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Rumilluminations June and July 2017
By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Thu, June 01 2017 - 6:08 pm

July 30, 2017
Chesterton IN

Well, I'm wiped but I had to log in because we drove up from Madison today. On the back roads. I wouldn't be surprised if so many people didn't stay in Southern Indiana because it is so hard to get out.

Well, sure, we could have just taken I65, but....

Yawn. I'm crashing. Courthouses and corn and Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve.

July 27, 2017
Madison IN

I'm trying to figure out what's going on with the libraries. They seem to be getting more and more automated - if that is the right word for electronic services.

They want you to use computerized card catalogs which are good for dozens of libraries and save floor space in every one of them, not to mention employee hours typing or copying them. This makes it possible to save a ton of money on employees.

You can get some books electronically. It is really cool except I can't seem to get it to work somehow. I wonder what I'm doing wrong? I mean, I can't even get into the system.

I went to the front desk the other day asking to get some books from another library and they referred me to the computer which provides access to the card catalog. Eventually I got the information I needed to place the order online. Next time I won't bother them, I will do it from home, so I may not have to go to the library until it's time to pick them up.

I saw a computer yesterday when I was there which was located apart from the front desk and the "card catalog." It had a sign that said, "Try self checkout."

If I check my books out myself, that cuts back on employee time also.

Maybe nobody wants their library jobs, anyway. Unfortunately most of the older librarians seem to have retired, so I don't think that the system can expect attrition to take care of what are beginning to look like doomed clerks, so I hope they don't like their jobs.

I am beginning to think it is unfortunate that I am so fond of libraries, because they seem to be going downhill. (It's sad - I really liked this library when we came to town five years ago, and it still has some really good features, like the "staff choices" shelf.)

The way I see it, the more patrons they discourage from coming, the less attendance there will be. The fewer people using the library, the more excuse the governments administering the libraries have to cut funding. The less funding, fewer books and services will be available and fewer citizens will have reason to go to the library.

Our citizens will read less than they already do and become more ignorant than they already are.

But who cares? In another two decades "book" will be something sketchy that your grandparents read to your parents when they were tots. A practically archaic word.

*Changing Times  A strange little French film set in Tangiers with a couple of big stars and a couple of little plot twists. I don't know, maybe it was supposed to be a farce.

*The Levelling  Some hard times for the folks in this film, difficult neurotic people trying to survive grief and flooding setbacks in rural England.

July 26, 2017
Madison, IN

Salvador Dali said he didn't want children. He maintained the children of geniuses were unremarkable.

Well, no wonder! To become a known as a genius - to singlemindedly pursue your own talents to the point where you are recognized as a genius - that takes a narcissist. The children of narcissists could never indulge themselves to that extent.  Their famous parent sucks up all the available oxygen.

This seems obvious to me. Am I alone?

Now we get to find out if Salvador Dali did have a daughter. Pretty exciting!

Maybe my subject for today should be called explorations of the obvious. The Week recently summarized an article (among others) originally published in about young men today. 

Many contemporary young men do not have jobs. They can't get jobs. They are living with relatives. All they do all day is play videogames. And these young men are happy. Other articles quoted in this Talking Point of The Week mention the same.

Some of these folks are astounded by this: how can this be? How could these young men be happy? They aren't spending their time in the real world.

Are these writers insane? Have they never had low-level jobs in the real world? Do they not know how boring and demeaning and next-to-mindless crappy jobs are?

Be concerned about this phenomenon if you will, but don't be surprised. Of COURSE virtual games are more fun than working an assembly line or doing piecework or filing.  This is a no-brainer!

Anyone who doesn't realize this simple fact is so entitled that they, obviously, are the ones not inhabiting the real world. Maybe video gaming is a dangerous addiction. If it is, that's because it is interesting and absorbing and fun.

A real job in the real world with real breathing often problematical if not impossible people is obviously not as much fun as a videogame.

This is a no-brainer.

Here's another statement of the obvious: As certain strata of our society, floating higher and higher in an ethereal state of bubble, increasingly discount the rest of society, the rest of society will be left with no choice but to discount them right back.

They won't like this one little bit, but that won't matter. It will be too late.

Another no-brainer.

July 24, 2017
Madison IN

Coming home from a gym class this morning I held my hair across my face to keep off the sun. Sure, I had put on sunscreen in the morning but by now it was more than an hour since. Usually I wear a hat in addition to using sunscreen but it would get in the way during class and I am afraid of leaving it behind afterward if I put it out of the way.

I wonder if people think I am trying to hide my identity. Actually, I am trying to keep it. Trying not to become so disfigured by wrinkles and possibly surgery for carcinomas (and worse) as to be unrecognizable as my old self. Silly me. Of course I am, anyway.

As I walked I thought about the heavy white makeup of geishas. Was that affectation at least partly an attempt to protect beauty from the ravages of time? If so, it is a look that we in this society are not encouraged to emulate. The sunscreens I have tried which are too white have left me the victim of strange looks from people, plus the white makes my teeth look too yellow. Hmmm... maybe even the geisha look was only successful on the young or completely unsmiling. Or come to think of it, the tiny smile is also part of the mystique, right?

Other cultures have other techniques for preserving beauty. I suspect the cover-up burkas of some cultures to be on a par with furniture covers and drapes in a living room to keep the sun off valuable possessions. Sure, the burka protects a woman's skin from the sun as well as lustful looks from potential admirers, but hidden beauty seems like a heavy price to pay for huge loss of comfort. Heavy, hot black on a scorching day! Brutal. Also - another way to keep the little wife from even wanting to go outside, I'll wager.

I would be tempted to think it is for the woman behind the veil that society forces her to wear it. But no - she has no choice. It is neither fad nor fashion. It is law! And what if she does retain her beautiful skin by shrouding herself?

