book Narration (7/24/2017) I listen to a lot of audio books. They let me do things with my hands while listening to something besides music or news. In a website review for an audio title which I had thoroughly enjoyed, the reviewer complained mightily about mispronounced words. I agree that mispronunciations are jarring, but they are not finally the fault of the narrator. Narrators shouldn't be reading the text cold, and they have a producer reading along silently with them, controlling the recording machinery. At any mistake or unwanted sound the producer can stop the whole process, rewind the recording, and cue the narrator to record over the error. The next step in the process requires an editor to listen to the recording while following the text. Any errors are then corrected by insert editing, which can sometimes be heard in a published title because of a momentary shift in ambient, or background, sound and vocal quality/intonation. So a narrator can mispronounce a word, but they are not alone in the fault: there are others also to blame.
Sowaddiyadoo (7/13/2017) It's been many months since I last posted anything on this blog. Two things motivated me to write something now. The first was writing a letter to a friend of almost sixty years on her birthday. I didn't really have anything to say: I just maundered on about buying a leaf blower and the health of a pet, but I found that I enjoyed doing it - I enjoyed the writing. The second thing was the visit from an old friend of about fifty years. He has saved letters and ephimera (a good librarian word) through the years and has recently been curating his collection. He had a letter from me written in 1971 or 72, and he brought me a copy of it. It was written in italic script with brown ink and was nice to look at. I used an Osmiroid calligraphic pen and liked to write stuff just as a graphic exercise, much like drawing a picture. The text was nothing special: a little group of us had moved to the Missouri Ozarks and were living rather primitively - I passed on news and random observations. I told him a bit about our neighbors and some local history. And I know, from looking at it and reading it today, that I enjoyed writing it. And I have enjoyed writing this. And I hope that you have enjoyed reading it.
Road Kill (10/21/2017) Out in the street this morning, beyond the curb was a squirrel corpse, much flattened. I called the city. They asked if it was impeding traffic. I said apparently not, and they said it would be taken care of. Of course I could take care of it - scoop it up and put it in the garbage can - but I didn't want to mess with it. Going outside for the mail in mid-afternoon, I saw some unusual movement beyond the front fence. I quietly walked out and looked over the fence. Three black vultures were working on the squirrel carcass. One of them, judging by the feathered neck, seemed to be immature. I wondered if it was a family preying together. They weren't much bothered by the occasional car going by.
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Hawk Migration (7/15/2015) Vast numbers of large birds circle and soar in the sky, all drifting steadily north or south, depending on the season. They spiral in thermal updrafts, gaining altitude: at some point they disengage from one upward conveyor and skim away to another. I have been privileged to see hawks migrating twice, both times in the Spring in Central Texas. It is truly awesome and thrilling. I was in college the first time. Returning to my house just outside of town in the afternoon, I walked to the edge of a ravine and just stared mesmerized. Hawks filled the sky in all directions, both low and so high that they were only specks, all sliding north. In a while, one of my housemates arrived and came to stand beside me. He too watched dumbfounded for a short time, and then said "I've gotta go get my gun!"
Dog coastin' (1/21/2014) Leo Tolstoi's War and Peace is my favorite book, and I am reading it again with even more enjoyment than before. There is a description of hunting hares with dogs which reminded me of going with a friend to run his dogs many years ago.
Gail Borden Tenant was in law school at the time. He wore a white suit with a string tie and a panama hat. He had two greyhounds. We went some distance out Webberville Road, then turned off to the south. We came to a long fenced arena perhaps 80 or 100 yards long, maybe 35 wide. Cars were parked around the outside of the fence. We were the only white folks there, but everyone seemed to know Gail, and called him "The Judge," as in "Hyah come da Judge." Many people had greyhounds (maybe some borzois) on leashes and their attention was directed toward the arena. The far end of the arena was a corrugated tin wall separating the arena from a brushy pen behind. In the tin wall were some openings at ground level, about one foot square. At the near end of the arena was a wood and hardware cloth box about 1 foot square and 12 feet long, divided into 10 or 12 sections by sliding wooden dividers. In each section there was a live jack rabbit. About 30 or 40 feet in front of that chute was a line across the arena and at one end of the line was stationed a man with a flag. Three dog handlers would station themselves and their dogs in line with the front of the rabbit holding chute, where another official prepared to raise the door, which would release the rabbit in the front section. The flagman raised his flag, the doorman raised the door, and the rabbit bolted for the far end of the arena. When it crossed the line, the flagman snapped his flag down and the dog handlers let their dogs go. Greyhounds running are magnificent - but so are jack rabbits. Sometimes a rabbit made it through one of the holes in the fence at the far end, but more often one of the dogs would catch up with it, causing the rabbit to swerve away, into the path of the trailing dogs. Then there would be a cloud of dust and tumble of bodies. The dog that turned the rabbit was the winner of the race. The owner of the dog got whatever winnings came from his bets on the race, and he got the rabbit.
As we were leaving, someone called out to Gail "Whatchoo gonna do wi'dat rabbit, Judge?" Gail answered "Why, I'm gonna give it to you, you pretty thing."
The folks there called it "dog coastin'." Historically, it's known as "coursing" and was a sport of royalty. And it was hare coursing that Tolstoi described, but it was dog coastin' that I saw.
Moon towers (2/16/2014) Online this AM was a story about Austin's moon towers, and that reminded me of something. Cactus Pryor was a very well-known media personality in Austin, working his whole life for KTBC radio and TV (he died in 2011). Among the various programs he did was one which dealt with his reminiscences of growing up in Austin. As a guest on that program one day he had a fellow who had fallen from the moontower at 9th and Guadalupe and survived. The tower is about 150' tall, and the boy had climbed it, but slipped and fell. He plunged down inside of the triangular lattice support structure, bouncing from side to side so that he never achieved the velocity that free fall would have produced. His whole body was bruised and bones were broken, but he survived. That had happened in the early 1930s, and it quickly became a schoolyard legend for Cactus and his schoolmates. Decades later Cactus still remembered the story, did some research, found the fellow still living in Austin, and had him on the show. As I recall, the fellow was rather reticent, and Cactus had to work to draw forth his memories of the event. But Cactus was at his best, because he was speaking to one of his childhood heroes.
