All shot in my kitchen-table studio using flowers from the grocery store.
Melody Gardot is a singer whose story and songs are an inspiration. She was born in 1985 and, according to Wikipedia,
Gardot started music lessons at the age of nine and began playing piano in Philadelphia bars at the age of sixteen on Fridays and Saturdays for four hours a night.
While riding her bicycle in Philadelphia in November 2003, Gardot was struck by an SUV and sustained head, spinal, and pelvic injuries. Confined to a hospital bed for a year, she needed to relearn simple tasks and was left oversensitive to light and sound. Suffering from short- and long-term memory loss, she struggled with her sense of time.
Encouraged by a physician who believed music would help heal her brain, Gardot learned to hum, then to sing into a tape recorder, and eventually to write songs.
For several years, she traveled with a physiotherapist and carried a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator to reduce pain.
Given her oversensitivity to sound, she chose quieter music. On the treadmill, she listened to bossa nova by Stan Getz. Unable to sit comfortably at the piano, she learned to play guitar on her back. During her recovery, she wrote songs that became part of the self-produced EP Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions. Gardot was reluctant to record her songs at first, stating that they were too private for the public to hear, but relented and allowed her songs to be played on a Philadelphia radio station.
Here are a few of her best:
Spoken without irony by Nigel Danson:
Photography is so much fun. It’s minus two with a wind chill of about minus thirteen.
The quote above is from one of Nigel’s YouTube videos from Iceland. It’s just as cold in Wisconsin, actually colder and a lot more snow, but photography can still be fun!
February 3rd, 2018: Stuck in the snow in Cornell, Wisconsin. It was a Saturday, and I had to call 911 to get a tow truck to come and pull me out.
February 16th, 2019: Yesterday, a year later, and I was stuck again, in the ditch of a dirt road in Pierce County, Wisconsin. Again I had to call 911. Lots of help eventually showed up at the same time; a sheriff’s deputy, a farmer from the top of the hill, and a truck from Larry’s Towing. The farmer pulled me out before the tow truck arrived. The towing company didn’t charge me a cent even though they drove many miles to where I was stuck. I greatly appreciated all the help.
Day One: January 30th. -20° F, wind chill -39° F, clear and bright
Day Two: February 3rd. +36° F, no wind chill, dense fog throughout the day
Day Three: February 7th. +19° F, wind chill 7° F, heavy snow, wind, getting colder
Here are my best shots from January. I spent too much time indoors, so much of my photography was done in my kitchen-table studio.
I wrote what follows yesterday at noon. The weather remains frigid. I’ll stay inside today.
I’m trying to decide if I should leave my apartment today. It’s blisteringly cold outside – minus 20° F, wind chill minus 39° F. I do not want to go out there. On the other hand, I’m bored with the food I have on hand in my apartment. Should I venture out in search of food?
At some time today, whether I go out or not, I’ll use a great app I recently discovered, A Soft Murmur. A Soft Murmur does an excellent job of playing “Ambient sounds to wash away distractions” including rain, waves, wind, birds, crickets, fire. One can adjust the individual sounds and mix them.
I’ve found that if I lay on my sofa listening to my mix of waves, wind, birds, and crickets and feeling a soft breeze (my ceiling fan on low), I can close my eyes and feel that I’m relaxing on a warm June day. I find it somewhat uncanny. All that’s missing is some scents of summer. It’s free and easy to use. You can find it at asoftmurmur.com. (I’m not getting a penny for this plug.)
I did go out and even took a few photos. In doing so, I was only out of my car for two minutes. Then my lungs started complaining about being subjected to the icy air. Here are a couple shots that I don’t think actually convey how cold it was.
My best shots from 2018. I shot the landscapes in Western Wisconsin, between the Chippewa River and the St. Croix River. Most of the others I took in my kitchen-table studio.
I’ve been stuck in my apartment for most of January fighting a chronic respiratory ailment. So I’ve turned to photographing in my kitchen-table studio. I have large north-facing windows to provide good natural light. I’ve not used artificial lighting except for a small light pad.
My subject has been flowers. I’m experimenting with different styles and techniques ranging from straight-forward shots of a single rose to more complex and layered images done with a bit of Photoshop work and added textures or backgrounds.
