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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Some links!

Need some Sunday linkage to go with your coffee? Sure you do!

:: Cane and I go on nature walks every Sunday. This guy goes on NATURE WALKS with his dog. Holy shit, that is one gorgeous dog. I kinda want one of those now.

:: Here's something I didn't realize: Since the late 90s, Joe Pesci has pretty much stopped appearing in things. According to IMDb, he's been in three things since 1998. I guess I just assumed that he was still out there working as much as ever, and I just wasn't seeing the things he was in, figuring he was showing up in ultra-violent grimdarky Martin Scorsese movies. Turns out he pretty much dropped out of sight: The Mysterious Disappearing Act of Joe Pesci.

:: I remember hearing about this when I was a kid: an artist-dude made a golden rabbit and hid it somewhere in England, and then he released a picture storybook filled with clues as to the golden hare's location. There's always something wonderful about a good story about a hunt for hidden treasure and the pitfalls that accompany any such hunt, like discerning clues that aren't there amidst the ones that are (or having a Staff of Ra that's too long).

Stay safe, Star Warriors!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Six Kadam High (in which I prove what I giant geek I am)

So, among my many tools at work, I have one that we lovingly call the Staff of Ra. It's a telescoping pole, about six feet tall at its shortest, that extends to eighteen feet; we use this tool to attach magnetic hooks to our ceiling from which we hang signs. Years ago we lovingly dubbed this tool the Staff of Ra, after the six-foot-long stick one uses in Raiders of the Lost Ark (in conjunction with the crystal-studded Headpiece) to focus a sunbeam onto the floor map of Tanis, thus revealing the location of the hidden Well of Souls, where the Ark of the Covenant resides. Remember that? Sure you do!



Anyway, this week at work we start a big modification project that involves installation of some extra refrigeration infrastructure on the roof, which in turn means that today, those technicians had to cut a hole in the roof. Late in my shift I'm walking back to my work area and I stop, because I saw the sun shining down from the roof and making a sunbeam.

So I grabbed my Staff of Ra, and took this picture.

When they cut a hole in your roof at work, OF COURSE you reenact the Map Room scene from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK!!! #indianajones #SorryNotSorry

Yes. That is how giant a geek I am, folks!

Something for Thursday

I'm not sure why, but for me, Fall has always been a time of optimism. All the metaphors have the world going to sleep for the winter, but for me, Fall is when life revs up. Maybe I'll flesh those thoughts out a bit more at some future date, but for now, here's some musical optimism for you: "Yeager's Triumph" from The Right Stuff, composed by Bill Conti. This is real "Hey, America, let's go to the Moon!" stuff, right here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Hey everybody! Yes, I'm still alive. Yes, I'm still in a blogging slow-down due to work on two books at the same time. Keep checking in, though! I do have content coming, eventually.

Anyway, I have a point-counterpoint thing today. Point: A couple that has taken their adoration of the Victorian era to really high levels..

Counterpoint: Screw those idiots. (Second article is a tad foul-mouthed.)

I'm of mixed mind on this sort of thing. I honestly tend to default to "live and let live" on stuff like this, but on the other hand, I always have a hard time when people start evangelizing in favor of their time-period of choice, the point on the clock beyond which they think everything started trending downhill. There's a fine line between admiring certain stylistic things about an earlier time, and fetishizing it to the point of cherry picking the stuff we liked.

But then, my mixed reaction to things like this might just be simply because my preferred time period is four hundred years in the future, so there's that.

Thoughts?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Something for Thursday

As I noted last week, I've been listening to "swashbuckling" music a bit of late, during my writing sessions (longer post on this forthcoming). Here's another good example, this time from the world of film music: a suite from Prince Valiant by Franz Waxman. Waxman was a terrific melodist, very gifted at catchy tunes that stuck in your ear. This one is no exception.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

So a coworker showed me a photo he took of a bumper sticker he saw on another vehicle. The sticker read: "My autistic student ignored your Honor student." Neither of us could figure out what the heck that means.

