Friday, July 25, 2008

First we rock, then we go to the Rock

Ms. Geranium, Sparkly Seacow, SS's friend Violet, Molly (the Official Spokesdog of the Impeachment Movement™) and I will be heading up nort' to Rock Island State Park for a week of no cars, no television (oh, wait, we don't watch television, so that won't be any different) no telephones, internets or electricity. There will be plenty of other good stuff though - hiking, lying on the beach, swimming, fighting over the one hammock, napping, reading, playing guitar, that sort of thing.

But first, tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon at 4:15 pm The Motor Primitives will be playing at the Atwood Summerfest. A fun outdoor festival about 4 blocks from our house. I will be using someone else's bass speakers for this gig, thanks to the bass player from The Deadstring Brothers, who will be playing after us, so I won't need to load my rig into the car. All I'll need to bring will be my bass, amplifier and a bag of cables and stuff. This will make it possible for me to pack for our trip beforehand, walk or bike to the gig, and I'll have an easy load-out when we're done. I must be crazy, because.... the gig, hurry home and zoom up to Green Bay, where we will stay overnight at my sister's house. Sunday morning we need to get going early enough to make the last ferry to Rock Island. It doesn't look very far on the map, but it's slow driving through Door County and it's necessary to take a car ferry from the tip of Door Co. to Washington Island, drive to the other end of Washington Island, then leave your car and get all your stuff onto the next ferry. Once on the Rock, you have to lug all your gear to your campsite on foot. It's a lot of work getting up there. That's why we stay for a week.

I won't be blogging or reading any blogs for about a week or so. I know you'll all really miss me. All seven of you. But I will miss you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Music, food, folks & fun.

Yesterday (Tuesday) Veseliyka played at our neighborhood farmer's market. We didn't make any money to speak of, but it was a good time. I like the sense of community our little market has. After all, what can be better than knowing the people who grow your food, seeing neighbors and friends and having the chance to either play some music or listen to music (and dance!) while you shop for locally grown organic food? And, due to the fact that in this group I play a relatively portable instrument and the market is so close to home, I can bike there!

Here are some pictures taken by our friend Paula White. The background is unimpressive since we are facing the market from its perimeter, so just imagine a bunch of stalls with people milling about, kids underfoot (literally - I almost stepped on a couple) and a beautiful, sunny, although rather windy, day. Sorry, no pictures of Dave playing his inflatable goat.


Playing a wind instrument can be a challenge on a windy day.



Me (again...). Recognize the hat?

This is the kind of thing that happens when you play on a windy day. Music on the ground.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New(?) friends.

I'd like to take a moment to introduce y'all to two additions to my blog roll.

First, there's Quaker Dave whose blog is called The Quaker Agitator. I've never actually met QD, aside from virtually, but I enjoy reading his blog. Many of you probably already read The QA, but I have been remiss in adding him. His blog is always worth a visit.

Second, we have Gomonkeygo with the blog The New Disease. Gomomnkeygo is an old friend who moved from Madison a number of years back and just recently stopped by here to say "hi." I knew him through both the local music scene and his younger sister, who was once a coworker of mine (cow-ork-er: |'kau ork er|; noun; a person who orks cow. [Sorry, I can't resist playing with words and pronunciation. I know, it's a bad habit, but I just can't help myself.])

So, if you're not already reading these two fine blogs, take a moment to visit them in your copious spare time.

And, to those of you whom I never introduced when I added you to my blog roll, please accept my most sincere apologies. I never even thought of it until seeing it done on other blogs.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Poetry on the stumps

Earlier tonight, Ms. Geranium went to a poetry reading at our friend Terry's house. Of course, we got there a little late as we first had to visit Madison' Greek Fest (a thoroughly awesome event, especially if you like Greek music and food, which I do) where we were treated to the amazing Panopoulos Orchestra (sorry, I can't find a link for them). They were really, really, ummm... great! What else is there to say? They'll be there again tomorrow (Sunday). If you are in Madison, I would heartily recommend you stop by. When else will you have the chance to hear music this good for free?

