Nothing to see here

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This weekend – the kids decided they were going to visit the family.  They planned to leave the house on Saturday, and stay overnight in either Beaver Dam or Watertown, and return Sunday afternoon/evening-ish, and thus return to the normal schedule of up Monday morning for work.

This meant I had the apartment to myself.  All to myself, with nary a soul (except the cats) to come between me and the elements.

Whatever would I do with my free time?  This is where most people trot out a list of things they’ve put off in hopes of having some free time.  Me…not so much.  I planned to do nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  In as few articles of clothing as possible.

Which means jammies – as it’s still NOT warm up here, and I’m a heat-miser.

Nothing is under-rated and unduly demonized in this country.  If you’re not doing something every second of every day, you’re a lazy, shiftless, aimless layabout dreamer, and you should be hauled out into the street and shot.

Well…that may be a tad harsh…

A-Pagoda

Very quiet pagoda

I enjoy nothing time.  The apartment is as it used to be – q.u.i.e.t.  No other voices…other than the occasional cat noise.  I can hear the silence, and the things below it.  Sometimes I’ll meditate to the silence…but not this weekend.  Meditation was far too ‘something’ for a nothing day.

I bounced around between some rather dreadful movies off Amazon Prime (to which I nodded off in my chair for a nap) to a bit of research on the ‘net, to a computer game.

I managed to sweep the floors.

Amused the cats for a spell.  Dangled some things, pointed the laser at the walls, stayed in my chair to become warm-blooded furniture.

Banged about on my keyboard for a bit, then erased what I’d written.  The muse wanted a jammie day too, so we relaxed together.  Never fear, she’ll prod me when she’s got an idea to share.

Ran out when I damn well wanted to for some foodstuffs…because that required clothing other than jammies.

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Be still…and watch the birdies.

Above all else, I enjoyed the silence of my apartment.

When did we disallow free time to just dream?  When did everything, even our free time, have to be spent doing SOMETHING?  Our world goes so fast – our lives speed up, and we attempt to go faster and faster and cram more and more into a single minute.

I think it’s time to slow down.

Flash Fiction – Memories Stink.

Rose lineup Flash Fiction

Friday was, as usual, a time for Flash! Friday.  This week featured an older woman holding a bicycle, and we had to have a beach scene feature prominently in the piece.  We still have the 200 (+/- 10) word limit – I squeaked right in on the top of that one.

Of course – the woman looked European – so the first things that meshed in my head were European and Beach – ahem…can anyone guess what follows?  🙂

You don’t have to guess – here’s the flash:

Memories Stink!

210 words

Shore is a thin, blurry line of demarcation – an ever-drifting segment constructed of both land and sea.  Shore marks its territory with an unforgettable smell – components of vegetation, fish, brine and sand mixed endlessly by tumbling waves.

The butcher shop in Vierville-sur-Mer, just up the bluff, oozes the coppery tang of fresh meat – the same tang which conspired with the stench of hot metal and the acrid bite of smoke to overpower Shore’s scent 6 June, 1944.

She clings to the handlebars of her bicycle, staring, but not seeing, the crowded shop.  The street-chatter delicately fades behind the knife-sharp laceration of blood-soaked recollection.  She hears again the staccato tap-tap-tap of machine gun fire echoing off the bluffs cradling Cote de Nacre’s Shoreline.  The tortured screams of agony again rip from the raw throats of men dying on the beach. She sees, in perfect detail, the wet, crimson meat and white bone of a casually discarded human arm in front of her hiding hole and the flowering blossom of blood crawling through the sand toward her feet.

Sand should never be red.  Waves should never wear pink froth.

Men will do what men will do when conflict boils away common sense  – but she will forever carry the scars of witnessing…Normandy.

Chicago has a New Problem

chicago-sears-tower-night-sauronI.  Hate.  Driving.  In.  Chicago.

Just needed to put that up front.  Because I’m just north of the Windy City – everyone I know occasionally goes down to Chicago for a weekend of partying, fine dining, touring, shows, etc.  It’s common knowledge ’round these parts that Chicago is quick to get to, and offers a lot more diversity and entertainment than Milwaukee.

