Muskrat Vengeance

Season 6, Episode 2 of Alone. This will be spoilers, probably, even if I am vague.

The title of the episode is “Tainted,” which sets it up that something associated with that will play a role. Clever editors that they are, they create the question of which thing it might be. We already wondered from last week about the mushrooms tainted with mouse turds. Clever, putting traps in that area, knowing it’s a popular rodent hangout.

One of them cuts her hand, pretty deeply. This might normally want a stitch or three, but in the end appeared to be coming along fine. It could yet be an issue.

In the first episode, it seemed like food wasn’t a big deal. But maybe it’s just that the gill net was a far better idea than it sounded. Now we see people already not eating because lack of fish in particular.

But wait! Here’s a trout, finally. Look at those parasites. Hey, I’ll cook it thoroughly. Will the fish cause a problem by being tainted? Or will the cut be tainted?

Now Donny gets a muskrat. Of all things! This bring back memories of my childhood, and a muskrat we played with by cranberry bogs in a neighboring town. It lived at the edge of the reservoir. I was pretty young and don’t remember much besides it was cute. We entertained ourselves while my mother worked.

Poor thing, through the head. So he butchers it and goes over the things to do and look for so it’s not tainted. Scent glands begone! Check the innards, no spots on the liver. To me it goes without saying to cook it well, and it looked like it was cooked just short of charred.

Two hours later… The pain! Man, it looked horrible. Well, poor guy never recovered and did the right thing. It did answer a question I’d always had: What if you’re on medication? He was too sick to take the meds he’s on as a result of his heart attack a year earlier. While some of that stuff may sometimes be questionable, and an overreaction if you haven’t had a heart attack and they just suspect you could, better to be safe, especially in that severe of a case. What makes me wonder about just what the “taint” was is he complained about all his joints hurting, after a while. I haven’t tried researching yet, and haven’t watched any YouTube folks who might have done so.

I thought the fishing raft with the found barrel was clever. Not so much when I interpreted “raft” as something she’d ride on and was saying “don’t fall in, not here.” But the idea of it holding lines and drifting out deep enough to maybe catch something, then be pulled in, that’s great.

Bushcraft

I added bushcraft as a category because it’s one of my interests, but I haven’t posted about it any more than I’ve practiced it. I end up being more armchair and wishful thinking than practitioner. I watch videos of others. I wish I’d known to take advantage of the opportunity I had when I lived in the middle of the woods when I was a kid. It was some of my early YouTube viewing that led me to Alone when the show was new. I found Mitch Mitchell’s videos and was intrigued because he was obviously local. I could tell by the appearance of the woods where he shot videos, and then one day he had Market Basket matches.

This goes hand in hand with a prepper mindset. That’s something I grew up with. There were the grandparents who’d survived extreme poverty and acted accordingly the rest of their lives. Cue the importance of rotating your canned food and such. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been through extreme poverty and, by some standards, still am. Then there’s the Cold War mentality that never went away and had terrorism thrown on top of it. It really marks your psyche to grow up with the threat and even the assumption of the nukes raining down any time. As far as we knew there were no prime targets right around us. My grandfather’s employer’s munitions business was a thing of the past. The local testing grounds, secret at the time, were WW2 vintage. Boston and the route 128 region would have been a big target, though, so close enough.

I’m decidedly haphazard about these things. At any given time, as long as water and natural gas or other means of cooking were not an issue, depending on how we rationed it, five of us could go weeks on the food in the house. Take away electricity and we’d end up gorging on what’s in the freezer before rationing through the cabinets, but hey. There are useful things in the vehicles, but perhaps not complete or ideal sets of useful things. I could set up a pretty good camp out of the trunk of the car, for as many people as the car holds, but we’d pretty much be in the clothes on our backs and lacking things like blankets. The truck has less room and I’m less free to stuff things in behind the seats. It’s her baby. Otherwise it might have been replaced by something more practical years ago. Still. I had a scheme to equip it with a survival pack of sorts and just haven’t completed the task yet. A lot of the stuff I have that should be available to do that, or to grab and go from the house, is in “where did I put that” limbo.

