CONGREGATING IN THE SLOW LANE

It turns out, there are a lot of variations of congregate meaning “to get together, join together, group together, party hearty.” With some fish, it also mean joining in union to make baby fish. Or is that conjugate?

But, there is no word which means “someone who congregates.” No congregator. Congregationalist? Do you have to join a group for that?Way back when, in the days when I had energy, enthusiasm, and I genuinely liked most people, I was enthusiastic about “getting together.” I was considered sociable and I almost agreed with that. I was never quite as sociable many thought. I was a party “edge person.” I would look for whoever was standing along at the edges of a party and engage them in conversation. I never like big groups of people in one place because you couldn’t have a conversation with anyone when everyone was there.

I made exceptions when I gave the party because if it was my party, I didn’t expect to engage in conversation. Party giving was more about flitting about and making sure everyone else was having a good time. I gave a few good parties through the decades (generations?), but mostly, I preferred having a friend or two or three — and a great conversation about everything.

Remember conversations that lasted until dawn? We covered philosophy, government, the meaning of life. Travel to the stars, reincarnation and the best books we’d read lately. No one got bored or left out.

Later, people got old. Died. Drifted into a world of their own, moved to senior housing “somewhere near their kids” which was always hundreds of miles from us. Others simply drifted. What we had in common — work was big — it was not relevant when we all had mostly quit working.

Those of us with functional marriages who really liked our partners have been the lucky ones. Singleness is fine when you are active enough to travel and gad about, but these days, it’s an abiding joy to have a partner whose hand you can hold while you watch old movies, cuddled by dogs with cold noses.

We’ve been talking lately about how few friends we have remaining. This isn’t unusual at our age. People leave and don’t come back. Many others don’t like traveling. Or driving any distance. More don’t like going places with which they are not familiar. Everyone like their own bed. If you have pets, it gets increasingly difficult to find someone to take care of them when you aren’t there.

We still have friends. They are old friends. Friends forever. Who knew the people we used to know and share memories of the times through which we’ve lived. Have common political and philosophical beliefs — and hopefully enjoy the same movies!

SPEAKING ASTRALLY

In another life, I was an astrologer. I drew horoscopes and wrote an astrology column for a couple of newspapers. I was pretty good, or so people told me. I may have been better than good, but I didn’t like it.


I was at my best reading for strangers. The less I knew about the person for whom I was reading, the better reading I could give.

I also sometimes would read Tarot, but cards made me uncomfortable. In a horoscope, you only see what you look for. Almost never does something jump off the page and scream at you. Tarot is different. Not only do you not always see what you expect, you will see things you wish you hadn’t.

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Like death. That first time it happened, I almost jumped out of the chair with shock. I knew –100% — that the man smiling across from me would die in six years. He was young, just 32. He had already had a serious heart attack, but seemed to have recovered and was living a careful, but normal life. Not employed … he wasn’t up to a daily grind … but he was raising his boys and enjoying life. Laughing in my living room while the kids played outside.

“Read for me?” he had asked. I acquiesced.

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So, I did a progressive reading for him. That’s where you use the “summary” card of each spread as the foundation card of the next reading. In the seventh layout, I saw him dead.

“I’m too tired to do this any more,” I said. “It’s just gibberish,” and I gathered up the cards and refused to say more. He died exactly when I’d seen. I could not go to the funeral. I couldn’t even explain why not.

I tried reading again after a while, but I started to see things. Secrets. Stuff I didn’t want to know and certainly would never tell. I learned things about people that changed the way I felt about them.

You can run, but you cannot hide. The client always knows when you aren’t telling them something. We have “tells.” Our pupils dilate. We become pale. Our muscles stiffen. We shift in our seat. They know.

I quit reading.

I don’t believe in telling people when they are going to die. Someone told me many years ago that I would die when I was  68. The birthday came and went, but it was one nervous birthday!