We just don’t like to admit it…

Driving in Chicago, unfortunately, is neither diverse nor entertaining.  It’s closer to running the bulls in Spain – blindfolded, naked, and with both your kneecaps shot out.  I could write an entire post of things better than driving in Chicago, but it would take me the better part of a year…so I’ll behave myself.

You’re welcome…

The last time I girded my loins for the battle that is traffic on the Kennedy – I prepared myself with a quick run to Best Buy for a GPS.  I firmly believe he’s the only reason I managed to see Chicago from my rear-view mirror on my way to Ohio for a weekend of Wisconsin solidarity with a long-time friend.

My little plastic savior!  Long may you tell me where to go!

Naturally, the kids were up for a long road trip, so I didn’t have to do all that driving alone.  When we were coming back home after this weekend of alcohol and hugs and alcohol and tears and alcohol and music and, did I mention alcohol?  – we once again found ourselves in enemy territory with Chicago surrounding us on all sides.   From the backseat came the most delicious suggestion from my oldest son:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if someone ‘shopped Sauron’s eye in between the uprights on the Sears Tower?”

He may not have meant it as a command – but how could I resist?

Beating up the Fags

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**Warning*

*Disclaimer*

*Abandon all Hope ye who Enter Here**

This is not a typical post for me – this is a very political, very social, very disparaging rant – consider yourself warned 😀

A friend of mine across the pond was on a bit of a cigarette regulation rant himself the other day – and called an e-cigarette the Electrofag – which is why the British slang for a smoke is floating around in my head.

So – as Heisenberg says – ‘Relax…..’  This is a rant about cigarette regulation…not about the homosexual population – some of which I consider great friends.

I used to smoke.

I liked to smoke.

I wasn’t one of them weak-willed cig-suckers who bemoaned about addiction, and wanting to quit, and how awful the Corporate Tobacco masters were to make us their collective bitch, and how everyone should shed a tear for the poor, pitiful smoker who tried to hork out a lung when waking up in the morning because it WASN’T OUR FAULT!

mutter your favorite word for fecal material here…

I didn’t want pity.  I didn’t want a solution to my ‘horrible problem.’  I just wanted to exercise my right as an adult to perform this habit I chose to indulge in.

I.  Liked.  To.   Smoke.

I knew what it was doing to my body, and every once in a while, I’d get sick and tired of feeling a bit sick and tired, and put the smokes away for a few months.  But I was always back for 20 of my little white cylindrical buddies sooner or later.  Cold turkey was always my preferred method of quitting, as I had to get in the ‘I don’t wanna do this anymore’ mindset.

I.  Liked.  To.   Smoke.

Any time I bowed to societal pressure and attempted to quit ‘because everyone was doing it,’ ‘do it for your loved ones,’ or any of the other claptrap created to guilt smokers into giving up their habit, I was back at it within days…especially when using the NRT products offered by the friendly neighborhood Pharma House.

I.    Liked.     To.     Smoke.

When I got pregnant with both my boys – I gave up smokes.  Those were the easiest quits I did – the smoke made an already unstable stomach even more unstable.  Nothing like hugging Ralph (the porcelain god) after every cigarette to persuade oneself to give up the habit.  But after the kid popped out…here come my little round buddies in their square packs.

I.  Liked.  To.   Smoke.

It was the habit, the ritual, all the little quirky mannerisms that come WITH a cigarette that I desired more than the nicotine or the TSNA’s (Tobacco-Specific Nitrosamines) IN the cigarette.  Smokers will know exactly what I mean – the rest of you have no business judging until you’ve tried to give up an ingrained ritual of your own…say that first morning cup of coffee, the daily 5 mile run, or Saturday Night Sex-athons.

I.    Liked.    To.     Smoke.

Which is why it is so surprising to me that I am nearing my 6th year in a row without lighting a carbon-based plant substance on fire and sucking the results of that combustion deep into my lung tissue.

I quit smoking by finding a substitute which allows me to indulge in all the mannerisms and ritual, without that pesky smoke stinking up the place and coating my lungs with a layer of tar.  I use a vapor product.

