PRATIE PLACE

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Poised."

ARTHUR 'POISED' FOR A COLORFUL DAY

Arthur is a rescued white tiger cub who loves mud puddles and chicken.

See him at www.conservatorscenter.org/

Mark



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Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Poise."

Here's my second Hamsa amulet. I like the feeling of balance. I'll put it up and see if it works: instead of purposing it, I've decided to see what happens and then I'll know what it's good for. Maybe news will come from afar, or I'll get a new job, or...



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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shepherds use LED'd sheep to create a Mona Lisa.

Thanks, Robert!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Subtract."

GEOFFREY'S CAT

A wild cat found in southern South America, east of the Andes.

Subtract a predator, and vermin populations grow. See www.conservatorscenter.org.

Mark

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

In which I explore a new career direction.

I was pretty taken with R. Azulai's magical amulets (such as the one on the right) which I described earlier. (For the interesting fallout see this post). Not just because my daughter wrote a paper this fall about fortunetellers and the laws against them; not just because of the spectacular Rev. Williams who promises, as does R. Azulai, to protect you from voodoo as well as all feelings of generalized unease.

But also, because this seems like a pretty darn good business to get into as long as we're going to be having a Depression and nobody is going to be willing to pay musicians such as myself. After all, even jobless people will obviously be needing magical amulets: to help them get new jobs, to help them pay their bills, to help them get girlfriends even though their cars have been repossessed...

I think the market for good-luck charms and potions is probably pretty recession-proof and secure.

And it looks like the startup costs are pretty low - paper, ink, a brush or a pen, and you're in business!

So I tried my hand (so to speak) at a hamsa for Illustration Friday this week. According to Wikipedia, the Hamsa symbol - named after the Arabic word for "five," like "five fingers" - is widespread in Islamic countries as well as among Jews. It protects against the evil eye, something we all need to worry about these days. And incidentally, "among some Jews, particularly Kabbalists, fish are considered to be a symbol of good luck, so many hamsas are also decorated with fish images."

My hamsa contains fish, birds, and creatures which might be sea lions or might be flying grey teeth depending on how you look at them. And they are surrounded by writings which I think are almost as good as those on the professional amulets sold by Reb Azulai, whom I hope won't have some blackhat Cosa Nostra come get me if I horn in on his territory.

And it's just my first try! I see a new vocation appearing on the horizon!

While I was working on this, I was musing that it might be profitable to go into business with a psychiatrist; we could split the advertising costs ("For sale: Psychiatry and Magical Amulets") and we could refer our customers back and forth, with a small finders' fee.

Unfortunately, it's possible this would be frowned on by the medical board, which we amulet makers don't have to worry about, but psychiatrists do, so I had to SUBTRACT the psychiatrist from my plan.

There are plenty of other businesses with which I believe magical amulets may create synergy. Weight-loss programs, for instance, or employment agencies. Perhaps I'll work up a business plan and look for investors.

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In which R. Azulai gives R. Williams a run for his money (literally).

For an update on this post see Dragan's disagreement with Rabbi Azulai

From kabalatalisman.com:

Rabbi Azulai takes the negative energy of the curse and transforms it to a pure and loving positive energy. This profound healing method identifies the patterns that are causing imbalance and effectively releases them at the core level.

The rabbi asserts that he is being possessed by mystical powers such as the ability to "connect with the world of truth". The rabbi describes this ability as a unique gift that only few people possess.

The Rabbi empowers you to feel better about yourself and your life and activates your innate ability to create wholeness, wellness and balance in your body, mind and spirit. This healing experience will also assist you to get in touch, at a deeper level, with your soul's mission and achieve joy, fulfillment, and contentment.

Rabbi Azulai's scroll is written on a kosher parchment and includes many virtues and Solomon signatories that have the power to ensure success in all aspects of life. In addition to spiritual elevation, Rabbi Azulai can provide you with good health, partnership, love, fertility, protection from evil eye and from black magic and ultimately anything you may ask for.

