Thursday, December 30, 2010

I have just 45 minutes to write and post a blog!!!!

I think, instead, I'll just read other people's blogs for a change.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Beauty of Plastic Window Covering

"What you take picture of?!," demanded a short but feisty shopkeeper as she advanced on me from behind a wall of colorful scarves...

Karen and I had gone down to the Charleston Market the day after Christmas.

BAGMAN:  "Why would anyone go shopping the day after Christmas?"
BUTLER:  "Because everything is on sale."

BAGMAN:  "Being on sale don't mean you need it!"

I'll let Bagman and Butler argue the value of post-Christmas shopping by themselves.  For me it's a good outing for both of us because Karen likes the crafts and sales and I like the variety of things to photograph.  

In the summertime, it looks like this...

Shopping during my daughter's visit two years ago.
(IMPORTANT:  Note open air windows on either side)

The day after Christmas, it looked like this:

Not so many people when it is freezing cold!
(IMPORTANT: Although you can hardly see them,
the windows are all covered with thick clear plastic)

"You taking picture of me?!!" demands the shopkeeper as she backs me into a corner while I try desparately to pull up the desplay screen on the Nikon to show her that I wasn't paying attention to her at all.  And wondering why she didn't want her picture taken in the first place.   

Karen had long since stopped watching me after I had zoned out into my usual photographic weirdness.  But I had noticed the distortions the plastic made of the world outside -- it was like a reality version of Photoshop.   

"Why you take picture of me?!" continued the shopkeeper while other shopkeepers began to pay attention.  Finally, I got the picture on the camera's small screen and held them out toward her like a shield.  

"No take pictures of you!"  I yelled back, unconsciously adopting her accent which was either Spanish or Cambodian.  

"See,"  I said.  "Beautiful, no?  Impressionistic?"

She stared at me as if I had lost my mind.  But she seemed to be molified that I had not taken a picture of her.  Finally she smiled and asked, "You want buy scarf for lovely wife?"

I briefly considered taking a close up picture of her wide smile but decided to skip it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Cherry Jam Victory Dance: A play in one Act

Better than winning the lottery, a month ago my name was selected at random by Nan U at "Have Genes Will Travel" to be the lucky recipient of a jar of her homemade jam! Whooeee! Bagman, Butler and I did the moonwalk victory dance for hours.

BUTLER: "Please be factual, Mark. You and Bagman danced. I was reading the latest edition of Emily Post's Etiquette until I was forced to leave the room because of the noise."

And last week a package from France arrived!!!

I decided to put it under the tree where we could all open it and taste it on Christmas morning.

The paper ripping frenzy begins!  At two years old...

Conner discovers Christmas for the first time.

Noah just sits on his mother's lap and enjoys everyone laughing.

And finally we get to the box...

Karen: "Where did this box from France come from?"

Mark:  "France?"
Karen:  "Well, duh! I mean who sent it?"

Mark: "It's the jam I told you about that I won in Nan U's random drawing!"

Karen: "How did it get here?

Mark: "The mailman?"

Karen: "You gave out your home address over the Internet?!"

Mark: "I also gave out our home address to, and I don't know them as well as I know Nan."

BAGMAN (stage-whispering in my ear): "Shhh, Mark! You've done it now!"

Karen: "So how well do you know this woman? Who did you say she is again?"

BAGMAN: "Better start tap-dancing, Mark."

Mark: "I'm not going to start tap dancing. I've got no reason to tap dance."

Karen: "Tap dance? You don't even waltz. So who is she again?"

Mark: "She's a wonderful photographer and a genetic scientist. She shoots pictures of a pink rabbit, drops rocks on toys, dips stuffed animals in frozen nitrogen, and is one of the bloggers that I follow."

Karen: "Pink rabbits? Sounds weird.  What does she look like?"

Mark: "I don't know what she looks like. I just like her blog."

BUTLER: "May I remind you, Mark, that you have seen a picture of her on her blog. Just tell the truth and it will set you free."

BAGMAN: "Nan's hot!"

Mark: "I'm not saying that!"