And now – by some twisted quirk of fate – those same arrogant bastards who spent decades demonizing the lowly cigarette are intent on painting my shiny new habit with the same tarry brush.

Why?  Money.  Power.  Arrogance.  Chutzpah.  Compensating for smaller genitals or lack of a sex life?  At this point, anything is possible.

I watched the war against cigarettes unfold in all its ugly incarnations as one of many receivers of unwanted attention.  While it started with good, simple, and attainable directives (educate the public about the dangers of smoking, and more of the public will choose not to smoke), it has slowly morphed into a witch hunt reminiscent of the Salem Trials.  If things continue on down the same path they have been, I firmly believe the endgame will be to burn smokers at the stake – using their own brand of coffin nails instead of wood or straw to set the bonfire.

No…dammit…they won’t.  Second-hand smoke and all that might harm the cheeeeeeeeeeeeldren.

Believe me, or not, your choice.  But before you toss off a hate-filled rant in the comments section, stop.

Just for a second.

Stop.

Think.

Is your reaction to the smoking issue quick and heated?  Does your mind fill with various sound-bytes and memes demonizing the average Joe-smoker?  Guess what?  You’ve been groomed to respond in this manner – without thought, without introspection, without REALLY thinking it through.

Marinate on that for a bit….I’ll wait.

Just like Pavlov’s dog was taught to salivate at the sound of a bell…the majority of people who DON’T smoke have been conditioned to bare their fangs and growl at the slightest whiff of smoke – the very sight of someone lifting a cylindrical object to their mouths will ignite a deep-seated desire to prove they are less than you, beneath you…a proto-human it’s OK to hate.

And those who used to smoke?  That’s a combination of unfulfilled desire to once again partake mixed in with that same smarmy superiority ego-trip.  If I can quit, anyone can.  Just man up.

Have I gotten you to start thinking outside the programming yet?  Or – will you continue to let the architects of Public Hate Health ignite the flames (using specially-prepared ‘clean-burning’ wood so as not to add to the carbon-footprint of the world), certain they’ve got them damn smokers ground to a paste under their well-polished heels?

Time to shake off the programming, people…

The Dirty Dozen

Tempest teacup crop

2014 to 2014. RIP little buddy…

Have I mentioned lately that I was infected with the photography bug a few years ago – and that as a result, I suffer from an obsessive desire to point various lenses at strange, twisted, ordinary or really beautiful things?  That this illness additionally manifests as an almost manic need to show these images to everyone who can stand a chance-encounter with my blog or my Facebook page?

There.  Photography is a disease.  Does that make my camera a drug?

Last year, after the frenzy of Christmas had died away to the cold doldrums of January in Wisconsin, I started browsing the web to alleviate the boredom.  The trouble started when I found my browser looking at cameras.

When all else fails…blame the computer!

Big cameras…complete with big price tags.  Cameras with them scary interchangeable lens systems and multiple menus and complex books for how to operate them.  In February, I dragged my credit card out of my wallet, and made it (well, the company who issued it, really) rather happy by using it to adopt a Canon Rebel.  Since then, I’ve had a lot of fun pointing it at the aforementioned strange things.

Now…here comes the hard part.  Going back through the files in my computer, I’ve chosen the “Dirty Dozen” – my 12 favorites, shot with the new camera.  These are the ones that I Ooooooh’d and Ahhhhh’d over when I saw what I’d captured in the small view screen, and continued to get all Oooey-gooey over when they came out of the camera and onto my computer screen…

Of all these shots – only one was manipulated beyond simple straightening or cropping in ‘shop…and even that one was merely a simple change of background.  No colors, pixels, or lighting adjustments were made to any of the Dirty Dozen.

Do you know how HARD it was to pick only 12????

The first one is obvious – I see it every time I take a look at the T&T.  This is the shot that started the blog…got me back into writing…and eventuA Tempest and a Teapot copyally, introduced me to all of you.  This is the only picture in the group where I did major adjustments in ‘shop – I took the teapot on the rocks, clipped it from its original background, and dropped it in front of the waves.  Both teapot and wave images were by my hand, taken on the same day, at the same location – which is why they fit well together – I didn’t have to balance lighting values.

