Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Roofers and Ducks

A quick follow-up on the mother duck who took up roosting in the pinestraw next to our front door.

I was prepared for some great mother and duckling shots!  I had checked out the sunlight so that when they hatched, I'd be prepared to get shots when the low angle light was just right in the afternoon.  We had kept the area as safe as possible...


We are also having our roof replaced in hopes that a new roof might possibly be a perk to get someone to buy our house before we have to back out of our deal on the new one we are building.   So we had negotiated with all the roofers who bid on the job, showing them the duck and asking how they would protect it when slinging shingles.   Everyone assured us that the duck would be safe. 


...that was when they were bidding for the job and promising anything.

It all came together on Memorial Day.   The roofers has completed the back and were just about to start on the front.   They showed up at 7:30 a.m.   Roofers work long hard sweaty hours. 

The ducklings also showed up at 7:30 a.m.   Maybe  they showed up late the day before, but we first saw them in the morning.  A fabulously photogenic flock of fluffy fleathers and a mother duck who seemed much better at handling babies than I am.   She was calm and proud.  I was holding Kay, trying to keep Conner and Noah from charging the nest and basically running around like a chicken with my head cut-off.

Yes, that was a rather fowl metaphor.

BUTLER: "And rather foul as well."

A voice in my head kept screaming, "Get the camera!!  Get the camera!!"

Another voice in my head kept reminding me, "You are carrying a baby and trying to herd two toddlers.  The camera will have to wait.  Besides, the light is terrible.  You will have to use a flash.  Wait until after noon."

And the roofers were also running around confused and upset because they didn't have a clue how they could honor the promise their boss had made to protect the ducklings.

"We can throw the old shingles far enough to avoid hitting the ducks but we can't guarantee that some loose shingles don't slide down the roof -- it has a steep pitch."

"Maybe we can gently place a table over the nest to protect it."


No matter how lovingly gentle the roofers were, the mother duck wasn't going along with the plan.  The roofers might have been sweet caring gentlemen but to her they looked like giant, unkempt ogres with beer bellies, multiple tatoos, reeking of cigarette smoke and sweat -- not an inaccurate image, I should add.  They were roofers, after all.  And they were being polite because we were paying the bill but I suspect they would have been happier to take the shotguns off their gun racks and create lunch. 

So mother duck bolted from under the table and settled ten feet away under a bush.

"She'll actually be safe there," the roofers promised. 

"Get the camera," said the voice in my head.  

So, this time the photographer in me won, and I dragged Conner and Noah inside where they both began screaming because they wanted to pick up the ducklings.  Kay responded by pooping copiously in her diaper and being the nice guy I am, I changed her before giving her to Karen. 

Ran upstairs.  Grabbed the camera.  Checked the settings.  Ran downstairs.  Ran outside.


The roofers were all smiling and laughing and my first thought was that they had secured dinner.  But then I saw where they were pointing.   Mother duck and nine (count them, nine) ducklings had already decided to accelerate swimming lessons and had waddled four backyards away and were disappearing into the pond.   By the time I got there, they looked like tiny dots and they would make it the bushes on the other side of the pond before I could go back and get my telephoto. 


So now it is Tuesday.  Conner and Noah are at daycare.  Karen is at work.  Kay is asleep in her crib which is a major accomplishment that can only be done by babies since the entire house is reverberating like a war zone with the nail guns firing constantly on the roof while Daisy is frantic, running from room to room barking constantly. 

Some nature photographer I am...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout - Handmade

I've been buried in grandchildren this week.  But I did find a "handmade hand" -- and since I inherited it from my grandfather, it might be considered a hand-me-down handmade hand.

Joseph Cowell, my grandfather, sculpted this while studying in Paris.
He said he used his own hand as a model.

We keep it on the mantle over the fake (propane) fireplace.  But I take it down often because the surface has a great feel to it.  And sometimes I use it as a paperweight. 

Which makes it a well-handled, handy hand-me-down handmade hand. 

BUTLER (to Bagman):  "Mark finds more and more ways to embarass us."