Anybody got any idea what that sticker is saying? Is it something good about autistic students, something bad about Honor students, neutral on either, what?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Predicting the NFL Season (Badly)

I tweeted a bunch of NFL predictions this morning, and here they are! Most of them will be wrong. Some will be spectacularly wrong. I apologize for nothing.











































Remember: I will be wrong about almost all of this. Except for Brady playing until he's 64, because that's happening. I've given up. The man will be here forever.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The dee-oh-gee is three!

I neglected to mention it here -- shame on me! -- but our dog had his third birthday the other day. Cane is now three years old. And at times, he acts like it.

We celebrated his birthday tonight: he got a new chew toy (he loves the ones that squeak) and we gave him two cupcakes (made specifically for dogs) from our local cupcake establishment. The cupcakes were tiny, apparently meant for little dogs, and he was disappointed when they were gone.

He's almost lived with us for a year, which means we're halfway through his probationary period. Right now, the needle is hovering just on the "keep the dog" side of the scale. We'll see if he manages to better make his case to stay with us in Year Two!

The dee-oh-gee is THREE!!! Happy Birthday, Cane! #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #dogsofbuffalo #greyhound

(Oh, who am I kidding. Cane ain't going anywhere.)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fourteen Years


The City of Dead Works

There is never any rest for me, the Ferryman of the Dead.

I pole my barge across the black waters and up to the pier. So many wait this time, many more than usual. I wonder what has happened, what event has sent me this many. "Come aboard," I say. "I will take your coin for passage." One by one they file past me, each handing to me the coin that they never knew they had. It is the coin which determines where they shall be taken to rest, its metal shaped and determined by life. The coins of these dead are gold, every one of them purest gold. Six thousand come aboard my barge, and each has passage for the farthest and greatest of destinations. In that moment I know that something truly dark has happened; the gold coins are always forged in moments of darkness. I am the Ferryman. I can give them no answers to what lies behind their haunted, questioning eyes. I can only take them on this, the last of all journeys.

When they are all aboard I take up the pole and push away from the pier. The barge always feels the same, no matter how many stand upon its decks. Whether six or six thousand, it is all the same to me. I guide us out onto the River Styx. Some of the people look worried, but there is no need for fear. This river can do them no harm. They are already dead.

This is to be a long journey, I know – it always is, to this destination. As I guide the barge through the black waters, I look on the faces of those who have come to me. As different as these people all look, they all have the same expressions of shock, disbelief, and withering sadness. Here is a man of business, talking into a cell phone. He is trying to call someone, anyone, who will tell him that it’s all a dream, that it didn’t happen, that he didn’t die in a blast of fire, smoke, glass and steel. There is a mother who is explaining to her daughter that they won’t be going to Disneyland after all. And there, a group of firemen stand together, realizing that soon they will meet all their brothers-in-arms who have gone into the infernos before them. So many now – colleagues once in business and now colleagues in death, people who have never before met but now have the gravest thing in common. As the current takes hold, I look back at the pier. There are more gathering there. There are always more. They will wait. Time does not exist for the dead.

"Please," a young man says as he turns to me, "I have to go home to my daughters."

"You are going home now," I reply. "To the home where all eventually return." Two black rocks slide past on either side, the rocks that mark the passage of the circling Styx.

"This can’t be," a woman cries out. "My mother needs me."

"She will be with you soon enough."

"When?" Her voice pleads, and yet there is no solace that is mine to give.

"I cannot say," I reply. "The Ferryman has no hand in Fate."

The tears come then, tears from the six thousand that run over the gunwales and into the river which has been fed by tears for centuries. All tears are born in the River Styx.

"Where will you take us?" someone asks.

"To the place you are promised," I answer. I recall the words of a poet: Will there be beds for all who seek? Yea, beds for all who come.

