Friday, October 30, 2009
Let me be perfectly clear about this. I do not fault anyone at anytime for making the most of their opportunities. If I could figure out how to make millions of dollars off of the millions women that buy what Nashville is cranking out by the truckload, I would do it and stuff whatever conscience remained in me in my back pocket. I do not blame Shania for taking the money and doing the videos. I do not blame Jack Ingram for dying his hair and playing Happy Happy Country Country songs for the masses that listen to the radio. Jack went from a seldom-played -on -most- airwaves to being all over the world in a few short years. Jack has changed over the years. And the links I had are now busted. I bet though if you go looking around on the intertubz you can see the progression in time of the changes in the man. There is no shame in it Jack, take the money and run. Jack isn't radically different in presentation of music from those days back when he played little bars and rode in a van, what changed was that Nashville figured out they could make a buck off him. I hope he keeps the same fire he had back in the day, but hell even U2 had a Blackberry Tent in Dallas and big sponsor presence. But, if he starts to sound like smooth jazz I am done with him. Nothing against jazz either, love me some Sade, but she isn't trying to convince me she could sing rockabilly.
This really isn't a rant about being a sell-out. I don't give a damn about that. It is about honesty. It really isn't even dishonesty on the part of the artist. They are just being themselves. It is Nashville. They are the ones that made Dwight Yoakum change hillbilly music to et cetera. It is they that told us that some songs are just too twangy and we should really not be too much like Bill Monroe or Hank Sr. Better to be like his son, better to polish up that production value and get a good set of backing singers. I think it was Ann Murray that pushed them over the edge. "You needed me" went to numero uno. All that outlaw stuff that had been happening was just a blip on the radar. People don't want long-haired dope-smoking cowboys singing honky-tonk music. They want soft ballads and soothing vocals with strings and horns.
That was the foothold. Ann Murray is and was a great singer, but she isn't country. Never has been, not going to be. Shania isn't country either. Again, not their fault, I just wish that Nashville would quit telling me they are.
George Jones got interviewed the other day about this phenomena of one music genre pretending it is another. He isn't fond of it either. When the reporter asked him about Johnny Cash singing "Hurt" and was that a violation in his opinion he didn't answer it directly but responded to her follow-up about rap. In his geezerly downplay of rap as a viable music he missed the opportunity to smackdown her insinuation that somehow the pop/jazz renditions of what is called country are somehow equal with Johnny's minimalist approach to Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode. I challenge you to find me the similarities between the lone piano and guitar in those two songs with the lush production of Shania.
Look, I know there are a lot of females out there like the one named 'ohiocarebear' that posted a tribute video of Carrie Underwood with a bedding track of Kenny Chesney's "Big Star". If fat bottomed girls make the rocking world go round as Freddie Mercury so clearly reminded us, then they also are major contributors to the continuing success of sappy lyrics and slushy strings that pervade modern country songs. It isn't as though there aren't musicians still playing what would commonly be recognized as country, but because they are so atavistic they are lumped into the catch-all term of Americana. This is merely Nashville's attempt to distance themselves from their embarrassing past. They really don't like to acknowledge that they are indeed sons and daughter's of coal miners and cowboys. A nice mythos, but in reality let's not remind people about that so very much. It is as if our ancestors of George Jones and Lefty Frizzel are drunken uncles to be kept out on the fringes where polite people won't get offended. Notwithstanding George's well-documented encounters with the bottle and the law, his music is no less appreciated today than it was forty years ago. I will agree with the man on his disdain for modern country, but not his dismissal of other genres. I don't really mind if they keep on cranking out music for carebear2398 and txsweetie1123, just stop calling it what it ain't.
On that note, I will leave you with a song that will never ever ever be heard on KPLX or any other Nashville outpost, but is more country in the first bar than ninety-five percent of what will be played there today or any other day,
Monday, October 26, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
then I stopped caring
and it took more than i figured to shake me out of myself
used to was
i had timeandmoney
andi gave me
where could and would
the person i was and will be
are there and gone
all i have is dollars now
where is he!?
apply now at most urgenty dispatch
was i there yesterday?
did you see me
and my wallet?
did i have it with me?
so far away
i had pieces of me
sure i left them here
i remember it
swear to you
i am and was or will be here
Friday, May 29, 2009
i don't remember words or when they came to me
I know the smell of a library and the touch of paper
i remember a blob on my algebra folder
this was before the Cistercians in a folded corner
it was just a spill that looked like a soldier in his great coat
words found me
now words are what i punch on a screen
instead of trying to prove to someone else that i know what the hell i am talking about
yeah i got that paper to do on that too, meetings
still going before the committee of judges
instead of money or was it grades or was it time
i was a junkman selling your cars
washing your windows
and shining your stars Neil Young
when i said to the man from Saltillo
whose grandmother ate chicken feet that scared him
that the history of his country was like a big, loud fiesta
he knew i was right and he nodded
i remembered that it was all a tapestry
just a thread, a tiny braid in time
that tree is far older than I will ever be
if all i have left is the words that i leave behind
if all i have is the children that grow and know
then some part of me is still being ornery and hard headed
somewhere I am laughing
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Took one of those half-assed tests on facebook
cooked up by someone with far too much time on their hands
"What do you know about women?" Men only!