Roy Orbison (1/27/2014) One of the good things about being a teenager who hadn't grown up there in Midland, Texas, in 1957 was Roy Orbison. Roy's 1956 hit of Ooby Dooby on the Sun label, made him the local rock and roll celebrity, although he was from out in the oil patch at Wink, and was considered more of an Odessa-sort-of-guy. Since he was not of the Midland oil-gentry, I felt a kindredship with him. He had TV shows on both KMID-TV (Midland) and KOSA-TV (Odessa) with his band, the Teen Kings: drummer, bassist, and saxophone, with Roy on guitar. Both stations produced bland featureless sets, with two camera setups, and TV standard shadowless lighting. Roy hadn't yet adopted his dark shades, and his coke bottle glasses with the studio lights cast wild defractions of light on his face. His throat, the source of his phenomenal range, was obviously strange, flat and wide. His band members were all skinny and frenetic. The drummer was a constant blur in the background. The sax player up front was a contortionist. But it was the bass player who balanced Roy for focus. He was all over that upright - whacking it, humping it, spinning it and dancing, his coattails flapping in the breeze. (That bass player later worked for my Dad as a butcher in his grocery store.) I particularly remember one night (although I watched all of his shows) over at a friend's house, as we tried to break into his folks' liquor stash. Another night I was out with a fellow with music business connections (had something to do with Who Wears Short Shorts?) and we were lining our empties up across the road. A Cadillac approached. It stopped in front of our dead soldier barricade, reversed, did a 3-point turnaround and left. Ray said that it was Roy. Maybe not, but we cherish our brushes with greatness, no?
Double Deuce (1/31/2014) The Hub City Movers were playing at the IL Club on E. 11th St. The small audience consisted of friends of the band and club regulars, I guess, who were all black since it was their part of town. I think that it was Jimmy Gilmore fronting, with Jerry Barnett on drums and Charley Sauer on bass...there was probably a lead guitar and maybe a sax player (Ed Vizard?) - about 50 years ago...things are a little foggy. I went into the bathroom to take a leak and was standing at a urinal, staring at the wall, when the guy next to me said "small world, eh?" I looked at him and said "what?" He said "Here you are standing next to number twenty-two and you don't even know it." I said "What do you mean?" "Number twenty-two, man! Double deuce! Bob Hayes!" he said. Being a lapsed Cowboys fan in those days, the realization of what he was talking about was slow in coming. But after thinking about it a little, I decided he was just some guy shining a white fool on...but maybe not, eh?
Titling Tales (2/01/2014) One of the things I did during my putting-meat-on-the-table life was film (and video) titles. In the 60s, 70s, less-in-the-80s and still-less-in-the-90s, productions required titles shot on film and transferred to video. The Chyron titler, a high-end device when it debuted, obviated the use of film, and titles could be produced directly to video...one of the early tollings of the bell for my profession... While a not-inconsiderable portion of my business, I really didn't like doing titles: it was exacting work and critics came out of the woodwork. The images were there, more-or-less static, for everyone's squint-eyed consideration. One job I re-shot 3 times because the client kept insisting they were crooked - they were exactly the same everytime, but on the 3rd pass he was satisfied.
I shot the titles for Tobe Hooper on Chainsaw Massacre but since he was blowing it up to 35mm and I shot the titles on a 16mm Bolex claw pulldown, I told him that he should get them reshot in pin-registered 35 - so he took my art and had them reshot. DuArt (I think) stripped their name in (crooked), in place of my credit, and shot the titles.
The title crawl for Bob Burns' feature (the title of which I don't recall) went along fine 'til about half-way through, when the words went a little wonky, distorting sideways and up, and then snapping back into place and all was well the rest of the way. Perplexed, I did a dry run of a re-shoot, and found that there was one place where a corner of the artwork negative was snagging on a little edge of hardware, folding up, then snapping free, back into place.
What got me started on this was watching some show and thinking about the current fashion in titles: KIM - Keep It Moving. No longer are titles static, but they are in constant motion, zooming or panning. Not much in the tilt category because that might cause overlapping which is confusing. And the worst thing for titles to be is confusing.
"NYPD Blue" v. "The Shield" (6/17/2014) What separates these two shows but the width of the continent? I didn't watch either of them on a regular basis when they were aired, but now I have been streaming them on Amazon. "NYPD Blue" has complex characters that develop as the season(s) progress. In fact, the crime stories that they are involved with become secondary to and supportive of the development of the principal characters. "The Shield" plays as an effort to make a sociopath with a badge a sympathetic character. I see that it lasted for several seasons, and that puzzles me. I'm not a fan of horror movies, and this show, I feel, fits into that category. So, I've finished with "The Shield" after 5+ episodes, but I'm into the 2nd season of "NYPD Blue." However, I must say that they are both just TV shows (but at least there are now no ads on them).
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Niggle niggle (2/12/2012) I've decided to move things around on my websites. The only reason (besides being retired and having time on my hands) is to make Tellitagan just children's stories. Since I converted all of the .SWF (Flash) stories to .WMV files for YouTube it seemed natural to go ahead with an early Spring Cleaning. The biggest challenge I thought would be to move this blog over to the jackotis.com subdomain. But my worries were exaggerated: Wordpress provides good handholding with plenty of documentation, and LunarPages (my webhost) makes the management of site organization straightforward. This stuff is easier than it used to be...thank goodness! So, welcome to my blog at its new home. Posts appear here irregularly...but I hope you'll check in occasionally.
Brought Up Short by Blade Runner (2/21/2012) Looking at the cable menu tonight for something to watch, I saw that "Blade Runner" was playing on AMC so I chose it. It was on a scene I didn't remember, where Rachel is bothered by some photos in Deckard's apartment, and she leaves. He VOs about how all replicants needed personal history support including "snapshots"...I thought "Wow! I don't remember this at all. So he knew all along that she was a replicant. Why was I in any doubt?" The next scene is of Pris looking for a place to huddle through the night, and she covers herself with newspapers in an entryway, where Sebastian stumbles over her. Wow again! I know I've never seen this before. A batch of commercials came on so I stopped watching then. I knew from different sources that there were different versions of the film, but I have only ever seen the 1982 theatrical release (which I unequivocally loved). I just learned from Wikipedia that there are seven(!) versions in circulation. From the little bit of the particular version that I saw I believe that I can say that there is a big difference between not the story, but the telling of it, from one version to the other. Kind of like the Gospels, eh?
Computer - woe or win? (2/13/2012) The ol' clunker desktop (WinXP) started repeatedly shutting down week before last when I was exporting one of my children's stories to a .WMV file for posting on YouTube. It politely told me what it was doing and executed a very orderly exit, which should have clued me to the problem, but I'm sorry to say that I didn't get it. I tried numerous things to no effect: I shut down unnecessary processes, reinstalled the video program (Premiere Elements 3)(did I hear someone snigger in the back of the hall? I stated up front that the desktop is a clunker, OK?) and uninstalled some recent software, thinking that some conflicts might have arisen. All to no avail. The program would terminate at some point during the rendering of the .WMV file. I downloaded and installed Premiere Elements 10 but it didn't help, same problem. So I looked around for other video programs, downloaded and installed VideoPad , which I found to be easy to use and produced the desired file without crashing the machine. Whereupon I paid for and registered the program (bit cheaper than Premiere Elements 10, also). All should have been well but a few days ago the machine started shutting down without being engaged in any heavy lifting - it was just "Sayonara, we're out of here." ?? Then it dawned on me that this was the machine that had had the continuous overheating problem in the past. I fired up a program that tracks CPU vital signs and found that it was running above 60°C, with 70°C being the shutdown preset. I wondered if all of the after-market cooling fans were operating. I opened the box and found them all running. I enlarged the opening for one of the fans and reversed its flow so that now it is an exhaust fan. Voilá! CPU temp is now below 50°C. I haven't loaded 'er up yet, but I do think that overheating was the problem. I will produce a .WMV (with Premiere Elements 10) and report back how the ol' clunker does.
