Archive - 2012

Johnny Appleseed

Today I downloaded my first book onto my new Kindle. It was recommended to me by a stranger I met at a restaurant last week, and it is called The Botany of Desire. The first chapter, which I finished tonight, is on the very eccentric John Chapman, who became known as Johnny Appleseed

Some interesting tidbits: 

•Chapman hated grafted trees. In other words, most of the millions of seeds he distributed grew into trees which had no worth as edible fruit. But what those millions of seeds did do was send out the apple's genetics into a new climate. Of those trees, it is estimated that one-in-eighty thousand bore worthwhile fruit. 

•However, people did not eat the fruit back then! It was all used to make cider, all of which, at the time, was mildly alcoholic. Cider was virtually the only drink on the frontier. Most farmers made thousands of gallons each fall to get them through to the next season. It was more commonly drunk than water, milk, or any other beverage. 

•It is true that our apple genetic pool is greatly reduced. I blamed refrigeration, which eliminated the need for every little micro-climate to have its own variety of apple tree. The author has an additional culprit: The prohibition activists led by Carrie Nation. Her axe, which today is thought to have symbolized her desire to break every barrel which held distilled spirits, actually was meant to cut down all apple orchards! To the 19th century person, apple orchards were synonomous with strong drink. Very few people actually ate apples until the introduction of the Red Delicious, which is another story entirely. 

•Apples originate in Kazakastan where there are apparently massive forests of 300-year-old apples that represent a huge gene pool of malus, a much larger gene pool than we have here in the United States. 

•Chapman was a preacher, a proponent of of Swedenborgian theology, which was not orthodox in any sense of the word. 

I enjoyed the experience of reading on the Kindle. I think it will encourage me to read. 

View from Back Patio

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One duffer swinging...and a partridge in a pear tree. 

December 30th

More Miserables

 On Christmas Day, several new movies hit the big screen. The most notable this year was the latest version of Les Miserables, which opened to critical acclaim. 


I sat in seat K2 at the 10 a.m. showing in Scottsdale, AZ, which means I was amongst the first in this nation to see the already-fabled film. 


"Les Miz" is the shorthand in-group fans use to refer to the show, which is a long-running Broadway musical based loosely on a 1400-page novel by French author Victor Hugo. 


The unbridled enthusiasm of "Les Miz" fans led me to believe I had to see this movie if my life was to be complete. 


At the insistence of my viewing companion, I read a twenty-five page summary of the plot over breakfast before we left for the theater. Good thing. Otherwise, I would have been utterly lost. 


From beginning to end, Les Miserables was a musical. Every word was sung. They sang when they died, they sang when they killed, they sang when they swam in sewage, they sang when their molars were pulled out in a back alley for a few francs. 


The director was a stickler for "authenticity," reviewers crowed. He made the actors actually sing the songs while they were acting, not mouth them and let professionals do the singing in the sound studio, the usual practice. 


Authentic? Do you thing anybody has ever broken out into song when they were being massacred by a regiment of soldiers? When they were dying of a wound? When they jumped off a bridge? 


There is nothing authentic about musicals, period. Russell Crowe singing might be more authentic than him lip-synching, but that doesn't make it bearable. 


Poor Victor Hugo. The musical people took his 1400 page masterpiece and ripped out nine pages out of every ten, leaving only those which featured actual action. 


Then the producers reduced that action to rhyming couplets and set it to schmaltzy tunes. 


Hugo's actual novel features complicated characters who, after forty pages of internal dialogue, might decide to confess to a serious crime. 


In the musical version, the same character dances around and sings in an operatic vibrato "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, its off to the dungeon I go!" Thirty seconds later he's disposed of and you move on to the next disaster. 


If you read the novel, you can set it on the nightstand for two weeks to regain your composure before plowing forward to the next crisis. 


No such respite in a theater. 


If your soul is fed by scenes where people die in each others' arms while tearfully warbling, you will writhe with catharsis every ten minutes of Les Miserables. 