Okay, back to the poetry reading. Our friend Terry has hosted these several times now, but, for one reason or another, this was the first time we were able to attend. Basically, she has a back yard with some stumps in it, she invites a bunch of people to come over and read, or listen to, poetry. It was very informal and very cool (cool as in "neat-o", the weather was rather warm). The trains run right past her house, the traffic is pretty heavy, but it didn't stop people from reading their poetry. Nice people enjoying a summer evening outside and not watching television! (If Americans start creating their own entertainment, then the terrorists have already won!) I loved it. I can't remember everything that was read, and I can't comment on what occurred before we made our fashionably late arrival, but most people just read a poem or two that they liked. Terry's daughter read at least one poem she had written herself. That was awesome. Ms. Geranium read a poem by Les Barker entitled "Spot Was Not Like the Rest". I read a Linton Kwesi Johnson poem called "Mekin Histri" and since the LKJ piece is rather serious, in an attempt to lighten things up a little, I followed it with Les Barker's "Voicemail". It was a little awkward reading the LKJ poem, as he writes in a Jamaican-british dialect, which, obviously, is not my native way of speaking, but since he writes it phonetically, I figured I ought to read it as written. I love his stuff, though, so what the heck. Hopefully I didn't mess it up too badly.

I found some Les Barker on YouTube, so here is one that includes "Spot Was Not Like The Rest", (which starts around 7:55. Oh, and when he says "zebra", it sounds like "zebbra" to us Americans) among others. It's kind of long for a YouTube video, but if you've never heard Les Barker, it's worth the time. I had the pleasure of seeing him read his poetry in person once, and he almost killed me. I don't think I have laughed so hard at any live performance before or since.

And here is a Linton Kwesi Johnson clip for any who are interested (not the one I read, which I was unable to find on the YouTubes). I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform twice in Madison: once with the Dennis Bovell Band and once reading his poetry a cappella. Both were extremely powerful performances in their own way. If you ever have the chance to see him, don't pass it up!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A rant: air-conditioning

Okay, I realize that this post falls into the "rant" category. I'm aware that some of it may sound harsh, but I would like to make it clear that my intent is not to offend anyone who doesn't share my opinion. I'm constantly reminding myself that I was wrong once; it could happen again...

.... air-conditioning! I hate it. Granted, my circumstances are different from many others'. I live in a relatively cold climate. There are only one to two months out of the year that actually get uncomfortably warm, in my opinion. I am also aware that, for some people (the elderly, people with severe allergies, etc.), air-conditioning can be a necessity. Let me also make it clear that I don't enjoy summer. I love winter; -20˚ is pleasant to me, while anything over 80˚ is unpleasantly warm. Add in some humidity and it just gets ugly. One might think that a person who doesn't enjoy summer would like air-conditioning. Did I mention that I hate it? I think I did.

We don't have AC in our house. That means that, in warm weather, we have our windows open. Unfortunately for us, all of our neighbors do have AC. I like my neighbors, they're nice people, but the result is that, in order for our neighbors to enjoy their air-conditioned comfort, we have to listen to KKKKKRRRRNNNGGHHGHGHZHZHZHZHZNGHNGHNGHNGHGN for untold hours every day and I find myself getting pissed-off at people that I like. This sticks in my craw for a number of reasons.

First of all, they get to enjoy a nice, cool house and I have to listen to the noise that makes it possible for them to be comfortable. Noise pollution is one of the least recognized forms of pollution, but I believe it to be every bit as harmful as any other form of pollution (just think about those cars driving around BOOOMMM, BA-BOOOOM BOOOM!). At the very least, it seems to me that the people enjoying the benefits of an air-conditioned house should be the ones who have to listen to the absolutely totally obnoxious noise it creates. Did I mention that it's a horrible sounding noise? I think I did.

Secondly, it seems that once people turn on their AC, they don't turn it off until it's time to turn on the heat, even when they're on vacation. We have one neighbor (very nice people, by the way) who have already been gone for two weeks this summer and have left their air-conditioning on while they've been away. Two weeks of listening to KKKKKRRRRNNNGGHHGHGHZHZHZHZHZNGHNGHNGHNGHGN all day and all night when they're not even home! AARRRGHGHGH! As another example, about a week or two ago, the temperatures had been up in the 80s during the day, but down into the 50s at night for a couple of weeks. In that kind of weather, you open your windows at night and close them during the day and your house stays nice and comfortable. Heck, even if you leave your windows open during the day, if it's getting down to the 50s at night, your house doesn't get all that warm during the day and air-conditioning is just not necessary. While walking the dog one evening when the temperature was around 56˚, it made me feel angry at people whom I like to discover how many of them had their AC running when they could have turned it off, opened their windows and cooled their houses down faster than the AC was cooling it. And I have to listen to that vile sound. All day. All night. For no good reason. It's like having someone tapping you on the head with little tiny hammers for hours and days. It isn't excruciating pain in the short term, but over time it becomes sheer torture. Literally.