BAGMAN (to Butler):  "Yup.  Ya gotta hand it to him."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout - Fences

Gates and fences --  Unfortunately, I spent most of my time this week playing around with a Picture that Tells a Story for an upcoming shootout.  I wasn't confused...I just had an idea that was too much fun not to play around with...

So I've probably shortchanged this week a bit.   Mostly older stuff as well.

1972 - Fish Drying on a Fence, Colombia

BUTLER: "That's not a's a rack for drying fish." 

2001 -- Vietnam Memorial Wall, DC

BUTLER:  "A wall is not a fence.   If you liked that picture yoyu should have used it when the theme was reflections."

"I'd forgotten about it until I ran across it today," I replied.

2008 - Fence of Men

BUTLER:  You don't actually have any fence pictures, do you?"

BAGMAN: "Give him a break!  I'll accept this as a fence since he has a poetic license."

"Okay!  I give up," I say, surrendering.  But I do have some pictures about some of Charleston's most famous gates and fences -- even if I don't have pictures of them."

Philip Simmons (1912-2009)

Philip Simmons became a world famous iron worker, constructing iron gates and fences throughout Charleston.  In 2010, I was riding around with a friend and colleague who used to live next door to Simmons and took me over to his workshop.  Later, when I uploaded pictures from my camera, I was disappointed with them...but here are a few. 

A cemetary gate in his back yard that he had been working on.
(It was later placed to mark a historic African American cemetary)

Herb in Philip Simmons workshop

Herb in front of a photograph of his friend
(Fantastic portrait photography - not mine)

And then I have a couple other shots....

1987 - Alcatraz

2009 - Hilton Head, SC

2009 - Charleston

That's it for this week -- it's 10:12 am -- and while I dislike using Facebook more and more, I'm still undecided whether to buy a bit of it's stock when it goes public at 11:00 a.m.  I do know that if I buy any, I'll sell it by the end of the day...on the other hand, I've developed a set of personal investing rules over my last year and a half of following the stock market and this would break about 75% of them.  

If I were smart, I'd build a quick fence between me and my computer.

BUTLER: "Yes.  Build the fence.  Don't be a sucker.  Follow your rules.  Don't touch it!"

BAGMAN:  "Zam!  Kapow!  Do it, baby!  No risk, no reward!  Put a little adrenalin in your life!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What to do...what to do...

The thing is that when I do something cutesy with my header picture for the Friday Shootout, I then have to come back and replace it with my regular header picture early the next week.  Not that I really have to do that.   Nobody complains if I don't.

It's just a habit, a ritual -- change the header picture, change it back -- creative people, like everyone else, slip into comfortable habits.  Was Hemingway was a better writer before he began trying to write like Hemingway?

But don't knock the importance of effective habits.  They are a critical aspect of survival and evolution: "Let's try the valley again.  The woolly mammoths usually show up there around this time of year and we won't starve."

On the other hand, breaking habits is the other aspect of evolution: "I don't care what you say! I think it is getting colder every year, the glaciers are coming, and I've decided to take my tribe across the land bridge to Alaska, turn right and head for Florida."

Except that I'd get lost in digressions and my tribe would never make it past Sarah Palin's house and by the time I got to Florida the Ice Age would have ended and Global Warming would have started and...

Where was I?   Oh yes, changing my header back.

To change my header, I go to the design template.  Sometimes I get stuck there, wondering if I should do something to my favicon, attribute, or navbar, whatever they are.  Or browse around to see if I should add another gadget.  What an enticing word, "gadget."   I always feel that I don't have enough gadgets in my life. 

And I see other bloggers whose blogs regularly change and grow and bloom and become dynamic...

And I think about changing my header picture.  But I'm fearful of losing my identity.  

Then again, creativity always bergins to atrophy when it starts trying to immitate itself.  "Come on Willie!  Not another love sonnet.  Why don't you try limericks for a change?

There once twas a writer of plays
who tried to count all of the ways
that he loved his dear lass
but instead -- and alas
compared her with more summer days.