After sobbing through her swan song, the first beautiful woman wilts and dies ten minutes into the movie. 


Yay, opportunity to bawl #1!


Eventually, a irresistibly cute little boy gets shot to death. Yippee! More tears. Others die in between, all singing right to their last breath. 


With Hugo's 1,400 pages condensed to a mere three hours, I felt like a tin can dragged behind a runaway horse, first through the docks, then banging down the streets of Paris, then into the sewers, then down the river, into a prison, a brothel, a sleazy hotel, then into another decade, and then a third decade, then into the middle of one of France's frequent revolutions––all while warbling in fake vibrato.


When the plot doesn't fit into rhyming couplets, the screen writers shoehorn a whole paragraph into a single musical phrase, as if the words were commuters on a Tokyo subway. 


Three hours later, the viewer has been through the mill, which is just what the masses enjoy. Sniffles from the few with sniffles left dribble through the theater as yet another beautiful person dies in the arms of another beautiful person while both tearfully warble. 


This time they are covered in sewer sludge. Last time one hung upside down from a window after being shot dead. Another hits the ground with a sickening splat. 


The end is near. 


But it never arrives. More deaths. More shooting. More singing. More impossible dilemmas for dewy-eyed young lovers to solve as the city burns around them. 


When the credits finally rolled and the only two beautiful people to survive the three-hour carnage married each other while the remainder died off around them, I escaped the Kleenex-filled theater to recover my sanity in the bathroom. 


Who would willingly put themselves through this sob-fest, I wondered as I looked myself in the mirror, relieved not to be covered in sewage. Or dead in an alley. 


People who want to be more miserables, that's who. 










 

Vikings, etc.

Lance arrived safely this morning, in time to find me an illicit internet connection to the Vikings game on my computer. The NFL has things pretty well nailed down, but the tech-savvy can still find an end-around the paywalls and watch the game for free, which is our constitutional entitlement as American citizens.

Adrian Peterson has another great game and came within 27 feet of becoming the greatest season of any runningback in NFL history. It was fun to watch him. He has an odd style compared to other great running backs. Not nearly as poetic as Walter Payton or Gale Sayers, but he gets the job done. 

In the middle of the Vikings game, I went for the most beautiful run in my life. This house abuts a golf course, and the course is surrounded by a cart path. Because the course is abandoned by 3:30, you are free to run on the cart path. Wow. What spectacular scenery. What powerful silence. What incredible vistas of the picturesque mountains to the east over the knolls of green. 

As the cart path wove along, nearly tame cottontail rabbits moved off to the side. Ahead, a healthy coyote crossed the path. Obviously, he has a lot of meals left within the confines of the golf course. In the back yards of the houses surrounding the course, dogs barked furiously at the wildlife (and runners) outside. Somebody the other day said the dogs were "saying hi to each other." I somehow don't think this is quite what is going on, but I do understand the need to anthropomorphize the dogs in order to make sense of all the barking. 

Two laps around the five holes in this segment of the 18-hole course made for three miles. The cart path featured steeper ups and downs than a street, but I survived them, and I think my legs can benefit. And the scenery, as well as the lack of cars, made the distance short. 

Got back in plenty of time to see the dramatic end of the game.

 

 

December 29th

Busy Day

Yesterday, I moved out of house #1 in Gold Canyon. I had two nights between houses, so I went on Priceline and got a good hotel deal at a resort in north Phoenix, which seemed like something different. It seemed like a historic resort, perched on cliffs. However, it was built only in the 1980s. 

The man who built it did it right. One of the restaurants, just down the sidewalk from my room, featured $250,000 worth of mahogany paneling. Wow, was it rich. I wanted to take pictures, but it is difficult to capture such dark, rich wood colors. I sat at the bar and ate a $7 appetizer for supper. Then on a whim, I said I have to have a glass of port for dessert, as the dark, ornate Victorian wood seemed to call for it. 