AIMG_0633This next one was the inaugural launch of the Canon – the SQO and band-mates had a show in Mid-March – their first live event in over a year.  the Canon was primed and ready to catch fantastic images!

This is actually a shot taken when the headliner band was on stage – a group called the Black Moods based in Tempe, AZ.  They actually toured all the way up here – in the uncertainty of Spring in Wisconsin (yea, I was impressed) to introduce themselves to the world.  This is actually a shot of the lead singer’s hair, as he flipped it around behind the mic.

A WE Energies

Let’s go a bit further in the year – June.  June 13th, to be exact.  Friday, June 13th.  We had a full moon due to come up that night, and those who follow the heavenly bodies declared that this would be a yellow, honey-colored globe rising.  Thus…the Honey Moon.
I celebrated this celestial event by heading to the same beach where the T&T shot was taken – this time at night.  While I was waiting for the moon to make her appearance, I squeezed off this fantastic reflective shot of the Electric Company plant.

A Dave holding the moonAnd when the moon finally rose?  I had the SQO capture the whole thing in his hand.

Sadly, this was the end of the little teacup featured quite heavily in the early days of the T&T on Google –  Friday the 13th reared its ugly head, and caused the teacup to shatter on the cement walkway.

A bird Feeder Close

Skipping forward another month – we have a family thing every year in July up at my Dad’s place on Lake Reinhart.  I did get coerced into taking some of the stilted, stiff, wooden family groupings (which weren’t even considered for the Dirty Dozen) I detest, but then I got to aim the lens at nature and the landscaping.  Three of this day’s shooting made the list.  This one is a favorite bokeh shot.

A pump and Drops FramedDad built his own ornamental pond in his yard, and decked it out with a small bridge, fountains, and ancient, rusty outdoorsy things.  I’ve always had an obsession with water and reflective surfaces, but in this shot, I didn’t focus on the water in the pool, instead concentrating on the spray of fluid jetting up from the fountain.

A Fireball 4

The last shot from the reunion at the lake was my oldest son.  He used to skateboard until an unfortunate spill from his board resulted in breaking his ankle in 3 places.  While I had hoped he would find a nice, safe hobby to replace throwing himself high in the air, allowing gravity to drag him back -hard- to the ground, he took up spinning bundles of Kevlar, soaked in kerosene and set on fire, around his body as he danced.  Seeing though this wasn’t enough to give me a mild heart attack, he attempted again to halt my bodily functions by actually spitting flames.

At one point in the day, he discussed how his hobby was not as hazardous as skating.  The reply?  “Dude…you’re breathing fire!”

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And speaking of fire – in September, the kid’s fire tribe held their last meet of the year.  Because I had shared the fire shot from the lake widely on Facebook, I was invited to point the camera at their group as they played with flame.  Out of that series, this one, and the one below, made the ‘Dozen.’

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After this shoot, I realized one major thing.  The shots taken earlier in the evening were great – as the night wore on, shots were less likely to be sharp – the reason?  Fatigue.  The arms start to get tired holding the camera up, and start to shake.  When taking shots in a dark location – any shaking is transmitted to the image.  Off I went to the ‘net in search of a new rig – the shoulder harness.  I can’t wait until the spinners do their thing again, as I’ll be ready to be steady throughout the night.

IMG_3287October rolled around, fading the greens of summer to the autumn palette of tans, reds, browns, and yellows.  I took one final stroll down the Waukesha Riverwalk and up Main Street to catch the Autumn feeling.

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And, finally, November.  The Feastaval.  I have to include this one in the ‘Dozen,’ because I absolutely love the shadow which appeared in the light of the staff…it’s sharp and crisp and painfully in focus.  The staff’s path created whirlpools of vibrant color.  a IMG_3442 crop

**Whew**

I’m spent.  Reviewing all the shots I’ve taken over the last year, even narrowing it down to ONLY the Canon shots, and then having to pick the best of the best…let’s just say I won’t be volunteering for any judging anytime soon.

