“Still Life with Fungus & Poison Ivy”

 

I know, these pictures look like a nature walk with the Addams Family.  I’m enjoying the fresh new foliage and spring flowers as much as anyone, really, but on a recent hike, it was the tree fungi that caught my eye.

Doesn’t the 2nd shot looks like Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge cake)?

I also wondered about the minimalist spider web in the 3rd shot.  I once saw photos of spiderwebs, after the spiders had been given various drugs (OK, I guess it’s occurred to all of us to do that).  The caffeine web was jazzy, random, frenetic-looking.  The LSD web, as I remember, was unnaturally perfect.

Apparently nibbling on this fungus leads to a lack of ambition and inability to complete tasks?

Or just a desire to simplify and try something new, even if you don’t catch any juicy bugs that way.

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

A Fetching Flock of Fungus for Friday. Pictures of Upstate New York. May.

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Chanukah, Christmas, food, Itchy Sweaters, music, Sweaters, Uncategorized, United States

Spinning the Seasonal Favorites. Renaissance 33’s & Medieval 78’s.

 

“Traditional holiday music” to me, means scratchy old records.

 

There’s strange-looking people on the covers, with lacquered or pomaded hair, and sweaters.

 

Golf sweaters, cardigans, turtlenecks, enormous cableknits,  cashmere, V-necks, crewnecks.

 

 

How the heck do they get the crewnecks on over that bouffant hair?

 

Or do they just always have the sweaters on, and the hair is shipped in, layered on, and sculpted afterward?  By the same crew that does the artificial snowdrifts.

 

Are Angora, Mohair, and Perry Como Hair all the same substance somehow?

 

These are the same people who engineered Stereophonic Recordings, the tailfins on the ’59 Cadillac Eldorado, and then the Apollo space mission, I guess they could do anything.

All of these inventions were adapted onto Santa’s sleigh.

 

 

I studied these record covers when I was a kid.

 

 

Sometimes the people seemed to have a lot of sideburns & weird sorts of pajamas on, like the crew of the old Star Trek, so I figured there was some connection.

We celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas in my house, and adding in Star Trek just compounded the confusion.

 

 

There seem to be more of these albums around the house every year.

The old folks don’t go to garage sales, so they must have discovered eBay.  Or it may be down to one particular aunt, who’s cleaning out her garage, by UPS’ing everything to my parents.

In the family room, High Fidelity Long-Play albums are gently hissing and crackling on the hifi , and there’s a little wisp of smoke, as if from a tiny Yule log.

But it’s coming from the amplifier – the tubes have really heated up, and are incinerating the dust bunnies.

All 6,327 recordings by the Robert Shaw Chorale

They’re mostly 33 1/3, and full of lovely singing, but I really recommend playing them at least 78 RPM, or you’ll be in an Induced-Eggnog-Zombie-like state until Valentine’s Day.

The Christmas Waltz  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfmcEok4mkE

Dean Martin, well-oiled in hair and spirits, sliding over the artificial snowdrifts in his holiday louche, singing  “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.

It’s a heartwarming tale about getting his date liquored up?

The Scratch’n’Sniff sticker on his old album still works!  It says “Hey, what’s in this drink?” and smells like bourbon, Brylcreem & cigarettes.

A 4-disc set — Arthur Fiedler & The Massed Bagpipes of the Edinburgh Tattoo Presents  “Awa’ ‘n’ Boil Yer Head, Ya Dobber Elf & Other Seasonal Favorites

Impossibly high notes from the King’s College boy’s choir.  The album cover says:  “Festival of Nine Lessons.  And Carols.”

I always figured it was some oldtime singers, like Carol Burnett, Carol Channing, giving the choirboys a hand, but they aren’t listed on the liner notes.

The Nutcracker Suite is magical every time.