Who is it who said, "Show me a beautiful woman and I'll show you a man who's tired of fucking her"?

Shocking, huh? Shock of recognition! Zap!

The truth hurts, doesn't it?

So, eccentric me. Why am I, at my age, walking down the street covering my face with my hair like a painfully shy teenager?

Nutty old lady.

*Black Snake Moan  Saw this one yesterday and I am sorry, men of God, I can see absolutely no good coming out of... and exposure to... or easy pseudospiritual quick recoveries either. Spoiling it for you? Aww, too bad.

July 22, 2017
Madison IN

It is hard to describe how surreal it feels to be living in the U.S. today. Trump is like the Anti-President who is a force for chaos. He's appointing Anti-Ministers who don't believe in or know anything about the departments they are heading. An Anti-establishment not like the sixties envisioned!

Trump evidently thought that the legislative bodies were a bunch of employees to do his bidding. Congress is a different branch of government designed to be a check on the Presidency! It's closer to rock, stone, scissors than a corporation.

The elephant is on a rampage, the ringmaster is one of the clowns, and a fire tornado is coming.

That is what living in the U.S. feels like.

But - we're all pretty calm. Maybe, in fact, we are reacting like teenagers whose parental households are falling apart. We have our own lives to live, and all we have to do is hang in there for a few years and the present authority structure will be gone.

Then we can begin the new building, the new order - cleaning up the mess.

Meanwhile in between doing our studies we read light novels and watch comedies.

And laugh at our own mistakes and mixed metaphors.

What can I say? I pretty much wrote nonsense yesterday. Now it's my bedtime. I can either erase this all or let it stand.

Let it stand. I'll follow the example set by our anti-leader and let these sentences stand unedited.

I didn't write them, anyway.

I never said that stuff at all.

*Delicatessen  Dark, dark, very dark and gradually gets more colorful and funnier. That is all the spoilage I will indulge in. Get amused, get restive, or both. I, for one, was captured in the end.

July 21, 2017
Madison IN

Bless me, I swelter. I'm melting into the steambath that is the outdoors these daisies.

I used to get a tic, once in a while, in my upper left eyelid. Now, lately, my lower right eyelid has started jumping around. Why? The more recent one is worse. Why?

Fleas' feasibility depends upon circus circuitry.

Do elephants have fleas?

Do sheep get fleasy fleece?

Is cabin fever contagious?

Cloistered contiguous characters can get cantankerous.

Cantaloupe and cherries can help crotchety cranks cope!

*Chronic  Film most interesting, raising all kinds of ethical questions about care-giving and hopefully some self-examination by those who lean on care-givers - both patients and family members. Still, not a documentary.

July 20, 2017
Madison IN

We have been watching lots of comedians lately. We need laughs to counteract what is happening socially and politically in this country.

Sometimes the laughs are hollow - or positively non-existent. If the Baby Boomers were accused of being obsessed with sex - suffering from a failure to mature in a timely matter their higher energy chakras (or whatever spiritual language you want to use for the concept of maturing) the generation of current young adults seem fixated at an even lower level of development.

One unfunny guy got on stage and said the word "anal" -and very little else for ten or fifteen minutes before we gave up on him and turned him off.

Another youngish female comedian recommended that with a new lover women should pretend that they have never had anal sex, even if they have.

Our permissive society, for whom free sex has become no big deal, just has to have its taboos.

Innocence with regards to anal sex has become the new virginity.

It's enough to make you long for the good old naive days - the wild and then-reckless sixties.

*A Quiet Passion Maybe if I loved Emily Dickenson I would be angry. As it is, I found this film very dissatisfying. Sure, I know these people lived in morally rigid times, but these characters are just unconvincing. They are unnatural and lack the ring of truth. Dickenson could not have so unappealing a nature and inspire any love, one feels. A dud.

*The Red Army - is the story of the Soviet hockey team under the genius training of Tarasov, especially of five players who played brilliantly together. After Tarasov's ouster as head coach, the tale gets more political and complicated, including what happens after Perestroika. It's a fascinating story that includes some of the differences between North American and Russian skating styles. I had no clue, but even followers of hockey will appreciate this documentary. Well, especially them, perhaps.

July 19, 2017
Madison IN

Went on a lovely walk in a wooded area west of Hanover, part of the White Oak Nature Conservancy. The Tulip Tree Trail had some of the biggest tulip trees I had ever seen. No wonder the tulip tree is Indiana's state tree!

This is a real nature trail with signs about features of interest. The spores of club moss, for example, used to be of significant economic value in healing powders, the casings of capsules, and ignition! There is quite a large patch of club moss there.

After exiting it is a good idea to check yourself for ticks. I was in such small wilderness euphoria that I forgot to do it and found a wood tick strolling up my pant leg five hours later. Of course that inspired exclamations, curses, stripping, brushing hair over the toilet bowl, bathing, and vacuuming before I could really forget about ticks. Still haven't, actually.

Oh, but the countryside of Southern Indiana is lovely!

*Nasty Baby  Nasty movie. The consequences of not growing up are certainly terrible - for everyone else, at least. Interesting character studies, though.

*My Laundrette  Early early portrayal of a gay relationship between a British ne'er-do-well and an ambitious second generation Pakistani youth. Local color and high drama abound. We liked it quite a bit.

July 18, 2017
Madison IN

Today one of my neighbors told me he was going to spend the day doing chores and lollygagging around.

Lollygagging! I hadn't heard the word in years.

Of course I started wondering where it came from.

I knew it was old but it turns out to be from the middle of the 19th century. Shakespeare it ain't.

