It’s a pleasant day, and I have the windows open as I listen to Beethoven piano music. The dog yapping and howling across the alley adds a certain something not entirely inappropriate to the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata.
Q. How many Catholics does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. (Raises hand, extending three fingers) One.
I discovered a couple of acts worth investigating at this year’s Walnut Valley Festival. Muriel Anderson, who wrangled chickens for Chet Atkins, plays a hypertrophied harp guitar that combines guitar, bass and music box into a single instrument. Feel like dancing? Can you count thirteen?
Fillyjonk triggered one of my stranger memories. A long, long time ago I spent a summer in Spain. One day my group traveled to Segovia (by bus, not dragonfly) to see the Alcázar. It was a spectacular place, everything a Spanish castle ought to be. My most vivid memory, though, is not of the Alcázar itself. I spent some time on the terrace at the top of the tower surveying the region. While I was there, someone with a tape recorder played two songs over and over, loudly. One was “American Woman,” and the other was “Spirit in the Sky.” I felt a certain slight dissonance between what I saw and what I heard.1
I injured my leg a couple of weeks ago, which has limited my photography. The doctor is upbeat and says I should recover fully in a few more weeks, but until then don’t expect much to look at here.
None of the current anime have held my interest. When I do feel like watching something, it’s an old show such as Shingu, where you can find the largest human yawn in Japan, above. I might give Sarazanmai another try, though probably not during my lunch hour at the office. Josh notes, among other things, that “[t]he art is often very pretty.”
As I mentioned earlier, I finally persuaded myself to get a Kindle. I’d like to say that real, physical, print-and-paper books are clearly superior in every respect, but in fact the Kindle has one overwhelming advantage: I can make the type larger. I can read for hours now before my eyes get tired, and I’ve been taking advantage of that. Beside The Lord of the Rings, I also read Honor at Stake on Joseph Moore’s recommendation; it’s fun. I followed that with Dracula, which I hadn’t looked at since high school. Whatever your academic obsession is, you can pursue it in Stoker’s book (from Wikipedia):
In the last several decades, literary and cultural scholars have offered diverse analyses of Stoker’s novel and the character of Count Dracula. C.F. Bentley reads Dracula as an embodiment of the Freudian id. Carol A. Senf reads the novel as a response to the New Woman archetype, while Christopher Craft sees Dracula as embodying latent homosexuality and sees the text as an example of a ‘characteristic, if hyperbolic instance of Victorian anxiety over the potential fluidity of gender roles’. Stephen D. Arata interprets the events of the novel as anxiety over colonialism and racial mixing, and Talia Schaffer construes the novel as an indictment of Oscar Wilde. Franco Moretti reads Dracula as a figure of monopoly capitalism, though Hollis Robbins suggests that Dracula’s inability to participate in social conventions and to forge business partnerships undermines his power. Richard Noll reads Dracula within the context of 19th century alienism (psychiatry) and asylum medicine. D. Bruno Starrs understands the novel to be a pro-Catholic pamphlet promoting proselytization. Dracula is one of Five Books most recommended books with literary scholars, science writers and novelists citing it as a influential text for topics such as sex in Victorian Literature, best horror books and criminology.
Considered simply as a vampire story, it’s not bad, though the plot occasionally requires that the characters act like idiots.
Other fiction re-read include The King of Elfland’s Daughter and The Time Machine, both good despite their authors’ quirks.
The Little Arkansas River, which runs north, west and south of me, is as high as I’ve ever seen it. The next round of storms should be here in about an hour.
The magenta flowers in the foreground are Callirhoe involucrata.
Update: Although my area has been continually under a flood warning for about three weeks now, neither the waters nor the recent tornadoes have affected my neighborhood.
One place that got soaked much worse is Winfield, about 40 miles southeast of Wichita. Here’s a video of areas affected by the overflowing Walnut River last week. The fairgrounds are where the Walnut Valley Festival is held every September. The spot where I pitched my tent back in my camping days is under more than ten feet of water here.
The Echinofossulocactus (or Stenocactus) seedings I started a couple of years ago are starting to look brainy.
There’s a lot of flooding in the region — I see a “flash flood” warning every time I check the weather — but so far it hasn’t directly affected me, and the rains have stopped for the moment here.