I searched for other pieces that use the celesta, that delicate, beautiful little chiming sound – – and ran across Louis Armstrong & his Hot Five!  It’s in the introduction to his 1928 “Basin Street Blues“!  Ok, so that’s holiday music now – – I can see the Sugar Plum Fairy sneaking out of the ballet, picking up Louis, knocking back a few and hitting the town.  You may have to cut & paste the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQBjD06a6l8

Digging farther back into the boxes of records, into the mists of time, the sweaters are now pinkish & woolly mammoth yarn.  Back to the parental units’ high school days, during the Late Middle Ages:  Steeleye Span sings Gaudete, Ex Maria virgine, gaudete Back from the days of Silver Bells, Chestnuts Roasting, Gregorian chants and stuff like that.  Some of the people on the record covers now have braided hair, leather jerkins & tights.  Ancient hippy minstrels wailin’ on wooden flutes, lutes, sackbuts, primitive electric guitars, & whatnot.

What do all these jumbled tunes have in common? They’ve become part & parcel of the jumble of family tradition.

I had to check the spelling of “miscellany” and look at all these lovely synonyms:

salamagundi, medley, hodgepodge, potpourri, mélange

Don’t all these words just look perfect for the holidays?

Our family feast will always have a crazy assortment of foods – – some sort of roast meat, sitting next to the panzanella (in case there’s vegetarian guests), Penna. Dutch pickled eggs & beets, Penna. Dutch pickled piccalilli, Penna. Dutch pickled everything, mulled cider, maybe some borscht (the good kind, not the kind that tastes like beets), maybe this year, some Thai-style shrimp, and then Mexican Wedding Cakes, Hamantaschen, English plum pudding, etc.

Most dishes are attributed to a particular person, many no longer with us.  It will never taste quite as good as when they made it, but we do our very best, to do it right.  This Alka Selzter advertisement of a meal represents all the folks who’ve joined the family over the years.  It’s not very Norman Rockwell-looking, but it’s very American, not the melting pot, but the mixing pot.  Different churches, different faiths, or none at all.  The religious break bread with the pagans.  And what is old & traditional to some, is new and confusing to others.

The music on the old records is a perfect counterpoint – – it’s a crazy mishmash!  Religious, profane, silly.

“Christmas” music encompasses hallowed hymns, ancient carols, Disney tunes, sentimental lounge acts, soul, singing chipmunks, mariachi remixes, etc.   Poems of beauty and spirituality set to music, mix with “fa la la’s” when the carolers forgot the words after a few bowls of wassail.

“White Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Let It Snow!” etc. all written by nice Jewish guys.

There are essential messages that come  “upon a midnight clear,” or with the Hanukkah Festival of Lights.  The messages are not confused.  They are absolutely clear and wonderful.

But we’re also allowed to celebrate and even cherish all this crazy confusion  — the old, sometimes cheesy music, the crazy meals,and the crazy relatives.  And different beliefs.

Up & Out of frozen ruts for the new year — try something new and random, mix it up.  There’s an old Royal Navy toast “To the Confusion of Our Enemies,”  but I wish a dash of confusion and mayhem, in the best possible way, for my friends.

We will not always have a perfect comprehension of everything.

We will not always understand everything, and everyone.

Pick out some people who’ve always confused us, and even if we don’t really understand them, be understanding.

We’re never going to understand everything and everyone, but we may just find something new and rewarding amidst the confusion.

I don’t know why people believe what they believe, or like the music they do, or eat beet soup, or wear ugly sweaters, or get religion, or lose faith, or fall in love.

So in the new year, I’m going to try to keep an open mind, even if it means sometimes living in a state of confusion.

I hope everybody is having a lovely merry & muddled ol’ time this holiday season!

 

 

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Alternate History, Colonial History, History, Pantheon, statue, Uncategorized

Learning All About History By Looking At Statues. Chapter III “A Tale of A Forgotten Colony”

Harold, of the House of Hamburg

Kammerjunker Harold, of the House of Hamburg

 

Old postcards, of a no-longer-extant statue, lead me to an interesting bit of early American history.

In college, I became interested in the study of colonial emigration to North America.  It’s a field that’s rich, complex, and often surprising.