More on Clunker Heat (2/14/2012) Premiere Elements 3 exported a good-looking .WMV this AM without shutting off the system. The heat monitor showed temps as high as 57°C. Room temp is about 78°F. And it really is a much better looking image. So maybe I should reconsider Premiere Elements 10 now that we've got cool runnings.
Another Clunker Report (2/15/2012) The system's idling temp seems to be 48°C, while a 100% processing load raises the CPU temp to 52°C-55°C. Ambient room temp is about 77°F. So the alteration I made did some good. I wish that it hadn't taken so long to diagnose the problem. Diagnosing problems can be difficult... yesterday morning I found water on the floor in the entryway. It was coming from the bathroom upstairs. I started tearing things up to expose the feed pipes, but (thankfully) before I got too far, I found that a shower faucet was partly open, and water was running into the drain, where the caulking was starting to fail. The faucet had been cracked for at least 24 hours, allowing water to build up and leak through the lower floor ceiling. That ceiling is dark painted bead board, so there is no apparent water damage, as there would be with sheetrock. If I had been more thoughtful in the process I wouldn't have torn anything up. At least I'm retired, and have the time to fix it.
Liveoak Spring (2/29/2012) Liveoaks (Plateau Oaks?) keep their leaves through the Winter. In early Spring, last year's leaves die and drop. There's none of this poetic feathery drifting down - they fall like little pieces of leather, clunking on roofs, falling to sidewalks to form brown drifts and swales. The new green growth shoots form soon after, and then comes the catkins, which mature and open, then dry out and fall, adding to the mess on the ground and in roof gutters. And this year's go-around has started already, here in Austin.
Lifedrawing (2/21/2012) Last year there was a weekly lifedrawing session over at the art warehouse on W. Monroe. I went to it about 10 times, but stopped for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I didn't feel like I was coming away with anything. A few days ago I was looking at the drawings I made at those sessions and found one that is really pretty nice. So the sessions were worth it.
Seychelles? (2/23/2012) For some time now I have noticed that my websites regularly receive traffic from the Republic of Seychelles, a group of 150 or so islands northeast of Madagascar off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It is the most developed country in Africa with about 86,000 citizens, speaking English, French, and Creole, and its primary industry now is tourism. It sounds like it is pretty close to "Paradise With High Humidity," having an annual average high temperature of 70-85 degrees F. It doesn't get cyclones. Who is it so far away that regularly visits me? Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.
Leslie Cochran (3/09/2012) I didn't know Leslie. I saw him around here and there through the years, but I had direct dealings with him only once. I came out of Harrell's Hardware on Oltorf one day and Leslie, dressed in housecoat and slippers, asked me for a cigarette. I told him that I didn't smoke, and he said "Good. Nasty habit." Then he said "You might have noticed my house slippers...anywhere I go in Austin, I feel at home." Rest in peace, Leslie.
Keeping Cool (3/01/2012) Around the northeastern side of the University of Texas campus, as well as out beyond Mt. Bonnell, up the Dry Creek Valley, much of the property 30,40 or 50 years ago was owned by a man named Fred Eby Jr. He built many houses and apartments, and was a major landlord for student rentals. One summer in the early '70s I thought that I had rented one of his houses on Mt. Bonnell Rd., just beyond Sara's Dry Creek Cafe, but Eby's property manager told me, when I went to get the key, that it had been rented to someone else. I stormed over to Eby's office, which was in an apartment complex just off of Duval on Elmwood. I knocked on the office door and went in. Someone called out to me to come on back to the bathroom. That brought me up short, but I went on back and peeked around the open bathroom door. Eby's factotum was seated on the lowered lid of the toilet taking notes, while Mr. Eby, in a bathing suit, was immersed in the bathtub. Ice cubes floated around him in the water. It was a very hot day.
Feeling betrayed by State Farm (4/15/2012) In an Atlantic article I learned that my insurance company, State Farm, is a supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). I had known about ALEC for some time now, and had come to consider them fascistic and un-American, originators of legislation resulting in voter suppression, immigrant harrassment, destruction of firearms regulation, and privatization of prisons among other hard right loopy ideas. To find that a company that I have done business with for more than 30 years passes on to ALEC some of what I pay them each month is outrageous. So now I am looking for another insurance company. Ambrose Bierce defined politics as "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage." That summarizes ALEC's purposes succinctly.
Robertson Davies (4/20/2012) One of my very favorite authors is Robertson Davies. He created wonderful characters with insightful language and humor. I thought that I had read all of his novels and recently set about rereading The Fifth Business, volume 1 of The Deptford Trilogy. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that I had never before read the book, and I am enjoying it a lot. Now I will rummage through all of the Davies novels to see if there might not be others I missed. Dunstan Ramsay, the narrator of The Fifth Business, has incidental girlfriends named Agnes Day, Gloria Mundy, and Libby Doe.
Sunday Funnies (7/01/2012) This morning as I read the Sunday Comics section of the American-Statesman, I remembered "Uncle" Roy's Sunday morning radio show on KTSM in El Paso in the 1940s and 50s. He read the comic strip captions while his listening audience followed along at home, looking at the pictures. I remember that he had a wide range of voice characterizations. Listening to Uncle Roy's show on Sunday was as much a part of my routine as going to church. As I began to write this...note? little memory bit? whatever...I used the web to run a search to see if there was something out there about Uncle Roy, and I found this in memoriam piece - which made my fond memories fonder. He really was as nice a guy as he sounded on the radio.
Influences (9/27/2012) Many ideas go through my head that I could/should write about, but then I move on to other things since writing is not one of my primary focuses. But today I was writing stuff to fulfill the requirements for Faces of Austin, a program to showcase short films by Austin filmmakers, one of which I most certainly am and have been for decades now, so that put me in kind of a writing mode. I have always identified my films as having been produced in Austin. I wonder if that has had any effect in helping Austin become the Mecca for creativity that it has become? Probably not - or certainly not very much.
