Sunday, June 16, 2019

How to Make Moka Pot Coffee & Espresso - The BEST Way (Tutorial)





This is how I made my coffee this morning.  I had no idea, until I saw this video, that I have been doing is wrong all these years.  This will make one of the smoothest cups of coffee you have ever experienced.  And like the video says, it's not espresso, but it's very close

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Review: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

The Long Goodbye The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raymond Chandler, along with Dashiell Hammett and James M Cain, were the masters and founders of Noir or hard-boiled fiction. Chandler had quite the ear for dialogue and was his descriptions were on par with Hemingway. Philip Marlowe is a character that should have his place among the stalwarts of literary characters. Marlowe is not a cartoon character like many of the tough guy detectives that came later. He's well-read, smokes a pipe, and plays chess (even if only by himself). All the hard-boiled detectives that came later were mere imitations.

The story itself is complicated and doesn't exactly go from point A to point B. Savor the cadence of the writing and enjoy the ride.

The story begins with Philip Marlowe meeting Terry Lennox outside a club one night in 1949. A year later, Lennox arrives at Marlowe’s house asking for a ride to Tijuana but does not tell Marlowe details of why.

Marlowe later learns that Lennox’ wife was murdered. Investigators think Marlowe helped aid Lennox in the death. When Marlowe is released from prison, it is revealed that Lennox committed suicide and left Marlowe a note containing a portrait of Madison and money.

What follows is a story where very little is as what it seems, at least at first.

I enjoyed this story immensely. It is the third (out of seven written) that I have read. Although Vintage Books has numbered the books 1 through 7, it isn't necessary to read them in any order. They all stand alone.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Adult Orphan Club


Logging in to Blogger I realize it's been nearly two months since I've posted anything.  Call it ennui, for want of a better term.  I am determined to write on a more regular basis.

On May 6th, my mother passed away at the age of 89.  It wasn't unexpected, really, but I'm still processing it.  She was diagnosed with dementia around six years ago, had a stroke about two years ago.  Her husband Alvin acted quickly, took her to the ER, and she eventually recovered.  Not fully, but as well as one could expect.

And then, on April 30th, she had another stroke, this one much more severe.  She was in a care facility this time and the staff did not discover it until they brought her breakfast.  Again, she was sent to the ER and then admitted.  At this point she was paralyzed on her left side, unable to speak, and would not open her right eye unless coaxed by hospital staff. I drove down the following day to be with my Mom, knowing it was probably the last time I would see her.

It was difficult to get to spend any time alone with her.  Alvin, other visitors, staff and doctors, all milling about, fussing over my Mom.  Eventually I told everyone I would like ten minutes with my Mom.  I needed to say goodbye.

I told her I loved her and that she didn't have to keep fighting, it was okay to let go.  I told her to say hello to Aunt Velma (her twin sister) and my brother,Marvin.  I took her hand, kissed her on her forehead, told her I had to go back home.  

I drove back from Carbondale to Madison on April 3rd, spent the weekend getting ready to turn around and go back.  Monday came and Mom's caregiver called to tell me she had passed away at 6:03 that morning.  I called into work, woke Valerie to tell her.  

We drove back down Wednesday, attended service on Thursday, drove back that night.  I didn't want to stay any longer.


* * * * * * * 

Eleven days later, I am set on getting my shit together.  It's hermit time once again, my studio is disheveled, and there is work to be done.  I am allowing myself to grieve.  I find I am being set off by the smallest things, but I am giving myself permission to do that.  A cartoon posted on Facebook about comedian Tim Conway (who passed away this week) meeting Harvey Korman in heaven sent me into convulsions of sorrow.

But there is work to be done.  I am not ignoring or attempting to quell the sorrow I feel but instead using it as an impetus to keep busy.


I have always been a big fan of Natalie Goldberg. Her books "Writing Down the Bones," "Wild Mind," and "Long Quiet Highway" are still a considerable influence on me, even if I don't have a daily writing practice (even though I should). The one thing that has always stuck with me is her Roshi's teaching that every day, at least once a day, make a "positive effort towards the good."


This week, I did just that, even by small actions. Wednesday, I made myself sit and draw. Thursday, I sent a press packet e-mail out for a show next month that will have my work. Yesterday was a wash, so to speak, but I accept that. This was my positive effort towards the good instead of taking "no-action."


Life is fleeting. Honor its brevity, honor the wonder that life contains. And call your mother, if you can, and tell her you love her while you still have the opportunity...





Saturday, March 23, 2019

Speaking Tree - Joy Harjo

Speaking Tree

 Joy Harjo, 1951 

I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree. 
                                               —Sandra Cisneros 

Some things on this earth are unspeakable: 
Genealogy of the broken— 
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre, 
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—  

Some humans say trees are not sentient beings, But they do not understand poetry— 

Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by 
Wind, or water music— 
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft— 

Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth 
Between sunrise and sunset— 
I cannot walk through all realms— I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark— 

What shall I do with all this heartache? 

The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk 
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway— 
To the edge of the river of life, and drink— 

I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down: 

Imagine what would it be like to dance close together 
In this land of water and knowledge. . . 