In the half dozen or so websites I looked at though, the oldest quote was a poem - about a cow! Formerly a queen of the barn in milk production, now her udder produced so little it wasn't worth - you guessed it - a lollygag.

Somehow I feel that usage reflected common parlance, but of course I can't prove it.

I did think before I started researching it, that the word might have some relation to the word lollypop, which is obviously something that you suck and lick.

I had no trouble relating that to udder activity - the poor cow's udder was no longer worth a lick.

In more general use in my childhood lollygagging meant fooling around, wasting time. According to my internet sources (also available to you, obviously) it's a usage still big in boot camp.

Spooning around, as in necking, is also one way lollygag is used.

The Urban Dictionary implies new possibly pornographic meanings for it that I don't have a clue about figuring out. I don't even want to know what those linguists are saying - much less doing!

I'd much rather lollygag around an air-conditioned room practicing armchair (or in my case, pillow) linguistics.

Idle speculation, I believe, should absolutely qualify as a form of lollygagging. 

*Cadillac Man  Incredible production - 97 minutes of mayhem. But humorous! Hey, it's Robin Williams playing a very mixed bag.

*Demolition The aftermath of a fatal automobile accident in the life of a man clueless about his own feelings. 

July 15, 2017
Madison IN

Yesterday was a pretty lucky day. In the morning I saw a bird flying out of our parking area carrying something... it was almost in silhouette, but then I saw a flutter of feathers beneath the body of the larger bird. The doomed prey was small - maybe a sparrow. I would have thought the larger bird was a crow - must have been a sparrow hawk. (Hey, I didn't say it was a lucky day for everyone.)

On my walk I found a shiny nickel - $85 per hour, thank you very much. If a penny is lucky, then a nickel is, too. That logic probably follows up to about $10.00. Or maybe $20.00.

The really lucky thing about yesterday, though - the thing that may have made it the lucky day of the year - was the sunset.

Now, I have seen many a gorgeous sunset. I lived in New Mexico for almost thirty years. I think it is probably called the Land of Enchantment because of its spectacular, colorful sunsets that light up its bowl of sky almost every night of the year.

Last night's sunset, though, was unique. Its color and clouds reached all the way to the back of our apartment building, and that's a lot for southern Indiana. The clouds it illuminated were little puffs of color densely dotting the western sky in layers. It looked more like an impressionist painting than an impressionist painting does. It was kind of like Klimt without the gold. Instead it was all pink and blue and desert purple coming down at an angle toward where the invisible sun was sinking below a sky of the brightest gold and turquoise I've ever seen, and I have lived in the land of gold and turquoise skies.

Today I was trying to tell a friendly stranger about the incredible, once-in-a-lifetime sunset which it so happens he had missed; his eyes began to wander.

There's nothing so boring as listening to someone else
try to describe a sunset.

You just had to be there.

July 14, 2017
Madison IN

I'm + me + idiocy = immediacy

Dram + Ma = drama

Edict delete c = edit

Salt + tour = nature 

Filo + sofa + "eeee!" = philosophy

Man + age + able = manageable

Flag + rant = flagrant

Blast + fem + my = blasphemy

That last one really got me wondering, though. What kind of word is that?

I looked it up. From Greek blasphemia.

Really. A four-syllable word is the last word - the final Source?

There's the far-reaching arm of authority for you!

author + eternity = authority

Well, in my book an author is someone who makes something up.

July 13, 2017
Madison IN

I haven't written about movies for a week, which is not to say we haven't seen any.

*Wise Blood Flannery O'Connor weirdness aided and abetted by the film industry.  Nobody relatable.

*Daughters of the Dust  South Carolina island life, stylized. Beautiful language, beautiful people, beautiful cinematography.

*Black Mass Well done, but ugh. I'm sick of gangster films. And come to think of it, if we were supposed to care about these characters, then it didn't succeed with me.

*Other Woman  Worth some laughs. Better than the average recent romantic comedy, which isn't, unfortunately, saying much. 

*23 Paces Retro film about a blind man who overhears a plot and works to foil it with the aid of his former secretary and the butler.

July 12, 2017
Madison IN

A walk on the Heritage Trail along the river had a hopeful sign or two.

In the middle of one of the huge lawns is a wired-off patch of wildflowers - maybe the beginnings of the nature area Bob Green told us was going to happen here.

At the end of the shaded path, right before it turned into more lawn and sewage treatment plant, I saw two fairly large deer. It is only the second time I have seen even one there. I turned back and they crossed behind me to graze on the civilized side.

The Lanthier Winery gardens have lilies taller than I am. If you are in the area they are a must-see!

July 11, 2017
Madison IN

Ever heard of Shoes for Crews?

They are a business that provides shoes to food service corporations. Employees are required to buy them and are supposed to wear them to work in kitchens, where floors are often slippery.

At least one kitchen employee I know had an interesting experience with those shoes lately. He had been wearing Keen shoes because they were more comfortable for him, in spite of workplace requirements. Those Keens began to wear out, so he switched to a newer pair. Within two weeks he was hobbling around the apartment at the end of his work day, obviously in great pain from his chronic problem, plantar fasciitis. Well, he was working more days a week, we reasoned.

Finally one day he came home fuming. "Boy, these Keens really have gone downhill. Even with these expensive inserts they are awful!" He took one off and brandished it.

"I'll say!" I responded. "Look at the difference in this tread!  And the uppers are like molded! And see? There's no little gusset..." I was going on, when he interrupted me.

"Wait a minute! These might not be Keens at all!" I looked at the bottom of the shoe. It said Shoes for Crews.

If he has to wear these shoes he won't be able to work at all. He'll be crippled. If he were to have an accident, however, the company that requires him to buy them could be sued for $10,000.

