New Challenges

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 Trail Near Gordon, Wisconsin
North Country Trail Near Gordon, Wisconsin

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.

The Great Bagel Conspiracy

bagelI 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.

Playing On Our Heart Strings

 

FedEx.pngTelevision advertising seems to be increasingly trying to sell by associating their products with good emotions.  Using positive emotions has probably always been integral to advertising, but lately, it seems to me that advertisers are saying nothing about the quality or price of their goods or services.  A good example is the recent Fedex campaign.  The gist of the campaign is that FedEx delivers comfort, or love, hope, encouragement, support and so on.  The campaign says nothing about FedEx delivering on time, at a competitive price, and without damage to the delivered item.

One could just as well say that FedEx delivers:

  • death and destruction in the form of a Unabomber package
  • disease via an anthrax-laced envelope
  • despair in a dunning-letter from a debt collector
  • depression caused by a Dear John letter

It is also probably true that both UPS and the good, old U.S.Post Office deliver just as much comfort, love, hope, encouragement, and support as FedEx.

Just Do It.pngThis trend in its modern manifestation may have started with the Nike slogan Just Do It.  The strong implication was that one could just do it better if one were wearing Nike shoes; and one could do it much, much better in an expensive pair of Air Jordans.

Automobile advertising uses the same approach.  If you buy a particular make and model of car, you can be just like Matthew McConaughey, sitting on a beach drinking whiskey and looking cool, or thinking profound thoughts on a road trip through a scenic desert.

Don’t get sucked in!

On the Shores Of Gitche Gumee * . . .

. . . actually, Lake Superior; the western shore of the Chequamegon Peninsula in Bayfield County, Wisconsin between Port Wing and Cornucopia.  This stretch of shoreline has crescent-shaped, sandy beaches separated by rocky headlands and occasional sloughs where streams enter Lake Superior.

It’s one of my favorite places.  I hope these photos give an idea of why I like the area so much.  Yesterday, the water was tan and cloudy.  I think it was because of suspended sand blown to this side of the lake by northwesterly winds.

Lake Superior Shoreline
Lake Superior Shoreline
Driftwood
Driftwood
Twin Sisters:  Retired Fishing Boat
Twin Sisters: Retired Fishing Boat
Eagle:  Retired Fishing Boat
Eagle: Retired Fishing Boat
Dahlia and Old Boat
Dahlia and Old Boat
Dock In Bark Bay Slough
Dock In Bark Bay Slough
Abandoned Fish House
Abandoned Fish House
Mushroom In the Moss
Mushroom In the Moss
Moss and Roots
Moss and Roots
Sunset At Cornucopia, WI
Sunset At Cornucopia, WI

 


* The first line of The Song Of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Mushroom By Any Other Name

I don’t know the names of any of these mushrooms.  My friend and bartender Nick assures me that the best book for learning how to identify mushrooms is Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora.  I’ve ordered the book, so maybe in the future I’ll be able to add captions to such photos.

 

Moments Of Happiness

Moments of happiness often pass by quickly;  sometimes so fleetingly that you miss them.  Catch them if you can and savour them.

Happiness rolled over him, he felt suddenly warm.  Perhaps, he thought, paradise goes by in an instant.  When you’re not looking.

–   Jean Casson, protagonist of the novel The World At Night by Alan Furst


The queerest thing it was, to hear such misery and, just for a moment, to know the joy of a fresh draft of air in the lungs, to feel a vague and, perhaps, traitorous promise.

–   Riordan, a character in the novel Judgement At Appomattox by Ralph Peters


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Week

Last Week

These are the best shots from my last week of shooting.

Fields In Dunn County, Wisconsin
Fields In Dunn County, Wisconsin
Gate Frames a Hill In Dunn County
Gate Frames a Hill In Dunn County
Tree In Bean Field
Tree In Bean Field
Lift-Bridge Under Repair
Lift-Bridge Under Repair
Wildflowers In the Evening Sun
Wildflowers In the Evening Sun
Web-encased Plant Backlit By the Evening Sun
Web-encased Plant Backlit By the Evening Sun
Osceola Loop Of the Ridgeview Trail
Osceola Loop Of the Ridgeview Trail
Mushroom Siblings
Mushroom Siblings
Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin
Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin
Sundown On the Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin
Sundown On the Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin

 

Two Rivers and a Creek

Last week I photographed the Lake Wissota Dam on the Chippewa River as part of my project to photograph the river from source to end.  All the dam’s spillways were closed.  It rained heavily on Tuesday so I thought perhaps the spillways would be open to handle the runoff.  I went back yesterday and found only one spillway open, the one farthest away.  Here are shots before and after the rain.

