Around....

..... whilst surfing as the roasted potatoes and pork loin roasted this evening, I happened upon this..... and I was mesmerized......

..... the roommate making the gin and tonics just completely cracks me up..... and on some level, I identify with the guitarist...... and on another level, most of the time I am more like the roommate....

.... still, it is a wonderful video.... and a GREAT song...... it makes me want to sit barefoot, drink gin, and put on some old Harry Connick albums......

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Good....

..... I've spent a great amount of time today thinking of the idea of comfort...... just what it might take to make someone - an average someone - comfortable......... and just why it varies from each of us.......

..... I have been in quite a few uncomfortable places during my short time on this planet.... most of them from my own doing..... but I always managed to dig, scrounge, and claw myself towards a tiny inkling of comfort in each place....

.... Sam Williams and I once found ourselves near the summit of Mt. Moffett on Adak Island and trapped by a whiteout.... the ridge was too steep for us to put up our tent, and we ended up spending 18 hours in our sleeping bags until the storm abated..... it was a bit rough...... 18 hours is a long time to lay on your back while being pelted by the best that the winds of the Bering Sea can throw at you...... I spent my time in that sleeping bag eating chocolate bars, cussing Sam, drinking water, praying, and sleeping...... Sam said later that he could hear me snoring - just three feet away from him - over the angry howl of the wind quite a few times during the night......

.... I remember sleeping near the flooded quarry at Kinlochleven one November.... the sheets of rain had caused the water to stand two inches deep across the campsite where the rest of 45 Commando and I slept..... we all awoke soaking wet in the Highlands of Scotland the next morning and then practiced 'river crossings' until it was time to abseil down the 250ft cliffs that rose above the quarry...... two days later we were kicking our frozen boots loose from the floors of our tents each morning while we greeted the day on the summit of Ben Nevis...... Arctic Survival & Mountain Training was a miserable experience..... but each day I managed to find that I was somehow dry and warm..... tired, sure..... and wet again by nightfall..... but for those brief moments, I was at least warm and dry...... and in looking back now, I remember those warm and dry moments the most..... I suspect that a lot of those Royal Marines look back on it all now and only remember the cold & wet.... and how it made each step that you took painful........

..... it's weird, I suppose..... odd how we all reflect differently....... external pressures find a way of harshing our collective mellows one way or another over time..... that's just how it is.... be it a bad day at the office, an argument with the wife or husband, a wayward sibling, or whatever...... we worry...... we want and cannot have.... we wish and our well-tossed silver coins fall on empty wells..... we seek comfort and only focus on the pain and labor of daily life.......

.... but in the end, we only see what we choose to see..... and believe it or not, that is a salient fact.....

..... so, the question is, what is it that you need to be comfortable..... the presence of your mate?.... a roof over your head?..... job satisfaction?...... respect?..... a good meal?...... the contented smiles of your children?.... a personal relationship with the god of your choice?.......the lack of pain, hunger, cold, or want?...... a cushioned couch and your tipple of choice every evening?...... a plate of lasagna on a cold, windy day? .... writing half a chapter in your novel instead of three sentences wrought from staring at the wall?....

.... this has been on my mind all day...... the Idea of Comfort.....

.... for me, I honestly cannot say just now as I have not come to a distinct conclusion....... but looking back on all of the times when I have hated life, there were always those moments - however fleeting - where something beautiful was given to me when I least expected it..... a bite of chocolate and a cup of coffee when I was on the edge of hypothermia, being commanded to 'stop' when I was at the end of my rope with exhaustion, being told 'thank you' when I opened the door for someone after the worst day of my life..... or even just a few lines of exquisite verse after a day that had crushed your soul......

..... my goodness....... comfort - for me - means finding the grain of good amongst the heaping pile of bad...... and trying to do that every single day.......

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... Thyme.....

.... I always loved this song...... I hope that you do too....

...... I wake up humming it every other day as I make the morning's coffee..........

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Birds....

..... I performed a well-intentioned task a few days ago that has proved to be more than just a little diabolic...... and hey, it was an honest mistake..... but folks, there is just something exceedingly evil about owning outdoor cats & then happily putting up a birdfeeder on a three-foot pole just outside your front door.....

... actually, I wasn't even thinking when I filled the little glass Christmas present that my Sainted Mother had given The Missus.... indeed, I happily poured the mixed-nut mixture into the little urn while visions of gleeful, tweeting 'little friends' danced through my noggin..... and after three days of hanging in the breeze, a steady trickle of songbirds finally began arriving for breakfast this morning.... and it wasn't until the trickle turned into a deluge around 3pm that I noticed just how happy the cats (Fred and Bob) were....

.... no deaths were witnessed today, thankfully...... but I did note quite a few near-misses.... particularly among the tiny wee birdies known as House Finches... they are capable of the most amazing low-level aerial acrobatics that I have ever seen..... I guess being faced with the prospect of being eaten alive brings the best out of them.....

.... the other visitors today were a lot more cautious in their nibblings than those finches..... but I must admit, Fred and Bob viewed each and every beast as a copacetic gift from The Heavens......

.... all in all, I witnessed a nice array of bird species feeding today..... I saw my very first Tufted Titmouse this afternoon.... and also my very first Carolina Chickadee..... and there were, of course, the aforementioned fearless House Finches..... along with two sets of male & female Cardinals, and a gang of unruly Blue Jays.... but of all of them, the titmouses (titmice?) were my favorite..... with the chickadee coming in as a close second....

.... I enjoyed watching all of those birds feast just outside my window.... I truly did..... but be it all as it may, I still can't quit thinking that all of what I witnessed today is deeply, deeply just not right.....

.... cat owners just shouldn't be allowed to purchase bird feeders..... I am torn...... hell, I'd rather watch the birds than the cats..... and their interaction is quite entertaining...... but it isn't really natural...... and the day that I find a freshly-gnawed titmouse carcass in the garage is going to be a sad, sad day.....

