NATURAL STRUCTURES – A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Structures in Nature


Superstition mountain, Arizona – The mountains rise up out of the earth like monoliths in a science fiction movie. They are to my mind, unreal.
These rocks were probably formed from an ancient lava flow. They are entirely different than the rest of the hills and mountains in the area,m clearly formed from a different substance. Photo: Garry Armstrong
The wild twists of an ironwood tree
Super moon — bright but undefined and framed by branches

ALL THOSE DUSTY CORNERS – CEE’S BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Corners


Standing in the corner wearing a tall pointy hat? Or was the tall pointy hat to prove you were a wizard? I have so much trouble remember these days.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – In the blizzard
A very squared-off room with plenty of corners that need dusting

One from Garry, three from me. There are a lot of corners in and out of the house!

Bonnie and Duke watching the falling snow
A square sign in the kitchen
Squared away picture window

 

TOO MUCH NOIR – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Dark, rain-glistened streets. Ominous shadows hover in trash littered alleyways. Cats screech in the distance. Gunshots ring out and a body slumps into the gutter.

The world of film noir.

Film-Noir-Wallpaper-2

As a kid, these were the second show in an afternoon at the movies. The “B” movie. Always in black and white, less than 90 minutes. Featuring the nearly-stars such as Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Linda Darnell, and Sterling Hayden.

The titles were straightforward. “Where The Sidewalk Ends”, “This Gun For Hire”, “Kiss of Death”, “The Street With No Name”, “The Narrow Margin,” and “The Killers” among other small films now considered film noir classics.

The people were familiar too. The P.I. (Private Eye). He usually had a five o’clock shadow, chain-smoked, drank cheap whiskey out of the bottle or a paper cup. He worked in a dingy second floor office. The client? Usually a husky voiced, chain-smoking, heavily made up siren out of the Mae West Drama Academy. The P.I’s secretary? A snarky, but good-natured woman who didn’t take crap from her boss, the cops or hoodlums. The Bad Guys? Sleazy, menacing, and homicidal. Think young Richard Widmark, William (Pre-“Life of Riley”) Bendix, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Jack Lambert, and probie villain, Lee Marvin. These guys loved to kill.

Maltese-Falcon-72

There were no happy endings in these film noir classics. The female lead usually was a two-timer who got killed or took the fall in the closing minutes. Mary Astor’s Brigid O’Shaughnessy was straight out of central casting when Bogie’s Sam Spade turned her over to the cops in “The Maltese Falcon.” Spade liked her, but not enough to risk a bullet in the back one lonely night.

Robert Mitchum’s Phillip Marlowe wondered  “Why does everything I touch turn to shit?” in the 70’s reboot of “Farewell, My Lovely”.

I loved the fatalism of these movies, far removed from the glossy romantic dramas featuring Gable, Tracy, Flynn and other major stars of old Hollywood.

For a while, we were watching Netflix’s stable of dark crime dramas. They come from around the world. All share a world-view including lots of death, depression, depravity, brutal murder, and minimal — if any — humor. Locale doesn’t matter. It could be Los Angeles, Denmark, the English countryside, or Sweden. It’s one, dark grim world, everywhere you look.

Recently Watched imageSometime last year, a new streaming service popped up and Marilyn decided it might be just the thing. At $50 for a year, it’s also one of the less expensive streaming services. It shows you everything you might want to see from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and England. Some stuff from Ireland and Scotland too. Heavy on the Australian and Kiwi stuff.

Who imagined we’d get addicted to an Australian soap opera, or fall in love with George Gently? Or become entranced by Murdoch’s Mysteries? But we did. From “MidSomer Murders” to “A Place to Call Home” and “Doc Martin,” we have happily gone deep into British empire dramas, mysteries, and even a few comedies. I can almost understand a New Zealand accent. Almost.

One of the really sweet parts of all of these shows is that they have wit and humor.

Characters develop, change, and grow … something that has become far too rare on American series. And I have to mention the music. American shows mostly have music that is closer to Muzak. There are exceptions, but a lot of the shows — especially from Australia and New Zealand — have amazingly good music. It’s not just background noise. It’s beautiful, evocative, singable. I think they haven’t yet raised the price on Acorn yet.

Acorn is a winner in the streaming market. I don’t know if it shows up on Amazon or Apple TV, but Roku lets you decide what you want to watch instead of telling you what they want you to watch. I highly recommend the Roku, too. The good one with the remote you can point up your nose but it will work anyway. It also works by voice (yours) but I’ve never bothered to “train” ours. I hate arguing with remote controls.

I still love those dark and dangerous film noir folks. But these days, real life is sufficiently grim. I prefer my murders with a bit of laughter.

Cheerio!

WHICH WAY IN A BLIZZARD – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – January 5, 2018

Aldrich Street with a blizzard blowing

I was out there in the wind and weather yesterday. It was cold, much colder than the air usually is during storms.

Woods in winter

It was also windy, the tall oak trees blowing like reeds in the storm. These are tall, heavy red oaks, so if one of them falls, it will be awhile before the lights come back on. It was snowing hard and accumulating faster than it was supposed to.

Duke on the shoveled walkway

I got some pictures of the roads, driveway, and walks, all covered in snow and ice. The pictures came out better than I expected. My hands were frozen. I could barely feel the shutter release. Five more minutes and I think my hands would have been frozen to the camera.