I got 100% and laughed at their conclusion.
What I know about women would not fill a teaspoon.
There is no bigger mystery in the world.
Unlocking the mechanisms of life
when i parted the womb and grasped at the air around me
what did i know?
can you tell me?
i still know the woman that bore me out of herself
the father that mated with the egg
and wove DNA in a hidden world
we are what we are
there is no
that is not me
those we have touched
what we shared in the moment of now
is was and will be
after we are gone
there is more of me than can go around
and i do not know how much i am
where i am and all that i shall be
is merely smoke and mirrors
shadows dancing upon cave walls
i was and there i will be again
i am and so shall i be
if i say
i understand the other sex
if i say
i know the woman
then i will surely lie
no matter how many of my kin
no matter how many dinners
they are there
and i am here
i do not know if we can ever know the other
the gleaming reflection of myself in another's eyes
it is enough to know for me that they are there
and that is good
or it is for me
i miss them when they are gone
Monday, April 13, 2009
Repost from over at the Great Orange Satan
Wichita Falls is not a pretty town. Texas Monthly once many years ago determined that being a full-time resident of WF was one of the worst jobs in Texas. I would have to concur. It is hotter than hell in summer, colder than a well-digger's butt in winter and occasionally Oklahoma decides to fly by in the wind, then it rains and the whole world looks like you decided to dump a bucket of mud on it. Thirty years ago this day one of the worst storms in the history of our country plowed through town.
According to the National Weather Service it was The Red River Valley Tornado Outbreak of April 10, 1979.
"When the giant tornado struck Wichita Falls just before 6:00 p.m., most people were not surprised. Severe weather warnings had been in effect for Wichita County and Wichita Falls for almost an hour. The warnings were being broadcast repeatedly by two local TV stations and three local radio stations which were receiving continuously updated information over the emergency hotline connecting them with the Wichita Falls WSO. The siren system for the city was sounded three times, the last around 5:50 p.m., just as the storm spotters reported the tornado approaching Memorial Stadium in the southwestern suburbs of Wichita Falls. The giant tornado was a massive black column extending from the low striated base of the inky clouds to the ground. Huge pieces of debris thrown high in the air were clearly visible from miles away as the storm cut a swath of destruction through the city. Eyewitnesses described details of the storm differently, but they were unanimous on one point -- it was an awesome, terrifying experience beyond anything they had encountered before."
"Despite excellent warning lead-time and multiple soundings of the sirens, some people of Wichita Falls either did not hear the warnings or failed to take prescribed lifesaving actions. More than 40 died, and about 1,700 were injured. As the storm bore down, those who sought the safest refuge in their immediate surroundings generally fared well. Those who were caught in automobiles and trucks made up a high percentage of the fatalities. People from the shopping center took shelter in refrigerator vaults, in restrooms, and under closets. Several got extra protection by covering themselves with mattresses and pillows. They survived!"
Back in 79, the average lead time was around five minutes. Now we can get about 10-15 minute leads. But, even with the extra five minutes the risk of becoming a piece of flying debris is too great to try to outrun one of these. Find somewhere to hide. In the tub with a mattress over you is still one of the better locations in your house. If you have an interior bathroom that isn't adjacent to exterior walls, that is even better. Of course a storm shelter is your best bet. That is where my grandfather, family and their neighbors had all sought refuge. They all survived uninjured. Others were not so fortunate. There were parts of town that were blown clean away. To this day I remember seeing a truck bumper stuck in top of a sycamore tree that was still standing. The scariest part of the entire thing was the not knowing. Nobody knew anything, there was no phone service and no such thing as cell phones back then. My mom got in her car and went out there. My sister and I stayed with my dad while she went to find out if my grandfather and her brother were alive. She said when she got to the edge of town the Highway Patrol had the road blockaded. She explained herself and the officer was not going to let her in, but she managed to convince him that she was going to find a way in, come hell or high water. He finally let her go. I lost track of her for four or five days. I didn't know anything. There was no internet database to go search for victims. There was nothing to do but wait. When she finally called in and relieved my fears I found out that everybody we knew was ok, but the town was devastated.