..... but hey, isn't it better for lots and lots of little birdies to have stomachs full of nuts and berries (supplied by me, Mr. Benevolence)... than it is for them to suffer against the Cold Winds of Winter & starvation?.... even if one of their brood occasionally gets culled for kitty food?.....

..... so, what say ye, gentle rubbernecker?..... am I feeding the birds (a good thing), feeding the cats (a bad thing), or feeding some sort of perverse, evil subconscious at the core of my being? (an even worse thing).... or should I just mount the damnable feeder a bit higher?.......

.... hey, Bou?..... at least you don't have these Great Moral Dilemmas in regards to your birdfeeder..... how are those squirrels, by the way?.....

... photos to come to tomorrow of the birds I snapped, by the way..... especially the tufted titmouse and the cardinals & jays........

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Assyria.....

..... today has been an unusual day...... I spent the larger part of today reading last month's Smithsonian's article regarding the noted Assyriologist George Smith and alternatively researching recipes for homemade Salisbury Steaks....

.... I fared much better in finding an edible recipe than I did in imagining how incredible it must have been for George Smith - as uneducated as he was - to suddenly have found himself far better versed (by sheer might of mind-power & will-power) in the ancient cuneiform than the classically trained experts of his day.....

.... I mean, just imagine trudging off to the museum every single day over your Victorian lunch break to mull over some cuneiform from ancient Iraq while you nibble your meager tuna sandwich....... I don't care who you are, that is just plain hardcore......

.... and he did quite well, our Mr. Smith..... he wrote groundbreaking books - upon which much of modern understanding of cuneiform is based.... he was the first man in over 2,000 years to read the mythic story of Gilgamesh..... he was a true explorer in every sense of the word........ both in discovery, learning, and in how re-examining the facts (and understanding them correctly) can lead you to great wonders without even having to leave the bowels of a great museum.....

..... the bug had caught him, though, and he did actually make quite a few trips out to Mesopotamia in search of more knowledge..... and knowledge he found.... both in 1873 and 1875 whilst prowling around in the dusty ruins of Nineveh & Mosul.....

..... but by August of 1876, well, he was dead from dysentery... leaving behind a frantic widow and six small children........

.... I mean, just imagine!..... he went from being a guy who just happened to spend his lunch hours trying to figure out the puzzles of cuneiform tablets, to suddenly being recognized as an expert in the field, to sudden fame, speaking engagements and the subject of newspaper articles, to publishing as many as 8 books, to then being dispatched across the globe to find MORE artifacts for interpretation, and then to his being tapped on the shoulder by God after crapping himself into oblivion somewhere in the Iraqi desert.......

.... George Smith, my god...... what a passion he must have had to have done the strange and unique things that he did in his short, weird life........

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Distraction....

...... I've spent the last few hours going through my gigantic collection of old music cassette tapes that are currently taking up residence in my maple gun cabinet here in the blogroom...... collected from the years 1986 onwards, it is quite a varied collection.....

.... everything from Bread (WTF was I thinking?) to Dr. Hook, Don Williams, AC/DC, and Pink Floyd....

.... so in a vain attempt at inspiration tonight, I tossed a few choice cassettes into the stereo and sat back to listen.......

.... I think that my ears are bleeding..... I can feel wetness, but I am afraid to actually go and check in the mirror......

... needless to say, I did find an old favorite by Don Williams just a few minutes ago.... and it seemed to make the bleeding subside.... or at least clot

.... so, without further commentary, I give you "Good Ole Boys Like Me", by Don Williams......

.... and while I absolutely love the lyrics, it does appear that Mr. Williams may have studied 'entertainment' at the Mt. Rushmore school of Song Singing..... and judging by this video, I suspect that he was an A-student....

..... still, though, I do love the song..... and it certainly beats the hell out of 'Bread'..... if I never hear "Baby I'm A Want You" again, it'll be too damned soon.......

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Burns....

.... on this blessed day 249 years ago, The Bard was born in a meek farmhouse near the Scottish village of Ayr..... and in his short life - which is still celebrated by hundreds of thousands of upstanding gentlemen every year - he woo'd many lasses, shared many glasses, and penned some of the most memorable Poetry & Song that has ever been put to paper....

.... as a young and impressionable Tennessean abroad for the first time, my initial introduction to Mr. Burns was courtesy of the Montrose Burns Supper back in 1992.... I wrote of that night (badly) right here, in case you are curious..... hey, it was quite a party.....

... tonight there will be no whooping it up, though..... instead, I am just going to kick back with a nice tumbler of The Water of Life and re-read some of Burns' stuff.....

..... and hey, I happily offer a tip of my un-bejeweled pith helmet to The Maximum Leader this evening.....as he is celebrating the life of Burns as well......

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Digestion.....

..... it's a pot roast & cornbread kind of day..... I can just feel it.... yesterday evening was a bowl of chili & shredded cheddar evening.... this morning was a sliced apple & buttered toast morning.... it was a hot Earl Gray afternoon.... and I suspect that if all goes as planned, it'll be a nip of scotch & water nightfall....

... not a bad day, really..... although I do need to find a way to fit some macaroni & cheese in there somewhere....

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Movies....

..... some days nothing in the world warms my soul like watching a one-armed Spencer Tracy beat the crap out of a bullying Ernest Borgnine.....


..... there now..... I feel better already!..... how about y'all?....... heh... "Bad Day at Black Rock", ladies and gentlemen.... if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.....

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Wood...

.... back when I was still a little boy, I remember watching my Father split firewood in the back yard..... he'd cut the wood himself from trees that he had hand-selected during long walks through the woods on Uncle Bob's farm..... oak, sometimes..... or hickory.... and occasionally a maple or a poplar....

.... I remember bumpy trips across freshly-cut silage fields in his old blue Ford truck.... I'd help him as best I could by dragging off branches while his chainsaw buzzed.... I wasn't much help, really, in retrospect.... he could have accomplished the task just as easily without my help.... but it made me feel that I was doing something worthwhile and I know he enjoyed the company......

