Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turkey Da

Cape Cod is full of wild turkeys.  These three paraded across our lawn one day last winter -- I sit at my computer looking over the lawn, beyond some low plantings beneath my window. As I worked I saw three ugly, wrinkled red, gray and black heads moving above the shurbs. I grabbed a camera and hurried out to photograph them.  They are the only ones that I've seen on our lawn, but I have seem plenty of their uncles, siblings and cousins all sorts of places.  Four or five are at home on the Cape Cod Community College campus. They stop traffic when they decide to cross the roads which they do as they wish, caring nothing for whatever might be coming.

I have yet to hear about any being hit. A fatally close encounter would be hard on a small car, probably of little importance on a big SUV or any kind of truck.  I've thought about turkey fatalities (to the turkey, not the humans) and wrote a short story called "Bringing Home the Turkey" in which one is killed early on Thanksgiving morning. The young man who hits it is tender hearted and full of remorse and of an ethical and ecological frame of mind. He and his girl friend planned to ignore Thanksgiving but he takes the dead bird home, feeling the only ethical thing to do is to eat it. "It should not give up its life in vain."  Unsurpringly, he finds a number of videos on You Tube that tell how to prepare and cook wild turkey. 

The story is humorous -- how else to treat such an incident! -- and was read as a dramatic reading at a gathering of  a group I  belong to called Blithe Spirits.  And it will be read this afternoon at our Thanksgiving dinner, probably between main course and dessert.  Rachel has invited a house full -- it will be eleven adults (counting two high school age nephews who are in physical size and appetite adult) and five children from 2 to 8.  The family has a dramatic bent so I think I will hear a good reading and we will laugh enough to prepare us for the rich desserts.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Classic French movies

The Tuesday afternoon free film series at the Cape Cod Comunity College usually shows foreign films. Often I have not seen them but I had seen the two shown in the last two weeks, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring -- a pair that tell a story that is classic in French film, so well told, so full of place and social commentary that it seems to have been made from a grand, classic novel. In fact, there is no novel, the two are the  creation of the film maker.

They are set in early 20th century in a small town and countryside around it, in Provence, life is not easy, much depends on water from natural springs and the unpredictable rains of summer. Ugolin returns from military service determined to earn his living growing carnations to sell in the local market.  He is mentored by his uncle, a local landowner, intent on maintaining his family's lost status in the area. 

A newcomer arrives to live in the near-by house, once a part of  the estate. He is a hunchback from the "city" with books on agriculture, a wife and a little daughter. He is a menace with his plans to raise rabbits and plant a garden.  A spring is stopped up so that when summer drought arrives, the newcomer's plans are ruined.  One  thing leads to another and eventually Jean dies trying to dynamite a well. The neighbors unstop the well, but the little girl sees them as the family is leaving.

Ten years later the little girl, now a beautiful young woman, returns to the house, lives alone, raising goats. Ugolin falls madly in love with her but he is both ugly and lumpish and totally under his
uncle's plotting rule. Through a beautifully paced series of events the girl (Manon) discovers the source the town's water supply and in her turn stops that spring. That is only the first of the twists at the end of the story. It is so well known that it's not a spoiler to say that eventually the uncle discovers the hunchback was a son he  didn't know he had and remorse for his greed leaves both men dead.

This synopsis does not do justice to the richness of the story.  Yves Montand is the uncle. The films are complex, beautifully acted and filmed in an area that is stark, and fascinating.  I rarely either see films twice or read books twice, but this was very worth seeing again. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cloud. What cloud?

All our computer files are stored "in the cloud".  Well, I'm a very literal person.  Not so literal as to look up in the sky and wonder which cloud has my files in it.  But I do picture something cloud-like when I hear or read that comment.

In the editorial section of Sunday's New York Times was an article about the cloud.  Surprise. There is no cloud.

There are hundreds -- yea, thousands -- of fiber optic cables all over the country, although there is wifi, as we know, the information get carried and stored on  cables.  No one is entirely sure where all those cables are.  They know that several exchange points exist where many come togehter in such a way as to send on information. But these cables are vulnerable to disaster -- earth quakes and man-made disruptions, things like ship anchors being dropped on a stretch of cables in the bottom of San Francisco Bay and severing some or many.  Like, of course, vandals, terrorists and so on. Severed cables that disrupted data flow could stop small and many very large systems.

I'm a lover of metaphors, but a great many metaphors we come across are inaccurate, give a mistaken idea of what a thing is like. So I'm muttering to myself this week ... what cloud?  No cloud.  Oh, oh-oh.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"Free Range" Children

"Write about something you experienced but that your grandchildren probably won't know anything about."  That was the assignment for my writing class yesterday.  The first man who read his work wrote about being part of a neighborhood group of kids who played in the streets and parks, made up their own rules for games, had their own pecking order and seasonal patterns.  Another woman, a retired guidance counselor who keeps up with the trends, wrote about the freedom she and her twin had to dash out of the house after breakfast and go play with their neighborhood friends, traveling dozens of backyards. 

