I collected these leaves from the grounds of my apartment building. Not many are left on the trees.
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.
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.
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.
The Classics Club sponsors this challenge that I fully expect to complete.
Here are the club’s ground rules:
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.
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.
Television 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:
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.
This 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!
. . . 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.
* The first line of The Song Of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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 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.
Other shots from yesterday, including another river, the Red Cedar, and a creek, Popple Creek, a tributary of the Red Cedar.
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.
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.
A fly trapped in the sap exuded by an Easter Lily’s stigma. Taken at the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Playing 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
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
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.
I changed this site’s theme after leaning I was using an unsupported theme. Imagine my surprise when I found out – just now – that the new theme I selected and customized is also an out-of-date theme. Frustrating!
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.
WordPress tells me that they no longer support the theme I’ve used for years for this blog. So I have to switch. While I’m in the midst of re-designing, the blog may sometimes not look or behave well. I hope to get everything straightened out before too long.
I’ve compiled my favorite photos from January in a YouTube video.
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.
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
A 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
Today I’m featuring a guest artist. This is indeed very fine art: wonderful use of color and a fine composition. Abstract realism. (The artist is my nephew Jackson.)
I’ve compiled my favorite photos from December in a video that is available on YouTube.
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.