.... but he wasn't after the limbs, though..... he was after the trunk - the meat of the tree.... and for that mission, he could have gone it alone....

.... he'd tell me the same story that he told me every winter when we'd start up the truck, turn on the heater, and begin the drive home with our load of fresh wood.... he'd point to a slight curve near the edge of the 80-acre field and say, "your Uncle Ben and I used to chop wood there for our house when I was little.... we had a little wooden sled that we used to pull it in back to the house.." ..... and every year as we pulled up onto the gravel road that bordered that field, he'd just be ending that childhood memory of his....... a memory of two brothers cutting wood with cross-cut saws and then dragging a sled full of firewood the 1/2 mile back to where they lived.....

.... he'd be silent then for a while.... and before either of us knew what hit us, the gravel had turned to blacktop, the blacktop to highway, the highway back to gravel, and we were home......

.... he'd pull the truck around behind the house and we'd unload the wood piece by piece.... and there it would lay until he gradually changed the pile of wood into neatly stacked ricks of busted wood.... one piece at a time....

... one load would take him four weekends, usually...... and the wood would lay stacked all through the summer - drying - and by the next autumn, it was ready for the fireplace..... from the time that I was old enough to walk, this scene repeated itself every single year......

.... I was talking with my Mother the other day about him, and the whole "busting wood" thing came up..... it turns out that she was just as mesmerized by him as I was..... how he'd turn the wood to just the right angle, lean in and let his eyes search the surface for natural splits, breaks, or signs of weakness.... and once he had achieved some sort of near-mystical understanding between he and the hunk of wood, he'd steady himself, bring his mall to the port-arms position, and in one single moment of extreme violence, precision, and focus, he'd smash down on the wood.... and more often than not, he'd make the split in one beautiful movement..... and if the wood didn't bow to his will after the first lick, it usually gave up after the second.....

.... knots, on the other hand, were a thing to be studied and analyzed with greater skill and a more thoughtful mind.... and for those he used homemade steel wedges, a razor sharp axe, and a sixteen-pound hammer.....

.... he tried to teach me The Art of It All many, many times, but I was not a very good student......my aim was always just that little bit off, or I didn't quite have enough upper body strength yet.... something was always just not quite right...... I tried, sure, but I just didn't have that Zen moment of skill, balance, and knowledge that he had......

.... looking back now, there were a lot of lessons afoot as I watched him work - and in what he tried to teach me...... determination, focus, precision, forcefulness, perseverance, courage, strength, attention to detail, tenacity..... some of which I understood then... and some of which I am only coming to see now........

.... I guess he was a bit like a Hillbilly version of that guy from Caddyshack who kept saying that you had to "be the ball"..... except with an axe and a stick of firewood....... "imagine the mall hitting the mark that you've drawn in your mind... and the wood yielding as it is meant to be.." ..... (him doing his best to channel Obi Wan on a stifling spring day in Tennessee) ..... heh, I never quite mastered it....... but he was something else to watch......

..... and the best thing about watching him?..... each new piece was a brand new struggle.... another puzzle, another challenge, another game...... it wasn't a chore to him to break his back busting all of that wood..... no, not at all.... it was fun..... he'd pick up a new piece of wood, spin it around until it was just right, and smile...... saying to himself as the sweat rolled down his cheek, "I see you." ..... then WHAM!, it was split...... and he was exactly where he wanted to be.....

... in all honestly, I don't get every aspect of it just yet.... but I am trying..... I just wish that he'd lived longer so that we could talk about this stuff now...... now that I truly realize how amazing he was.....

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Danger....

.... I awoke this morning to find that a murder of crows had flocked around my house..... eighteen to twenty in the back, five standing sentry duty, and about five in the front yard....... it was positively Hitchcockian there for a while...... but hey, as things do, it all evened out in the end.........

.... this is a shot of an individual crow who happened to be extremely unlucky about ten minutes after I shot this footage...... oh yes, he (she) was unceremoniously gang-tackled with carnivorous intent by Fred and Bob not too soon after I stopped filming.... I assure you, it was quite violent..... behold.....

... he (she) escaped, of course..... but I guarantee he'll (she'll) look underneath parked vehicles before he (she) next tries to crow-hop towards a food-bowl of kitty nibblets next time......

.... word..... we abide in a harsh, harsh world, folks...... and that's a fact....... and hey, all that I really got out of this evening is that if those cats weighed 40 more pounds, I would definitely be on the menu.......I think I need a puppy......

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Lightfoot.....

..... bought the tickets, folks....... February 11th, 2008..... Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville...... 7pm-ish......

.... I am so there....

.... "and if you read between the lines you'll know that I'm just trying to understand..... " ..... good lord, I lived my young adulthood pining for women to that song...... mostly, of course, to women who didn't even know that I existed...... but still, there it is......

.... I can hardly wait..... I am stoked.....

.... bloody hell....

.... and this one?...... it will be something that I have always dreamed of hearing.......

..... there are song writers, and then there are songwriters........ He is in the latter category...... just as Prine, Waits, Townes, and Zevon are/were....... he knows it, I am sure...... and I know it too.....

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Seeing....

..... whew.... I'm just home from a lightning raid on the local McDonald's for hash browns and pancakes..... and while I can safely report that my mission was a complete success, I have to also note that the temperature gauge on the Audi read 17 degrees.... sure, it'll warm up nicely by noon, but still..... 17 degrees...... I absolutely love it....

.... sitting here now enjoying a gentle, cholesterol-induced state of happiness, you'd never know how cold it was outside my blogroom window just by looking.... there is no frost.... just clear blue sky and a slight breeze wiggling the last of the hanger-on leaves that were too stubborn to fall during the autumn..... a beautiful day, really.... that is, until you venture outside and realize that the 'light breeze' will cut straight through you like a bad Krystal burger after a night of neat Bushmills....

