Distant Connections

This blog is hosted for free at WordPress.com. An interesting success story, WordPress currently hosts many thousands of blogs. Some are freeloaders like mine, but they make their money by providing extra services for paying customers.

WordPress offers a sort of connection service. In the main menu there is a choice called Freshly Pressed; click on that and you will see links to recent posts on WordPress blogs. I occasionally get commenters and/or readers due to this service. This morning I ended up at the site of a young woman from Venda — I know, that sounds like the first line of a limerick! Wikipedia, that unfailing resource, informed me, with a brief cough at my ignorance, that Venda is a part of South Africa which was once independent. Anyhow, this blogger has written some really nice poems, and I thought that you (whoever you are!) might enjoy reading one of them:

A Conversation With My Cadaver

By tshauambea

Lifeless on a cold steel bed he lay,
His body drenched in formaline,
His lifetime story encrypted on his flesh in the form of scars,
Flaps of skin dangling,
His insides peeping out desperately seeking for attention,
A permanent facial expression and erection; Rigor Mortis!
Another one ticked off Malak al-Maut, Azrael the angel of death’s list.

They say the dead don’t see, feel or hear;
They claim death is the end of one’s journey and a full stop to their existence,
They say there is no life after death, nothing beyond the grave nor the last heartbeat;

BUT I had a conversation with my cadaver,
Yes, I dissected his heart out but we had a heart to heart conversation,
I told him about my difficulty with Anatomy and his soul was filled with heartfelt sympathy,
They claim the heartless are cruel and cold yet his soul was so warm and beaming with empathy,
They have us thinking its the heart that defines a humanbeing when they know damn well that its the soul.

I had a conversation with my cadaver,
We spoke of ancestry and spirituality,
He spoke of his struggles and challenges,
He painted a vivid image of the day he died- the ultimate betrayal; poisoned by an acquaintance,
We spoke of death and Rigor Mortis,
He told me of the two earths he’d come to know of; one with living breathing beings and another with lingering restless souls,
He spoke of empires built on dreams,
Kindoms anchored by the foundations of people’s nightmares,
He spoke of spirit slaves who serve the dark lords who roam the earth like cowards in the night,

“Are lingering souls ghosts?”, I asked.
“Open your eyes, we exist! Listen to the voices in the wind and you’ll hear conversations, love songs, screams, prayers and the songs of our struggle”, he replied.

His voice faded but I’m sure that I had a conversation with my cadaver!

Before I left the dissection hall I took a look at him and ;
Lifeless on a cold steel bed he lay,
His body drenched in formaline,
His lifetime story encrypted on his flesh in the form of scars,
Flaps of skin dangling,
His insides peeping out desperately seeking for attention,
A permanent facial expression and erection; Rigor Mortis!
Another one ticked off Malak al-Maut, Azrael the angel of death’s list.

*this poem was inspired by a nightmare that I had a few weeks back…

Take a look at the poet’s “About” page if you are at all curious:

Rhymes and Frames


Another Thanksgiving

Here’s another good graphic offering from Grant Snider:

I like his work, and you can see more of it here

Incidental Comics

Last Thanksgiving Day I was at a low point in my life, as documented here:

Thanksgiving 2010

Things are marginally better for me now, thanks to some help from my parents; I lived with them last winter while I tried to figure out what to do with what remains of my life.

I’m solvent enough to maintain a place to live and internet access, like food and water for me.

I’m thankful that my health has been good and that I can eat well, as I have to admit that I cook well! Reading, music, and correspondence with certain distant friends (you know who you are!) keeps me happy.

I hope that whoever wanders by here has a good day today!


Lewis Black Cuts Loose

I enjoy the rants of Lewis Black, a comedian and commentator on The Daily Show. He’s my generation’s Andy Rooney. Here’s a quote from an interview Black gave for a Minneapolis newspaper:

The craziest thing I saw was in a subway where a guy came toward me and was yelling and screaming at me, it was nuts. He didn’t really run at me, he just kind of walked toward me and was really focused on me. I responded by going crazier. I went completely batshit. I said, “Really? You think you’re nuts? Well fuck you, you’re not even as close to nuts as I am. So don’t fuck with me! And don’t do this little ‘I’m crazy, I’m crazy’ bullshit. Get back upstairs and get back where you live!” And I watched his head clear and he walked away.


Stunning Aerial Photograph

Rolf Hicker is an excellent pro photographer. He’s German, but now lives in British Columbia with his wife, who is originally from New Zealand. Rolf posted this photograph on Google+. A classic example of a skilled observer being in the right place at the right time! I’ve appended Rolf’s commentary on the shot.

