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Sunday, June 30, 2013

A QUARTET AND A SOLO

SWMBO and I watched the movie "Quartet" last night.  Another winner, directed by Dustin Hoffman.  IMDB describes it as follows:  "At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents."

Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon are at their best in this over-the-top farce.  Many of the others in the cast are former musicians at a high level.  Be sure you stay tuned for the credits.

As for the solo, check out this bravura performance by Raul Midon on the David Letterman Show.  Midon has been blind from birth but he displays a great voice and amazing musicianship in this clip.



Midon was in concert at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale last night.  Regrettably I missed the performance.  Next time!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

SIZZZZZZZZZLLLLLLLLIIIIIINNNNNNNN!

It's 115 at my house right now at 3:30 in the afternoon.  It got to 115.5, which is the same as 116, I guess.  Official temperature at the airport is 118.

But it's cool enough in the house with air conditioning and ceiling fans so I'm just leaning back and watching the Diamondbacks game from Atlanta on t.v.

Meantime, here's a hothouse flower for the rest of you.


Have a good weekend.

Friday, June 28, 2013

FRESH BREAD

I got up and tried a recipe for Crusty Bread this morning.  Turned out pretty good.


Cut a slice, put some margarine on it, punch it up with a fresh cuppa joe . . . breakfast fit for a king.


As promised, it is very crusty . . . but good.

Recipe: The night before, in a large bowl whisk together 3 cups of flour, 1-3/4 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast. Add 1-1/2 cups of water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.  Cover it with plastic wrap and set aside for 12-18 hours.

In the morning heat oven to 450 degrees. When heated place a covered Dutch oven in for 30 minutes.  While heating, pour your dough onto a heavily-floured surface, shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let it set.

After 30 minute heating, drop the dough into the pot, cover it and bake it for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes uncovered.

Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.

You're done!  Easy-peasy.  And yummers!

By the way, it's 11:30 a.m. right now and 109 degrees and rising!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

CHILLING OUT

It's 1 p.m. here in Arizona and the temperature is already up to 106.  It's forecast to hit 113 today, 118 on Friday and Saturday and 117 on Sunday before dropping a bit next week.  By a week from tomorrow the forecast high is 102, which is going to feel absolutely chilly!  But as my realtor told me in an email this morning, if you can stand 3 months of miserable heat the rest of the year is bliss.  We're waiting for that!

In the meantime, here's one way to cool off.  Take a look at these photos I shot in the acquarium area of Butterfly Wonderland the other day.





This last one certainly makes me feel cooler.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

MORE BUTTERFLIES . . OR IS THAT BUTTERFLYS

Continuing from yesterday our tour of Butterfly Wonderland on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community I can now show you much more of the creatures we observed yesterday.



I'm using a small directory the museum (if I may call it that) provided to identify some of these.  The bottom one is, I believe, a Paper Kite.


I believe this is one of the many Blue Morphos in the atrium.  Doesn't look blue, you say?  That's because this is the underside.  The tops of the wings are a brilliant blue.


You can catch a glimpse of both sides here as this one was settling.


This one may be a Giant Owl, from what I can tell.  It's not, of course, an owl but that's the name given to this type of butterfly.







As you can see, they are in all colors, shapes and sizes.





Butterflies taste through their feet.  Here a large group of them have found a bowl of cut fruit put out for them.

And they're not above hitch-hiking a ride on their human visitors.  Here's the one that latched onto my flowery shirt and stayed with me throughout my tour of the aviary.  He had to be shaken off when we were leaving.


With his wings folded he may have been taking a nap.

Here's another I caught on a fellow visitor's back.


It seems to fit right in.  Obviously they seem to like these Hawaiian shirts.

Tomorrow I'll show you some of the non-butterfly wildlife at the Wonderland.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BUTTERFLIES FLUTTER BY

SWMBO and I went to Butterfly Wonderland today.  