That overlaps the set of things I take camping because they’ll be needed or just in case. Some of it’s sitting here in an undersized backpack that’s perfectly nice, but is a lesson in looking at specs when contemplating an Amazon purchase, and figuring out just what those dimensions it list will mean in person. I took it last summer to a friend’s cabin in Maine. I camped in the yard. It’s back up in the woods and on enough land to have been perfect for messing around. Build this or that type of natural shelter. That sort of thing. It was like 100 degrees The Whole Week and nobody wanted to do anything. Except go out to eat and go in the local pond repeatedly, giving myself a great opportunity to get severe swimmer’s ear. The same pond was the location of the July 4 fireworks and a little carnival, which was cool. Kids went on a few rides. Ironic, since we never go to the little carnival that finances the fireworks in our own town. Too expensive. Probably not far removed in cost from the one in Maine. But vacation! In Maine! So that’s different?

I don’t intend to go to the cabin again, even in the unlikely event the chance arises.. I haven’t put in for the vacation time I often take the week of the 4th, and have made no specific plans. It’s been a few years since I took the kids camping at the state forest. Last time it was pretty awful due to an invasion of what you might call city folk. For the kids camping = swimming. I might try going myself for 1-2 night outings just for away time. I may have talked about this when I grumbled about my difficulty focusing. Try doing some writing. Use paper. Otherwise I’d say do a bunch of reading, but reading isn’t as much of a problem. Anyway, the kids are getting old enough to have stronger opinions about going or not, and to be able to stay home if they choose. The youngest doesn’t like camping the way the other two do, and of course the wife simply doesn’t camp. The kids wouldn’t eat the campfire food I made that one time. We end up eating a lot of junk/convenience food or going to the local fast food. Sad.

Rambling aside, I’ve had ideas for a while now about incorporating bushcraft, or simply camping, into fiction. For that matter, the beta of the portion of a book that I started did just that. Kids are about to go camping with their dad when they find themselves in an alternate past, so they have backpacks and a couple things they’re carrying. They find themselves in a swampy woods and make themselves a shelter to sleep in the first night, after some initial exploration and finding a good spot. Complete with a nearby outhouse that existed in real life in that time and place. In our timeline, anyway.

One of the things I think about sometimes is incorporating a “survival” scenario, inspired by my own half-assed prepping and randomness, where you’re stuck getting by with what’s on you, or what’s in your vehicle, rather than with the ideal supplies. Shades of one of the periodic YouTuber scenarios. Lost hunter, all you have is a pocket knife (if that), for instance. Overnight with $10 in supplies picked from a dollar store or Walmart is always fun, but contrived. If I found myself off the road in my car and through hand waving a scenario wasn’t disabled but also couldn’t leave the area by much or get help, I wouldn’t have food and water. I wouldn’t have a pot for boiling water. I’d have more than one tarp and, last I knew, a tent. I’d have a tiny first aid kit and there might be a lighter or matches somewhere. I’d have no spare clothing, blanket or sleeping bag. I’d have a bunch of tools and odd junk. I’d have a folding saw, the key knife in my pocket, a self-lighting Coleman 2 burner propane stove and probably a small thing of propane, and an old propane lantern. There’d be at least two flashlights, some rope and twine, some duct tape, and a bunch of empty soda bottles and cans.  There’d be a dull hatchet. Empty, never used 2.5 gallon gas jug. It’d be downright cushy, entirely aside from any scenario in which you have an intact vehicle meaning you have instant shelter, and an anchor for extending shelter around it given things like tarps.

Then there’s the scenario where I am on foot. I have my keys and the tiny but sharp key knife. I have a pen or two, some pieces of paper towel, the contents of my wallet, and whatever I am wearing. That gets much more rustic.

In the truck there’s a small bag packed with tools, a tiny first aid kit that has a crappy folding knife and some matches tucked in it, maybe a tarp, maybe a trash bag, some rope, some empty bottles and cans, a flashlight or two, and not much else. It’s less roomy to shelter in. Given enough of a tarp, the bed could be covered for an off the ground sleeping shelter. Stuff in some dead leaves?

I’m rambling. It’ll be interesting to see what Alone does with a more northerly location this year. Some of it depends just how late in the year they started filming. I amuse myself sometimes by chastising the contestants, who know and have practiced a lot more than me, for doing silly things, or failing to do things, when I probably wouldn’t make it as far as them. There’s another element of the not fully prepared scenario: Writing it as someone who only has academic knowledge of survival skills.