Why would people suddenly leave the Old Country, with all the Shakespeare plays, great wines, fun accents, Eiffel towers, etc. and go live in a wilderness?

Religious wars, family squabbles, a gradual weariness with eating bread soaked in olive oil, are the usual back stories.  Escape from feudalism and blood feuds, incessant bagpipe and accordion playing, and other loud wheezing kinds of sounds, from aristocrats and their drafty castles.  But this statue tells one of the other, less-well-known motivations, and thereby hangs a tale.

One of the most powerful royal families in Europe, the Hapsburgs were a case study in inbreeding.  They suffered from an exaggerated chin (“Hapsburg jaw”), gout, depression, dropsy, and an overfondness for Bourbons.

Their cousins, the House of Hamburg, had all these hereditary problems, and more.

Including, in a few cases, and not to put too fine a point on it, tails.

The Hamburgs are usually only remembered now, because their difficulty in chewing caused them to create ground-meat patties, which became popular for a time as “hamburgers”.

 

 

Examine the portrait above – –  around this nobleman’s neck hangs a tiny dead sheep.

Now look at the pedestal in the picture below, with its goat heads.

What are the artists trying to tell us?

 

 

The pedestal was inscribed “Postremo superbia semper,” and “Last to leave the fight,” although a more literal translation would be, “Bringing up the rear with pride”

A sword hilt is visible, but in fact, the Hamburgs never carried on their persons, so much as cuticle scissors, due to a neurotic aversion to the sight of blood.

The hilt is just a prop.

Poking out from under the cape, disguised as a scabbard, but fooling no one, we see the hereditary Hamburg tail.

The family fled the Old World — which had turned it’s back on them  – – subjected to persecution, and often painfully pinched, when people were too quick to slam shut those enormous bronze doors they have on castles and churches.

Aristocrats who were destined to never sit upon a throne, because they just couldn’t sit comfortably on anything other than ottomans.

Off they went to America, back to fundamentals, to establish a new family seat, a place to rear their young.

But their New World colony “Hinterland” (near present-day Piscataway) was short-lived and tragic, and with the exception of a huge number of porcelain cats, no artifacts of any note have been unearthed at the site.   Why did they settle on that particular spot?  No one knows.  The Hamburgs, famously articulated in some ways, never clearly articulated their plans.

They left, but didn’t leave a note, and probably became extinct or something.

So there’s really no reason to talk about them anymore.

 

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Yesterday we walked by plantations of white pines and spruce,  remnants of old apple orchards, lovely red sugar maples, beeches, hornbeams, and hophornbeams.

Those last two trees are pictured above.

Of the two, I prefer the hophornbeam.

I mean, who wants a hornbeam that just sits there?

I find it’s true that Nature abhors a vacuum – –

ambling along,  pretty much totally vacant of thought,

empty-headed,

so Nature provided a little wake-up call – –

two ruffed grouse, alway wiseguys, suddenly shot up,

like whirring rockets.

I’ve never gotten a picture of a grouse,

just a few minor heart attacks,

when they suddenly blast off,

three feet in front of my face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’d gone into a stretch of hemlocks, where it’s always a bit darker,

and getting along toward sundown,

so we’d decided to head back, while we could still see the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But first we walked just a bit down the hill,

to listen to the creek,

and look at the tiny waterfalls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And found a shrine-like assemblage of pebbles on the bank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little heart-shaped stones were tucked every which way into crevices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know, damn hippies.

This won’t gladden the hearts of most hikers I know,

who are fundamentally opposed to leaving any alteration or trace of human activity in the woods.

And humans being humans, they kinda overdid things,

maybe just a tad,

so it ended up looking like a Neolithic dump,

just after Valentine’s Day in the Stone Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But there were no beer cans, cigarette butts, or shell casings,

and to be honest,

I kind of got a kick out of this particular little display of weirdness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why am I always thinking about food? I saw these lovely ferns, and all I could think was, how come there’s never a good salad bar in the woods, when you need one.  With those little croutons.