My photo today is a small Island in Lake Superior very close to the US/Canada border on the Ontario side. We were up there doing aerials around Thunder Bay for a book. Unfortunately we only had a small plane for 2 hours and the day we booked it it was overcast and “dark”, almost worst scenario for aerial photography. After we have done our “duty” shots we flew further out into the lake to photograph a lighthouse and some of the island when I saw this amazing view. I told the pilot to circle a few times as I had to change my lens.

Although it was already very dark I decided to push everything to the limit by using a polarizer to get rid of the reflections on the lake – that sure worked very well and I could get more of the island landscape underwater out. At the end of the day I realized that I only could taken this shot with this dark overcast day, nothing else would have worked as perfect as this.

I knew I was pushing it with my shutter speed but I didn’t want to use a higher ISO as I wanted to use this shot for my nature fine art collection.

This image is one of my personal all time favorites and I’m sure it will stay one of them for a long time.

If you interested to see more of my nature photos I would like to ask you to visit my website:

Rolf Hicker


Dire Straits On the Road

No, the now-defunct band hasn’t reunited and gone out on tour! I was the one out on the road. It was about twenty minutes before dawn. The sky was overcast, and enough illumination was beginning to seep through to allow the landscape to become dimly visible around me.

There is a magical time on an overcast morning when a limestone-graveled country road glows with what seems like an interior light. The hue is a muted cream with a bluish cast. I felt privileged.

I had an old Dire Straits CD playing as I drove. It was their second release, Communique. That CD has never received the attention it deserves. Mark Knopfler is an accomplished lyricist, lead guitarist, and singer. His rather rough but expressive voice is Dylanesque and contrasts with his spare and lyrical lead guitar stylings. So tasteful and understated! Have a listen to this classic song — I’ve appended the lyrics below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6u_s-95hOoQ?rel=0&w=480&h=360]


Well there’s a Peter Pan moon shepherd’s delight
I got to dragon at noon, yes and I won the fight
Now I want my reward in heaven tonight, just like you promised
Angel of Mercy, you’ll come to no harm
Angel of Mercy, there’s no need for alarm
The knight in his armor wants a night in your arms
You know he’s honest

Angel of Mercy, angel delight, give me my reward in heaven tonight
And if I give up my sword, won’t you give me the right
Sweet angel

Well now it’s too late for talking we can talk later on
Let the saxophone play us till the chorus of dawn
And all I need is a little oblivion, you don’t need protection
Well now here come the moonlight down on your bed
Angel of mercy let your heart rule your head
I don’t want your money, I want you instead
Don’t need rejection yeah

Angel of Mercy, angel delight, give me my reward in heaven tonight
And if I give up my sword, won’t you give me the right
Angel of Mercy give me heaven tonight
Well if you cross your heart
And spit and swear upon the grave of your mother
You got to get into it, you gotta tell me that I’m more than a lover

Yeah Angel of Mercy angel delight
Give me my reward in heaven tonight
And if I give up my sword, won’t you give me the right
Angel of Mercy give me heaven tonight

Yeah Angel of Mercy, angel delight
Give me my reward in heaven tonight
And if I give up my sword, won’t you give me the right
Angel of Mercy give me heaven tonight

Yeah Angel of Mercy angel delight
Give me my reward in heaven tonight
And if I give up my sword, won’t you give me the right
Angel of Mercy give me heaven tonight

In the past I always heard the word “sword” as “soul”, one of my many Mondegreen Moments. The lyrics make sense with either word!


Panning For Gold

The begrimed and unshaven prospector slaves away at his wide and shallow tin pans, the Arizona sun sapping the moisture from his leathery hide. A glint of yellow attracts his obsessed gaze — he can eat for another day!

No, no, stop! That’s not what I wanted to write about! I was thinking about that elusive internet gold, the genuinely creative content that lurks amongst the general net dross like raisins in a parsimonious grandmother’s pudding.

There are several methods to find the “good stuff”, although many uncritical souls have boundaries for that category which are broad enough to encompass photos with cute captions and ephemeral viral videos. Or ponderous anecdotes with heavy-handed morals appended.

The easiest way is to have compulsive browsers as friends or relatives, the sort of people who can’t resist sending along links to the hundreds of people in their address-books. The downside to this approach is that you might end up getting way too many e-mails which, after a while, you discard unread. Social networking sites have taken up much of this burden in recent years.

