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Away for a week

We're away for a week, hopefully exploring mangroves and Everglades but not tangling with crocogators or allodiles.

See you when we return!

Skunk crossing

Some skunks decided to bring their babies into the world behind a pizza place in town. I was so touched to see these signs. The response might have been "Ewww, smelly!" But instead it was these.

For your next story

I had an entry I'd planned to do, but I can't actually do it just yet, so have some pictures, instead. They're from a cafe a few towns over.

Here are the sacks of coffee and the roaster.

And here is a chest of drawers for putting (we think) Chinese medicines in--reminds me of the wall of drawers behind Kamaji in Spirited Away, that contained different healing bath additives. (Maybe now it's used to hold tea?)

(Here are Sen/Chihiro and Kamaji, with the wall of drawers--oh, and also Haku)

And here is the tin ceiling. So fancy!

... Surely exciting things happen here. Spies or lovers have meetings. Dissidents find under-the-radar employment. The sparrows that hang about are very intellectual--like in the Duolingo sentence I got today: "pájaros leen el diario"--they read the newspaper.

Everyone here was someone else before**

Having enjoyed a number of hits from Taylor Swift's 1989 album, I decided to buy the CD. And I enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) it very much! It's a rumination on the various ways you can feel and react during a love affair, how you can feel such intensely contradictory things at different moments (or in different relationships, but really, almost all of the emotional states could be reactions to the same relationship, but in different moods and states of self-perception).

I lent it to Wakanomori, who had a take-it-or-leave-it reaction, but remarked, "She really does go on about her own red lips, doesn't she." And she does. Three songs, two of them sitting cheek to cheek on the CD, feature red (or cherry) lips.1 Is that body-positivity? Vanity? Conforming to traditional femininity? Enjoying herself? Probably all of those. But what it got me thinking about was how many images repeated across songs, sometimes word for word. This could be the sign of someone with a very small word horde, who has to keep reusing things, but what if we gave her the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was artistry? What if it's the album equivalent of creating a sestina? Since thinking that, I've been meaning to do an analysis, and . . . Here it is!


What is this madness?Collapse )

So yes: I think this [ETA: by which I mean, her choice of words, not my diagram!!] shows deliberate artistry in service of unifying the album, both through direct song-by-song links and through links that connect songs that are distant from each other. By using repeated images in different contexts, she's emphasizing that it's the same situation seen from a new angle. They're not particularly startling images--they're pretty stock, in fact--but that makes the songs accessible to a wide audience. Nice job, Taylor Swift! You've got a good album here!

**from "Welcome to New York"
1And speaking of cheeks, they are featured in three consecutive songs, as you can see from the handy chart.

Walking in another's shoes

It's rare that you actually live out a metaphor, but that's what happened to me not yesterday, but last week at the jail. (I have stories stored up to tell you, LJ... I'm going to reach even further back for the next one)

One of the many many rules, when you're volunteering, is that you can't wear sandals or open-toed shoes. I don't know why. It's just a rule. My footgear in summer is rubber flip-flops, so I have to be very careful on Fridays that I remember to put on proper shoes. One time last year I forgot, and they ended up calling up the chain of command and getting a special dispensation for me to go in in flip-flops. My flip-flopped feet felt very self-conscious that day.

So a week from yesterday, it was hot out (not like yesterday; yesterday was unusually cool). I said to myself, "I will wear flip-flops for the other things I need to do, but I will put sneakers in the car to change into." When I arrived at the jail, guess what I discovered I had not, in fact, done.

So my choice was to announce my mistake and maybe get the same dispensation as the time last year, or maybe be turned away (this happens if, for instance, you forget your ID), or to not mention it and see if they didn't notice (a rule about no dangling earrings, for instance, is almost never enforced). I was still trying to decide when I reached the lobby, where the program director (my boss's boss, at the jail) happened to be leaving for the day.

She is a wonderful woman whom I admire tremendously. She always dresses with style, always calls people (women, anyway) "Sis," and is warm and friendly and yet impressively firm. She works tirelessly for the women but doesn't accept any nonsense. I can't imagine a better person for the role.

Anyway, I saw her and said, "Look at me... I came in flip-flops."
"Well, I have a pair of shoes upstairs you could wear," she said. "They'd be a little big on you, but I could have them sent down."

I gratefully and apologetically accepted. She left for the day, and a few minutes later, the shoes came down.