The scroll is personal and is written by a personal order. It is written in hand writing and with a special kosher ink over a deer skin.

The Talisman provides you protection, prevents poverty and improves your economical situation. It brings luck and happiness and also used against the evil eye and sadness. It sharpens your intuition. Beyond encouraging wealth, it also intensifies your personality, your charisma, your self-confidence and abilities while promoting success and prosperity in many fields.

Are you a victim of voodoo and black magic spells ? Would you like to be protected from evil eye, voodoo spells and black magic curses ? Voodoo is a powerful mystical practice that can cause disruption to your financial holdings, ability to make money and achieve your goals. It is also believed by many spiritual healers that voodoo spells and dolls can harm one's health, create negative energies and conflicts, take away the joy of life and even break up relationships.

Regardless of your background and spiritual beliefs, the ancient art of Voodoo can find its way to hurt you and sabotage your happiness. Once a spell has been cast on you, your soul, mind and spirit will never be the same again. The power of a black magic/ Voodoo spell can damage your life in a matter of seconds and without professional help your life, career and contentment could seriously be damaged.

After 30 years of practicing the Kabbalah and writing numerous talismans, Rabbi Azulai was able to craft a special protection talisman that holds all the secretes to the Kabbalah. The talisman is constructed according to the specific conditions and instructions delineated in various holy works to track the source of evil from the voodoo religion.

"Once, a man came to Rabbi Azulai terrified and crying, claiming that nothing is going right in his life. His health was deteriorating and he felt as if there was no longer a reason for him to live. The Rabbi looked at him and told him that an evil eye curse has been surrounding him for many years. Horrified by the rabbi's words, the man wondered what he should do. To resolve the man's problems, Rabbi Azulai wrote him a talisman and told him to bring a glass of water. When the man came back, the Rabbi dipped the talisman inside the glass and told the man to drink the water. The man did so and since then he has been successful and healthy."

Menticia and I become part of Chapel Hill's history project.

Graig Meyer, head of the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate Program, sent the mentors an email about this and my eight-grade friend Menticia was game, so we went.

Extracts from
Our Stories, In Focus - A Community Art and History Project
Share your story - become part of Chapel Hill's history!

We invite you to bring your piece of history (a photo, a letter, etc.) to either of our two community workshops listed below, where we will scan or photograph your item to be included in a public art community portrait created by local artists Leah Sobsey and Lynn Bregman-Blass.

Further explore your personal and community history at these workshops by participating in oral history, genealogy, journal writing and story circle sessions. An art project for children will also be offered during these workshops.

This public arts and history collaboration invites residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro to look more closely at their personal and community histories by participating in workshops that explore two questions: What brought you or your family to this place? and What is the legacy you want to leave in your community?

Art Project

Bring personal mementos you'd like to see as part of the community's living legacy. Artists Leah Sobsey and Lynn Bregman-Blass will make reproductions of photos, letters, journal entries, postcards, old newspaper articles and more. These images will be printed on strips of translucent paper to create a "tapestry" [which] "tapestry" will become a permanent public artwork to be displayed in the community.

You may also take a moment to describe your memento for the artwork's video archive.

Journal Writing and Story Circle

Join in journal writing and story circle sessions with Debra Kaufman and Grey Brown. These involve exercises designed to trigger images or memories to get you started writing a story, personal essay, or poem about some aspect of your personal or community history.

Oral Histories

Come in pairs to tell your story in an audio-recorded interview under the guidance of The Southern Oral History Program from UNC's Center for the Study of the American South.

The project was lodged in a large space in the mall which used to be a furniture store; the furniture store went out of business and this gaping hole is now available for "events." It was early when we arrived so people at all the stations were happy to see us.

I had brought two photos - one of my great grandparents in front of their farm in 1924, the other of their son (my grandfather) and his two daughters and son (my dad), who had a band called "The Peppler Family" and had a regular radio show in York PA and played for local fairs and picnics.

Menticia had demurred when I asked her to bring something, but I'd badgered her enough so she showed up with two photos of the dusty, lonely looking street where her mother lived in Puebla Mexico. One picture featured a big tree with orange flowers.

