ALMOST A ONE-WOMAN BAND – Marilyn Armstrong

I bought another tin whistle. I bought one in the key of C yesterday and bought one in the key of D today, probably because all the “learner’s” books are written for key of D whistles. I also bought a very small electric piano designed for a child because I can’t tune anything electronically.

I need to hear the sound.

Electronic tuners are silent. They find the right pitch, but they don’t make the entire instrument come together as a whole. That requires an ear. Preferably two. The chords have to sound right.

I often forget how many years I spent studying music because it was a long time ago and my hands can’t do what they used to do which was play the piano. Yes I still want music. Not just to listen to it but to make music. I can’t help it.

I thought I might “conquer” the ukulele, but there’s really nothing to conquer and honestly, if you don’t sing, there’s not a lot of fun in a uke. It’s all strumming. It wants people sitting around and singing — in or out of key — about wild mountains in Scotland or Ireland. Or West Virginia.

I’ve never seriously played a woodwind of any kind, except for a couple of years of flute in college. I wasn’t very good at it, but I wasn’t trying very hard either. I didn’t know how to play without a keyboard or maybe I didn’t want to play without a keyboard. Maybe both. It’s why I now spend so much time staring lovingly at Xylophones and Marimbas. Searching for the lost Vibraphone that should have been there. The only instruments I could afford I didn’t want. I wanted the $4000 Marimba. What a magnificent instrument that was.

If you can play a piano, you can ultimately also play a glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba, or vibraphone. The keyboard is the same. You have to do a little adapting, but you don’t have to strain your arthritic hands the same way.

The little tiny ones had YouTube footage and the treble clanging gave me an instant migraine. I do not think there is a real, wooden (the one I loved was made of rosewood) xylophone in my future and certainly not a marimba. Aside from being around the price of a small grand piano, where would I put it? Nonetheless, I can yearn.

This is all because I studied music as a child and as a young adult and even as Owen was growing up. He can still hum most of Chopin’s Mazurkas and a lot of Scott Joplin which was what I was playing when he was a little one. I thought he was sleeping, but it turned out, he was also listening.

Right now, he is having an instrument made for me by a friend of his who makes instruments. He is making me a cigar-box three-string non-electric guitar. I have no idea how one plays a three-string cigar-box guitar, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

There are books to study cigar-box guitars

I had to buy the cigar box and since I knew it was going to become the body of a guitar, I carefully picked one that was made of spruce — one of the woods that has a good ring to it. Just so you know, real cigar boxes are all made of cardboard these days.

So I bought a cigar-sized box and when it arrived, I pinged it and it sounded good. Soon, it will be an instrument. With frets and strings and tuning machines (not pegs — never got good at tuning with pegs). I have no idea what mine will look like. It’s a secret, but I’m ready.

If nothing else, isolation is making me creative in some very strange ways.

By the time I get my guitar, I may already be an expert playing a tin whistle. I could be the whole band if only I had a few more hands.

CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #76


And so on we go to Fandango’s provocative question of the week which, I must admit, isn’t as provocative as usual.

To answer this properly, I need to describe yesterday. It was the day after taking Bonnie to the vet and i wasn’t feeling like feeling. I had to get up very early because a valve was leaking in the bathroom and the plumber was coming. So it was 7 in the morning, I didn’t want to be awake at all, but I was. I didn’t feel like feeling anything because I was pretty sure whatever I felt wouldn’t feel good.

So after the plumber left and the bill was small enough to pay without going into debt — we have a really GREAT plumber — I turned on the television and started watching year two of Boston Legal. James Spader before he found his inner darkness.

Garry eventually got up and joined me and together, we watched an entire year of Boston Legal, front to back. Somewhere in there, I managed to cook dinner.

I had been smart enough to set up most of the posts for today because I kind of knew I was not going to want to do anything. I was right. Today, though, I had to get my act together. The Duke is sitting in corners staring at walls and Garry was watching a movie about the Klan killing black people in southern prisons which I finally insisted he turn off or go somewhere else to watch it.

He turned it off.

Today i spent all day on line trying to find one of four items that I don’t need:

  1. A real wooden Xylophone
  2. Tuning forks
  3. Something that would make a noise so I can tune my ukulele by ear rather than electronically. Yes, i know the electronic thingies works, but I need to hear the sound. I can’t tune something without hearing the sound against the sound. Tuning isn’t just getting the right vibration. It has to mellow properly with the other strings.
  4. I wanted a marimba. Couldn’t even afford to look at them and where would I put one anyway and besides, that’s a LOT of money, so I looked at Xylophones. The good ones I couldn’t afford either and I realized that no one seemed to know the difference between a glockenspiel and a xylophone … and does anyone even sell a vibraphone?