She defined her childhood and that of the first man as fitting into a new term, "free range childhood." The group spent some time talking about the regimented lives of children now, the fears parents have, the necessity to be supervised when both parents work and they often must have designated activities in non-school time because parents aren't home. Nostalgia was thick in the room, of course. I was certainly a free range child although I was on a farm and had no nearby playmates. So my free ranging was helping in the garden or in the kitchen, wandering around the farm with my little brother although he soon became big enough to spend most of his time with our father.

I understand the changes in society that have come with two working parents, latch-key kids. And I think many of the after school activities are enriching. I suppose sports will always be part of boys' lives and I'm glad girls are now playing sports too, especially soccer. But the fear of letting a child out of your sight, the fear of kidnappers and various kinds of sex predators has been greatly revved up by the media.  In general, my impression is that children are in much greater danger from the bad moods, and actual violence against them by their own parents who bring frustrations home from work, the many who use alcohol and drugs and are inattentive, irresponsible, unloving parents. There have always been bad parents and child abuse. I don't think it's increased, really.  And I'm glad there are counselors at schools who listen and help children.

Actually the class could have gone on and on but we had to move on to the woman who wrote about typewriters and the man who related being trapped in an outhouse at his grandfather's farm when a mean rooster stood guard outside the door waiting to attack.

(The happy kid in the photo is my middle great-grandson, Cole.)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Documentary - Glen Campbell

I know nothing about country music although everything that's very popular somehow impinges on my consciousness. I didn't really know who Glen Campbell is, although I was vaguely aware of some of his songs like "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Yesterday's documentary film was about Campbell and especially about his final tour, which extended from a planned two months to two years although he had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The film, I'll Be Me, began with his diagnosis and the way he joked with the doctor who showed him the MRI scans and explained about it.  (I suspect this was a re-created scene when the decision was made to do a documentary).  The documentary seemed to be strongly controlled by his wife, Kim.  (They are shown the photo at the Academy Awards).

The film was touching, not the least because Campbell's performances during that tour were a large part of it. His songs are easy to listen to, the band with him were mostly his children, his wife was always there.  The film shows the deterioration in tiny bits, the memory loss was often covered with a joke, the repetitious questioning that drives many caretakers almost around the bend was mentioned only once, the frustrations and angers were shown in miniscule scenes as was one of licking his plate at the end of a meal.  We saw that his inherent niceness and his considerable talent (even I could see he was a fantastic guitarist and could hear a sweet personality in his singing voice) was one side of Alzheimer's that is not usually shown in the documentaries and movies.  The movies are often all about loss, all about the pain of family and friends as they see someone disappearing.  Campbell did just the opposite of disappear; he performed. Sometimes he lost his place, sometimes he repeated himself -- the audience knew and loved him for being willing to go on (or perhaps instinctively understood that he needed their applause and acceptance).

The film was a good balance to all the too earnest, too dire pictures the media are giving us.  The pleas, a couple of times in the film, for medical research and cures seemed to me a knee jerk reaction. As people in our class said several times as they related stories of their relatives who have finally been institutionalized with Alzheimer's, a widespread effort needs to be made to see that people are not simply drugged and warehoused when they need some enrichment. And one enrichment, very much so, is music -- music is one of the deepest parts of the brain, one of the very last to deteriorate.  Surely intelligent additions of music (not just muzak!!!) would be one step in the right direction

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Ghost Story

Persistence pays -- well, it doesn't pay in money, not if you're a writer like I am.  But it pays with publications eventually.  I've been persistent the whole year and most of last year too. I've had three short stories and one flash fictionand half a dozen poems published in small literary journals, most of them online only, all this year.  It's not a new career for me, but at last it's become easy to submit to  most of the many little journals -- without the SASEs and copies and all that.  The internet has been my friend.

Yesterday I got a note saying my one and only ghost story is in print in a new journal called Sediments which has "hauntings" as the theme of it's first issue.  My one and only ghost story, written about five years ago, since then having garanered a number of rejections, has been published in this journal and can be read on line. It's called "Fog." Click the link that follows, then click "Fog" on the index page.

click here

What makes this most satisfying to me is that absolutely all of it is fiction.  I have driven in dense fog but not under these circumstances.      

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The trees are aglow, the season is turning

The light is the wonderful part of these photos.  The golden trees were caught just as the last brilliant rays of the sun hit them.  The ones in the back seem to be on fire.  That was last fall, after the first snow.  But I saw some splashes of color almost as good this afternoon. 

I was trying to find Books by the Sea, a fine little independent bookstore in Osterville. I don't really know the town so I was driving slowly -- but not so slowly that upon trying to retrace my trip, I managed to take a wrong road.  It's all two lane roads with wonderful houses and glimpses of the water, tall old trees.  I wasn't really lost, I just found myself going the wrong way.  But what's wrong about it when I'm looking at red and yellow trees and big cushion-y plantings of daisies and lots of pots of mums? 

Also wonderful, and it will remain this way, is that I see the sunrise every morning.  Right now it's a little after 7:00.  Soon we'll set the clocks back but I get up at 6:00 so, I'll continue to see sunrises until next March.

I keep taking photos. Of course, they're all different and I always like best the one that I'm looking at.  The thing I don't like is that this town has overhead wires. I wish they'd buried them long ago and I'm sure they claim doing so now would be too expensive.  It would save many power outages during storms when limbs and whole trees come down and it certainly would add to the photogenicity of these scenes.