.... I kind of like that idea, you know?.... the idea that you can look out and see something, bring the weight of your mind to bear, make decisions, make assumptions, gather data, and then be completely wrong and misinformed once you actually experience first-hand what you had pictured so perfectly inside your head.... I guess it takes every single one of your senses to completely understand a thing..... and even then you'll probably still only get it halfway right....

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Bloggers.....

.... I let Sylvia stretch her legs yesterday and piloted her up to Knoxville to have dinner with a few local bloggers there.... and it was a very enjoyable evening that unfortunately ended too soon, but I am glad that I went..... it was nice to meet a few new bloggers AND to finally put faces with some names that I've read in cyberspace for years and years....... say what you will, but blogging is one helluva interesting social experiment.... and it is always surprising......

... blogging may be a time-wasting hobby, but blogmeets are never boring!.....

.... in other non-related news, I have just been informed that I am to spend the larger part of today loafing in and around the vicinity of Cleveland, Tennessee with The Missus.... evidently there is some sort of "Fresh Market" that has just opened up down there and it has been slated for an "exploratory visit" by our ever-vigilant recon team..... oh, and she wants to watch the latest Nicholas Cage vehicle at their cinema, too....

.... so, gentle rubberneckers, that is my Plan Of The Day.... peruse some fresh broccoli, pick up a salmon steak or two, and wallow in a juicy conspiracy theory movie while The Missus lusts silently for Mr. Cage.... hey, it could be worse, I guess..... I could have to sit through another Daniel Craig flick..... and really?.... I truly dig watching the clientele of high-priced fresh markets pick and choose their organically grown papayas..... it is a wonderfully grounding experience....... I just wish that it were warm enough to drop Sylvia's top for the ride..... but spring will be here soon!....

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Absence.....

.... the blizzard that was supposed to rage onto my little homestead last night didn't fully materialize..... instead, I awoke to a thin, dry, crystalline dusting of fine white powder piled in haphazard nooks dotted around the lawn..... looking out the window, the sky is grey and sunless.... and the sound of the central heating unit struggling against the 20 degree weather is subtly vibrating my coffee cup.....

... it's definitely the kind of morning where one should just check the curtains, grumble a bit, and then burrow deeply into a set of flannel sheets and pretend to be a groundhog....

.... they probably have the right idea anyway, those groundhogs.....

.... what I miss most during these winter days is color.... there is a vibrancy that comes with the bursting of springtime greenery, summer skies, and autumn's leaves that is just plain missing when it comes to winter.... sure, there are the occasional bright days.... but after the sparkling lights of the holidays are boxed up and taken down - and after all of the poinsettias, tinsel, and wrapping papers are removed, well, it's a long haul through January, February, and March.....

.... I wish that the blizzard had actually come, really..... after having spent so many years in Alaska and Scotland, I am beginning to miss having snow around once in a while....

... there is a certain kind of meaning or purpose that comes from a heavy snowfall... it provides an obstacle.... something which must be overcome during the course of your day.... a sign that winter is In Charge and must be dealt with..... a pain in the ass, sure.... but it provides you with a focus that a dull gray sky just can't quite muster.... after all, wintertime is all about the struggle to reach spring.... the groundhogs certainly know that......

.... I wish that it had snowed last night.....

.... then again, perhaps I am wrong.... maybe the very absence of color in itself is The Test of a Southern Winter..... who knows?...... still though, I wish that it had snowed....

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Smiths......

..... long, long ago, I wrote about an earworm once....... and today, I found a more true version of it...... and for the life of me, I cant get it out of my noggin......... smiths, folks, they are one unruly bunch.......

...... gaze upon this youtube video and wonder, rubberneckers..........

.... those two lasses are having WAY too much fun with that favorite song of mine........

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Food....

7:45AM - cup of black coffee
7:50AM - cup of black coffee
8:30AM - cup of black coffee
9:30AM - cup of black coffee
10:14AM - bowl of frosted mini-wheats with 2% milk
10:22AM - cup of cut-up cantaloupe
11:00AM - two peeled carrots
11:15AM - one celery stalk
11:15AM - cup of hot tea with no milk or sugar
11:45AM - glass of iced water
12:46PM - glass of iced water
2:30PM - one Wendy's BACONATOR burger
3:00PM - glass of iced water

.... that there is the pathetic menu so far of what has passed by my lips today......

..... the question is - as far as I can reckon - do all of those fresh fruits and vegetables that I ate this morning off-set the Baconator?..... I mean, isn't the whole point of eating healthy and exercising just so that you can gleefully scarf down a Baconator once in a while?..... otherwise, good lord, what's the point?.... surely eating celery now means that I get to eat a cookie later, right?......

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Vivaldi.....

..... back in 1991, I was stationed on Adak Island in the Bering Sea..... a mere smidgen of a boy, and a barely an 18 year old Marine, I was pretty far away from my Tennessee home....... (actually, I believe that I arrived in January of 1991, so I was probably closing in on 18 and one-half by then)...... but anyway, I found myself ensconced one evening in a Catholic chaplain's house accompanied by a few other Marines while we recorded music, ate pasta, and baked eggplant parmesan in an attempt to forget just where we were.........

....but now, of course - after nearly 18 years - that cassette that I recorded directly from the record is fading fast...... and I have searched for years and years to find a digital replacement, but have always failed......

... perhaps it was the eggplant parmesan that night, who knows, but I must have jotted down the wrong track from the album's cover when trying to identify the music that I had just recorded...... for over the course of the past 17-to-18 years, I have not been able to find a CD of my favorite classical song.....

..... don't let that catch you too hard, though.... hell, I am not that much of a classical music aficionado..... and up until I recorded that concerto that night, well, the closest that I had come to "classical music" was from watching Saturday morning cartoons........