This is an attraction which features a 3-D movie about the migration of the Monarch butterflies to and from a forested spot in Mexico year after year; and an atrium full of living butterflies which fly around you, frequently landing on you.  Both experiences are incredible.  During the movie it feels like you could put out your hand and a butterfly would land on it.  In the atrium they do.  I had one land on the back of my arm and stay there all the time I was in the atrium.  When we prepared to leave, he had to be shaken loose from my shirt.  It must have been my colorful Hawaiian shirt that made him think it was a flowery forest.

Here are some of what we saw.




The atrium is kept quite humid, which makes it foggy at times and quite wet.


See those two blue butterflies in the center of the picture?  They are the stars of the show for me.  There are hundreds of them fluttering throughout the atrium.  It's hard to catch a photo of them because when they light they fold their wings and the underside is a plebian grey and brown.  But I got one good picture of one in an unfortunate way.  Apparently somehow this one had died and was lying on the paved path with his beautiful blue wings spread.


I think I'll have some more photos tomorrow if my "smart" phone can manage to send them to my computer.  

In the meantime, here's a question that has plagued me for years.  Why were they named butterflies and not flutterbys?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A HOLMES-IAN NIGHT

I have stared at these pictures for two days.  The story eludes me except that I somehow know Sherlock Holmes and his aide-de-camp Dr. Watson are somehow involved.

Can you tell the story?








Saturday, June 22, 2013

ON THE TOWN WITH IRIS

SWMBO and I joined a friend for a night on the town last night.  We went to Scottsdale's Musical Instrument Museum to hear a concert by Iris DeMent.

SWMBO will hate it but here's a picture of us snapped by our friend after the show.



(the Old Folks released from the Home)

Iris DeMent is an acquired taste.  Her high, twangy voice is a reflection of her roots in a Pentecostal home in the Arkansas Delta.  She's the youngest of 14 children and is married to another favorite of mine from the old Prairie Home Companion radio shows, Greg Brown. Iris told last night how he charmed her music-loving mother by sitting on their couch and singing all the old Jimmy Rogers tunes.

Her first new album in 16 years is called "Sing the Delta" and here's the title song.




Like I said, Iris DeMent is an acquired taste: you either love her or you hate her.  I happen to love her and greatly enjoyed the concert in the acoustically perfect 300-seat theatre at the MIM.  Unfortunately the rest of the museum was closed but we plan to return and view all the exhibits one of these days.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A THEORY OF RELATIVITY

The day that Albert Einstein feared has finally arrived.


A day at the beach


Cheering on your team


Having dinner out with friends


A romantic first date


Talking with your BFF


A visit to the museum


And they can vote!!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

TWO THUMBS UP

From time to time I make recommendations of movies to watch.  Today I watched two films (courtesy of Netflix), both of them French.  Both are very good in my opinion.

The first was "The Hedgehog" (Le herisson) and is the story of several rich people and their concierge in an apartment house in Paris.  The story begins with a precocious 11 year old girl revealing her plan to kill herself on her upcoming 12th birthday.  Garance Le Guillermic is the charming pre-teen.  She is a very smart and cute tyke who becomes more lovable as time moves along and the story evolves to the life of the concierge, or super, played by Josiane Balasko, and her attraction to a new Japanese tenant.  The latter is played by Togo Igawa, who many of you may recognize from his roles in a number of American movies. Both SWMBO and I liked it a lot.  The cast is excellent, the plot intricate but satisfying and there's a surprise ending that may shock you.

The second movie is as different as can be.  It is titled Farewell (L'Affaire Farewell).  It is a spy thriller about a Russian dissatisfied with his country's politics at the height of the Cold War and the young Frenchman he recruits to transfer secrets.  The Serbian film director and actor Emir Kusturica plays the Russian, French movie star Guillaume Canet has the part of the naive young Frenchman.  There is considerable tension as the secrets keep coming.  Several American actors also are featured.  It has a somewhat predictable ending with a bit of a twist but it's a movie that holds you in its grip. 