As I write these words I have all my numerous and wide-spread cousins in mind, all of whom are of Danish extraction. For myself and my sister, all our grandparents were born in Denmark. I quote Bernard Cornwall from Lords Of the North, the third book in his Saxon Stories:
Never trust a Dane
In spite of this slur, I’m enjoying the Saxon Stories which cover the latter half of the Ninth Century in British history when the West Saxons under Alfred The Great were consolidating a number of small kingdoms into something like the England we know today. I’ve recently started reading these stories because it seemed like a good way to follow up The Viking Wars: War and Peace In King Alfred’s Britain 789-955 by Max Adams. I enjoy reading histories and then reading historical novels about the same period. I’ve read histories of the Napoleonic Wars intermixed with historical novels, many of them by Bernard Cornwell, especially the Richard Sharpe series of novels. Cornwell has written series of historical novels covering broad swathes of British history starting with Stonehenge then making a long leap forward to the post-Roman era and continuing on through The Battle Of Waterloo in 1815.
- Stonehenge: A Novel Of 2000 BC
- The Warlord Chronicles – post-Roman in the Dark Ages, 6th century
- The Saxon Stories – 9th and 10th centuries
- Azincourt – 1415
- The Grail Quest Series – mid-14th century
- The Sharpe Stories – 1794 – 1815. These stories conclude with Waterloo. Cornwell also wrote a history of Waterloo. Try reading these books consecutively.
All of Cornwell’s books are good reads, historically-accurate and engrossing. I appreciate that he follows each novel with a discussion of what in the novel is historical fact and what is not.
It’s been like April around these parts, but it’s January, the coldest part of the year. Last Friday the temperature was thirty degrees above normal. It was sunny; there was no wind. I had to get out and enjoy the weather in spite of being a bit ill. I spent most of that day out in my car or walking along the side of the Chippewa River south of Durand, Wisconsin. I’ll mention one rural, back road I was on just because I like the sound of the names: I drove Swede Rambler Road, which crosses Little Plum Creek, to its end at a farm gate. Along the way, I checked out a parking lot at the head of a trail into The Tiffany Bottoms State Natural Area which contains the largest floodplain forest in the United States.
I ended the day in Pepin, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Pepin. The sunset, two ice fishermen, and I all arrived at the perfect time for a photograph.
Bests of 2018
I read, listened to, or watched these things in 2018. They were not necessarily released or published in 2018. Some are years old but new to me – I discovered them this year.
Best Album Title: I’m Not Here To Hunt Rabbits
This is guitar music from Botswana “played in an eccentric style and with a depth of expression rivaling any genre of music, this is folk from the dusty outskirts of the Kalahari Desert.
A community of African country blues masters with a totally original technique. For one thing; the left hand reaches up and over the neck of the guitar, instead of from behind and underneath. Furthermore, although played on six-string guitars, the guitars are only stringed with 3 or 4 treble strings, usually in G, E and D, and one bass. If a bass string is hard to find, it might be substituted by a brake cable. Tuning is achieved by ear …
Where did these peculiarities originate? Why did they come about? Nobody knows. That’s how the older musicians did it – that’s how it always used to be done …” *
A good example song: Rampoka by Solly Sobatso
Best Song About the Wooly Mammoth:
Brontosaurus by Funkmammoth
Best Protest Song:
Ohio by Leon Bridges, Gary Clark, Jr., and Jon Batiste. This is a cover of the song written by Neil Young in response to the Kent State protests and killings of protesters in 1970. The Guardian in 2010 described the song as the “greatest protest record.” It is in The Grammy Hall Of Fame.
Honorable Mention: For What It’s Worth by The Lone Bellow
Best passage from a book:
This passage from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God
All night now the jooks clanged and clamored. Pianos living three lifetimes in one. Blues made and used right on the spot.
Best lyric from a song:
Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and grey
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive
I’m just happy to be here, happy to be alive
From End Of the Line sung by The Travelling Wilburys, written by Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty.