..... but still, I do miss hearing this tune..... and what is more, I have not been able to find it anywhere..... and in reality, well, I just don't want to lose it once the tape finally breaks........

.... and so, I am asking all of your for your assistance...... I have been to Tower Records in Cambridge, Mass.... I have been to their website..... I have even scoured Youtube.com to find out the actual name of my song, and I have failed..... hell, I even piped up the stereo, turned on the computer, and recorded it for Mr. Debonair to give me his advice, and I have still fell short.......

..... so, I am asking you all now..... if you have any idea what piece this might be, please let me know...... back in 1991, I simply noted it as "Vivaldi's cello concerto in E-minor"......

.... this piece of music means the world to me..... and I would be eternally thankful for your help in properly identifying it...... for a listen, please click here.....

..... Vivaldi....... Il Prete Rosso......... thank you for your help...... but be warned, she is one BIG file...... but hey, I thank you for your help.......

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Fumbling....

.... I went searching for an old copy of an Ogden Nash collection that I had been gifted with a few years ago and ran completely out of luck in my search......I know that it is in the bookcase somewhere, but I just couldnt find it today in my fumbling....

.... instead, my fingers found a likely substiture for afternoon reading material, and I began reading...... an old collection of Robert Frost....... and it wasnt long until I came to a page where I had nipped the corner down for further reading years and years ago...... it was called "The Generations of Men", and I instantly remembered parts of it as soon as I scanned the first few words..... I'm not exactly a Frost fan, but I do love this poem....

... and since I have spent my day reading and cooking, I have nothing else to post about this evening...... so I guess I should share his beautiful writing with you..... here it is.... oh, and if you can, read it out loud..... don't mind Frost's linebreaks and capitalizations, just read it as if it were smply sentence after sentence...... that'll help..... trust me.....

... Frost, like many poets, was truly meant to be read out loud......

.... and personally, the last two lines of the poem just do it for me......