In the early '70s I built a great big barn-like house around an old silo out in the country. Someone later told me that they picked up a hitchhiker two or three states away who was headed down to see this house that some hippy had built around a silo. I guess that was my place - I like to think it was, and that my effort had impressed others enough that they had told people about it and word had spread that it was something worth seeing. But I never met that traveler and I sold the place and it burned to the ground one winter's day…there were some design elements that I hadn't worked out well enough. We learn as we go along, eh?
Deciding What's Really Important (4/02/2011) As a 70(!)-year-old retiree, I have plenty of day-to-day time on my hands, but a limited, although unknown amount of time left. There are many things I want to get done, quite a number of things that need to be or should be or must be done, and many things that I simply enjoy doing. There, for the sake of discussion, are those five distinct categories of activity and there is a sixth category that seems to take precedence over the other five: it is the prioritizing of the activities in those five other categories. It seems to me that I spend a lot of time in that sixth category, thinking about how to spend my time. The "must-be-done" things jump to the head of the line - they include things like flat tires, plumbing leaks, malfunctioning appliances, injuries - and I've noticed that my spouse's imprimatur on an activity moves it into the "must-be-done" category. Of course, many 'must-be-dones' are simply quotidian chores: mow the lawn, get the truck's safety decal renewed, change the oil, get a haircut. They are to some extent time flexible - the lawn can wait until tomorrow, the hair can go 'til next week (it's gone so long already). I suppose the "needs to be done" are even more "time indefinite" - the garage and the workshop "need" to be cleaned up - the back porch "needs" to be painted. That leaves the things that I simply enjoy. And those are sort of tidal: they ebb and flow. I like to sit and draw while listening to a good recorded book. I like to mess with computer technology and solve a particular technical problem. I like to design, plan and build something. But those interests can, in their time, be all-consuming, pushing everything but the "must-to-be-dones" aside. But their attraction gradually wanes, and I am ready to move onto something else - which is a problem if the projects, whatever they are, remain unfinished. It's always easy to start a project.
A Thing About Commercials (1/11/2010) There are moments in TV commercials that are special - moments that I enjoy seeing every time they run. One example is the way the girl in the Taco Bell commercial, when told by the customer that he's more comfortable placing his order with 'Denise', purses her lips and delivers a clipped "Fine." Wonderful…I love it. Another example is the little girl defiantly announcing "…and I'm not missing Happy Pony!" I believe her and the remote control should be hers, end of discussion. Great casting, outstanding direction, and marvelous actors. And the nature of TV commercial rotation means that I get to see these great moments quite often.
Cinnamon Toothpicks, 5¢ (1/14/2010) A fad in my junior high school days was cinnamon toothpicks. Toothpicks could be marinated in a vial of cinnamon oil, purchased at a pharmacy. Each toothpick would bring a nickel or dime from fellow students - so I became a playground hot toothpick connection. Until one day, a loose lid on the little bottle resulted in cinnamon oil soaking into my pants pocket. The burn I got on my thigh was quite painful and ended my career as a toothpick salesman. All mild antics compared to the peddle-to-the-metal bleeps who try the cinnamon challenge.
What Vanity Will Get You (1/15/2010) "You have such wise eyes" the lady with Tary Owens said to me. A group of us was sitting around a table drinking beer, shooting the bull in the Armadillo Beer Garden. I was embarrassed and a couple of the guys at the table laughed. At home later, standing at the toilet peeing, I thought about what the woman had said. I leaned back to look at myself in the mirror over the sink, checking out my "wise eyes" - and peed all over my shoes.
Out My Window (1/17/2010) As I was watching an agile squirrel working in the topmost winter-bare branches of a large hackberry, feeding on the little berries, my attention was caught by a large flock of pigeons going over very fast. They were fleeing a caracara. I know that the caracara's range has extended northward over the past 30 or 40 years, but I don't remember having seen one in the middle of Austin before. Their wing markings are similar to the black vulture's but there's no mistaking the predaceous trim of the caracara. They are sometimes called the Mexican Eagle.
A Snow Story (2/11/2010) All of the weather travails of the Right Coast this week reminded me of an incident from my Army days in Germany so many years ago. One Saturday morning in Winter four of us went in Vic's VW to the Wuerzburg Kaserne PX, which was much bigger than the one at our little post. On the way back, we decided to drive on back roads to enjoy the snow-covered scenery. We got onto one little road with snow piled on either side that we were sharing with locals with shovels on their shoulders, walking back in the other direction. Shortly we came to the end of the line -- the road in front of us ended at a two foot bank of snow. We realized that the guys had been out there clearing the road by hand. Vic tried to turn the car around, but was stuck almost immediately. We climbed out and started trying to push. About eight of the local guys were watching our efforts, offering useless advice (since it was in German). Finally they put their shovels down, waved us aside, picked up the VW with Vic inside, turned it around and set it down pointing in the right direction. They gestured us back into the car. We thanked them profusely and everyone shook hands all around, and we drove off waving at all those friendly farmers.
The Price of Pot (2/13/2010) There was an interesting story on All Things Considered this evening about marijuana prices. While listening to it I thought of the produce department of the local HEB (known as the "scary HEB"), which quite often is redolent of pot. I look around in vain for the source, but have never gone so far as to ask any of the employees where I can buy what I smell.
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Malick (7/03/2008) My wife had breakfast with a friend who has been working on the new Terence Malick film down in Smithville, and it made me think of other films of his. A scene from The New World I remember gave me goosebumps. As the Europeans sail into the bay, we watch from among and behind the amazed and excited natives on the forested shore. The score is from Wagner's Prelude to Das Rheingold. Seldom does anything in a film touch me so elementally.
More about snakes (6/24/2008) This morning the family dog, Apollo, a product of generations of indiscriminate mating, was having a fit, barking at something on the ground in front of him. I walked across the yard to see what had him so excited. My approach made him braver, and he pounced on whatever it was, then quickly jumped back to bark some more. I got there and found that it was a shed snakeskin. The animal it had formerly covered was not large - probably less than 3 feet. It was sufficiently strange and must have had an odor - enough to move our security dog to condition red.
There was an article in Newsweek that says that blogging is therapeutic. So, always in favor of therapy, I will try to blog more regularly.
Evasive Action (7/02/2008) While repairing a hail-damaged roof, I saw a pigeon whiz by at breakneck speed through the canopy of tree branches. In hot pursuit was a hawk, which had to give up the chase because it couldn't maneuver through the foliage as nimbly as its quarry. The predator landed on a branch, rearranged some feathers, then flew back the way it had come, presumably to resume its prey patrol.
My friend Danny told me about reading that people who smoked tobacco were less likely to get Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. His electrician friend Donny said "Yeah - they all died."