The stuff the fortune teller’s say are bells you can’t un-ring. I’m not against this stuff on principle, but I think “seeing the future” tends to do more harm than good. We do not see what will be, only what might be and we either put the best or the worse interpretations on it. Neither is true and neither helps us deal with what life actually tosses our way.

TALKING ABOUT TV – CONVERSANT ARE WE

CONVERSANT ABOUT TELEVISION?


We are not too sophisticated to watch TV. Despite Karl Marx who said “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people,” somehow this got translated into “Television is the opiate of the masses.”

Personally, I think that would be cell phones. Heavily opiated.

We watch television. Sometimes, we watch a lot of television, depending on what’s on to view. Right now, we’re watching a movie. It’s “The Candidate,” one of the better, sharper, more intelligent political movies.

Made in 1972 starring Robert Redford, it’s an education about how getting elected has a price tag, even if you aren’t a pawn of the NRA or the Koch brothers. Despite the years, it is still surprisingly relevant.

Last night, speaking of relevant, we watched “7 Days in May.” Kirk Douglas. Burt Lancaster. About how the U.S. government stood in imminent danger of being taken over by a military junta — run by Burt. Brilliantly scripted by Rod Serling.

If you haven’t seen it, do. Not the recent new version of it which wasn’t half as good. See the 1964 original. The Serling script is so on target. This movie used to give me chills. Now, it makes my stomach knot with fear. When we were young, we were afraid military guys would try taking over the government.

Who imagined — even in our wildest dreams — we’d be living in 2018 with a traitorous president and an administration where the only sane people in government are the military!

Of the unlikely things we might be expected to watch, the unlikeliest was “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” which is on Netflix. I had heard reviews of it from a variety of unexpected sources all of whom said something along the lines of “I didn’t think I would like this, but actually, it’s pretty good.” But no one told me what it was they liked so when we finally turned it on, we watched the first show and looked at each other.

“Well,” I said, “That was different.”

“Not bad,” Garry contributed.

“I’ve never seen anything like it on television.”

We thought about that for a while and neither of us could remember any television show remotely like it. It is a rather weird combination of sitcom crossed with an MGM musical. Dancing. Singing — and some pretty good music. Everyone in the cast has real voice. But. The story is terribly 2018 and sometimes, the Valley Girl accents get on our nerves. Also, she really is a crazy ex-girlfriend. Accent on the “crazy” and less on the “girlfriend.”

If you are looking for something absolutely nothing like anything else, try this one. You may hate it, but it IS a musical. The amount of production for each show is huge. These must be expensive shows to produce. Some of the music is remarkable, though the words are bizarre.

Otherwise, we are watching late night comedy and occasionally, when we  think we are strong enough to handle it, we watch the news. On a good day, we may get through 15 minutes. As long as they aren’t doing interviews with whatsherface Huckabee or you-know-who da-prez. Then I feel I need an immediate shower to wash off the sleaze.

WE NEED NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK

CONVERSANT AGAIN – NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK AND CELEBRATING WORLD WAR THREE – IN ADVANCE (WE WON ‘T HAVE TIME, LATER)


Way back in the dark ages, the third week in February (an otherwise dreary and neglected month) was designated National Brotherhood Week. As designated special weeks go, it was never a big hit with the general public. In the 1980s, it disappeared completely. Probably because it failed to sell greeting cards. Which is probably the point of such created events.

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The National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) came up with the idea of National Brotherhood Week in 1934. Given the current political climate, maybe we can agree more brotherhood year round would be an improvement. Sadly, we no longer have even that one, measly week.

February is now Black History Month which seems to mean movie channels run films featuring non-white stars. Unless you watch PBS or the History Channel where you might see a documentary or two.

The man who took it seriously — even in the old days — as he took all politics seriously, was Tom Lehrer. He taught math at Hahvid (Harvard, if you aren’t from around here). He didn’t write a lot of songs since he, till his dying day (which hasn’t occurred yet as he’s alive and living in California), thought of himself as a math teacher who wrote silly songs. Not as an entertainer.