Best music genre:
Lo-fi is a genre hard to define and characterize even after some research. Lo-fi (or low-fi) is a term that’s been in use for decades as a label for “recorded music in which the sound quality is lower than the usual contemporary standards (the opposite of high fidelity) and imperfections of the recording and production are audible. . . . Lo-fi only began to be recognized as a style of popular music in the 1990s . . .” **
I think I’ve been listening to a sub-genre of lo-fi described by Wikipedia as a form of “downtempo music tagged as “lo-fi hip-hop” or “chillhop”. **
Here is my favorite example of what I think is lo-fi hip hop or chillhop. (Brontosaurus from above is also in this genre.)
Sens Plus Profond by Coquins
Harry Belafonte’s album Calypso from 1956 is the first million-selling LP by a single artist.
Best Happy Song:
Happy With You by Paul McCartney, a good song for all us baby boomers and everyone else
Best Singer Of Nostalgia:
Van Morrison, still going strong after all these years.
Brown Eyed Girl “Do you remember when we used to sing… ?”
The Shape of Water directed by Guillermo del Toro.
I loved the cinematography – low-key, saturated colors with a palette leaning towards greens, browns, and oranges. It reminded me of one of my favorites photographs – Flâneur Granville – taken by one of my favorite photographers, Fred Herzog. A key visual in the movie is an old-style movie theater and marquee reminiscent of a mid-twentieth-century main street. The main character lives above the theater. Later in 2018, I read Virgil Wander, a recently-published novel. One of the novel’s locations is a small-town main street where there is an old-style movie theater complete with a marquee. Again, The main character lives above the theater.
** Wikipedia entry for Lo-fi music
Donald Trump today said, “Either we build (finish) the Wall or we close the Border.”
Here is my question: If Trump can close the border why do we need a wall?
Here are my best photos from November along with a bit of musical Christmas cheer. 🎵
Sorry, not Stockholm, Sweden but Stockholm, Wisconsin, a tiny town on Lake Pepin, a wide section of the Mississippi between Wisconsin and Minnesota. I drove through Stockholm shortly after sundown yesterday. No one was about. I saw only a single person as I wandered with my camera. In the summer, the village would be thronged by tourists taking the popular day trip around Lake Pepin. Here is how things looked on a cold, dark December evening.
I wrote this post in February of this year. I got sick a few days later and forgot about it. I’ve decided to go ahead and post it.
I got stuck in the snow on Saturday when it snowed all day. I was in Cornell, a small town on the Chippewa River in Wisconsin. I tried calling some local services for a tow truck, but, being the weekend, no one answered their phone. Some snowmobilers came by and tried to push me out without success. My smartphone was having trouble finding WIFI.
My only recourse thus seemed to be 911, but I was reluctant to call because I didn’t seem to be in a true emergency. But I couldn’t think of what else to do, so I called. I apologized to the gentleman at Chippewa County Emergency Services, but he didn’t seem to be bothered by my call and went out of his way to make sure I got help. I know he made several calls before he was able to find someone in Ladysmith, over thirty miles away. Eventually, a tow truck arrived and pulled me out.
Thanks very, very much to the man who helped me and Chippewa County Emergency Services.
In my love/hate relationship with smartphones, this day was all love.
P.S., while waiting in my car to be rescued, I noticed the drops of melted snow on my car window and snapped a decent photo. I was in the snow waiting for a couple of hours and was able to get a few more decent photos.
This is my first review for the Fifty Classic Books challenge. I had started a different book but abandoned it and decided I would not subject myself to prolonged boredom while working on this challenge. So I switched to Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston writes the story of Janie Crawford in the deep South of the early Twentieth Century. It’s not a boring story.
The book describes Janie’s striving for self-actualization and the constraints that society and culture threw up to hinder her search. Janie didn’t know anything about self-actualization or even that it was something to pursue. Her pursuit was more of a yearning that she sought to fulfill. The obvious constraint she faced was racism. She lived smack in the middle of Jim Crow country in the heart of the Jim Crow era. She faced other obstacles including sexism and an insidious sort of class consciousness.
Janie is in her mid-teens at the start of the story. She was
full of that oldest human longing – self-revelation.
She searched as much of the world as she could from the top of the front steps and then went on down to the front gate and leaned over to gaze up and down the road. Looking, waiting, breathing short with impatience. Waiting for the world to be made.
