Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bagman and Butler make their New Years resolutions

It was an hour before midnight.

As is our custom we were asleep.  Well, most of us. 

Karen and Noah were asleep downstairs.  Conner had fallen asleep after I had carried him around in a blanket over his pajamas around the yard to see the fireworks in the sky.  
But I was still awake and wandered down to the B&B Studio to wish Bagman and Butler a Happy New Year.

BAGMAN and BUTLER (in joyous unison):  "Mark!!  You're here!!  We were just making our resolutions and now you can make yours too!!"

I give a wan smile (or is it a wane smile) -- a kind of sad smile in any case -- and say, "Sorry guys.  I've never been able to keep New Year's resolutions so many years ago, I resolved not to make any.  So far, that is the one resolution I've been able to keep. It's kind of related to the A.A. philosophy of 'A day at a time'."

BAGMAN: "Horse manure!"  (Yes, I edited that a bit).

BUTLER:  "Balderdash!"

BAGMAN and MARK (in unison): "Balderdash?"

"Sorry, guys.  I'm not making any resolutions.  I never do and am not starting now.  But don't let me stop you.  Go ahead and I'll write them down.  I'm really kind of interested in what you both want for yourselves in 2012."

BUTLER: "After you, my Baggie friend."

BAGMAN:  "I want to have more fun!  I want to run, wear less clothes, and flirt with women!"

BUTLER: "And by women, I assume you mean one woman, the one that Mark is married to?"

BAGMAN: (I couldn't tell but his fingers might have been crossed behind his back): "Well, uh, yes, of course.  I got tired of being chained in the basement years ago."  (long pause)  "But you have to admit that the concept of flirting has many gray areas."

BUTLER: "If you start quoting Bill Clinton, I'm going to throw up."

BAGMAN:  "Okay, okay.  Can I continue resoluting?"

BUTLER: "Resoluting is not a word."

BAGMAN:  "Who cares!  In 2012 I want to write more, blog more, photograph more, get back to playing the banjo and the guitar and show off how clever I am so people will applaud me and love me!" 

After that, he seemed to have stopped so I clapped quietly for him and he smiled.  Wanly.  We both then looked at Butler.

BUTLER:  "My resolution is simple but not always easy.  I resolve to serve better.

BAGMAN:  "You mean like using the good china?"

BUTLER: "That could be part of it, but it is really more than that.  Helping others.  Being nicer to family.  That kind of thing."

BAGMAN: "I can see that.  You are a kind of service oriented fellow.  Butler, and all that.  And it would be a sneaky way of getting people to applaud us and love us more."

BUTLER: "That just shows the difference between you and me, Baggie, my egocentric friend.  I don't even count it if anyone knows about it."

BAGMAN:  "Horse...well...Balderdash!"

By now it is getting close to midnight and I am seldom awake at midnight so I stand up to bid Bagman and Butler adieu.  "Good luck to both of you and your resolutions for 2012.  I'm turning in."

BAGMAN and BUTLER (in unison): "You're really not going to make any resolutions?!"

I grin back at them, not the least bit wanly.  "Nope.  No resolutions for me.  I'll just sit back and see how you guys do on yours.  And don't sleep too late.  We're having black-eyed peas and greens tomorrow."

All three of us look at each other for a moment and then, in unison(of course) say, "yuck."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Only 363 Days until Christmas!

I feel like a stranger to Blogspot -- for Christmas, I really would have loved to unwrap one day devoted to catching up on the blogs of all the bloggers I've grown to love.   I miss you all.  Why does time move so quickly these days? 

Anyhow,  I also must skip the details of Christmas here -- the futile search for corn meal on Christmas morning --  (If I leave a check to cover damages, cost of police response time, as well as the cost of the flour would it still be a crime to break into the supermarket?).

...but the dressing was just fine without it.

And what is the difference between dressing and stuffing anyway  or is it a class distinction?

Anyhow -

The grandboys had fun.  And why aren't there real words for expressing gender differences among grandchildren?