That's corporate America for you. Better for the individual isn't better than inflexible uniformity in the weightless eyes of the corporate entity.

Cynical speculation: Maybe Shoes for Crews are kicking back!

P.S.  Two days back in the old Keens and my friend is no longer hobbling at the end of his workday.

July 9, 2017
Madison IN

You may have noticed I take a lot of walks. Today I forgot to take a Kleenex, and my nose started getting a little runny, maybe from allergies.

So I was walking along, trying to resist the temptation to wipe my nose on my brand-spanking clean corduroy Comfort shirt while I tried to imagine going into an inn to get some toilet paper to wipe my nose. In the big city I wouldn't think twice about doing that, but not here. No.

Before I even got close to an inn, though, I passed some river birches with shaggy peeling bark. Most of the bark is thick like stiff paper, but some of it, I noticed, is very very translucent and soft-looking.

Eureka! I gently pulled some away from the trunk. It was not enough for a healthy honk, mind. Just enough for a couple of gentle (and genteel) dabs.

It worked! It was soft. It was absorbent. And it was handy - at least along the riverwalk.

I wondered if a sore nose would be soothed by acetylsalicylic acid possibly present in the bark. I noticed no anaesthetic effect, but then my nose wasn't sore.

I fantasized about a young Native American brave pulling out a pouffy wad of the stuff for a maiden in distress.

So what if the fantasy was an anachronism?

So, evidently, am I.

July 8, 2017
Madison IN

Sublime implies way up high, wonderfully wonderful. Limitlessly high. Its etymology, though, means right under the limit of - originally - a door frame, or the top of a door. Ha, ha not the same at all!

On the face of it it seems sublime should mean under lime - under a lime tree? Something not quite as high on the food status bar as lime? Should something sublime really be a lemon?

When a car is called a lemon, I think it has fallen far short of sublime.

Maybe sublime could refer to a different kind of lime. Could under lime be as in a grave, or under concrete? Why am I associating lime with burial?

Funny how words all of a sudden are unrecognizable, or conversely finally really seen, after decades of use, for what they really are.

The word sublime probably doesn't deserve such treatment - such thrashing around. After all, it has a very exalted position in the language.

It's positively the crust under a perfect piece of key lime pie. That's sublime enough for me.

July 7, 2017
Madison IN

Yesterday on my walk I experienced one of the more bizarre episodes of my life okay okay okay let us say of so far in my eighth decade. (Moan...yes...sob.)

On a very normal innocent walk during which I get rid of my recycling and walk up the hill to or around the Hillside Inn (yesterday I just went up the steps kind of in a hurry) I was in the same spot where I had seen the bird/bat activity when something got into my left eye.

I thought a gnat or something had flown into my eye and stopped to get it out. Someone across the street paused momentarily and looked at me with concern. I must have looked as if I were crying and dabbing at my eye. Actually I probably should have used tears but after a couple of seconds whatever had been in my eye fell out onto the pavement directly in front of me.

It was one of those teeny ants, and it started immediately to walk around, trying to decide which way to go. That little 2 mm critter had just fallen from my eye level the equivalent of my body falling from twice the height of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai (or if that means nothing to you, FOUR TIMES the height of the Empire State Building) and without a second's pause was looking for someone to whom he could tell his tale!

I was sure the little bugger had stung or bitten me. My eye still hurt as I walked away, certain it would get infected or I would suffer an allergic response to the ant's bite because I didn't shed a tear.

That's what reaching your eighth decade does to you.

My only consolation for the affront to my seventy-year-old dignity (heh - as if!) is the certainty that the diminutive critter who had hitched an up to forty minute ride on unsuspecting me would never attain its eighth decade. In fact, I worried for awhile about its survival at all.

But not for long. It was much more entertaining to indulge in the fantasy of falling off the highest building in the world and immediately bouncing up to ask passersby (in flawless Arabic, of course) about the nearest good place to dine.

(Oh, and here's a footnote for you: the Empire State Building is now only the thirty-fifth tallest building in the world.

Of those taller, most are not in the United States at all.)

July 6, 2017
Madison IN

Wha...? Really? It's the sixth of July?

Five days without writing in here with no real excuse except who would care anyway. (Not at all Eyore, just realistic if morose no not even that!)

I've read books, seen movies, not had all that much distraction from the Regatta and the Fourth of July (I did take the time on the third to buy watermelon.) I've had ideas (unlogged) observations (unrecorded - poor Science! - ha,ha) events attended but unreported.

Lucky you, if this were required reading!

But it's not, and yippee obviously unrequired writing also.

One thing I must mention, though.

On the morning after our big fireworks display which did not happen on Tuesday the Fourth, I saw a brown motley bird slightly smaller than a robin picking at what looked like an awfully big insect on the sidewalk ahead of me (a block or two from the riverbank firework viewing site.)

Nervous bird - peck, hop away, repeat.

No! Not an insect - it looked like that ordinary bird was pecking at a dead bat!

As I got closer the bird picked up its find and flew dragging into the nearby street and continued its meal. I just kept walking and staring. The bird kept pecking and hopping until it could not stand my scrutiny any more or the bat was now light enough to fly farther carrying.

I never saw that before and am still not 100% certain.

Watching the fireworks, though, my partner noticed some bats being scared out of the catalpas in front of us. Once airborne, a bat might easily have had its echolocation obliterated by all the popping, cracking and earth-shaking booming for long enough to plow into a building and fall to its death.

It was surprising, though, to see what I would have called a perching bird scavenging a mammal.

Downright strange, in fact.

June 30, 2017
Madison IN

Almighty Aargh! The last day of June is upon us. How did this happen?

The Madison Regatta is beginning, but I hear rumors it will be the last one. The crowds are just not appearing.