Finally, I bought a Scottish tin whistle. I know of at least one guy who used to banish ghosts with a tin whistle. I also discovered, in the course of events, that the price of a few tuning forks is more than the price of several instruments. Oh, and I also spent $12 on a very small piano so I have something that makes a noise to which I can tune something.

I am looking forward to the tin whistle. If I can’t banish the ghosts of the dead, maybe I can banish hulks of some of the living. Is anyone really happy about life right now? This isn’t the year to feel satisfied with life. I’m hoping next year will be better. Actually, I’m hoping next year will be great.

THE LAST OF THIS YEAR’S ORCHIDS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOTD – July 2 – THE LAST OF THE ORCHIDS


They are alive, but barely. They have been blooming for five months. That’s the longest blooming flowers I’ve ever known and it’s like having another friend going away. Two more buds … and then they will rest. And yes, this is another picture where I forgot to turn off the grow light.

Orchid

THE LAST PICTURE ON MY CAMERA CHIP – Marilyn Armstrong

Bushboy’s The Last Photo on SD Card Challenge – For June


Well, as it happens, I hadn’t even taken that card out of my reader yet, so it wasn’t hard to find the picture. Not only did I already process it, i also published it. So I thought maybe it would be okay if I used on of the other shots taken during the same few hours.

Red Anthurium

I didn’t process this. The reason it’s so purple is I forgot to turn off the grow light — which is kind of purple. It’s a pretty strange picture, now that I look at it.

YOU KNOW THE WORLD HAS CHANGED WHEN … By Marilyn Armstrong

Almost all the changes we see in our world are news related. Changes in our health care. Changes to our Social Security, our professional relationships, our ability to get or keep a job. Changes in our weather, oceans, air, and drinking water. Somehow, all of these are connected to political issues, political positioning, elected and yet-to -be-elected officials, our history … and of course, what our future may hold.


From “THE VERGE”:

Olympus has announced plans to get out of the camera business entirely, selling off its imaging division to an investment fund. Japan Industrial Partners, the company that bought the VAIO computer business from Sony, has signed a memorandum of understanding that will see Olympus spin out the division and transfer all of its shares.

The imaging division is a small part of Olympus’ business, which is now largely focused on providing medical equipment such as endoscopes. CEO Yasuo Takeuchi hinted to reporters last year that the camera division wasn’t off-limits for a sale, although the company later downplayed those remarks.

The company that bought VAIO now wants Zuiko and OM-D.

Olympus says it “implemented measures to cope with the extremely severe digital camera market, due to, amongst others, rapid market shrink caused by the evolution of smartphones,” but has concluded that its efforts weren’t enough. As it did with VAIO, JIP plans to streamline the business and will continue to develop products using Olympus brands such as OM-D and Zuiko.


For those of us who love cameras and have Olympus cameras and lenses, this is a major change in our world. Maybe the “new company” won’t downgrade the quality of the cameras. But probably they will. To 90% of us, it’s no big deal, but it is a very big deal to those of us that use and depend  on these cameras. This potential sell-off and merger has been in the wind for at least a year. I hoped it wouldn’t happen, but the world economic collapse probably made it inevitable.

The Olympus has been around since the 1930s and It became my favorite camera in the 1960s when it was the lightest of the full-size SLRs and had great lenses.

I suspect. 2020 hasn’t been a good year for people buying camera equipment. Hobbyists have decided their iPhone is good enough. It is, for snapshots. It’s not a real camera for those of us who have been owning and loving these real cameras since the 1950s and 1960s. It marks the official end of the era when cameras were something special. The less competition there is, the less real innovation will happen.

I’m sure there will always be a few cameras around, but the market has been getting smaller for a long time. The point & shoot market died a couple of years ago, but good cameras continued, even though fewer people were buying them.

Now, for the Olympus and probably others who are in line to be bought out by financial companies that don’t care about the products, the quality will go down and prices will go up. Because that’s how these things always seem to work. Then, one day, when too few photographers are buying cameras and the quality has disintegrated and the prices are well above the value of the camera … they will disappear and the art with it. I hope I don’t live to see that day.

Although you never know. Sometimes, things revive — like vinyl records.

I hope the cameras I own will last a very long time. This problem has been a long time coming. It’s right up there with people who can’t believe anyone needs anything bigger than an iPad — or a hard drive. Yes, I have an  iPhone. The camera takes great snapshots, but it doesn’t do what my Olympuses do, not even close.

