Thursday’s Special: Minimalism

The perfect subject for me while I’m test driving Topaz’s “Simplify” filters. It has a lot of permutations, but the thing is does best is take a photograph and remove small and weak elements to produce everything from an oil painting to a simple line drawing. Exactly what a particular filter will do depends on the picture you use as the base … and what other filters you apply.

A simple white church on the common - simplified

Evangelical church on the common. Simplified

Our living room as a simple line drawing

Our living room as a line drawing

On the common. Simply.

On the common




CALM: Noun

  1. Quiet and peaceful state or condition.
  2. Peaceful mental or emotional state.
  3. Complete absence of wind, or presence of wind having a speed no greater than one mile (1.6 kilometers) per hour. Also, a period or condition of freedom from storms, high winds, or rough activity of water. (“The calm before the storm.”)
  4. Tranquility.

All is calm, all is bright says the carol. It’s not bright today, but it is calm. Yesterday, a crew of three women armed with cleaning implements and a level of energy I have not had at my disposal in many a long year turned our dusty cave into a clean home. The floor in the kitchen is really completely clean! There is no dust on the picture frames and even the blinds are dust free. Every doll is clean, too. If there was no other reason to celebrate, having a clean house would be huge.


But … where are the dogs? Is that barking I hear?

There comes a moment when you have to accept reality, even when it goes against the grain. My ability to take care of this house has been in decline for more than a decade. My get-up-and-go got up and went a decade ago and does not appear to be planning on returning. So this year, instead of buying presents for other people that they probably don’t need and won’t appreciate anyhow, I bought us a clean house. If I can squirrel away a little money every month, I will buy it again in a few months.

I also bought a vacuum cleaner. In the end, not a big professional one, but something with a bit more guts than we have and lightweight so i can actually use it myself. We have a monster machine downstairs that when it was new was too heavy for me and now, is too heavy for both of us.

Dolls and a president

Dolls and a president

We needed a real machine. For several years, we’ve only had a very lightweight electric broom. It’s fine for sweeping up crumbs and light dust, but doesn’t have what it takes to tackle the carpets (very old carpets … 50-year-old carpets) in the offices and bedroom. We are on the brink of a glorious future of peace in our little corner of Earth. A place where the air is clean. Glory to the highest.

Stay calm. Watch for signs!



Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post

If It’s a Wonderful Life can be a tradition at Christmas, why not this post from a year ago about the connections between that great film and George R. Stewart?  So here it is, with only minor editing to bring it up to date.

But it has a bonus at the end – a radio interview with one of the stars, who was – of course – doing charitable work in the Central Coast area when Tom Wilmer of local PBS station KCBX found him:

It’s A Wonderful Story

This is the time of year when most of us watch the classic Christmas movies.  A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims, Miracle on 54th Street, A Child’s Christmas in Wales,   (An almost unknown gem, produced in Canada, starring Denholm Elliot); and, of course,  It’s a Wonderful Life.

Here in Arroyo Grande, the local theater,  owned by a man who loves movies, shows one of those classics each Christmas. The admission is a can of food or a toy, to be donated to those in need – in the spirit of the movie.  …To see such a film on the big screen, surrounded by local neighbors of all ages – to see how the children love the film – it is a reminder of what we’ve lost.  Now we watch movies on TV, but usually alone, and always less intently – a kind of digital sampling of the films.  Like a CD, we miss much when we do that.  But in the theater watching Miracle on Thirty-Fourth Street  we missed nothing.  And – how long since you’ve experienced this? – the audience clapped and cheered when the judge decided that, yes, Kris Kringle was indeed Santa Claus.  It was a fine traditional twentieth century American Christmas experience.


For most of the people I know, It’s a Wonderful Life   is the Christmas movie.  So those who are George R. Stewart fans should know about the connection between that classic film and GRS.

George R. Stewart was raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his mother’s family lived.  His maternal grandfather, Andrew Wilson,  planned to be a teacher, and even helped found a school nearby (which would become the prestigious Kiski School).  But he couldn’t earn enough to support his family; so he went into the mercantile business.  He  had a hand in a hardware store there, owned by another Stewart.  That Stewart’s son was James Stewart, also born and raised in Indiana.

George and Jimmy looked alike.  With all the similarities in family history, geography, and physiology, you’d expect they were related.  But they  shared only one possible distant relative.  And they lived in different worlds, in Indiana.  The George Stewarts went to the middle-class Presbyterian church on the flats; Jimmy Stewart and his parents went to the upper-class Presbyterian church on the hill.  GRS went to a public high school out west, Jimmy to a prestigious private school in the east.

Still, the lives paralleled in remarkable ways.  GRS and his family moved to Pasadena; he went to Princeton; and after marriage moved his family to Berkeley, California.  Jimmy went to Princeton, then moved to Pasadena; and spent his life in Southern California.  GRS wrote books, two of which were filmed.  Jimmy made films, like that grand Christmas classic we all love.   GRS worked at the Disney studios for a time, an advisor to Walt himself.  Jimmy worked at many studios, creating characters and stories that touched the hearts of millions.  Ironically, GRS did not like the media, and apparently did not attend movies often, if at all.

Their paths apparently never crossed.  GRS and his family left Indiana for California in 1905, when he was 12.  That was the year James Stewart was born. Out west, nothing in their interests or their work brought them together.  Since the film we now consider a classic failed in its initial run, it is unlikely GRS would have seen it even if he did go to the movies.

Yet, in this Christmas season, we should remember there is one thing they shared; and thanks to the film, we share it with them:  The experience of life in a small American town in the early 20th century.  Like a trip to Disneyland, a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life enfolds us in such a place.  For a time, we walk the streets and meet the people of the town and the time where both boys grew up.

Please follow the rest of the story at: The Annual George R. Stewart, Jimmy Stewart Christmas Post



oddball marina rope

deck stairway steps down


I wish I had children playing … but if I think about it, it has been a very long time since I saw any kids jumping rope. Maybe it isn’t popular anymore? I know when I was growing up, it was one of the basics along with “tag,” “hide and seek,” and “potsy (hopscotch).” Times change. Maybe they are all inside playing video games nowadays.

cee's fun foto chall