Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mag #233: Watery Dreams

Prairie locked, we longed for boats and sails
gliding steadily across the sea.
Buried in drifting snow we conjured 
calming seas and great ships with purpose.
Our dreams were born on slippery
sleds and sliding skis, through clouds
of frozen breath, the air snapping cold. 
In our furs, stamping our feet, we
dreamed our watery dreams.

Glide over to Magpie Tales to see how others treat this prompt.

Magpie Tales #232 : X marks the spot

"Not so fast" I said to myself as I hurried by the huge canvas. "You came here for inspiration - stop and think for a minute."   

This is just not my thing, but let’s see - I like the use of black and white with the red border. In matters of heaven and hell nothing seems black and white so I can see why he did this. I see heaven at the top and clearly that's hell at the bottom. Hmmm, all the hell people have x’es on their heads  - damned I guess. Their bodies are going every which way but is there a pattern in their positions? It's almost like a macabre chorus line, some figures bending forward and some back with arms raised. If it weren’t for the hell fires and those gruesome x’es on their heads, you might think this was celebration of some kind. 

By contrast, all the angels have vacuous white non-faces and empty heads; they all face forward and it looks like they’re fluttering in place like butterflies, going nowhere, even though they have large and splendid wings. The figures aren’t continuous. An empty space (was this where the x used to be?) in the middle seems to be radiating something. They're ethereal and look alien and soulless. The angels have no x'es. It's all too static for me - not my kind of heaven. 

The batmen in the middle have ears which makes them seem more human. Could they hear the fluttering angels and the suffering of the damned?  The bats have x’es on their chests which looks familiar to me.  This is where the soul resides, the nuns always told us in catechism classes: under the lungs, in the back, football shaped, pure white when you’re born and gradually accumulating x’es for each sin you commit, until you die;  then the color gets assessed and you either go up to heaven or you go down to hell. The emanations from the bat heads are not as soft and curvy as those of the angels... they look more solid and substantial, like knowledge perhaps. The bats look like they're sinking down towards the bottom of the canvas. Oh oh....they're in crucifixion positions.

On the bright side, the batmen have wings, although they look weak and impotent by comparison to the angels. They exist right on the fringe of hell, flames licking at their feet; probably the spiritual positions most humans occupy most of the time. I identify with the batmen; they look balanced with some good and some bad. Their x'es look about the right size for moderate sinners like myself. 

Alright, I've got to move along, but one last thought. Too bad about the big ring scene in the middle complicating matters sublimely. If you could get rid of that and while you’re at it, delete the puzzling figure on the cross (forgive me Keith), then you might be better able to handle the Siamese twins in the upper right. I can't figure them out; are these brain washed people tripping the light fantastic or married people yoked together for life and one is clearly trying to run away? Probably marriage given the title of the work.

The only things I'm sure of as I look at this piece is that X, always the unknown quantity, marks the spot.  And Keith was a genius.

Solve for X with other contributions over at

Monday, August 11, 2014

Double Trouble: In Memoriam

We're all still mourning the loss of Buster. Pink, alone, will never be the same cat; we refer to him now as a half-cat. He walks around the house crying; he doesn't sleep in any of the same spots he shared with Buster; he hardly leaves the deck. Fortunately he eats; at first he didn't.



Office work.
Here's how life used to be for the two of them.
Team tagging the grasshoppers
Two course meal
They always ate together.
Litter mate babies.

Hanging out
Favorite thing: Ride in the car

Bed time

Cat napping
Mouse in the skylight

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Mag 231: What Elizabeth might tell me about this photo.

Elizabeth Taylor, Set of "Giant", by Frank Worth.

"I was so hungover that day! Rocky and I got plastered the night before and we didn't get to bed until 3:00 am. Set call was 5:30 for makeup; I was retching in the bathroom every half hour, chewing aspirin like candy and praying for the end of the day. I never liked to miss a set call and keep everyone waiting. You know I'm not the selfish bitch some people called me. 

Wouldn't you know it -- that's the day they chose to take the god damned publicity stills. Arghh..the sun was beating on my shoulders and my stomach was churning. For sure it was real sweat rolling down my arms. Some people think everything in the movies is fake, but honey, believe me: I sweat real sweat and I shake real shakes. 