The artists at the first station scanned our pictures. Then we went around the corner and were videographed as we told our stories.

I explained: my father's people had spoken Pennsylvania Dutch although the families had lived in this country since the mid-1700s, and that my grandmother had been taken out of school in fourth grade to roll cigars and it was then that she learned English, at the factory, and that the Peppler Family Band had been broken up when my aunts got married because their husbands thought it wasn't proper for married women to play music.

Menticia stood tall and confident, telling the videographer: her mom had explained that, living on such a dusty street in such a tiny empty town, she had hoped for something better for her children, and that's why the family had moved to Chapel Hill when Menticia was one year old. She pointed out the tree with the orange flowers and said it was her mother's favorite climbing tree when she was a little girl.

Next we went to the oral history station, where we were each given a lavalier mic and had a series of questions to get us started. I interviewed her and vice versa. She said all she remembered from the early times was that Chapel Hill was "very quiet." She said it had been easy for her to learn English, in ESL sessions in pre-school, but that her parents had struggled for a long time, and that now all the kids speak English to each in the home but the parents are reluctant.

I asked her, for the interview, what her hopes are for the future. She said she wants to go to UNC in Chapel Hill and become a nurse. I think she'll be great.

Then we went and got copies of the New York Times front covers for the days we were born (the NYT cost a nickel on the day of my birth in late 1953).

Lastly, we were directed to where two women were sitting rather disconsolately alone at a table in the very back of the space. This was the "writing workshop" and Menticia and I were the only volunteers. They perked up a great deal when we sat down, and gave us paper and pencils.

The first woman read us some poems about food, and then we all wrote and wrote about food and then read what we'd written. Menticia wrote about coming home tired and hungry from school and being so excited wondering what wonderful dinner her mother had cooked that night. Her mother truly is a fabulous cook and I drool just thinking about her tamales.

A couple more people came for the second half, when the other writer read some poems about shopping and we wrote and wrote and then read our writing aloud, and then it was over.

Menticia had a GREAT time doing this writing, and did it very fluidly, and that surprised me because she always says she hates to write at school. "It was because of the way they did it - I liked that they read us examples, and that we could write whatever we wanted, and then it was fun to read it out loud." Too bad they can't do that at school.

Menticia explained they never have a chance to do fiction or personal writing at school, and that all their writing is confined by strict rules and requirements. Of course that's important too, but I was a little sad seeing how excited she was to do this free writing and to realize she'll rarely get the chance.

It was late and we were hungry, but we had to stop on the way out and make "wish flags" which were being hung on strings all across the windows, painting fabric ink on squares of cloth and then writing our wishes with Sharpies. Menticia wished people would take responsibility for their own actions! I wished a happier, healthier world for the children than we all have right now.

Then we went and had a fine Chinese lunch.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Legendary."

"A GRYPHONY DRAGON" (imaginary)

acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12

gryphon = eagle + lion (imaginary)
male gryphon and female horse = hippogryph (imaginary, rare)
male lion + female tiger = liger (big!)
male tiger + femal lion = tigon (small!)

Mark



Here is a still shot of Mark taken from the movie I shot of him painting. The movie was a little lacking in dynamic action.
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gripe: you can't strike "Strike Anywhere" matches anywhere.

I take this personally because when I was a kid my dad was Vice-President of Diamond Match. What has happened to these matches? They're absolutely horrible now.

Not only can you not strike these matches "anywhere," you can't successfully ignite them even on their own special proprietary strips. Every box of matches around our house has smeared, ruined strips (I bet there's a trade-name for those strips, but my dad never told me what it was). I've tried various weights of sandpaper and all sorts of other potentially fire-inducing rough surfaces, no luck.

I DO recall my dad lighting matches on the soles of his shoes, back in the day.

I think the wooden match - at least the cynical simulation of a wooden match as now perpetrated upon us by this formerly glorious company - has become one of those non-functional products which people keep buying because there are few alternatives.

