Thursday, June 30, 2011

Friday Hometown Photo Shoot -- Simplicity

I surprised Bagman and Butler this week by dismissing them.  

BAGMAN: "What!!  You can't fire us!!"

I try to explain as simply as possible.   "I'm not firing you.  Just giving you a few days off.  Go on to Myrtle Beach.  We'll be taking a week vacation there next week -- all of us, including my daughter who is coming down from Massachusetts.  Why don't you and Butler get an early start?"

BUTLER:  "Why?   Don't you want us for the photoshoot?"

"Simplicity," I say.  "Let's face it.  When you guys are talking in my head, it is not ever simple."

Bagman and Butler left, carrying only a few simple possessions, leaving me alone to contemplate this week's post.  

Since my life is not simple, I've been completely overhauling our irrigation system and building a partial wall on the second floor this week -- hence, the camera has been untouched -- so the simplity shoot has to be archival. 

And going through old pictures, I quickly discover two things:

  1. I don't really know what simplicity is. 
  2. Whatever it is, I'm not it.
My vision tends to be a hungry vacuum cleaner trying to suck every color and shape into one huge ball of...of...well, colors and shapes.  I further confuse myself by wondering if simplicity and minimalism are the same or just distant cousins.   In A.A. we have a saying: "K.I.S.S. -- Keep it Simple Stupid."  Actually I don't think A.A. has a copyright on that saying.  

Then I realize that I'm babbling in a totally non-simple fashion even without Bagman and Butler.  I force myself to empty my mind.  

When that fails, I just pull some pictures out of the archive and hope for the best. 

This was simply a completely over-exposed botched shot
which I neglected to delete for some reason.

I took this 26 or so years ago on the day I met my wife
although aside from timing, the subject has no significance.

Simple shape?  Too much color?

Okay -- I am looking forward to learning about simplicity from the rest of the Friday Shooters.  And soon we will pack up for a week in Myrtle Beach so I may be out of touch somewhat...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Monday Poetry Jam - Music

Homage to Billy Joel -- Draft Work in Progress

I am grateful to Brian Miller (I think), because I have had a music-oriented poem (song) idea going through my head for a long time and the deadline of this blog made me at least begin it.  (Whether I finish it again, is yet another thing).

Billy Joel:  "We didn't start the fire.  It was always burning since the world's been turning.  We didn't start the fire.  No, we didn't light it but we tried to fight it..."

Billy Joel was such a history buff and he put together some of the best humorous and biting rhymes for the stanzas of this song -- a history book of names and themes from 1950-1989.   But unless he is working on a sequel somewhere, somebody needs to address 1990-2011.   

It's been a busy week but, then again, it is always a busy week and probably always will be a busy week - but I've been stealing some time here and there to research names and themes.  A great place to start for me has been:

And my submission below is just a series of notes and rhyme segments to be edited and pulled together.  Please read these in Billy Joel's voice and notes from the song.

  • Cheers and Johnny Carson ends, Elizabeth Taylor weds again
  • Clarence Taylor, Anita Hill, Kevorkian charged with mercy kill
  • Paul Simon, Donald Trump, Exxon Valdez oil dump
  • Universe explored by Hubble, fortunes lost in housing bubble
  • Gorbechev and Rodney King, Pete Rose charged with gambling
  • Boris Yeltsin, I.M. Pei, Janet Jackson's dress gives way
  • 9-11 terror attack, U.S. moves into Iraq
  • Noriega, Rick Flair, Howard Stern is on the air
  • Navy Seals, Bin Ladin dies, cherry coke and curly fries
  • Saddam Hussein in spider hole, Wayne Grestky scores a goal
We didn't start the fire, etc. etc.


This isn't much of a poem yet.  Just an idea and, for me, sort of an ongoing game.  And I'm looknig for  anyone who wants to play along!   Just post (or email to me at all the additional stanzas you can think of and I'll collect them.   Sometime I'll try to pick out the best, put them in chronological (maybe) order...and we'll have a song!

