RESILIENT – IRONWOOD: WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

RESILIENT | WORDPRESS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE


Only one tree grows naturally in the great Sonoran desert that fills much of Arizona and continues down into Mexico. The dominant site throughout the desert is, of course, the huge Saguaro cacti.

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Now that they are protected, they are everywhere, including dominating well-tailored back and front yards of suburban homes in and around Phoenix. You can’t cut them down, so no matter how well you plan your garden, nothing prevents a cactus from decided to take root there.

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The ironwood is not a cactus, but a tree. It can live in the hottest, driest possible growing condition. It is the only tree that will survive in that environment without human intervention.

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An old, gnarled ironwood tree is a true symbol of the North American west. Resilient doesn’t cover it. This is ultimate survival.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

MONOCHROMES OF MY YEAR – 2016

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Open Topic


300-line-draw-bonnie-snow-17122016_022Since Cee very kindly left this as an open topic, I thought I’d go through my archives and find my favorite monochrome images for 2016. I did more in black & white this year than in any year since film went away and cameras went digital. Which, for you kids, is what we old kids call “a long time ago.” Rediscovering black & white and toned monochrome is an adventure. Returning to my photographic roots, as it were.

MOPING AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE

MOPE | THE DAILY POST

The little tree is still standing, but it’s no longer the center of the room or of upcoming festivities. Now, it’s the tree of Christmas past and waiting only to go back into storage until next year. Poor little tree. It has such a brief moment of glory. Who can blame it for moping this time of year when it can feel deep in its polyvinyl core, that the end is near. So let us give one last, final cheer for a doughty little tree whose  life is darkness for 11 months and glory for but one!

THE ROAD GOES ON

PHOTO CHALLENGE – Path

Sometimes, probably more often than we’d like to admit, there is only a single path. It may be rough or smooth, across open land or into a tangled woods. Regardless, it’s the road we are on and there’s no going back.

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This is my road. It goes quite straight, up the hill and then, disappears. What lies beyond the hill I don’t know. Life is traveled without maps. We never know what’s over the hill or around the bend … or at the other side of the woods. And, as for taking the road less traveled? In my experience, it inevitably goes nowhere. That’s why the road is unused.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

WHAT’S UP DOC? ILLEGITIMI NON CARBORUNDUM!

RENEWING THE PROMISE TO FIND INTELLIGENT LIFE ON EARTH … AND A THANK YOU TO ALL OUR FRIENDS
A Glimpse into 2017: You and Your Site in the New Year (Part II)

First and foremost, despite all of WordPress’s improvements which make it so much more difficult to manage this blog and keep putting out quality material, I intend to give it my best shot. As will my co-conspirators who I thank from the bottom of my heart for their contributions, love, and support.

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A huge thank you to Ellin Curley who has completed a full year of blogging and never missed a deadline! In any business, that’s a pretty big deal. Her witty, cultured, and humorous observations on the human and doggish condition have vastly improved the quality of Monday morning for me and many others!

Contemplating the years

Contemplating the years

To Rich Paschall who has not only never missed a day, but always been there to pitch in when I’ve been away, on a vacation or rather more frequently — in the hospital. Thank you, Rich. From the bottom of my heart, I have never regretted inviting you to become a part of this … whatever we are. I only wish you lived nearby so we could slurp coffee and plan projects! More than three years during which time you have written fiction, travelogues, and deeply moving LGBT stories — documentary and fictional. Your writing has made a difference in lives all over the world. You have had an impact on the community and woken up a more than a few people who might otherwise never have paid attention to a reality in which they don’t personally live. Several of Rich’s pieces are among the most-views posts published on this site.

Rich, you are a treasure!

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Garry, who is as I type this writing a piece … you are always my star on Serendipity. Your stories of the people you’ve met, the things you’ve seen, as well as your wonderfully warped sense of humor and great eye for a picture are of incalculable value to me, personally and to this site. I couldn’t do it without you. I wouldn’t even want to try.

