Happy New Year! Bye bye 2012 … Welcome 2013!

2013 is finally here and I, for one, bid a less than fond farewell to 2012!

Here are the First Night fireworks from Boston to bring in the 2013 with a bang!!

May your year be peaceful, healthy, happy, and uneventful!

Awakenings: Arrival of the “Ghost Dance”

See on Scoop.itMovies From Mavens

Arrival of the “Ghost Dance” This Day in History: December 29, 1890 –  Massacre at Wounded Knee How did it begin, this hate for the Indian nation?  They were, after all, native to America well before the arrival of the “white man.”

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

As events in Canada unfold, this is an especially timely anniversary.

See on awakenings2012.blogspot.com

My world in white — Happy New Year!

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It started snowing yesterday afternoon. I first knew because the dogs came in covered with snow. It had looked like snow would be coming … white snow sky … but it seemed too warm for it to really stick. But, as snow so often does here in the valley, it just kept coming and as evening approached, the temperature dropped.

Straight across into the woods.

The snow continued after dark and when I got up this morning, there was quite a bit on the ground, perhaps 6 or 7 inches. Real snow, the kind that hangs around until it melts or is dug away.

First Snow - Deck 1

My back is still treacherously bad, but I had to at least take a few pictures. It wasn’t so deep that I couldn’t get out onto the back deck, so I provided a round of biscuits to my frantic pups, then grabbed the camera and my new wide-angle lens and took pictures. This is the first real snow of this winter, though it is likely last snow of 2012.

Woods and chairs

Last year, the snowless year, was a glitch in the weather. I hoped we might get another snowless year, but obviously that isn’t happening. Welcome to my world in winter. Fresh snow, so white, so pretty, so … cold.

Facing east

Serendipity’s 2012 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 38,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 9 Film Festivals.

In 2012, there were 762 new posts, not bad for the first year! 2033 pictures were uploaded, probably 90% of which are original photographs by the author. The rest are illustrations from various sources.

The busiest day of the year was November 9th with 1,049 views. The most popular post that day was Presidential Election: “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation.” 

Click here to see the complete report.

I only started blogging in February of 2012 … and I didn’t really start posting regularly until May.

I do a lot of reblogging, either via direct reblog or using ScoopIt. That accounts for the high number of posts. I suspect about 70% of the 762 posts were mine. The others were reblogs or scoops. I have gotten good responses to posts I wrote requiring research and serious thought, but my most popular post was something I tossed off in less than five minutes while watching television. Go figure.

Popularity is fickle. It’s dangerously addictive and like most addictions isn’t entirely healthy. There’s a tendency to start to write for numbers … and that’s not what I want to do. So I have to be careful not to let success go to my head, to keep myself on my own course. It’s nice to be popular, but it’s even better when something I write makes someone think in a new way, changes someone’s mind, or give a reader pause to think.

It’s been a roller coaster year with a lot of craziness, tragedy, violence, controversy and acrimony. I’ve won awards, gotten hate mail, fan mail, and a lot more attention that I probably deserve. It’s been exciting, but stressful too. I think I could go for a much more peaceful year to come.

Have a great New Year everyone!!

Protecting your guns with your guns

2012_09_gunbust2

When I see a story about folks who’ve gotten busted for having an arsenal and because, as my husband puts it, “they have toys in the attic,” they consistently appear to live in squalor.

Case O' Guns

They have guns, lots of them. If they didn’t spend all their money on guns, they might be able afford a decent place to live, maybe some comfortable furniture and food in the fridge.

lotsa guns

These are the people who are passionate about their right to protect their stuff. But the only thing they have that’s worth protecting are guns. They need the guns to protect themselves from people who might want to steal … what? Guns.

They have guns to protect their guns because everything else they have is trash.

I was pleased to see in L.A., the “guns for groceries program is going well. It is always nice when there’s a small outbreak of rationality. Or maybe it’s just a sign of a difficult economy and the realization that “eating lead” is not all that yummy. And there are so few good recipes for bullets.

I know there are plenty of people who hunt, own guns to a purpose, compete in gun-related sporting activities and don’t spend the equivalent of the food and electric bill on yet another gun. I’m talking about that special breed, the arsenal folks, the “you can’t have too many weapons at any cost” crowd who are as likely to turn up in the middle of an eastern city as the south, west or anywhere else. The nuts are everywhere and there are far too many of them for my comfort. Some of them even appear normal, which worries me more than those who are blatantly batty. If they look and act just like any regular person, I can’t even avoid them.

Out of action

Usually, I’m aiming for a catchy title, but I have to tell you this is not a catchy title. I really am out of action.

I have a bad back. It’s been a mess since I was a kid falling off one horse too many. It was rebuilt in 1967 — a fusion and laminectomy using saws and chisels — because  that was long before micro surgical techniques.