I hope the art doesn’t die with the loss of the machinery.

THE CHANGING SEASONS – JUNE 2020 – Marilyn Armstrong

THE CHANGING SEASONS – JUNE 2020 – AND SO MUCH MORE …


What a strange and haunted year we have had. We are living in a world we never imagined except perhaps as a science fiction novel of the dystopian future. We don’t go anywhere, although today we went to the vet to say goodbye to Bonnie … and the grocery to say hello to food.

It’s almost a weird kind of relief that we finally let her go. This has been looming for close to a year. I remember last summer refusing to take even a short vacation because I felt she needed care and no one else had the time to give it to her. I haven’t absorbed it yet, but the Duke is grieving. Lots of sighing and moaning. When they walked her away up the ramp he started to cry and we cried with him.

Good bye Bonnie. Your were the best little girl ever and we will always miss you.



From Su Leslie:

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

AND THE LIGHT WENT OUT: GOODBYE CARL REINER – Marilyn Armstrong

So many years of Carl Reiner, from one of the very first television shows I ever saw, peeking in through my parents bedroom door, watching and giggling softly through ” Your Show of Shows,” starring Sid Caesar.

Carl Reiner was always there, as a writer, director, and actor, he and Mel Brooks performing “The 2000-Year Old Man” was one of the funniest performances on TV and recordings.

I had a vinyl recording of the 2000-year old man. Then, I had a recorded tape and when that wore out, I bought the CD. It was never the same story each time. It was just something that Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks did. It was a “party story” that became a recording, a stage show, an ongoing story to which we all knew the words.

But he was so much more than a comedian. He was a brilliant and exceptionally creative writer, director, and actor. The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) was one of the funniest movies I ever saw. Touching, too.

Reiner won many awards and honors. Nine Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award, and The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He was the father of actor and director Rob Reiner, author Annie Reiner, and artist Lucas Reiner, and the grandfather of Tracy Reiner … and Mel Brooks best friend. All through the years, as their wives passed on, they walked to each other’s houses and breakfasted together. I hoped they would never die. I wanted them to be friends forever.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In 1959, Reiner developed a television pilot titled Head of the Family, based on his own personal and professional life. However, the network did not like Reiner in the lead role for unknown reasons. In 1961, it was recast and re-titled The Dick Van Dyke Show and became an iconic series, making stars of his lead actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. Reiner was author of several books, including a 2004 memoir “My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir” and novels, such as his 2006 novel “NNNNN: A Novel. In American Film,” he expressed his philosophy on writing comedy:


“You have to imagine yourself as not somebody very special, but somebody very ordinary. If you imagine yourself as somebody really normal and if it makes you laugh, it’s going to make everybody laugh. If you think of yourself as something very special, you’ll end up a pedant and a bore. If you start thinking about what’s funny, you won’t be funny, actually. It’s like walking. How do you walk? If you start thinking about it, you’ll trip.”


There was so much more. Now, Carl Reiner’s son, Rob Reiner, carries the light forward. Carl Reiner, may you rest-in-peace. You brought joy to so many of us for so many years. At a time when laughter has become a rare thing, Carl Reiner made us laugh.

A LITTLE WORLD-SHARING – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 6-29-2020


Questions:

Must we have evidence to know the truth?

I do. How about you?

How much control does a person have over their life?

As much as fate allows. Depending on how rough your road happens to be. It depends on whether or not you have talents that are useful in the game of life. It doesn’t hurt to suffer an excess of good health, either.

What is gravity and how does it work?

Gravity is what happens to your body parts while you age. You see, the ground pulls at you all the time. This is to keep you from flying off into space. But it pulls at everything else too. Breasts, butt, jowls, arms and more love the earth and want to move there. We buy things devices to prop them up or we go to surgeons to revive them, but I think I’m in favor of lying on the ground and not moving until someone makes me.

Can a person be happy if they have never experienced sadness?  How about vice versa?Don’t be silly. We know when we are happy and we know when we are sad. Even newborn babies know this and they have no experience at all.

ASK FOR RAIN, GET RAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

We needed rain. The river was low and I had to assume so was our aquifer — which means our well was also low. Not low enough to affect us yet because we have a 475 foot deep well. That’s about three times deeper than most people have. It must have cost a fortune to dig it, but it means we have more water in it than most people.

So on Saturday, it rained. We had about 2 or 3 hours of heavy rain and yesterday, most of the day was sunny. But around 3 in the afternoon, the sun disappeared and by dinner time, it was as dark as midnight. We could hear the thunder rolling almost continuously in the background. We were watching the news and the lights were flickering, so Owen came upstairs and we lit candles in each room because it looked like we were going to lose power any time.