I wonder if there are now special, ultra-expensive boutique matches which people buy because ordinary matches don't work any more.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Best ad seen this week.

On the way to Greensboro I found this in a free advertising newspaper. So many charms!

You can click to see it better. A transcription:

"I had pain in my back, legs, stomach, head, arms, and my hair was falling out. Because I was voodooed. I had a curse on me. But Rev. Williams helped me on my very first visit." Brenda Brown Testimonial

Has someone put a spell on you? Are you full of bad luck? Do you have enemies that get you down? Do you have a strange sickness doctors can't find? Are your nerves destroying you? Do you always take one step forward & ten steps backwards? Do you want a loved one returned to you? Do you feel lonely because you lost your love to another person. Then see REV. WILLIAMS today! Why suffer, why worry? Let REV. WILLIAMS help you with all problems.

Don't Confuse Reverend Williams with Palm Readers.
The Rev. Williams is an ordained minister of God!


FREE BY DONATION

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chapel Hill now allows "small chicken farms."

CHICKEN FARM? Jeez, I have ELEVEN chickens and don't consider this a chicken farm. They are just a decorative addition to the landscape, and providers of far too many eggs.
10 Chickens OK in Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The town that's home to the University of North Carolina's flagship campus says its OK for homeowners to operate small chicken farms.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that Chapel Hill Town Council voted Monday night to allow small-scale chicken farming in the town limits.

The vote will allow people to keep hens in any of the town's residential districts, affecting about 7,700 households. But no roosters will be allowed.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

It's Hannah and Ezra's fault...

That I'm stuck chortling in the middle of the night over Failblog.


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Whereas many Americans probably haven't even heard of these books.

Extracts from
Most Britons have lied about the books they read
Thu Mar 5, 2009

LONDON (Reuters) - Two out of three Britons have lied about reading books they have not, and George Orwell's "1984" tops the literary fib list.

The study also shows that the author people really enjoy reading is J.K. Rowling, creator of the bestselling Harry Potter wizard series.

According to the survey, 65 percent of people have pretended to have read books, and of those, 42 percent singled out "1984." Next on the list came "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy and in third place was James Joyce's "Ulysses."

The Bible was in fourth position, and newly elected President Barack Obama's autobiography "Dreams from My Father" came ninth.

Aside from a list of ten titles which respondents were asked to tick or leave blank, many admitted wrongly claiming they had read other "classics" including Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Herman Melville.

Asked why they had lied about reading a book, the main reason was to impress the person they were speaking to.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

[Hannah]: Frittata a la Carbohydrate

Here is a good thing to feed your hung over friends for a Daylight Savings Day brunch:

Frittata a la Carbohydrate

Cut 5 slices of squishy bread into cubes and place in buttered pie pan.
Mix 1.5 cups of cheese (half cheddar and half mozzarella is good) with 7ish eggs and 1.5 cups milk, add salt, pepper, and mustard to taste, and pour over the bread. you can also add sauteed onions or mushrooms or something

Let sit for at least one hour and bake at 350 until puffy and set in the middle.

Serve with strong coffee and a tall glass of water.

*adapted from Bruce Kellner's recipe for "strata" in his famed culinary memoir, What's For Dinner Also Breakfast Lunch and In Between

We never needed all that stuff, and now more than ever we don't.

I looked down from above at my first giant mall in 1981. It was "South Square Mall," here in Durham NC. It was one of the ugliest urban sites I'd ever seen, a sprawl of concrete and elevated parking lots, nestled into the bowl of what was once probably a lovely site. Ghastly.

By the way, this mall was demolished a few years ago after a much larger and more luxurious mall, "The Streets at Southpoint," was built out at the sprawl-periphery of Durham and started to siphon dollars from South Square.

South Square shut down and over the course of weeks I watched in fascination as its wretched conglomeration of concrete and pavement was entropized down to a rubble mountain and bulldozed away.

Sadly, it was replaced by an equally unlovely stretch of freestanding big box stores including Sams Club.