A website for word usage that I found interesting is The Double-Tongued Dictionary. June 2008 was the warmest June on record for Austin, with an average temperature of over 89°F. Previously, June 1998 held the record.
Dell Tech Support (7/04/2008) UT replaced my wife's laptop, and she asked me to get it onto our home wireless network. Things didn't go smoothly, so I ended up calling Dell. I was connected with Diana, who was very pleasant, working on July 4th, while her husband was at home caring for the 16-month-old son, and the 8-week-old daughter. Perhaps one isn't supposed to engage in conversation on these support calls, but shutting down and re-starting computers leads to what would otherwise be long periods of dead air, right? She helped me try a bunch of different things, all to no avail, and then my phone started to die. She tried to give me her extension to call back on another phone, but I only got 3 numbers before she was gone. So I want to tell her that the failure to connect was my fault all along. I had messed up the access settings on the router. She was very helpful and I appreciated her assistance. I tried to leave a message for her to that effect on the Dell website, but there were so many hoops to jump through that I finally quit trying and settled for doing it this way. I know that she will very probably never see this, but Diana - thanks.
Austin's Fireworks (7/05/2008) The City of Austin's 4th of July fireworks display moved back to Auditorium Shores this year. We walked down and enjoyed it quite a bit. In years past, it was tight quarters down there, but with the Coliseum and some city office buildings, with their attendant parking lots, gone, replaced by Town Lake Park, there was plenty of room for the huge crowd. The weather has relented a bit from the Devil's Forge heat of June, so the temperature was in the rafters of the comfort zone. The fireworks were splendid - I've never seen better - and the Austin Symphony hammered away in fine martial accompaniment. My compliments to all involved. Were I to make any suggestion, it would be that a different arrangement of the sound system might make the music more audible.
A Trevanian Tale (7/08/2008) Before Trevanian, the writer, became thusly known, I knew him as Rod Whitaker and he taught film production at the University of Texas in Austin, where I was one of his graduate TAs. One day he, and I and another TA went to lunch at a barbeque joint housed in a tarpaper and plywood shack on the south end of the Weigl Brothers Iron Works down on Red River, known appropriately as The Shanty. Inside, we placed our orders. Rod had either already eaten, or had decided that he didn't care to eat whatever The Shanty was serving, so he ordered only coffee. The service person put utensils and stuff on the counter for us to take to our picnic bench table - one of the things was a coffee cup full of barbeque sauce. We were talking about a project, and we took our stuff, still talking, and Rod took the coffee cup. We continued to talk as we seated ourselves, and I was watching Rod as he started to put cream into his "coffee." When he looked down, teaspoon poised, into the greasy barbeque sauce, a look crossed his face which told me that his direst suspicions about The Shanty's fare had been confirmed. Rod was a cool customer, and he said nothing about the appearance of his coffee, rather just pushed the cup aside, returning to the conversation. After Richard and I got our orders, with a certain amount of devilish glee, I asked Rod to pass me the barbeque sauce.
eBooks & Stuff (7/09/2008) We brothers-in-law received for Xmas from our mother-in-law in common, Sony Readers. I didn't pay much attention to mine for several months, but recently I have started using it quite a bit. Now I find that what bugs me is the non-compatible proprietary formats for eBooks. Market share seems to me to be the issue driving the variety, but at least Microsoft Reader is free software running under Windows - the others require investment in additional hardware. But both the Sony Reader and MS Reader accept other file formats, like .txt, .rtf, .pdf, .doc and .html, more or less successfully, so a multitude of material is available on the web. We recently watched the Cranford Series on Masterpiece Theater, and I subsequently found Mrs. Gaskell's novels at Project Gutenberg in .txt format. Very enjoyable.
Grand Canyon Misadventure (7/11/2008) We went with some friends to the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum to see the 3D Grand Canyon film. All found it to be, aside from the novelty of 3D, a great disappointment. A major criticism was the superficiality of the film. Many topics were introduced, but none were explored in any depth: it seemed as if the object was to mention in passing as many things as possible within the time limit of the production (which happened to be that of an hour-long TV program with commercial breaks). As far as 3Dness is concerned, the effect was most exploited in the titles, which were computer graphics anyway. There were shots made in running extreme rapids with great standing waves that were very effective, but I felt that the 3D illusion was icing on the IMax cake. For films about the Grand Canyon, my favorite is The Same River Twice. Thus spake the curmudgeon.
Wine Whine (7/22/2008) An oenophile I am not, but neither am I a wino, although my spouse would be happy to argue with me about the latter claim. When I pointed out to her that laboratory experiments suggested that four 5-ounce glasses of red wine daily were found to be beneficial, she snorted. Of course 20 ounces of wine is quite a bit...with the bar that high, I have a way to go. My wine of choice for years has been St. Genevieve's Merlot. Tasty, cheap, and made in West Texas. Sometimes, in a snobbish mood, I buy the Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. I say "has been" because I found that the price of the whole St. Genevieve's line has inflated at my local wine vendor, HEB Supermarket. So I have moved for economy from the varietal to the blend, and St. Genevieve's has made it easier for me to do so...they now have two blended red offerings: Red and Sweet Red. Obviously, Sweet Red is for women and punch bowls. Red is for me. They previously had a blend called Texas Red, but it was obviously déclassé, I'm sure.
Too Many Kids (8/03/2008) This morning I was thinking about a fellow I knew in Missouri. His last name was Campeau, but he told me that wasn't really his name. The Campeaus had been a childless farm couple that lived down the road from a poor family with many children. When yet another baby was born into that large family, the doctor involved suggested that they give the new baby to their childless neighbors, which they did. So my friend grew up as a Campeau, with his natural siblings from down the road as his playmates. He said everyone knew the situation, but that it didn't make any difference. Along the same lines, I knew another guy who named his fourth child Justin - Justin Other Shephard.
Slipping the Clutch (8/06/2008) Luann is currently (8/06/08) learning to drive a manual shift car, which brings back memories. I set out to teach my older son to drive the little 8-year-old pick-up that I had gotten for him. We were on a private dirt road. I explained the pedals and their functions. To start forward, he needed to push in the clutch, shift to 1st gear, then let the clutch out while pushing on the gas pedal. He nodded his understanding. He pushed in the clutch and shifted to 1st. Then he tromped on the gas and popped the clutch. The front wheels were cranked to the right, so he spun a brody off the road, over some bushes, and into a cedar thicket. The whole time I was shouting "STOP, STOP" and he was yelling "HOW? HOW?" The cedar brush held its ground and the truck shuddered to a halt in a cloud of dust, deep in cedar branches. No damage to the truck, and around here cedar trees are regarded as vermin. We had an exciting experience and I realized the necessity of modifiers, like gently and slowly.