And the grandbaby turned into a grandgirl overnight.

And we survived the mandatory family group shot.

Ony 363 days to next Christmas.  And I plan to sleep through New Year's Eve which has become my favorite tradition.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Shootout - Light

Woah!  Way too much to choose from here!   I've just spent too much time trying to figure out what to post, what I've already posted, what needs to be worked on before posting...light light light...

There.  A light.  I'm done. 

Aw, what the heck...I'll be running late whether I stop now or post a couple more.  One of these days life will slow down a little.  Either that or I'll go back to work which seems in retrospect to be so much easier and lazier than retirement.


Moon light - I think I've posted this before

Playing with light
Uncle Thomas and the Light Saber

Light.  I may have mentioned this before, but then again, after three years of blogging, I have probably told every possible story left in my memory cells.  But after shooting with a Brownie, my grandfather gave me my first adjustable camera for Christmas...

...and sometime after that, I remember a conversation with him that completely confused me for a long time.   I was telling him what I liked to shoot and he said, "You know that you only shoot one thing -- light.  Light is the only thing you ever shoot."    He was an artist and often said things about color, light, composition that only made sense to me years later. 

Hi-key hallway where I used to work

Self-portrait on couch beside lamp reflected in TV

Corn from 1970 when I took better pictures

Deck of the Queen Mary in California

One of the things I've been thinking about -- probably worth a blog in the future -- is that I have discovered a prejudice against certain kinds of light.   I'm not sure how I got this way but I'ved grown to  believe that the low angle light of dawn and dusk is better than other light.   It is superior light.  All other light -- misty light, cloudy light, direct overhead flat light -- all that other light should be forced to sit at the back of the bus.  

I suppose that like most prejudices, my prejudice against those inferior types of light is probably based on the fact that I haven't taken the time to get to know them.  

Something to work on...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Resisting the Cloud

I gave my wife an iPad for an early Christmas present.

BAGMAN: "And we love it!"

"But she always gets priority on using it," I protest. 

BUTLER: "Mathematics don't lie.  The iPad already has 51,694 apps on it -- three of which are hers."

"But she really likes Solitaire, Hearts, and Spades," I continue protesting. 

Anyhow, the motivations behind gift-giving are not the subject of this post! 

Cyberspace is embracing "The Cloud" as the future of data storage.  We might not even need harddrives anymore!  Backup your computer to the CLOUD!!  

But what if it rains, I wonder.  Do I lose stuff?

I've already succumbed to the blind trustworthyness of Blogspot and Flicker which have already swallowed almost my entire photo collection to some place where my stuff will live forever -- available to anyone despite feeble copyright notices -- unless I get a Ph.D. in deleting things from the web. 

The "cloud" does seem more benign than the "web".

Where does all the junk the human race posts every day actually go?   Sometimes I picture the Internet as an infinite landfill.

When I was a child, I accepted the stereotypical childlike vision of God and Heaven as a white bearded giant and angels living in the clouds.   What must they be thinking of all the stuff the human race uploads every moment?  

Apple sent me an email yesterday with a reminder that I have not yet taken advantage of my free Cloud which came with the iPad.   But I'm still backing up to an external harddrive.

I wonder how long it will be before the Cloud police show up at my door.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friday Hometown Photo Shootout - Layers

Layers is an interesting and a bit confusing theme, I am thinking as I enter the B&B Studio on Thursday.
But Bagman, of course, has his own naughty take on everything.

BAGMAN:  "Does this mean we can get laid?"

BUTLER: "No!  Layers are things that lay something, like eggs.

BUTLER: "Take this goose, for instance.  It was recently a layer and the result is endearing even if they do make a mess of the backyard."

"No, no, no,"  I protest, stepping in to take control of a shoot that could rapidly become chaos.  "We are talking about "layers" as in things that are over-laid upon each other, one on top of the other."

BAGMAN:  "Yes!  On top of each other!! But how can anyone get over-laid?"