The Generations of Men, by Robert Frost

A governor it was proclaimed this time,
When all who would come seeking in New Hampshire
Ancestral memories might come together.
And those of the name Stark gathered in Bow,
A rock-strewn town where farming has fallen off,
And sprout-lands flourish where the axe has gone.
Someone had literally run to earth
In an old cellar hole in a by-road
The origin of all the family there.
Thence they were sprung, so numerous a tribe
That now not all the houses left in town
Made shift to shelter them without the help
Of here and there a tent in grove and orchard.
They were at Bow, but that was not enough:
Nothing would do but they must fix a day
To stand together on the crater's verge
That turned them on the world, and try to fathom
The past and get some strangeness out of it.
But rain spoiled all. The day began uncertain,
With clouds low trailing and moments of rain that misted.
The young folk held some hope out to each other
Till well toward noon when the storm settled down
With a swish in the grass. "What if the others
Are there," they said. "It isn't going to rain."
Only one from a farm not far away
Strolled thither, not expecting he would find
Anyone else, but out of idleness.
One, and one other, yes, for there were two.
The second round the curving hillside road
Was a girl; and she halted some way off
To reconnoitre, and then made up her mind
At least to pass by and see who he was,
And perhaps hear some word about the weather.
This was some Stark she didn't know. He nodded.
"No fte to-day," he said.
"It looks that way."
She swept the heavens, turning on her heel.
"I only idled down."
"I idled down."
Provision there had been for just such meeting
Of stranger cousins, in a family tree
Drawn on a sort of passport with the branch
Of the one bearing it done in detail--
Some zealous one's laborious device.
She made a sudden movement toward her bodice,
As one who clasps her heart. They laughed together.
"Stark?" he inquired. "No matter for the proof."
"Yes, Stark. And you?"
"I'm Stark." He drew his passport.
"You know we might not be and still be cousins:
The town is full of Chases, Lowes, and Baileys,
All claiming some priority in Starkness.
My mother was a Lane, yet might have married
Anyone upon earth and still her children
Would have been Starks, and doubtless here to-day."
"You riddle with your genealogy
Like a Viola. I don't follow you."
"I only mean my mother was a Stark
Several times over, and by marrying father
No more than brought us back into the name."
"One ought not to be thrown into confusion
By a plain statement of relationship,
But I own what you say makes my head spin.
You take my card--you seem so good at such things--
And see if you can reckon our cousinship.
Why not take seats here on the cellar wall
And dangle feet among the raspberry vines?"
"Under the shelter of the family tree."
"Just so--that ought to be enough protection."
"Not from the rain. I think it's going to rain."
"It's raining."
"No, it's misting; let's be fair.
Does the rain seem to you to cool the eyes?"
The situation was like this: the road
Bowed outward on the mountain half-way up,
And disappeared and ended not far off.
No one went home that way. The only house
Beyond where they were was a shattered seedpod.
And below roared a brook hidden in trees,
The sound of which was silence for the place.
This he sat listening to till she gave judgment.
"On father's side, it seems, we're--let me see----"
"Don't be too technical.--You have three cards."
"Four cards, one yours, three mine, one for each branch
Of the Stark family I'm a member of."
"D'you know a person so related to herself
Is supposed to be mad."
"I may be mad."
"You look so, sitting out here in the rain
Studying genealogy with me
You never saw before. What will we come to
With all this pride of ancestry, we Yankees?
I think we're all mad. Tell me why we're here
Drawn into town about this cellar hole
Like wild geese on a lake before a storm?
What do we see in such a hole, I wonder."
"The Indians had a myth of Chicamoztoc,
Which means The Seven Caves that We Came out of.
This is the pit from which we Starks were digged."
"You must be learned. That's what you see in it?"
"And what do you see?"
"Yes, what do I see?
First let me look. I see raspberry vines----"
"Oh, if you're going to use your eyes, just hear
What I see. It's a little, little boy,
As pale and dim as a match flame in the sun;
He's groping in the cellar after jam,
He thinks it's dark and it's flooded with daylight."
"He's nothing. Listen. When I lean like this
I can make out old Grandsir Stark distinctly,--
With his pipe in his mouth and his brown jug--
Bless you, it isn't Grandsir Stark, it's Granny,
But the pipe's there and smoking and the jug.
She's after cider, the old girl, she's thirsty;
Here's hoping she gets her drink and gets out safely."
"Tell me about her. Does she look like me?"
"She should, shouldn't she, you're so many times
Over descended from her. I believe
She does look like you. Stay the way you are.
The nose is just the same, and so's the chin--
Making allowance, making due allowance."
"You poor, dear, great, great, great, great Granny!"
"See that you get her greatness right. Don't stint her."
"Yes, it's important, though you think it isn't.
I won't be teased. But see how wet I am."
"Yes, you must go; we can't stay here for ever.
But wait until I give you a hand up.
A bead of silver water more or less
Strung on your hair won't hurt your summer looks.
I wanted to try something with the noise
That the brook raises in the empty valley.
We have seen visions--now consult the voices.
Something I must have learned riding in trains
When I was young. I used the roar
To set the voices speaking out of it,
Speaking or singing, and the band-music playing.
Perhaps you have the art of what I mean.
I've never listened in among the sounds
That a brook makes in such a wild descent.
It ought to give a purer oracle."
"It's as you throw a picture on a screen:
The meaning of it all is out of you;
The voices give you what you wish to hear."
"Strangely, it's anything they wish to give."
"Then I don't know. It must be strange enough.
I wonder if it's not your make-believe.
What do you think you're like to hear to-day?"
"From the sense of our having been together--
But why take time for what I'm like to hear?
I'll tell you what the voices really say.
You will do very well right where you are
A little longer. I mustn't feel too hurried,
Or I can't give myself to hear the voices."
"Is this some trance you are withdrawing into?"
"You must be very still; you mustn't talk."
"I'll hardly breathe."
"The voices seem to say----"
"I'm waiting."
"Don't! The voices seem to say:
Call her Nausicaa, the unafraid
Of an acquaintance made adventurously."
"I let you say that--on consideration."
"I don't see very well how you can help it.
You want the truth. I speak but by the voices.
You see they know I haven't had your name,
Though what a name should matter between us----"
"I shall suspect----"
"Be good. The voices say:
Call her Nausicaa, and take a timber
That you shall find lies in the cellar charred
Among the raspberries, and hew and shape it
For a door-sill or other corner piece
In a new cottage on the ancient spot.
The life is not yet all gone out of it.
And come and make your summer dwelling here,
And perhaps she will come, still unafraid,
And sit before you in the open door
With flowers in her lap until they fade,
But not come in across the sacred sill----"
"I wonder where your oracle is tending.
You can see that there's something wrong with it,
Or it would speak in dialect. Whose voice
Does it purport to speak in? Not old Grandsir's
Nor Granny's, surely. Call up one of them.
They have best right to be heard in this place."
"You seem so partial to our great-grandmother
(Nine times removed. Correct me if I err.)
You will be likely to regard as sacred
Anything she may say. But let me warn you,
Folks in her day were given to plain speaking.
You think you'd best tempt her at such a time?"
"It rests with us always to cut her off."
"Well then, it's Granny speaking: 'I dunnow!
Mebbe I'm wrong to take it as I do.
There ain't no names quite like the old ones though,
Nor never will be to my way of thinking.
One mustn't bear too hard on the new comers,
But there's a dite too many of them for comfort.
I should feel easier if I could see
More of the salt wherewith they're to be salted.
Son, you do as you're told! You take the timber--
It's as sound as the day when it was cut--
And begin over----' There, she'd better stop.
You can see what is troubling Granny, though.
But don't you think we sometimes make too much
Of the old stock? What counts is the ideals,
And those will bear some keeping still about."
"I can see we are going to be good friends."
"I like your 'going to be.' You said just now
It's going to rain."
"I know, and it was raining.
I let you say all that. But I must go now."
"You let me say it? on consideration?
How shall we say good-bye in such a case?"
"How shall we?"
"Will you leave the way to me?"
"No, I don't trust your eyes. You've said enough.
Now give me your hand up.--Pick me that flower."
"Where shall we meet again?"
"Nowhere but here
Once more before we meet elsewhere."
"In rain?"
"It ought to be in rain. Sometime in rain.
In rain to-morrow, shall we, if it rains?
But if we must, in sunshine." So she went.

...... good lord..... but if we must, in sunshine...... and so she went........

..... that is just amazing...... and I LOVE it......

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Jobs....

.... this song has been an earworm for me all day long..... ALL DAY LONG.... enjoy, rubberneckers.....

... personally, I blame Velociman...... but hey, I did get a haircut just the other day.... so there is that.....

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Watching....

..... last night the Missus asked me to break away from blogroom duties and take in a re-viewing of "The Shawshank Redemption" with her..... she is a huge fan of Morgan Freeman and never misses a chance to see one of his movies....

.... it is one of my favorite movies, actually, so I didn't put up too much of a fight... instead, I just closed down the email, grabbed up my drink, and wandered through to the living room.... and all was going well until the scene where Brooks hung himself and it cut to the boys back in prison reading the letter that he had sent to them.... we began a fairly in-depth conversation about The Idea of 'hope'..... which, of course, is the main theme that runs throughout the film..... how Red lost it and re-found it..... how - through it all - the beatings, rapes, and corruption, Andy never lost it......

.... I wrote about hope once before in regards to the mythical Pandora and her famous box.... and how hope is what saved humanity from all the evils of the world.... it's here if you'd care to see it.....

.... I bring this up for no real reason, actually.... except that I was catching up on a little reading today and found this poem by Walt Whitman that I had long-forgotten, and it got my mind to working..... here it is....

I Sit and Look Out, by Walt Whitman

I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband - I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealous and unrequited love, attempted to be hid - I see these sights on earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny - I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea - I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill'd, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these - All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon, see, hear, and am silent.