Despite this unfair self-assessment, I’ve always felt Tom got this particular holiday dead to rights. Ya’ think?

He got a lot of stuff right. Check him out on YouTube. He only wrote about 50 songs and most of them are posted in some video or other. Me? I’ve got the CDs. (Remember CDs?)

And because the news has been so … fraught … I thought I’d add a couple of  more shockingly relevant songs for this day in February, 2018.

My, how times have not really changed — except we really do have colored TV pretty much everywhere!

MEANINGS FOR ONE WORD

Like many of the words posted in this challenge, there are a bunch of meanings to “assay.” Typically, it mean testing the content or weight of a type of metal — how much gold is in that gold for example. There is also another meaning and that is the one for which I’ve used it.

Assay means “attempt.” When you say “I’m going to assay that climb,” you’re going to try to do it. There is, within the context of the word, a sense of insecurity. That you will try but not necessarily succeed. Subjunctive, sort of. English is not a subjunctive language. We don’t have the tenses to get it right.

Everything feels a been subjunctive these days. Getting up from a chair … can I do it without pushing is one hand? When I get up, will I fall back down? I still tend to load up my hands with whatever I think I need to take with me only to realize I have to put at least half of it down because I need one hand to push me out of the sofa. Oh those joys of aging!

One tiny patch of snow

It was supposed to snow today. So far, it hasn’t done anything at all, though the sky is a leaden gray that says more about rain than snow. But it’s definitely getting colder as the day goes on. Usually, days get warmer. This isn’t on of those days. So maybe we will get something, though sleet, snow, rain — or a delicious mix of all three is yet to be decided.

Regardless, in 48 hours, spring will come back. Or so the weather guys promised.

CONGRESSIONAL KINDERGARTEN – BY ELLIN CURLEY

COMPROMISE AND LIVING IN THESE UNITED STATES


We are a country of babies. Spoiled babies. Over-indulged, entitled babies.

No amendment to the Constitution says that everyone can do whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. No country could survive the anarchy this would create.

All societies have laws and regulations for a reason. Parents have rules for their toddlers for a reason. We have reached the point in our violent history that the ‘parents’ in the country have to just say “No!” to the toddlers who are running rampant. Let them have a full-blown tantrum in the aisle of the supermarket.

I’m really talking about guns in America. But I don’t want to focus on the politics, which are mind bogglingly corrupt and twisted because of the NRA.

I want to talk about the issue from a sociological/psychological perspective. It’s time someone just said “NO!” to the groups of people who are disrupting our society. “NO!” to the people who want to own AR 15’s outside of the military. You just can’t have that weapon of mass destruction in your bedroom because you like it and want it. You can have some, less lethal guns. If you abide by the normal regulations that govern other things, like cars.

To drive a car, you have to pass several tests to get a license. You need insurance and you have to live by all the rules of the road. Otherwise, you get your license revoked. You also have to get your license renewed regularly and pass an eye exam.

No one screams bloody murder about their Constitutional rights because they can’t drive a Formula One race car on the highway at 140 miles per hour. Or that they have to pass a driving test (actually a written test AND a road test) to be able to drive legally.

The Congressional GOP and the White House are two other groups of people who need to hear a loud “NO!” for a change. Governments only function with compromise. Everyone can’t get exactly what they want all the time. Aren’t you supposed to learn that in Kindergarten? Did the entire GOP and the everyone in the White House all flunk Kindergarten?

Where do elected officials get the chutzpah to insist on ‘My way or the highway’ even if it means shutting down the government? Why do people think it’s okay to bull-doze others on their way to total ‘victory’ for THEIR special interest group?

I don’t have answers to these questions. I feel as if Washington DC is run by people who refuse to live by any of the rules I grew up believing were necessary for a civil society. Is it a fluke? Are the stars misaligned to give us the most childish, selfish, greedy bunch of amoral politicians ever to run our government? Is this some kind of Karmic lesson?