BUTLER (throwing a ream of paper ((in layers of course)) and hitting Bagman): "Another word out of you and I'm quitting!"

"You guys make me crazy," I say starting to load what I think the theme called for, although much of it has to be from the archive since this week I've had a layer of rash placed on my hands.

Layers of advertising on an old sign

Layers of broken wood on a plank

Layers of rock on a cliff face

Layers of water and rock

Layers of stonework unearthed at Middleton Place

Layers of plastic tarp

BUTLER:  "Are you really going to fill this blog with old archive pictures and lame captions?  After all, your wife is one of my heros.  We both like things stored in nice neat layers. "

BUTLER: "Dishes, for instance."

Karen's dresser drawer

BUTLER:  "And clothing.   She is so neat."

BAGMAN: "Yeah!  But Mark isn't."

Mark's dresser drawer

"Wait a minute!" I protest.  "After all our years of marriage..."

BAGMAN: "You don't know exactly how many years, do you?"

"Not off hand,"  I admit.  "But I could look up our anniversary date on the computer and figure it out.  But don't change the subject.  After somewhere between 22 and 26 years of marriage, I've become just as good at neat laundry folding and placing my shirts in layers too."

BUTLER (smiling condescendingly): "They just don't stay that way very long, now, do they?"

I admit, shamefully, that he is right and move to post the shootout.  I wonder why something as simple as a collection of pictures on a theme always seems to end up with me defending myself. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You can thank me for not posting a picture

With three little kids, two in daycare, moving around from parents to grandparents -- we have become the Chucky Cheese playground for the growing leisure class of viruses -- or is that virii. 

So I should not have been surprised after watching a rashy Noah last week that some oil rich virus family decided to board the S.S. Mark Cruise Ship where, starting yesterday morning, they have been partying like a rock star.

BAGMAN:  "What's he talking about?"
BUTLER: "He's just trying to be cute."

BAGMAN: "He sure don't look cute to me."

In my defense, I will say that there are only a few little spots of -- I hate to say the word -- infection on my face.  Less than the acne I dealt with as an adolescent.  But the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet look like star maps!   All four extremities are covered with areas of reddness, little red spots, big red spots, even bigger red spots with white circles in the middle, and places where the skin has torn and left little half-moon shapes.  

The journalist in me really wants to take a picture of my hands and feet but they are so ugly that I don't want to look at them.  Although, I confess, I sometimes spend a long time just staring at them and wondering what the hell to do.  

I did, of course, go to the doctor.  It was not our family doctors day in the office so I went to one of the "Doc-in-a-box" urgent care centers.  He said it looked like I had a viral rash on my hands and feet. 

But, my blank stare told him that he needed to better than that.   At medical school they teach you that you need to say something, at least, that the patient doesn't already know.   So after hearing about the grandchildren's recent medical history, he told me that there was a particular virus called --- Hell, I don't remember it -- coxificillis or something -- that was transmitted by children and caused rashes on the hands and feet as well as a sore throat.   (Oh yes, forgot to mention that I have a sore throat too).

He said the common name was hand, foot, and mouth disease.  I'm really pretty sure he made that up. 

He gave me  a prescription for an antibiotic and another for a really expensive skin lotion and told me it would run its course in a few days.  Somehow I think he made that up too. 

Of course, this has inconvenienced the rest of the adults.   I bought some latex exam gloves at the pharmacy because I sure wasn't about to feed the baby or change her diaper with hands that look like they were transplanted from a zombie.  But it still didn't take much for me to convince the parents that Grandpa Diggy didn't need to be around their kids, even if they had to change their plans.

So I am alone.  The dog can't figure out why we don't do more and longer walks -- but walking is not very comfortable.  It is easy to describe the way this feels.   I feel like I was walking barefoot and my feet got stuck in a fire ant nest and then I had to dig them out with my bare hands.   It kind of looks that way too.  When it's not burning, it's itching.  

I've never been good at not-scratching an itch.

BUTLER:  "Yes.  That is a skill that you and Bagman never practiced much."