.... good god, folks...... what a poem.....

.... here..... right now, I sit and look out..... just like Walt must have done when he wrote that way back in the great mists of time...... and so much has changed.... and so much has remained the same....

..... but sure, I do have to disagree - respectfully - with Mr. Whitman now...... for those things are still around, and that is a fact.... and they'll likely always be around just as long as there are human beings...... but there are other things to see as well.... just as when Andy slipped on that recording from Marriage of Figaro and blasted it to every loud speaker in Shawshank prison... later - at the chow hall - none of his friends could understand why he did it.... well, they were dead....... DEAD.......

.... Mr. Whitman is right and he is wrong..... those things exist, sure.... but so do beauty, love, faith, hope, kindness, patience, brotherhood, and charity...... they're just a bit harder to see sometimes...... and that is all part of the grand scheme of things.... isn't it?.....

... good God...... now that I've gotten that little bit of triviality off my chest, I'm off to dive back into Leaves of Grass a bit more before cocktail hour arrives...... y'all play nice.... it is what is intended, after all.....

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Sirens......

.... good evening, rubberneckers...... I trust that you are all well..... as for me, I am just dandy..... all the pigs are fed, watered, and ready to fly at a moment's notice.....

.... I did get an interesting email from the Father in Law the other day which has had me alternately giggling and then scratching my head, tilting it slightly, and then letting myself get lost in thought & wondering on The Great Mystery of It All.....

... in the aforementioned email, there was an attachment attached..... behold said attachment, gentle reader.....

siren_small.jpg

.... that is I and The Lorelei, folks..... nice, eh?..... trust me, the back of my head is much more interesting than the front-on view.......

... but anywhoo, twas a cold and dreary day back in September when I bought a ticket on a boat and chugged up the Rhine to photograph castles and check out a siren or two.... I had no idea that he'd snuck on me as I stood with my collar up against the wind, eyes on the horizon, pig-skin jacket trying valiantly to keep me warm, and me leaning against the ship's railings listening for Lorelei's song

... didn't hear a thing, folks.... just the whistling of the wind, the guttural chug of the engine, the clink of the occasional beer mug from the folks in the dining cabin......

.. I don't remember the exact phrasing of his email since I deleted it long ago and only kept the photo, but it was something along the lines of "Eric preparing to jump ship and swim to his doom while the siren sings him to her bosom." ..... a romantic guy, no?.......

.... heh.... no respect..... that's what I get - no respect...... not gonna happen on my watch, ladies and gentlemen...... sure, I didn't actually hear the Lorelei coaxing me towards her.... and sure, the water of the Rhine in mid-September is bone-chillingly cold..... but I assure you, were I to have leapt towards a mythical watery nymph, she'd have ended up wishing to sing no more... and I would definitely have swum out with little or no problem.....

.... have I mentioned that I am an excellent swimmer?...... yeah, I thought I did......

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Fit...

.... the storm passed by last night and only left a few downed limbs awaiting me this morning..... all the world was wet and chilled, but by midafternoon the temperature had risen enough to make the day tolerable.... the skies were clear and the ripping winds from the night had completely vanished.....

.... and in a completely out-of-character moment of weakness, I even acquiesced to cooking a healthy meal for tonight's dinner.... baked wild salmon encrusted with ginger and soy, Thai garlic & green chili rice, and a side salad..... I was even forced to perform a pre-dinner calesthenic workout, for goodness sake........ tomorrow, however, she is working over lunch..... and I plan on correcting tonight's saintly meal by diving head-first into a decadent grubfest of nachos, queso cheese, refried beans, and perfectly prepared Mexican mystery meat...... followed by an adult beverage or two.....

.... in reality, I deeply distrust the idea of healthy living and exercise.... and I believe that my suspiscions are probably well-justified.... I mean, dont fit people just look ill?..... a little fat here and there just makes us all that more curvy.... and curves are GOOD things......

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Elvis...

.... happy birthday wherever you are, Big Guy...... in honor of your blessed day, God decided to make my errand-filled day a ragtop day...... and I am now glowing softly here in the dim light from the gentle sunburn that my noggin received courtesy of a 75 degree January day...... so, thank you, Elvis.... God is God, of course.... but you are still The King......

.... folks, I sure hope that y'all enjoyed that because, well, it was 100% pure International Culture at its very finest....... and actually, I am totally in love with Knophler's guitar solo mid-song..... hell, once it even came on through the CD changer whilst I was piloting Sylvia and I grabbed my trusty camera for a quick video.... I artistically filed it as "Following A White Van One Midsummer's Afternoon along rural route 181"...... and hey, I'd upload it to youtube, but I just can't be torn away from my joyous celebration of Elvis' birthday to bother..... so you guys will just have to use your imaginations.....

.... in other breaking news, we're bracing for thunderstorms and heavy winds here tonight, so y'all stay warm out there..... and be safe..... for God will likely close the ending of Elvis' birthday with some sort of divine mischief to voice his extreme displeasure that the The King is no longer playing Vegas...... y'all have been warned..... and you all know that you can trust Uncle Eric on these things..... I can just feel them when they are brewing....

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Hotels.....

.... received an interesting telephone call from my Brother in Law today.... it seems that his latest business venture (adventure?) is to open a high-dollar hotel resort on the edge of the Sundarbans.... evidently construction of the bungalows is already underway.... he plans to cater to the richest of the elite Bangladeshi jetsetters and the foreign academic community.....

.... for those of you who have lived your lives blessedly ignorant of The Sundarbans, well, I have two things to say to clue you in big-time..... firstly, the Sundarbans is an area of mangrove swamps at the mouth of the Ganges river..... the largest mangrove swamp in the world....... and secondly, that area is home to the largest colony of man-eating tigers in the world.... 500 tigers at the last census.....