Thirdly, in this day and age of awareness of the shortage of petroleum, climate change, etc., it amazes me that so many people feel that air-conditioning is a god-given right or a necessity of life. Once again, people that I like and respect will point their fingers at drivers of SUVs, smokers, or whomever, but will never consider the possibility that using an air-conditioner is an ill-advised and irresponsible use of energy. "I can't live without air-conditioning" is a line I've heard all too many times. (The terrorists hate us for our freedom!) Many of these same people will complain about how they hate winter, yet most of them don't know what summer really means, because they don't live in it. Their houses are air-conditioned, their jobs are air-conditioned and their cars are air-conditioned. They have never lived in summer. I have never lived in an air-conditioned house. I haven't worked in an air-conditioned work-place since 1992, when I left retail. It's not that big of a deal. You just accept it and live in the environment. Hot, cold, whatever. Sure, when it's exceptionally warm you slow down. So what?

Fourthly, once upon a time, summer was a time when people pretty much lived outside. They went for walks, sat out on their porches or just plain hung out. Not anymore. When people air-condition their houses, they stay inside. So much for getting to know your neighbors or having any sense of community.

My experience has been that those people who don't have air conditioning at home or don't work in air-conditioning are the people who complain the least about weather in general. Farmers, carpenters and people in other similar professions don't complain much about winter. They don't complain much about summer. They just accept it and deal with it. If it gets too hot (or too cold) they accept the fact that they can't work that day. The whole "Southern Mystique" is based on a culture that has accepted hot weather. Nay, embraced hot weather. Buildings were designed with air-flow in mind. Lots of windows. Porches. The expectation that things would slow down in summer, and that it wasn't a bad thing. Now, everyone has to be productive all the time, regardless of environmental conditions. We rule the environment, after all, not the other way around.

I realize that most people aren't intentionally trying to irritate their neighbors. They're most likely not aware of how much noise they're pumping into their neighborhoods, the possibility that not all of their neighbors have air-conditioning and not thinking about how much energy they're consuming. But, to me, it's a giant "FUCK YOU! I want to be comfortable! Fuck you! Fuck the environment! Fuck! Fuck! Fuckfuckfuck!" (There goes my 0% Cuss-o-meter level, of which I was so proud.) And, yes, not having air-conditioning is a choice we made. We even had a major re-model done on our house a few years ago and decided against including air-conditioning, for a number of reasons, but we now have wonderful air circulation in our house. Still, it doesn't seem right to me that those of us who choose not to buy into the AC lifestyle should have to suffer so others can enjoy their climate-controlled comfort.

Things are going to have to change, and soon. Energy prices are going through the roof and I suspect it will only get worse. People will be forced to re-evaluate some of their lifestyle choices, whether they want to or not. Meanwhile, I guess I have to live with KKKKKRRRRNNNGGHHGHGHZHZHZHZHZNGHNGHNGHNGHGN all day, every day, from the beginning of June through the end of September (that's one third of my life that I have to listen to that hellacious noise!). Either that or I go on a rampage with my flame-thrower. Actually, I think I might enjoy that.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A strange dream

Photo: Anaheim Public Library

I hope this isn't irritating. I usually don't like to tell people about my dreams because I usually don't like hearing about other people's dreams. They tend to ramble on and on and don't have much meaning for anyone other than the dreamer (... and then the panda, but it wasn't really a panda, and I went down the hall and all the doors were locked so we rode the upside down porcupine cycle over to the squirrel dormitory, and there was this guy who was chasing me and he was wearing my pajamas, but I couldn't run because of the... okay, you get the idea). So, anyway, this is going to sound like a joke, but I really had this dream a little while ago and thought it was amusing (doesn't everyone think their own dreams are amusing?) but haven't gotten around to writing it down until now. I'll try and keep it brief.

It begins with me and two other people. I don't know who they were, so for the sake of this post I'll call them Guy and Dude. Guy is someone I know and Dude is a friend of Guy's. We're on a cross country bicycle trip. We're riding along and we come to a point where the path is blocked by numerous signs saying "Bike path closed". There is a woman who looks like a park ranger who appears and tells us we can't go that way and have to follow the detour signs.