Aggregator sites can be useful as filters, but those sites vary widely in their criteria for inclusion of new links. Some form of moderation is essential. Metafilter is a good one that I check every few days. Boing Boing is another one that I check less frequently.

What got me to musing about this issue was the simultaneously melancholy and humorous definitions of imaginary words by a very talented writer, John Koenig of St. Paul, Minnesota. In a manner analogous to that of Jorge Luis Borges when he wrote reviews of imaginary books, Koenig uses imaginary words as springboards for short essays on the human condition. They are very good; I know I’ve written about his site, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, in a previous post, but this evening I’ve been browsing that writer’s archives. This is quality writing, folks.

What struck me is something I hadn’t noticed during previous visits to the site. Each of Koenig’s definitions has numerous comments, but they are almost all trackbacks to somebody else’s blog. What this means is that John Koenig’s work is being mined for content by dozens of other bloggers who find it easier to provide links than to write new and original stuff.

Of course, I do this too, but the majority of my posts are right out of the weird and twisted labyrinths of my mind, for better or worse.

I’ll conclude this screed with a few more examples of John Koenig’s verbal artistry:

the hesitation waltz

n. the act of deciding whether to give a departing acquaintance a hug or a handshake, calculated by measuring your relative orbits, how long it takes your signals to bounce back, and the proximity of a close friend who just gave them a hug, whose massive gravitational force could slingshot you into a long-distance wave.


n. the default expression that your face automatically reverts to when idle—amused, melancholic, pissed off—which occurs when a strong emotion gets buried and forgotten in the psychological laundry of everyday life, leaving you wearing an unintentional vibe of pink or blue or gray, or in rare cases, a tie-dye of sheer madness.


n. -soc. psych. curiosity about the real flesh-and-blood people behind internet usernames, whose vivid individuality suggests that when our parents were tracing their fingers along our nameless faces looking for some hint of who we were to become, they really should have gone with Mr Cookieface, Unicornpuncher, Dutchess Von Whatever, or Wookiegasm.

la cuna

n. a twinge of sadness that there’s no frontier left, that as the last explorer trudged with his armies toward a blank spot on the map, he didn’t suddenly remember his daughter’s upcoming piano recital and turn for home, leaving a new continent unexplored so we could set its mists and mountains aside as a strategic reserve of mystery, if only to answer more of our children’s questions with “Nobody knows! Out there, anything is possible.”

I hope you enjoyed these!


Somalia As Beach Paradise

This video is scathing and funny satire, mocking the pretensions of libertarians, tea-partiers, and their ilk who tend to take for granted the manifold benefits of living in a stable but deeply flawed society:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saWCZVggQAs?rel=0&w=480&h=360]


A Sympatico Blogger’s Post

Emily Finke seems to be a college professor somewhere; it doesn’t matter where. She writes for a blog a called This View Of Life. Her blog’s comment section is infested with nasty commercial spam vermin, but her actual content jibes well with my “view of life”. Read this essay she posted, and follow the link above and tell her if you liked it!

There is Grandeur (Really)

Today I sat outside and looked at a fallen tree for about a half an hour.

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

In that time, I found a little blue and red treehopper, a nifty jumping spider, a vividly yellow slime mold that was wandering off in search of food, fruiting bodies of…something, and a pretty orange mushroom.

I was looking at the tree in hopes of finding things for close-up pictures, and I handily found them, all on this one tree.

Was I lucky? Well, yes and no. I wasn’t lucky that my particular rotting tree had things growing on it and living around it. I knew they were there.

Well, I didn’t know for sure they were there. I guessed. I knew that in theory rotting tree + sunlight + damp = critters (and interesting fungus). I also knew that this particular tree was a couple years on in its decomposition, and had a nice blend of still-solid wood and decay, so there would be a variety of things calling it home.

So in one way of looking at it, I wasn’t lucky. I made educated guesses and found what I was looking for.

In another way of looking at it, I was even more lucky than one would first suppose.

Why is this? After all, it was knowledge, not luck that led me to my pretty little blue and red hopper.

I was lucky because a number of people over the years had both the patience and the knowledge to show me how this works. I lived in suburbia like many other kids. There wasn’t really any “real” wilderness around, but that never seemed to stop my parents from treating the backyard like its own wilderness adventure. My dad taught us how to catch the crawdads that lived in the occasionally-marshy area that ran along the back of the yard. My mom pointed out the toads that lived in the window well. They both spent hours watching/helping us catch Pennsylvania leatherwings that frequented the black-eyed susans next to the swingset. They helped us catch fireflies and pitched tents in the backyard. They imitated bird calls and pointed them out to us. They called us from whatever we were doing when owls were hooting or coyotes howling. They brought home turtles and rabbits and kept them for a day so that we could see them, then they would take us out to help release them back.

