Jazz Hands, Buttons & Irony

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A chilly, damp, late winter morning, and already the doves are creating their mindless racket atop the neighbor’s house. The fake owls do absolutely nothing to convince the doves of their ferocity, so they’re nesting next to it. Doves in chorus sound a great deal like chickens volubly remarking upon the laying of an egg, so you know there’s all sorts of raucous nonsense going on. Whoever likened the cooing of doves to something pure and mild clearly never lived anywhere near them. Typical.

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Inasmuch as the time change has thrown us completely – when will someone take seriously the idea to do away with such indignities!! – it is, at least, a sign that this winter of diseases is crawling to a close. If you’ve been one of those who have ridden the coughing carousel, unable to dismount, you have our empathy. Fortunately, after the January/February illness phase, we’ve been healthier, if exhausted. Not so much from dreich, gray skies and the eternal fogbank in which our house sits, but because of … enforced levity. Who knew smiling could be so tiresome? Oh, yes – our comedy show is coming up this weekend, and in this household, we are heartily sick of a.) lines concluding with “fa-la-la-la,” b.) Gilbert and Sullivan, c.) songs ending with “jazz hands” d.) songs containing tubas, e.) kazoos. And did we mention fa-la-las?!

On one hand, we frequently remind ourselves that our director’s insistence that we MEMORIZE such gems is staving off the encroachments of Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, should one keep singing songs with fa-la-las, dementia is practically assured…

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All snark aside, T has had her six month meeting with her doctor regarding her autoimmune, and after numerous blood tests and kidney tests, appears to be as well as medical science can make her just now. Though the grinding grey exhaustion continues, and the medication only ameliorates some of the symptoms, because it is so toxic, we’ve decided to keep it as minimal of a dose as possible. This means that the excessive collagen buildups, which produce thick harpy fingernail/claws continues – but the autoimmune continues to attack the nailbeds, soooo… the nails fall off. Neat, huh? The breakdown of skin also affects hair follicles, so while hair grows quickly, it also fills the brush and dusts the shoulders in a continual silent fall.

…one never imagines oneself as particularly vain until one is female and facing massive hair loss. And then, one discovers, oh, suddenly, painfully, that one is VERY VAIN INDEED.

Life is just full of opportunities to learn one’s limits, is it not? Wouldn’t it have been fun to learn about this limit, oh, never?! But, alas.

Button Clips 1

One of T’s more random hobbies has been to take interesting old buttons and, adding them to various clips or jump beads or other findings, make some sort of hair jewelry or brooch or whatnot. It’s something mentally freeing to do whilst listening to podcasts, and has been a convenient means of creating small, handmade gifts for small people… and herself. Knowing T’s predilection for hair jewelry, for her birthday this year, her parents presented her with, among other things, a lovely set of bejeweled combs from Macy’s… the day after she’d hacked five inches from her hair and given up on doing more than wearing a headband.

O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” came to mind, both awful and amusing at the same time. T. quietly rewrapped the combs and returned them, not having the heart to mention it to her parents.

Hair comes, and hair goes, and seasons, ever-changing. Fa-la-la-la.

Choir Concerts

Fremont 73Rehearsal for December 2 and 3 performances.

It’s holiday performance season, so last weekend we had a concert on both Saturday and Sunday (which you can watch here and here). We had a brief performance yesterday, in Livermore, with the whole choir as a warm-up to the Nutcracker and the women as chorus during part of the ballet itself. We have a performance next Saturday with the Fremont Symphony and then D. has been roped into singing with a madrigal group on Sunday at the retirement home associated with the San Jose Mission. And then concert season is over until February!

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We are really looking forward towards the week of Christmas, just to do nothing. We’re tempted, of course, to go somewhere exotic … but then we remember that everybody really wants the week off, and services are really wonky during the holiday, and that we keep telling ourselves that it’s a bad idea to go anywhere over Christmas. But we’re tempted nonetheless.

D’s work has been rather chaotic, with multiple changes in management and with the company announcing all sorts of news. We need the break to just relax and do nothing, maybe ride the bicycles through the wilderness trail system, take some pictures.

And, of course, we need today to make more fruitcake, as most of the last batch has already been eaten!

-D & T

Midweek

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SPARROWS

I never learned to tell one from another—
swamp, field, song, vesper—all scraps
of drab: rust, dun, buff, tan. Some streaky-breasted,
some not. We hear the flutter of wings, look up,
then yawn, ho hum, a sparrow. No rush
for binoculars. Like the poor, they are always with us.
Look at them flick and flit in this dry meadow of foxtail,
switchgrass, goldenrod; every leaf, stem, and seedhead
burnished in the dying light. Maybe they are
the only angels we get in this life. But the very hairs
on our head are numbered, and the father knows them all
by name. Each sparrow, too, has a song—no flashy
cardinal selling cheer, no sky-blue jay’s ironic
squawk, no eponymous chicka-dee-dee-dee. Just us,
the unnoticed, gleaning what others have left behind,
and singing for all we’re worth, teetering on a bit
of bracken at the edge of a wild field.