Evening classes at Wichita State University were abruptly cancelled Tuesday evening, March 13, 1990, because of a tornado warning. There was no obvious threatening weather visible from the campus, so the Fortran instructor and I chatted for a while in the student union basement. Back in Michigan where he came from, he told me, they had real monster tornadoes, not the tame little wimpy ones that frolic on the prairie.
I spent most of the week before Christmas in California visiting family and seeing Disneyland. It was an excessively memorable experience, thanks to the blunders of United Airlines,1 the astonishing traffic in Los Angeles,2 Tracfone’s buggy website, and the 10,000 oblivious people wandering around Disneyland. It was worth it to see my sister and her family, but I’m not eager to repeat the experience.
If I had been ten years old, Disneyland would have been terrific. However, I’m several times older than that now, and roller coasters are less exciting, particularly when you have to make an appointment to ride or wait an hour and a half in line. I was more interested in the plants there, some of which are greenhouse exotics in Kansas but ordinary bedding plants in the subtropical climate of the southern California coast. These are mostly what I took pictures of.
I thought I’d grabbed just a few snapshots at this year’s Walnut Valley Festival two weeks ago, but when I got home I discovered I had over a thousand frames. I finally sorted through them all. Here are a couple; there are more here and here.
The fiddler in the contra dance band Friday evening was Roger Netherton, whom I’ve mentioned here many times. His first CD is finally available. If you like old-time fiddle or just enjoy good music, check it out.
I’ve had some sort of presence on the world wide waste of time for about twenty years now, starting with a website on Geocities.com.1 Fifteen years ago today I launched my first solo weblog, after participating briefly in a group blog. I eventually abandoned it when the blogging software was abandoned by its originators, but not before starting a replacement on another host. There were further abandon-and-replace cycles over the years, but I’ve always had a weblog going since 2003. Nothing remains of the first weblog except the items in the “ancient texts” in the sidebar at right, but everything since then is preserved in the archives.2 I wrote a brief history of my blogging five years ago for the tenth anniversary, and there’s little to add to that.
Is running a weblog continuously for fifteen years a great achievement? Hardly. Just post something every once in a while, and you can call yourself a “blogger.” Keep doing it for years and years, and the word count will build steadily to a superficially impressive magnitude.
Maintaining one worth reading regularly is another matter. There are many bloggers out there who have written far more, and better, than me (though probably very few have as eccentric a range of interests). And then there’s Charles G. Hill, who makes all the others seem like beginners.
What I’m mindful of today are the many memorable bloggers who faded away or disappeared. Remember The Hatemonger’s Quarterly? The last post from the crack young staff is almost nine years old. How about Strange Herring? It’s gone, probably forever, and all my links to Anthony Sacramone’s wisecracks are dead.3 The Shrine of the Holy Whapping still exists but hasn’t been updated in years, as is the case with Quenta Nârwenion. I rarely suffer from nostalgia — I don’t have much to be nostalgic for — but I do miss these, and the many others who are no longer active.4
I’ve spent much of February sampling some of the current viruses. Although I’ve burned through more sick leave this month than I ordinarily do in a year, I’m not impressed with the quality of the ailments. None of them were memorable. In order:
Virus #1: A deplorably common cold. It opened with a rough throat, followed by moderate congestion and a steady, unspectacular nasal drip. Coughing was minimal, and it never more than hinted at the exploding-sinuses sensations that a well-developed rhinovirus can deliver. Score: two out of five; not worth the time.
Virus #2: Anonymous and characterless. Virtually asymptomatic, all it did was leave me utterly exhausted for 48 hours. I never felt sick, just tired, tired, tired. Score: one out of five; an absolutely worthless ailment.
Virus #3: Plain, ordinary influenza. At first it seemed to be just another cold, with chest congestion and a cough, but fevers and chills, exhaustion and wooziness indicated that this was indeed the flu, as did its persistence. I’ve spent most of my time since Tuesday evening in bed, and it’s still hanging on. Score: three out of five; definitely influenza, but nothing special. Compared to the intense malaise of last year’s episode, it’s just a trivial nuisance.1
For some real sickness and disease, see Ubu.