She didn’t know anything about the world or what it would bring. She was looking for . . . sun-up and pollen and blooming trees . . . flower dust and springtime sprinkled over everything.
Janie’s life from that point on was not springtime and blooming trees. Her era was not just Jim Crow, it was also a man’s world. Janie’s grandmother, before marrying her off, offers Janie her insights about the world they lived in:
Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh to find out. . . . So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.
Here are some comments from the men in Janie’s life who needed to be in control:
“Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves. . . . ” He wanted her submission and he’d keep on fighting until he felt he had it.
[Joe] wanted to be friendly with her again. His big, big laugh was as much for her as for the baiting. He was longing for peace but on his own terms [her submission].
Before the week was over he [Tea Cake] had whipped Janie. Not because her behavior justified his jealousy, but it relieved that awful fear inside him. Being able to whip her reassured him in possession. No brutal beating at all. He just slapped her around a bit to show he was boss.
Janie withdrew into herself; a prolonged stifling of her desires until she met and went off with Tea Cake, who rarely tried to control Janie. Their relationship was closer to one of equals although Tea Cake sometimes acted out because of his fears and insecurities.
The racism of that era is encapsulated in a court scene when Janie is charged with killing Tea Cake to save herself when he was in the end-stages of rabies madness. She is tried by a white judge, twelve white, male jurists, and a white prosecutor. All the African-American friends of Janie and Tea Cake have to sit or stand in the back of the courtroom. After the State rests its case, a spokesman for the blacks asks to be heard:
“Mistah Prescott [the prosecutor], Ah got somethin’ tuh say.”
Mr. Prescott replies, “If you know what’s good for you, you better shut your mouth up until somebody calls you.”
“Yassuh, Mr. Prescott.”
“We are handling this case. Another word out of you, out of any of you niggers back there, and I’ll bind you over to the big court.”
[After which] the white women made a little applause.
There is also class consciousness. Even those on the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder need to have a group of people lower than them that they can disdain. In this case, those within the African-American community with darker skin and more pronounced features.
Ah [Mrs. Turner] ain’t useter ‘ssociatin’ wid black folks. Mah son claims dey draws lighting. . . . Ah jus’ couldn’t see mahself married to no black man. It’s too many black folks already. We oughta lighten up de race. . . . You’se different from me. Ah can’t stand black niggers. Ah doon’t blame de white folks from hatin’ ‘em ‘cause Ah can’t stand ‘em maself. ‘Nother thing, Ah hates tuh see folds lak me and you miced up wid ‘em. Us oughta class off.’ [check spelling]
[Janie replies] Us can’t do it. We’se uh mingled people and all of us got black kinfolks as well as yaller kinfolks.
[Mrs. Turner again] Look at me! Ah ain’t got no flat nose and liver lips. Ah’m uh featured woman. Ah got white folks’ features in my face. Still and all Ah got tuh be lumped in wid all de rest. It ain’t fair. Even if dey don’t take us in wid de whites, dey oughta make us uh class tuh ourselves.
Hurston does not forget other universal human foibles.
Gossip: “An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.”
Envy: One of the regulars on the porch of Joe’s store: “Us colored folks is too envious of one ‘nother. Dat’s how come us don’t git no further than us do. Us talks about de white man keepin’ us down. Shucks! He don’t have tuh. Us keeps our own selves down.”
And as Thurston writes, “. . .there was no doubt that the town respected him and even admired him in a way. But any man who walks in the way of power and property is bound to meet hate.”
Not to mention meanness, dislike of those who do things differently, greed, social climbing.
The racism and sexism in the book were too ingrained in American society to expect any sort of resolution in Their Eyes Were Watching God. On the other hand, Thurston has many of the characters in Janie’s social world overcoming what I describe above as human foibles. Often, the characters exhibit them, but given some time and better information they come to more humane thoughts and behaviors. The friends of Janie and Tea Cake first condemned Janie for killing Tea Cake but eventually realized that she killed Tea Cake in self-defence and in doing so protected the community from an infectious and deadly disease.
And what of Janie? What about her search for something better? I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that Janie survives.
She went over to the dresser and looked hard at her skin and features. The young girl was gone, but a handsome women had taken her place. She tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there.
