Monday, October 20, 2014

Closing the trapeze act

Although requests for performances continue to flood in, the Flying McHargues regret that their act has been retired. The Flying McHargues Fly no more!

I had to tell someone today that I no longer ride a bike because of Acoustic Neuroma related balance problems. Just for fun, I told her we stopped our trapeze act as well. There was a moment's hesitation and so for clarification I thought I should make an official announcement. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

ABCWednesday: O is for Oysters

An article appeared in the New Yorker magazine some time ago about freezing corpses for thawing in the future. The famous baseball player Ted Williams opted to be frozen in this way and sparked a huge controversy. The primary research into this practice was done on oyster embryos. Freezing and thawing; freezing and thawing. A former cryogenic researcher states that he pays $100.00 a year to keep two oyster embryos frozen; he has been maintaining them for 25 years. Somehow he just can't pull the plug on them - or let them thaw out and swim away, which he claims they will do. It fascinated me that a person could bond to, of all things, a frozen oyster embryo. Whenever I see anything about eating oysters I'm reminded of this researcher and his empathy for the bivalves we shuck and gulp down without a second thought.
Cruelest of all the stories about oysters is my childhood favorite, the narrative poem , "The Walrus and The Carpenter" from "Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll. My father knew this poem by heart and used to enjoy reciting it for me with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a handkerchief for mopping up my tears for the poor little oysters in the other one. To this day, I cannot read the poem without feeling sad.

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Hop through the frothy waves and scramble to the shore of ABCWednesday for more "O" contributions.

Morph Suits Halloween

Hallowe'en again - time to think about a new morph suit. It's a fantasy of mine to attend an annual family event in a disguise that would render us totally unrecognizable. The hosts have no idea we'd show up. Mr. and Mrs. Checkerboard is kind of appealing. I think Richard could pull this off. 

 I could be Fat Man and the costume would cover some of my most recognizable features. I think I'd add a hat to this for complete coverage. And shoes.
But overall, my hands-down favorite is the Scary Clown suit which is so distracting it would make a perfect disguise for anyone of any body type. 

You can drink right through the suit, but you can also detach the head once the surprise is over
and you want to dig into the pumpkin cheesecake, the pumpkin creme brulee or the pumpkin ice cream.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sepia Saturday 250: Hector's Carvings

Hector Fortier - French Canadian Farm Art
I love the prompt for this week's Sepia Saturday - the colorized photo; the expression on the man's face; the tools; the clothing and in particular, the soles walking up the wall. The closest image I have is of my grandpa Hector seated with his carvings both in front and in back of him. 

My grandparents, Hector and Pulcherie moved from the farm to an average sized house and thence to a teeny tiny house on Alverstone Street in Winnipeg, the tiniest house they could find. I think they were just sick of taking care of things and this little house freed them from a lot of care. Like most couples, they'd never spent a lot of time in really close contact, both being busy people. When they found themselves in this little space, they got on each other's nerves. Grandpa had a little cellar below the house which became his carving room and his escape.  
The Fortier's tiny house
Hector was either a prodigious carver or my grandmother was really, really annoying because grandpa turned out hundreds of these funny little treasures, now considered Canadian folk art. He carved elephants, rhinos, horses and bears. He made quite a few mounties (RCMP), cowboys and many men with odd hats. One of my favorites was the bald, gold man - he had rhinestone eyes at one time; his lips were ruby red and he had a jumble of teeth. Grandpa probably thought it was a scary figure, but we kids never saw the gold man as menacing.

I regret that as a child growing up I didn't appreciate my grandfather's sense of humor. He didn't say much; he didn't hear well and my French was lousy, so communication wasn't great. Despite this fact, I felt his warmth; we smiled at each other a lot and I know he loved me and all his grandchildren. He was a kind and gentle man. 

Funny isn't it how life goes? Grandpa's motivation for carving wasn't to create art...he was escaping the company of my grandmother when he lodged himself in the basement working on these little figures. After all the things he accomplished in his life, it's ironic that these escape carvings remain as his legacy.  

For more thoughts on the prompt, visit Sepia Saturday and have a look around. 

Magpie Tales # 241: Reflecting on reflections.

Self-portrait, Vivian Maier 

“Well, I suppose nothing is meant to last forever. We have to make room for other people. It’s a wheel. You get on, you have to go to the end. And then somebody has the same opportunity to go to the end and so on.” – Vivian Maier

Dusty's Used Camera Shop
Somewhere, New York City

October 14th, 2014

Yo Vivian

Thanks for sending the self portrait - honestly, I can't believe anyone knew where I was!  I chuckled when I saw you chose to send me this one, out of all those we shot that day. There I am, front and center, hogging the spotlight as it were! And you were only partially in the picture! I have to admit I was so surprised to see my own reflection that I didn't pay close attention the rest of the shot.