I'm a four and a half. Apparently that means I'm disable. I sure feel disabled right now.

I’m a four and a half. Apparently that means I’m disabled. I sure feel disabled right now.

I’ve had a lot of problems with my back over the years and the fusion, which was bone paste made from a piece of my hip, began to disintegrate about 25 years ago, to be replaced by a massive invasion and a virtual sheathing of arthritic calcification. That’s not altogether bad. Without the arthritis, I’d literally fall apart.

A couple of weeks ago, after months of bursitis in my hips making it more and more painful and difficult for me to do much of anything, I went to the neurologist in Boston. I had a couple of cortisone shots in my hips that overnight made my it possible for me to walk again. I was thrilled.

A few days later, what had been a nagging pain in my back morphed from something I could ignore, to something that demanded I deal with it. Immediately. For the last couple of days, I’ve spent all my time trying to find anything that would make it stop hurting.

Today, I gave up, took the heating pad and my agonized spine and went to bed where I’ve been all day and will probably return in an hour or two. The way it’s feeling right now, I might be back in bed sooner than that.

I’m quite literally out of action. In the 45 years since my spinal surgery, with all the problems I’ve had, I’ve never been laid out like this. I’ve been in a lot of pain, yes, but somehow, I’ve managed to gut it out. This time, I just can’t. If you don’t hear from me, that’s why.

I know I am far from the only one with back problems, but somehow I thought what with all the rest stuff I’ve gone through, all the medical crises, the uncountable numbers of surgeries, that somehow I was going to manage to miss this particular one. Apparently not. Please accept my apologies. I’ll write when I can sit up long enough without screaming in pain and I mean that literally.

Assuming doctors are back from vacation after New Year‘s, I will seek medical assistance. I’m assured that cortisone in my spine might actually help. I’m pretty desperate and right now, a needle or two in my spine sounds like a great idea.

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Early light on a dusting of snow …

The early light just after dawn always has a special quality. Its color varies from season to season, more golden or amber in Autumn, deep yellow in summer, pale, almost pink in springtime.  This time of year, full winter, there’s slate bluish light.

Just after sunrise, it’s pale yellow … but after that, for a brief few minutes, it blushes to a pink that paints the whole woods in its light.

This morning, there was a light powdering of snow across the ground and on the deck. It was gone by mid morning … but thanks to the magic of digital photography, the memories linger on.

Gallery

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

All months are not equal and many of the most important things that happen are never documented. Hospital stays and medical procedures are life and death but never show up in photo albums. Some months are more crowded than others: summer vacations, holidays and almost all of the month of December, with Christmas at its apex, usually feature unique and photogenic activities, so these tend to be a heavily documented months.

Morning, Dec 30, 2012 ... a real snow blankets our world. Happy New Year!

Morning, Dec 30, 2012 … a real snow blankets our world. Happy New Year!

Then, there are those months that are beautiful.  Autumn in New England … specifically, October … gets more attention almost the rest of the year combined. November, a visually dull month unless we have an early snow or storm, is not a natural lure to photographers. I have no pictures from March because I was in the hospital for most of it and not in the mood for photography the rest of it.

Spring flowers and gardens are magnificent, but late summer gardens can be lackluster, the best of the color having passed. Vacati0ns are documented end to end, but ordinary weeks and months pass without much notice.

So this is … and isn’t … my year. It is my photographic year, but not necessarily my real year.

I wake up too early …

There’s not much to do at 5 am in late December around here. The dogs are endlessly enthusiastic about seeing me, mainly because they figure on getting a few biscuits out of the deal. I can drink coffee, greet the dogs, take a look at what’s going on with the weather …

December Dawn 1

I was up so early that the sun was still rising so I grabbed a couple of cameras (easier than changing lenses) and took some pictures of the dawn. From my back deck, I face more or less eastward … a bit skewed to north, but this time of year, that’s where the sun rises. You can only see sunrise from the deck when the leaves are off the trees. In the summer, the horizon is hidden by foliage.

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And meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I can count on the bright shiny faces of my furry kids. I actually got a shot of Nan before she realized I had a camera and showed me her backside. I don’t even use a flash. Why are they so mean about this? Oof.

Heroes

Guy Williams as ZorroLife has been singularly bereft of heroes lately. Perhaps I’m just getting older and life is making me more cynical but I think it’s the world that’s getting more cynical. It seems to me there has been a continuing trend on TV and the movies that has accelerated in recent years to create heroes who are not entirely heroic, but rather more human. Less black and white, more gray. Despite how reasonable this approach may be, I prefer my heroes heroic.