Sunday School

We’re talking – well, mostly the wife is talking while I play solitaire so my mind won’t wander – and the subject of Normal Borlaug came up. I had forgotten Borlaug’s birthday was on March 25th. Back in my blogging heyday, I would observe his birthday with a post. He was one of the greatest humans in history.

I interjected that I’d first heard of Norman Borlaug in Sunday school, of all things. Before I rebelled when I was 13 and refused to go to church any more, I would go some weeks and up to a certain age there was Sunday school. This could be fun and interesting, actually. I remember reading and learning about Borlaug in some publication that was the Sunday school equivalent of Weekly Reader. I never forgot that, young as I was.

For all I wasn’t religious and rebelled, I have a soft spot for the church basement where Sunday school was held. I also remember is being in the parish house when I was really little. I also have fond memories of the sisters I crushed on via church, first the one a little older and then the one a little younger than me.

Oh, I remember what I wanted to say besides mentioning Borlaug. School was for the most part a negative experience for me. Sunday was a day off from school. Thus there was extreme dissonance in putting the words Sunday and school together. Ugh. It didn’t have the pressure of school, but it was something I had to do and didn’t want to. It also involved people. A group of people of some size. This was never good for my autistic side and the need for down time.

Dear Walmart

Thanks so much for discontinuing cheese bread and pepperoni cheese bread. I used to buy it almost every time I went in. At least when I went to Paramount Drive. Other stores either didn’t carry it in the first place, or didn’t make it correctly. It turns out it was so popular in the Paramount Drive store that the bakery kept ordering the stuff and making it after it was initially discontinued, up until they couldn’t even order the ingredients any more.

My kids are not amused.

Dear Dove

After trying other shampoos, my daughter discovered Dove Absolute Curls. It was perfect for her hair.

After buying it a few times, I went to get it again and it was gone. It has apparently been discontinued.

Thanks a lot! Between companies like you, Utz (discontinued their amazing Salt & Pepper chips), and Walmart (discontinued their yummy cheese bread and amazing pepperoni cheese bread), the kids are becoming as used to this happening as I have over a lot more years.

Update:

This ended rather well. I went looking for something that was for curls and bought an Aussie product made for curls. She loves it. It works at least as well, and “smells better.”

Something Else I Learned Online Today

I had no idea that there was symbolism for kissing without kissing associated with sharing an apple.

Personally, seeing it in Melody, I thought: Yuck, I wouldn’t share an apple and take overlapping bites like that. I also thought: That’s so cute. I also thought: Well, if you’re in love and you’d kiss, how is it any different, risking the shared germs?

So it makes sense.

I just assumed the apple was included, besides as a useful visual, in reference to the lyrics of First of May. I assumed it was additionally included as a reference to growing up, becoming less innocent, learning to love, drawing on the “apple” reference from the bible in a sense.

Tea Time

I had worked out Melody timeline details a while back, but hadn’t given much thought to the times of day when things happened. I realized last night that we have a definitive time when the kids are released from school for the day. 3:30 PM. Or not long before 3:30, allowing time for Daniel and Ornshaw to get to their 3:30 punishment.

The other time reference I can think of is when Daniel and Ornshaw are out on the town after school, and a time check reveals it to be 5:10 PM, leaving Ornshaw fretting about needing to get home. Daniel gets a taxi and after a ride and some discussion, where Ornshaw explains why he was trying to get home, he heads home. He’s going to make his grandfather’s dinner. The discussion includes Daniel inviting him to tea and then they could go to a movie. So 5:10 plus a cab ride and change, and Daniel is just then contemplating it being tea time. Google tells me tea time is typically between 3:00 and 5:00.

So the day Daniel and Melody get together after school, after the punishment and drawing Daniel away from Ornshaw, ends with tea at her house. If we suppose it’s 3:45 when they are walking out of the school, that can give us an idea how long that interlude might have been. They walk and scamper at some length before sitting and talking and sharing an apple. Convenient symbolism, the apple. Both for growing up and to tie in to the song lyrics of First of May. We do see the sun is well into afternoon as they are arriving in the overgrown cemetery, arguably matching what might be near 4 PM. It’s good when you see them get filming details like that right, since things can get filmed in pieces across hours, days, and weeks.

