Archive for category Uncategorized
You ever wonder who comes up with product names? I mean, are there actually people who spend their entire lives naming car brands and models (“Infiniti,” “Lucid,” “Explorer”), or rattletrap RVs made of welded tin cans ( “Bounder,” “King Aire,” “Cornerstone”), or – worst of all – paint colors… there is actually a shade of paint labelled “Putty.” Who in their ever-lovin mind would want a living room painted “Putty”?
Well, I thought this last category should be made more verbally and visually accessible, so here are some color entries I’ve come up with:
Fairly Pleasant Ochre
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Songs of the African Coast: Cafe Music of Liberia
Never heard of this CD? Not surprising; I hadn’t until a couple ago, when I came across it after years of wondering where Dave Van Ronk’s had picked up his charmingly weird tune, “Chicken Is Nice with Palm Butter and Rice.”
(By the way, what’s the most captivating piece Van Ronk ever recorded? See * below, attached. And what’s his most uproarious take on the absurdities so often entrenched in traditional tunes? See ** below.)
I don’t know what I’d assumed about “Chicken Is Nice,” but certainly not that it came out of a Liberian café recording from the late 1940s, featuring “Professor” Howard B. Hayes and the Greenwood Singers.
On first listen, this café set is disorienting, pitting the man-woman emotional trials of the songs themselves against the obvious joy that these particular men and women have from singing together.
The first tine I heard “All Fo’ You,” it scared the crap out of me. Here’s a woman singing she will put up with anything from her lover – including having her throat cut!
But you soon come to sense a galloping mix of satire, horsing around with stereotypical sexual complaints, and taking emotional entanglement to the extreme for black-comic effect. (And “All Fo’ You” is really in much the same uncomfortable vein as Billie Holiday’s take on “It Ain’t Nobody’s Business.”)
In the opposite direction – playing with gender differences through gentle nods and winks – the Greenwoods “Woman Sweeter Than Man” reminds me of Harry Belafonte’s “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” from his Calypso album. And who can fail to smile at “Marry Me and Close the Door”?
In “Bush Cow Milk,” the male singer is asked by his true love to milk a bush cow for her liquid enjoyment, leading him to list hilarious limiting conditions before he will comply. Milk a cow – how big a deal can that be? Then I looked up “bush cow”—it’s a fucking buffalo! I’d rather not, thank you.
Whether because Liberia was established as a home for freed American slaves, or as a consequence of the linguistic blending during World War II (likely both), many of the songs are sung in English. Still, it may seem surprising to hear this in a local hangout.
While in college around 1960, I was a delighted proponent of Olatunji’s Drums of Passion, seeing it as a stunning example of the best in then current African music. But one of the staffers on the Penn newspaper, who had spent time in West Africa, brushed it off: “That’s not what they actually listen to over there.”
Instead, he turned me on to an album then called Gold Coast Saturday Night (since reissued with other titles), featuring Saka Acquaye and His African Ensemble. It’s a whole different experience from Olatunji, partly in English and closer to the Liberian café, but all of these albums are equally engrossing: “world music” well before anyone coined the term.
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A few short bits
6’ 2”, blonde, elegant, walks with the confidence of a woman who could have whatever she wants but, instead, has the good sense to want what she has. She rides a Vespa.
Anastasia is our insurance agent. How do such things happen?
In our geometry class in my Catholic grade school, we pasted little stickers on outline maps to identify an area’s major products. No matter what sector of the world we were covering, there was always a sticker for “flax” to be glued somewhere (in Europe, it was slapped on Belgium).
The tiny black-and-white sketch suggested a bound bunch of upright plant stuff. I had no idea what flax was or what you could do with it, yet (presumably) it grew and was harvested all the hell over the place. Now, enlightened, I know that it is and was (with a great deal of hand labor in the olden days) converted into excellent linen dish towels.
Way to go, Flax!
Proper Recognition Department:
Remember, please, always to refer correctly to a certain pseudo-journalist as Fucker Carlson.
Linda and I got talking about pattern-recognition the other night. The conversation started because of a major plot element in the book I’m working on, then it veered into illuminating something that’s been flitting through my head off and on for ages.
It started with Bush the Younger. The general consensus among leftists (at least) was that he was just plain dumb. I’m not saying he wasn’t or isn’t, but watching his responses, what struck me as more likely was a learning disability. Maybe that response came from Linda having been a reading specialist who dealt with first-graders who had a rough time untangling written words.