The bartender had his favorite port and poured me a tiny glass of it. Fantastic! Best port ever. Port isn't subtle. The flavors overwhelm. You sip it a little nip at a time. This one tasted like chocolate. Wow. 

It was good, and it lasted twenty minutes, but when I got the bill, it was $7 for the supper and $17 for the three ounces of port! 

Oh, well. 

Today, I moved into the next house. I sit there right now. It is excessive. I love it. I will take pictures and post here. What views! I took a run as the sun set this evening. The new route will be plenty good. This place is very, very quiet, much deeper into Gold Canyon than the first house, about which I had no complaints. 

Lance was to arrive for supper. We have been on Skype. He was 80 miles north when traffic stopped near Payson, up in the mountains. There was an accident. While we were on Skype, a patrolman came by and said it would be four hours before the road opened. There were many fatalities in the accident. Or, as he put it, "there's a lot of people down there who don't have nothin more to worry about." 

Grim. Tough on Lance. 

Lance decided to turn around and head 90 miles back to Show Low and get a hotel. 

I had planned to make supper, but now I don't feel like it!

But, humor intervened. I went online to find Lance a hotel in Show Low. You can look at the reviews of each hotel. The Super 8, which can be a little skanky, had good reviews––except for two. One from a woman who found a spider and left at 3 a.m. to find another hotel, and a second from a woman who was angry that the lady at the check-in had a low-cut blouse. 

"I have a 13-year-old son, and I have enough trouble teaching him right from wrong without her doing that!" 

Okay, lady, just what is wrong with your 13-year-old son seeing a little cleavage at the check-in for the Super 8 in Show Low, AZ? 

Life is too short! 

You might get in an accident tomorrow. 

 

December 26th

Flaring

This picture takes a while to load. It was posted yesterday by NASA. Take a look at western North Dakota. It gives off more light, due to the flaring of unused natural gas from the oil wells, than Phoenix or Minneapolis. What a waste. It could be piped to Fargo and Grand Forks to provide cheap heating for both cities--and much more.  

Celtic Christmas

With family back home and Lance visiting his sister in Missouri, on his way to join me here in Gold Canyon, I celebrated Christmas Eve with Cousin Tina. We ate lasagna at her house with a couple of her friends and then went to a Celtic Christmas Eve service at the United Church of Christ (UCC) church in Scottsdale. Celtic traditions were spread throughout the British Isles by the nomadic Celts. The Welsh, in particular, have a great tradition of singing and of hymns. The relationship between the Celts and the Welsh and the Irish is not clear to me yet. A topic for study. 

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The above gentleman, John Good, is a proponent of Welsh music, language and culture. He builds his own historic Welsh instruments, and plays them all well, including a harp. Some of the hymn tunes were familiar. The format was to sing a couple of verses in English and then listen to a couple in Welsh. The pastor of the church did the scripture readings and also told some Celtic Christmas legends. 

The UCC is a good, liberal mainline church which doesn't require you to check your brain at the door, as evidenced by the plaques on the wall in the narthex, one of which read "Evolution happens!"

Ollalujah!

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Dad sent on this picture of the Christmas celebration back home. Kae, left, Aunt Olive, center, and Brother Joe are pictured here. I attempted to join the party via Skype, but it was too confusing to Aunt Olla who figured she was on national television and kept saying, "I am really not accustomed to all this publicity." Of course, she loves the publicity! I hated to inform her that only I was seeing her. Without a hearing aid, it is tough. Dad made a device out of PVC pipe (PVC along with duct tape could solve the world's problems) which helps in conversation. 

December 22nd

Pre-Christmas

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Lance took this picture last night at Erickson's Smokehouse in Fertile. Joe, Kae, Aunt Olla (101) and sister Tracie, along with Lance, took Aunt Olla out to dinner. I connected via Skype. Olla is always up for a good time, even with people 1/3 her age!

Mahalia

As I get sick of most Christmas music, this one shines.