The place has been blocked off, though. I tried to take a short-cut to the exercise class at the gym and ended up sliding on my back under some of that bright orange fencing to get out of the area blocked off for the regatta.

I dozed off while reading this afternoon and was rudely awakened by a very loud buzzy boat whining back and forth. I had forgotten how loud they are! The only way to get away from the din is to go to the back room with the air conditioner. I don't know how many days the regatta lasts.

Now, a sailboat regatta I could appreciate, but I don't know how practical that would be on the Ohio River.

The River Roots Festival has taken over some of the crowds that used to come to the Madison Regatta, I hear. Chautauqua is my favorite. It happens here in September of every year.

June 28, 2017
Madison IN

For the last two years we have gone away at Madison Regatta time, and the race washed out completely one year, had to be curtailed the next.

This year my partner has to work all weekend so we are here during busy noisy boat races. The weather is supposed to be great! So ironic.

They should pay us to stay in town.

*The Water Diviner This film, which is about much more than digging wells, pushes the full spectrum of emotional buttons. Great entertainment from a true story or story based on real events or whatever is the least likely. We liked it a lot.

June 27, 2017
Madison IN

Whew! Lazy lazy summer daysies. I haven't even written much about the movies we've seen, including

*Devil's Knot sadly, about a true story out of West Memphis, Arkansas. We didn't like the title, thought it melodramatic and B movie. The name comes from the crime book it is based on, and really does have merit here. Who is guilty and who is innocent? Who is evil? Who, if you are into using that kind of terminology (and many in this town evidently were) in this unhappy tale were possessed by the Devil?

*Girl in the River  Documentary about an attempted honor killing of a young woman by her father and uncle. Shows the challenges of police work in a state that's trying to be modern in a culture that's anything but - Pakistan. How do you navigate your way through this mess of values?

*The Salesman  Film about a woman attacked in her new home. Takes place in Iran, and shows behavior by the husband that would be very unconventional here. I think. I hope, actually, even though the U.S. also makes movies about unconventional responses to stressful situations.

*Land of Mine Not merely foreign (set in Denmark) but also historical, about a group of teenage Nazi prisoners of war assigned to dismantle mines set along the Danish coast.

Excellent films, all.

We watch a lot of foreign films and I guess a danger is falling into the same pitfall experienced by many foreigners who watch American movies - assuming that the illusion is representative of the reality.

We can learn much about the world from seeing other settings and ways of life. The bottom line, though? A movie is just a movie.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but even a thousand pictures provide just a glimpse into reality.

June 25, 2017
Madison IN

A very merry unChristmas to you!

If you live in a temperate zone South of the Equator do you you have any celebration of this day at all?

How do you get through the winters?

In the novels I have read from the southern hemisphere (and I don't think there have been many) I don't remember any descriptions of snowbound misery. Is it drier down there? (Even that expression is so geogist! What, is our northern hemisphere so superior that we should be up and the rest of the world down?)

Or are your winters just as miserable as ours, but you folks are more stoic?

Or have I merely been a deplorable geography student?

I will start finding out in the most fun way I can think of: googling for African and Australian snow scenes.


That's all the study I need for now. There is photographic proof of snow in Australia and Africa.

And a musical group called Snow in Africa!

Well a very merry UnChristmas to you, too!

*Shepherds and Butchers  Film that should be seen by everyone living in a country that utilizes the death penalty, although this 1987 tale from apartheid South Africa exposes an extreme case of death penalty numbers. Required viewing, I would suggest.

June 23, 2017
Madison IN

Why, when I sit down to watch the news at 5:53 a.m., do I have to see a female news anchor in foxy black with three inches of cleavage exposed?

I am not gay, but I find it difficult to listen to the male anchor trying to explain the political problems between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. I'm too busy wondering if he is having as much trouble ignoring her decolletage as I am.

Her co-anchor got through his sentences, but would they have been easier to follow if he had not been distracted? Or was he completely untroubled and it was all just me?

It wasn't until later that I wondered why he didn't just look at the camera. Was the format constructed as a conversation so announcers wouldn't have to look at the beady inhuman eye of the camera?

Maybe I am just an old fogey. I don't want people transmitting information on TV to be wearing distracting clothing.

Or maybe I am merely envious. I never had cleavage like that woman, or the clothes to display it to best advantage if I had.

I have read that men find news delivered by a female difficult to pay attention to, and that was a decade or two ago - long before weatherwomen started wearing cocktail dresses to work.

If men found it difficult before, how do they manage to listen now?

I asked my partner how he felt about it and he said he hadn't noticed. "I must be getting old."


June 21, 2017
Madison IN

The longest day. This magical time of abundant light is what I wait for all year long, but it still tends to sneak up on me. Why?

Heat. I get out early in the morning to get my exercise and hit of nature (today, the river and a heron and gorgeous hybrid daylilies and what look like a tree form of hydrangeas) before the heat sets in, then tend to mostly hole up for the rest of the day. By the time evening falls I am out of touch with the outdoors and the wonderful days' extension.

Today, though, is the special day, the longest day. We have plans to go to the Lanthier Winery, look at the garden, and have a glass of wine. Yesterday it was still light at 9:15 p.m. A winter's dream.

Later. Well, Lanthiers Winery was out; they closed at five. We decided to sample the new soft-serve ice cream place in front of our sister apartment building - Chillbilly Soft Serve on the corner of Vaughan and Mulberry. It was good. Joseph said it was the best soft-serve vanilla he'd ever had. We ate it watching a jet ski bounce back and forth across a towboat's wake. Nice evening!

Nice long evening.

*Get Out  Oh, this is a good one. Not usually the kind of movie I would go for, but one is special. We certainly did have time for this one on the longest day of the year!