Flash Fiction – A “Roman” Observer

Rose lineup Flash Fiction

Flash! Friday has come and gone – but fear not – my entry was submitted on time for the group.  This week’s prompt was dual (our mistress returned the dragon’s bidding) – the picture was The Colosseum in Rome, and we had to include a janitor in the story.  She also gave us an additional 50 words.  Yup!

With the return of the Dragon’s Bidding – how could my own dragon not surface from his solitude, and offer up an observation from his own memoirs?  Enjoy a little slice of flash!

A “Roman” Observer

202 words

I shamble through the stacked tiers of the enormous travertine bowl of the Colosseum, moving quickly as the weighted shackles permit. I lift a discarded rind from its marble seat, feel it slither to the bottom of my bag. A shard of broken clay settles beside it, rapidly joined by the scrap of leather torn from a nobleman’s sandal.

How have I fallen this far? Me! How is it that I am reduced to residence in chains? To cleaning this house of carnage between bouts of depravity, gathering the debris of revelry absently abandoned by those watching the inferior bleed out for their pleasure?

How long will they prey on themselves, in the absence of any worthwhile enemy?  When will they discard this myopic delusion of grandeur, to finally acknowledge the sentience embedded in the bones of the world?

What would these macabre voyeurs do with a REAL monster within their stone ring? A fabled, towering beast of wing and hide from their blackest night-terrors, one effortlessly suspending the Earth’s Elements between my strong claws?

Teeth far too long and sharp flash briefly between my lips, emboldened by the fantasy of casting off my illusionary form.

Tempted, I am, to find out.

Top 10 over-used Romance Novel Devices

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This will be a first for me – as I’m not a ‘list’ person.

Sure, I was exposed to David Letterman’s Top 10 – when I wandered past the TV a decade ago and someone was watching – so I know lists can be quirky, funny and  sarcastic (all admirable qualities, I might add).  I’ve noticed these qualities have carried over into the blog-world (for example) but lists are traditionally   – just not…me.

But what the hell…I’ll give it a go – what do I have to lose except my self-respect?

Go ahead…say it.  I know you wanna…

I have a Kindle.

insert fanfare here?

I also have an Amazon Prime account – one of the perks of which is the Kindle First program.  Each month or so, I get an email from Amazon with 4 books to choose from which are soon to be released to the general public, and Amazon lets me read one of these books for free.  I’m always up for free literature.

Normally, I pick something science-fiction, fantasy, paranormal or thriller – as those are the genres I enjoy the most.

This month – Amazon allowed us to pick 2 of the 4, instead of just a single…but the only thing close to my favorite genres was a ghost-story.  So, on a whim, I also selected a contemporary romance.

This shall henceforth be known as Mistake #1

I haven’t read a contemporary bodice-ripper for decades – not since I got bored with the never-changing flowery phrasing and formulaic plots spun out over and over again.  I did indulge in paranormal romances when they first hit the shelves, as they were a fresh take on an old style – but even they quickly fell into rote patterning.  After all, how often do wolves, vampires or psychics find themselves in a meet&f*ck situation?

Anyone can write a contemporary romance – all you need is the right combination of words to inflict on your reading audience.  To find these phrases…all you need to do is read one.

>ONE<

It doesn’t matter how you pick your template – close your eyes and grab a spine, consult the psychic down the street, ask your Facebook friends for a good title, etc… – I guarantee that within the pages of your selected reading material the ‘romance combination’ will be displayed.

You’d think, given the 20 or so odd years it’s been since I picked up a trashy novel, that someone would have come up with at least a few phrases that haven’t been done to death.

Here are the worst offenders:

10-Velvet Shaft/Pillar of Manhood/Pulsing Length

OK – so my first pick is three phrases…and I could have added a shit-ton more, mostly references to swords, pikes, daggers, or other weapons of warmongering.   You know what I NEVER see this dangly bit of male flesh called?  A Penis.

I have to ask the romance authors of the world:  what is wrong with calling the ‘Throbbing Python of Love’ a Penis?  It’s not some mystical talisman or magical weapon – it’s a body part.  Granted, it’s a body part that’s not often shown in public, but every male has one of these tucked into their boxers, so they’re pretty damn common.