On-Line Humor (8/18/2008) An ongoing problem in many online communities is the difficulty of recognizing another person's humor. The use of sarcasm or irony is especially troublesome, often being wry and understated. As banal as they have become, the Usenet ASCII emoticons still have utility in earmarking statements made in jest or with other less-than-serious intent. Our neighborhood association often quickly flashes into attacks and recriminations until someone says "I was only kidding"... On the subject of the labeling of on-line correspondence, a couple of years ago sex spammers were very dutiful about following the government mandate of labelling their unsolicited e-mail "SEXUALLY EXPLICIT" in the title line. But that seems to have faded away...and I can't help but think that it has done so because there wasn't any enforcement of the mandate. Oh, well. ;>)
What About the Seychelles? (8/29/2008) Whenever I look at the domain traffic statistics for my sites, I always find the Seychelles listed among the countries of origin for site visits. I am very pleased to think that my work has found an audience on remote islands that I envision as "paradise" in a Gauguin sort of way - I'm sure that's really not at all the way things are there. I was under the misapprehension that Arthur C. Clarke made the Seychelles his home, but that was Sri Lanka. Of course, the truth may be that some international spam enterprise operates out of the island nation, basking in a favorable legal climate, and what I am seeing as traffic is actually some of those rejected comments to this blog, dealing exclusively with libidinous concerns. I prefer to think that sitting under a palm tree by a beach washed by Indian Ocean waves, I have a fan.
The Relief (9/04/2008) The temperature this morning is 69 degrees. Last night I opened the bedroom windows and turned off the air conditioner for the first time in weeks...such a relief not to hear its muffled roar. Today's high temp is forecast to be 95 degrees, so mid-morning the windows will be closed and the air conditioner turned back on. But we now have evidence that the heat siege that's Austin's Summer is easing.
Standoff On the Steps (9/07/2008) Joan Baez was on NPR this morning, promoting a new album, and (of course) an anecdote floated to the surface of my simmering mental Mulligan stew... Don Hill, a black friend from the Army, was a UT civil rights activist in 1964. A civil rights protest was planned for the steps of the State Capitol, with the media notified. Coincidentally, Joan Baez was performing in Austin on the same day, and she showed up at the protest to stand in solidarity with her fellow man and sing them a song to buoy their spirits. Which pissed Don Hill off no end - he felt that she was stealing their thunder, using their protest to sell tickets to her show. So when the story appeared on LBJ's KTBC-TV news (the only station in town then), there was a group of black folks with signs standing in front of the Capitol behind Joan Baez with her guitar, singing a song, while Don Hill, arms folded, stood off to one side with his back adamantly turned to the group.
'Ware the Crunchy Butt (9/10/2008) A couple of weeks ago my heinie was a little "crunchy" (as described by one of my boys at the age of 4 or 5), so I used the old Desitin standby. Then I wondered about other remedies, so I did a web search on "chapped ass" and followed a couple of the links, much to my regret. Maybe my firewall was turned off...but almost immediately there was a popup saying, in a suspiciously un-Microsoft manner, that Windows had an urgent security update to install.
I closed the popup, and we were off to the races. It popped back up, repeatedly. Next I tried Task Manager, but that couldn't stop it. I checked the Firewall, and it was off - had it been off? I don't know. Then I tried a virus scan, but the software locked up part way through, and suggested a restart, which I did, and got blue screen crashes. An attempt to boot in Protected Mode failed because the keyboard was locked up. I could hear those hackers somewhere laughing themselves silly - "You wanna know about chapped ass? WE'll show you chapped ass!" So I shut it down.
For some time I had been wanting to install more memory, having hit the limit more than once on big graphics, and I had also been concerned about hard drive space filling up. So, I went to Fry's, where I got 2Gb of memory, and a 150Gb HD. Back home, I pulled the old HDs and put in the new one, installed XP and my antivirus program (Avast). Then I put the old boot drive back in as a slave, and ran a virus check on it. 4 bad files were found, which I deleted. I moved all of my data files from the old disc onto the new disc, and reformatted the old disc. It will be used as a data disc in another computer. The old data drive tested clean, so it went back in service. All in all, it wasn't too bad.
I was the butt (!) of a malicious joke, but nothing was lost, my main computer is now upgraded, a lot of "yellow, waxy buildup" was discarded, and all of my applications are running happily with new installs. So I begrudgingly offer thanks to unknown assholes for getting me off of my crunchy butt to do what I had been planning anyway.
Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho (4/19/2007) An old friend complimenting me on Lover of the Lord (my new short film) said that it must have been a lot of work. I demurred, saying that any endeavor was work, and that anything fun was not work. Sometime later I was thinking about that and reminiscing about what used to be involved in producing a film. The most onerous step in the process was getting it all to film: so much could go wrong with so little opportunity to correct mistakes! Framing, focus, and exposure were broad categories at the top of the list of things that could be wrong, with subordinate items like smudged lens, dirty gate, scratched or flashed stock. Line testing of animation was constant, and exposure tests were done on each strip of film to be processed. There was the expense of the film and processing, which included the time it took to deliver the film to the lab and to return later to pick it up after processing. Additionally there were the stacks of paper drawings or transparent cels (from celluloid - which is no longer used) that had to be kept clean and in correct order. Shooting the art had to be completely error free, and the only way to correct an error was to re-do the whole shot. CSO - Cheerfully Start Over, as Bill Van Buren put it. Today I sit at my desk and work digitally. Everything is done on the computer and dirt and scratches are things of the past. Line tests are continual, and changes or corrections are simple. Focus? Exposure? No problem. Now the time I spend is much more productive since the impediments of analog (film) production have been greatly reduced, if not eliminated. It still takes a lot of time to produce a finished piece, and mistakes can still be made, but it is time that is less hectic and fraught with anxiety.
Big Kid's Super Soaker (5/3/2007) Last year I bought a Kaercher G2500LH pressure washer. It didn't get much use at first, but recently I've been riding it hard. And I mean to tell you, it's more fun than playing in the sprinkler on a hot afternoon! It isn't something I would do in sandals and shorts, but getting soaking wet fully clothed adds a tinge of naughtiness. As for results - I was amazed to see what color the garage is under all the mildew and grime that came off.
Snake Tales (5/21/2007) There have been recent postings on our neighborhood listserve concerning the identification of a snake someone found in their yard - it turned out to be a rat snake. That didn't surprise me much - in the thirty-one years I've lived in this house, besides rat snakes, I have only seen green snakes and blind snakes, and the rat snakes were the most numerous. Several times, hearing blue jays doing a gang scream, I found the object of their screeching alarm to be a rat snake in a tree. One of those times the snake was coiled at least 15' up a smooth-barked branchless ailanthus tree. That showed some real climbing skill! One day I noticed a northbound car stopped on S. 5th between Gibson and James. The young lady driver was standing by the open driver's door, peering at what looked to me like a broomstick in the road in front of the car. I asked her if there was a problem...she said there was a snake in the street. It was a good sized rat snake. I put it in a pillowcase and one of my sons took it to his zoology teacher.