Of course, sequels never match the genius of the original.   But what the heck.   Anyhow, this is all I could come up with for this Monday.   Thank you, Brian.   (I think).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Friday Hometown Shootout - HATS

Like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, I enter the B&B studio breathlessly singing, "I'm late! I'm late!" Then, like a short-order cook with ADD, I start slinging pictures -- some recent, some from archive and this one taken just for today --

BAGMAN: "Firemen! I love Firemen! If you got together with an Indian, a Cowboy, and a Construction Worker, you could sing "YMCA!"

BUTLER: "That was a cop, not a fireman. And don't get enthusiastic and encourage him, Baggie! There's a story behind this and it's not as interesting as Mark thinks it is."

I whine, crestfallenly, "It's not?"

BUTLER: "Just save it for the end so people have a choice of reading it."

Okay. How about these from the archive?

BUTLER: "To be accurate, Mark, these are masks not hats.

Details, about this?

BUTLER: Well, more of a costume, but I'll buy it.

Or this?

BAGMAN: "One of my favorites!! But I never realized she was wearing a hat!"

BUTLER: "Because your one-track mind never focused above her neckline!"

From a long-ago trip to Colombia.

From a recent trip to the Charleston Market
where the Sweetgrass Basket Makers
even weave their own hats.



BAGMAN: "Nice car!"

BUTLER: "Your ego just has to show off, doesn't it?"

Not quite so crestfallenly, I complain, "Can I tell the story about the fireman's hat yet?"

BUTLER: "If you must."

Okay -- several years ago there was a tragic fire in Charleston than killed several seven brave firemen.
The community was in shock, particularly the fire departments. The city brought in a group of peer counselors from the Fallen Firefighter Foundation and joined with the local Mental Health Agency and the Alcohol and Drug Agency (where I used to work) and formed the Firefighter Support Team.

We provided free counseling for men who suffered PTSD or whose drinking increased because of the tragedy. At the end of the first year, everyone on the team were given fire helmets.

BUTLER: "A rather expensive use of taxpayer dollars for a souvenir, if you ask me."

BAGMAN: "But it's a real, genuine fire helmet!!!"

And I've wanted one of these all my life. I confess to a hidden desire to be a fire fighter. In fact, in Boston, shortly after graduating from college, I applied to become a Boston Fire Fighter. To be accepted you had to pass a written exam and then a physical exam. I passed the written exam but I was so excited (not to mention being an active, raging alcoholic at the time) that I partied all night in celebration and never showed up at the physical exam because I was so hungover!

BUTLER: "Are you finished with that story now? Is your ego and your obsession with your glory days finished?"

"Yes," I say softly and, again, crestfallenly.

BUTLER: "You are trying to make me get the dictionary, aren't you? To find out if crestfallenly is actually a word. I'm not falling for it. Besides, I think you shouldn't make light of those serious first responders by showing a civilian in a helmet."

Hey! First responders have a great sense of humor when it comes to hats!

"Your under arrest for excessive balloon animal construction!"

BAGMAN: "And excessive doughnut consumption!"

And with that, I close, tipping my hat to all the wonderful photos I expect to see tomorrow (Friday), although I may not be able to comment until Sunday because we're taking a weekend trip to Vidalia and I'll be on the road until then. '

Have a great weekend. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Poetry Jam - Chilling with Rush

Because of an unexpected little surgical procedure (little to everyone but me), I missed the photo shootout and thought I was going to miss the Poetry Jam but this morning I got to thinking about chilling, relaxing, laying out -- the theme for Monday and poem came slopping out.  Surprisingly, it was another political one.  

I have to protest that I have never written much political poetry.  I don't even like political poetry.  So I'm not sure what is happening.  

I should also make a little statement about my politics because the last political poem I wrote someone commented that they weren't sure what to say because they didn't really know my political persuasion. Although this seems like a mean-hearted attack on Rush Limbaugh and, hence, liberal, left wing Democratic...I'm really neither Republican or Democrat.  More than anything, I'm kind of anti-politics in general.  I just really dislike the self-righteous diatribes that come from both sides.   My own sense of truth is that it is too complex and contains too many shades of gray for anyone to claim to know it.  I enjoy exploring many sides of any issue and just get angrily depressed when simplistic preachiness and truthiness pours at me from podiums and pulpits. 

