Thank You, Donald Trump – Jan Wilberg

I couldn’t have said it nearly as well — but this is a very good description for many of us these days. Brilliant, actually.

Red's Wrap

When Donald Trump was elected, I decided it was time to be the political commentator I’d wanted to be when I was sixteen. I’ll get a spot on Medium, I thought, and just tear the bastard up with my laser analysis and searing prose.

But within weeks, the guy became too disgusting for words. Every day, there was some horrible, gross, ignorant assault on our customs, values, law, civility, what we used to agree constituted basic decency, a man basically relieving himself on the country’s fine china.

So I turned my attention to people and things that knew how to act in polite company like me, for instance, and my dogs. But walking today, it came to me that Donald Trump, the sloppy, rude jerk that he is, had actually made me a better person and a better American. Here’s how.

First, I pay attention like I never have before.

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LAST CACTUS FLOWER OF THE SEASON – Marilyn Armstrong

Flower of the Day

I got two blooms on my Christmas cactus. The first flower closed up this morning and the second opened this afternoon.

By the time I remembered to grab my camera to take some pictures of what is probably the last flower for this year, it was late. Close to dark, really. A very dim light in an east facing doorway and I wondered if anything would come out. I could have turned on the lights, but that would have distorted the colors and I don’t like flash.

Not only do I need new glasses, but I was shooting in very low light and a bit too close for that light level. 

I’ll try to take some sharper pictures in the morning when the sun is still in the sky.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND

The Golden Age of Rock Turns 50, 1968 by Rich Paschall

Everyone will look back on their youth with the belief that the hit music of their time comprised the Golden Age of whatever genre was on top.  We will, of course, make the same claim. In fact every genre of our time hit the pop charts.  Many of those songs have not lost their golden shine 50 years later.  I know you are eagerly awaiting my top ten list of songs having a golden anniversary. You will be pleased to know I initially wrote down so many (46), that I will have to give you a top 20.

The Beatles

Some iconic rock and roll acts had come to prominence and charted singles and albums.  Rock legends Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Doors, The Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Janis Joplin and many more were thrilling their fans as they pushed rock across new vistas.

Pop stars of the day Tom Jones, The Monkees, Beach Boys, Three Dog Night, Dion, The Fifth Dimension, Bee Gees, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Bobby Goldsboro, The Lettermen, The Turtles, and The Vogues were only a few of the acts to sing their way up the charts.

Irish actor Richard Harris scored with an unlikely hit (MacArthur Park).  The Rascals wanted you to see People Got To Be Free.  Archie Bell and the Drells told you to Tighten Up and the Delfonics explained La-la Means I Love You.

Acts like Cream, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly, Status Quo, Deep Purple and even Donovan gave us a commodity called Psychedelic Rock.  On the other side of the pop spectrum we had something we dubbed “Bubble Gum Music” from artists like The Ohio Express, Tommy Roe and a group that helped bring on the title, The 1910 Fruitgum Company.

As always a couple of instrumentals were to be found: “Classical Gas” (Mason Williams) and “L’amour est bleu” or Love is Blue (Paul Muriat).  These also fall into the category of one hit wonders.

The sounds of jazz came through the air with Herb Alpert, and Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66.  The Mills Brothers found their first big hit in a dozen years.

Some movie songs hit the charts in 1968: “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” “Mrs. Robinson” (The Graduate), “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde,” and “Theme from The Valley of the Dolls.”  You can add a couple of TV shows whose themes are well remembered, “Mission Impossible” and “Hawaii 5-0.”

It was a great year for hits from R&B and Soul music icons Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Otis Redding, The Box Tops, The Temptations, Jerry Butler and a list that stretches all the way back to 1968.

Country Western singers had cross over hits that climbed the pop charts including Glen Campbell and Tammy Wynette.  A song by Jeannie C. Riley, “Harper Valley PTA,” spawned a movie of the same name.