Karen: "Not saying what? And who are you talking to?"

Mark: "I'm telling Bagman to shut up."

Karen: "Oh yes, your little imaginary friends."

BAGMAN: "I'm insulted!!!!"

BUTLER: "Calm down, Bagman. We are imaginary, after all. In a Jungian kind of way."

BAGMAN: "Speak for yourself, Butthead! I'm as Freudian as they come."

Conner: "I got more horses!!"

Mark: "I don't really know what to say, Honey. Nan's got a picture on her blog spot but it is small."

Karen waits quietly to see if I am going to hang myself or answer the question correctly. I smile. Fortunately, I've been happily married long enough to be quite good at the traditional husband-wife Jeopardy game. I even know how to answer the dreaded question: "Does this dress make me look fat?"

Mark: "Honey, if she was Marilyn Monroe, she couldn't hold a candle to you.  I'm just happy that we have this Christmas together as a family."

Brian: "Wasn't Marilyn Monroe famous back in the silent movies?"

Mark: "I'm not that old! Can we taste the jelly now?"

BUTLER: "It's jam, not jelly."

Karen, smiling at being chosen over Marilyn Monroe, hands me the box and I give the camera to Brian so he can take a photo of me smiling that I can post on Blogspot.

I struggle to open it until Karen goes to get a knife to "percer" it for "ouvire" which I figure means piercing it to open it.  We can also use the knife to dip out the jelly - jam -

Before Karen can hurry back from the kitche, I use my fingers! Mmmmm..

Karen tastes it.  Brian shoots but the flash doesn't flash.  Karen likes it!

I look up with a photographer's sudden obsessive worry, wondering why the flash didn't flash -- and Brian proves it does. 

Brian:  "You'll love this one, Dad, because you weren't posing!"  
We pass the jelly to Melody..

BUTLER:  "Jam, Jam, Jam!!  Not Jelly!"

I look on, nervously, while Melody tastes it.  She likes it too!  .

We all liked it! After the rest of the presents were opened, we put it on bread that Melody had made. It was a great Christmas and we were all appreciative that Nan's culinary expertise was part of it.

Later, when I was back in the studio with Bagman and Butler, preparing this blog, Bagman said, "I still think she's hot."

BUTLER: "You think everyone's hot, you Freudian deviant!"

BAGMAN: "And you just think everyone's so creative and interesting, you Jungian monk."

Merry Christmas, boys, I said, smiling contentedly, licking last drops of delicious jam from my fingers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Friday Hometown Shootout - How we celebrate Christmas

This week’s Friday Shoot-Out (New Year’s Eve) theme is a perfect topic for the Bagman and Butler clan! Because this year we are finally doing it right! We are taking all of our typical rituals and enhancing them with total and all encompassing CHAOS!!   And grandchildren.  And more chaos.
BUTLER: “Remember the shootout is not just about your family, Mark…it is about your town, you community.”

BAGMAN: “Boring!”

Okay, a quick note on community – which since I work in the government sector, can be handled in one word – “Political Correctness.”

BUTLER: “That’s two words.”

Let’s move on. I really don’t want to get on my soapbox about how stupid it is to avoid offending anybody by saying “Christmas” or “Chanukah” or “Kwanzaa” or “Eid al-Adha” or “Los Posados” -- and insist with true political paranoid correctness in saying “Happy Holidays.” Blah!

BAGMAN: “I thought you were going to move on…”

Sorry. Got sidetracked. And so, on to Christmas with Bagman, Butler, Karen, Brian, Melody, Conner, Noah, Daisy, Annabelle, Bill, and Snowball…

First of all, we usually put up the tree during the Thanksgiving Holiday. Many years ago, we decided to stop killing innocent trees and bought an artificial tree.

BAGMAN: “Liar! You just got lazy and didn’t want to go tree hunting, and get sap on your hands and have to vacuum up pine needles!”

Not that it is much easier to assemble the artificial tree! This is always my job. I straighten the artificial limb that have become twisted in the box, set them up on the pole and then hang the lights. This year, as some of you know, I avoided the completion of this job by falling off the stepladder and breaking my arm.