And Tom. You haven’t written much, but each thing you have contributed has shown brightly. You make people laugh and you tell the truth in a way that people can both understand and enjoy. That’s a rare gift. Now, how about a little more output in the year to come? I know you’ve got stories. Between you and Garry, you’ve got an encyclopedia of stories. How about the time you met Timothy Leary? Huh? Now that buying pot in Massachusetts is legal — but selling it is not (huh?) …

I couldn’t have better friends or a better team. It’s a rough world out there and this is, for all of us, the one place where we can say how we really feel … and at least so far, no one can stop us from expressing ourselves. Let’s keep the world smiling, thinking, and remember to check the facts. Let’s have the best reality-based-with-wild-flights of fancy weblog in the world! We’re almost at half a million views as I write this. Lets get there and keep going. Yay team. Yay each of us.

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But the biggest thank you goes to my followers, readers, and friends. They say that friends you meet and get to know on the Internet are not “real,” but a lot of you are very real to me. You have encouraged me when I’m down, told me I’m great when I feel anything but, sent me little gifts that made me feel incredibly special. I don’t know that I deserve your love and support but you have — all of you (and you know who you are, or I certainly hope you do!) from the farthest east, to the mountains of Switzerland, to the glades and glens of Shropshire, Cornwall, and the mysterious standing stones in England … you have taken me to places I had only dreamed of.

I’ve seen the sun rise over the Jura mountains and in the Arizona desert.We got there in person —  you can’t top that!

I’ve seen the wilds of Australia and Tasmania. Learned how much our Canadian neighbors are just like us … but different, too. We’ve shared our kids, our dogs, our fears for our country’s futures. Our concerns for the climate and the natural world.

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We’ve talked about our life, loves, and many happy hours about our cats and dogs and horses. I’ve learned about growing up in places that to me are as mythical as Oz or Valhalla … and met people who have traveled and lived all over the world. And all of you have helped me feel as if finally, I fit in somewhere. I belong to this world, this strange and marvelous world of blogging we share.


ILLEGITIMI NON CARBORUNDUM


Let’s all take a bow and stride forward bravely into the new year.  Go team SERENDIPITY!

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: OUR YEAR IN PICTURES

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: 2016 RETROSPECTIVE


I decided to answer this with my favorite dozen pictures from the past year, both mine and Garry’s. I don’t know how well these represent our lives. We tend to photograph our high points rather than the lows … but maybe it’s better that way. Happy New Year!

RENEW NOW AND SAVE BIG!

2016 was the year that we stopped ignoring the news and began watching it with a kind of horrified fascination. At first, we thought it was funny. Ridiculous. This couldn’t be serious. It was a goof and everyone was going to end up popping champagne, slapping each other on the back and saying, “Good one!”

Except it wasn’t a joke and after a few weeks, it also wasn’t funny. The news was scary. Unnerving. Disturbing. To keep from total nervous collapse, I started reading articles by Andy Borowitz, the wit of “The New Yorker” magazine. After a while, I found I was following the magazine and reading many — almost all — of the major articles by all the writers. Not to mention loving the cartoons and The New Yorker has always had the best cartoons.

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Finally, I ponied up the money and bought a two-year subscription which came with a free New Yorker book bag in which I now keep my frequently used computer and camera accessories (as opposed to the never or almost-never used accessories). No sooner had I set up my account and started receiving both the hard and electronic copies of the magazine than Condé Nast, The New Yorker’s corporate owner, began besieging me with other magazine offers … and renewal offers for The New Yorker.

The renewal offers get more desperate sounding with each passing day, as if my subscription will make or break the entire corporate structure. Give me a break!

I started my career as the assistant subscription manager of Architectural Digest. I wasn’t there long because I got pregnant and the long commute by Long Island Railroad got to be a bit much for me … and I knew my future was not in subscriptions. I was a writer and I was going to find somewhere I could do what I do and get paid for it. But, for the seven or eight months in subscriptions, I learned a lot about the business.