*My Name is Julia Ross  Maybe this is an oldie, but we enjoyed it a lot. Just as hokey as our reject of the other day? Maybe, but it's in black and white. And maybe it doesn't take itself so seriously. Somehow it's a lot more fun.

Lost in the sands of the past week or two

*Whiskey Tango Foxtrot  Tina Fey in a straight role as a journalist in Vietnam. We thought she was good! The film was a success with us.

*Birth of a Nation Not the old one of interest only to an archivist that put me to sleep multiple times, but a new one telling the story of Nat Turner that put me to sleep not at all. I think it pairs well with Get Out in dealing with racial slavery. 

June 20, 2017
Madison, IN

Young people these days don't seem to care about their hearing. And why should they? They don't need it, I guess. Everything is visual with them. They text more than they talk. Popular music these days is more dancing and drumbeat than anything else. Melodic lines don't soar; they don't go anywhere much. Rap is hardly what you'd call poetic.

And as long as I'm deploring, I would like to lament the future of our children when it comes to disability. I have been known to joke that some days legs will be residual appendages. Since then I have learned that there are more than a few of our fellow citizens that intentionally sabotage their health to earn disability. They don't seem to care that they can't move.

Presumably these are people who used to be able to move. Maybe, as children, they enjoyed walking, running, playing games, jumping. Many children nowadays, however, seem to do much less physical activity even than their parents did when they were young. They seem perfectly content to experience life as a spectator sport. How could they feel deprived if they never have experienced the joys of skipping, leaping, and dancing? Why would they care if they can't do those things they were never in the habit of doing anyway?

Think I am being ridiculous? Think I'm joking?

Well, okay. Maybe I am.

*In Defence of a Married Man  Hokey. Completely impossible setup. Not that well done. Don't bother.

June 19, 2017
Madison, IN

"How terribly strange to be seventy."

Gadding about Washington D.C. with two daughters and a daughter's friend who all hover around forty years of age, I was the only one in shape to push a wheelchair needed by the one with vertigo. One of the other of the three younger generation had/has serious health issues in the last seven or so months that has made walking difficult, the other has an invisibly herniated disk.

We garnered lots of disapproving looks, I am told by my especially people-conscious daughter. It was highly embarrassing to her to feel the judgment of people who did not understand the circumstances involved in the eldest of us being the one best fitted to push what I kept thinking of as the stroller. (Three children and a walking habit kept me working a stroller for years.)

As we walked by, they tssked and shook their heads. I was too busy steering to notice.

Me, I was all mystified and wounded. How could they even tell? 

Ha, ha, ha, ha ha!

No passing for a sister now, I guess.

As if ever.

June 17, 2017
Madison IN

The Bishop's Garden at the National Cathedral may be the most beautiful to my eye, but yesterday on impulse I walked through the garden at the Lanthier Winery here in Madison and it is a rare treat!

Right now the Lanthier must have two dozen different varieties of lilies blooming - true and daylilies and callas and cannas (I'm not sure of the differences between these last two but am pretty sure they are both represented.) They have a spectacular collection! I'll return tomorrow morning and try to count the blessings.

The garden also has an in credible lavender flower that looks like a froufrou variety of Echinacea and a dark purplish pink plant. It does not have the usual carnation scent of pinks, but often scent has to be sacrificed to super exotic appearance.

Madison is very fragrant these days anyway. I'm thinking it is the giant magnolias although I can't always track the sources of the random sniffs of softness and sweetness in the air.

Ha, ha, that reminds me of a not-quite-open magnolia I took gently in my fingers to smell along a driveway at the St. Alban's school in D.C. It popped open at my touch! That reminded me I had no business touching its petals at all: the acid in our skin mars the petals of flowers, probably even the highly substantial blooms of the magnolia.

No matter what your favorite garden in your community, take the time to visit one soon! The experience may change your life.

June 15, 2017
Madison IN

Do you eat to live, or live to eat?

That question has been reverberating in the U.S. through the decades and even centuries.
Whether or not it was original with him, Ben Franklin said it.

Unfortunately Americans, innovative as always, have created a new answer to the question: neither.

Americans eat to die.

*The Lobster  Deadly. Terrible. Seems like a film by and for Millenials. (Oh, I am so bad!)

June 14, 2017
Madison IN

Yesterday was a flight from D.C., three loads of laundry, and two movies long!

The Last Word  An old lady control freak decides to change her potential obituary. Unfortunately the writing doesn't quite reach the eloquence needed to provide a vehicle to emotional affect.  And the word shit is way overused, in, I believe, a highly inappropriate and off-putting way.

Flawless  DeNiro does his usual completely believable portrayal, (I do not believe as much in myself!) and Hoffman is genius as well. Why, though, are so many gays portrayed as their own worst enemies in films? Is this my imagination?

June 12, 2017
Washington D.C.

Every day of the week it has been getting warmer, but every day has been rain-free. That will stop tomorrow maybe afternoon for D.C. and unfortunately for me, Cincinnati will be experiencing scattered thundershowers.

Today was so hot I gave up being outside at all as soon as we finished our visit to the National Cathedral and walk through Olmsted Woods, where we saw a black squirrel, bluejay and catbird in spite of the heat! We've seen a couple of young bunnies on nearby grounds, too, including a cunning petite six-incher. What we haven't seen too many of in the neighborhood is cats.

I have a confession to make about the National Cathedral. I had remembered their stained glass windows all wrong and may have even written about them! I remembered the windows behind the alter as being abstract, with a lot of orange and red and yellow in them. In actuality they have a good deal more blue than orange, and are relatively representational. So much for my memory from when I was twelve. I must have seen those windows in another church - or in my dreams.

