health, humor

The Groan Ranger

This post’s title is a contemporary answer to an old conundrum: “Who was that masked man?”  A shorter answer is that he was (and is) me.  While I have no horse or silver bullets, I do try in my own small way to fight evil.  Fighting COVID-19 is trickier than fighting cattle rustlers.
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Many people were already wearing masks when I shopped on 03-31.  Contrary to the usual guidance about colds and flu, the CDC now urges everybody to mask their nose and mouth if they must go out in public.  Asymptomatic people may still carry and spread the virus.

Long ago, I sometimes needed to wear the sort of paper mask that helps in a workplace where sawdust or bits of fiberglass are in the air.  I see many of them now, but I don’t have any.  I recall them being uncomfortable and prone to clogging.

So I improvised with a scarf that can be pulled up over my nose, much like bandanas worn by the Lone Ranger’s foes.  The pulled up scarf is tolerable and lets me breath freely.  Any nastiness not caught by the scarf will go straight down.  Any strangers fiddling with my belt buckle will deserve what they get.

Apart from guarding against the possibility that I might be an asymptomatic carrier, the combination of my scarf mask and sanitizer vest may make some ambient virus particles less infectious.  They will see me and laugh their coronas off.

 

health, humor

Flask, Rag, and Vest Fight COVID-19

The standard advice to wash hands frequently is worthwhile but leaves many gaps.  Goaded by the COVID-19 pandemic, I finally thought of a hack to fill the gaps.  Sharing the hack is one of the few ways I can fight back against the pandemic.
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The standard advice to wash hands frequently is worthwhile but leaves many gaps.  Suppose the restroom door swings inward, as it does in several markets I visit.  However well I wash while in the restroom, I can’t leave it w/o grabbing a handle whose last grabber may not have washed enough (if at all) to get the virus off his hands.  And so on.

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When I must go shopping, I now carry a small flask of isopropyl alcohol (the active ingredient in hand sanitizers) and an absorbent rag or washcloth.  I can wipe my hands just before and/or after touching anything that might carry the virus.  I don’t need to sprint to a wipe dispenser and then toss a used wipe onto the pile that is already overflowing a wastebasket (if there even is a wastebasket there).

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The flask and damp rag fit nicely in a pocket of my photographer-style vest.  Don’t have or want such a vest?  Appropriate outer pockets are on many gadget bags, gym bags, purses, and so on.  Buying one may be easier than buying toilet paper.

haiku, history, humor, photography

Vertical Shoreline

How can a shoreline be vertical?  Well, steep cliffs can plunge nearly straight down into the sea.  There may be a cave entrance right at the actual shoreline.  Do we dare enter the cave?  Perhaps (to borrow a few words from Patrick Jennings’ Challenge #220) a beautiful light awaits us there.
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Shoreline ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #220

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Is the sea at Capri’s shoreline still as clear now as it was when I was there in 1977?  I hope so.

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While we’re on the subject of clarity, let’s note that it is not clear whether the eponymous goats really did live on ancient Capri.  But it is clear that the island sited precursors of Mar-a-Lago for Imperial Rome’s fat tyrants.

From the outside, the Blue Grotto (Tiberius’ private pool) looks much like the (other?) grotto in my photo.  The view from inside is entirely different.

A cave entrance right at the shoreline can sometimes work magic.

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Blue Grotto (Capri) [edited image]

Capri Shoreline, Long Ago
|Goats traverse cliffs while
|pink whale swims in blue grotto.
|Naked emperor.

fiction, humor

Weird Works Wanted in 2020

While the image for this post may be funny or offensive (or both), it also hints at possibilities for responding to a call for submissions of weird stories for Volume 3 of an annual anthology.  (Previously published work is OK if the author retained the rights.)  The deadline is 2020-03-31.
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Volumes 1 and 2 of The Rabbit Hole have many good stories and some gems.  Links to those volumes are in the call for submissions for Volume 3, which I will just call “RH-3” below.  Here is an excerpt:

This year marks a new departure, in which we explore how ‘weird’ fits into a genre.  And we’re kicking off with ‘romance’.  Do your aliens fall in love?  Is your young hero consumed, swallowed and digested by desire?  Does your ageing husband bring his passion back to life only to find it’s not what he thought it would be?  The possibilities are endless.