I guess I'll look up "hand, foot, and mouth virus" on the internet and see if the doc in the box knew what he was talking about.   But first...

BUTLER: "NO!  Don't scratch that!  You will only spread it!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Moon's green twin plays peek-a-boo

So I'm giving the dog her last walk for the night and look up.  The moon is full and there is a beautiful double halo around it.   Run for the camera!

I never got a really good capture because I have not been practicing and spent most of my time fumbling with cold fingers in the dark and wondering why the camera wouldn't do what I wanted it to do.  In my own defense, however, my training is currently up-to-date on painting, caulking, and feeding babies. 

Two different types of things -- please don't think that I'm caulking babies. 

But shooting the moon at night...

Don't say it, Bagman!

...gave me more learning experiences than actual photographs.

But what bothered me besides focus and steadiness (yes even with a tripod) -- was that little green smear in the lower left corner.   I noticed it and was afraid that I had some moisture on the lens, which happened to me several years ago in Italy.

This was a bit better although it required a little photoshop layering to bring out all the color rows.  And by then I had decided it was not on the camera but one of those reflection circles that happen soemtimes when you shoot near or into the sun. 

But wait!

In this totally un-retouched image, the circle seems to have substance.

Blowing it up, I find myself looking at the moon.  (No, I did not cut and paste this - it is straight from the camera).  What is the moon doing there when it is supposed to be in the middle of the white circle?
Why is it green?  Is this cheese?  

Two moons?  

I have to figure that it is a very clear refraction through ice crystals.  But why is only one part of the light spectrum refracted?   Polluted ice crystals?  Global warming?  

I've got a lot to learn about astronomy and light as well as about photography.  And caulking babies.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

You can skip this one; it's not really a blog

Please feel free to ignore this blog.  I am posting it mainly because, at the end of each year, I print and bind the "Chronicles" because they document, in a weird way, my life and, years from now my children or grandchildren will have to make the difficult decision of whether to cart around all this paper (or keep track of the digital versions) or throw them away. 

In any case, I got a Christmas letter from an old friend the other day and, in it, he enclosed a letter my grandmother wrote to his mother shortly after I graduated from college and took off on a pot-smoking, beer-drinking non-stop moving pary around the U.S., Canada, and Mexicao.  (Circa 1970).   It was hard to read because it brought home how much my grandparents, who raised me, loved me at a time when my young ego blew them off so easily.   They were proud of what I was doing and, of course, as an active alcoholic, what I told them I was doing was all lies. 

So I'm just going to copy and paste her letter and my response to my friend who sent it to me -- it's probably not a blog that would interest anyone else.  But I need to get it out and move on.  Otherwise, I'll feel like crap all day.  

And the letter I wrote back to Tom...