We follow the detour signs, leaving Park Ranger Woman behind us, and eventually find ourselves at a dead end, kind of a box canyon sort of thing, cliffs on three sides, no way out except to turn back. We notice wallets littering the ground all around us, at which point Dude says "It's a trap! This is the place where the Democrats lure you so they can rape you and kill you!" I ask "How do you know they're Democrats?" Dude replies "If they were Republicans, they would have stolen the wallets, too."

Seriously, I really had this dream, exactly as written, to the best of my ability to remember it, but it sure sounds to me like someone made it up as a joke. I don't think I've ever had a dream with a punch-line before. The dream continued after that and turned into one of those nasty dreams where you know you're dreaming but can't wake up, but the part I wrote down was the good part.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Swag report

Ms. Geranium (a.k.a. Luminiferous Ether) went to hear Tom Neilson tonight. I was unable to accompany her since I had a rehearsal with The Reptile Palace Orchestra, but she bought me this nifty t-shirt anyway. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Who thought this was a good idea?

These billboards have been popping up all over the place recently. They seem to be part of a new campaign. Before we go on, I have to say I like the way the dude is crashing through the windshield - and he's smiling as he does it. Nice touch!

Okay, let's think about it for a minute. Imagine a couple. Let's call them "Mr. and Ms. G", just for the sake of our little exercise. Let's listen...

Ms. G.: Honey, don't you think you're driving a little too fast?

Mr. G.: (singing quietly to himself): Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer...

Ms. G. (let's assume that Ms. G., like most people, speaks a little Norwegian when under stress): Oy sån! Oy sån! Honey...

Mr. G.: ...he's a demon on wheels...

Ms. G. (okay, let us also assume that every utterance of "oy" or "oy sån" is accompanied by a great flapping of hands): Oy sån! Oy! Oy! Oy! Hon...

Mr. G.: ...he's a demon and he's gonna be chasin' after someone...

Ms. G. (throw in some stomping on the invisible, passenger-side brake pedal): Oy! Oy! What are you doing? Watch out!

Mr. G.: Hmmm? I wonder which one of these buttons operates the chewey chewies? *

Ms. G. (more flappin' o' the hands and stompin' o' the feets**): Watch out! Oy sån! Watch it!

Mr. G.: (eyes inhumanly large, sweat flying from his forehead and spinning the steering wheel through about  3,600˚): Ohhh! Ohhhhh! Ohhhhhhh! What's Racer X doing here? There's something about him that looks familiar! I wonder who he could be under that mask...

Ms. G.: Watch it! Watchit! Watchitwatchitwatchitwatchit...

Mr. G.: ... and when the odds are against him and there's dangerous work to do...***
What's wrong, Trixie?

Ms. G.: Watchitwatchitwatchitwatchit... I think I'm going to be sick! Stop!

Mr. G.: Stop what?

Ms. G.: Stop driving so recklessly! You're going to get us all killed!

Mr. G.: What do you mean recklessly, Trixie? We've got to win this race if we want to find out where the Mammoth Car is hiding all the stolen gold! Inspector Detector is counting on us!

Ms. G.: I mean singing that stupid song and swerving all over the place! Watch it! And stop calling me Trixie! Oy!

Mr. G.: Trixie would never tell Speed to watch out. Well, okay, maybe she would... but she would never, ever say "Oy sån" and she takes her duties as navigator seriously and doesn't knit when she should be paying attention!

Ms. G.: Stop! Watchitwatchitwatchit! Oysånoysånoysånoysån! Stop right now!!!!

Mr. G.: Fine! You drive! Then maybe you'll shut your pie-hole!

Ms. G.: That's it! I'm getting out! You're insane! And you can just forget about that tandem bicycle we were thinking about! Besides, the real Speed would never tell Trixie to shut her pie-hole!

* In the old Speed Racer cartoon, Speed could press a button on his steering wheel which would deploy hydraulic jacks which, if operated while the Mach 5 was moving, made it fly through the air with a sound that was something like "chewey chewey chewey chewey..."

** Yet another Terry Pratchett reference.

*** This is the part of the song where Speed sideswipes, or is sideswiped by, another car.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wool 100%

I wonder what made Ms. Geranium think that watching this movie would be a good idea? She's an avid knitter, so I suspect she liked the title. Maybe she read a review of it somewhere. I have one thing to say about it - next time we watch a movie, I think it's my turn to choose.

