16 Jan

Sorry about the header text color

I changed my theme, added a clipped photo of Noah and Sophie from our visit last summer to the Octopus Tree and light house at Cape Mears, and then, not being a graphic artist, used the WordPress and theme options for overlaying header text. Not so happy with the textual results and will find a better solution. Unfortunately, this theme doesn’t come with a readymade semi-opaque pane to slip between the header title and image.

06 Nov

Eulogy Tunes

Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is de rigeur for modern funerals. I love that song, like most Cohen tunes, but recently a friend gave me a better idea. When I go, I hope they play Johnny Cash: for the service/memorial, Burning Ring of Fire, about a love that never dies. Deborah. Add his Give My Love to Rose and cover of the Nine Inch Nails tune, Hurt. Hell, play the entire Man Comes Around album, and get the grieving done with. But for any wake, please, play the Benny Goodman Orchestra live version of Sing, Sing, Sing; the Latin cover by Pepe and the Bottle Blondes; and the glorious riff Sing, Sang, Sung, by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. And anything else that might make the right people smile and that fussy people would find inappropriate.

I don’t plan on going soon (or maybe never if that damn Singularity arrives soon enough), but I’m feeling contemplative in the midst of all this writing and wanted to stick this bit of info where someone would find it. Because, like diamonds and kidney stones and like me, this blog will be around for at least another half century.

26 Oct

Small victories

Well, when you run your own WP install, you can’t depend on simple services like e-mail notifications just working. I’ve had to check my admin pages to review comments, leaving my rabid fan base dangling like lonesome apostrophes while I got my act together.

I finally looked up the problem and found I had to install a plugin to configure SMTP mail. I found one better (aptly named Configure SMTP by a guy named Scott Reilly) that handles SMTP or Gmail configurations. Gmail’s easier for me, so I set it up, tested a comment and before I could squint, the little e-mail notifier extension in Chrome turned red  and hiccuped with a new message.

Don’t hold back on those cards and letters, kids. Although, come Nov 1, I’m likely to disappear from this place till after Thanksgiving, and if I don’t, your job is to shame me. I don’t think that shaming a writer is a particular form of abuse, done in a civilized manner. You know, with a chin raise and a sigh and a tut tut while lighting one’s cigar and palming a properly decanted glass of port.

06 Oct

Spam spam spam

When you host your own blog, you’re responsible for building and testing lines of defense against email and comments spam. Hosted WordPress does a pretty good job of this–I’m still looking for solutions that work comprehensively. Trying a new plugin today, so if you leave a comment and see a captcha dialog, that’s why. Perhaps next time I view comments, I won’t see 100 spammers telling me how interesting I am, asking where I found that plugin, or recommending juicing and flossing over blogging to help me meet life’s daily challenges.

28 Sep

Snaring the Balrog

“The trick to snaring a Balrog,” Mom said, sliding the maggoty squirrel off the spatula onto the ground inside the wire loop, “is knowing they’re gourmet scavengers.” She scattered leaves haphazardly over the wire loop and cocked spring. “The deader their food, the better. Like a fine cheese.”

28 Sep

Skin Deep

Some women are sexy outside-in. Supermodels, for example. They wear their sexiness like a skin, like makeup, like a new set of clothes. Like a magazine ad. They’re sexy like Photoshop is sexy.

Some women are sexy inside-out. My wife. She’s sexy at the foundation, and it shines out through her eyes (sometimes preternaturally bright), her skin (sometimes preternaturally soft and citrusy), the long smile dimple on her left cheek, her ability to see that sexiness in herself and occasionally flaunt it “oh honey” style, her shameless sense of rhythm, and her shyness at being called sexy in public. (If she reads this, I’m in for it. And that’s all you’re going to get.)

10 Sep

Eating the Balrog

You are evil and I hope you get lots of awards and have to fly to strange countries where the food tastes like fried balrog.
– Writer’s Curse

When I was 13, my brother and I had to eat fried Balrog every day for a week after my Dad lost his job of 20 years as a machinist when the Boeing plant shut down and Mom had to trap our food in the woods behind our house (big woods, thousands of acres, 20 our’s). Balrog’s not that bad–sort of a gamy cross between grass-fed beef and frog legs–not much fat. The belches were hellfire, though, and were not allowed at dinner (or within 20 feet of the house). It also made our dog Cinder’s eyes (and his piles) glow orange–let’s just say “pissed off” was too lean of an expression to describe Mom when she caught us feeding him from the table.

Dad didn’t believe in Balrog, so Mom told him it was the end of last year’s cow we’d purchased from the aptly named Cowdens cross the road. (Mr. Cowden, a single dad with a glass eye and two kids our age–Theresa (my first crush) and her younger brother David–raised and sold cows for milk and meat to supplement his income from driving dozer at the county dump.) Within six months Dad got a job selling real estate, Mom had taken up with Mr. Cowden, Mom and Dad divorced, and we moved to Portland to live with Dad and my grandma. He told us that he and Mom had completely agreed to the arrangement, but we’d heard him yelling at her that she lived in a fantasy world and until she came back to reality, she wouldn’t be fit to raise our cat. The way she cried we were pretty sure that he hit her for emphasis.

To prove him wrong, she and the cat rented a small house behind a nice Christian family in Beaverton. We saw them every two weeks, or when she remembered. She had a hard time keeping her calendar straight, but she taught us how to drive a car (a classic Willy’s jeep), how to track game in the woods bordering town, how to identify medicinal herbs, and how to drink. Dad taught us how to be responsible. My grandma taught us how to love apple dumplings (she’d never heard of Balrog or pixie apples or fairy honey or sweet dryad tea, but did grow prehistoric-sized rhubarb big enough to hide under and seemed to take delight in telling us how poisonous it was if eaten raw–I do miss her.)