To drink deep what is undrinkable. 


From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.

Monday, March 4, 2019

It's Like Camus Said...


I started feeling it over the weekend, which is usually hermit time.  It was just a small itch, a nudge deep down in my brain.  I tried to brush it off, maybe it will go away, I thought. It had been a while since I had felt this.  I knew the feeling only vaguely, from years ago. I still couldn't identify it exactly, I couldn't put a name to it. What was this that I was feeling?  

I thought to myself, yeah, well, when you were younger, you were far more...gregarious. Wait, what?  No, not me...

Yep, you used to like being in a crowd.  Think back twenty-five years ago, or so, when you lived in Milwaukee.  Remember how much time you spent at Fuel Cafe?  Hours on end.


Then it hit me.  Not only was I talking to myself, I was getting stir-crazy!  Spring Fever! Shouty crackers!  I needed to get out of the apartment.

I needed a break in the day in and day out routing of waking up, going to work, coming home, going to bed...ad nauseum.

So all day today, I planned it out.  I had already packed my sketch bag with sketchbook, pens, watercolor and my Kindle.  I will get off work, go home, change into jeans, grab a bite, and then head to a cafe.  I could spend a couple hours there and still get home before Valerie was finished with teaching.  It would be great.

Except, well, it didn't happen.  It's too cold to go walking around State Street, so I thought, Barrique's on the West Side.  I got back into the van and headed out, the excitement, the "I am finally doing this" feeling made the hairs on the back on my neck stand up.  I was finally going to go out and get some sketching done.

Except...

They were absolutely packed.  No seats. None.  My shoulders sagged as I walked back out and back to the van.  I thought, well, I guess I will try the Barrique's in Middleton.  I drove by and saw that it wasn't worth getting out of the van.

So, I came back home.  I made myself  a double cappuccino and decided instead to get some writing in.

Maybe I will try again tomorrow, in another area of Madison.  There are coffee places everywhere...



Sunday, March 3, 2019

Dick Cavett Interviews Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey ranks high on my list of favorite artists.  I've been a fan ever since I watched PBS Mystery! on a regular basis.  When I started watching it Vincent Price was the host!  Many fans of Mystery! are familiar with the introduction, the Victorian style animation.

To my delight there is a documentary about Gorey on the horizon, "The Last Days of Edward Gorey."
It is currently in post-production and due for release in September of 2019.  I don't need to tell you I can hardly wait!

While searching for other videos about Edward Gorey, I found this one on YouTube (where else?) and thought I would share.  It is apparently the first time Gorey was ever on television.



In case you didn't know, a biography of Gorey was recently released titled Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey, by Mark Dery. I won't give you my opinion of the book because I just started reading it. But I will let you know!


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Jazz in the Morning and the Promise of Spring

It's another winter day and I am waking up to this awesome playlist. 



I have spent the last few weeks in a creative slump that just the thought of Spring has snapped me out of.  I am working my way toward spending less time holed up in the apartment.  Yes, I'm cutting back on my hermit time, which will make the hermit time I take more appreciated.  With all the warm cafes there are around the Madison area there are plenty of places to go and sketch and/or read.  I have been slacking in both of those areas.

Take heart, Spring really is on it's way.  I will tolerate the change to Daylight Savings only because that means Winter is finally over. I will be posting more about my excursions out, with the accompanying sketches and pics.  Creativity needs outside stimulation.  There is a time to engage and a time to withdraw.  I am overdrawn and it's time to get some fresh air and to get the creativity flowing again.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Hives - Main Offender


Reflections on Another Trip Around the Sun



I turned 56 on February 11th.  I'm still sure how I feel about it.  I am trying to remain positive with such thoughts as, well, it's better than the alternative, or, that I am older now than my older brother, Marvin, was when he passed away.  I know, that's kind of morbid. When he died 15 years ago, I wasn't only sad that he died (of course) but a little shocked that I had outlived him.  From the age of around 17 until I was around 40, I didn't really take care of myself.  Self-destructive habits.  I smoked around 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day, drank to excess.  Drugs were too expensive or otherwise unattainable, so I had that going for me.

After my brother was diagnosed with cancer, I endeavored to make a turnaround.  I quit smoking, for starters, although I wasn't really able to do that until my first wife decided to call it quits.  Suddenly, all the stress in my life seemed to disappear.  I have been cigarette free, with only one relapse only about a month into quitting, for fifteen years. Now I can't tolerate even being around second hand smoke.  

This isn't an anti-smoking rant.  

It's not a rant at all.  It's just a reflection, something that needed to get out.  

I am not the same person I was 15 years ago.  I'm not sure I would even recognize him.  He was bitter, cynical, self-loathing, and as I said, self-destructive.  Life was spiraling out of control. It was around that time I moved back to Madison from Milwaukee.  I moved here because I definitely needed a change in scenery.  Part of the reason of moving here was to help an old friend out of a difficult housemate situation.  What she may not realize was that is was her that helped me by being a catalyst for change.