Now that I look at it, I can see what genius was at work. The way you held the light; the reflection in the mirror of you and you and you and me and me and me; the way you can see both the front and back of you and me, but not completely. Only partial views - the way most of the rest of the world views us both. was such an honor to be held in your competent and talented hands for so long. What a team we made! Sitting here on the top shelf in the dust, my happiest moments are remembering our times together. It was a high point in my career that's for sure.

Again, thanks for the memories.....

Your pal,
Rollie Flex

Check out the other posts inspired by Mag #241

5 Sentence Fiction: Falling

After the cannon shot, as she was free falling through the air, dyslexic stunt woman Celia (Alice) C. Coyote chuckled to herself through her blackened teeth. She'd learned so much from cousin Wile E. and his desperate pursuit of Road Runner with implausible mail order gadgets like the Jet Propelled Unicycle and the infamous Spring Powered Shoes he ordered from the bastards at the ACME company. Hand on the parachute control, she gave it the final tap bracing herself for the engagement snap of the Never-Ever-Ever-Ever-Ever Fail Computerized Chute made by electronics giant, EMAC. As the ground came up to meet her she fell faster and faster finally smashing through the earth, leaving only her black silhouette behind, and realizing the slicksters at ACME had suckered themselves yet another Coyote.

Check out the rest of this week's stories at  Five Sentence Fiction!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ABC Wednesday: N is for Nosy

New kitten - active nose
Although cats don't get as much information via the nose as dogs, my cats smell first with their little mouths open and ask questions later. Their mouths are open so they can expose air and aroma to their Jacobsen's Organ located behind the front teeth. Some people say cats are smiling when they have that odd look on their faces, but they aren't necessarily happy - just figuring things out.

We humans suffer mightily in the smell detection arena by comparison. Cats have between 80,000,000 and 100,000,000 odor sensing cells; dogs have over 200,000,000; we have a measly 6,000,000. My favorite canine sniffer is the blood hound. That lovable droopy face with all the saggy wrinkles serves an olfactory purpose. Aroma molecules dissolve in the sticky moisture that leaks from their eyes and gets trapped in the wrinkles, retaining more available smelly material  for the nose than dry-faced dogs have. The floppy ears provide an evolutionary advantage.  As it sniffs the ground the dog swings it's head from side to side and the dancing ears roil up odor molecules and waft them up to the nose.  An aroma we perceive as a whiff must be sensorily like a ten-ton truck to this animal's  nose.

In the end, the European Eel wins the smell detection contest, hands down. It has a sense of smell/perception so acute that it can detect the equivalent of a shot of vodka in Lake Erie. If you're looking for a bar on a rainy night you want an Eel wrapped around your GPS.

The average human can recognize up to 2000 odors. A trained person such as a "nose" in the perfume industry can learn to recognize up to 10,000.  I used to keep a vial of a flavor unfamiliar to me on my desk and "learn" it for a week, then change to another. I've retired this activity and now get my olfactory thrills from the garden and the perfume counter at Macy's where I spend too much time sniffing and not buying.

We never stop smelling - we can rest our other senses; put in ear plugs, close our eyes, shut our mouths. But we can never stop breathing. We smell each other and the world around us, breathing in 20,000 times per day and in every breath from 200,000 to 2,000,000 microscopic bits - stuff that's constantly floating around in the air: clay, ash from forest fires and volcanoes,  soil, fungus viruses, bacteria, rusts, molds, algae, spores to name only a few. Fortunately we "adapt" to aromas and once the brain has gotten the necessary information, it switches off and gives us a break. When you walk into a freshly painted room the impact of the smell is overwhelming but it soon eases off and disappears unless you focus on it. In the food business when our noses adapt, we sniff the inside of our arm (a part we keep unlotioned) which re-calibrates the sensory mechanism and gets the nose going again. There's nothing particularly magical about the's just handy (arggghh). In the perfume business, they sniff coffee beans. In fact, a couple of minutes of fresh air will do it, but you often can't do that when you're busy evaluating products and you're in an office building.

When we perceive aromas our limbic system is involved. Although it's a very complicated response, you could say that this area is the seat of memory and emotion. Aroma perception is very direct - we sniff and the limbic system gets the message directly - no complicated neural transfer like happens for instance with sight. This is why aroma is so evocative and can instantly arouse emotion....the aroma of something cooking, a perfume, the new car smell.  That wonderful whiff.

For more "N" stories, visit the site at:
ABC Wednesday

Friday, October 10, 2014

5 Sentence Fiction: She was always right!

The prompt for this week is the word "horizon".

The motorcycle engine was revving ominously outside on the driveway when he heard her striding down the hallway, boots clicking on the hardwood floor. She walked into the room and announced in a tone of savage bitterness,"That's it - I'm out of here!" He turned toward her voice and wiping the sweat from his forehead asked brokenly, "Is there nothing I can say; nothing left I can do?" She spat back at him with barely controlled rage, "No - just don't see anything!" and slammed out the door. In a state of shock, he stood shakily, leaning on his white cane, listening to the motorcycle roaring to the horizon.