 

Autumn, Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Ithaca, NY, photography, Public Art, Uncategorized, United States, Upstate New York, Valentine's Day

Pictures of Upstate New York. October. Corazón de piedra

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I’ve never seen the mushrooms achieve the size they have this summer. This looked like someone tossed in a big old bath sponge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cap to show the size of these clumps

 

 

 

coexisting nicely

 

 

 

 

An archipelago of coral fungus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finger Lakes, FLX, food, hiking, Ithaca, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. September. An archipelago of coral fungus

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FLX, hiking, NY, politics, Uncategorized, United States, Upstate New York

Zen Stone Stacking & the Art of Auto Maintenance


We’d been walking along the shore of Lake Ontario,and stopped to watch the sailboats and drink some water.

A very nice lady saw us fooling with these rocks, and asked if we were professional artists, and if she could photograph our “stone stacking.”

It almost seemed like she was serious, so I told her, we artists prefer our creations to be called “Cobble Assemblages“.

We’re novices, from the Spiral Jetty School, working our way up to pyramids and standing stone circles.  No money is required to view them, but an offering of fresh fruit is appreciated.”

 

This strange little hobby, stacking up stones, “rock balancing” seems to have really caught on.

We’ve run across them in stream beds, woods, parks, even on the berms near shopping malls.

Sometimes there are so many, it appears a Neolithic cult is out there in the woods.

 

What is the point of this?  I’ve heard a lot of people take this pretty seriously, saying “it’s kind of a Zen thing,” finding the center of gravity of these eccentric objects, and easing you into a contemplative state.

OK.  Sure, you bet.

That sounds “a bit much,” New Age nonsense, and the funny thing is, I think they’re kind of right.

This balancing act takes focus, maybe even discipline.

 

 

I’m thinking, as we gravely heft the rocks and find the center of gravity, it’s kind of like politics.

Whether a box of rocks, or the electorate, or that portion of the electorate that resembles a box of rocks, it takes an artist to find the center, to balance every component, including the unstable and unbalanced.   This is rock stacking, kids, not mud slinging, not casting stones.

When you do this stacking thing, you don’t select only perfectly flat rocks, where’s the challenge in that?

To be a sportin’ proposition, you have to take ’em as you find ’em.

That’s not to say, that sometimes, you get frustrated, it’s just not working, and you just chunk it back into the water, to get a few rough edges knocked off.

Or it can swim back to Canada, and wait for the next glacier to bring it south again, a bit more polished.

Politics is also supposed to somehow build things, using all of us lumpy, uncooperative, odd people, being gathered together to build something, say, a city on the hill.

 

 

My sister sings while she gathers stones, and the music reminds me of another metaphor for politics  — the “bandwagon,” and I’ve always liked that image – – a big, brassy, hurly-burly, rock ‘n’roll hell-on-wheels.

Like taking a bunch of kids on a car trip – – just an unholy load of mischief, loud and unruly.

Off-tune singing in the back seat, a bit smelly from sunblock and bug repellent, missed turns, negotiating over radio stations, seating assignments, fast food stops, arguments and sharp elbows.

But after an eternity or two, you do get to the beach, and everybody pitches in to build some beautiful sandcastles, or, in our rocky part of the world, a cool stone stack.

Bandwagon or stone stack, it has to find a place for everybody — leaning left, leaning right, centrist, positive, negative, neutral.

Doesn’t that sound kind of fun?  “Come on, blow your own horn if you must, but everybody up on the bandwagon.”

(And in the case of many politicians, we can add “Stay on the wagon!”)

It has to be a big ol’ wagon.

Not a buggy of the extreme and the angry.

The surly with the lunatic fringe on top.

 

A cairn by environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy, in Sapsucker Woods, the preserve around the Cornell Ornithology Lab, in Ithaca, NY

~ ~ ~

We had a huge old car once, that kept turning over, even after it was switched off, mindlessly “dieseling,” kind of like it had a coughing jag, and couldn’t stop.