This is the point where initial decorating stopped for a while

But Melody risked the heights and  finished the lights.

This years tree with the bone breaking couch in the foreground

We have been doing so many new things with the kids that we never got around to adding all the deocrations and baubles from last year,

Last year's tree

We also usually decorate the entire house with tons of decorations that we have accumulated over years. Gifts, heirlooms, memories, little towns that light up, outdoor lights that twinkle from all our bushes.   We bring them from the crowded shed to the porch and unpack them from there. 

From the year I got my black belt
That year I just would have broken the couch in two!

Karen and I always hang these together in the front of the tree

Brian tries to convince us NOT to hang this one

And this year, his wish came true.  Because we have been doing busy things and baking cookies and playing with kids and we got the decoration boxes to the porch...

But not any further.

This is how we will celebrate Christmas this year

But we will have a ball.  There are tons of presents for Noah and Conner.  Some from yard sales since Karen has an eagle eye of cheap treasures and has been collecting and hiding toys all year.  Of course, it is less than 24 hours before Christmas and we haven't wrapped anything yet!

And the other problem will be figuring out where to put the new toys since --

...the old toys have already taken over the house.

I guess that what I always heard is true...Grandparents exist to spoil grandchildren!
The other thing we have traditionally done on Christmas Eve is gone to a Midnight Service…and fortunately the church we attend (a bit infrequently) is progressively customer-friendly enough to have an early Midnight Service around 6:00 p.m. so we can be awake for it. Then we drive around looking at Christmas lights. Usually we go to the James Island Park’s Festival of Lights – which is an incredible light display that I have never photographed because I always seem to be driving the car through the two mile light maze. And since the Friday Shootout is today and today is Christmas Eve, if we actually do go this year and if I can convince someone else to drive so I can shoot it, it will have to be an additional post later.

I’m not counting on it.   From our progress so far, we'll still be wrapping presents.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Depression - now there's a title that is sure to drive away readers.

I seem to have temporarily misplaced my sense of humor.  I even looked for it in Conner's big truck that has a compartment where he likes to hide things -- like his little brother's pacifier. 

BAGMAN:  "That second sense about Conner's truck was kind of cute...maybe you are getting your sense of humor back?"

But I don't have any follow-up.  

BUTLER:  "Don't fret, Mark, old chap.  You have plenty of experience with these little depressions.  You always snap out of them in a few days."

I know, I know.  

BAGMAN:  "And don't forget.  It's almost Christmas."

BUTLER:  "That's right.  Mark doesn't do very well with Christmas for some reason.  And although his arm is getting better, the constant ache is probably wearing on him emotionally.

Blah blah blah.   Are you guys finished talking about me yet?  Can I go lie down now?  

BUTLER:  "Lying down is counter-productive when you are feeling blah, you know."

I know.  I know. 

BUTLER:  "And you also know that when you are feeling sorry for yourself the best thing you can do is to..."

...Is to do something for somebody else!  Yes, I know that too.  I didn't start this blog the morning so I could listen to you two charactors trying to do therapy on me!  You can't tell me anything I don't already know since I made you up in the first place."
BAGMAN:  "That's just mean!  I'm hurt."
See, I'm even snapping at my own alter-egos.    But I'll get back soon.   After a nap, counter-prodductive or not, I'll go back to searching for my sense of humor. 

BAGMAN:  "You might try using a metal-detector."

Very funny.  Good try.  But I haven't quite finished milking the pity-pot yet. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Great Achievements in Humerus Healing

I am dreading the challenges of physical therapy, although my bone doctor seems to think I only need to go once to learn exercises and that I am the kind of person who will do the exercises without some therapist with a whip.   But I have made great progress, according to Dr. Gilmore.  On the other hand he introduces himself as "Bubba" which made me look over my shoulder to check the license hanging on the wall.