The first rule of subscriptions is that unless the subscriber is known to be deceased and the place he or she lived has been bulldozed, you never cancel a subscription. Why not? Because magazines do not make money from subscriptions. They make money from advertising, Advertising rates — the cost for a full or part page in a publication — is based on the number of subscribers, so you never want to lower that number. You want to show growth. Only growth. It’s self-defeating to cut off subscribers.

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Now, with all magazines doubling up as both web and paper, the equation is a little different, but the concept remains: you set your price for advertising based on the number of people who you can “prove” read your publication … and that is done via subscription numbers. Whether the subscriber is via Internet or postal delivery, that is the only solid evidence you have of who reads you. That is why, when you follow a publication on line, after a few hits on the web site, they require you to open an account. Even if it’s free, an account is a subscription. It counts toward making up the numbers which allow the publication to set good rates.

So why all the hysteria to get me to renew? I suppose because revenue is revenue, even if it’s a trickle rather than a raging river.

The problem is that all this badgering is counter-productive. It doesn’t make me want to renew. It makes me resent that they don’t seem to appreciate I did actually pay them when I could have continued to follow them for free on the Internet. Hounding subscribers to renew when they just subscribed is not endearing. They should stop doing it.

I probably will renew … when this subscription is nearly over. But in the meantime, I’d appreciate an end to the spam. It’s annoying.

RENEWAL | THE DAILY POST

WHEN IT’S TRUE – BUT WRONG

THE DAILY BLOG – AN AGATHA CHRISTIE MYSTERY


So there we were. It’s late. The dogs are sleeping. Garry and I are watching “The ABC Murders” on the BBC Poirot series. Poirot is reading an article in the newspaper, supposedly quoting Captain Hastings. Hastings says “I say, Poirot, I really didn’t say that, you know.”

“I know,” says Poirot. “But perhaps this will help us. The murderer, he sees what I supposedly said in the daily blog …”


BLOG (US)

noun
1. A website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other websites.
2. A single entry or post on such a website: She regularly contributes a blog to the magazine’s website.
verb (used without object), blogged, blogging.
3. To maintain or add new entries to a blog. Verb (used with object), blogged, blogging.
4. To express or write about on a blog: She’s been blogging her illness for almost a year.

Origin of blog 
1995-2000; shortening of weblog – Related forms: blogger, noun

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.


Whoa!

Blog? He used the word blog? This show was aired in 1992 and the story is set in pre-World War II England. How far back does the word “blog” go? These BBC productions are generally considered accurate renditions of the books.


BLOG (British) 

1998, – short for weblog (which is attested from 1994, though not in the sense “online journal”), from (World Wide) Web + log.

Joe Bloggs (c.1969) was British slang for “any hypothetical person” (cf. U.S. equivalent Joe Blow); earlier “blog” meant “a servant boy” in one of the college houses (c.1860, see Partridge, who describes this use as a “perversion of bloke”). As a verb, “to defeat” in schoolboy slang.

The Blogger online publishing service was launched in 1999.


None of these definitions would be used to describe a newspaper article or column … or even a published rumor. Except — this BBC TV movie was released in 1992. And the word “blog” in a form and meaning we understand is there, where it can’t be because the word did not yet exist.

But it did exist and it meant basically what it means now, except applied to a daily newspaper, not something on the Internet.

I can reach but one conclusion: My accurate sources are wrong. The word did exist at least as early as 1992. If they are wrong about this, what else did they get wrong? Did Agatha Christie use it in the original manuscript? I’d need to have a searchable copy of “The ABC Murders” to do a word search. I don’t have such a book at the moment, but I’ll try to find one. There may be one available as a Kindle and they are searchable. I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, I can’t find any source that admits any evidence that the word “blog” existed in its current form and usage prior to 1995 (most say 1997). All sources agree on this. The word “blog” comes from “web log.” Except obviously, that’s not true.