Well, anyway, I was astonished on that long ago day as I ogled my way down South Square's two-story covered boulevards, and I had the thought I've thought over and over again ever since: "How can there be so many shoe stores in this mall? Who can possibly be buying all these shoes?"

In the same way, I've brooded over my grandfather's explanation, oh so many decades ago, that stocks get hammered when the companies that issue them don't grow. How can everything grow, always, until the end of time? There is only a certain amount of planet, it's not growing. How can eternal growth be our paradigm?

Extracts from
The Inflection Is Near?
by Thomas L. Friedman for the New York Times, March 7, 2009

Sometimes the satirical newspaper The Onion is so right on, I can't resist quoting from it. Consider this faux article from June 2005 about America's addiction to Chinese exports:
FENGHUA, China — Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the "sheer amount of [garbage] Americans will buy. Often, when we're assigned a new order for, say, 'salad shooters,' I will say to myself, 'There's no way that anyone will ever buy these.' ... One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless [garbage]? I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I've made for them," Chen said. "And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible."

We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...

"We created a way of raising standards of living that we can't possibly pass on to our children," said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

"You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior," added Romm. "But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, 'This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ...'

Over a billion people today suffer from water scarcity; deforestation in the tropics destroys an area the size of Greece every year — more than 25 million acres; more than half of the world's fisheries are over-fished or fished at their limit.

"Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we're living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets," argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: "Mother Nature doesn't do bailouts."

Economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My kids better not blow a lot of dough on me when I die.

My mom died suddenly when I was in my early twenties; the only people available to deal with the situation were me, my younger brothers, and my mom's shell-shocked twin sister. We'd never dealt with a funeral before.

We ended up, punch-drunk, driving around town just looking for a "Funeral Home" sign (it was before Google). We rang the doorbell and a guy in a rumply flannel shirt came from around back where he'd been working in the yard.

Everything went well enough in the end, but I remember the dazed, foggy state I was in far more clearly than any of the decisions we made. I wish I'd had this article. Go to the source at consumerist.com for more details, pdf files and more links to help you get organized in advance.

Extracts from
Save Money On A Funeral
By Chris Walters for consumerist, Fri Mar 6 2009

Someone wrote to us that a person in his family is terminally ill, and that he was told "that the cost of the casket, funeral, viewing, and burial would possibly exceed 12,000 dollars." He thinks that's an "exorbitant amount of money," and so do we. ... Here's our list of what to do the next time you have to plan a funeral.

  • Learn about the Funeral Rule, an FTC regulation that requires several things of funeral professionals.

    Familiarize yourself with these points, and if a funeral home conveniently "overlooks" them, or outright refuses to follow them, run away. (But also report them to the FTC once you've got the presence of mind to deal with that stuff again.)

    • Funeral directors must give you itemized prices in person as well as over the phone. You have to ask for the over-the-phone quotes; in person it's a given, and anyone who skips this is worthy of suspicion.

    • They must give you itemized prices for any other services they offer, if you ask. This goes for caskets, burial containers, whatever.

    • You have the right to buy individual goods and services; no funeral director or home can force you to buy a package.

    • If a state or local law requires that you buy a particular item, the funeral director must state that next to the item on the price list, and reference the specific law.

    • You can bring your own casket; a funeral home cannot refuse you or charge you a "handling fee."

    • If you choose cremation, the funeral provider must offer an alternative container to a casket; you don't have to buy a nice coffin just to burn it up.

    • Speaking of which, the funeral director must show you a list of caskets for sale, including descriptions and prices, before showing you the actual caskets. There's a reason for this: see below.

    • There is no technology, embalming chemical, coffin, liner, or vault that will preserve a body indefinitely. Funeral directors can't promise or insinuate otherwise.


  • Consider a direct burial with a memorial service. A "traditional" burial is really marketing speak for a "full-service" burial - funeral providers have a vested interest in suggesting that full-service equals "more appropriate."