If you are quite ready, call the “Cab Driver” and come down to “Indian Lake” where we will be having our “Stoned Soul Picnic.”  “Simon Says” it’s “A Beautiful Morning” and we will be joined by “Lady Madonna,” “Lady Willpower,” “Delilah,” “The Mighty Quinn,” and even “Suzie Q.”  If you see “The Unicorn,” perhaps it is because of that “Bottle of Wine.”  Feel free to play your “Green Tambourine” and “Dance To The Music.”

20. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding
19. Wichita Lineman, Glen Campbell
18. I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Marvin Gaye
17. Elenore, The Turtles
16. Goin’ Out Of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You, The Lettermen
15. Turn Around, Look At Me, The Vogues
14. Stormy, Classics IV
13. Crimson and Clover, Tommy James and the Shondells
12. White Room, Cream
11. Sealed With A Kiss, Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

10. Born To Be Wild, Steppenwolf.  Released in 1968, this song became part of the soundtrack of “Easy Rider” the following year.  I love this song so much I did it a number of times for karaoke.  Fortunately, none of those performances exist today.

9.  For Once In My Life, Stevie Wonder.  A number of artists recorded the song prior to 1968 and Tony Bennett had some success with it, but it was Wonder’s upbeat version that scored big.

8.  Hooked On A Feeling, B. J. Thomas.  Released late in the year, you will find this song as a top hit of both ’68 and 1969.  An electric sitar gave it a unique sound.

7.  Everybody’s Talkin’, Harry Nilsson.  This artist had minor success with the song in 1968.  The following year it was featured as the theme song to the movie “Midnight Cowboy,” was re-released and became a bestseller.

6.  One, Harry Nilsson.  This song was written and recorded by Nilsson.  Three Dog Night also recorded the song in 1968 and had a much bigger hit with it the following year.

5.  Mony, Mony, Tommy James and the Shondells.  Yes, Tommy James got the title from looking out his New York City apartment window and seeing the initials on top of the Mutual Of New York building.

4.  Hello, I Love You, The Doors.  Written by Jim Morrison, the song was recorded from February to May of 1968.  Due to his excessive drinking, Morrison became difficult to work with and recording took time.  The song hit number 1 in the US and Canada.

3.  Jumpin’ Jack Flash, The Rolling Stones.  The chart topping hit is reported to be the Stones most often played concert song.  It was such a hit that it is always on their set list.

2.  Hey Jude, The Beatles.  Paul McCartney originally conceived it has Hey Jules, for John Lennon’s son Julian, but he claims he never actually gave it to him.  Later he decided Jude would sound better and changed the lyric.

1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps, The Beatles. This hit was written by George Harrison, reportedly about the discord in the group. The Beatles VEVO music video contains the acoustic recording by the band. On the original single released in 1968, the distinctive guitar was provided by Eric Clapton.  That’s the version below.

Click on any song title in the top 10 to go to the video or go to the entire playlist here. 

Check out the top songs of 1968 at Billboard, wikipedia or others and let us know if we missed a good one.
Sources include: “Top 100 Hits of 1968,” www.musicoutfitters.com

ROSES ARE RED AND SO IS MY BLOOD – Marilyn Armstrong

The weather finally broke and today was an exquisite spring day. Our maple tree is in bud. The buds are fat and red and this morning, the little red finch was sitting on a limb and the only way to tell he and the buds were different was that he was moving more than the twigs.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There was no point in trying to get a picture. It’s a really bad angle and there’s a big smudgy window in the way, full of dog-nose prints and the little gray lines of lint that rain drops leave behind.

You’d think the rain would clean the windows, wouldn’t you? It makes them even dirtier. And yesterday, it poured buckets for the entire day. Our sump and pump were in overdrive, but at least we didn’t flood.

When I got up this morning and opened the shades, the sky was robin’s egg blue with a few high cumulus clouds just to give a nice balance to the sky.

Today was it. Clean out the garden or die trying.