~Barbara Crooker

Camera Roll

Dundee 245 Glasgow Botanic Gardens D 25
Glasgow Botanic Gardens D 54 Reche Canyon 94
Cranberry Apple Flower Tarte 1 Portland 134
Vacaville 105 Vacaville 148

As the heat wave continues, we find indoor things to play with… and we’ve started messing with this new feature Flickr has called Camera Roll. It basically shows you an organized view of your pictures, based upon some machine-vision thing they’ve got going on, that shows every shot with People in it, or Arches, or Trees, or Flowers, or any number of other odd ways they have of lumping things together. It’s quite fun, and if you’ve got a Flickr account, you can play along, but if not, it’s not publicly available for you to just go through anybody’s photostream and see what’s what, thus we’ve included a few of our grouped shots here. These to the left are a bunch of pictures that were lumped together under Style / Bright, I think. It really does provide a different way to look at your photos, and probably means you’ll look at more of them, and more frequently.

That’s actually one of the questions that we get frequently in the Hobbiton: “Do you guys actually look at all those pictures after you take them?” Short answer: yes. Longer answer, we have them on a slideshow on a screen playing in our living room whenever we have guests over, so if you’re lucky enough to be invited, you could look at them, too! We really do look at them a great deal, simply because they keep us connected to our travels and to our adventures, and reminds us that being home, plugging along through work and whatever other mundane thing is just what one does between trips…

For those of you who do the twitter thing, we’ve finally given in and joined — T, under deepest protest, because the entire thing makes her break out in hives. We’re at @david_t_macknet and @tanita_s_davis if you’re at all interested. Still not quite sure what the point of it is, and still find the limitation on length to be somewhat of an annoyance, but hey, when your agent throws you under the bus says it would be good marketing, you listen, and your spouse joins in sympathy for the pain you will suffer from being on social media again. True love, that.

-D

Upcycle & Gratitude

Upcycled Placemats 2

Okay, seriously, placemats are… kind of a conspiracy. It’s apparently not enough that we moved from crouching over a fire and eating from a communal bowl with our fingers. Now we have a plate and a table — and utensils, progress indeed — but currently we apparently need a little square of …something on which to set said plate atop said table. It’s kind of crazy, and at the end of the day, placemats are completely ridiculous and unnecessary. (Please, please do not get T started on charger plates and table runners, either.) All that being said, we have twelve of them…because T has sisters, sisters who have Things and must give them. Sometimes T is happy to take Things, because free Things and paint and glue go well together. (And if she can use buttons or magnets or felt or glitter? Bonus.)

Upcycled Placemats 3

Commonly accepted as ideal for children, in the vain hope of containing the messes they make, for preserving tables from water rings and heat marks, and for dressing up a casual-but-bare eating space but at D&T’s table, placemats are less for protecting the (Ikea, aka “seriously, does that plastic need protection?”) kitchen table and more for cramming more color into a 1970’s era very beige-and-white room. (We do love our bizarre faux marble counter, though. You just don’t see weird goldish-brown veins running through white Formica counter tops anymore. Probably a good thing.) We need the color. It’s gray here a lot lately. The gray foggy marine layer keeps things quite cool – and since we last month turned off the heat for the season, it is downright nippy in the morning – not that we’re going to complain about the muffling, insulating fog that keeps Spring sunshine from catapulting us straight into summer. (It was 80°F/26°C in parts of the East Bay this past weekend, but we drove the ten miles over the bridge to find it a balmy 70°F/21°C at home.) The fog rules here, with the sun emerging around lunchtime usually, so it’s hard to feel like leaping into the day when it’s chilly. Thus the placemats are really about making a bright start to the day.

Upcycled Placemats 1

To get that “bright” start to the day, of course we could have used the original pictures printed on the placemats… but we felt the leering, winking scarecrow on its bright pink and yellow background would probably put us off eating entirely. Since these are cheaply made (Kmart) canvas rectangles, treated to be water resistant, it was simple enough to flip them to their neutral side, give them a quick sponge wash, and then apply masking tape in random patterns. We chose five colors from a box of textile paints we had on hand, colors that would contrast brightly with anything (and not clash with the red table – but not match it, either) and just went for it. This was entirely random in the maybe-this-will-work,-maybe-not sort of way that the best art projects have. And, it’s a little rough and messy, but really worked out. T. only did six, since the pattern on the others isn’t quite as egregious as the leering strawman, but she’s tempted to do a more autumnal palette for those.