It has been a lesson in the fallibility of memory. Odd, though, that my recollection of the Bishop's Garden, though very incomplete, was right on. The Bishop's Garden of the National Cathedral is one of - no, the most - beautiful garden I have ever entered. I'm amazed at its serene peace and wonder why, in this populous city, it is not busier.

The building has abundant architectural ornamentation including, I am told, a Darth Vader gargoyle.  By the time we got over there this afternoon, it was too hot for me to be tempted to find it. We must, after all, leave something unseen to draw us back.

Open City, the charming cafe right next to the gardens, has great coffee and a quiche with a flakey crust, too, among other offerings. Treat yourself to the full National Cathedral treatment, from the stained glass windows (especially the stunning random-looking rose window to the west (I think)) to the swooping mockingbirds and the architectural interest enlivening the garden.

June 11, 2017
Washington D.C.

What a day!

In the morning we walked to the zoo, downhill all the way. My pulling muscles got a good workout and it was much more interesting than the gym! We saw mainly one other pedestrian who seemed to be working much harder than I. He was carrying two bags (not suitcases) which he had to put down every few blocks or so, maybe because they were uneven weights or his grip was weakening.

The few other pedestrians we passed were walking dogs. This is an area where nobody walks, it seems. Maybe that's why people have dogs. It provides them with legitimacy and defends them from the perception, common in our society, that if you are walking you have lost your license.

The houses are impressive in this part of D.C. It was ironic to know that a house that would cause a hundred or two hundred thousand dollars in Madison would cost millions here.

We were walking to the zoo mostly to see the pandas and the big cats.

Now I know that zoos are politically incorrect these days, but since they are here they certainly must be acknowledged as educational institutions. We got to see pandas inside, one of them facing us while it sat eating its bamboo. He was just like his pictures, but dirtier. You hardly notice, though, because he was so darn cute.

I know, I know, treating the animals as objects of amusement blah blah blah. We went to the zoo because at least one of our party wanted us to go.

This is a zoo that has some room for the animals to move around in but not much to hide in. The tiger decided to take a soak in his pond while we were watching. The lions, in the absence of any need to hunt and any females, were practicing for when what they were doing was not mere rehearsal. One of them seemed tempted by the water, but not enough to go in.

Admittedly I feel for their condition. I, for one, would not like to live in a place where I could not work up a good run.

The zoo itself was hilly, with plenty of uphill going so we hailed a taxi for home. Our taxi driver, from Pakistan, started to expound upon religion, saying that everyone knows that the Koran is the true word, the true book. I was tempted to ask him if he was trying to preach his way out of a tip, but instead mildly informed him that I don't know and I am comfortable not knowing. He backed off, sheepishly apologizing for his preaching.

Well, okay. It was Ramadan, and if I hadn't had anything to eat or drink all day I would be frothing at the mouth. Fasting is a spiritual thing, our taxi driver said, and has been traditionally done by all Judeo-based religion to teach compassion for others who are suffering like this at any given time. For me that was a new take on fasting, so his sermon hit home. Still, yesterday evening we had perhaps our best meal yet - tapas at the Barcelona - the most fabulous meal we have had here.

In the afternoon we assembled our window boxes and they look bonny! I hope they thrive.

If I had written June 8, I would have written about the Museum of African Art - very culturally interesting and it seemed to me at that time, very sparsely visited. (Maybe that was only because the whole city was glued to James Comey's testimony.)

The Natural History Museum was the converse. Insanely busy! My goal was the minerals. It's even better than I recalled from my twelve-year old visit. My favorite was the huge tourmaline crystals, but there were even bigger crystals of other kinds, and crystals of almost every color of the rainbow. The culmination of our mineral tour was the blue Hope diamond.


June 10, 2017
Washington D.C.

If I had written June 7, I would have written about walking with a daughter and a friend down through Georgetown to the waterfront of the Potomac River. Ha! I am so silly. I was imagining a seedy area, maybe like that of the eponymous movie. A place to go only to see a body of water and the limits of wandering.

No, of course this is the capitol city, and Georgetown! A tourist destination, not the definition of limitation. A boat to Alexandria was not leaving for two hours so we took a forty-five minute jaunt that took us past Roosevelt Island and under two or three bridges to Pentagon Bay and the ceremonial side of the Pentagon, which follows the theme of five in several ways: five sides, five concentric buildings, five floors above ground. I wonder why.

Twenty thousand people work there, our guide reported. While we were on the river and the bay, a few helicopters delivering VIPs passed overhead.

Buzzed by helicopters.

We saw Robert E. Lee's house way off in the distance. It is one of the focal points of Arlington Cemetary. That gentleman who decided to turn traitor, who had married General Washington's granddaughter and was living on land given him by the first President, was fated to have soldiers killed in the Civil War buried in his front yard and farmlands.

No, Washington had no children of his own, but he adopted his wife's two children.

After getting off the boat we walked along the waterfront, past the surprisingly sprawling Watergate Hotel, and away from the water, thrashing around a little and eating at a kind of disappointing Chinese restaurant on New Hampshire (I'll look up the name and report it later.)

At DuPont Circle we hung out enjoying the passersby and a young Asian singing guitarist and an also-young black artist painting the beginnings of someone's face... then went shopping at CVS pharmacy. I know, I know, not exactly a destination boutique!

Getting a heavy wheelchair onto the bus was awkward and no fun at all for us, the driver, or the other passengers. We are destined to find another solution.

Dinner was zucchini noodles and turkey meatballs at the apartment. Yummy!

June 6, 2017
Washington D.C.

Yes, here I am in our nation's capitol, across the street from the National Cathedral.

