Larry is an urban fantasy author who isn’t woke. That by itself is a rarity enough. And he’s an interesting guy who has an abiding interest in guns. He has a post about a training he took.in Extreme Close Quarter Fighting with guns and knives. The company he trained with is called SHIVWORKS and they have various trainings for real world desperate situations. Here is their site. I have about zero training in any self defense or weapons systems. But my all around awesomeness will probably make up for that deficit. But I do find these training programs very interesting. Thought I’d pass it along for general interest.
I’ve been going through some of the “Oscar Nominated” movies that TCM runs for a month before the Oscars Ceremony. Lately they have been adding in films from the 1970’s, 80’s and even later. It’s interesting that some movies that I saw when they came out back in the old days really didn’t age well. As an example there was a movie, “Mona Lisa” from 1986. It was Bob Hoskins break out role. He earned an Oscar for best actor. It’s about a small time London crook who is assigned to drive a high priced black hooker to her hotel appointments. The story revolves around his emotional involvement with the woman and his attempt to help her save an underaged girl who has been swallowed up by the sex trade. Some things in the movie are interesting but the grittiness of the portrayal of the sex trade in 1980’s London is a bit much to watch. I didn’t remember it being so ugly and so extremely downbeat. And that movie is just one example. Especially in the 1970s the attempt to portray realism ended up making for a very tawdry product. There are exceptions but it is worth commenting on as a feature of the era.
I have been remiss in finishing off season two of Star Trek and then finishing out season three. It’s because I really am not in the mood for it. I’ve been wanting to start the Jackie Gleason series, “The Honeymooners.” But I am going to rededicate myself to slogging through the rest of Star Trek. It has to be done. But I may decide to start the Honeymooners before I finish. There’s nothing wrong with a little variety.
I spent today outside working in the fields. I have some of the scariest thorn bushes growing at the borders of my woods. The trunks of these things get as thick as saplings, two or three inches thick. If I wait until summer they will form an impenetrable wall of thorn brambles. The thorns are bigger than the ones you find on roses. They are formidable. And we had some invasive trees to remove. There are Russian Olive trees that have gotten way out of control. So I went back there with my triangular saw and my large pruning shears and attacked them with all the enthusiasm I could muster. I’ll have to say I was surprised how much satisfaction you can get from beating up on brush. It was tiring but when I finished the job I felt better than I have in weeks. Physical activity takes your mind off the political madness going on. Sure it is temporary but I really did clear my head.
So with renewed enthusiasm I say to this fallen land we live in, “Bring it on, bring it on!”
My two-year-old granddaughter is a big fan of the books by the children’s author Eric Carle. And one of her favorites is the Very Quiet Cricket. There is a YouTube video of an animated version of the book and one of the characters is a preying mantis that whispers in a hoarse voice a funny sounding “HELLOOOOO!” And that character is my granddaughter’s favorite part of the book. So, she is a fan of preying mantises. And by a strange coincidence so am I. I’ve always liked finding mantises wherever I have lived. And I have found them here in New England too but infrequently.
And so, for that reason I’ve decided to increase my odds of finding them this summer for my granddaughter. She said, “Pa, show me preying mantis.” She calls me Pa because that is what all my grandchildren call me. My oldest grandson made the name up when he was barely able to speak and it became official.
So I have to find her a mantis. I looked to see if any of the gardening supply stores in the area sell preying mantis egg cases. They didn’t so I just ordered some on-line and should have them soon. Camera Girl thinks it will be educational to see the baby mantises hatch out and thinks we should keep a few to raise up. The prospect of finding aphids and then larger insects to feed them sounds challenging but I’ll give it a try.
With any luck by summer we’ll have a few good sized mantises and my granddaughter will learn a little bit about an interesting insect. At least that’s the plan.