Then there was the hail, so heavy is started coming in through the dog’s door.

Our back porch garden was flattened. They don’t look broken, but they are seriously bent and will need staking to prop them up. There was a lot worse in this storm, but fortunately for us, the storm turned sharply eastward and moved off to the coast and the Islands.

That’s what you get when you ask for rain, You get rain. Then you get hail. Then you get wind and torrential rain with so much lightening it looks like the clouds are lit from behind.

Well, I asked for rain. We got rain and a few other things, too.

WHEN WORDS FAIL – Marilyn Armstrong

I was reading a comment in the Washington Post that followed my own line of thought:


Yes, the politicians are to blame — but so are we. The two trends intersect.The Republican war on science succeeded by making people distrust our medical experts. Next, there are, apparently, many fewer Americans willing to endure even minimal discomfort for the good of us all! 


I understand that politicians — neither Republicans nor Democrats — started the pandemic. And Republicans didn’t “make people” distrust medical experts. We just have an extraordinary number of really stupid people in this country who will believe anything Trump or his menagerie tell them.

That Trump and his menagerie are all liars is true but they couldn’t do it without a lot of stupid, selfish people who choose to believe them. Want to believe them. Because these morons don’t like reality, don’t want to learn, never read books, and ONLY watch Fox News. The concept of research appalls them.They hate educated people and firmly believe their ignorance is as good as an expert’s knowledge.

These are the same selfish pigs who are helping make American the pestilential center of the world. No other country has managed to have behaved as poorly as the good old U.S,A. We are the sickest country in the world and have the kind of citizens living here who think making things worse is okay because it’s their constitutional right to not be inconvenienced by a plague.

I’ve read the constitution. Nowhere does it says that our government can’t inconvenience us. They inconvenience us all the time and to top it off, they are racist and anti semitic.

Today, as the number of COVID patients has risen to an all-time high, Trump’s people went to court to kill Obamacare, The ACA. So that 20 million more people will be unable to get medical care. In the middle of a pandemic. Who are these people? What is wrong with this country? How have the rest of us been so negligent as to allow these insensitive thugs to be in charge? How can we have allowed it to happen? I didn’t vote for this government. Neither did Garry or any of my friends but a lot of people did vote and many of them, without regrets. Some wish they hadn’t, but a lot are still worshipping this sleazebag as if he is some kind of bizarre, larded god.

And more than ten percent of the voters aren’t sure who they will vote for. Aren’t sure? What would make them sure? When we are excluded from the rest of the world because we still have the disease and everyone else got their acts together and got rid of it? When nobody takes this country seriously or trusts us?

I’m boggled. I don’t even have the words to say how bad I feel and how ashamed I am of this country. It really is humiliating to be an American these days. And that is an awful way to feel.

DUSK AS DAY ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Dusk


People have often asked what the difference is betweeen sunrise and sunset, between dawn and dusk. Really, in practical terms, the difference is which part of the sky is involved. East is sunrise, west is sunset. But they feel different. For whatever reason, I always know which are which, maybe because i remember when the pictures were taken. These are all dusk or sunsets, taken in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York.

SO MANY FLOWERS ARE GONE – Marilyn Armstrong

When I started writing Serendipity eight years ago, I was enthusiastic and full of energy. Undisciplined. All over the place. Writing too much, leaping from subject to subject. Angry one day, mellow the next. Ranting about the wrongs of the world and how we needed to fix everything. I think I knew more when I was younger. I even ranted about philosophy. Imagine that.

Almost the end of this run of orchids

And then I just dropped everything and took pictures of birds and flowers and rivers and autumn leaves..

I was so passionate I probably contradicted myself a dozen time a week, but who was counting?

A hideous election that completely altered my world view — and massive heart surgery — and now, I am living in my nightmare world. I expect awful things and to no ones surprise, that’s what we get. Because somehow, through the perfect storm of politics, we elected the worst possible president and now we are living under his tweets.

The last of the orchids … except for 2 more buds

I remember 2012, when I was full-bore into the election and all the positive change I expected to see. The election ended. Gridlock began. The air went out of my bubble. Life got grim and rather ugly. I got sick. I didn’t want to get down in the trenches and duke it out with people with whom I disagreed. I didn’t feel like bothering to call out the crazies for being crazy. I wanted to hear music. Not new music. Old music.