So, yes, yes — placemats are a racket, a silly bourgeois affectation, an upper-middle class pretension to fancydom. But. Every meal can have moments of the sacred and beautiful. Every moment at table with family and loved ones or with an interesting book, eating nutritious and delicious food should be noted, elevated, celebrated. Life is precious. Light your candles, pull out your pretty tumblers. Throw down those bright squares of linen and bamboo — or those laminated plastic maps depicting the fifty states. Then, fold hands and breathe, close out the noise and the traffic, the speed and the blur of your days. Deliberately see those cherished faces, deliberately experience those scents and flavors, exhale and murmur, Thank you, thank you. I am still here. We are all still here.

New Photography Toys

So, our favorite camera store was having a sale the other day, and we picked up a new lens. It’s a ProOptic 500mm f/6.3 Manual Focus, T-Mount Mirror Lens, which … is essentially a telescope that mounts onto your camera. Because it’s a reflector lens, it’s actually fairly short, and not weighty at all, so the camera is fine mounted to a tripod (rather than having to mount the lens to the tripod). We’re still waiting on a Bower SLY2X 2x T-Mount Telephoto Extender for T-Mount Lenses (it was on back-order). With that 2x extender, we’ll have a 1,000mm lens!

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What does this mean for our photography? Well, first off, it means well be using the tripod a whole lot more frequently, as it’s nearly impossible to shoot a non-stabilized 500mm lens, never mind trying that with a 1,000mm lens. Second, it means we’ll be able to get a lot more detail out of our pictures of hummingbirds or the moon or anything else we can think of which would be better much closer in.

It’s quirky, and has a very narrow depth-of-field, but it’s also quite nice to sit here in bed with the camera set up next to the bed, focused upon the hummingbird feeder.

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Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

-D

Projecting Sunlight…

T. doesn’t get angry that often anymore. D. maintains that this is because she is too busy wearing out the thesaurus with Annoyed, Aggravated, Bellicose, Belligerent, Caustic, Churlish, Exasperated, Frustrated, Indignant, Outraged, Perturbed…, to actually use such a pedestrian word. But, every once in awhile, anger sneaks up on her and the lava erupts. Usually into incoherent sobbing, much to her disgust, (and the open-mouthed astonishment of those around her). The latest thing that made her ragingly gut-punched, breath-stealingly, word-sobbingly infuriated was a story she heard on The Moth Radio Hour, about a woman who was denied help from her insurance company when her comatose son needed care. Stephanie Peirolo was evaded, lied to, set up, and abandoned by a for-profit system which decided her son was a loss, and wrote him off. As T tried to explain the story to D, she was vibrating, hands were shaking. She burst out, “HOW COULD THEY DO THAT TO HER?”

Things make us angriest in life when there’s no one to hit.

Fortunately(?), along with crying when she’s mad instead setting someone on fire as they might so richly deserve, T also tends to write poetry – once a month, with six other slightly insane people. This month’s offering has razor teeth and shiny claws and it exhales righteous FLAME. Or, it thinks about it, really, really hard, and scowls a lot, anyway.

After the hideous incidents in the story, Stephanie Peirolo went on to make sure that, should someone else need it, there was help for anyone whose criminal-behaving insurance company was violating their rights and keeping them from care. Because she didn’t let the world incinerate her, but held up a torch against the night, that insurance company – and the executives at her old job – can’t get away with their disgusting business practices. It’s not enough — oh, it’s hardly enough — but it’s a start.

project sunlight


How far that little candle lofts its light –
And darkness-dealers cringe against its beam.
Its spark of hope ignites against the night.

“Walk in the light,” shine, noonday-justice bright;
Numinous blaze, come banish spiteful schemes.
How far that little candle lofts its light –

Candescent day this nightmare dream rewrites –
Defies the dark, its thousand points agleam;
Ignites our hope, to burn away the night.

So shines the good, in setting wrong to right,
Against unending gloom and bleak extremes:
So far, that little candle lofts its light.

Illuminating — putting shades to flight
Erasing shadows for a hopeful scene
A flame of hope, which luminates the night.

Deep calls to deep, as zenith calls to height,
In times of doubt, in Stygian extremes,
How far that little candle lofts its light —
A blaze of hope held up against the night.

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If you’ve enjoyed this little snippet of What T. Does With Her Weird Friends In Her Spare Time, you might also enjoy the poetry efforts of the other people in the group – some actual published poets: Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s villanelle and cool story about a chateau; author Sara Lewis Holmes taking a page from the birel-ing playbook of Ogden Nash; Laura Purdie Salas’ brilliant science in rock stories; Andromeda Jazmon rhapsodizing about seeds, growth, and — peppers; East coaster Kelly Ramsdell Fineman writing an UNTITLED villanelle reminding us dark winter is gathering light, and Liz Garton Scanlon writing cleverly about King Tut — and beards, in varying meanings of the word.

Thanks to They Might Be Giants, there’s even a SONG about villanelles. Because, poetry.

Happy rainy afternoon,

d&t