Before

Lake Wissota Dam
Lake Wissota Dam

After

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Lake Wissota Dam After Tuesday’s Rain

 

 

Other shots from yesterday, including another river, the Red Cedar, and a creek, Popple Creek, a tributary of the Red Cedar.

Red Cedar River
Red Cedar River
Sunset East Of Colfax, Wisconsin
Sunset East Of Colfax, Wisconsin
Gull On Spillway
Gull On Spillway
Popple Creek
Popple Creek, a Tributary of the Red Cedar River

Best Of August 2018

I used to post slideshows of my best photos each month until February of this year.  I then stopped due to illness; bronchitis, insomnia, and, lately, pollution from Canadian wildfires.  The air quality has now improved as have both my insomnia and bronchitis.  I’ve been able to get out again with my camera and post a Best Of August slideshow.

 

 

Three Days In August

I recently spent three days in a hotel while waiting for the carpet in my apartment to be replaced.  The hotel was an hour closer to some of my favorite photography sites, so I went out with my camera gear rather than spending the evening cooped up in a hotel room.  Here are some of the shots I captured.

 

 

The Hour Is Getting Late

All Long the Watchtower DylanPlaying for Change just posted their version of Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower.  It’s a spine-tingling rendition of a song with some timely lyrics:

There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late

Opening Early

Old Baseball Gloves
Old Baseball Gloves

I’m on my sofa watching the season opener for the Minnesota Twins.  They are in Baltimore where it’s 68° and sunny.  It’s also sunny here in Stillwater but only 38°.

This is the earliest opening day ever.  The season usually doesn’t open until a week into April.  I think it’s being done to give the players more days off during the season.

If you can’t watch or attend a game today, you could check out John Fogerty’s* song about baseball, Centerfield.

The sun came out today
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home
It’s a brown-eyed handsome man
Anyone can understand the way I feel

. . .

You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all
A moment in the sun
(pop) It’s-a gone
And you can tell that one goodbye!


* John Fogerty, once lead singer and guitarist of Creedence Clearwater Revival

 

Enjoying the Moment

View From My Bedroom Window
View From My Bedroom Window

I’m ill; have been for two months.  Lying in bed with my CPAP mask helping my lungs do their job.
I can feel the congestion, like a sore throat in my lungs; feel the tiredness that is sometimes overwhelming.

But . . .

I’m enjoying this moment.
My bedroom is a pleasant room.
It’s spring even though it snowed overnight.  Now it’s early afternoon and the snow has melted.
Windows are wide open.  I can feel the cool, fresh spring air.
I hear the birds:  a woodpecker hammering, sparrows chattering, a cardinal loudly defending his territory.
Out of my other ear I’m listening to My Top Rated iTunes playlist.
I hear this lyric from Papa Dukie and the Mud People:

Love is a beautiful thing
I can’t wait to see what the new day brings

. . .

Make you wanna dance, and cry, and
Laugh, and sing
Nananana…make you wanna holler
Nananana…down by the river
Nananana…behind the levee

I actually live down by the river and behind the levee.  I haven’t been down there lately ’cause I can’t lick this bronchitis.  So I just keep doin’ what I can.

Enjoy the good moments when they come.

At Play In a Field Of Daisies
At Play In a Field Of Daisies

 

The Blues

This is my least-favorite time of year.  Once the calendar tells me it’s spring, I expect blues skies and warm air.  I usually get winter storms.  I never learn that here in Minnesota we can’t expect winter to leave for good until well into April.

So, to counter any depression-type blues caused by the lingering winter, I’ve posted some photos featuring blue-skies-type blues.

 

 

References To MLK – The Good and The Ugly

The Good

Lyrics from the MLK Song:

Well it really doesn’t matter most of the deeds I’ve done
It really doesn’t matter the prizes I may have won
I’d like for somebody to say I tried to love someone
When I have to meet my day

In the crawl for justice
I helped somebody run
In the walk for the hungry
I fed someone
And in the march for peace
Tell them I played the drum

Mavis Staples gives the lyrics much greater emotional impact.

Buddy Guy takes the lead on “Skin Deep“, a song in similar vein produced by Playing For Change.  He’s joined by more than 50 other musicians spread across the U.S. in this song that tells us that “Underneath We Are All the Same.”  The video starts with a quote from Martin Luther King.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness.