It’s a mystery worthy of Dame Agatha herself.

How many other things I know are true, are wrong? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: Dateline Uxbridge, 1:22 PM, EDT

After much checking in by helpful readers and friends, the word (given the heavy fake French accent …) might have been one of these three words:

Blood (which is what the transcript of the show thinks it was)

Blab (mebbe, because with the accent, anything that is a single syllable and starts with BL and is followed by an “aw” or “ah” sound could sound like blog

or

Blah, as in “blah, blah, blah” which had during WWI (around 1918), come into common parlance to mean the same thing it means 100 years later.

If anyone has the book, it would be interesting to find out what Dame Agatha actually wrote, as opposed to what the BBC production used in the script. The show is available on Netflix. It is first show of the 1992 season four. “The ABC Murders” is a movie length feature and very well done. It will stand alone as a single viewing.

TRUMPED: REALITY, REALITY SHOWS, AND REAL TV – REDUX – TOM CURLEY

And now that the election has come and gone and Donald Trump will shortly occupy the White House, this post from last March seems even more relevant than it did when it was first published. What is Truth? What is Real? Have we slipped sideways into another dimension on an alternate Earth where everything looks like it used to, but it is something else. Something sinister. Weird. Scary.

It’s almost 2017 and I’m more than a little bit lost.

Marilyn


Ellin and I were on a brief ski trip a couple of weeks ago up in Vermont. We learned three things.

  1. We are still not too old to ski.
  2. Gravity is a harsh mistress.
  3. It’s getting harder and harder to figure out what’s real and what’s not.

Let me explain.

We were on our trip on a Tuesday. One of the Super Tuesdays. I forget which one because they’re all Super now. We’re both fascinated by this incredibly bizarre presidential campaign, so of course we were watching …

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indiewire.com

House of Cards on Netflix. We love that show.

In between binge watching episode after episode, we’d check in on the (real) election coverage. And that’s when I noticed that on House of Cards, the characters are constantly on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CBS This Morning, and so on. All this stuff is shot on the actual news sets with real people playing themselves — while reporting on a fictional presidential campaign.

I’m not going to reveal any spoilers, but this season’s episodes were filmed way before the actual election began. Despite this, the show (House of Cards) contains a lot of surprisingly prescient plot lines.

We sat there watching CNN, MSNBC, CBS and all the other news shows interview and talk with Frank Underwood as he brilliantly manipulates the government and the world to get whatever he wants.

Then we’d change the channel to watch CNN, MSNBC, CBS and all the other news shows talk — with Donald Trump — where they were debating whether or not Trump has a large penis.

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washingtonpost.com

Then, a bunch of pundits complained this (real) campaign is nothing more than a bad reality show. They are correct. The Republicans are currently trying to throw their leading candidate off the island, but inextricably, he keeps winning the immunity idol.

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survivor.wikia.com

The other questions everyone keeps asking is “How did a reality show star end up running for President?”

Good question. But I know the answer.

It’s all Dan Quayle’s fault.

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businessinsider.com

You remember Dan Quayle, the guy who was George Bush Senior’s Vice President, don’t you? Dan had a reputation for not being the sharpest pencil in the box.

He was famous for misspelling potato as “potatoe” at a campaign stop at an elementary school in 1992.

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Dailyhaymaker.com

Most people have forgotten the other important thing he did.

He started a fight with Murphy Brown.

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Murphy Brown was the fictional TV journalist and anchor. Played by Candice Bergen, she headed the cast in a 90’s sitcom about a fictional news show called FYI.

In one of the late seasons, she got pregnant and was going to be a single mother. Quayle gave a campaign speech (real) calling her out as being against “Family Values” because she didn’t have a husband. Murphy Brown was “mocking the importance of fathers” (an actual quote from Quayle’s speech).