Like a lot of folks, I find it can be surprisingly hard to shut your thoughts off, like that old car, definitely not firing on all cylinders, but just spluttering along.

Like some of our public figures, the car was too greasy, too much carbon buildup, too much hot gas coming out the back end.

Missing filters, endless idling, running on and on, throwing a smoke screen, leaking oil into the ground water.  Chugging along, backfiring out half-digested dinosaur crap.

Our system right now, it appears some wiseguy snuck in, and switched the spark plug wires around, firing all out of order.

Like taking a Cadillac, all rose-tinted glass and a plush ride, in for a tuneup, to a shady shadetree mechanic.

And that bad grease monkey fast-talks us into trading for a rusted-out Gremlin, with no muffler, twisted axis, sorry, I mean, axle, and bad tie rods, so it keeps swerving to the right, and into the gutter.

~ ~ ~

Stone stacking helps us relax.  You focus and forget about squabbles and arguments.

And when you don’t focus, you drop a rock on your toe, which sure takes your mind off less pressing concerns.

Like politicking, we’re just childishly happy to shut down any higher brain functions, and see Just How High Can We Pile It, before it all falls over.

~ ~ ~ ~

Meanwhile… we were On The Beach.

The lake shore we’re hiking along is a shingle — tons of piled-up pebbles, so we weren’t prying stones out of the ground and contributing to erosion, or disturbing a stream bed, etc.

Sometimes it’s fun to poke at a few things with a stick, and see what crawls out from under a rock, but we’ve had quite enough of that lately.

A  key thing with these stone stacks:  they’re not cairns, memorials, or markers, so take them apart when you’re done.  Some of the ones we’ve seen, are big enough, they seem like a survivalist’s deadfall trap for little kids.

It falls under the “Leave No Trace” law of the woods.

Leave no stone un-returned.

And for heaven’s sake let’s get some bright new spark plugs and a tuneup for that heap.

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

 

We’ve had plenty of rain in Upstate New York this summer, so the countryside is lush and green.

A steady stream of storms hanging over our heads.  A summer flooded with talk of swollen swamps, mushrooms and clouds.

And now, talk of mushroom clouds.

The sound of running water fills the damp woods, and I’ve been taking photos of pretty rivulets, graced with ferns and arching tree limbs.

But yesterday, while listening to the news about Korea, I saw this shot, of black shale in an unnamed stream, and it suited my mood.

A geology website informs us that this little waterfall runs through a “dissected plateau” – – layers of shale, sandstone, and limestone.

“Dissect” always has an unpleasant connotation to me, of high school biology class.

Personally, I like my frogs live and hopping.

The rocks are dull-colored and lifeless-looking, but if you pry open some of the layers, they’re teaming with fossils.

The ancient creatures embedded in the rock, probably thought things were going ok, and went about their business, but in some layers, the density of their remains, speaks of mass die-offs.

These were lower lifeforms, I guess they never saw it coming.

Sounding a bit downbeat!  So what to do?

I suggest…go take a walk.  Enjoy the green woods and the sound of waterfalls.

One of my favorite presidents, Harry Truman, used to walk two miles every day.

Following his walk, he then had one shot of bourbon.

If you feel an affection or need for clubs, ok, do your walking on a golf course.

Harry did not play golf.  He just took a brisk little hike, and shook hands with people he met.

He used an old-fashioned word to describe his walk:  his morning “constitutional”.

These are clearly winning concepts:  Take a walk.  Take a drink.  Shake hands.  Constitutional.

I don’t think there’s too many people, after more than sixty years, who care deeply about MacArthur’s dismissal.  If you’re not a student of history, MacArthur was our top general, when we were fighting in Korea.  Truman decided he’d gotten too big for his britches, and we couldn’t have a military leader who was arrogant, contemptuous, disrespectful and reckless.   Korea was a bad place to be reckless.

And Harry sent him walking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hiking, Not humorous, politics, Uncategorized, United States

Sometimes it’s a waterfall, and sometimes, it’s just things going downhill

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