They were Much Too Big. Wearing them was like playing dress-up in your mother's shoes. If the point of the rule about sandals is to ensure, for instance, that you can run if you need to, or that your feet are protected, then this was by far a more dangerous set-up. But whatever: it satisfied the rules. I was able to do the volunteering. I will try never to make the same mistake again!

But afterward, what I thought was, These are big shoes to fill. Literally, and metaphorically. They say if you want to understand a person, walk a mile in their shoes, but what this experience made me think was how great (in all senses of the word) a person the programs director was. Hers are not easy shoes to step into.

ETA: Any stories of your own of wearing others' shoes? Share below! If I have enough, and if you give permission, I can print them up as a little book, and we can share the millions of dollars that come pouring when we sell it. (Maybe.. or maybe we can just share stories.)

ETA 2: Speaking of wearing your mother's shoes, here is Little Springtime as a toddler

What is green? What is grass?

Something gold, something fiery

Something gold, something fiery
slipping from a sky-cast net
peeking through pines
flaming, molten,
along the line of the hills




hummingbird courtship

I heard an unusual twittering outside yesterday, so went to see what bird it was making the odd noise, and it turned out to be hummingbirds. A male ruby-throated hummingbird (I can't remember when last I've seen a male before--not for ages), flashing that jewel throat, was swooping down in great parabolas on a bush with abundant, deep-throated pink flowers (weigela) in my neighbor's yard, where a female was feeding. I looked up this behavior and found out he was courting. Well--I was quite impressed! But I'm not the female he was after.


Articles on a bouquet of topics

One of the day-job hats I've been wearing recently--one that's kept me busy--has been guest editor of a magazine on community development, mainly in New England. The first issue with me as guest editor is out! The cover story is "Growing Inequality in Life Expectancy and Benefits for the Elderly"--basically, protections that are in place to help people in their old age end up benefiting the wealthy more than the poor, because the wealthy live longer. Even taking into account their greater inputs into the system, the wealthy benefit more. This is important to know because it affects how we try to shore up the system: if you decide to raise the age at which people receive benefits, for instance, you're going to be penalizing poorer elderly folks, because they have lower life expectancy.

More cheering is "Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees to Rhode Island," which showcases the work of an organization with a 95-year history of work in the field. I like the current focus on the power of story to change people's perceptions of newcomers. The author writes:

Facts rarely change how people think and feel ... We have found that presenting facts to people who do not already agree with us does not change what they think. People have to be ready to hear our information and be primed to believe it in order to actually process it. We use personal stories to prepare a more fertile foundation for our information. Through stories, we get people to process, remember, and share our information.

There are also two articles on rural development, one focusing on new economic forces in what's known as the Northern Forest, and one on restoration ecology (restoring sites after, for example, mining), which tends to take place in rural areas. There is also an article on using mobile technology to prompt people to save for college, an article on high school internships, one on revitalizing small and medium-sized cities, and more. Here's a link to a PDF of the issue (table of contents on page 3), and here's a web link. Maybe they'll be of use to you or someone you know for work, school, advocacy, or just interest.

Marilyn Monroe, the Tattooed Lady
Just over the border at the south end of town is a tattoo parlor with some great associated art, including a series of circus-poster-style portraits of various random famous people that the artist must admire. Here is Marilyn Monroe as a tattooed lady--she has JFK on her left shoulder and the legend "Enter if you dare" on the ribbon underneath her. (Click through to see details.)

The artist also painted this much-tattooed guy menacing the van beside the shop:

Milltown Ink, side wall

A Bell and Its Stories

Very close to the tattoo parlor is a small park with this bell at its center. It's all that is left of a grammar school that once stood there. wakanomori did some Internet research and discovered that the school was built in 1891 (to replace a school built in 1828), was in use until 1991, and burned down in 1994. (Great photos of the school at this site.)

The bell apparently went missing in the 1960s, only to be found in 1974 ... in the bell tower. Surely more to that story there than meets the eye . . .

Even its origin story is interesting: it was made in 1877 by one of two competing bell foundries, both called Meneely Bell Foundry, located in what's now Watervliet, New York. You can make out part of the word "Meneely" in this close-up:

Meanwhile, closer to home: these mailboxes. Are they waiting in line for something? Or are they part of a parade that's temporarily stopped while a band performs for the judges? Or are they just loitering? They had better watch out, if so. I'm told the police take notice.

procession of mailboxes

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June 2016



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