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Here’s where it got brilliant. The producers and writers of the show didn’t put out a statement denouncing his speech. They had Murphy Brown go after Quayle on the television show. It made front page headlines (real) all across the country.

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So, now you had Dan Quayle fighting with — and being mocked by — a fictional character on a fictional show. And he fought back. In real life.

Pretty much nobody said “Has anyone noticed the Vice President of the United States is fighting with A FICTIONAL TV CHARACTER ????”

No one appeared to notice. Or care.

That’s was the beginning of the end, when American politics started down the rabbit hole. What began as a real-life politician appearing on a fictional TV news show, morphed into fictional politicians on real TV news shows. And real news shows showing up on fictional TV shows.

And a bad reality host running for President of the United States.

In the real world.

At least I think it’s the real world. I’m not sure anymore. I used to have to take drugs to get this confused. Personally I’d rather watch House of Cards. It makes more sense.

To paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite movies, Galaxy Quest, our current reality is a poorly written episode. And it’s not over, not nearly.

2016 – MY YEAR IN PICTURES

Looking back. My year — a dreadful and strange year which is finally — and good riddance — leaving.

JANUARY 2016 – ARIZONA & NEW ENGLAND

FEBRUARY 2016 – DEEP WINTER

MARCH 2016 – ALMOST SPRING

APRIL 2016 – COME SHE WILL!

MAY 2016 – SPRING COMES TO THE VALLEY

JUNE 2016 – INVASION AND RECOVERY

JULY 2016 – SUMMERTIME

AUGUST 2016 – DEEP GREEN DAYS

SEPTEMBER 2016 – AND NOW THE DAYS GROW SHORTER

OCTOBER 2016 – GOLDEN AUTUMN DAYS

NOVEMBER 2016 – LATE AUTUMN


DECEMBER 2016 – HOLIDAYS AS THE YEAR ENDS

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


RETROSPECTIVE 2016 | THE DAILY POST DISCOVER CHALLENGE

DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE – GAMES CHILDREN PLAY

DUCK DUCK GOOSE | CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE


We didn’t play this one. Our version was “one potato, two potato …” All of these were elimination rounds to some subsequent game of tag, I think and the words varied depending on where you were born and raised. New York had a particular set of chants and games, many of which included Dutch words missing elsewhere because the Dutch preceded the English in settling the region … and they left some of their language behind.

Ducks waiting along the pond on Boston Common

Ducks waiting along the pond on Boston Common

Ducks on a golden day in November on the Mumford River

Ducks on a golden day in November on the Mumford River

My cousin was born and raised in northern Virginia, right outside of Washington D.C. I was always surprised at the differences in words between us. Simple stuff, lots of the time. I called it “potsy,” and she called it “hopscotch.” I sat on the couch. She lounged on the sofa. We ate supper. She sat down for dinner. It was the subject of some humor and teasing as the years rolled along.

A barnyard runaway hoping for a handout

A barnyard runaway hoping for a handout

Goosy goosy gander, whither shall thee wander?

Goosy, goosy, gander, whither shall thee wander?

So this game — duck, duck, goose — is not a New York game, or at least, not a Queens, New York game. I don’t know if it is a New England game, either. But Wikipedia says it is universal, which means it must be true. Of course!

cee's fun foto chall

BEFORE THE STREETLIGHTS COME ON

When I was growing up … and even when my son was growing up in the 1970s, kids went out to play. Alone. Unsupervised. Unstructured. Disorganized with not a single adult to keep an eye on us. We built “forts” and “clubhouses” out of crates and old boxes and anything we could find that mom wouldn’t miss. We played stickball with old, pink Spalding balls that were often long bast bouncing or even being “round.” You didn’t go and buy a “stickball set.” You found an old broomstick and someone had a ball, or what used to be a ball, or you all chipped in and bought one in the local (!) toy store.