I know the corruption level in government has been better or worse at various times in our history. Washington has often been run entirely on favors traded and bribes offered, but even that assumes acceptance of the concept of compromise. Of give and take. Today it seems like intransigence is the standard, as well as self-righteousness and narcissism.

The impasse on guns is one symptom of our broken system. It’s sad although a majority of NRA members favor reasonable gun control laws such as universal background checks and bans on assault weapons, the NRA (read “gun manufacturers”) have paid off our Congress and our President. They don’t even reflect or represent the will of their own members much less the non-gun-owning public. They don’t care.

I’m optimistic that when Democrats take over the government, hopefully in 2020, we may see more serious gun control legislation. But there will still be plenty of pols who collect a big hunk of their campaign contributions from the NRA and all those Republicans who behave like spoiled toddlers. They will still refuse to play nicely with others.

Trump Republicans are a minority in the U.S. — yet they do an enormous amount of damage and exert a disproportionate amount of control. Hopefully by 2020, they will be relegated to an insignificant minority who we can disregard. Maybe then we can move on.

We can walk past the toddlers and ignore them while they have their tantrums in the aisles of Congress. It’s a welcome thought.

PRESENTLY NOW

The present. The now. What’s happening?


I’m writing. It’s what I do in the morning. If we don’t have an appointment and aren’t on vacation (vacation? what’s a vacation?), I check for comments. Then I do a quick e-mail review and delete all the advertisements, at least half the news feeds, and anything else I know I’m not going to deal with today.

Out the front window
Snowy frog on the deck

Next, I check the daily prompt to see if I’m interested. The “present” was interesting. “Now” is always sort of interesting … if I’m awake. I have coffee. I ate my toasted muffin and have more coffee to consume. I’ve barely gotten started on the coffee yet. We linger on the coffee.

Only a little snow

I decided, since it snowed last night, I needed pictures. The weather has warmed up dramatically since yesterday and the overnight snow is melting quickly. I grabbed the little Leica and took pictures.

HDR and graphic processing

At the end of shooting, my battery was empty. After I changed the battery, I delayed this post for an extra hour while I tried to find the charger for these specific batteries. I have so many chargers. I have all the chargers for the cameras I own — multiples for many — as well as chargers for cameras I used to own. Eventually, I found the right charger and finally, I started processing the photographs. Of all the annoying parts of technology, the fact that no two cameras use the same battery or battery charger is the most annoying for me. I go through this “search the house for that charger” every time we go away from home. Even when it is essentially the same camera from the same manufacturer, there is no guaranteeing that both of them will use the same battery. Why not?

Seriously, why can’t they settle down and use batteries that will fit into a single charger? Or three chargers? One charger per camera? Really?

More HDR on the Christmas cactus

Recently, in addition to designing graphic formulas (Topaz has adopted a few of them and it’s funny to bump into my own process while rambling through the filters), I’ve been playing with HDR. I’ve been avoiding it because it seemed like more work than I wanted to put into most photographs. But newer cameras have made the process  easier, so I used it for all the Christmas Cactus pictures. I’m not sure I see much of a difference, but maybe I need new glasses.

My Christmas cactus is still blooming. Maybe blooming even more. Neglect really works. I haven’t potted it in years. I can’t even remember when. How it manages to bloom with such vigor is remarkable. Cacti, though, are like that. The worse the soil, the happier they seem to be. They don’t need much and if you give them a lot of TLC, they fade.

Born to bloom in heat and dryness, warmth and comfort takes away their spunk, as it were. Is that true for some of us, too?

These are all pictures of my now. Present moments as February begins to head to its finale. The sky is brilliant blue without a cloud. If you went to bed before the snow began and got up late, you’d be surprised there is snow.

Later this week, the temperatures are supposed to soar into shirtsleeve range, so we will get a little pre-spring weather. I don’t know about the rest of you north of the equator types, but I need a hint of spring. I need to see some color in the world.

The gray and muddy brown of winter is getting to me.