As we head into elections in 2020, we need to be a whole lot smarter. Less passionate, more intelligent. Anyone who still thinks voting has nothing to do with them is beyond help. Let’s find people we can help. Let’s give up on all those people who live in a state of blind hate. They aren’t going to change and we will never convince them of anything. More than half the people I hear from are irrational, stupid, and fascist. We aren’t going to bring them to our side. They don’t have a side. They simply hate.

How do you talk to people who are completely irrational? Who don’t care whether what they believe is true or not? People who think their personal feelings are more important than truth? Any truth?

Meanwhile, there’s music.John Prine is one of our lost flowers.

The current future looks rather bleak. I want it to get better, but it’s hard to see past the mess we are in.

I want to move back to the United States. I’m pretty sure — this ain’t it. Are you hearing Phil Ochs singing “I ain’t marching anymore …” Are you wondering where have all the flowers gone?

This last one was originally sung by THIS group in a tiny coffee house run by my first husband, right near my college. It’s how I got to know the man. The Incredible String Band were … well … incredible.

NEW PICTURES OF THE LOUNGING SQUIRREL – Marilyn Armstrong

To the best of my knowledge, squirrels are the busiest animals in the world. They are eating, jumping, climbing, leaping, running. Busy, busy, busy. When whatever tore down our feeder tore it down, it was full, so Owen just put it on the deck.

Relaxed squirrel

All the birds and the chipmunk and the squirrels came and ate from it sitting on the deck. Apparently we don’t need to hang it. Just pour the seeds on the ground or leave the feeder on the deck. I makes photography kind of weird — sort of impossible — but the critters are happy. As long as none of them is a black bear. That would ruin the party.

Old-fashioned squirrel at rest

I might fend off a raccoon, but I’m pretty sure me and a bear would be “Bear – 1, Marilyn – 0.” Although maybe if one of them tore down the deck THEN the insurance would pay for it. One can dream, right?

So today, after everything ate their hearts out, the squirrel who had spent probably four hours chomping through probably three or four pounds of seeds, basically without stopping to breathe, decided he’d had enough.

Graphic squirrel

That’s right. The squirrel had eaten so much he couldn’t eat any more. A miracle, is it not. He tried to launch  himself into the woods, but he was pretty full and I guess too tired to move very far. So he got to the top of the railing and decided “What the hell, it’s a nice, sunny day. I think I’ll hang here for a while. Yawn.”

Thus I got these cool pictures of one squirrel too tired from trying to eat 10 pounds of food in one morning. He could see me fine. He watched me, I took pictures of him and he was just too well fed and full of seeds to go anywhere.

DEATH OF THE LAST BIG BIRDFEEDER – Marilyn Armstrong

When Owen came upstairs this morning, he looked out the window and realized the birdfeeder was missing. It’s a very big feeder and (used to) hold almost 20 pounds of seeds. We had the feeders down for a few weeks and only put them back a couple of days ago.

Not only was the feeder gone, but the bracket that held it was torn off the oak stanchion, We didn’t have the camera up, but it had to be a big racoon … or a bear. We do have bears, but so far, they haven’t bothered us. And they won’t bother us … unless we keep feeding them. They apparently habituate quickly and lose their fear of people in a hurry. These are black bears, the smallest of North American bears … but even a small bear is a lot stronger than a person.

Whatever took the feeder down was strong. I hope it was a racoon. I’m not ready to deal with bears. Both raccoons and bears not only tear down feeders, but frequently steal them entirely, tucking them under their arms and taking them home to the nest..

Aw, c’mon! That’s not fair! Feeders are not cheap!

Owen found ours on the ground. It’s pretty bent up, but at least the bracket is in one piece and he can probably straighten out the rest of it, more or less. I don’t think the birds will care if it’s bent. I’m not sure what else to do, but I’m thinking of just tossing seed to the ground and let everyone have a go at it without having to climb onto the deck.That would minimize photography, but I’ve gone through four feeders this season … and it’s only the end of June.

Raccoons are not true hibernators, but grown ones store up fat so that they can sleep through most of the winter. The problem is, our weather is getting warmer. Will winter be cold enough for bears to hibernate? Or will they be coming after the feeders and trash cans all through the year?

Sketchy Goldfinches

So, for now, since we have a lot of feed, we will put it on the ground below the deck. Everything can eat without climbing the deck. Bears are big and strong. If the Duke goes after a bear, it will not go well for the Duke.

I’ve run of money. I can’t afford more feeders. I’m worried it might have been a bear because so many have been seen locally. Bears also mean finding secure places to store trash cans. Bears can break into sheds, or for that matter, houses.With such warm winters, even a hibernating bear might not sleep soundly and come out for a midnight snack.