9-‘Smoldering’ things

smoking_matchI’m surprised every romance book doesn’t come with a complementary pair of oven mitts to safely handle the pages, as everything in this genre has the potential to burst into metaphysical flame.  I have to lay the blame for this one squarely on the heads of the Catholic Church – everything in a romance novel is

>Hot<     >Steamy<     >Smoldering<      >Blistering<      >Incendiary<      

It’s painfully obvious these are references to the fire and brimstone landscape of Hell – which is where these novel heroines are destined to go, as they participate -WILLINGLY- in premarital sex.

8-‘Chiseled’ body parts

Image from the Movie 300

Image from the Movie 300

I’ve noticed that every romance hero has the body of a Greek God – hard, solid, precise, and carved from cold marble.  From descriptors of ‘His chiseled jawline,’ down to ‘His chiseled, rock-hard abs,’ to the ‘buns of sculpted steel,’ everything on this perfect specimen of manhood is the result of a quick trip down to the statuary.  It HAS to be the balance for all that smoldering – cold stone is the only thing that keeps your novel from spontaneous combustion.

6-The Wonder-Wardrobe Ensemble

this closet is larger than my bedroom...

this closet is larger than my bedroom…

WAAAAAAAAAAAY too much care is paid to our leading character’s wardrobes.   Multiple pages of text are dedicated to what they are wearing – everything from Accessories to types of Zippers.  Sometimes they dedicate an entire chapter solely to underthings.

(I’ll bet THEY never have my brassiere problems…)

I understand wanting to set the scene in the eyes and mind of the reader, but I couldn’t tell you how an Armani suit differs from one you can buy at the average Men’s Warehouse (aside from the price tag), or what makes a Jimmy Choo shoe a Jimmy Choo shoe.

And why does your average romance starlet (who is usually struggling to make ends meet until her Prince Charming comes along with his rock hard wallet of cold cash to sweep her into the fairytale ending) always have a friend who has this wonder-wardrobe available in her (let’s make Barbie jealous) size?

5-Paradise

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt’s every romance character’s goal – getting to the gates of paradise with their beloved.  Paradise is over-rated. A place where everything’s perfect?  Nothing goes wrong?  Everyone is exquisitely dressed, groomed, and smoldering happily-ever-after?

Bo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ring!!!!

Take a look at the number of drug rehab centers and celebrity photos of notables in compromising positions, and tell me that having everything you ever wanted at your beck and call equals happiness?

4-Shattering orgasms

I’ve heard it over and over again (usually when the neighbor-lady has her boyfriend spend the night) – the heroine screams her man’s name as her body shatters into a million pieces of blissful release.

Ummm…breaking into little tiny pieces is really BAD for the human body…

3-Marriage

She'd better start lifting weights...

She’d better start lifting weights…

It’s at the end of every novel.  Our heroine is reminiscing with her best friend (the owner of the Wonder-Wardrobe), missing the good times and great sex, but planning to doggedly get on with this thing called life.  Our hero, in the meantime, has had an Epiphany.  He appears without any prior notice – his apology a ring with a rock so large it has its own gravity well, presented in a dramatic/down on one Armani-clad knee/sober and heartfelt request for the hand of the woman he now realizes he loves.   Naturally, our heroine bursts into tears while heaving out a ‘yes, yes, yes!’ between sobs of gratitude.  A cluster of friends will be on standby to cheer, and at least 2 should have a handkerchief which will be pressed delicately to catch the tears of joy.

A more realistic approach would be to knee him in the Pillar of Manhood, and tell him to go f*ck up someone else’s life.

2-Oh…and while we’re on the ‘Heaving’ subject…

When I was growing up…heaving was a bad thing.  Visions of being far too close to the business end of a toilet are dancing through my head right now (you’re welcome…) but in your typical romance novel, the heroine’s chest must heave at LEAST once per chapter…more if they’re coming up to the big sex scene.

1-And speaking of the big sex scene…

Have these writers ever HAD sex?

Maybe I’m just doing it wrong, but I’ve NEVER had an encounter half as spectacular as those depicted – blow by blow, every lick, suck, bite, caress, stroke, and orgasm dutifully recorded – in today’s  romances.

Anyone wanna prove me wrong 😉