One our left we approach the Hills of the Damned, an endless stretch of shattered lands which reach away into the blackness. The waters echo with the cries of all those who have been taken to the Hills for the agony they have brought on the living. I consider the bag of six thousand gold coins, and I realize that I will have to journey to the Hills this day. There will be a person, perhaps more, who will pay me with a coin of black tin; but not on this journey. As the hills recede behind us, the unending cries of the damned become fainter and fainter until they are drowned out by the lapping of the waters upon the sides of the boat and the marker stones that we pass. The six thousand fall silent, each realizing that it is not a dream. I would offer solace, but as ever I cannot. I am the Ferryman.

We come around a particularly dark bend, and before us lies a very wide expanse of water, as if the Styx has become an ocean – which in some sense it probably has. And beyond that expanse are the thousands of twinkling lights that I have come to know so well. One man, a fireman, sees them too. "What is that?" he asks.

"It is the City of Dead Works," I reply. The lights of the city glow on the horizon, and every one of the six thousand turns toward them as the Styx impels us onward. As we come ever closer to the city, the glittering lights reflect off the black water.

"I don’t understand," someone else says. "The City of Dead Works?"

"Aye," I reply. "Behold!"

From behind us, golden light: the Sun of the Dead is rising as it always does when the dead come near the City. Above us the firmament is turning purple, then blue; soon the light of the Sun will illuminate the City of Dead Works. As the sky lightens, the true scope of that city becomes plain: it stretches away into the land, farther than any eye could see. Not even the highest-soaring raven, cavorting in the breezes and zephyrs of the dead, could take it all in. It is bigger by far than any one city ever built by the hand of men, because it encompasses some part of all of them. Perhaps it is bigger than all of the cities ever built. Now the sun’s first rays come up behind us, and the first buildings can be seen down by the water.

"That one looks Egyptian," a woman says.

"The Great Library of Alexandria," I tell her. "Once the greatest repository of learning the world had ever seen, now only a memory to the living and a reality only to the dead."

A man points to a building high upon a rock. I nod.

"The Temple of Solomon," I say.

"There are ships in the harbor," says another. Thus for him I name the ships: Arizona, Indianapolis, Lusitania, Bismarck, Wilhelm Gustloff, Cap Arcona. And many, many others. I scan over the impossibly vast city and spot Dresden, as it was; and beside it the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And how many smaller villages, tucked into the hills beyond the City? None can say. The Sun of the Dead shines upon those hills now, and the great stone statues in the likeness of Siddhartha Gautama.

"I don’t understand," a young man says. "Why this City? Why here?"

I only shake my head as we continue to float by the City. I do not point out the fairly small, nondescript office building that sits near the water. It is not a particularly remarkable building; nor was it, really, until the fuse was lit. The six thousand almost don’t recognize it.

Almost.

Not one word is uttered as we slide past the Alfred Murrah Federal Building. Then we turn away from the City of Dead Works, and head again down the waters of the Styx toward distant hills and the place where these people will join their brethren.

"Who lives in that city?" It is a priest in a fireman’s coat.

"No one lives there," I tell him. "The City of Dead Works is not for people. It is for the buildings and the ships. It is for the books and the music, the sculptures and the paintings which are gone forever. It is for everything destroyed by craven people in the name of foolish wars, for everything judged forfeit in the face of transitory desires."

The Styx takes us into the Golden Hills. Soon we will be there, and the six thousand will go where they belong. And then the Styx will complete its circle, taking me back to the pier where more dead await.

"We will be there soon," I say. "Soon we will be at the Elysian Fields, where all heroes go – for that is what you all are. It is what you have bought with your lives, with the shaping of your coins into gold." No one replies. We near the last bend now, and before us lie the Elysian Fields, where peace reigns and where heroes dwell; where all is light and voices are always raised in song. The Sun of the Dead shines warmly on Elysium.

