Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Voyage Home

I suppose it may have been a crazy thing to do, but rather than head north out of Pittsburgh, we went instead to Maidsville, West Virginia, about an hour south. Ms. Geranium and I have an old friend, Blanche, who lives there and it was her daughter Coretta's 20th birthday. We've visited Blanche and family quite a few times over the years and Cinderbelle and Coretta have become good friends. Lunch and birthday cake were offered. How could we refuse?

Blanche lives on the top of a mountain outside of Maidsville, in a house built by her ex-husband, before they were exed. The mountain was given to her ex-husband's family by one of the Kings George sometime before the American Revolution. I wonder how the Native Americans felt about that? Anyway, the property has been in the family for 250 - 300 years or so. Blanche will continue to live there until their youngest finishes school, then the property reverts back to her ex's family, who already have agreed to sell it to a power utility who will then rape the land as they have done to almost everything else in the area. Coal country. Tragic, if you ask me.

The road to Blanche's house.

One of Blanche's goats.

Lunch was lamb chops from sheep raised by Blanche. Yum. We got the last of them, since Blanche is taking a break from raising sheep. Followed by birthday cake, of course.

L-R: Blanche, Cinderbelle, Coretta (the birthday girl) and Ry, who, at 15, has become an excellent bassist.

After cake, we said our goodbyes and hit the road. Next stop: my brother's house in Okemos, Michigan.

We got to Okemos pretty late, about 11:00 pm. We stayed the next day for breakfast and a game of Skip-Bo.

My brother Brian (center), his sons Nolan (left, with his duck) and Albie (right) and Cinderbelle's hands (no cheating!) Albie and Nolan are both gifted musicians and we were treated to a bit of their playing both times I (we) stopped.

Then on toward home.

Approaching Chicago from the southeast.

You know those metal and plastic boxy thingies on the road? I think they're called automobiles? They were invented to move people and their stuff from point A to point B faster than a person can walk. Except in Chicago.

The driver of the Saab directly ahead of me is one of those, pardon the expression, dickwads who thinks she's so important that she drives on the shoulder of the road so she doesn't have to wait her turn like everyone else.

A welcome sight.

Almost there.

Home at last.

I hope that wasn't excruciatingly dull. I'll make up for it on my next post: pictures from my colonoscopy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stuff from the trip

Cinderbelle and I got home last night. I drove 1,500 miles in five days. I didn't take many pictures, but here are a few.

Somewhere near beautiful Gary, Indiana on the I-90 Skyway. There were some even lovelier scenes, but I'm not too good at taking pictures and driving at the same time. By the time I got the camera out, I had already passed the sprawl of structures made of big black pipes spewing fireballs .

I stopped at my brother's house in Okemos, Michigan on the way there and back. It probably added an hour or so to my total drive time each way, but his house is almost exactly halfway and it was nice to stop and visit. This sign was somewhere in southeastern Michigan. I didn't stop there.

My youngest daughter likes these bridges. Or used to, anyway. So I took this picture for her.

Spring was much further along in Pittsburgh than it was in Madison. Oakland, which is where the University of Pittsburgh is located, has many, many redbud trees, which were in spectacular bloom. For some reason, I didn't take any shots of the redbuds, but here are some flowers outside the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. I think they might be tulips.

Inside, some orchids.

A koi pond.

A pretty tree outside the Cathedral of Learning (for all you Terry Pratchett readers, I prefer to think of it as Unseen University's Tower of Art, but the tower is unseen in this photo, as it should be. Or shouldn't be. Or.... ummm....)

The rare and ferocious Pennsylvania stubb-tailed squirrel, a genetic mutation caused by the magical run-off from Unseen University.

When I arrived in Pittsburgh, I hit construction and its accompanying Detour from Hell. It took me two hours to drive from downtown to Oakland, which should have only taken about 15 minutes. Leaving town I took a different route which passed through one of the finer neighborhoods, but only took about 15 minutes.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll bore you with a few more from the journey home later.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On the road again

Cinderbelle is finishing up her freshman year in college. I'm in Pittsburgh right now and tomorrow we pack up her stuff and head home. We should get back to Madison sometime Sunday.

In total dunderhead fashion, I remembered to borrow Sparkly Seacow's digital camera, but I forgot to bring the USB cable, so I can only post pictures taken with my low-res phone, like these ones.

Cinderbelle and Cate, who will be her roommate next year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

In Search of Albion by Colin Irwin

I posted a review of this book at yonder Spring Reading Challenge. You can read it if you want. The review, that is. Or the book. Whatever.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Reptile Palace Orchestra: Harmony Bar, 4/19

Tomorrow (4/19) I will be playing with The Reptile Palace Orchestra at the Harmony Bar & Grill, 2201 Atwood Avenue, Madison, WI. Since both our "bassists" will be present, I'll probably be playing more Bulgarian tambura than bass. The Ashar Dance Company and El Genneyya Bellydance will be performing to several of our songs. When the bellydancers aren't out on the floor, odds are pretty good that a number of local folkdancers will be. I find that gigs at the Harmony are usually quite enjoyable.

Later the same day:
After reading the post above, Ms. Geranium (a.k.a. Luminiferous Ether) made a comment that went something like this: "You're going to play mostly tambura? That means no one will be able to hear you." (Believe it or not, sometimes we actually communicate verbally, rather than virtually.) She was, of course, referring to a previous performance when I made my debut on the tambura. I am taking steps to rectify that problem. It remains to be seen how effective those steps will be. The Harmony does have a very good PA system and a sound person, so that may help as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

¡Cuidado! ¡Hay pavos!