Duke behind the gate on the day of the blizzard

Marilyn pointed out that there is a reason she wanted weather-proof cameras … and this was it. Everything got wet, but nothing was damaged.

DEFINITELY STILL ALIVE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The phone rang. The caller ID flashed, showing one of Boston two major newspapers. I figured it was the sales department. I handed the phone to Marilyn. I heard Marilyn respond “yes” several times and was puzzled. We didn’t need and couldn’t afford expensive home delivery of newspapers. Then Marilyn said “He’s right here. Why don’t you speak to him?” She had a broad smile on her face. I was even more puzzled.

Long story short. The caller was a reporter working on a series about Boston schools and the history of court-ordered school desegregation. She was looking for people who had covered the story in 1974.

forced busing Boston
Photo: Associated Press

Apparently my name came up in her research. I confirmed I had indeed covered the story and shared a few anecdotes about the first day of what some called “forced busing.” I also shared some stories about my coverage of Boston schools over the following 25 plus years before I retired. To give some context, I mentioned that I’d also covered the civil rights movement for ABC Network before coming to Boston.

The reporter seemed impressed. We agreed to meet again for a more detailed interview. I hung up the phone and smiled. I looked at our dogs seated around me. Obviously, they understood. They were grinning at me. I could read their minds. He’s not just any old fart who feeds and plays with us. 

I looked at Marilyn with satisfaction. I wondered what she had said to the reporter when she took the call.

Marilyn smiled and recounted the conversation. “She asked if you were alive. Then she asked if you actually remembered what you used to do. I bit my tongue and didn’t say ‘That’s a matter of opinion.'”

I looked back at the dogs. They were still grinning. How fleeting is fame.

COZY MORNING

Garry was up early because he has a medical thing today. He wanted the extra time to have coffee, for showering and all that morning stuff. I lolled in bed for an extra hour, mostly because that’s how long it takes me to get my back functioning.

I’ve gotten pretty good at untangling myself. It’s all about positioning, taking the pill I sometimes don’t want to take, but if I take it, the day goes a lot better than if I don’t … and slowly stretching until things are more or less mobile. My back has been in poor shape since I was a teenager. I had my big surgery on it when I was just 19 and time hasn’t been kind to the bones.

Time generally isn’t kind to bones. Arthritis seems to be universal for damaged joints, whether broken by accident or surgically renovated … and often, just “because.”

Mine are a mess both because of surgery — and “just because.” Arthritis is not a special issue at our age. It’s not a matter of “if,” but more like “how bad” and “how much does it affect you.” It wasn’t too bad this morning. I slept on my back and generally, if I make myself sleep on my back, I wake up more mobile than sleeping on my side, which I find a lot more natural. My back doesn’t agree. There’s not much point in arguing with my spine. It always wins.

So we are off. Garry is getting a CATscan of his head to make sure he has all the requisite pieces for a cochlear implant. Then, in another few weeks, the first doctor’s appointment with the cochlear audiologist, then after that, the surgeons. This stuff takes a lot more time than people think it will.

When you have an emergency, everything happens in a hurry, but when you have choices to make, it takes time. And of course, it’s winter, so everything takes more time. Christmas vacations chop December into pieces and the hangovers from New Year’s take care of early January.

I remember waiting for my heart surgery. First, they hustled me along. Urgent, urgent, urgent … but they delayed it three-times. I had to delay it once because I had pneumonia. Heavy coughing doesn’t go well with heart surgery. It took — in total — more than three months between determining I needed the surgery and actually having the surgeon and me both available at the same time. Emergencies came up and for a heart surgeon, they are always first. Heart surgeons live on emergency schedules. By the time I actually got into the hospital, I was an emergency. You can’t always tell from testing alone — and that’s something everyone needs to remember.

This surgery for Garry isn’t an emergency, but it is not optional, either. It needs to be done. Hearing aids won’t work for him anymore, so it is this or a gradual  and close to total loss of hearing for him. He needs his hearing back. I need it back, too, though I wonder what it will be like knowing he really can hear me. I won’t be able to mutter under my breath all the time!

Our granddaughter sent me a note last night suggesting  we should have Garry run for president … because we know Garry could fix everything. I’m pretty sure Garry doesn’t think he could fix everything, but sometimes, I wonder. He’s been a pretty good fixer over the years — and even when he can’t fix stuff, he’s very good at getting everyone to CALM DOWN. In the process, he may be leaning towards madness, but you’d never know it to look at him.

A man with a poker face like that should have played poker. What a waste!

I’ll be back later, but not with more news. They never tell you anything at radiology. You have to wait for the doctor to officially tell you. Eventually, news will follow but do not hold your breath!

REFLECTING — THE YEAR THAT WAS

REFLECTIONS

A lot of us have a lot of things upon which we can reflect. Many of them are at the very least, unpleasant and many verge on Perfectly Awful and Deeply Depressing. I thought it was time to skip morbid and just run with beautiful, so this is a collection by Garry and I of our favorite reflections for this year.

Here’s hoping for a better year to come. May we all have a peaceful holiday or at least, a peaceful slide from darkest, longest nights of winter to the lengthening days of Spring to come.