    A direct burial, on the other hand, can still include a graveside service, a memorial, or any other rituals you feel are important to the survivors. Remember, you decide what's considered traditional for your family, not a stranger.

  • You may not have to worry about embalming. If you're burying or cremating the body shortly after death, you can probably skip embalming. Here's a chart showing the law on embalming for each state, or just do a Google search for "embalming law [your state]". The funeral provider cannot perform an embalming without your permission, and as with other services, must full disclose whether or not it's required and how much it will cost.

  • Learn how to shop for a casket. (And a vault.) You will be subconsciously led to purchase a specific one. The FTC says, "Industry studies show that the average casket shopper buys one of the first three models shown, generally the middle-priced of the three." Remember this before making a decision, and assume that you're being directed to the middle-priced casket intentionally.

    If you aren't shown the cheaper caskets on the list the funeral director was supposed to have already provided, then ask to see them. If the cheaper casket that you want is in an ugly color, ask if you can order a more pleasing color—the color choice is on purpose to deter you.

    You will be upsold on gaskets, seals, thickness, and various other protective measures that do nothing.

    Buy your casket separately. The Funeral Consumers Alliance says "few consumers realize that caskets may be marked up 300-500% or more."

    They say caskets can retail for $600 or so, but a more realistic baseline these days is about $1000.

    If you can locate a local builder or know some basic carpentry, you can build your own and probably bring the price down some more. [Try]

    You may be able to rent a casket for viewing if you plan on cremating the body. Also, if you're cremating without a viewing, you can bypass the casket option entirely and save a huge amount of money.

    Don't waste money on an expensive vault. Some cemeteries may require it to keep graves from sinking, but no state or federal laws do.

  • Find out if a military burial is an option.

  • Churches and synagogues frequently can provide help on figuring out more affordable solutions ... If there is an Orthodox Jewish community in your area, find out who they use. Generally Orthodox Jews use very, very plain coffins which cost very little, for religious reasons.

    Your local church/synagogue/mosque/temple/whatever can probably also help you with low-cost planning. And having a religious funeral service frequently cuts out a big chunk of the cost. There are helpful comments at these previous Consumerist articles:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dreaming about cake and rodents in Soviet Russia while the world is going to hell.

Last night's dream, seemingly hours long: I was catching mice, hundreds of them, one by one, in a Hav-a-heart trap which I was meticulously baiting, over and over again, with crumbs of orange chiffon cake. One of my band mates was helping me, he took the captured mice from the trap and threw them up the bank of the Bira River in Birobidzhan. Why, I wonder?

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Free fun.

I was miserable most of the day, thinking about my friend who had to sell his tools. I escaped my misery for a while by taking my current Yiddish project to my favorite super-cheap Mexican restaurant and working there for a few hours.

Then, tonight, I hied myself to the second session of the brand-new Chapel Hill Spanish conversation meet-up group. Friends have been telling me about Meetup.com for ages, but this was my first signup. A smashing success!

We met at Foster's Market in Chapel Hill; we were four viejos and four lovely twenty-somethings, one of whom is from Columbia and gave us a cute rundown of different words for a briefcase, a man-purse, a big purse, a plastic purse, a backpack, etc...

Nice people and good conversation, even though we sometimes broke down into English when it got too tough for us; luckily, since our Columbian member is trying to improve her English, no importa.

I struggled with the Yiddish words that crowded into my head and occasionally, to my horror and confusion, long-ago Russian words popped up too! But as the hours rolled by, the conversation flowed better and I just felt like - these were nice people to be around. A rousing success, I recommend it!

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What is the world coming to?

Today a dear friend called me and said he was going to have to sell one of the most valuable and indispensable tools of his trade in order to pay off some bills. "How will you work?" I asked. "I just have to take it one day at a time," he said.

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Wonders of the modern world: my music now available as mp3 downloads on Amazon...

Check this out! Pratie Heads music on Amazon!

The album Sedgefield Fair, which I made with Jacqueline Schwab and Robbie Link, is there too.