Got a minute? For more very short stories head to Five Sentence Fiction

Thursday, October 09, 2014

ABC Wednesday: Mmmm Mmmm good

The M prompt for this week moved me to stop in the soup section of the supermarket where I was surprised at the array of logos and colors used on the Campbell's products. Based on past working experience with companies on new products I'm almost certain a series of marketing managers has come and gone, each one declaring that "The first thing we've got to do is change the packaging". How many times have I heard that? Happily they've left the original soups alone. I'm so mired in the past that I have to admit I was saddened when "Mmmm Mmmm Good" as their advertising tag line hit the dust.

All the newish stuff is quite different. The one product that stands out as typical of the au courant marketing strategy for everything (i.e. sell the experience of using the product and less the product itself) from houses and cars to soup and nuts is this one pictured below.  "Campbell's Go" ready-to-eat soup with the hipster face on the front in a kind of selfie pose, saying "Gimme some grain!"  Don't you think it would be funny if he was saying, "Mmmm Mmmmm Good!"

But no, times have changed - the model sports the demographic-appropriate ( millenials aged 18 - 34) two-day beard growth. Life is uncomplicated for this guy. No problemo! Right, it is no problem if you've got $2.99 to spend on soup for which it seems the millenials have even though they're under-employed. They're the dine-out ready-to-eat generation and willing to spend for quality. And convenience. You microwave this soup in the pouch - and pour into a bowl to eat. Heating on the stove is a secondary instruction which conveys the idea that the soup was formulated specially for microwaving. I like the fingerprint on the sides showing where you grab it once it's hot.

Canned soup sales are steadily declining and Campbell's has to do something. It will be interesting to see how these products fare.

Swing by  ABC Wednesday  for mesmerizing vignettes, stories, photos and poems featuring the letter "M".

P.S. Even if you love this packaging when you look at the art or the slick photos taken for advertising, you'd probably change your mind when you see it in the marketplace. From the top shelf looking down at you, the faces are distorted by lighting and crinkling and look almost menacing. And the price at our Albertson's is $3.99. That's a lot of dough for soup. In my opinion.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Sepia Saturday 249: Am I losing it?

"If two men are on a horse, one has to be behind." Shakespeare

When I looked at the prompt this week I immediately saw that the two white horses were sizing up the two passengers and comparing notes. And I could imagine what they were saying.....

"Will you look at those horses asses fooling around with their hats? I'm glad we're not working for those clowns. Sorry for rolling my eyes so much, but the guy with the beard is an idiot!"

"Yeah, well as if that's not enough -  we've got the real horses asses on our right! I swear they smell like they've been eating sauerkraut all day. You'd think Harry would have a little consideration. After working all day, he could have picked out a better parking spot for us."

If my grandfather's horses talked, I'm sure they would have made some disparaging remarks on this auspicious day in the photo below, when they moved the house from one farm to another. Curmudgeonly horses from neighboring farms were helping out. Might an equine conversation have gone something like this?

"We're going to move this house??? Right. What the hell was Hector thinking? These Fortiers go from one nutty scheme to another. Last week it was the paperless cigarettes! 

Oh well, lean in boys - we're here now. Let's pull hard and get this over with."

Not content with moving the whole house, Hector moved the smaller buildings to the new farm one at a time and the horses were pretty much fed up with it all.

"Not Again? What are we - Bekin's Moving and Storage? Seriously, is this in our job description? That's what you get for a job well done. Another job. Oh well, at least we're in the front this time."

And finally we have my grandfather on an ordinary day in his hay wagon with his beloved team, Blacky and Blaze, who appear to be having a chat. I've discovered that once the horses start talking in your photos, there's no shutting them up! 

Blacky (on the left). "I'm telling you...if he sings that song one more time, I'm going to scream. Pulling this hay wagon is tough enough without HIM bellowing out those dumb farmer songs all day."

Blaze (on the right). "And you think I'm enjoying it? If it weren't for the hay at the end of the day, I'd make a run for it. Argghh..please just a little peace and quiet. Silencieux Hector, s'il vous plait!"

Am I losing it? ....or did I have a little too much "Mr. Ed" in my teens?

A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse of course
That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed.
Go right to the source and ask the horse
He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse.
He's always on a steady course.
Talk to Mister Ed.
People yakkity-yak a streak and waste your time of day
But Mr. Ed will never speak unless he has something to say.
A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And this one'll talk 'til his voice is hoarse.
You never heard of a talking horse?
Well listen to this: "I'm Mister Ed". 

This song was originally posted at:

For more stories inspired by this photo and assuredly more mature than mine, head for Sepia Saturday.