” . . . you got tuh go there tuh know there. Yo’ papa and yo’ mama and nobody else can’t tell yuh and show yuh. Two things everybody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They go tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.”
Hurston writes with unexpected descriptive phrases that are clear, concise, unique. I often wondered how a person could come up with these ways to describe things? Very out of the ordinary. Here are a few examples:
Janie stood where he left her for unmeasured time and thought. She stood there until something fell off the shelf inside her.
She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels.
Sorrow dogged by sorrow is in mah heart.
Last summer that multiplied cockroach wuz round heah tryin’ tuh sell gophers.
Ah’m stone dead from standin’ still and tryin’ tuh smile.
Something stood like an oxen’s foot on her tongue, and then too, Jody, no Joe, gave her a ferocious look. A look with all the unthinkable coldness of outer space.
All night now the jooks clanged and clamored. Pianos living three lifetimes in one. Blues made and used right on the spot.
It was the meanest moment of eternity.
She was too busy feeling grief to dress like grief.
Hurston’s humor usually shows up in the dialogue:
Yeah, Sam say most of ‘em goes to church so they’ll be sure to rise in Judgment. Dat’s de day dat every secret is s’posed to be made known. They wants to be there and hear it all.
Sam is too crazy. You can’t stop laughing when youse round him.
Uuh huun. He says he aims to be there hisself so he can find out who stole his corn-cob pipe.
There is also a wonderful story about a yaller mule that becomes a dead yaller mule that ends with a description of the neighborhood’s buzzards gathering to dispose of the mule. One reads about the buzzards and thinks, “yeah, that’s exactly how buzzards go about doing their thing.” And it’s a funny description.
Hurston’s dialogue is in an African-American vernacular which I first found irritating. I actually made this note in the margin on page 10: “End of patois. Good”. I found that it made the text harder to read and understand. I eventually was able to overlook the dialect to the extent that it didn’t interfere with my appreciation of the book. Henry Louis Gates, Jr writes in an afterword that people read Their Eyes Were Watching God in part “. . . because she used black vernacular speech and rituals, in ways subtle and various, to chart the coming to consciousness of black women, so glaringly absent in other black fiction.” She used the dialogue of peripheral characters speaking the vernacular to give voice to commentaries on life.
Their Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937. Gates’s afterword mentions this about Zora Neale Hurston’s subsequent life.
Hurston’s fame reached its zenith in 1943 with a Saturday Review cover story honoring the success of Dust Tracks. Seven years later she would be serving as a maid in Rivo Alto, Florida; ten years after that she would die in the County Welfare Home in Fort Pierce, Florida.
She deserved better, much better.
Since I finished Their Eyes Were Watching God, I’ve wondered how much has changed since those days. I thought about some of the books I’ve read that helped me understand that not enough progress has been made. The problems described in Their Eyes Were Watching God are still with us.
I thought about the Easy Rawlins series of detective novels by Walter Mosely that describe the African-American experience in southern California in the decades after World War Two. Stanley Crouch’s Nighthawk Rising, a biography of Charlie Parker, and Gordon Parks’ autobiography Choice Of Weapons confirm the accuracy of Mosely’s fictional works. I found more confirmation in Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth Of Other Suns and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. There are recent novels like those of Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing and Salvage the Bones. Most recently for me, the mystery Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke which takes places in contemporary, rural Texas and has an African-American Texas Ranger as its protagonist show that progress has been made – a black Texas Ranger! – but not nearly enough given that the novel also involves the White Aryan Brotherhood.
We need to keep pushing forward, especially now when we seem to be regressing.
The weatherperson today said that we’re in the midst of the darkest weeks of the year. It’s not just that the days are so short, but also because this is the cloudiest part of the year.
Fortunately, there is always light at my kitchen table so I can do some tabletop photography.
Morning thoughts, yesterday:
- It’s gray and gloomy outside. Bummer. The prediction was for sunny skies.
- A lousy day for photography. Why bother to go out?
- And it’s cold!
- I’m tired, run down. I’d just as soon lie on the couch all day.
- The morning blues.
Afternoon thoughts, yesterday:
- It feels so good to be outside in the fresh, clean air.