Dear Tom,
It is not often that a Christmas Card punches you in the gut.  But your powerful piece about Svetlana's grandparents house coupled with the attached correspondence between my grandmother and your mother delivered a combination that managed to get through my usually too-effective defenses. 
Did you realize that you and my grandmother both referenced "miracles."   It made the reading easier.  I have long ago given up trying to understand or define God or miracles (which is why I don't attend church where they pretend to have it all figured out) but reminders provide balm.
Please tell Svetlana that I felt her tears.  The last time I saw my grandparents house, where I grew up in Wrentham, it had been converted to apartments.  I think I would like to go back sometime, but then again, I think maybe not.   The past seems harder and harder to look at as we get older and it crumbles. 
When I retired, a friend told me: "The windshield is larger than the rear view mirror for a reason."
Your description about visiting Svetlana's past caused me to have a dream last night in which I returned to Maple Farm and Lake Pearl.  Hardly anything was recognizable and the Lake itself had been filled with mud (my dreams seldom bother being obtuse anymore).  
The letter from my grandmother to Winifred was hard to read because she was so sweet and I could sense her love for me in her words, missing me.  It made me face, again, the fact that I was lying to her and my grandfather.   She seemed proud that I was going off to request an extension from San Francisco State's MFA program in order to do my civic duty in the Peace Corps.   The fact is that my application to San Francisco State had been rejected -- how dare they turn down the next Hemingway!  My ego refused to let me admit my failure to anyone so I concocted the Peace Corps story.   My only connection to the Peace Corps was that I once stumbled, drunk, into their offices in Boston and picked up an application form and never filled it out. 
And the "little shock" as my grandmother calls one of my grandfather's series of strokes was another step toward his death within that year.   The last thing my grandfather said to me when I was setting off on my "lone wolf tour to see the West" (my VW bus loaded with beer and pot) was, "I don't expect I will ever see you again."
A year later, after some of my most self-destructive drinking in L.A., he had his final stroke and I returned to see him in the hospital two days before he died.  He was comatose and I don't know if he knew I was there or not.  And I promptly seduced his nurse.  Another shovel of mud into Lake Pearl.
And maybe the miracle which I badly need to soothe my guilt is that I am now the grandfather myself.  Retired while Karen, Brian, and his wife Melody all work, I am called upon constantly to watch the three grandchildren -- Conner (3), Noah (1.5), and Kay (two months).  My self-centeredness still causes me to become irritated when they interfere with MY TIME.  But I also know on some level that the impact I have on them is probably more important than any of my so important creativity. 
So thank you for your Christmas present to me.  It was powerful. 
I'd write more but I already feel myself slipping into blah blah blah so I should close.
Love to you.
And Svetlana.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Shootout - Wheels

It is 4:00 a.m. and I stumble blearily into the BB&M studio to post since the day will be filled with grandchildren. 

Bagman is bright eyed and bushy tailed and Butler is efficiently alert. 

BAGMAN:  "Hey, Dude!  Working together again!!  This will be great.  I've got some great ideas for a really funny post!"

BUTLER (saluting smartly): "I've been thinking of how you might alter your masthead picture."

I just stand there swaying, with all of the pixels in my body sagging, and mutter, "I'm sorry guys but this morning I only have time to upload pictures.  I don't even have time to fiddle with my picture at the top."

BAGMAN (irritably):  "You're such a wuss!"

"It's already 4:10 a.m.," I say.  "Let's just get some pictures up and plan for being funny next week."  I slump down at my desk and try to focus on the screen.  There were some archive pictures I found during a few stolen moments earlier in the week.

Charleston Re-enactor wheels
Wheels for waking up
My favorite wheel
My favorite wheel in action

Big wheel or small man?
A little too big to reach the peddles
Even bigger
New wheels
Old wheels

Posting the bicycle shot, I feel kind of confused.  "Hey, guys,"  I ask, "Was this the one I shot through plastic windows at the market or are my eyes just getting bleary?"

There is no response.  Bagman and Butler have given up on me again.  Butler is at his desk reading Emily Post's Book of Etiquette and Bagman is in the corner...well, let's just say that Bagman is in the corner and leave it at that.

While I am waiting for an answer, I lay  my head down on my desk.  


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where the rainbow ends

The good thing about trying to sell our house is that when realtors schedule to look at it, the preference is that we not be there -- so it forces me to get out and sometimes I even find something to shoot. 

Assuming I still remember how to use the camera.

Shem Creek at dusk

Where the rainbow ends

I'm hoping to try and make the Friday shootout.  Things have eased up a little bit although I still feel pretty harried these days.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Tale of the Bullet Pelican

Once upon a time there was a young pelican who was not happy with his species.  He wanted more excitement out of life.

He watched his mother while she lazily glided along the air currents.

What is the fun of that, he thought.

He watched his father who was being passed by a flock of birds as if he was standing still. 

The young pelican muttered to himself, "Not me!"    And he began working out.

He ate Wheaties.

He took steroids.

He got a personal trainer.

He drank energy drinks.

And when he was so full of energy that it seemed to glow from inside him, he flew like a jet without even having to use his wings. 

And everyone called him the "Bullet Pelican."