But they do not see it. They, the six thousand, all gaze back behind us upon the City of Dead Works. It will soon be behind us forever as we round the last bend of the River Styx into Elysium. I know they all need one last look upon that City, and I do not grudge them that. For myself, I do not look back; the eyes of the Ferryman are ever forward. But I know. I know that the City of Dead Works is different now. I know that it has changed. I know that the people who come with me now to Elysium, the dead around me, look back on the two soaring towers of steel that now rise above the City where there had been no towers before.

I know these things.

I am the Ferryman of the Dead.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Something for Thursday

I've been listening to a lot of "adventurous" music as I write of late (and I've got a post in gestation about that someplace), so here's a prime example, one of the greatest pieces of adventure music of all time. It's the concert overture "Le Corsaire", by Hector Berlioz.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

A Very Public Service Message

I'm heading into what will almost certainly be a very busy couple of months, in terms of writing: it's time to get going on prepping The Wisdomfold Path for publication, and I'm also going to keep working daily on Lighthouse Boy (not the actual title), because I don't want to lose momentum on that book yet again. That being the case, there will likely be a drop in posting frequency here. However, I will not declare a hiatus or disappear entirely, because that would be bogus!

As always, I can be found frequenting Twitter and Instagram a lot, so if you just gotta have a dose of my particular banana oil, there are ways!

And with that, back to the salt mines!

Day 21: Hard at work! Dance on that keyboard, you stupid fingers! #amwriting #amwritingchallenge #overalls

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Fall is nearly upon us. What's your favorite thing about fall?

Monday, September 07, 2015

Instaweeks

Resuming my photographic trek through our world of dark despair....

Chasing the waffles with a beer. #beer #overalls #instashot #nocrop

My favorite snowglobe of all time, replaced at last years after it got broken #snowglobe #ohthefeels #instashot

Birds and chipmunks, brother! LOOK AT THEM ALL!!! #Lester #Julio #CatsOfInstagram

upload

Back country of Sprague Brook Park #SpragueBrookPark #wny #instashot #nocrop

Sprague Brook Park trail #SpragueBrookPark #wny #instashot #nocrop

Fern beds #SpragueBrookPark #wny #Instashot

Cane finds pleasure in Sprague Brook. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #SpragueBrookPark #wny

Hanging with the cat. #Lester #CatsOfInstagram #overalls #Lee #vintage #HickoryStripe

Making plans for a future book. #amwriting #keepmovingforward #whatsnext

Cane's pizza-acquisition strategy involves cuteness. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

I had a pretty good day. Here's to tomorrow! #overalls #vintage #HickoryStripe #Lee

It's White Peach season you guys! 😍😍😍 #peaches #yum

It's strawberry and blueberry season, you guys! 😍 😍 😍  #strawberries #blueberries #yum

Friday, September 04, 2015

Bad Joke Friday

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Little old lady!

Little old lady who?

I didn't know you could yodel!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Something for Thursday

One thing that I always find fascinating is the way, years ago, ribald subject matter had to be dealt with in as poetic a matter as possible. This song, from Brigadoon, is all about a young woman's sexual exploits with a sequence of jerks. Lerner and Loewe were such a clever team! Here's "The Real Love Of My Life" from Brigadoon.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Ever re-read, and love, a book you were made to read, and hated, in school? Which book?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Saxhole of Chestnut Ridge

Every Sunday I take the dee-oh-gee on a nature walk. We go to a local park, usually one of our local county or state parks; our most common destinations are Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora and Chestnut Ridge Park (a county park) in southern Orchard Park. Chestnut Ridge is a big park, set amidst several hillsides, with lots of hiking trails and old roads and ravines with babbling brooks along with shelters for families to rent for picnics and a huge hill that's the region's best place for sledding in winter and a noted disc-golf course. We like Chestnut Ridge a lot. We've been going there regularly ever since Cane became a member of the family, and we still haven't seen all it has to offer.