- It doesn’t seem as cold as I thought it would be.
- I’m finding good shots in spite of the flat, gray sky
- I can forget about the fatigue when I’m out exploring and shooting
- A great day to be alive
I ended up shooting interesting signs or incongruous signs or signs that said something about the nature of the area I was exploring. My day’s work was part of my long-running project to photograph the cuesta in Wisconsin west of the Chippewa and Red Cedar rivers.
I felt like a real, true artic explorer. At one point I reached the top of an unplowed twisting road [photo below] and decided that going down the other side would be putting my life at risk even though I was driving an SUV. This was in civilized, pastoral Wisconsin. Unexpected.
November is almost over. The autumn color is gone; the trees are bare; there’s no snow. The forest floor is damp and littered with fallen leaves. There is a bit of color – the emerald green of moss. A single leaf still in its autumn color. Small plants on the forest floor that never seem to suffer from the snow and cold – they’re always green. A few bare trees with silver branches that stand out against a somber hillside.
Some oak bits that fell from trees in the neighborhood.
My best photos taken in October 2018:
I collected these leaves from the grounds of my apartment building. Not many are left on the trees.
I spent a few hours Sunday afternoon driving and walking Wisconsin Rustic Road 51 in Pierce County. This is the most rustic of the rustic roads I’ve driven. It was not much more than two wheel tracks, in many spots suitable for only a single vehicle. It starts at the top of a small ravine. The road and ravine plunge downhill with a cliff rising up on one side of the road and the ravine on the other side of the road. There was little water in the ravine, only a few small pools. In the spring after snowmelt or perhaps after heavy rain, there would probably be water rushing down the ravine and over least one waterfall. Eventually, the ravine levels out into a narrow, flat-bottomed valley run through by Pine Creek, a small, meandering stream. In four places the creek crosses the road in gravel washes – no bridges or culverts.
I spent a couple hours photographing the road and didn’t encounter a vehicle or a person. The weather was not good. I had to use an umbrella to keep the rain off my camera lenses. Not the best light or weather for photography. I did get a few decent shots, not just on Rustic Road 51, but on other back roads in southern Pierce County. I think I did OK considering the conditions. And – I had fun.
Kevin Drum from Mother Jones posted on his blog a call to boycott companies that advertise on Fox News. I’m glad to see that there is something that you and I can do to fight Fox News. Drum’s post contains a list of the top ten advertisers on Fox News.
It’s wonderful how much beauty a singer can give us in just three syllables. Two examples:
Madeline Peyroux recorded the song Liberté for her latest album, Anthem. She sings the three syllables at the end of the song. The song is in French, but the ending three syllables need no translation.
Liberté . . . Liberté . . . Liberté
Just a bit of translation
On hope without memory
I write your name
And by the power of a word
I start my life again
I was born to know you
To name you Liberty
Oliver Mtukudzi sings with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the song Nería. Mtukudzi starts the songs with a bit of lovely, finger-picked guitar. Then he sings the three syllables: Neria. As soon as I heard that gravelly voice sing Neria, I knew I would love the song. It’s gorgeous. It needs translation so I will quote from the website Jusi I Love: Music From Africa and the African Diaspora
The song was written for the soundtrack of a movie called ‘Neria‘ which is about the struggles of a woman in rural Zimbabwe who lost her husband through an accident. Oliver Mtukudzi’s very emotional song is about the strength of women and how they succeed in facing live challenges.
“Don’t be disheartened Neria, God is with you (Mwari anewe). May your heart be strong, be strong, God is with you. Death is jealous, it separates those in love. Don’t be disheartened my sister, God is with you.”
The fall color season is past its prime in our neck of the woods. Colors are waning and strong winds over the last few days blew down lots of leaves. Many days of peak color were gray, damp, and gloomy. At one time, I feared that the season would pass with no sunny weather, but it’s ending with a few good days.
Here are my best shots of this year’s color.