Our culture has, for better or worse, become obsessed with our pets. There are many women who seem to have replaced children with dogs and cats as a way to assuage their maternal instinct. And even many families that have children spend a very sizable chunk of their time and money owning and/or fostering dogs and cats. It seems as if it is a growth industry too. From what I understand people are breeding mutts just to provide fodder for the foster dog market and you have to admit that’s sort of madness. After all the aim of fostering all these dogs is to eliminate the surplus dog problem. If you’re breeding dogs specifically for this group of people to adopt then you’ve ensured that there will never be an end to the problem. Neat trick!
I will be the first to admit that dogs are a remarkable part of life. A good family dog is a part of the family and can also provide benefits. Their talents as burglar alarm and deterrent are undeniable. In the rural area their scent around the property deters some dangerous creatures. But it is primarily their companionship that makes them unique. A dog that you’ve raised from a puppy truly does assume that you are his parent and takes your family as his. There is an amazing bond there. And it goes both ways. The death of a dog creates a remarkably strong feeling of bereavement. If you are present at the death, such as when a veterinarian administers a lethal injection, the actual moment of death is a shock to you, especially the first time you experience it. I guess it has something to do with the child/parent nature of the relationship between a dog and its owner. It is the responsibility we feel for these creatures that depend on us to make sense of the human world they live in.
This came up today because Camera Girl has a menagerie of pets that she shares with our two-year-old granddaughter when she visits us. So, the two dogs and the parakeets and finches and the fish and the hermit crab and the rabbit and the guinea pig and the hamster each has its place in the affections of this little girl and if one of them dies it will be necessary for us to explain and sympathize with her feelings about the loss. And of course, as grandparents we have to clear all this information with the parents to make sure we respect their wishes on how death is explained to a little child.
Well, yesterday the five-year-old guinea pig, “Baby” died. So, this morning I went out to the pet cemetery that I maintain and found a spot for Baby and dug the grave. And this is a bit of work even for a small animal like a guinea pig because the ground out there is more rocks than soil. But all was prepared and services were read and flowers were placed on the grave and all the solemnities were observed. After all Camera Girl is a very warm hearted pet owner.
When the little girl comes back next week, we’ll tell her, as requested by her parents, that Baby went back to live with her mother who needed her. And hopefully she will transfer her displaced affections to Petey the rabbit and Jelly Bean the hamster without too much sadness. Knowing Camera Girl, I am sure that additional living creatures will be added to the zoo to bolster our head count. We have standards to maintain.
Eventually that little girl will learn about death and it will probably be because her own dog will die. Hopefully that will be when she’s already eight or ten years old and can somewhat understand the concept of death. And probably either before or after that loss her parents will have added another dog to the house to continue that role in her life.
But the point of this whole essay is that Americans are transferring their affection and time to their pets because we have become almost completely isolated from each other. And not just because of the pandemic although that is the ultra-example of the problem. We don’t get together as communities, we don’t know our neighbors and we even lose touch with our family. We’re isolated within the boxes we live in and now most of the younger people don’t even talk to each other at home. They sit with their faces buried in their phones and text. Walking their dogs may be the only thing that drags them out of their houses and maybe their only interactions with strangers is at the dog park.
So pets may be the clearest indication that we’ve become alienated from humanity at almost every level. If these people didn’t get to pet their dog or cat at night as they wait to fall asleep they might be almost completely isolated from another living thing.
One should never mock the weather gods in New England. Even if they happen to have blue hair and weigh in at half a ton. Even after tax day you are never safe from snow until the Fourth of July (or is it Juneteenth now?).
And the worst part about it is that even though it’ll mostly melt later on today I have to clear the driveway to allow for safe passage of guests today. Bring out the snow shovel. Oh my aching back. Damn you fat weather girls wherever you are.
Well, I don’t take back a single word of it. If I’m going to have unearthly weather; snow in the summer or flaming meteors of bitumen I want it announced by a cheerful pretty woman who will gracefully point at the green screen and smile her blinding white smile.
So I finished my shoveling and decided to take a few photos of the weirdness.