But I have my own set of achievements by which I am measuring progress -- not a long list, but a meaningful one:

  1. A week ago -- dressing myself for work although I confess my shirt was not neatly tucked in on the left side and I wore some old worn loafers because I still haven't attempted tying laces.
  2. Three days ago -- sleeping the entire night in bed without having to get up at 2 a.m. and settle on the recliner. 
  3. Two days ago -- Buttoning my shirt with two hands.  This meant I finally got to work on time since buttoning my shirt with one hand took forever, including breaks for hand cramps. 
  4. Finally -- the big one!!!  This morning I managed to get my left hand close enough to my right armpit to apply deoderant!!!   I think everyone has been very happy with that one!
Whoo hoo!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Disconnected Series of Events

  1. Series is probably not the right word because it connotes some form of order.
  2. It is 3:30 a.m. or at least it was a little while ago.
  3. Brian starts a new job tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. - or rather this morning at 8:00 a.m.
  4. Unless I save this post for another day since my haiku just posted automatically a little while ago.
  5. Melody is sleeping on the couch.
  6. I can't find the sling for my broken arm.  I think it is in the livingroom where Melody is sleeping on the couch.
  7. Brian is sort of sleeping on the blue recliner in the livingroom because he is a dutiful husband.
  8. I just heard the jingle of a collar and discovered Daisy had managed to shut herself up in Barclay's room. 
  9. Barclay is lord-knows-where, probably in the ER at MUSC.  Doctors don't sleep anyway and we haven't seen him for three days.
  10. Karen told me that Grandson Conner is sleeping on the couch with Melody. 
  11. I accept Karen's information without checking so I won't wake anyone. 
  12. Melody and Conner are both sick.
  13. It is freezing cold outside.  I know this because I had to give Daisy an emergency walk although she had already done a little doggy doo doo in Barclay's room.
  14. I know it is freezing because I walked Daisy barefoot in frosty grass because I couldn't find my shoes.
  15. It wasn't a very good haiku anyway.
  16. Karen is going to take a sick day from work tomorrow although she is not actually sick.   Otherwise, Brian would probably stay home to take care of Conner and Melody and calling in sick on your first day of work is usually frowned upon.
  17. A man is coming tomorrow to take down the Direct TV satellite dish and put up a Dish Network satellite dish so we can save $27 a month.
  18. I have an appointment in the morning with the orthapedic doctor to check on the progress of my arm.
  19. I don't have a clue where Noah is sleeping except that it is not in (A) the room where Karen is sleeping, (B) the computer room where I am typing, (C) Barclay's room where the dog pooped, or (D) outside in the frosty grass.
  20. My shoes are probably where my sling is.  I have other shoes but they all have laces which are hard to tie with  broken arm.
  21. I have a retirement meeting at the County office building tomorrow because the County needs budget cuts and is instituting incentives to get people to retire early.  I haven't completely decided but think I will retire in March.  Maybe.
  22. Brian snores very loudly.
  23. My broken arm is getting better.  Or maybe I'm better at knowing how not to move it the wrong way.
  24. It will start getting light outside in about two and a half hours.
  25. In the middle of the night I finished framing a picture of Brian, Conner, and Noah all in the same Coca Cola suit lying on the same bedspread.

  26. Brian (22 years ago)
    Conner (1 1/2 years ago)
    Noah (last month)
  27. Coca Cola reminds me that Pepsi Cola stock is very profitable this week because they are expanding into new overseas markets.
  28. I had planned to retire and take photographs and trade stocks but I will probably be helping raise grandchildren instead.
  29. The house is a jumbled pile of toys, dirty clothes, excess furniture, dirty dishes, pizza boxes, half eaten Subway sandwiches, cold medicine bottles, a lost sling, a pair of shoes, and dog poop.
  30. Bagman loves chaos.
  31. Butler hates chaos.
  32. The Christmas tree now has lights but still no ornaments. 
  33. I thought of another haiku but have since forgotten it.
  34. I'm beginning to get very sleepy.
  35. The house which was full of sneezing, coughing, crying, and snoring for most of the night is now totally silent. 
  36. I have a craving for peanut butter but if I sneak downstairs the dogs will wake up and bark.
  37. Stock futures in Europe point toward a down day on Wall Street which opens in five and a half hours.
  38. I haven't taken a single photograph since I broke my arm. 
  39. Somebody is walking around downstairs.  I'm pretty sure it isn't me.
  40. Writing disconnected events is like counting sheep.  I think I will post this and put my head down on the keyboard and take a nap.
  41. I wonder if I snore loudly too.  Probably.