So I guess I'm taking it out on Rush Limbaugh even though I find him interesting sometimes.  He just irritates me with his attitude of  -- The truth is simple.  I know it and, unless you agree with me, you don't.  

Chilling with Rush

Hot summer day so I'm taking my leave
Sitting on the porch with my eyes closed tight
radio talk show make me feel all right
telling me things I already believe.

Lounging in the chair, seeking relaxation,
remembering words of wisdom from dad:
"You can't really rest unless you're really mad."
So I think about terrorists and too much taxation.

Let's all do the Limbaugh chill, Limbaugh chill
drinking from the trough of the Limbaugh chill,
He's always been right and he always will,
Doing the limbo with the Limbaugh chill.

(How low can you go?)

I may be fat, it's the American way
but I'm happy as a clam with my shell shut tight
secure in the knowledge that might makes right,
and the talk show hosts are going to show us the way.

Freedom of speech and the right to bear arms
and if someone says different, we'll sue them for libel,
take them to court and quote from the Bible,
we can't let those who preach love do harm.

Let's all do the Limbaugh chill, Limbaugh chill
drinking from the trough of the Limbaugh chill,
He's always been right and he always will,
Doing the limbo with the Limbaugh chill.

(How low can you go?)

How can people with doubts fall asleep without panic?
I never doubt myself so can fall asleep at noon,
knowing how the government planned that fake trip to the moon.
But I refuse to take siestas 'cause the word is in Hispanic.
I'm mad enough now for my afternoon nap.
It's getting really hot but I don't give a damn
'cause I know global warming is left wing sham
a conspiracy set to give business a bad rap.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Too dull to blog

Having taken another Loritab but tired of lying in bed, I am sitting and staring at the screen.  The pain in my gut from the operation is not very sharp...sort of a distant ache.   But my mind also seems to be not very shart and a kind of distant...something.   Phooey.  I think that if it weren't for the pain medication, I would have been able to come  up with something cute there...not sharp...distant ache...dull thoughts...

BAGMAN: "You gonna write something or what?!"

BUTLER: "Go back and lie down, Mark."

I think that I am going to probably miss another Friday shoot out.  I think...I'm thinking something, I think.  Just not sure what.

BUTLER: "At least make a brief statement about what's going on."

My tongue always gets tied with the word 'umbilical."   I want to say 'ulumbilical'.  Like the poor souls in A.A. meetings who have trouble with 'anonimity' and want to say 'amononimity."   Hey that kind of has a nice beat to it -- Ul-um-bil-ical Am-anon-imity....

BUTLER: "Go back to bed, Mark.  Yesterday you had a brief small outpatient procedure to fix an umbilical hernia and you're probably still a little loopy."

"Brief small procedure!"  I scream, starting to stand up and then thinking better of it.   "They cut a hole in my belly and shoved my small intestine back where it belonged and installed a screen door!"

BUTLER:  "It's called a mesh."

I am getting sleepy. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Night Sounds and the Queen of the Birthday Police!

It started around three a.m.    And sleep is already a challenge in our household.  

With four adults, two toddlers, two dogs, and two cats...night noise was rampant even before we decided that we needed a comprehensive electronic baby monitoring system so that all sounds anywhere could be amplified and transmitted directly to a small speaker next to our bed.   

Therefore, before three a.m. we were just semi-sleeping in between the normal sounds:

1.       The soothing radio in the children's room that has somehow become tuned to a wavelength halfway between an evangelist and a rap station.

2.       The dogs periodically keeping the house safe from anything that appears to move in the yard.  They are tiny dogs so their yelps are not at all threatening unless they are amplified by the baby monitor.  I think they have learned this and always go to a transmitter before barking.

3.       Brian's snoring which does not need amplification.

4.       My snoring which also does not need amplification.

5.       The rich songs of our male Himalayan cat who has a nightly venue of shows in which he does impersonations of great Italian tenors.

6.       Periodic wake-up noises from the two children who startle, then whine for a while -- I think they are trying to get someone to come and change the channel on the radio.  The radio confuses them by instructing them, alternately, to either shake their booty or quit their sinful ways.

7.       Multiple unidentifiable creaks, bangs, moans which may be ghosts, burglars, or warning signs of an impending Earthquake.