Last year, we did it in one day, but the terrible winter weather seems to have escalated growth.

The hard part of this experience is cutting back the hedge roses. When I bought these supposedly “miniature roses,” I was thinking “ah, lovely scented roses in my garden.”

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I was not thinking lethal, killer thorn bushes that were originally grown to keep burglars out of the yard. They could keep anyone out of the yard. They spread like crazy and for every rose, there are a thousand thorns. A barbed wire fence is friendlier than these roses, so pruning them is a job nobody wants, which is why I do it.

My son hates those roses. My husband thinks all the flowers are pretty, but he is no gardener. His father was a good gardener, but Garry didn’t inherit the gene — if there’s a gardening gene.

I like plants, but I really prefer looking at them to grappling with them … and then, there are the roses. Last year I trimmed them lightly and the result was barbed wire rose shoots everywhere. They also crawl along the ground and send up new shoots, by the way. We’ve got them in red and pink and they look very pretty in bloom. Not much scent, though. These are the barbed wire roses of old British country houses.

After I convinced Garry that no, he should NOT shower first, we went outside. I was armed with the expensive clippers I bought a couple of years ago.

Owen said I didn’t need them.”What’s wrong with the cheap ones?” Every year, I’m delighted to have them. They really cut cleanly and you don’t need to be a giant with brute strength to get them to lop off a branch.

I had to figure out how to get up to the bushes. Our garden is raised, but you have to remember which rocks you can stand on … and which ones are dodgy and might make the wall come down. I’m not exactly a good climber.

Basically, I cut every piece of rose-bush I could reach, being only 5’1″ tall. I got stabbed and torn. Like a true gardener, I wiped the blood off on my arms onto my jeans and lopped off another branch. If you think for a minute that they will not all regrow faster than I can say “what did I do with my shears?”, you’re wrong. These hedge roses are sturdier than the weeds. I should know because we have weeds. Serious ones.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Garry got into the raking and dumping into the trash can. HE was wearing the leather work gloves, so I did the bleeding, but he did the bending. I guess that makes us even.

We didn’t finish. I also have a gigantic holly bush which I had to clip back. If I didn’t cut it back, we wouldn’t be able to get in and out of the yard. I couldn’t clip the top branches. Owen’s going to have to get to them. I’m too short.

Then I had to dig out the well-head. It’s not a good idea to have your well buried in garden soil. No matter how hard you try, the dirt will sink into the well and your water will turn muddy. We have filters to keep out the dirt, but there’s more dirt than filters.

There were more earthworms than I’ve ever seen in one place. They kept popping up and I kept pushing them back into the dirt. I also tried the best I could to get the strangle weed cut back, but it’ll return. You can’t pull the roots out without the rocks falling down, so all I can do is cut them as close to the earth as possible and hope I can keep lopping them off as they come back. Which they will do. Soon.

Mayflowers

When we were done for the day and too tired to do anything more, we agreed to finish up tomorrow. It too is supposed to be lovely. I managed to shear most of the sprouting killer roses and made it possible to walk past the holly without it grabbing you and hauling you into fairyland. You didn’t know there was a fairy kingdom in the middle of the giant holly bush?

Tomorrow will be easier. Mostly raking. I think an hour or two will do it for now.

The flowers are on the way. While we worked, four dandelions bloomed and I swear the daffodils finally set some buds. We have lots of columbine coming up, too and tons of day lily flags. I think the awful weather actually improved the hardiness of the plants. If it made it through last winter, nothing will kill it.

ORANGE! – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Orange

From Nancy Merrill:

Orange is a really fun color to photograph. There are many things in nature that are orange: pumpkins, oranges, flowers. This little fellow really, really wanted to join his big brothers playing at the Christmas piano recital. Even though he was a little young to take lessons, he came all ready in his dapper orange sweater. He was also thrilled to get a chance at the 9′ concert Steinway grand piano after the formal recital was over.