None of these simple activities were overtly educational, and I doubt any of the neighborhood kids, my siblings or I ever noticed that we were learning during any of this. We just thought we were having fun doing something exciting.

But we were learning. We were learning that certain animals preferred certain habitats. We learned that plants attract different kind of insects. We learned that the locust tree had a particularly effective protection against predators or small feet that seemed to belong to predators. We figured out that lightning bugs showed up at the beginning of the summer, with the heat and humidity, and left when cold regained its hold on the area. We learned that owls are awake at night and songbirds are awake during the day.

Most of all, we learned how to observe. We weren’t taught to observe, in the way we were taught math or history. We just picked it up from watching the adults around us observe.

Once the habit of observation was in place, the learning became, in a way, autocatalytic. I was in a t-ball team when I was a child, but to this day, the only thing I remember learning from that team was that the butterflies in the outfield would come to you if you stayed still long enough, and that the gully next to the church where we practiced was wet enough to harbor toads, dragonflies, and all sorts of stream rocks, which were duly put in pockets and taken home (the rocks, not the toads or dragonflies). I was delighted by these discoveries. The fact that I wasn’t particularly delighted with t-ball was an entirely different topic.

None of these things are huge, groundbreaking ideas, but they’re groundbreaking to each and every child involved. We decry the lack of the natural world in our increasing technological lives. We whine that our children can’t experience nature the way we did because it’s just not there in the same way. We justify our lack of nature time by the fact that we live in cities, or suburbs, or apartments and don’t have “nature” around.

But it is. It’s all in the way you see it. Yes, a marsh was drained so that the subdivision I grew up in could be built. This was a huge loss to biodiversity and the health of the local environment, but it wasn’t the death blow to children’s experience of the world that it’s made out to be. That former environment can still be seen in remnants – in the crawdads, and the flooding during rains, in the area of the neighbor’s yard that never quite dried out, so it had cat tails and long grass. In the suburbs nature might be constrained by neatly manicured lawns and strange non-native plants being carefully tended, but you can still find the bugs, the birds and the fungus.

Even a careful walk through the city will show off bits of the natural world that you never noticed and that can easily provide valuable background awareness, if pointed out. Look up. Do birds prefer one type of building over another? Where are spiders building webs? Are butterflies near one window box but not another? Look down. Why are plants pushing through the pavement? What kinds of critters are in the little bit of dirt around the scraggly planted tree?

You might live in a suburb or a city and feel like you can’t provide the kind of Nature Experience(TM) that you want your kids to have, but remember, to a kid, all of the little bits add up. They may not be seeing grand stretches of untouched wilderness, but at the end of the day they’re going to babble at you just as excitedly about the sparrow they saw eating a french fry on the sidewalk as they would about a bald eagle soaring majestically over a forest. Your job isn’t to take children somewhere spectacular and educational. Your job is to point out the spectacular in their own backyard. Trust me, the education part will come naturally from that.

An Odd Stone Building

Now that my rural newspaper delivery route has been inverted and reversed I’m getting some new perspectives on the landscape, my familiar one hundred miles of mid-continent gravel roads.

A couple of days ago I was driving on a hilly blacktop county road, looking for a turn-off which, as it turned out, looked really different from the other direction, when I happened to notice an architectural oddity out in the middle of a field of corn stubble.

I pulled over and parked, then grabbed my camera and walked out into the field to investigate.

So strange! The structure was a small limestone building, about fourteen by twenty feet, with one low and narrow door, a single small window, and a loft accessible via a gable-end door, like a loft door in a barn.

What could this have been built for? I peered in the open doorway; the building was being used as storage for firewood and pallets. It reminded me of a settlement-era jail, with just the one small window.

The door is a classic example of a 19th-century utilitarian rural shed door. The latch and an iron rod used to prop the door open:

A close-up of the latch handle. I loved the strands of spider web!

The stonework was true and plumb, very well-executed, but the mortar looked recent, as if the building had been tuck-pointed not too many years ago.

I need a researcher to follow along behind me and look into the history of such finds! A candidate should be competent in botany, mycology, and local history, and should also have a familiarity with vernacular architecture. The pay is non-existent. Interested applicants can contact me here on the blog!