Afterward they walk to her house and she insists he join them for tea, which is already in progress without her. Clearly nobody was concerned that she was not yet home, suggesting that it’s routine for her to stay late at school or to be free range for an extended time after school. The difference is showing up with a boyfriend. So what is it, 5:00 or so? I found it interesting what they seemed to be eating, which was more like lunch or supper, to me, than how I might picture tea.

Continuing this the next day, I have looked up the concept of tea and of meals in the UK. It turns out that tea can range from the image I have of high tea in the after noon to the actual evening meal I’d generally call supper. There might be tea at, say, 5:00 and then a small supper at, say, 8:00, or tea might actually be supper. None of which affects much the question of what time the Perkins family is having tea that day.

The scene where The ladies of the Perkins family are eating something for supper later in the evening on a previous day would suggest that they do have both tea and supper. It might depend to some degree on whether her father is home, since he seems to work long and erratic hours, even when he’s not in the pubs. Makes sense, if he’s a truck driver as I saw online, even though if it ever said in the movie I missed it. Just earlier I saw that Ornshaw’s first name, Tom, is said in the film, but it’s easy to miss. I sure did, multiple times. Now I’ll have to listen for it.

What else can I say about the time of day questions or answers in the movie? If school gets out close to 3;30 PM, that is the time when the elementary school gets out here. In our case, that is up through fifth grade, or sixth year. Classes actually start about 8:50 AM for elementary, with buses picking kids up about 8:10, give or take a bit. Kids who walk aren’t supposed to arrive there before 8:30 or so. Obviously it’s neither the US nor the present day, so who knows. It is also not the equivalent of elementary so much as middle/high school, where they are the youngest kids, in sixth year. That you see limited numbers of older kids is an artifact of it being a film and what’s needed to make it look close enough, as far as employing extras. But then, so could things like what time school lets out. Here the middle school starts classes nearly an hour before elementary, and high school even earlier.

Finally, if I can even remember my original point, I think what I set out to note was what the clues about time of day tells us about when things happen and who is expected where when. Melody is nominally expected home about 5:00 or so for tea, is free range before then, and they don’t panic if she doesn’t get home even then. Daniel probably has a similar thing going on, based only on his invitation for Ornshaw to have tea when it is already approaching 5:30. It’s possible tea is sometimes the evening meal for them, but at least sometimes they may eat again later instead or in addition. That gives the kids perhaps an hour and a half or so after school before tea.

Tea is also implied as happening sometime after the dance, but that’s on a Saturday and we don’t really know what time of day it was. Melody sits at her desk/makeup table, still in her pink dress after the dance, messing with makeup until her mother calls her to tea and says the tea kippers will be cold, taking Melody out of her reverie. I had always interpreted that scene as being in the bathroom, but having caught the bedroom Melody goes in earlier as if it’s hers, even though it looks like it could belong to an adult from what little we see, we see that table and mirror, exactly as in the makeup scene.

With all the gaps in telling the story, there’s a lot of inference and filling in we’re left to do ourselves. Which works, but can leave you wondering well how, when, what if, was that enough time, and such.

Milk Men

When does the joke “same mother, different milkman” stop making any sense to people?

This was sparked by my realization that one of the earliest scenes in Melody, pyrotechnic breakfast at the Latimer house, involved bottles of milk that had been delivered, presumably by a milkman. It also featured what, to modern, American eyes, is a tiny refrigerator. That would make the small bottles, delivered at regular intervals, sensible. It’s pure background, just the way it was at the time, one more way it’s historic archive captured on film.

The year that was released, 1971, would have been still firmly during the timeframe when we had a milkman where I grew up. I always felt bad for them, though. We were on a long dirt road, the only house a third of a mile in, and it could get extremely bumpy. It’s amazing my father was ever successful running a business that was a tenth or so of a mile past us on the same street, up to around the same time Melody was released. I am forbidden to mention what happened to the business, though I might have mentioned it here anyway in passing, but after that it operated out of another building, toward the other side of town, and was later in a new building, all the way on the other side of town. I digress. There had to have been a lot of broken bottles for our benefit, and a lot of time wasted driving extra slowly. My father had gone to school with one of the kids in the family that owned the dairy, and had actually suggested to her that they should start an ice cream stand. They did, and it’s locally renowned to this day.