So it's been ten months... (3/03/2006) ...since my last post to this blog. I've been busy. And I did try to post something during that time, only to find that Blogger wouldn't let me in, and couldn't find my account. So I dithered and dallied, and finally changed over to WordPress, which looks like a much more hands-on deal. More shit to learn. I swan! These computers won't hardly let a fellow catch his breath. So now it's PHP. I only just got comfortable with HTML after a decade of messing around with it - and this hoss dudn' have many decades lef'.
View from the Top (3/08/2006) From the west windows of the de Zavala State Archives building, we have been able to gaze at the pair of Red-tails that have been perching for several days now on the star in Lady Liberty's up-raised hand atop the dome of the Capitol...the pinnacle of Texas State Government. The pigeons that usually hang out around here have made themselves scarce. I dreamed last night of the view that the hawks must have from up there.
The driveway horror (6/02/2006) Our long-time tenant (I said ten years, our oldest son said 15 years, the tenant said 18!) has moved out. His vinyl and jukebox collection had grown so large that he needed much more space, so he bought a place in a small town northeast of Austin. I had only been around the now-empty property on maintenance errands through the years, so I walked around the place yesterday, seeing what needed to be done. In the back I noticed a lot of poison ivy. The perfect xeriscape plant for Central Texas, poison ivy thrives and expands its domain relentlessly. Without an aggressive control effort, it will dominate an area. So I focused in on the shiny, pointed green trinity pattern of the poison ivy leaves, trying to determine the extent of its spread. Working along the south fence beside the driveway, I saw it everywhere. Then I realized that the leaves just overhead were also poison ivy. Looking around the hackberry tree there, I found a poison ivy climbing stem about the size of my wrist. Similar runners were on neighboring trees. It gives me the shivers, thinking about all of the urushiol stored there, just waiting to make all those excrutiatingly itchy tight clear blisters - ugh! Double ugh!! So job #1 in renovating the rent house will be poison ivy eradication - which I know is a hopeless task, but I do have to make up for 18 years of inattention.
This just in (6/04/2006) Actually, it was in on Friday, but the story is that CO2 (carbon dioxide), the main greenhouse gas, which we are producing in over-abundance, makes poison ivy thrive. So report researchers at Duke University. No wonder I feel like the stuff in the driveway might start fighting back.
Bubble blowing (6/07/2006) Some kids at school had BUBBLE GUM! It was just after the end of WWII (today that would be W2I2?). Rationing had ended, but many things were still scarce. One boy told me that his father had gotten the gum at a neighborhood cafe. That afternoon I told my father, and he took me to the cafe. The counterman there said that they had gotten one box in and had sold it all the same day. He didn't know when they would get more. Not long after that we moved from Long Beach back to Texas, where my father went to work as a store manager in downtown El Paso for Roy Furr's Furr Foods. He must have remembered my disappointment in that gumless cafe, because when he came home from the first day on his new job, he brought me a whole bag of Fleer's Double Bubble. There came to be many different brands of bubble gum, but the others were not as good as Double Bubble. In the 50s Fleer's stumbled, and went from the extruded cyclinder form, wrapped in twisted paper like seashore taffy (the funnies had to be smoothed out to be readable), to a stubby rectangle in machine-regular wrapping. Never the same again. What started this line of thought? The new corner grocery store down the street, P&K Grocery, left a hanger/flyer, with a piece of Bazooka. It ain't Fleer's, but stand to your gum, boys, and blow 'em a good 'un.
A little confession (6/10/2006) Using GMail as webmail is very handy, and I have been quite happy with it. The linkage of paid advertising to email subjects or keywords which apparently totes the freight for the free service, sometimes produces humorous or interesting connections. When I go to see if any good messages accidently got sent to the spam folder, the ad-link that always shows up at the top of the page is for a recipe site, with appetizing spam concoctions (like "Spicy Spam Kabobs - Serve with hot cooked rice"). My confession is that I like Spam...not a steady diet of it, to be sure. But the introduction of vacuum-packed Spam singles allows me to indulge my taste for it without having to open a whole can. Just right for a Otis Spam Special sandwich: spam, mayonnaise, sliced tomatoes and hot sauce between slices of toasted bread (glass of milk and potato chips optional).
Status Report (8/02/2006) The big projects of the remodeling of the rent house are done. The interior has been painted, the plumbing fixed, the dishwasher installed, new flooring laid, and exterior water damage repaired. What remains is the countertop backsplash, caulking and touch-up of trim, and outside trim painting. And that damned poison-ivy. I applied a Round-Up concentrate which knocked back all of the leaves on which it was sprayed - but the leaves farther up the vine were unaffected, although the trunk of the vine had been drenched. So it is to be a hands-on project. Mano a mano, me and the vines. The Round-Up instruction sheet cautions that the urushiol is still active even in the dead leaves, so I will have to avoid them as assiduously as I do the shiny green ones.
Were I a Hero (10/28/2006) Tommy, an acquaintance of 30 years, spoke at the memorial service for his cousin, and I remembered that long ago he had made me, in someone's eyes, a hero. I later told my wife the story, and she said, write it down. So I am and here it is... The Austin Jug Band (in which I played the jug many years back) was taking a break during our regular Tuesday night gig at Spellman's Saloon on W. 5th. The couple who had hosted a party that some of the band had attended the previous weekend came up to me and the woman said "You're a real hero. I want to thank you." I asked what for. She said "For stopping the fight between Tommy and Jimmy." I asked for more details, because I didn't remember stopping any fight. Tommy, she explained, was threatening to rip Jimmy's face with the sharp end of a "church key." It was a tense stand-off in the kitchen. I walked into the midst of it with an unopened longneck, and asked "Anyone seen the bottle-opener?" Then I saw what I needed in Tommy's upraised (menacing) hand, and said "Oh - there it is. Can I use that, Tommy?" I took it from him and the situation was defused...and some there were who thought me heroic. But we know the truth, you and I. It was just the tipsy jug player wanting to open another beer.