Over and over again, I twirled the lariat while Frank got the light and angles just right. He was enthralled with the shadow circling my feet as if my secret self, my shadow shelf was roping me in. They used lacquer and wire to keep that loop in place you know; I couldn't spin a lariat if my life depended on it. As it was, my head was whirling along with the rope! It was a damn good thing I was wearing those glasses because they covered my bloodshot eyes."

Twirl on over to read poems and vignettes inspired by the great Elizabeth Taylor at Magpie Tales.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Jose Ortiz Echague

The great Sepian, Marilyn Brindley, posted a link to the works of the popular Spanish photographer Jose Ortiz Echague at Europeana I had a hard time tearing myself away. 

Sepia Saturday #240: The Ritchie Boys

During his career in intelligence my husband had many different ID's for various positions he held and for military/intelligence properties he accessed. After searching through my own photos in vain I asked him if he remembered one of his ID's that matched the prompt this week. Here's what he came up with....his Fort Ritchie, MD identification which fits the bill. Did we laugh over his helmet hair! Thank God I can barely see his tie under the sign!

Fort Ritchie is closed now, but at one time it played an important role in our history as a training center for the Ritchie Boys. Who were they?
The Ritchie Boys consisted of approximately 9,000 young Germans and Austrians,[1] who were mostly Jewish, and who had escaped from their countries of birth and immigrated to the US as refugees.[2] Most had been drafted or volunteered into the United States Army. Some had originally arrived in the USA as children, many without their parents so that these were also One Thousand Children. (One such OTC was Ambassador Richard Schifter.)
They were trained at the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie in Maryland, now officially known as Fort Ritchie. They were specially trained in methods of intelligence, counterintelligence, interrogation, investigation and psychological warfare.[3] They were suitable for these tasks because they knew the German language, and importantly the German mentality and life behaviours, better than most American-born soldiers.[4] The role of these soldiers was therefore to work in the front lines (or even behind them), at strategic corps and army levels, at interrogation, analyzing German forces and plans; and also as members of the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps;[5] and also to study the enemy, and demoralize him in order to achieve an unconditional surrender.
After the US declared war on Germany, the Ritchie Boys became a decisive weapon for the Allied powers. Many of them entered Europe on D-Day on June 6, 1944 along with the other Allied troops.[6] Others followed over time. Shortly after reaching land they left their units and pursued their special tasks. They were able to feed the Allies valuable information. Gen. Oscar Koch (Gen. Patton's G-2) acknowledged that the advance warning of the German Bulge offensive was made possible by information gathered by their MIS units. Moreover, the Ritchie Boys helped break German resistance by demoralizing them in both open and covert operations. They interrogated POWs and defectors to obtain information about German force levels, troop movements, and the physical and psychological state of the Germans. By means of targeted disinformation via newspaper announcements, flyers, radio broadcasts, and sound trucks, the German population and military was prompted to cease their resistance against the Allied invasion.

The most interesting part of writing to Sepia Saturday prompts is the information you wander into. I started out howling with laughter over my husband's photo and ended up crying my eyes out after reading of the "One Thousand Children". The story is fascinating and worth reading about but far too long and complicated to tackle in a post. If you're interested, read here:   The One Thousand Children.

For more stories about identity and things true and false, head over to Sepia Saturday!

Sepia Saturday #241: Lucky Letter from Lucy

Francis Joseph Killeen
I have two contrasting letters to offer for this week's prompt. One is deadly serious and the other...well, you decide. 

The first is from the HQ of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada and likely determined that my father survived World War 1.  He enlisted in the Canadian army when he was under age for combat and lied on his application forms claiming his birth year as 1898 instead of 1899. My grandmother wrote a letter informing the army of his true age and she received this letter back. Note the reply to her request was dated a little more than a month from when she wrote it  - her letter traveled from Canada to England and through some kind of bureaucracy in such a short time. During a war! In 1918! 

As soon as Dad turned nineteen he was moved to the firing line at Arras where he was wounded (gunshot to the eye) on his first day and shipped to Cambridge Hospital in Aldershot England to recover; of course the war ended and he never had to return to combat.  He was a lucky guy. 