We didn’t get tiny bottles, but half gallon ones, made of glass and returned for cleaning and reuse. But we didn’t have that “green thing” back in my day. Just economics. It seems odd to me now that milk would be left sitting out beside our steps for hours, sometimes, before coming in and going in the fridge, but it was apparently never a problem.

Eventually the dairy eliminated our town from the area their deliveries covered. That aspect of their business was getting overwhelmed by ice cream anyway. I seem to recall we figured the problems of delivering to us were a factor, but we are always me-centric. It couldn’t have been too much longer, since the road eventually was paved. On the other hand, when it was paved, it got some nasty speed bumps. I don’t remember them delivering after it was paved, and that was probably not later than 1973.

My youngest brother, who delights in using the “different milkman” phrase to describe himself, was born in 1971, appropriately enough. The milkman thing reminds me of a great grandfather I never met. He was an electrician, but he installed electricity in a lot of houses in and around his town in the early days of electric service, when the men would be off at work. Apparently we will never know just how many relatives we have from the town where my grandmother grew up. But that’s another story.

That Was Fun

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a party at Naomi’s mother’s house and I went with the middle child, who was interested in trying the expected Middle Eastern food. The youngest was upset when we got home that I hadn’t invited him, which I did weeks ago to a firm no. He assumed we’d had awesome food, which we did, but not from his perspective. He felt better when I listed off what we’d eaten. The one who went loved it. Bonus, there was lemon cheesecake! She loves cheesecake more than almost anything. She had to spend a couple hours being bored while Naomi, Sally and I gabbed, though she enjoyed watching the little kids and tiny dog playing. She also  got a piece of lava rock to bring home, from Naomi’s stepfather, who was enthusiastic about her interest in science generally and geology particularly.

There were a bunch of assorted relatives there, and some adorable little kids. A late arrival, no idea the relation, had a couple more, but older, like first grade. My eyes locked on that woman before she was in the door, and I had to make a point of not staring, she was so stunning. Basically a ginger. She seemed super nice to boot. If I were younger and prone to those serial crushes, she’s exactly the sort of scenario where her walking into a room might change everything.

I ate way too much, mostly because of the shrimp someone brought, with a dip based on mayo and Greek yogurt, seasoned with wasabi and I forget what else. There were also pita chips, pita pieces, amazing spinach dip, awesome cheese spread, hummus, feta cubes, olives that were actually good – my second encounter ever eating an olive and finding I liked it, crackers, cheese, baked ziti with sausage meat included in it, and fantastic salad. Besides cheesecake, there were good chocolate chip cookies, and squares with chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts. The kid who thought he’d missed out *might* have tried the pasta dish and not much else. Well, there were potato chips, so he could have had those.

It was actually hard to leave because the conversation really got rolling, about books and such. But it was time to go so they could wind down and we could settle in for the night. I could be later, but there’s school in the morning.

One thing that’s funny is Naomi still thinks of me as the go to person for computer questions, even though she is pretty clueful herself. She’s gone through more computer antics in the past ten years than I have. Mostly I have things that work or don’t, and if they don’t, I somehow get something that does. Since we went broke, I spent a lot of time using hand-me-down machines. This one is a $239 refurbished Dell compact desktop, sort of thing I wouldn’t have been caught dead using back in the day. The old machine is a hand-me-down laptop that I retrieved files from for someone before the hard drive died. That was over 10 years ago, and it sat for a long time before I confirmed they didn’t want it back. I had to replace the drive and, it turned out, a bad memory stick. It got full and slow enough I needed better. I’d used it as a clamshell with keyboard, mouse and monitor all attached. Before that I had an old laptop someone else gave me. It had no disks and was kind of a mess, but I couldn’t reinstall it or fix some of the deep down settings. My last good computer I built died before that and I couldn’t keep anything I had around working reliably enough. So we talked about some of the stuff she’s been through and things she’d told herself to ask me about. Her best computer was her first one, which I’d helped her get from what turned out to be a local dealer at a computer show, back when those were a thing. We later used that dealer to supply computers for the business, until I started building them all myself.