Where was I?  Oh yes, dressed in a woolly mammoth toga, trying to understand blogspot templates at a rest stop in Ohio on my way to Florida, lusting after Sarah Palin who was angry at me for putting a 'Re-elect Obama' bumper sticker on the door to her cave, and rewriting Shakespeare.

Thankfully, I have now wasted enough time writing this stream of consciousness stew and don't have time to change my template anyhow.  At least not today.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout - Silhouettes

Silhouettes (silhouettes)
Silhouettes (silhouettes)
Silhouettes (silhouettes)
Ty-oh, oh-oh
Two silhouettes on the shade
                    The Rays. 1957

BAGMAN: "The Rays?"

BUTLER: "A singing group in the 1950's -- hit the big time with one song and then faded out  of sight.

BAGMAN: "How are we supposed to know that?  We were 11 then."

"I only remembered the song, not the group, " I reply, entering the entertaining conversation as I enter the room while overusing the word 'entering'.  "I used to watch the original "Name That Tune" television program with my grandmother."   

BAGMAN:  "Did they have television back then?"

"Black and white, three channels, rabbit ears,"  I say.  "But I didn't have a camera yet.  The first silhouette picture I could find in the archives dates to 1968."

(Sometime back when I was a neophyte blogger, I did a series on my dad who was a hermit in Florida's 10,000 Islands -- and an alcoholic like myself.  I linked it above just in case you have too much time on your hands and want even more blogs to read.)

BUTLER: "Come on, Mark!  Linking to your own old blogs?!  Give your ego a rest!"

BAGMAN:  "Hey!  Butt out, Butler!  I like his ego."

BUTLER:  "That's because you are his ego."

"And while I was going through silhouette archives, I found this one from 1969."
Santa Monica Sunset

The little boy standing between the two women...

BAGMAN: "I was in love with them!"

BUTLER: "You were in love with everybody!  They were just fortunate that they were able to resist your doubtful charms."

Anyhow, the little boy standing between the two women had the distinction of being with me when we jumped in the mud puddle with Jim Morrison.  (Another old blog which my ego links here despite Butler's appropriate protestations).

BUTLER:  "Do you think we might just get on with the Shoot-out and stop confusing people?"

1972 - Santa Marta, Colombia

BUTLER: "If you start telling more stories or making morel links, I'm going to start singing Bruce Springstein's Glory Days at the top of my lungs!  Stop living in the past!"

"Aha!" I respond with insecure bravado.  "But the past lives within us even in the present."   I pause and then admit a bit wistfully, "Besides, I took better pictures then."

2009, I don't actually remember what this is.

Silhouetted Water

I'm sure I've posted this before...but I like it and it fits.

And finally...

BAGMAN: "About time!"

...a questionable picture I took last week:

Statue at Brookgreen Garden, SC

Does this qualify as a silhouette?  Do silhouettes have to be black?  I suppose I could look up the definition.  Or I could photoshop this and make it black?  But it seems like of silhouetteish, somehow. 

BUTLER:  "Say goodnight, Gracie."

BAGMAN:  "Goodnight, Gracie."

PS:  While looking for old links to the stories about the archive pictures, I discovered that we did a silhouettes theme in 2009.  So I could have simply re-submitted: Silhouettes back in 2009.  On the other hand, I think some themes are good to repeat and, frankly, this time around I remembered all kinds of stuff that I didn't think about in 2009.  

I think we should reschedule the theme "Silhouettes" for April, 2016.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Because you asked...

1. What happened to the duck eggs?
2. How old are Bagman and Butler? 


The duck eggs had me worried for a bit.  After my April 30th post when I discovered the duck and her eggs, the mother duck had a midlife crisis.   I checked with increasing worry and frequency but she just left the eggs lying there and ran around the backyard galivanting with her drake who was living on the wild side with a stray goose.

The goose was having some kind of spat with this spouse who had flown off to the other side of the pond.   They would honk endlessly and loudly at each other, but neither one was going to budge.  The ducks became very emeshed in this domestic situation, the drake and the hen constantly following the goose around, trying to cheer him up. 

I should have taken pictures but instead I kept yelling at the hen, "Go take care of your eggs!  What kind of a mother are you anyway!?"   Or maybe, dazzled by her drake's ability to befriend a goose, she forgot where she put them.  