My grandmother had two sons and a husband in the army. I guess she decided she'd done her part. As enlistments dwindled in Canada, recruitment posters became more and more explicit and guilt inducing. 
How could you enjoy a hockey game after seeing this poster?
Canadian Recruitment Poster

The second letter is a "report from the front" - my six year old niece letting me know how the family was getting along. To me, it's priceless.
And that is ol from me this week.

Dear Reader. It is with great pleasure that I direct your attention to Sepia Saturday for more fascinating letters . Sincerely, Anntie Hulin. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Maintaining the old tickers

My husband likes to repair broken things. Taking care of an avocado grove provides ample opportunity as daily there are irrigation breaks and malfunctioning emitters requiring attention. It's always been a priority to keep the irrigation system in tip-top order but now that we are in drought and water is so expensive, the repairs are even more important. Recently we had three major breaks under the asphalt which required a lot of digging to expose the breaks and then a lot of shovel work to refill the holes. "Shovel ready" jobs - we had them! Fortunately Richard was the man with the shovel and was up to the job.
A recent road repair that appears to be suggesting something.

Shoveling is the macro end of his repair interest scale.  On the micro side, he likes to repair watches. These are copy watches from Asia and they don't last terribly long. Because it's raining today (Hallelujah!!), he's stuck inside tinkering around.
 Heap o'watches waiting for adjustments.
 I'm not sure what the pliers are for.
 Teeny tiny little tools.
 The little springs in these watches are barely visible to me. He manages to keep track of them.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Five Birds

Late last year we met Eliza Two*, the new cockatiel acquired by our grand nephew and niece.  She's a beautiful little thing who adores human company. She walks up your arms, nestles into your neck, pecks softly at jewelry and loves to be petted and scratched. When you stroke her head, she closes her eyes and lets her head fall forward, moving to the left and right adjusting herself so her itchy spots gets scratched. Crowds of people don't bother her - she's as personable in her cage as she is perching on a human hand. We were all crazy about her.
Thanksgiving 2013

Eliza Two's arrival on the scene (via a pet store) prompted a few stories about bird acquisitions from my brother-in-law who has owned a few. 

Bird Story One: Driving through Forest Lawn Cemetery, winding slowly around the hills, Richard's brother Jim stopped his car for a minute to get out and stretch his legs.  Suddenly, a parakeet fell from the sky and landed with a plop on the car hood. Jim described the bird as looking "dazed and confused". Jim looked at the bird for a minute, picked it up, opened his car door and set the bird down on the seat. He claims the bird sort of sighed, as if in great relief.  What to do? Jim drove to the pet store and bought a cage. That was the start of a ten year relationship.

Bird Story Two: Earl Grey. The next bird arrived in the household via the chimney. Jim walked by the fireplace and heard some cheeping. On closer inspection, he found a very small bird, just a baby, quivering on a ledge inside the chimney. What to do? Another cage was acquired and "Earl Grey" joined the household. As time passed, they realized Earl Grey wasn't really grey, as they thought, but actually white, once he preened the soot off himself. Earl (dropped the Grey) never seemed to get completely settled. 

Bird Story Three: Lola. The last of the series, Lola didn't drop into their lives. She was acquired the conventional way, by purchase from a pet store.  Lola, a female, was intended to assuage Earl's constant agitation but unfortunately she made things worse. For Earl it must have been like getting an unwanted "mail order" bride. Lola and Earl had serious domestic problems. Like the Bickersons, they fought over everything: the perch, the food, the toys. Recently Earl developed bronchial problems and died after three days of illness. Lola is now a Merry Widow and Jim reports that she's a much happier bird on her own. 

*Eliza One is buried in the back yard. 
Update: Eliza Two got out of her cage and flew away - July 2014. Everyone is heart broken but we hope someone found her and gave her another home.

The Mezlas

Searching through old pictures and letters yields the occasional treasure you've forgotten about. Here's a letter from a niece who was about six or seven at the time of writing. Obviously the mezlas was the big news in the family. I've lost touch with them, but I know that Greg went on to medical school and Marni probably got more teeth. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cat Vacuums

What a fabulous cat! We couldn't get ours to wear green.