Perhaps you never read romance.  Perhaps you’ve never written it.  So much the better!  Who knows what lies outside the box?  • • •

I’ll stop there.  You’ve got the idea.  In fact I’m sure you’ve got plenty, and you don’t need me to give you more.  Simply bear in mind that ‘weird’ doesn’t always mean outlandish – it can be subtle, discreet, even furtive.  Witty too, or burlesque – we’re always open to humour.  Or even, at a stretch, humor.  We look forward to discovering whatever means you choose to warp, subvert, disfigure, disguise or otherwise befuddle the concept of romance.

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Image cropped from meme as posted 2015-10-07 by TheAnswerWasAlwaysMoreLube

I know.  A red light district is a weird place to look for romance.  Maybe U can make it work for RH-3.  Maybe a closer look at the image will suggest something else to try.

The line formed by Alice’s straight spine meets the line formed by her legs somewhere under that flouncy skirt.  Nobody on Earth has such long thighs.  Hmmm.  Maybe Alice is a Martian spy, practicing her skills before trying to seduce Earthian leaders into betraying our planet.  (They already do that, but not in ways that would benefit Martian colonists.)  Maybe interplanetary espionage will be kerbolixed by interplanetary romance when Alice moves on to the corridors of power.

I can’t think of a good way to use the idea of Alice as a Martian spy with a conflict between love and duty.  (It would not suffice to write a hackneyed conflict story and tack on some extraneous weirdness about how an Earthian and a Martian get it on.)  It is unlikely that RH-3 will include anything by me.  That’s no great loss, but it gets worse.  The medium with a laptop turned out to be a fraud, so RH-3 is also unlikely to include Lewis Carroll’s posthumously written Alice in Amsterdam.  Unless U can step up.

 

humor, photography

Gourd-geous Nativity Scene

The gourds in the foreground are kneeling shepherds.  No, I did not take this photo last fall and save it for the Xmas season.  The backstory is more interesting than that.  It’s a minor miracle.
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I took the original photo on 2019-02-25 after noticing that my display of 5 gourds and a few rocks looked a little like a Nativity display.  (I edited the photo to have more of the chiaroscuro in some old Nativity paintings.)  The gourds were the survivors from the 10 gourds I had bought on 2018-09-24, still looking good after 154 days.  Those gourds were like the temple’s oil supply in the Hanukkah story.

Sure, it’s unlikely that gourds will last 154 days.  But unlikely things do sometimes happen.  Don’t bet on when or where.

Have a Merry Xmas

and take it in stride if the New Year brings U yet another illustration of the statistical truism

unlikely-life

Unlikely Life | Word Porn Quote

(reblog), humor, music, photography

Cathedral & Lighthouse & Xmas Carol

Claude Monet’s paintings of the cathedral at Rouen illustrate the principle that what U see depends on when U look.  Patrick Jennings’ photos of the lighthouse at Amphitrite Point illustrate the same principle.  The prose poem posted with one of them has also inspired new lyrics for a classic Xmas carol.
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Claude Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral are well-known.  Tho built for utilitarian rather than devotional purposes, the lighthouse at Amphitrite Point (on the coast of British Columbia) has much in common with the Rouen Cathedral.  Each tries to guide the viewer to some form of safety.  Each looks different at various times (and from various vantage points).  Each has had its beautiful variety captured by a great artist.

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© Patrick Jennings | Pix to Words | Amphitrite Lighthouse

Click on the image credit for access to Patrick Jennings’ other photos of the Amphitrite Lighthouse.  Each image is accompanied by poetry.  The prose poem posted with this image is an evocative dialog between the “Great Light” of the setting sun and the “little light at Amphitrite” (who gets the last word).  Hmmm.  “Little light at Amphitrite” could have a nice rhythm and an internal rhyme.