But after 36 worrysome hours, the goose family made up and the hen decided to become responsible.

Hard to see if you don't know she's there


Ginger hit me with this question last week and it really took some thinking on my part because I had never really considered it. 

BAGMAN: "So that's why you never give us birthday presents!  We thought you were just cheap."

After considerable meditation on the question, I am pretty sure that in terms of pure chronology and calendars and stuff, that they were both born when I was -- June 13, 1946 -- although I wasn't aware of them at the time.  Who could blame me, I wasn't aware of anything except hunger and wet diapers at the time.   I began to be aware of them in my early teens although at that time, I had no use for Butler at all.  

However, a more accurate picture is painted when I think about different rates of maturing.  Sort of like figuring a dog's age in dog years instead of people years.  Butler has aged at a much fast rate than I have and Bagman at a slower rate.   So when I was 40, Bagman was around 18 and Butler was fifty something.  I was sure getting a lot of conflicting advice back then!

I have noticed recently, however, that their maturation process has been changing.  Butler is now maturing more slowly and Bagman is beginning to catch up to me.   Butler is becoming a bit more flexible and Bagman's trouble making stays within much more acceptible limits.   I suppose by the the time I reach 90, the three of us will all be the same age again.   

I strikes me that anyone who views this blog for the first time, won't have a clue what I'm talking about.  And finally, I should add that I don't think I'm actually schizophrenic. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout - Transportation

I'm deep in thought as I walk into the B&B studio for this week's "Public Transportation" theme.  I don't have much.  I haven't even changed my header from last week's theme.   I was going to try and get downtown to shoot the pedi-cabs that peddle around the market area but never made it.  And I can't find one picture I remember of one of a pedi-cab.  No big loss because I remember it was terribly framed in the camera with no real cropping fix possible. 

If it wasn't Thursday, I'd write a follow-up on the duck eggs, but that will have to wait until the weekend.

I figure I'll have to focus on some weird shots I have of the horse-drawn tour carriages in Charleston.

But when I enter the room, Bagman is, once again, over the top.  He his wearing a ten gallon hat and cowboy boots, doing a line dance by himself and singing "Save a horse, ride a cowboy!"  I always try to avert my eyes when I first see Bagman.  I noticed his hat and boots and am praying that he is wearing something more than that.  

"I hope that's a long-barreled revolver I just saw," I whisper to Butler.

BUTLER:  "I'm not looking either.  But I do think he is wearing pants, at least."

I risk a peek at the rhythmic Bagman.  "Whew!" I say, relieved. "A least you are wearing pants."

BAGMAN (spinning away from me):  "Chaps!"

BAGMAN (continuing): "Save a horse!  Ride a cowboy!"

It's a country western song by the Eagles.  Or was it the Steve Miller Band?"

BUTLER: "Big and Rich."

"Who?"  I ask but change the subject back to the task at hand.  "First I think I'll post some pictures of my car.  I really love my car."

BUTLER: "You can't do that!  This is about public transportation.  Your car is private transportation."

BAGMAN  (giggling) : "That means it's for transportation of your privates."

I glare at him and post the picture of the bus I took this week.

CARTA Bus -- CARTA stands for Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority although it keeps cutting back its bus lines and putting fewer buses on the road because it is running out of money so I think CARTA actually stands for "Can't Afford Raising Taxes Anymore."

BAGMAN (stops singing):  "Bo-ring."

Before he can start another song, I take over the audio and begin singing the old children's song:  "The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round, the wheels on the bus go round and round, all   through   the   town."    What do you want, heavy metal?!  I've got grandchildren.

And post another before Bagman can stop me.

"The people on the coaster scream and shout, scream and shout, scream and shout, the people on the coaster scream and shout all   throught   the   town."

"The Noah on the slide goes whee whee whee, whee whee whee, whee whee whee; the Noah on the slide goes whee whee whee...all through the town."

BUTLER (Interrupting):  "Foul!  That's a bicycle!  That's private transportation again!"

"No," I argue.  "The statues are public and the bike I'm on was rented at the beach and, therefore, public!"