How do you describe a tornado like this one? A mile wide and miles tall. I have heard some say it was three tornadoes that fused into one. At least one picture in the NWS link distinctly shows three funnels that later were one. I have studied weather as an amateur observer, but I know better than to think I will ever understand completely how these things form. Over-riding cold front on top of warm, humid air mass, anticyclones, wall clouds, Fujita scale, whatever other jargon I might gather along the way is no match for the terrible knowledge that any given spring or autumn day might turn out like this one 30 years ago.
If you get nothing else out of this diary and in spite of the fact that I just the other day did one on 'preppers' I implore all of dKos to be prepared for events like this. Have a plan. Have food on hand that will get you through a few days, same with water. Have a good first aid kit. Have a radio. Be prepared. If you are at home, find the safest place you can. If you are in your car, pull over and find shelter. Get in the damn beer cooler at the Quickie Mart if that is all you have. You, Apu and Bubba get in there and stay put.
I hope nobody ever needs this info. I hope you never see a day like this one thirty years ago.
Some selected comments from dear readers:
My mother was one of nine children; the day the youngest child was born (my uncle) their house was wiped out by a tornado (West Texas). The baby was born at home, so the entire family crowded into the bedroom with my grandmother (in bed with the baby). My grandfather held a quilt over the window to block the softball sized hail that was pounding the house. The only thing left standing after the storm was the bedroom.
I was in Lawton Oklahoma at the time, and we had one that day, too, that killed two people, one of whom was a baby ripped out of its parent's arms.
Crazy day. I was 17 years old and was out fishing with a buddy (in a boat! Stupid!), and then as we were driving back into town we heard there was a tornado on the ground near the downtown. We headed right down, to try to see, it and were on the scene immediately after it hit.
We only found out later about the Wichita Falls disaster. That was nasty. I was down there a month or two later and it was just a wasteland. There were still pieces of cars up in the stripped branches of the trees that remained standing. As far as you could see. That thing was a mile wide, as you mentioned.
The kids and I huddled in the hall, and luckily we were just on the edge of the worst of it. We had some damage, but three doors down the houses were flat all the way to the kids' elementary school.
Think of the worst photos of war zones you've ever seen, and you'll come close to knowing what it looked like.
Not something you ever forget.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
These little critters loved to sun themselves in the pots that leaned against my shed down in Aggieland when I worked for the Peach Guru. I had to shake them out of the pots daily during this time of year. If I didn't,te larger males with their testosterone swollen heads could not get out through the drain holes and couldn't make the climb out of the slick plastic tombs. The smaller black one is a juvenile. http://www.uga.edu/srelherp/SPARC/trip23.htm Has some interesting info about them. If you happen to find one of these on your place, let it be. Anything that relishes yellow jacket larvae is a good friend to have.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Red Cat-tail? perhaps. It will grow outside in tropical climates, zone 10 or better. In most of the world this thing never gets as tall as this one. I found it in Fort Worth at the Botanical Garden Conservatory. I like that big glass barn. They have done a good job of updating it over the last decade or so. Several of the overgrown palm trees have been removed and they have done a masterful job of creating microclimates within the canopy and on the floor of the greenhouse. This one is tall enough for me to walk under and take this picture with the sun shining through the flowers. Been on more than one date to this place. A quiet, conversational sort of place in the town of the Cow.
This plant is usually found in the trade as a hanging basket and works well in that regard. It loves humidity. A sunny window in the kitchen, bathroom or other indoor place that sees a lot of ambient moisture is a good location. U of Florida maintains that it blooms best in full sun. I will take that under advisement until I see that it can handle Texas after noon. Nonetheless an interesting investment in your continued efforts to replicate the tropics on your patio. Worth the 20 bucks to park it out by the wicker and see what it does. Might try one on the porch this year.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Prickly Pear Cactus is one of the archetypal images conjured up by publicists to attempt to sell the American Southwest. Hereafter known as SW. Where I live this thing is everywhere. I consulted the OED for some illumination on the etymology of the word cactus. Straight out of Latin. Kaktos in the Greek. Prickly. Lovely. Find another word to define the first one. Wankers.
Prick=Sharp Pointed Stick. Well duh. Did you really expect something else? #17 is the one that refers to the male appendage citing an early reference of 1592. Figured you might be wondering about that.
Most of my family is convinced that my fascination with cactus is a recurrent symptom of mental instability. Australian ranchers in Queensland would probably concur with this. It seems that this plant was brought to that island on purpose. The apocryphal tale that it was brought by an immigrant Texan's homesick wife may have been true of one of the 59 species of these spiny plants, but in 1788 at least one cladode was brought to that continent where it and others of its kind flourished to the tune of 29 million acres.