Only light can do that.

The Ugly

This is very, very ugly.  Dodge Ram Trucks using an inspirational, Martin Luther King speech to sell trucks in a Super Bowl commercial.  What’s next, using the Sermon on the Mount to sell mini-vans?

Listen to it here and try to ignore the commercial bits.  The speech is uplifting:  Dodge Ram Superbowl Commercial

 

 

I’m Fine

Image result for griot bluesA common bit of dialogue in the English-speaking world:

Hey, Joe, how are you?

I’m fine, thanks,  What about you?

I’m fine too.

Now that the two have gotten the preliminaries out of the way, they can proceed to having a good talk.

I’ve lately been trying to find another way to answer the question “How are you?”; some version of which is heard in just about every meeting of two people.  If I took the time to answer the question truthfully it would take twenty minutes and be boring and depressing.  Does anyone actually want to know the truth?  My niece says she does.

My most recent ploy is to use phrases borrowed from song lyrics.  Here are the two phrases I’ve tried thus far.

The first is from Drunk As a Skunk ¹ off the album Griot Blues by Mighty Mo Rogers and Baba Sissoko.  The song starts with a one-sided conversation between Baba and Mo, then poses an eternal question, “I’m in love and what can I do?”  Another good line spoken by Mo just before the end of the song:  “She’s breakin’ my heart, but it’s a good break.”  The line I’ve tried to use when asked how I am is:

If it gets any worse, I’ll be in a hearse.

This hasn’t worked so well.  It just invites more questions, and I quickly have to admit that I’m not serious, and that I just wanted to use the lyric in a conversation.

The second line is from Ghost Woman Blues ² from the album Smart Flesh by The Low Anthem.

I ain’t no lamp, but my wick is burning low.

This also doesn’t work so well.  It just causes worry on the part of the other person and a desire to know more about why I’m so down; not to mention tons of advice on what I should do to fight off my black dogs of depression and insomnia.

I think I need to look for some lyrics that are more upbeat.  Maybe something from The Sound Of Music.  Someone asks me how I am and I reply

The hills are alive with the sound of music.

I can try it but somehow I don’t think it will work.

 


 

¹ Listen to the song here:  Drunk As a Skunk

² Listen to the song here:  Ghost Woman Blues

 

 

 

Eighteen Percent

Frightful Five

Amazon just sent me, “a valued member of Amazon Prime”, an e-mail telling me they are raising the price for Prime from $10.99 to $12.99.  Two dollars a month doesn’t seem like much, but it’s an 18% increase.  How does Amazon justify an 18% increase when inflation has been negligible for years and Amazon has been raking in the profits?  Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is now the richest person in the world.  Money Magazine estimates his net worth at a paltry $90.6 billion.

Amazon is one of the so-called Frightful Five along with Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft.  Farhad Manjoo writes about

. . . the core of the Frightful Five’s indomitability. They have each built several enormous technologies that are central to just about everything we do with computers. In tech jargon, they own many of the world’s most valuable “platforms” — the basic building blocks on which every other business, even would-be competitors, depend.

These platforms are inescapable; you may opt out of one or two of them, but together, they form a gilded mesh blanketing the entire economy.

So why is [many expletives deleted] Amazon demanding from me, just an old schmuck on a fixed income, an extra two dollars a month?

Should I cancel or just roll over in a submissive posture and accept the increase?

Any reasonably coherent answers will be appreciated.

Beautiful Music, Beautiful Places

The first beautiful place is next to a glacier in the Arctic, with beautiful music done by Ludovico Einaudi.  The video was put together by Greenpeace and voicesforthearctic.org.  Notice how Ludovico gasps  in surprise at the beginning of the video when startled by falling ice .  No trick photography in this video – He is there.

Then there is Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.  2CELLOS, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, perform a Mumford & Sons song.

 

Enjoy this beautiful music and then do everything you can to help protect the wonderful places on our beautiful planet, the only one we’ve got.

Countries, societies, people all over the world want to value, treasure, and protect our beautiful, natural places whether in the Arctic, a National Park in Croatia, or Bears Ears National Monument in Utah .  We in the United States have a president and an administration that do not share these values.  They want to remove protections so that our natural heritage can be exploited for financial gain by a few grasping individuals and corporations.  Don’t let them steal what is ours.