..... so, my Brother in Law is building a plush & posh collection of hotel bungalows smack-dab in the middle of Tiger Country..... and, of course, he can hardly contain his excitement for ME to visit...... good god, I can just see it all now - as if it is all unfolding in front of me in a slow & gentle dream...... me feasting on curried fish, boiled rice, and chasing it all down with a few nice tumblers of illegally imported smuggled 21 year old Scotch.... only to be sitting - facing eastward and enjoying the view of the Bay of Bengal - and end up as a marvelously marbled tiger turd before daylight.....

.... I told him to go ahead and swat all the malarial mosquitoes and make sure the tigers are kept at bay and I might make the trip...... I think I need to find myself a nice pith helmet for the trip..... I simply don't do turbans and I sunburn easily, after all, being a redhead.....

.... good lord..... have I mentioned that I am highly allergic to tiger bites?..... well, I am.... they give me a horrible rash.......

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Jellyfish....

..... one can only watch so many episodes of Sponge Bob before completely coming down firmly on the side of Squidward.... and that in itself is a sad testament to being a grown-up.... I mean, isn't it true that we should be giggling along with Sponge Bob and Patrick as they go about their adventures? ..... I believe that we should..... and yet the unmistakable pull of Squidward's evil glare & the maniacal laughter of Plankton cannot be denied....

.... there is a strange sort of beauty to their contempt.... and a wondrous balance to their disregard.... perhaps it is a yin/yang thing that I just can't put my finger on, but I am drawn much more towards their selfishness & Desire for Quiet than I am to Patrick's funny voice and his toothy grin.....

.... dont get me wrong, I don't begrudge Sponge Bob for having fun or acting silly... no, not at all... hey, more power to him..... but if I were his next-door neighbor, I do believe that Squidward and I would be pretty tight....

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Alive....

...... Wow...... happy New Year.......

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Personality.....

..... this reminds me, folks.... I need a haircut.......

... AND I accidentally found my pleated tuxedo shirt while cleaning out the hall closet today... the poor thing was in woeful need of good douse of starch and a nice, firm press...... and, of course, a willing minion to perform the tasks..... coincidence?..... I hardly think so.... I'd best get to pressin'....... now, where did I leave that latest issue of Popular Mechanics?.....

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Idling....

.... most of the light snow from yesterday had gone by the morning, but a hard frost still coated everything in sight when the Sun came up... and after downing a pot of coffee, the decision was made to head down to Cleveland for lunch.... by 12:30 we were happily seated at a newish Japanese restaurant off Highway 11....

.... we opted for a table & chair arrangement instead of grouping around one of the hibachis.... don't get me wrong, I do LOVE sitting around a hibachi and watching whatever critter I ordered get seared to perfection, but it just wasn't in the cards today.... I couldn't face the idea of getting all warm and toasty beside that giant cooker and then heading outside after the meal into a 19-degree chill factor....

... still, though, it was a passable meal..... and the drive back through the country was beautiful.... once the heater in the car kicked in, the fresh sky and clear day were able to be enjoyed.... one field even harbored a small group of six whitetail deer - no doubt a part of some buck's harem breaking for a mid-afternoon snack while he awaited them back in the brush.....

.... we're back now and the evening is idling down... it is quiet..... bellies are full of teriyaki sauce and fried rice....... and soon the robin's egg blue outside my window will be replaced by darkness and stars.... and it'll be another frosty night.... time keeps ticking...... just as the Bitterman says......

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Misunderstanding....

".... good god, what a marvelous country we live in..."

What?

"... I just said that we live in the most wonderful country in the world, man..."

Of course we do, but what the hell are you talking about?

"..... that sign back there on that side street, you didn't see it?..."

Obviously not. I was busy watching the road. What did it say?

".... it was the most amazingly American sign that I've ever seen, man. In big, bold letters, it said, 'Coin Laundry'."

So?

"..... c'mon, don't you think that is amazing?..."

Dude, what the hell are you talking about!?

".... just think about it, man, what other nation in the world is so incredibly successful that someone is able to run a business that does nothing but wash people's spare change!.... and name me another population that is so comfortable that they look down their noses at the idea of carrying germ-covered coins in their pockets and, instead, demand clean and shiny new ones!..... the idea of a coin laundry is just so American!"

You are such a moron.

".... What?... Hey, no!.... It really is if you think about it!..."

I can't believe that I actually hang out with you.

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Happy....

.... I am very, very happy to report that I have accomplished my mission of installing a new kitchen sink (with disposal)...... and I am equally happy to say that I still have all of my fingers and toes attached after the whole adventure was finished.... .. AND, of course, I am happy to report that Kentucky narrowly whipped Florida State last night - a game which I followed with much trepidation....... but hey, a win is a win...... go SEC......

.... in short, I hope that Georgia stomps a gigantic mudhole in Hawaii tonight regardless of them performing their "haka"...... hell, being a huge fan of Rugby Union, I've seen different hakas performed by a LOT of Polynesian rugby teams.... Samoa, Fiji, and New Zealand.... so it'll be interesting to see how Hawaii's version holds up to scrutiny..... hakas are meant to intimidate, but that doesn't usually work too well in College Football...... for a fine example of a New Zealand haka, check out this post from a while back....... or just watch this instead...... Rugby is one helluva sport....

..... but hey, it is all about loyalty.... so, go SEC..... Tennessee fared well earlier today and Georgia will do so as well later tonight......... as for Florida, they've currently got two whole handfuls of Wolverine.... mercy, it sure is entertaining to watch a Gator and a Wolverine play a bit of footsie......

.... with that said, all that is left is to wish all of you a very Happy New Year... mine started wonderfully, thank you very much, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of the year works itself out........

...... so Happy New Year, folks..... may all of your wishes come true.... I'm off to finish up my tuna casserole and settle in for the beginning of the Georgia game..... is it wrong to put a pound of sharp cheddar cheese in a two-tin-of-tuna tuna casserole?....... mmmmmmmm....

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