Notes

The Tolkein giant is your basic primeval Balrog. Today’s garden variety Balrog is a burrower with only vestigial wings and otherwise looks like a cross between a fruit bat and an angry beaver and, on all fours, is the size of a pot-bellied pig. Mom used scotch bonnets as bait or, when those were hard to find, spicy Polish sausage (which was also useful in snaring my younger brother).

You have to boil the meat before roasting or it smells horrible–like backfat soaked in gasoline. Otherwise, it’s quite tender and delicious–almost indistinguishable from pulled pork.

It’s also delicious–some would say best–served cold and, when dried, keeps almost forever. When I find it, I’ll pass on Mom’s recipe for Balrog pemmican made with red huckleberries (actually my Grandfather’s recipe he learned as a boy from an old Sioux army scout. Grandpa grew up in Butte, Montana, where his father was a manager for the Montana Mining Company. He said they sometimes found things in those big open pit mines that no one liked to talk about and the Native Americans were hired to handle.)

Song

You Bash the Balrog

Words: Lee Gold
Music: ‘Waltzing Matilda’
Courtesy of my friend Found on Web

Once a jolly Cleric, and a magic-using Elf,
And a mighty Dwarf with a sword plus three
Left their native village, out to get their share of pelf.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.

CHORUS:

You bash the Balrog, you bash the Balrog,
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.
(Last 2 lines of verse)

First they met a Goblin, with a fire-breathing Hound.
They bashed, and they smashed, and they scragged him with glee.
Afterwards they searched him, and a magic potion found.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.

CHORUS

The low-wisdom Swordsman picked it up and drank it down.
Changed into a wolf immediately.
No one could dispel it, so they headed back toward town.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb the tree.

CHORUS

Then a voice bellowed, “Who has slain the Goblin King?”
Round turned our heroes; what did they see?
Swooping down upon them was a Balrog on the wing.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.

CHORUS

The Balrog fell upon them, and his flame began to rage.
The Wolf whimpered low and he tried to flee.
“Help!” screamed the Cleric. “Ditto!” yelled the Elven Mage.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb a tree.

CHORUS

They ran through the forest, seeking for a place to hide,
Pursued by the Balrog so fierce to see.
“Wait,” cried the Elf-mage. “I have got a plan,” he lied.
“You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb the tree.”

CHORUS

Once a mighty Balrog slew a cleric and an elf
And a smallish wolf who had teeth plus three.
Skinned them and tanned their hides and kept them on a closet shelf.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb the tree.

CHORUS

(Alternative and much-preferred final verse – clever elves should be rewarded, after all!)
Once a mighty Balrog slew a jolly cleric and
Skinned a smallish wolf who had teeth plus three.
But the Elf got away, and he’s living with a Dryad band.
You bash the Balrog, and I’ll climb the tree.

CHORUS


I think the author of this song should have kept in “billabong”–one of those Australian words of mystery from my childhood. There’s no doubt in my mind, after singing this out loud, that a billabong is the home of the Balrog. (Yes, I know what it really is.)

30 Aug

And then there were two

This week, jumbled notes and research become chapter two….we’ll see how it progresses. I’d like to reach Wordstock (early Oct) with several chapters of version 2 drafted.

13 Jul

Ludwig and Herbert, together again

Symphony #8, with Von Karajan conducting a big rich performance from the Berlin Philharmonic, would move a deaf man. After 20 years, it still lifts the fog from my head and my heart to my throat.

That is all, and plenty.

Followup: The tune serendipitously and, for me, appropriately queued to follow #8 was Joan Osborne singing Hallelujah, her own song (not the great Leonard Cohen epic that gives listeners an emotional hard-on as they envision their own funeral). Joan eased me back to the modern world.

07 Jul

Shedding

We have a fairly large and abundant side yard that’s been begging for a shed since we bought our house 8 years ago. The center of our yard is cut into a miniature baseball diamond and filled with thick clover (home to the buzzing bees); edged with dwarf fruit trees (plum, apple, fig), blueberry bushes, grapes (soon), and clumps of rosemary; and bordered by a little urban creek (seasonal camp to a tribe of those thumbnail-sized, cannon-voiced burrowing frogs). I could show you that yard, but for all that, without a shed, this article on sheds–especially the shed on slide 1–is much more interesting.

Author Neil Gaiman also has a shed to envy documented here. Philip Pullman did his best work to date in a shed (I saw a photo of the inside once, but can’t find the URL.) The number of creators who’ve leveraged sheds is long, and most are unsung. The shed is and always has been the urban man’s (or woman’s) quick getaway–whether it’s a “writing hut” or studio or just a place to putter. As kids, we start with the playhouse or a hideout, even the hollow core of a hedge or cleverly camouflaged lean-to of tree trunks, sticks, and branches–someplace private and even defensible that blended into the natural world. As an adult, I don’t want to hide my shed: I want to be seen in it and to stand back and admire it. The shed is a symbol of my success, house of creativity, and a statement of privacy–there works a private person surely creating or puttering up something grand!

What’s keeping me from building a shed? Cost of materials. My brother’s a fine carpenter who would be more than willing to help, but we have too many things to fix or replace first around our late-70’s home; features or structures that–in traditional suburban development style–were never meant to last quite as long as they have.

However, I have hope. In a previous post, I mentioned that my wife Deborah (there was a typo where I wrote “my life” that I should have left in), plans like the ancient Mandarins. She’ll be sympathetic to my shed–it’ll give her more free space in the house–and will help me put a long term financial plan in place to gain it.