In addition to nature, Chestnut Ridge also offers some interesting people watching on occasion. When we go on Sunday mornings, there are often large groups of young people jogging through the park, and a lot of them don't restrict their jogging to the roads, but also to the off-road hiking trails. This is always fun to watch, and Cane enjoys seeing the runners go by. There are also always lots of people with other dogs, which can make Cane either happy or nervous, depending on the dog. There was one fat brown dog who just kind of waddled around, once; this dog's name turned out to be "Ammo", which led me to advance my Law Of Dog Names: The more bad-ass a name a dog has, the less bad-ass the dog actually is. So a dog named, oh, Crusher will be a big whimpering softie, while a dog named, oh, Frankie will be an ass-biting menace. It's just the way things are.

This Sunday past, we saw several groups of joggers, including one older group and one younger group. We also walked past two middle-aged women who were talking very loudly about their own medical problems, and then we took a side road that led past a small playground where two teenagers, figuring they were alone, were making out quite nicely. (They stopped when they realized Cane and I were approaching, and I turned my gaze aside and left them to their youthful hormonal fun-having.)

People watching is fun, but the main reason I love these nature walks is the nature -- especially the sounds. I love hearing the knocking of woodpeckers at work upon the trees. I love the sudden flutter in the air when a bird I didn't even realize was there takes wing. I love the whispering as the trees rub against each other in the wind, and I love the rushing of the streams, even as by this time of year they have mostly dried up to little more than a few trickles, here and there. Aside from the occasional passing car or truck engine -- and sometimes not even those, if we're far enough from the roads -- there are no man-made sounds at all, save my own footfalls and the soft jingling of the tags on Cane's collar.

But today...we were on another road, heading back in the direction of the parking lot, when I heard...music.

Somewhere in the distance, music.

I couldn't tell where or why, but as we kept walking, I realized we were getting closer to the source of the music. I recognized the tune first: "Amazing Grace". And then, moving forward, I recognized the instrument. It was a saxophone. And the person playing it finished "Amazing Grace" and moved right on to "Onward Christian Soldiers". And then followed several more hymns and other bits of Americana. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," and eventually, "The Star Spangled Banner". We came around a corner, and there he was, standing next to his parked car across the road. He had a music stand set up and everything. This guy was actually playing his saxophone in the middle of Chestnut Ridge Park, on a Sunday morning. And he was playing it loudly. His sound carried.

Now, I must admit that the sax has never been my favorite instrument, but like all instruments, it's a pleasure when played well. This guy, unfortunately, was not very good. He wasn't "rank beginner" awful, but he played a lot of wrong notes and...oh, the hell with it. It doesn't matter how well he played. If Thelonius Monk himself decided to set up a solo show in the middle of Chestnut Ridge on a Sunday morning, it would have been every bit as annoying and inappropriate. I found myself finishing our walk in some disbelief that there exists some asshole who is sufficiently narcissistic to decide that what people going to one of our area's finest nature parks really need is to listen to his not-very-good saxophone playing. Who on Earth possibly comes to that conclusion?

By the time his playing was finally fading from my ears as I and the dog achieved sufficient distance from him, he was playing "Over the Rainbow". I got Cane back in the car, but instead of leaving the park, I drove back in. I wanted to see this clown closer up. I wasn't going to yell out the window or throw garbage at him (though both were tempting prospects), but I wanted to see what kind of asshole does this. When I drove by his space, he had evidently decided that it was time to move on. His stand was gone, and he was leaning into the hatch of his little red car, putting away his horn after his presumably self-booked gig. Older guy. Skinny. Had his shorts pulled up oddly high, and socks up to his knees. There he was, evidently quite satisfied. He'd accomplished his mission, see, forcing himself upon everyone in earshot in a place where "in earshot" is a pretty large area.

As I drove home, I thought about the saxophone playing asshole...the sax asshole...the Saxhole. The Saxhole of Chestnut Ridge.

I'm not sure I'll take Cane to Chestnut Ridge next week or not. We might, because I really do love that park, but I love others, too. High are my hopes, though, that I have heard forever the last of the Saxhole of Chestnut Ridge.