But this morning, at three a.m., another sound entered what we laughingly call sleep.  A Chinese gong.

"What was that?" said my wife.

"My Blackberry," I said.  "It does that when I get an email."

"At three a.m.?"

"It's only three a.m here.  This is only one of 24 time zones."


So I find my glasses in the dark and check my Blackberry.  God bless technology.  My email is notifying me that Facebook has notified it that someone has wished me "Happy Birthday."  

Facebook!   Facebook is taken on the traditional role of the matriarchal family's grandmother.  Facebook makes sure that we are all socially networked.  Facebook makes sure that we always know what everyone else is doing.  People we love, relatives, friends, people we used to know and can't escape from, people we don't know at all. 
My insurance company wishes me 'happy birthday,' for Pete's sake.  But then again, they have good reason.  As long as I keep having birthdays, they don't have to give money to my wife. 
It is now four a.m. and I decide I'd better start the day early because I am going to have to write a lot of little emails thanking people for their good wishes.   I will also have 34 more friend requests from people who are friends with people who are friends with someone I once confirmed as a friend...
On  my way to the computer, I stopped by the children's room.  I  leave my Blackberry next to the baby monitor transmitter so everyone in the house will be able to hear the birthday greetings gonging in my direction.
The cat is already sitting at the transmitter taking a break between sets.  "Do you take requests?" I ask.  "Can you do 'Fiddler on the roof?'"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poetry Jam -

I don't usually write political poetry -- then again for the last couple of years I haven't written poetry at all.  But Nan's bicycles in the snow was so absurd it reminded me of politics, so here's what spun out.  Combining snow metaphors and bicycle metaphors together was pretty absurd -- it was probably the absurdity that reminded me of politics. 

Vote a Straight Snow Peddler Party Ticket!

The next race is on and we don't intend
to let  you ruin the world this time
with your new trick Huffys.

We're coming after you with a winter campaign
of strong legs, deep pockets, and Schwinns.
Our talking points are taped to the fronts of our baskets.
Our feet move in fast circles, we change gears on a dime,
and we peddle the truth from door to door.

Let the pelotons clash.  Go ahead and throw
your meaningless sound-byte snowballs.
The world wants change and we carry the blizzard of truth.
Truth that drifts around every poll.
Slippery truth that has no traction.
Slushy truth that bogs down every moving thing,
Schwinns and Huffys alike.

It matters not if we are snowed as well,
for we will succeed in freezing the wheels
for another four years...

and we will call this rolling frame
encased in ice: "Change."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Poetry Jam - Swimming

I'm disappointed not to have had (or invested) the time to write something this is one from the archives, circa 2004. 


Surprising how many sharks troll in your love,
though not unexpected; deep and strong as it is,
I did not plan for only angel fish
when I dove so decidedly in,
bringing extra tanks in case you would not let me breathe,
a knife in case I tangled in your nets,
and lights for darkness in your depths,
(I've done this before, you know, and drowned).

My friend and diving partner quit these seas
when his second marriage sank
with the speed of guilty feet encased in cement,
and tries to convince me to sky dive instead,
the birds always young and fresh like gravity-free chocolate,
tan and firm with a constant upward wind in the face,
but after the short adrenalin minutes
all that remains is to fold the chute.

At least the appetites of sharks are honest
and their bites direct.
So I keep on kicking downward through my years
to swim in your ferocious schools,
to care for your coral,
and maybe,

when oxygen starts running low,
to sing with your whales.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Photo shootout - Night

I never realized that retirement was so much busier than working!

In any case, I never got out at night all week.  Rather than blowing it off entirely, I reached back for a shot I took some time ago. 

Charleston's market bustles during the day and is a prime spot for tourists -- as well as residents!

But  a couple of years ago, when I was working a fulltime job and therefore, weirdly enough, had more time to go shooting, I took the picture below at night after everyone had gone home.

And, yes, I did Photoshop the color saturation just a little. 

Gotta run -- this retirement life is running me ragged!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why are these people staring?

These folks have come to witness the finesse with which Noah delicately samples his First Birthday cake.

It must be sweeter toward the center of the cake.

Bon appetite, Happy Birthday, and BATH TIME!