Frozen

Portrait Of the Artist As a Frozen Man

Sorry, this isn’t about the Disney movie, it’s about my day out in the cold working on my project to photograph the Chippewa River from source to end.  It was cold: 2° F with a wind chill of -10°.  I was not uncomfortable because I dressed for the weather.  (I recently purchased what I suspect was the last pair of XXL long johns in Stillwater.  I admit my outfit was not very fashionable, but it worked.)  The only problem was my hands.  I had to take off my choppers to take photos.  In areas exposed to the wind, I could only manage two or three shots until my hands became too numb to operate the camera.

When I stood still, all I could hear was the wind hissing through the dry grass and the river ice occasionally booming and popping.   When I walked, I heard the fresh snow squeaking beneath my boots and the old, frozen boards of the bridge deck creaking and snapping under my weight.  I didn’t see another soul all afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Give God the Blues

Some of the lyrics from the song “Give God the Blues” by Shawn Mullins off the album Mercyland:  Hymns For the Rest Of Us.

God don’t hate the Muslims
God don’t hate the Jews
God don’t hate the Christians
But we all give God the blues

God don’t hate the atheists
The Buddhists or the Hindus
God loves everybody
But we all give God the blues

God ain’t no Republican
He ain’t no Democrat
He ain’t even Independent
God’s above all that

Bigger than religion
He’s got a better plan
The sign says, “God’s gone fishing
For the soul of every man”

God don’t hate the Muslims
God don’t hate the Jews
God don’t hate the Christians
But we all give God the blues

And God don’t hate the atheists
The Buddhists or the Hindus
God loves everybody
But we all give God the blues

 

The entire Mercyland album is well worth checking out.  It’s a compilation with various artists:  Emmy Lou Harris, The Civil Wars, The North Mississippi Allstars, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and others, all providing hymns a bit different from those you hear in church.

 

 

What a Beautiful World This Is

A Beautiful World

 

I’ve been swamped in pessimism lately; pessimism that threatens to become cynicism.  The problem is that I don’t want to be either a pessimist or a cynic, but I thought that all the evidence I was seeing or hearing about the world today suggested that pessimism was justified.  Is it?  Even if it is justified, would it be possible to somehow escape the clutches of pessimism?

I talked to my good friend Nick, the potter and bartender.  He wisely pointed out that pessimism leads nowhere and produces nothing except despair.  He helped me realize that even though intellectually I was wallowing in pessimism, I’m living as if I were an optimist – doing new things, seeking new challenges, always trying to develop my skills and educate myself.

Then, I stumbled across three things this morning.

First was Andrew Sullivan’s weekly long read in the New York magazine, “Trump’s First Year Has Been a Disaster. Here’s Why I Have Hope.”  Sullivan points out that “so many . . . indicators in the world are remarkably good right now.”

In a similar vein, Kevin Drum, who blogs for Mother Jones, posted this morning:  “I’m Just a Big Ol’ Optimist About the Future of America Under Donald Trump.”  Kevin starts

I’ve been meaning to weigh in on the latest raft of pieces about the decline of American democracy, the decline of Western liberalism, the decline of globalism, and the decline of everything else in the era of Trump. In a nutshell, I’m far more optimistic than most of the people writing about this. Unfortunately, I haven’t really thought the whole thing through rigorously enough to make a little essay out of it.

Actually, you might consider that good news. However, I do want to lay down a few markers. Here they are:

Read both these articles for welcome counterbalance to the doom and gloom in much of today’s news.  (Note that neither article is by a Trump or Republican loyalist.)

My other stumble this morning was on YouTube where I stumbled on The Artist Series, videos produced by The Art of Photography.  They are each about fifteen minutes long and are interviews with outstanding photographers.  I watched the one with Keith Carter.  Carter talks about the death of his wife at the end of an illness.  Her last words after looking out the window of their home from her death-bed were “What a Beautiful World This Is.”

After watching that video, how can one possibly remain a pessimist, much less a cynic?

 

2018: Waiting For a Change

Happy New Year 2018

First, check out these songs:

A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

Waiting On the World To Change – John Mayer

People Get Ready – The Impressions

The Times They Are a Changin’ – a Dylan song beautifully sung by Tracy Chapman

then consider:

Care more for what you do than what you have

Love not hate

Respect all other human beings, no qualifications

Nurture our planet, its air, water, soil, plants, and all its inhabitants

Observe the Golden Rule; it works

Change is gonna come from each one of us.  As Red Green would say, “We’re all in this together.”  Stay positive and keep the faith.

Happy New Year and best wishes to all during 2018.