A few weeks ago Ms. geranium and I were walking in Owen Conservation Park and came across some turkeys drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

The thugs looked pretty annoyed that we were disturbing them, but they slunk away when I approached to take some photos.

Now I'm reading news reports about wild turkeys in the same area that have been attacking mail carriers. I suppose we're lucky we escaped unscathed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Things the 40 YO says.

I'm reading this post over at Jess Wundrun's blog, and getting a good chuckle out of it, too, when I thought of an amusing thing my 40-ish-year old brother said to one of his kids. They were out and about somewhere, running late, and he was trying to get them moving, probably trying to get them to a soccer game/hockey game/violin lesson/cello lesson/piano lesson, or some such. The kids have told him "just a sec" one time too many. He shouts, in front of the gods and everybody "No more secs!" Try saying it out loud. In a public place. Yeah.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Motor Primitives: High Noon Saloon, 4/15/08, Happy Hour Show!

Okay. Your taxes are done. I hope. Now it's time to ROCK! And it's an early show! The Motor Primitives and Aniv de la Rev are playing a happy hour show at the High Noon Saloon! It just doesn't get much better than this, does it? Due to band members' summer vacation plans, we don't have another show booked until the end of July, so the time is now, people! The show starts at 5:45 and we need to be out of there by 9:00 for the Unhappy Hour Show! I like exclamation points!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Where Have All The Musicians Gone?

During the Vietnam War, there was a great deal of public opposition by musicians to the war. So far, during this war, it seems that musical personalities as voices for peace have been strangely absent. I find myself wondering if this is because there isn't opposition to the war in the musical community, people are scared to speak up or maybe they are speaking up but they're being ignored by the media. I suspect it could be all of the above to varying degrees, but I have a feeling that the last reason may well be the biggest factor. There have been a few blips here and there: The Dixie Chicks, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and Neil Young are a few that come to mind, although Mr. Young said in an interview that he only objects to the Iraq war, not the war in Afghanistan and only The Dixie Chicks seemed to attract any attention, mostly negative, from the media. For the record, I wrote and recorded the song "Impeach the Moron" [go to my sidebar if you want to listen to it] before Neil Young released "Let's Impeach The President."

As I see it, the lack of media attention to almost all forms of opposition to the war has been very deliberate and the anti-war movement of the 60s proved that music in particular is capable of being inspirational. It can bring people together, energize them and sometimes get people to think about events in a different way, but only if people can hear it. Thus, someone like Bruce Springsteen, as popular as he is, can only truly reach people in person. It's quite a dilemma.

I was thinking about that the other day when I came across this YouTube video of Brian Eno, who, in my opinion, is the most influential yet relatively unknown musician in the history of recorded music, speaking at a demonstration in the UK.

There is another video of Brian Eno (see it here, it's a bit longer and he's mostly reading pieces by other people) addressing a different demonstration that was declared illegal by the British government. It pleased me to find that Mr. Eno, who strikes me as something of a recluse, is speaking out in spite of the potential legal consequences, but where is the media coverage? One of the most influential musicians in the world speaks at a demonstration and no one knows about it? Times have certainly changed. It's no wonder that people feel discouraged.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

An Odd Dog

I saw these two guys walking a rather odd looking dog today.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Book Review: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

(Note: Also posted at The Spring Reading Challenge.)

I picked this book after seeing it described on Booksense, a site Luminiferous Ether recommended as a source for ideas when looking for something to read. Sharp Teeth is Toby Barlow’s first novel. Barlow also writes for the Huffington Post.

The story is pretty much a werewolf tale set in contemporary Los Angeles. In Barlow’s world, the werewolves can change shape at will, no full moon required, turn into actual dogs and retain their self-awareness regardless of the form they happen to be in. There are several packs in the L.A. area and they don't really get along with each other. Each pack consists of any number of males, one alpha male and one female. One of these packs is controlled by a werewolf named Lark. Lark is working on some grand scheme, which never really gets fully explained, but the scheme requires lots of money, the infiltration of the dog pound and entering two of his pack members in a bridge tournament. Lark’s pack is pretty white-collar. One of the other packs is more gang-like. Early in the story, the female from Lark’s pack falls in love with a dogcatcher. I don’t think her name was ever mentioned, but other female werewolves in the story had names, so I don’t know what that was about. Maybe my memory is just messed up. The story follows a number of different characters (werewolves, a cop, the dogcatcher, etc) through the twists and turns of the plot.

Sharp Teeth has some pretty violent moments, but it doesn’t get terribly graphic in its descriptions of violent acts. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is squeamish. The book is also written in verse form, which seemed a bit odd to me. Even though it reads like prose, I found it to be somewhat distracting. Another distraction, and this is something I find in a lot of books, were the descriptions of romantic moments between characters. Not that there was a lot of that in this book, but there was some. It seems to me that writers put these scenes in because someone, probably a publisher, tells them they have to, but I usually find that they make me uncomfortable. Where do they get some of those descriptions? (“She parted as he entered her.” Puh-lease!) Is there a Writing Sex Scenes For Dummies™ book that lists all the clich├ęs? I don't think of myself as a prude, but I don’t particularly want to watch someone else engaged in an intimate moment, nor do I want to listen to people describe their sex-lives. Why should books be any different? I much prefer that, when the story calls for it, the writer alludes to a romantic interlude rather than stooping to throbbing manhoods and heaving bosoms. Aside from that I found Sharp Teeth to be well written and an entertaining read. I think I’d give it a 6 on a scale of 1 - 10.