Visiting Naomi

My friend Naomi is on this side of the country for a few days, so I’m going to visit at her mother’s house this afternoon, along with whoever else they’ve managed to get there. It’s about an hour of driving, but beats going all the way to Las Vegas.

We worked together in tech support for a couple years, ending just over 20 years ago. Wow! I’d forgotten it had been 20 years. Some of us ended up friends and hung out a lot together, waning over the years as people moved away or got preoccupied.

She was notable as my final serial crush. It’s not that she did anything special to break me, or to break the chain, though she did remind me just enough of Daphne to be uncomfortable. In her case, there wasn’t really ever the slightest chance. It was like dealing with a completely inert substance. She was aware enough of my attraction that she avoided being alone with me during a certain stretch of time, as if I’d ever have tried anything untoward.

At this point, we see each other on Facebook and once every year or two she is out this way and, with rare exceptions, there is a get-together. Normally it’s about June and she is at a beach house owned by her mother and aunts. I take the kids and some of our other friends, in diminishing numbers, go hang out there for food and on the beach. The kids loved it. It’s been a few years. I think she skipped last year entirely. the year before she was out for her father’s wedding. I was supposed to go to the party/cookout they had out in the central part of the state, similar distance to where I’m going today. I was bringing the kids. The car died and I ended up not going. I wasn’t thinking I could just go myself or with a single kid, but I was also worried about the truck. Plus I was feeling… not like seeing a bunch of people. Which could describe me today, but I’m fighting it. Today only one of the kids wanted to go for a party with Middle Eastern food, so it defaulted to the truck. The big issue is weather. It borders on my not wanting to drive there, especially since it’ll be snow and ice at the destination after it’s long since rain here. But I’d rather not miss it again.

Which is arguably weird, because in some ways we don’t have that much to say to each other beyond shared history and maybe some geek culture. It makes it more interesting if either or both of the remaining possible people from the old gang go, but one of them she has had trouble getting any response from for a couple years. That’s a case of someone drifting into her own bubble despite, in my case, not being far away. I can find Sally hard to take because she is all politics all the time and she has crazy notions. One year we got together with Naomi at her mother’s house and the politics of Naomi’s mother and stepfather were on display, much closer to mine, making Sally uncomfortable. The discomfort of being always surrounded by people who see things more or less your way, to the point where someone who sees things otherwise might seem like a unicorn to you. Not possible! But then you see a herd of them, real and not at all crazy. Sally is not on social media, so I am not in touch with her that way. She believes the right will use the data gathered by social media or an online presence to round up and incinerate people like her, because she seems to be in a mirror universe. But I digress.

Anyway, unless weather gets bad enough, I’ll get to see Naomi for the first time in like three years. That’ll be cool, even if it makes me nervous to hobnob with other people. I just remembered that Naomi was born the same year as the wife, who is 13 years my junior. Funny that in, say, 1997, that seems like one of the obstacles with Naomi, but several years later it wasn’t an obstacle to marrying the wife. In spirit, the wife has always been much older than Naomi.

One of these days I’ll write about all the crushes. Or all the ones I can remember. Just yesterday I remembered a couple of more minor ones from college. One of them had the unusual name of Ethel (not a pseudonym in this case), which one simply didn’t encounter in girls in their early twenties in the mid to late eighties. And doesn’t now, for that matter. That’s more like the name of a great aunt. When thinking that through a while back, I found big gaps in my memory where there were none I could think of. I think what happened then is I dwelled again on prior ones.

But I digress. This is an awfully long way to note what I’m planning today and why I won’t end up typing a bunch of other inane posts because I am occupied.

I Call First!

I have no memory of how it started and developed, but somewhere along the line the kids developed a system of “calling first” to be served supper. Second, sometimes, if they miss being first. Usually calling first is prefaced by asking me what’s for supper.

They even have honorary first. Usually this applies to the fussy eldest, when it’s one of the things she loves best. They are remarkable about deciding and observing this courtesy. Sometimes I decide this as a practical matter. If I make pasta and sauce, and one kid only eats it with butter, parm, and finely grated cheddar, the butter melts better if it’s still piping hot, so first it is.