There was one time Bush was pictured supposedly reading to a kindergarten class in Florida but looking like he was being held hostage on another planet. I thought then (and still think) that it was not only a really bad photo op, but that it fit fit well with that look of scrambled confusion that so often would cross his face when he was trying to make sense of something – less stupidity than, “Geez, what the hell?” Having difficulty comprehending the written word is not the kind of thing a major country’s leader is going to announce, but it would have created a hell of problem for those briefing him on anything complex.
More recently, massive amounts of time were spent on Beloved Seditionist Leader’s bumbling, nonsensical pontifications, analyzing how they reflect stupidity, ignorance, a racist mental rash, and/or narcissistic self-glorification. I’ll go with all of them, but I also think there’s some important underlying neurological problem. I mean, what’s really going on back there in Rump’s head? And what does it say about the man himself – who’s a unique entity, as is each of us?
When he mischaracterizes a fairly simple statement made to him, is it lying, deliberate misdirection, political gamesmanship, or simply failure to understand because he can’t form the words into a coherent pattern? When he rants against anything that doesn’t mesh with his pre-conceived ideas, is it (only) bilious arrogance, or that he can’t assimilate new information and so has to deny its existence?
He comes across as bad enough in interviews and briefings, but his staff have made it clear that he never “liked” to read anything put in front of him. What if he just couldn’t? I’m sure he can recognize individual words, but what if sentences disentangle from their meaning, run off the page and fornicate in the undergrowth? What if he can’t assemble a coherent pattern in a paragraph?
[Hell, I get that way with certain essayists. I was trying to read Francis Bacon last month and it was like somebody forcing my head under muddy water and yelling “Drink!” There are still a few scholars who want to credit him with writing Shakespeare’s plays; let me tell you, simply and flat out – “NO!”]
I’m making no apology for Dump’s behavior as President or as a more-or-less-human being. I’m just trying to find ways to explain some parts of it: because if you don’t know the cause of a given problem, you’re not going to find a viable solution. As for the larger issue of personal responsibility… many a soul with learning problems is fully decent. For any limiting physical or mental condition – no matter what the details – like the rest of us, some will be upstanding, most will be of average moral character, a few will be, by nature, rotten.
Morally, spiritually, Sump is a vile being.
I’ve saved 3 buckets and one milk crate of things salvaged from the fire–mostly kiln posts. Yesterday and today I scrubbed them all off and they’re now drying on the kitchen counter. I was also able to save most of the kiln shelves. They’re out by the wood kiln, along with some silica, nepheline syenite and Hawthorne clay that may be still usable. Don’t know about that because all the bags broke, and it’s difficult to tell if they’re really OK to use. One white powder looks pretty much like another white powder, and how do you know if they’ve gotten mixed up?
It sort of looks like a city scape if you can ignore the spices, sauces and oils behind them. I think I’ll probably have to put everything through a firing to get all the soot off. That won’t be until next spring. In the meantime, I’ll be making little things in our old bathroom–actually, it isn’t the old bathroom yet–the new bathroom is not yet finished, so I still have some time to wait before I can play in the mud again.
In the meantime, I can write blogs and play on the computer where I am daily visited–usually several times a day–by our friendly, neighborhood red squirrel family. I only have a picture of the baby–who is now quite adult–because he’s the one who comes and checks me out. I know he can see me, just as I can see him, and he is immensely curious about what I am and what I am about. I got a picture of him the other day.
I’ve spent the last three or four days going through all my financial files and my memory files, trying to get a handle on everything that was destroyed in the pot shop. It’s pretty clear to me that I’ll never remember everything, but at least I’m trying.
As you can see, I’ve got piles of paper everywhere and yes, I keep losing the piece of paper I need now, and then finding it in the pile it doesn’t belong in. Thank god I’ve got a wonderful, calming view out of my window. I can look out and take a breath. It helps me keep things in proportion. What I’m going through now is really only one little piece of my life. Anyway, here’s the view.
Last night I asked Derek to go over the list to get his comments and whatever he might remember that I can’t, so I’m thinking I’m really almost done with this part, anyway.
We’ve come back to LickHaven in the middle of a big storm. It makes everything beautiful, but if we’re going to keep the machinery on the first floor of the workshop usable, we’ve got to keep the snow off. We used push brooms to get it off–not nearly as bad as shoveling, but still a workout. It’s snowing again. So far, we’ve swept it off twice today and the snow is still coming down.
Here’s how it looked before we did the second sweeping today. One thing leads to another–we’ve gotten the snow off the top, now we’re going to have to figure out how to get at the firewood that’s now covered with the snow we pushed off.
Our dogs are enjoying the snow anyway. Leiao likes to bite it.
And my wood kiln looks marvelous covered in snow.