At that time, Spain and Portugal had a world-wide monopoly on the important cochineal dye industry and the British Government was keen to set up its own source of supply within its dominion. The red dye derived from cochineal insects was important to the western world's clothing and garment industries. It was, for example, the dye used to colour the British soldiers' red coats.It was at the instigation of Sir Joseph Banks that a cochineal dye industry was established at Botany Bay. Little is known of the fate of those first plants introduced by Captain Phillip, but it has been established that the particular variety of prickly pear brought to Australia in the First Fleet to set up a dye industry was "smooth tree pear" (Opuntia vulgaris). This type of cactus is still found along coastal areas of New South Wales, and is classified as a noxious weed. However, Opuntia vulgaris never developed into a major problem as did some of its relatives - especially Opuntia stricta spp. and O. aurantiaca
Prickly Pear History
It didn't work out so well for the settlers of Australia. It is well-documented that it became a noxious pest plant. As any camper, hiker, cowboy, city slicker who has ever had the misfortune to fall into a clump can attest cactus can be painful, decidedly so. The Pear Facts is a nifty little fact sheet concerning its history in that part of the world. In 1925 they decided to give this little bitty moth a try, Cactoblastis cactorum It is called "biological control" when we send one organism to attack another. Ladybird beetles (ladybugs) will eat aphids, but if you become an active participant in the hunt, you too have become organic. So, the Aussies gave it a try. Why not? Fire didn't kill it. Arsenicals not so much. But the very hungry caterpillars? OMG! They never quit! That critter was so successful they built a memorial hall complete with historical stone marker, Boonarga Cactoblastis Memorial Hall. HOWEVER, it is not a welcome immigrant here. At least not to me and a few others. Ranchers might want to take off to Puerto Rico and smuggle back some egg casings if they knew how. Be patient men, it will make it over the Mississippi eventually. The only thing that will slow it down is the cold or other biological characters we bring against it. It is difficult to consider Texas and Mexico without the ubiquitous Opuntia species. Yeah, sure there is a market for nopalitos and tunas, but it is the cultural implications rather than the economic impact that bothers me. There will be no vacuum formed in the panoply of plants that inhabit the SW. Again, the ranchers are scratching their heads wondering why on earth I would want to trade cactus and yucca for grass and forbs. Down in the core of my being I am not too terribly concerned. Prickly Pear will survive this moth attack.
I do not know an easier plant to grow. Take one pad, throw it on the ground and wait. That's it. You don't even have to actually put it in the soil. Merely having one or two aeroles (where the spines are) in contact with the soil is enough for the pad to grow roots.
There are two basic types; dry, green fruited ones and the fleshy purple ones. There are many variations in pad size, spine length, height and distribution. Flower color ranges from a clear yellow to a pinkish red. It is unusual but not rare to see more than one color on a plant due to sporting/mutation. Color is not a species determinant.
Other tales of Prickly Pear? The story goes that when the Aztecs found an eagle perched on a cactus growing from a rock eating a snake that they would build a great city. Tada! Tenochitlan. It was on a Prickly Pear cactus that the caracara ate a rattlesnake in the middle of the swamp. Some say the coyote uses his tail to brush off the spines before he eats the tuna. Yeah, sure sounds great.
It is certainly edible. I like nopalito and potato tacos. The test for palatability of the pads is to snap one in two. If it breaks cleanly without the interior cords being present it is still tender enough to eat. The green fruit probably has some medicinal properties but I do not know them. The purple fruit is sweet, but seedy. Good ones are plum colored, 2-3 inches long and swollen with juice. Since mankind has managed to make booze out of every sugary or carbo-laden plant this one also has been fermented and distilled. Tell me how it tastes, never tried it. Watch out for the tiny hairlike spines called glochids. Duct tape works well to remove these tiny tormenters. Flower petals can be scrambled with eggs. Gotta try that this year. I see nopalito offered in my circle of taquerias around Easter, but I can find it at some year round. The pads are collected, spines removed if present, sliced, parboiled and canned for later use. Bust open a Mason jar of the tart, crisp slices, throw'em in a skillet with some taters and onions and slap that all in a tortilla. Good eatin' my friend.
Cactus isn't for everybody. Prickly Pear does not belong in a bed near the house or any walkway. Out in the median or in some hot, unforgiving corner that bakes in the summer sun is where it belongs. Prickly Pear does not care if you grow it on purpose or not. If you drag chains across it or burn it with fire it will regrow. We have developed chemical controls and it does have a formidable antagonist in the Cactoblastis, but despite all our efforts and under the harshest of circumstances it has and will continue to survive.
Opuntia, from the town in Greece, Opus. 250 species worldwide and 59 in North America. I wonder where I can find some good nopalito tacos today. Perhaps over at Vera Cruz, they have damn good salsa verde too.