But I'm tired of banter and besides the pedi-cab bicycle taxis (which I failed to shoot), Charleston's particular form of tourist transportation is the horse drawn tour carriages.

BUTLER: "Look like mules to me."

I should add that the two snapshots above were not photoshopped but taken through plastic window covers that sometimes hang on the open air market across the street from where the carriages line up.

And finally -

-- a reflection of a carriage Karen and I were riding in, the one time we did it.  Karen was saying, "You're not listening to the tour guide at all, are you?"


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Practical Guide to Telling Impromptu Bedtime Stories

Over the last two years, I have become quite proficient at the art of the impromptu bedtime story.  The impromptu bedtime story is to grandfathers what fire was to the Neanderthal...a survival technique.

As a creative writing major and a lifelong poet and writer, I took for granted that I would be good at it. But I have learned through experience that this requires a quite different skill set which at times is completely contrary to creative writing.   So I thought I would document here some of the basic techniques to telling an efficient bedtime story.

1. Always keep the goal in mind.  Your object is not the Pulitzer Prize.  Your object is not to keep your readers involved and interested.  Your only object is to put your listener to sleep.

2. Begin dramatically and strongly to capture interest and attention.  This may sound contrary to Technique #1 but before you can bore someone you need to get their attention.  Remember that before the story starts, they are usually frantically obsessed with finding excuses to stay awake.

3. Catch them where they are.  Use their current excuse a subject for the story.  For instance - Conner often uses hunger ("I want cheeeese!").  So the story might start, "Hey!  Do you want to hear a story about the giant rat that stole Conner's cheese?!" 

4. Make them (and yourself) the main characters of the story   "One night Conner went to the refrigerator with Diggy to get some cheese and found a giant rat who grabbed the cheese and ran away with it, crashing through the kitchen wall.  Conner and Diggy ran after it!"   NOTE: Sometimes if the child is feeling homesick, it is good to substitute Daddy for yourself.

5. Quickly transition to a series of short problems and solutions  For instance - "The rat was too fast so Diggy and Conner decided to use the flying bunk bed."    (Since Conner is usually in his bunk bed at this time -- although still looking for excuses to get out of it - turning it into a magical flying bunk bed is a pretty standard story-telling strategy.

6. Transition into speaking more slowly but don't allow any pauses.  Keep the series of problems and solutions moving.  For instance - "But the bunk bed wouldn't fit through the hole in the kitchen wall so Conner and Diggy ducked when the bed crashed through knocking plaster down on them."

7. Keep it simple.  Problems and solutions don't have to be fancy, creative or complex.  Remind yourself that this is not a best seller.  For instance - "The mattress started to slide off in the wind and Conner and Diggy had to pull it back and hold it down.  The rat dropped some of the cheese and Conner tried to grab it as the bed flew past and almost fell out but Diggy caught him and pulled him back in.  The wind was cold so Conner and Diggy pulled up the covers.  Etc.

8. Stop being interesting.   Start talking in a soft monotone. 

9. Add description and subtract action.  "They were gaining on the rat.  He was getting tired and kept looking back at Conner and Diggy with drooping eyes and they could almost grab his long scaley tail which was wagging back and forth in the wind which was blowing the blue sheets of the bunk bed and making them flap around against the big pillows where Conner was pressing his head and Diggy almost grabbed the cheese when the rat turned but then the large brown rat went around the corner and...etc. etc.

10. Do not worry about how you are going to end the story.   There does not need to be a surprising O'Henry twist at the end of the story.  In fact, there will actually never be an ending.  If the child is still awake by the end of the story, you just have to start all over.  

11. Continue talking no matter what until you hear heavy breathing.  At this point, if you are lucky, the story doesn't need to make sense and even complete sentences are unimportant.  Only the continuity of sound.  "And then the rat and the bunk bed floated into space where there were stars and some dinosaurs rat's friends helping cheese and the wind died down and it was warm blankets cheese Daddy Diggy, Conner bunk bed flying full moon blah blah blah happily ever after."

12. Be very very slow and quiet while disentangling self and leaving room