It was a good decision albeit a rocky start.  I was still trying to get my head on straight and my finances in order (which was difficult).  June of 2004 was the beginning of a new life, as dramatic as that sounds.  And then in November, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, everything changed dramatically.

I met the love of my life, Valerie.  Fourteen years later, we are still together, barely spending a day apart.  I say to her all the time I would be lost without her.  I'm pretty sure that's not hyperbole.

(as they say, to be continued...)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Deconstructing Hermit Time - A Pie Chart


At the behest of my friend Edmund, I have decided to write a hermit time manifesto.  Who knows how long it will take me? I foresee a work in progress that will be written without deadline and at my leisure. I will post progress (or lack thereof) on this blog.  I won't say I will serialize because hermit time is all about the stream of conscious ramblings and and an ever changing path.  

Why is hermit time important?  Well, I am not only trying to be a full time sustainable artist.  During last summer I did 12 art fairs in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.  I also work a 40 hour a week job that I really don't like. It is like what I imagine working 2 full time jobs. Hermit time, the time I have to myself (or alone with Valerie) is the glue that keeps me from unraveling.

I know people who say they don't like being alone.  I sympathize.  Maybe it's not for everyone.  Some people thrive in crowds.  Crowds terrify me.  I thrive when I am alone with my thoughts, making art, reading, and yes, goofing off.  Hermit time, which for me is Friday night to Sunday night, makes Monday slightly more tolerable.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Kindle vs. Books - An Ongoing Internal Debate



When the Amazon Kindle first appeared on the market, Valerie and I both bought one.  The idea of being able to carry around a device that held numerous books at once was appealing.  This was before we even had Wi-Fi in the apartment.  We would buy the books and then go to the Perkins restaurant down the road to download while having coffee and pie.  Amazon offered hundreds of books that were in the public domain for no or little cost.  I have had a Kindle for at least five years now and probably have over 400 books on it.

The appeal is now wearing thin.  I re-discovered how much I like holding a book, a real book.  It also occurred to me that I wasn't retaining what I read on the Kindle as well as I do when I read a print book.

And there is this article by Naomi S Baron of the Washington Post.  It confirmed what I suspected about e-readers such as Kindle and Nook. I wasn't imagining things. As an example, I read the complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, all four novels and 56 short stories.  I don't remember as much as I feel I should.  They are all going back on my reading list.  In print.  And maybe I won't try to read them all at once.

There are authors, obscure or otherwise, that are nearly impossible to find in print second-hand.  H.P. Lovecraft comes to mind.  Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and other series, also. When I worked at a used book store, they never came in, and when they did, they didn't stay very long.  Their works are available on digitally, now.

E-Readers do have advantages.  Say you see an article you want to read online but don't want to print it?  There are several browser extensions, like Send to Kindle, that can re-format to article and send it to your reader.  Once it's read, then you delete it.  

So, although I am not giving up my Kindle, I will probably refrain from adding any more digital books to my library, free or not. While there is something to be said to buying a book and having it instantly available (we do have Wi-Fi now) I still enjoy holding a book.  I have also become a big fan of Thriftbooks.  Their books are very affordable.  There are also several used book portals if you, like me, like to spend time as a hermit.

And despite what Marie Kondo says, it's not hoarding if it's books...

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Turning Away



As a society, we have collectively turned away from those in need, those less fortunate.  The One Percent display an astounding, incomprehensible greed and then tell the rest of us that it's the impoverished that is the reason we can't get ahead.  It is coming or has come to the point of revolution over complacency.  Yes, revolution.  The apathy that is being displayed by many must cease.  

And it begins with you.  It begins with all of us.  We are not asking for handouts, we are only asking for our share.  We are asking the rich to pay their fair share.  Our country is being slowly undone by the oligarchs, the plutocrats, and the Christian evangelicals (who have long since discarded what their Bible teaches).

Please don't accept what is happening.




Non-Binding (New Year) Resolutions


I like to tell myself and others that I don't make New Year's resolutions.  Why should you wait for a particular day to start something?  Just be in the now, start right now, if you want to change then just change.  Right?  And here I am, January 1st, about to lay it all out.  I'm not planning anything that's too out of reach. So, here it is.  My New Year resolution is to live a life of mindfulness and gratitude.  It's really simple.  One just focuses on what one already has instead of obsessing about the things that are beyond grasp.

I actually see this goal, or resolution, far-reaching.  I may not even have to think about a resolution next year.  This could be my last New Year Resolution.  Ever.

Oh sure, I have a list in my head of all the things that I want to accomplish in the coming year but the list is ever changing and, well, I started it years ago.  I didn't pick an arbitrary date to start.

I'm not criticizing others who make New Years Resolutions.  Jan 1st is a good benchmark as any for change.  My only advice is go easy on yourself.  You are given one life.  Make it your own.  In other words, be directly involved in your one wild, crazy, unique life. Don't allow anyone to live it for you.  That isn't your purpose.  

It's okay to give yourself to the service of others, but it's necessary to keep some of yourself for you.

Have a spectacular 2019.  Now, if you will excuse me I am going to go lose 50 pounds (sensibly, of course) and endeavor to read all the books on my shelves....