Remember toy stores? Not “Toys R’ Us.” Local shops where you could buy a ball or a bat or a Ginny doll for anything from a few cents to a few dollars and take it home to play. The shopkeepers were always grumpy old guys (probably a lot younger than we are now), but they had a gleam in their eye. If you don’t like kids, you don’t run a toy store.

We ran around a lot. Tag was one of the basics. Even dogs play tag. “Catch me if you can,” you shouted and off you went. If you got tagged, you were O-U-T. But if you could run fast enough, you could grab whatever was “home” and one shouted “Home free all!” and everyone was back in the game.

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There was Hide and Seek, another classic. Someone hid, everyone hunted. You had to be careful. If you hid too well, your friends might get bored looking for you and go do something else. But no one’s mother came to complain that you were being bullied. This was stuff you dealt with because there will always be bullies. Unless you were in real danger, it was better (then and now) to cope on your own. Much better than waiting for rescue. In the real world, rescue is rare, but bullying is not.

Jump rope. There was always an old piece of laundry line somewhere. They actually call it skipping rope in other parts of the country. In the cities, the Black girls played a variation called “double Dutch” using two ropes. We all knew how to do the double Dutch ropes turning, but none of us ever mastered the technique of actually jumping. More like an intricate dance — and I also wasn’t ever much of a dancer.

Summertime - GO

Klutz that I was and am, I was barely competent on a single line, much less two. I remain in awe of how incredibly graceful, athletic, and coördinated those girls were … and are. There was a feature about them on the news a couple of weeks ago and I am no less awestruck now than I was more than 60 years ago.

Along with jumping rope came chanting. All those weird little ditties we sang as we jumped. They mostly were alphabetic and involved names and places.

“I call my girlfriend … in …” when we were playing in a group. You could gauge your popularity by when and who “called you in” to jump in tandem. Looking back, I think the problem was not unpopularity, but being a washout as an athlete. I was a slow runner, an indifferent jumper, and a terrified tree climber. On the other hand, when it came to derring-do, I was a champ. I could organize games of pretend –pirates and cowboys and outlaws and cat burglars. We burgled, but we never stole. We weren’t thieves, just little girls trying to prove we could do it.

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I don’t see kids playing outdoors these days. Almost never, except as organized groups with one or more adults supervising. Calling the plays with whistles and shouts. Children are not allowed to “go out and play” anymore. Everyone is afraid of something. Bullying, kidnappers, traffic, skinned knees. Unlike we kids who were always covered with scabs from a thousand times falling down on the sidewalk or street. Come home with a bloody knee today and they’ll call an ambulance. Growing up, unless you appeared to have broken something, a bath was the remedy of choice and usually, beneath the dirt, was an unbroken kid.

It makes me wistful, thinking about it. I had a horrible home life, but I could escape by going out to play. “Bye, Ma, I’m going out to play,” and off you went. It was the best part of being a child. Those months between school and school contained what seemed unlimited hours of freedom. That was the most free I would ever be in this life.

Once you were out of the house and too far away to hear your mother calling, you could do whatever you liked. You could be whoever you imagined. There was nothing you had to do, no place you needed to be. Until the streetlights came on.

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You had to be home when the streetlights came on. It was a fundamental law, the bottom line. Do what you will, but be home when the streetlights come on. In those warm summers of childhood, the days flowed in an endless stream.

Darkness fell late. There was  more than enough time.

MUSICAL HUMOR – CARTOONS FROM (MOSTLY) NPR

This is one of those posts that requires you to have a passing familiarity with a variety of classical (by which I mean, not modern pop) music. If you played in the orchestra in high school, studied piano or bass or flute or violin, or have a secret passion for Chopin, Beethoven, Vivaldi … well, the list is a bit too long, but hopefully you get the idea. These are for you.

My favorite is BERLI-OS! With a Harold In Italy action figure in every box! And the Walking Dead Composers.