Following confusion about timing I reached the proper gate fifteen minutes (at best!) before takeoff and had to hustle mightily to get there before the gates closed.

I was rewarded for my tardiness by not even having to sit down in the airport, let alone have time to develop hunger, boredom, or the need to pee. Don't even ask me how it happened. The thing about confusion is you just don't know.

The flight was well nigh perfect. Too misty for a crystal clear view of the countryside, I could still see green hills and the curving Ohio River.

Once above the clouds I saw formations like stalagmites and one solitary pouf that looked as if it could be plucked right out of the sky from our plane above it.

A taxi driver with a lovely personality brought me to my daughter's home and now, after some food-shopping, eating, and snoozing I do believe I will visit the bishop's garden.

I wonder if it still smells of boxwood. Love that aroma!

Just came back from a stroll that included the Bishop's Garden. It still smells great, it still has herbs -especially in the beds around the baptismal font. One bed has all violet and lavender flowers, which is perfect for hot weather.

Today has been perfect, though. Not too warm and delightfully breezy.

Breezy could also describe the birds I saw in the garden. Of course the mockingbird were in evidence. They are never shy. A few others sang quite bravely right in the open, though. The garden did not disappoint!

There were huge Blue Atlas Cedars on either side of an arch. I'm going to look them up and see how old they are. I've never seen such big ones. Just found out they were planted in 1902. Wow. They are 115 years old.

What do you know. What I would call the purple garden is known as the blue garden, because of the blue limestone as well as the flowers.

That's a nurseryman's blue for you, and I don't remember seeing any blue rock, either!

June 4, 2017
Madison IN

At some point this morning, during my bedtime waking musings, I had the idea of going to different churches in town to experience their organs, their hymns, their preachers' sermons... nah. There's no reason to put myself through that voluntary confinement. I started to think about where I might hike.

After we arose, it was a little too chilly (and skunk-scented) to drink our coffee outside, so we watched CNN about the terrorist attack on London Bridge. Well, that is an anti-religious message for you. At least, it's a cautionary tale about the dangers of religious fanaticism.

I didn't remember how MSNBC is on a Sunday morning, so after checking out the weather I tuned in. Oh, that's right, early Sunday mornings MSNBC has prison shows on. Just what I want to see on a Sunday morning! (Caffeine gives me the energy for sarcasm.)

Going into the kitchen, I complained to my partner about the programming. "Yeah, just what I want to see - a bunch of prisoners," he grunted.

"On Sunday mornings it seems like they are determined to send you to prison, one way or another."

Ha ha ha ha ha!



June 3, 2017
Madison IN

A friend of mine e-mailed me a week or so about the death of a classmate whom I never knew. In fact, if she was ever literally in the same class with me, I couldn't say.

In class I sat as far to the front as I could probably get so I wouldn't miss anything.

Of course, it turns out I missed a lot. All that personal interaction between my classmates! All those chances to observe the backs of their heads, their profiles, their body language! What could I have learned about human nature?

Even when a teacher assigned seating (often alphabetically by our last names (to aid their own recall? I now wonder for the very first time)) I would usually wind up in the middle of the classroom and almost never looked back.

That's ironic. Now I spend a lot of time looking back.

June 2, 2017
Madison, IN

When did I first realize and accept the fact that our nation is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy?

Years ago, maybe, but the ossification that follows oligarchy is upon us now.

I guess I thought the horrible consequences would take longer to build up, but they have been piling up for some time - probably since before I was even born - certainly before the birth of my children.

Our population has allowed itself to be represented and led by members of the richest representatives of our most entrenched industries to the extent that we have lost our ability to control our own fates.

Example: We haven't been able to respond to the reality of climate change. Democratic Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama have tried, but Republican presidents have not. Way back in 1979 President Carter installed solar panels on the White House - a wonderful example for our citizens! - and Republican President Ronald Reagan tore them out again.

A new installation of solar devices was recently completed while Obama was in office. We will see what happens with that. Trump's pullout from the Paris agreement shows he is willing to stomp out the future of human life on the existing seacoasts to please his wealthy 2%.

Unfortunately a sizeable percentage of the U.S. population, undereducated and either desperately poor or desperately envious of a lifestyle that they can't afford but to which they feel entitled, has believed the blandishments of this conman that he would improve their lives and has elected him President.

(I wonder what the common man of the South felt after entering the Civil War at the behest of their wealthy ruling class and lost their lives essentially fighting for slavery.)

Example:  Related to the climate issue is an economic one. If the oil industries had not kept alternative energy so firmly tamped down, we might well be the leader in the booming alternative energy industry. Instead Germany and China are booming while our workers whine.

The oligarchy that rules this country has hundreds of times more money than the rest of us - or is it thousands, millions, billions of times more? But Donald Trump is trying to make their lives better, not the common persons. Not yours.

If our citizenry cannot respond creatively and with ingenious cunning to this threat from this societal Above, there will be Hell to pay.

I probably wrote this on this site a decade ago, and things have gotten worse, not better, since.

In fact, Hell may already be upon us.

June 1, 2017
Madison, IN

 We have seen a couple of memorable films within the last day or two. At least two of them were inspired by real events, and what strikes me is how much larger than life reality is - than fiction! Honestly, who could have thought up the stories related (and, sure, yes, somewhat altered) in these amazing films? Only the combination of people who lived them.

*Florence Foster Jenkins  So what is this movie about, anyway? The power of money, or the power of... well, no, I'm not going to ruin this wonderfully played tale for you. Ah, the complexity of the human animal!

*Gold  What a wonderful night at the movies we had last night in our own living room watching this roller coaster of a film!

*The Italian  Russian film about a boy living in an orphanage who is affected by a chance combination of meetings and circumstances that change his life trajectory dramatically.

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