There’s no reason not to go along with it, but it’s traumatic if I didn’t hear whoever called first first, and serve food to the second one who called first.

Sometimes when one of them says “I call first,” I will tell them it’s polite to call first, you should never just drop in. That gets old, as repetitious dad jokes do.

Sometimes I mess with them, if it’s the right thing. I’ll scoop three bowls of darned if I can remember right now and put them on the counter for the three of them to come grab. Not chili, because that requires embellishment. For that matter, less embellishment can mean you’re first because then it’s out of the way quick and the ones that take more time can be the focus. One bowl of chili is just beef chili with no beans, made for the kid who can’t stand the texture of the beans and, since I’m making it anyway, preferred by the wife. One bowl of regular chili get a pile of grated cheese on it. Another bowl of chili gets pile of grated cheese, a spoon or two of sour cream, and a side of bread and butter. One burger gets a bun, some ketchup, a burger, preferably with as much of the cheese that fries on the pan as possible, and more ketchup on top. One burger goes on a bun and the kid adds a little ketchup. Please none of the cheese that fried onto the pan! Another burger gets mayo and ketchup, the burger, sometimes sauteed onion if we’re making those, and more ketchup on top. If there’s lettuce and tomato but no fried onion, that third one might have those on it as well. That’s the case that matches mine, except I also add mustard sometimes, so I make those together. the wife assembles her own.

If anyone wants seconds of whatever we’re having, they come help themselves. Sometimes I’m surprised by what is or isn’t left when I go to put away leftovers.

Anyway, that’s one of the ways in which the household, as most presumably do, has developed its own culture, driven in part by the kids. There are always inside jokes or references we all get or use for shorthand, but that nobody else would understand.

Dear Utz

It was kind of rude to discontinue your best variety of potato chips a while back. Salt & Pepper Chips were the main flavor, of any brand, that my fussy oldest child would eat. Every time I think about buying your excellent honey barbecue chips, I tend to remember the discontinued chips and skip it.

Storytelling, Part 2

(I keep forgetting to say spoilers at the beginning of posts like this, though it was released in 1971 so it’s probably not important.)

I was inspired to return to this because I was looking at my old writing and thinking again about the merits of discontinuities in the sequence of events. Not jumping around in time, but skipping the less important or easily extrapolated (or intentionally to remain in the imagination of the audience), focusing on a sequence of scenes or events that flow without filling all the space in between. It’s a resolution to the traditional “we’re walking… we’re walking… we’re still walking…” problem of some traditional fantasy novels. I think I, in my head as well as in what I wrote or made notes about, was too intent on describing the whole journey as they went.

Now, it is after the part I described previously that Melody really throws in a series of scenes with time between them that is not explicitly filled. You aren’t even necessarily clear on the length of time between scenes, or the length of time from now to the end. You see the important things and the payoffs. You wonder about some details, but the story isn’t reliant on giving you those missing details? I’ll resist examples now and give them as I go.

The last storytelling scene I noted was the end of the preliminary setup of who is who, Daniel adapting to what we figure out is a new school, and establishing his friendship with Ornshaw, who is both wise and troubled. The next part establishes the crush and the build of the relationship with Melody, the fallout from that, and the resultant ending for them, the other kids, and most of the adults.

I stopped before the “meet cute” scene. Daniel and Ornshaw had cemented their friendship. Going into school and up the flights of stairs toward class, Ornshaw stops to be amused by girls in a ballet class rather than heading up the next flight. He grabs Daniel and another boy to get them in on the mischief. Ornshaw is jeering the whole time, but Daniel sees Melody dancing gracefully and confidently, hair swishing, and it’s all over. The score makes clear that the world has gone away for Daniel and nothing else exists. Then the teacher catches them and hauls them in there, making them dance along with the girls or else there will be a trip to the headmaster. Daniel actually tries, staring at Melody all the while. She keeps smiling at him. That’s the first vignette.