Now you see it, and now you don’t
I spent a little time today going over some recent photos. Nothing in the news has grabbed me lately as all that interesting so a little photography is fun for me as an alternative.
My snake tin (copper actually) flipped a ringneck last week.
They are interesting looking little buggers with their glossy scales and their eponymous color pattern. They eat earthworms I believe and there is a fellow who studies them and believes that the venom that they use to subdue worms would be a threat to humans if the snake was a hundred times bigger. In the American west they have ringnecks that are considerably larger but even these could barely get their fangs into your pinkie finger and even then you’d have to help it get a purchase on you. But wildlife scientists are always trying to make some ridiculous point about “dangerous snakes.”
We had seven black vultures in a tree on the edge of the property last week. Unfortunately they were back lit by the setting sun so the photos stink but it was interesting to see them there. They’re pretty ugly looking creatures but I guess they serve a useful purpose and I’m sure God loves them anyway.
I have two or three kinds of hellebores in the gardens and they are an early flowering perennial.
The ancient Greeks and Romans thought hellebore was a medicine to cure the insane. It also is a poison I believe so maybe they thought death was a good treatment for crazy people. We may have to revisit that thought someday ourselves.
Here’s an oddball plant.
I discovered growing near the house that I transplanted a garden last year. I’m not sure what it is but I like it. It forms long thin stalks like vines.
And here are some yellow flowers because I like yellow.
A little photography to add some interest to my day. And now I return you to the apocalypse already in progress.
On such a beautiful day I naturally decided to spend it extracting thorn brambles and Russian olive trees with a shovel and a 6 foot pry bar. After a couple of hours of sweat and back ache I remembered a line from the movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”
Curtin: What are you going to do with your hard-earned money old timer when you get back and cash in?
Howard: I’m getting along in years. Oh, I can still hold up my end when it comes to a hard day’s work but I ain’t the man I was once, and next year, next month, next week I won’t be the man I am today. Reckon I’ll find me some quiet place to settle down. Buy a business maybe … a grocery or a hardware store, and spend the better part of my time reading comic strips and adventure stories. One thing’s for sure … I ain’t going to go prospecting again and waste my time and money trying to find another gold mine.
I certainly know what Howard was talking about in that scene.
Today was just too nice a day to stay indoors. Camera Girl and I went over to our local forest and communed with the trees and birds and babbling brooks and rippling lakes and so forth and so on. She planned to head out to the metropolis and purchase the few necessaries that we still can afford and I planned to get out and take a few photos while I was at play in the fields of the Lord.
It is a magnificent sunny day. Life is bubbling up from every nook and cranny of the New England earth. But rather than endless shots of ants and worms and spiders I looked for larger subjects. Unfortunately, the only flowers available are the daffodils that are right now at their ephemeral best and the hellebore flowers which tend to be hard to photograph. But I did my best with this limited pallet and somewhere down the line they’ll end up in the Photo of the Day.
But I was able to capture one very interesting image. I found the first snake of the season. Under a copper sheet that I keep for just such a purpose I found a ringneck snake soaking up the abundant heat that the copper conducted through its surface from the bright sunlight. It looked like it was getting ready to shed and he stuck around for a minute or two and I was able to get a few shots.
Ringnecks are a very common creature but quite small and secretive. I enjoy finding any snakes on the property. I’ve, of course, found any number of eastern garter snakes and brown snakes. I’ve found a northern water snake and several eastern milk snakes. But what I’d really like to find is a black rat snake. This is sort of the apex snake predator of the region. They aren’t rare enough to even gain the almost obligatory threatened status that the wildlife nazis love to burden us with. But they aren’t common in my neck of the woods. They are a jet black here in New England and can theoretically reach seven feet in length although six feet would be a very large specimen nowadays. They are big enough to easily eat a chipmunk or even a squirrel but mostly they feed on mice and birds that they hunt for in nests. They are even able to climb up a tree to find baby birds. Who knows, one day I may find one of these.