So put them both in your Netflix queue, if you do that, or look for them in the foreign film section of your video store.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

FIRE IN ARIZONA

The Doce Fire has burned some 7,000 acres just outside of Prescott, Arizona, as of this morning.  The BRD sent several pictures last night taken from her yard.




The fire is northwest of her and burning away from her area but these pictures show it is a little too close for comfort.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS

Fathers' Day.  Perhaps a time for some serious talk.  My father passed away in 1980.  He was 77.  My grandfather died in 1958, I believe, at the age of 83.  Now I'm 73 so my days are getting short.

So, it's time to talk about Edward Snowden.

SWMBO and I have, as always, followed the news reports about the leak that led to the revealing of various U.S. government programs that monitored (seemingly) every one's phone calls, emails, Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

The leak came from Edward Snowden, a high school dropout, a college dropout, a U.S. army dropout and a dropout from the firm that employed him as some kind of I.T. analyst.

Snowden has since fled to Hong Kong and perhaps to China, or Russia, or Xanadu, sending out frequent messages about the evil perpetrated by the U.S. government and the rightness of his actions in revealing it.

Never mind that he had signed papers that committed him NOT to reveal any such information.

But unlike Dick Cheney and some others in the political firmament I do not consider Snowden a traitor.  Perhaps what he did was ill-advised but treason?  I don't think so.  Treason involves actions determined to bring down the government.  I don't think Snowden's silly act rises to that level.

As for the government's programs to gather all this information on all of us?  It appears that was not the case.  They have the ability through these various programs to do that but have they?  Apparently not.  Of the millions of people whose records have been seized only about 300 have actually been looked at or listened to.  And virtually all of those have been people linked to foreign terrorist organizations.  So, are we to ignore these connections?  Or investigate them?

I say, considering that the government claims to have subverted several terrorist plots aimed at the United States, go get 'em!  On this I am joined by politicians of both parties who have authorized these programs for years, long before Barack Obama became President.

But back to Snowden.  He appears to me (and to SWMBO) to be one of a cadre of somewhat intelligent computer nerds who can't seem to find themselves in society.  I think he, and his like, are amoral people who favor publicity over law.  They seem to feel that they are above the laws that govern the rest of us and so superior in their intellect that they can decide for all what are correct actions.

As I said to SWMBO as we were discussing this today, I think the worst punishment for Snowden would be to ignore him.  Totally.  Never mention his name again.

Of course I know that is impossible.  There is just too much media these days, good and bad, along with social fronts that I have mentioned where no one can be edited or censored or forbidden to write.

Like this blog.

Friday, June 14, 2013

STRANGE SUMMER WINE

Ahhhh.  What better way to beat the heat than to sit back and relax with a nice glass of  chilled White Zinfandel, eh?


But wait!  Let's take a closer look at the label on that bottle.


Alcohol-removed wine?  Well what's the point of that?  Wine is alcohol, right?  So if the alcohol has been removed . . . why drink it?

O.K.  Enough mystery.  Here's the answer.  We have a visitor coming in for an overnight.  She once had a great love for wine.  Too great, in fact.  So many years ago she stopped drinking alcohol.  But she still likes to join in when she's around we heathen who still imbibe.

Hence, a product invented especially for such occasions.  Non-alcoholic wine.  N.A. wine, for short.  

It satisfies the urge but doesn't create the damage.  And, for some reason, it eliminates the embarrassment of drinkers confronted with a non-drinker in a social setting.

Ergo, Fre wine, as in Free, as in alcohol-free.  Might be a good idea for any of us.

. . . . . .

And then there's sex.  My old buddy, Danny Bananas, just sent me these.  





There were others but these are the ones I felt comfortable with sharing.

You will please note that in this post, while veering close to the edge of propriety, I have not discussed religion or politics.

Happy weekend!