Okay, in fairness, it wasn't bad, just extremely bizarre. I'm pretty certain I understood what was going on and what the point was, but when it was over, well, "Hmm. Huh. Interesting." might sum up my reaction. (Or maybe "You sure know how to pick 'em!")

It starts out with two elderly sisters who live by themselves in a large house outside of town. Every morning, they walk into town looking for discarded items. They never fail to find at least one thing that they feel is valuable enough to bring home. They never throw anything away. One day, they find some red wool. Of course, they bring it home and that's when the fun(?) begins.

"Damn! I have to knit it all over again! Aaaaahhhh!"

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fifth of July.

It's almost over. As I write this, it's almost midnight on the fourth. The dog is cowering upstairs. The major fireworks displays have ended but people around the city are still celebrating with their own fireworks. Soon it will be time to call the cops (just kidding).

I used to love the fourth of July, mostly because of the fireworks. It is now one of my least favorite days of the year. I find the American flags and jingoistic, patriotic rhetoric too upsetting. Once, a number of years ago, some people I know were assisting a family of Guatemalan refugees (I don't know for a fact that they were Guatemalan, they were using false names and may well have been from a country other than Guatemala). They stayed in Madison for a little while, I assume because they needed a safe place to stay while they were waiting to be admitted into Canada. They happened to be in Madison on the Fourth of July. They came to a family picnic, followed by the local fireworks. The Guatemalan children freaked. Their parents also appeared to be distressed. What were pretty lights in the sky for the rest of us were too much like the sights and sounds of actual war for them, and they had lived through it. Now I can't go to fireworks without thinking about the fact that what we're doing for entertainment represents death and destruction for so many other people, often at the hands of "our" government. (I use the quotation marks there because they're not really ours. They're Halliburton's government, Walmart's government, Monsanto's government, but not ours.) Then add the flag waving, fighter planes flying overhead and God Bless America blasting everywhere. Ugh. Not a day of celebration, in my opinion.

Anyway, happy Fifth of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dinner is served.

Apologies in advance to any vegetarians who might be reading this.




Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, there was a rock band called Appliances-SFB. They once did a live concert at Madison's public access cable station. My brother had a copy of it on VHS and about two years ago he gave it to someone to transfer to DVD. He just got it back and gave me a copy. For the last few days I've been trying to edit it into individual songs so they can be posted on YouTube and stuff like that. I figured that since it isn't encrypted, it would be easy. Hah! It turns out iMovie won't import DVD files, so it needs to be converted to another file format. Someone told me to use some free software called Handbrake to do that, so I did, tried to import it into iMovie and it just spins it's wheels and nothing seems to happen. The original video is almost two hours long and isn't broken up into chapters or anything, so it looks like it needs to be converted in one big chunk, which seems to mean that even if it works, it won't be fast. I've left the computer running overnight to do its thing, but it still isn't working. I've done google searches and Apple user forum searches and waded through tons of different articles, but none of them directly address my particular needs. I don't want to drop any money on software to do this, particularly since there doesn't seem to be any guarantee that it will work.


Just needed to vent about that. If anyone reads this who happens to know an easy (and inexpensive) solution, it would be, like, totally awesome if you shared it with me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Recent photos

Our youngest daughter is away at camp along with her digital camera. Since I have yet to get a digital camera of my own, I've been stuck with using my phone, which I find to be rather unsatisfactory. Oh, well. Here are a few scenes from the last few days.

I already posted pictures of a turtle laying eggs, but I came across another one.

Another view. There's good eating on one of those...

Juvenile Canada geese wading in water that ought not to be there, overflowing the banks of Lake Monona. (Madison's river and lakes have been spilling over their banks since the beginning of June. You may have read about some of the flooding that has occurred. Of course, if you live around here, you've experienced it.) Those geese may still be cute, but before long they'll be delinquent thugs - swearing, smoking cigarettes and excreting everywhere. There's good eating on one of those...

More water that ought not to be there. This time the Yahara River.

The Yahara River bike path under East Washington Avenue is now passable, but damp. For a few weeks it was under water.

I saw this turkey moseying through the UW Arboretum yesterday. There's good eating on one of those...

Gah! It's looking at me!
You guessed it! There's good eating on one of those...