I’m also strongly opposed to the very idea of a classroom – a schoolhouse is a better idea, and even then, it should not be viewed as a place where children are managed. The example of my children might be informative: our oldest 4 (#5 is 13) all attend or did attend college, all are outstanding students – A students, magna cum laude, that sort of thing – and none of them took any formal classes at school or at home until, of their own volition, they signed up for classes at the local community college when they were teenagers. Having NO K-12 experience as commonly understood didn’t slow them down AT ALL.
did hard time in attended four different grade schools and three high schools, some Catholic, some public,1 so I may have a somewhat broader experience of education in the United States than most people. At the Catholic schools I sometimes attended Mass, and there were religion classes, but in general there was no significant difference between parochial and public. There was occasionally a little actual education here and there during those twelve endless years, but mostly what I learned was to sit still and feign attention. There was also a lot of busy work. I eventually concluded that the purpose of school was not to “educate” students, but to keep them off the streets until they were old enough to get jobs. The American education system is the greatest achievement in the history of day care.
It still makes me angry how many years I was required to spend the best part of each weekday doing nothing. I could have been reading, damn it. My brother didn’t have my patience with pointless nonsense. After fourth grade, he quit doing any schoolwork at all. He was eventually asked to leave his Catholic high school, where his GPA was third from dead last.2 He promptly took the GED, without any preparation, and scored in the 98th percentile overall, getting a perfect score on the verbal part.3
An aside: The second grade school I was sentenced to was 30 miles from home. My home was the second stop on the bus’ route in the morning and the second-last stop in the evening, so I spent two hours every day confined with a bunch of cranky kids in a noisy vehicle with bad shocks. An under-used argument against busing students to schools other than where they would ordinarily go is that busing itself is inherently abusive.
I may not have been cynical enough. Joseph Moore has written five-part series on the history of Catholic schooling, putting its development in the context of the Prussian model of education, Irish immigration and graded classrooms. It’s worth reading. The first installment is here.
Which is nearer the arctic circle, Wichita or Fairbanks?
Note the number of 5-star ratings. Coincidence, I’m sure.
This past weekend was the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield. Never believe anything the weatherman says. He promised clear skies and highs in the lower 90°s. Yeah, right. Here’s what I heard at Stage One Saturday afternoon, when The Outside Track were scheduled to perform:
I decided not to bring the real camera along, which turned out to be a good call, given the weather. So, no pictures this year. I did bring my little sound recorder. Here’s a bit of what goes on all night long at Carp Camp. The tunes are “Planxty Fanny Po[w]er,” featuring Amanda Roberts, this year’s hammered dulcimer winner, and “Liberty,” with an unconventional bluegrass instrument toward the end. The sound is mediocre and the recorder cut the second tune short (grr), but it should give you some idea of what it’s like there.
In a week or two, there should be videos with better sound quality on YouTube and elsewhere.
Update: a brief video of the Friday evening contra dance, shot with my toy camera. It’s not great quality, and it shows why I ordinarily use that camera only for snapshots.
There should be plenty of better videos at YouTube soon.
… or Chile, or South Africa. A plant that flourishes in a west coast desert or mountain meadow is not necessarily going to be happy on the prairie. Some will adapt, others won’t, and the best way to determine which ones will thrive here is to grow them.1 These are the results of this year’s experiments so far. Please note that I am not an expert gardener, and someone more experienced might have had more success than I did.
From out west:
Gilia tricolor — Germination was near 100% outdoors. The plants grew quickly and bloomed freely, both those that received extra water and those that only got rainwater. The flowers are small, but there are a lot of them. All bloomed for at least a month starting in the middle of May. Those that received regular watering kept going on into July. Not the most brilliantly colorful plant, perhaps, but it rewards a close look, and it is easy to grow. I might try other species of Gilia next year.
There are actually only three seasons: lawnmower season, leafblower season and snowblower season.1
A young friend of mine named Roger had a nice little racket going. He’d enter the old time fiddle competition at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas, take second or third place, and go home with a shiny new fiddle. This year he goofed and took first. It will be five years before he can enter the fiddle competition again.1 Perhaps he’ll start collecting mandolins.