Be Strong (1/03/2005) At the intersection of Missouri and Oregon Streets was the El Paso YMCA. On the building's cornerstone was engraved the stern exhortation "Quit ye like men. Be strong." It made me think of the Charles Atlas ads on the back pages of funny books: the skinny fellow getting sand kicked in his face was definitely a "like man" and he really needed to quit being one. He needed to be strong. I also was a "like man," skinny and timid, and never more so than at that same YMCA for the Summer Program. My mother said that it would be good for me and I would enjoy it. Well, it wasn't, and I didn't--skinny dipping in a reekingly chlorinated pool with 50 strange and rowdy boys wasn't fun. The power dodge ball free-for-all in the gym was even worse--old deflated balls and scraps of balls were used, thrown with maximum effort at bare legs. But I survived, still a "like man." It was some years later that I came to understand the meaning of the King James phrase "quit ye like men" (I Cor. 16:13). Today we might say "acquit yourselves as men" or "act like men." But I still think of myself as a "like man" - yet, while not strong, I get the job done.
One Day at the Old Tamale House (1/05/2005) On the northwest corner of 1st and Congress, in a little building that once housed a filling station, was the original Tamale House, long-gone purveyor of arguably the best TexMex food in town. It was all take-out, although there were a couple of shadeless picnic benches on the south side of the place. One typically hot July afternoon I pulled up to the Tamale House to get some tacos for a late lunch. I had already been to a UTotem for a cold 6-pack to go with the tacos. As I leaned on the wall in a strip of shade waiting for my order, I watched a black guy sweeping the pavement in the sun's full blaze. After a bit, I asked him if he would like a cold beer. He said sure, so I got two from the truck, and we both squatted at the base of the wall in the shade. After a couple of pulls on his bottle of beer, he pointed to the registration info painted on the side of my truck: it had been registered in Missouri, where the owner's name and address, along with the registered weight of the vehicle, had to be displayed on the vehicle's left side. He asked, "Is that your name?" I said that it was. He said "I'll be damned! I never met a white man named Moore before." We could have been cousins of some degree, I suppose.
Name It, Claim It (1/17/2005) As I came around the corner of the house, I saw on the ground a sparrow-sized bird as colorful as a child's crayon drawing. It had a blue head, red breast and green back, with dark gray trim. It quickly flew away. I didn't need to look it up: the picture of the painted bunting in our bird book had often caught my attention, so I knew its name. That was the only encounter I ever had with the species and I told my camping buddy about it almost forty years later as we sat under a big elm beside the river.
We were chatting about the birds we had seen that Spring weekend at Colorado Bend State Park, and birds we had seen other times and places. Just as I finished telling about once seeing a painted bunting, a colorful little bird flitted by and landed in the grass a few yards away...of course, it was a painted bunting, and it was shortly joined by its less gaudy mate. We saw them off and on for the rest of our stay. While taking a walk, we also saw another pair not very far away (probably just over the painted bunting territorial boundary, onto the next homestead, as it were).
Good Advice (1/22/2005)
The second week I was in the Army, the training platoon was sent for dental examinations. I was one of the first guys finished. The PFC driver of the two-and-a-half ton truck that brought us was leaning against the front of the truck, smoking a cigarette. I walked up, stood beside him and lit a cigarette of my own. "Since you've been in the Army for a while," I said, "do you have any advice for a new recruit?" He squinted at me, took a drag on his cigarette, then flicked it away. "When they ask you if you can type," he said, "say 'yes'." Damned good advice.
About Hawks (2/22/2005) All last summer I heard hawks in the sky above the creek valley behind our house. Quite often I saw them in the sky, sometimes three together, and I believe that they were Red-tails. This past weekend Molly saw a hawk land in a tree down by the creek, and she saw that there was a nest. From our back porch, it was difficult to tell exactly which tree the nest was in, so we went down and tramped around the creek and railroad tracks until we finally spotted it. Since then we continue to hear hawk cries, and glimpse them in the sky. Molly saw one flying to the nest tree with a stick in its beak (probably doing some renovation).
On the subject of hawks, a hawk migration is a wonderful thing to see. They migrate by spiraling upwards on a thermal, then sailing down from high in that thermal to catch the next one and ride it up. So the sky is filled with hundreds of hawks soaring upwards in big circles and gliding down and all drifting north (or south as appropriate). The first time I saw it years ago was on an early spring afternoon when I returned home from campus. I stood on a bluff in front of the house and gaped at the marvel. One of my house-mates came home while I was standing there, and he came to stand beside me. "Isn't this awesome?" I asked him. "Yeah! Wow," he said. "I gotta go get my gun!"
The trouble I have... (4/09/2005)
...with blogging is that there are so many other things that need doing that I put blogging off until lo! two months have gone by since I last posted. But there are three or four items that I have written for this blog during that time, and I will get them posted soon. In the meantime (in between time) I finished A NEW STORY tada. It has been in the works for many months, and the coloring book version is not yet up, but the on-line Flash version is up and seems to be working (comments and/or concerns invited). It is my plan to notify folks that it is there. So I started to compile a mailing list for that purpose, got side-tracked by old e-mail and therein something became apparent--in the days when I charged for my stories in various fashion, I got feedback. There was some give and take in the transactions with customers. But since I "set my chickens free," I don't hear much: occasionally an e-mail comes in, but not often. About 70-80 visitors come to my site each day, and about two-thirds of them watch a Flash story or download a coloring book, but few say thanks. But wait a minute! How often do I leave a note or comment on a website, or send an e-mail thanking my (if you will) host? Not very often. I guess that I take it for granted and expect that they, like me, will have to be satisfied with just the stark numbers that indicate that there is enough traffic on their site to make the effort worthwhile. Well, I hereby resolve to be more polite in my web-browsing and tell some folks 'thank you.' On the other hand, I already get an awful lot of spam...
Taro Leaf Trooper (5/11/2005) I was in the Army just before Vietnam. The career soldiers ("lifers") then were WWII and Korean vets and they told stories of those wars. One story that I found myself thinking about just now was that of a fellow who joined the Army right after high school graduation in 1950. North Korea invaded the South in June, 1950, just as this guy was starting basic training. His training was speeded up, cut short, and before he had been in the Army 4 weeks he was on a boat bound for a place he had never heard of to do something he wasn't trained for...sounds kind of familiar, eh? When the boat docked in Korea, my friend moved in single file down the gangway with all of the other replacements, carrying their Personnel Folders (201 file?) in one hand, their duffle bags in the other. At the bottom of the ramp a Sgt. marked on each guy's helmet in chalk either "24" or "25" - 24s to the left, 25s to the right. The lines on either hand led to the back of a 2.5 ton truck. There, they handed over their records, threw their duffles in a pile, were handed a rifle and a sling of ammo, and climbed on the truck. As soon as that truck was filled, it moved out and another pulled foward. Six weeks after enlisting, one hour and 15 minutes after landing, this 17-year-old untrained, really scared guy was hunkered in a shallow hole in the muddy dark, part of the US 24th Infantry Division (a "Taro Leaf Trooper") waiting to stem the North Korean advance. I'm glad he lived through it: he was a nice guy. I don't remember his name, just his face and this story.