Etched over winter moon
crackling branches of the old elm.
bones break and bones heal.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BAGMAN and BUTLER DEBATE #1: “Sneezing”

Due to the fact that I am still unable to type very well, I have decided to turn over today’s blog to Bagman and Butler. Since they seldom agree on anything, I have called them in today for a formal debate. Roberts Rules of Order will be enforced. The topic of the debate will be “Sneezing.” A random coin flip has determined that Butler will go first.

BUTLER: “I don’t want to go first. Besides, what kind of a topic is “sneezing.” Not only is it non-controversial, but it is simply a natural physical function of the human body designed to clear the airway of unwanted particles. What more is there to say? I’m not sure that this is a worthwhile project concocted by you because you can’t type.”

BAGMAN: Robert Schmobert! I don’t recognize no stinking rules of order!! Can’t type! You are a weenie! And besides, “sneezing” is a dumb topic for a debate. I agree with my worthless opponent. It just happens…you can’t do anything about it except let’er rip! AAAAAAaachooooo!”

BUTLER: Well, I must assert that I do not completely agree that there is nothing you can do about it. It is quite possible to stifle even the most insistent sneeze if you really have to. The process is….”

BAGMAN: “What idiot would ever want to stifle a sneeze!!! “

Excuse me, Bagman, but you interrupted Butler. Robert’s Rules of Order. Butler had the floor.

BAGMAN: “Robert can stick his Rules of Order up his nose.”

BUTLER: “May I continue? Thank you. To stifle a sneeze all you have to do is wait until the urge to sneeze becomes extremely strong and just before you can’t hold it back, exhale as thoroughly as you can through your mouth so there is no air in your lungs at all and hold your breath.”

BAGMAN: “How can you hold your breath if you have just let it all go?”

BUTLER: “Okay, then just try not to inhale.”

BAGMAN: “You’ll turn white and faint!”

BUTLER: “I didn’t say it was comfortable. But I guarantee the urge to sneeze will pass before you actually faint. As soon as it passes, resume breathing until the next urge comes, then repeat the process. The urge to sneeze will go away after three or four repetitions.”

BAGMAN: “I’d rather sneeze – loud and long! Sneezing is incredibly pleasurable! In fact…”

BUTLER: “Pleasurable!!! What!! It’s awful, not to mention messy!”

BAGMAN: “You just interrupted me! Robert’s Rules of Order!”

BUTLER: “How dare you challenge me on Rules of Order that you just wanted to insert in Robert’s nasal passages?!”

BAGMAN: “As I was saying…(pause)…the irritation prior to the actual sneeze is a bit bothersome, but the actual moment of sneezing is an unbelievably pleasurable release! It’s like a nasal orgasm! And like real orgasms, it’s just a shame it doesn’t last longer.”

BUTLER: “You take the metaphor too far, Sir.”

BAGMAN: “No I don’t. Look at the face of someone at the moment of sneezing! Mouth open, eyes rolled back…it’s a veritable O-Face.”

BUTLER: “What’s an O-Face?”

BAGMAN: “Imbecile! Watch the movie “When Harry Met Sally.”

BUTLER: “Besides, when you are sneezing, people shouldn’t see your face because you are supposed to cover your mouth with your hand.”

BAGMAN: Hah! I got you now!! Back when the H1N1 Flu epidemic was around the Department of Health instructed people to keep their hands clean and to sneeze into the crook of their arm!”

BUTLER: “That was for coughing, Sir! They never included sneezing because when sneezing there are times when…how do I say this nicely…

BAGMAN: “Snot would come out and get on your clothes?”