I read The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world by Harriet Griffey of The Guardian. One paragraph struck me because it describes exactly what I’ve experienced. I blamed it on old age. Griffey suggests perhaps it is due to the many distractions of our digital era. Here’s the paragraph:
Nicholas Carr picked up on this again in an article in the Atlantic in 2008, before going on to publish his book The Shallows two years later. “Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy,” he wrote. “My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”
That’s what I’ve been experiencing in my reading. To compensate, I’m usually working on four or five books at the same time. If I get bogged down on one, I switch to another. I also set a timer. I started using a timer to make sure I wasn’t inactive for too long. I then discovered that if you know your current reading session will be only twenty-five minutes long, you’ll be able to concentrate better.
More from Griffey:
In 2005, research carried out by Dr. Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.
Our ubiquitous digital distractions are
a predominant reason for the poor concentration so many people report. The fact that we are the cause of this is, paradoxically, good news since it hands back to us the potential to change our behaviour and reclaim the brain function and cognitive health that’s been disrupted by our digitally enhanced lives.
Put simply, better concentration makes life easier and less stressful and we will be more productive. To make this change means reflecting on what we are doing to sabotage personal concentration, and then implementing steps towards behavioural change that will improve our chances of concentrating better. This means deliberately reducing distractions and being more self-disciplined about our use of social media, which are increasingly urgent for the sake of our cognitive and mental health.
Griffey ends with some tips for improving concentration starting with the “five more” rule:
This is a simple way of learning to concentrate better. It goes like this: whenever you feel like quitting – just do five more – five more minutes, five more exercises, five more pages – which will extend your focus.
- Good breathing
- Watching the hands of a clock turn
- Exercise, especially if done mindfully
- Reading for pleasure
I can’t concentrate any longer on this post. I think I’ll have to end it here.
I am starting two new challenges: to cover the segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin and to read fifty classic books over the next five years.
North Country National Scenic Trail
I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete this challenge given my age and the state of my health. I intend to have fun trying. I used the verb “cover” in the first paragraph above because some of the trail follows roads so I’ll be able to drive. The rest I’ll have to hike – definitely a challenge since I can manage only a mile or two at a time.
The North Country Trail Association describes the trail as “the longest in the National Trails System, stretching 4,600 miles over 7 states from the middle of North Dakota to the Vermont border of New York. The stretch in Wisconsin is 207 miles and runs from the Minnesota – Wisconsin border near Superior, Wisconsin to where the Wisconsin – Michigan border meets Lake Superior.
Fifty Classic Books
The Classics Club sponsors this challenge that I fully expect to complete.
Here are the club’s ground rules:
- Choose fifty classic books. I’ve chosen fifty novels.
- Post the list on your blog. My list is here.
- Choose a reading-completion goal date up to five years in the future. My date is November 1, 2023.
- Write a review of each book when finished reading it and post it on your blog.
- Submit each book review to The Classics Club website.
I haven’t officially started yet. I have to finish a couple of the books I’m currently reading. I’ll start in a couple of weeks with Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.
I have uncovered a sinister, global conspiracy – one to corner the market for bagels!
It started a week ago when I noticed a new slogan on the wall of Bruegger’s Bagels: “Life Is Short. Stay Awake For It.” Later that same day, I saw a large, Caribou Coffee panel van in the parking lot of my local supermarket. On the front of it was the exact same slogan! [sinister music playing in the background]
A couple days later, I talked to a clerk at Bruegger’s. She said that Bruegger’s was now owned by Caribou Coffee. It got worse. There is actually a holding company, JAB Holding Company, that owns or has a majority stake in Bruegger’s and Caribou and other bagel companies. Here is a list of all the bagel companies under JAB’s umbrella. I don’t know if the list is complete; there could well be more.
- Bruegger’s Bagels
- Einstein Brothers’ Bagels
- Panera Bread
- Manhattan Bagel
- Noah’s Bagels
- Kettleman Bagels & Bakery
- Chesapeake Bagel Bakery
- I. & J. Bagel Inc
This is truly frightening. The worst part is that Caribou will not allow Bruegger’s to use crunchy peanut butter. (I swear this is true!) Creamy only. Sacrilege. I’ve been forced to switch to honey-walnut cream cheese. What would the world be like if there was only creamy peanut butter? I shudder to think about it.
I think I’ll go take a nap.
Here are my best photos from September with music that I remember from my misspent youth. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Acker Bilk. I think this was his only hit.