But it was good getting out into the world again. Spring is triumphant. The spring peepers are making themselves heard in the evening and all sorts of creatures are about. I could hear geese in the pond one late night after midnight. And the turkeys showed up about a week ago. I always love hearing their gobbling even if they themselves are hidden in the brush. The painted turtles are back in the pond and bullfrogs have begun banjoing during the day.
Last week we had seven black vultures in one of the trees near sunset. I took some shots from the house which is a good distance away and shooting into the back lit tree wasn’t that good for the quality of the photos but going out would have spooked them for sure. Stupid vultures. But those pictures will go up soon too.
So, I’ve got some photos to upload and some plans to make. I’ve got to put together some kind of blind that will allow me to get candid shots of some of the more skittish birds and animals. That’ll take some doing so I’ll have to do some research. But it’s good to be out of the house.
Finally, life is returning to normal. But today I’ll skip the rants about why it isn’t. I’ll celebrate life instead. Camera Girl is cooking a spoon roast and humming and even singing slightly as she goes through the rituals that precede the magical food that will appear on time on the dining room table today. There are potatoes and asparagus and corn and mushrooms and gravy and buttered rolls and of course the roast. And pies and cakes have been baked and I know there will be ice cream to go along with that pie. And of course there will be chocolate for the little girl who will be old enough this year to really know what’s going on.
And today is sunny and it will be warm enough to go outside and walk around and look for bugs and flowers and birds and look at the trees and the sky and play catch with a ball and pet the rabbit (alias bunny-hop-hop or Petey). And we can sit around and talk about the barbecue that will be happening in May once it’s warm enough for the tables to be outside and the pool will be opened and we can have the rest of the family with us too. That will be another milestone.
But today is for enjoying today. New England forgot to provide one last, end of March, nor’easter snowstorm so the ground is pretty dry now and fit for walking and running and having a catch so today is a wonderful opportunity to declare the world is open for living again.
And as Kazantzakis said through his character Zorba this Easter dinner can’t be wasted,
“We ate and drank for some time in silence. The wind carried up to us, like the droning of bees, the distant, passionate notes of the lyre. Christ was being reborn again on the village terraces. The paschal lamb and the Easter cakes were being transformed into love-songs.
When Zorba had eaten and drunk quite copiously, he put his hand to his big hairy ear. “The lyre … ‘he murmured. “They’re dancing in the village.’ He stood up suddenly. The wine had gone to his head.
‘What ever are we doing here, all alone, like a pair of cuckoos? Let’s go and dance! Aren’t you sorry for the lamb we’ve been eating? Are you going to let it fizzle out into nothing, like that? Come on! Turn it into song and dance! Zorba is reborn!’ ‘Wait a minute, Zorba, you idiot, are you crazy?’
‘Honestly, boss, I don’t care! But I’m sorry for the lamb, and I’m sorry for the red eggs, the Easter cakes and the cream cheese! If I’d just scoffed a few bits of bread and some olives, I’d say: “Oh, let’s go to sleep; I don’t need to go celebrating!” Olives and bread are nothing, are they? What can you expect from them? But, let me tell you, it’s a sin to waste food like that! Come on, let’s celebrate the Resurrection, boss!’ ‘I don’t feel like it today. You go – you can dance for me as well.’ Zorba took my arm and pulled me up.
‘Christ is reborn, my friend! Ah! if only I was as young as you! I’d throw myself headlong into everything! Headlong into work, wine, love – everything, and I’d fear neither God nor devil! That’s youth for you!’
‘It’s the lamb talking, Zorba! It’s turned wild inside you, changed into a wolf!’
“The lamb’s changed into Zorba, that’s all, and Zorba’s talking to you!”
So I’ll take Zorba’s advice and put the Easter feast to good use. I’ll celebrate the Resurrection and spring and new life and old life and I’ll put off Biden and woke ignoramuses and even the dissident right for another day.
John 20 / 24-29
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Happy Easter Christians. Find some joy today. The madness is just static. Ignore it for the sake of the day.