BUTLER: “You, sir, are an uncouth speaker who vilifies the English language! You are also a loud sneezer who should not be allowed to sneeze in proper company. That is why you should practice my exhale proc speaker who vilifies the English language! You are also a loud sneezer who should not be allowed to sneeze in proper company. That is why you should practice my exhale procedure. “

BAGMAN: “And you are a sickeningly dainty sneezer !

I’m sorry to interrupt but we are coming to the end of our first Bagman and Butler debate. Each candidate will have 30 seconds to sum up their positions.

BAGMAN: “aaa… AAA …. AAAA … CHOOOO!!!!! “

BUTLER: “aa … AA … AAA … tsss.”

BAGMAN: “I just hope you don’t make love like you sneeze.”

I’m sorry but our time is up.

BUTLER: “I told you this was a stupid topic for a debate. Nothing to disagree about. We should debate the President’s Financial Stimulus package.”

BAGMAN: “Or the legalization of public nudity.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Shootout - RED

Once again, Friday has rolled around and I realize I have not blogged all week and probably will not have much of a Friday shootout, although I’ll throw a couple of red photographs in, just to stay in the loop. Last week I was able to blog even with a broken arm because I took some sick time – didn’t want to go to work half stoned on pain meds! But this week, I’m still moving slow but have been at work and…

BAGMAN: Are you totally incapable of writing a blog without apologizing?!!!

Okay – Red photographs – mostly from archives since I haven’t had a chance to take new ones.

BAGMAN: “See what I mean? You REALLY are a big wuss!”

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Several of the folks I follow periodially post haiku which prods the poet within me that has been on retreat for a few years...but I had to add one, at least:

Spiny gum tree balls

wait under elm leaves at night.

Why am I barefoot?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Thankful

I am thankful for:

Nana, Conner and Noah

Son, Brian and daughter-in-law Melody

Laundry baskets

The fact that we are all now living together
even if things are a little cramped

My daughter, Jean

Barclay's dedication to making the world a better place

The fact that Bagman has made me crazy my entire life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And now from the purely medical point of view

Butler and I have decided that there has been too much humor over my humerus and we feel that at least one blog needs to be medically accurate for the scientists who might read this. Therefore, we have acquired the actual X-Rays and Analysis from the Emergency Room.

Below is the unedited version my broken arm written in actual Medicalese:

"There is a comminuted fracture involving the proximal humerus with an
avulsed fragment originating from the greater tuberosity with the
transverse portion of the fracture extending through the humeral neck.
There is slight impaction at the fracture involving the humeral neck.
The orientation of the humeral head and glenoid appears to be anatomic
on the images submitted. Mild and distal humerus are intact."

For those of you who have never learned Medicalese, this basically means that, despite the fact I was no longer at work but had commuted home and was in the proximity of humor when I tranversed the living room and struck the couch just below my very funny neck. The impact did involve my funny neck (unstated but implied here is that my throat, located in my funny neck, was forced to make loud cries of pain). I'm not sure why they chose to comment on my funny head and glenitals - maybe they enjoy adding sexual comments. At least they think my head and glenitals are anatomic. Or maybe it means that they are not radioactive. Finally, they note that my sense of humor is intact but only at a distance and is rather mild. Strange that they never mention the actual broken bone.

However, they did provide a photograph which Butler and I are able to decipher.

First, please note the yellow arrows. It appears that when I imbedded myself in the couch, several bedbugs took up residence in my body. After pointing this out to the doctor who had missed it entirely, he referred me to a pestcontrolologist for further treatment.

Secondly, the yellow circle at the bottom of the X-Ray indicates why I am having trouble fastening my pants.

The odd parallel lines and triangle circled in red confused both Butler and myself but after extensive Internet Research we discovered that this was an increasingly common physical adaptation to regular use of seatbelts.

However, it is strange that Butler and I have not mentioned the actual broken bone either. Looking more closely, however, you can see the actual image of the couch imprinted on the bone - red arrow pointing to broken bone. Karen calls it a sofa but I prefer couch because it includes the word "ouch."

Medical doctors, of course, use the Latin term, "Brokenus Bonus" so they can bill insurance companies for it.

Any questions?