And so is Mappamundi's World Music Our Way, and "Some Assembly Required" and "Under the Drawbridge" by the Solstice Assembly, and Courting Disaster: Centuries of Failed Love Songs, which I made with my dear friend and bandmate Beth Holmgren in 1991!

It's not like I think anybody's ever going to actually BUY any of these cuts, but it's cool to see them there on the Amazon website. Yay, team. Go have a listen!

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The icicles outside Ezra's room

Ez and I were very dissatisfied by the pictures we tried to take of these icicles which are (1) FLAT and (2) hanging inwards towards the window and (3) supported by a frail lace of ice.

It's worth clicking for a larger view, though.

Jane Peppler's music at Skylark Productions

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

In which a spammer gives me something to think about.

I sighed when I opened gmail this morning and saw that some Chinese spammer named "sexy" had hit about forty of my old posts with lists of Chinese links. It takes about seven clicks to delete one of these spams. (For more on "comment spam," see below.)

Well, it turned out to be a nice journey through the four-plus years I've been keeping this blog, which has more than two thousand entries. For the first several years I was adamant about posting every day; I poured my life and thoughts and jokes and heart into it. Being forced to look at each spammed post - long forgotten posts - I was thinking, "Dang, they were pretty good, they were interesting and fun..."

I guess life is like that, too. At this moment, I feel sort of beached here in the woods with my donkey and chickens. I often wonder whether anything I've ever done was worth doing, whether any of it mattered to anybody. Then something reminds me: I've actually done an awful lot of good things in my life. I just don't remember them.

This isn't supposed to sound like whining. Things are pretty good back here in the woods...

... My son Ezra and I are having a pretty nice low-key time living together; he's learning to cook (he made chili last night) and helps with the "farm chores" and is a funny, sweet companion.

... I'm grateful improved technology makes it possible for Bob and me to make a cd in the living room, and even videos, for free!

... It's thrilling to be able to translate a Yiddish novel that's never been published in English before - how lucky I am to live near a prominent Yiddishist who can help with the rough spots!

... The time I spend with my mentee is a continuing joy...

Getting back to Sexy the Spammer and what he showed me - I'm sort of proud of this blog, it's a pity that most of what's in it is totally hidden except to spammers. I stopped posting so diligently when I realized it was harrassing me. Blogs are voracious and insatiable and yell: "WHAT WILL YOU POST TODAY?"

Spam in blogs (from Wikipedia)

Spam in blogs (also called simply blog spam or comment spam) is a form of spamdexing. It is done by automatically posting random comments or promoting commercial services to blogs, wikis, guestbooks, or other publicly accessible online discussion boards. Any web application that accepts and displays hyperlinks submitted by visitors may be a target.

Adding links that point to the spammer's web site artificially increases the site's search engine ranking. An increased ranking often results in the spammer's commercial site being listed ahead of other sites for certain searches, increasing the number of potential visitors and paying customers.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Breezy."

TIGER PLAYS ON A BREEZY DAY

Acrylic on Canvas


The inspiration was from conservatorscenter.org

Mark


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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Another frustratingly out-of-sync set of fiddle tunes uploaded to YouTube!

This time I just used the audio track from my tiny camera, and it was perfectly synchronized to the video on my computer, but when I uploaded it to YouTube it got off. Why, why?

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The first Pratie Head video!

I've been fooling around for a couple days trying to figure out how to make a video without buying any more equipment. I hung a bunch of bare lightbulbs on the tv set and set up one of my nice AKG mics overhead, and then put my little bitty pink digital Camera (Optio M50) on a tripod. I ran an audio track into the computer via the free program Audacity while we were recording video on the pink camera.

This was not a great success. The audio and video tracks were a little out of synch before I uploaded them to YouTube, for the upsetting reason that they were not exactly the same length! For some reason, the camera recorded a teency bit faster than Audacity did (or vice versa). Sadly, the tracks somehow got even more out of alignment when I uploaded them to YouTube.

It drives me kind of crazy to look at this, but it's a start!

If you know anything about syncing offboard audio with video, let me know! Thanks.

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