I’m spending lots of time trying to remember everything I had in the shop so I can make a list. It’ll be useful for insurance and I’ll be able to plan what I don’t want in the new shop.
This is how the workshop looks from our house. That’s a 30′ x 50′ tarp and it’s really blue. Unfortunately, even though Derek has nailed it down, it still lets some water through when it’s raining. So far, he’s spent two nights going out every couple of hours to try to sweep the standing water off of it while it was raining. I was asleep the first night, but last night, I went out and held the flashlight for him. He said it really helped to be able to see–very difficult to hold a flashlight and sweep at the same time. It helps somewhat, but we have to have barrels and buckets under the leaks in the woodshop. We’ve covered all the machinery with tarps and have a dehumidifier going all the time. It is somewhat drier than it was, but there are still lots of big wet spots.
Here he is with the broom in the daytime. We can’t walk on the deck, it’s too burned. Looks like we’d go right through. Note the boards on the top of the ramp. Note also, that big lump under the tarp in the middle. That’s my kiln. We had hoped that putting it in the middle like that would create enough of a slant that the water would pour off. Unfortunately, the edges are a couple of inches higher than the middle, so we get the puddles around the edges that need to be swept off.
This morning it started snowing. Although I’m worried about how the snow will affect everything, I still love how it looks and feels. This evening there’s still a bit on the ground, but it’s mostly gone. We want to visit our sister-in-law who lives in Mendenhall, PA, about 200 miles from here. We were going to go today, but were so exhausted we were afraid to drive–maybe tomorrow. I do not want this fire to be in command of everything we do. I am concerned about leaving for a few days, but I don’t want our holiday plans to be completely scrapped. Whatever happens, we will have to find ways to deal with it.
Hail the conquering heroes! After a week of work, the 2nd floor walls are down, and we’re ready to put the tarp over the floor to protect the wood shop on the first floor!
Thank you friends!
This is what it looked like on the inside. I’d show you pictures of all my equipment, but I’m just learning how to use this blog, and I can’t get it to show any more without everything getting mixed up. You probably don’t want to see them anyway. It’s not a pretty sight. But if you look in the left center of this picture, you’ll see my slab roller under the charred ladder-like thing, and the pug mill is way in the back on the right next to the window. The kiln and wheel are destroyed, even though the kiln’s insides are probably OK, it’s lost all of its wiring, the computer, the power assist on the lid, etc., etc. It must be pretty clear that I’ve lost the building, too, but the amazing thing is that the fire did not go past the floor. Since my shop is on the second floor, we still have the wood shop underneath and the building around it. We’ve been able to walk on the floor to do the clearing, although there are a few holes you have to watch out for.
We’ve been spending the last few days clearing everything out and taking down the walls. We almost have the dumpster filled, and almost all the walls down. We are so blessed to have good friends who have put on their crud clothes and come out to help. They’re coming back tomorrow, and we’ll probably get everything down. Then we have to put a tarp over the top to keep the weather out of the wood shop below. It got lots of water, so it looks like most of the damage there will be rust and such on the machinery. We’ve got a dehumidifier going 24 hours a day, and there are a couple of spots on the floor that are beginning to dry out.
This is my workshop when it was first built in the fall of 2006. You can see the blue tarp on the deck, and Derek is on a ladder, working up in the rafters. Beautiful views out the windows made it such a pleasure to work in. If you look closely at the roof, you’ll see the rooster weathervane.
Today it looks like this:
The fire was last Wednesday, Dec. 5. Derek noticed an odd black cloud hovering over our workshop about 9 am. When he looked on the first floor (his wood working shop, he realized it was smoke, but there was nothing in there. So he ran up the hill to the second floor (LickHaven Pottery, my workshop) opened the door and was blasted with heat and saw flames. He closed the door and ran down the hill to the house, shouting to me to “Call 911! The pot shop is on fire.” It seemed to take forever for the 911 operator to pick up, and then she had many, many questions, but probably was only a minute or so before she said the firemen were on the way. They were afraid to take the bigger truck across the bridge that leads to our driveway, so they came up in the smaller one. They almost had the fire out when they ran out of water and had to call for a second truck. It probably only took 20 minutes or so for the second truck to come and for them to get a hose down to the pond, but it that time, the fire regathered its resources and was roaring out through the roof with flames that must have been 15 feet high. I regret that I didn’t remember I had a camera until it was almost out. It was an awesome and terrifying sight. I was afraid we would lose our house as well, as it is only about 50 feet from the workshop. By 11:30, the firemen had quelled the flames and sprayed some kind of foam over everything. Before they left, they told us to call them if it began to burn again. They did have to come back, but it was easily put out.