I like my superheroes really super, solidly and clearly on the side of justice. There’s plenty of room in literature, film, theater and television for ambivalence and flawed heroes. At least in genres where my heroes fight evil to save the earth or a some piece of it, I want a clear and unambiguous line between good and evil. Life isn’t really like that, but that’s what escapism in the movies and on television is all about.Santa_Claus_1

Give me a masked hero, preferably on a horse, wielding a sword. I can make do with a six-gun if he only shoots them in the hand (the Lone Ranger never actually killed anyone).

Today being Christmas, my first question is whether or not Santa Claus counts as a superhero. I think the answer will depend on the age of the person answering the question. Probably “yes” below age 6. A solid “maybe” through around age 9, followed by a short period of  “I don’t think so.” I remember when my granddaughter was at the “switchover” age. She was reasonably sure there was no Santa Claus, but she figured she ought to hedge her bets, just in case.

She definitely didn’t want to alienate Santa should he turn out to be the bestower of gifts. Thus she “sort of believed,” but sort of didn’t. It was funny watching her work her way through her first major philosophical dilemma.

Personally, I’m a weenie for masked men. I’m a sucker for horses even without a rider, so it can’t be much of a surprise.  Depending on the level of heroism involves, I can compromise on the mask too. But LOTS of extra credit for the horse and if it is a particularly magnificent steed … ah, be still my heart.

I am almost as passionate about superheroes. I favor capes. Although I waited patiently, none of my heroes ever came to take me away. I love my husband and an orange 1970 (1969?) Dodge Challenger convertible, although not a horse, was certainly a better than average ride, but I did long for the mythos and might of my comic book and screen heroes and super heroes. Although I’m significantly more creaky than I used to be (maybe a buckboard rather than a saddle?) I’m still ready and waiting.

Superman was filmed in color, though I was well into my 30s before I saw it for myself. Until then, I never had a color TV so I remember all those early shows as black and white and am frequently surprised to discover they are actually in color. Zorro made my heart flutter and The Lone Ranger made me weak in the knees. Despite the fact that to this day, I cannot fathom how come no one recognized Superman when he wore wire-rimmed eyeglasses, I loved him anyway. Batman too, though Supe was really My Guy.

Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

I had some small issue with the whole phone booth thing since in New York, where I grew up, they had glass sides, so they were not exactly a private shelter. Why didn’t he just do it at super speed so no one could see? Who needs a phone booth anyhow?

I am glad that movie makers share my love for the super guys who filled the dreams of my girlhood. I was the only girl … hell, the only kid … I knew who had Lone Ranger wallpaper. Not on a computer. There was no such thing. No, I had it on my walls. Lone and Tonto, endlessly riding in a small circle around the same little patch of ground … “Hi yo Silver! The Lone Ranger Rides Again!” I always thought Tonto got rather short shrift and I thought his horse, Scout, was every bit as cool as Silver, but I would have settled for any kind of equine.

He could graze on our lawn, live in the otherwise unused garage, please mom? I’ll take care of him. You won’t have to do a thing.

She was immovable. How could I lead the fight for Justice without a horse? I tried flying, which worked for Superman, but all I got were scabby knees and elbows. No matter how hard, no leap got me over a single tall, or even medium-sized building.

So, return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when Silver and Scout, Trigger and that fabulous black horse that Zorro always rode carried my heroes, with and without masks. I absolutely positively will NOT see the latest remake. Johnny Depp in heavy makeup and way too many feathers as Tonto? Hell, Jay Silverheels was at least a real Native American. Couldn’t we do as well in 2012?

We could use a few heroes now, could we not?

Maybe they are still out there … we just don’t seem to see much of them anymore.

The Night Before Christmas, or A Visit from St. Nicholas – by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads.

1864

1864

And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

1883

1883

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

1886

1886

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

1896

1896

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack.

1898

1898

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

1901

1901

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

A Christmas Story

Right after “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it’s time for us to watch “A Christmas Story.” It’s part of the ritual of Christmas and one of my favorite traditions. Just the narration, spoken by its author, the inimitable Jean Shepherd, is a gem. It’s the story of Christmas seen through the eyes of Ralphie, a kid like me. A kid like you.

SantaAndRalphie

I’m not sure what my favorite scene is, but it may be when the neighbor’s pack of hounds takes out the Christmas turkey. Or perhaps the singing of “Jingle Bells” by the staff of the local Chinese restaurant.

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There are so many great scenes, it really is hard to pick one. It remains our favorite light-hearted go-to Christmas movie.

It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone over the age  five hasn’t seen it. It plays on numerous channels every year, but just in case, we have it on DVD. I know it has been recently released on Blu-ray.

A Christmas Story

I highly recommend it. Although it is sometimes poignant, it is not sentimental, yet it manages to be both nostalgic and very funny. Probably the best role of Darin McGavin’s career.