While the name of the eponymous Greek goddess is pronounced like [am-fi-tright-ee], it is OK to pronounce the place name like [am-fi-tright].  (Amid wind and waves, saying the [-ee] would sound rather twee.)  Why do I care?  Consider the tune of the Xmas carol O little town of Bethlehem.  As with Greensleaves or Glorious things of thee are spoken, a great musical foundation can support many lyrical superstructures.

|O little light at Amphitrite,
|how bright we see thee glow.
|The sea can smash a boat on rocks,
|as all good sailors know.
|But sailors steer with confidence
|they will not drown just yet.
|Thy beacon guides them safely home
|no worse than cold and wet.

enlightenment, ethics, fiction, humor, photography

Satori from a Consulting Gig

The who and how of sudden enlightenment might transcend ordinary logic.  To illustrate my short story about a weird instance of satori, I edited a NASA image formed by combining data from five telescopes.  While the image is for real, the story is neither the literal truth nor a bogus claim to tell it.
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Management consultant Frank Dow showed no surprise at the new client’s evident desire for a genuine consultation rather than a canned endorsement of plans already made.  Though unusual, the client’s sincerity was still less surprising than the client’s identity.  The client was God.  Dow listened intently as God began to describe His problem:

“Forget any twaddle you may have heard about omnipotence and omniscience.  The universe is too immense and diverse to be micromanaged, even by Me.  Roughly speaking, I built a big machine and let it run.  But it’s not boringly deterministic.  The universe is all about probabilities.”

As God continued, the proud-parent joy in his voice was clear:

“The probability that a randomly chosen planet will be suitable for life to appear at all is tiny.  The probability that creatures with any ability to understand and appreciate the universe will evolve is tinier still, but not exactly zero.  On the other hand, there are a lot of planets in the universe.  There’s no need to crunch the numbers right now.  The bottom line is that a few planets luck out.  On your little blue planet, life thrived and your species evolved advanced abilities to observe and learn, to imagine and reason, to build bridges and write poems.”

With joy replaced by sadness and frustration now, God explained what He hoped Dow could provide:

“While I mostly let things run, I am not absolutely hands-off when a planet has intelligent life that blunders into being cruel or stupid.  I nudge them in good directions by inspiring a few of them.  In your planet’s case, I have had a little success and a lot of failure.  I keep it simple and age appropriate, but they oversimplify half of what I tell them and obfuscate the rest.  The Golden Rule gets through as something to proclaim but not as something to practice.  Absurdly, much of what they think has been revealed to them is just their own bigotry and bullshit.  The way they distort My message is so alien to the corporate culture here that nobody has a clue about how to handle it.  As someone who is closer to the problem without being part of it, you may be able to help us.”

Given a temporary office with read access to the case histories (and full access to a plentiful supply of coffee and nutritious snacks), Dow went to work.  A recurrent pattern emerged:

Inspirations that did not fizzle attracted disciples, often with authoritarian personalities.  Authoritarian disciples misinterpreted God’s nudges and stridently claimed they could speak for God on all kinds of topics, now and forever.  Many of those who were strident were also willing to coerce people they could not convince.  Many of those who were willing to coerce were also willing to kill people they could not coerce.

Poring over the case histories was depressing, but Dow kept at it (with the able assistance of good coffee and good snacks).  Eventually, he was ready to offer God a suggestion:

“I believe there is a personnel issue here.  You have been inspiring people who mean well but score high on credulity and low on humor.  Maybe it would help to go outside the box.  For example, You could inspire a nerdy atheist who digs sacred music and pushes the envelope of haiku poetry.”

God was skeptical: “Does anybody like that exist?”

Frank Dow smiled the enigmatic Mona Lisa smile that sometimes appeared when he was moonlighting as a Zen master.  He leaned forward and spoke softly: “Does anybody like You exist?”

At that moment, God attained enlightenment.

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Sources

How to illustrate the concept of satori?  For this post, I cropped a NASA image of the Crab Nebula and told the Retouching tab in my photo editor that each star was a blemish to be removed.  If there is intelligent life on any planets orbiting those stars, I hope that nobody will be mad at me for dissing their sun.  Oh well, it’s a big universe.  I will be long gone before they have a chance to find out.

In its present form, this post’s story first appeared in Volume 1 of The Rabbit Hole, an annual anthology of weird stories.  None of the stories there are illustrated, and I had no good ideas for an illustration anyway.  How I came to write a story about God hiring a consultant whose recommendations are outside the box is yet another story, somewhat weird but entirely true.