Do we need to see the rest of the school day? No. We don’t even need to see the conclusion of their time in ballet, and what trouble they get in when they arrive late to the class where they belong. We can wonder and imagine, but it’s not vital to the story. A book might have room for more of that, but it’s still not vital. Not that I don’t love me some Robert Jordan. Conversely, I found Martin boring and a poor writer, and was only able to get into A Song of Ice and Fire via the Game of Thrones show.

Next vignette. School gets out. Daniel is on a mission. He ducks aside to a water fountain (bubbler, in these parts) to wait surreptitiously for her to come out. Then he follows when she and three friends go to the old cemetery to have Muriel demonstrate kissing on a poster of a teen idol. Too funny. A branch snaps. Rhoda says “someone’s watching!” They all look his way. He whistles casually and walks away. They all laugh, except Melody, who just watches thoughtfully. Or seriously, at any rate. She looks serious a lot. I know that range of looks, from when I was 14. But that’s a different post. That’s the first day of being in love, as discussed in the timeline.

Now to see if I can remember the order of everything without speed watching as I write. I may need to review to make sure.

Vignette three of Daniel and Melody drawing together is an assembly, which conveniently places them in the same large room. They appear not to have classes together, despite being the same level. Daniel stares across the room toward her. Ornshaw notices and figures out where he is looking. Amused, Ornshaw starts a whisper brigade across and toward the front of the room. When it gets to her, she turns to look back at some length, and he looks away, as one does when caught staring. Later we see a still image of her that is smiling in this scene, but as shown as “moving pictures” she just looks serious, maybe even a bit annoyed.

Vignette four appears to be later the same day. We were introduced to Melody playing recorder early in the film, practicing Frere Jacques. In economy of detail, we did not know Daniel played cello, unless I missed something. Not really necessary, but not surprising, given his dreamy, artsy nature.

He clunks his cello down the hall, opens the door to the music room, and there are Melody and Rhoda, waiting while we hear a tuba tryout through a closed door. He pauses, there’s surprise all around, smiles uncertainly at her, goes in and settles on bench on another wall. Rhoda and Melody giggle a lot and whisper furiously, sounding like part of it involves the feeling in the back of her neck from being stared at.

The tuba kid, little bigger than his instrument, leaves and Rhoda gets called in by the teacher, leaving the other two alone. After a moment of uncertainty, Melody blows a few notes and then starts playing Frere Jacques to practice. Daniel joins in for a duet, starting behind and offset from her in a cool way, following her lead as she plays faster and faster. She looks his way through this, and in among the seriousness you can see her eyes smile a couple times.

The teacher bangs out, stopping them abruptly, and gives him a note to take to the headmaster. It takes no imagination to realize that she did this to shut them up because they were loud enough to disrupt what we presume is Rhoda’s singing tryout. I would even surmise that she knows exactly what is going on between the two kids.

One thing that just now came to mind. We are late in the school year. Why are there what look very much like tryouts? Is it just the start of an extracurricular thing, even though we are already in May or even June? Or is it placement for the next school year? Or are we not supposed to ask because the scene of making beautiful music together worked so well?

Daniel leaves with a look and sort of smile. She goes into a thoughtful pose and expression, startled when his cello falls. That was a nice touch. At this point, we will realize, she is sold. The next bits are interstitial to the couple together, but are important to the story.

After school, some of the boys go near the tracks for the latest in a series of tests of a homemade explosive. It fizzles, and the laughter from that segues into laughter at an awful dinner part Daniel must suffer through with his parents and their friends. This seems to serve the purposes of cementing how awful his family is, mostly his mother, and shows a mischievous act, where he drinks his mother’s whole glass of wine while she is distracted.

That segues into a comparative scene at Melody’s house. She is watching TV while eating with Mom and Granny. It’s a humorously lame romance scene, which I believe was created for use in the film. Big difference from Daniel’s house, at any rate. But then Mom asks if she remembered to pick up her pink dress from the cleaner. Here’s where we see her sense of humor and type of mischief.

She says she didn’t, and elaborates that “the man made me forget.” She grabs the alarm clock to wind it, as she is dressed for bed, so it fits the scene. When asked, she elaborates that it’s a man in the cemetery in a raincoat. This freaks out the elder women and they ask if he touched her. She leads them on, knowing darn well what she’s doing. Wonderfully acted, especially when you can hear the air quotes around touch when she says “no, he didn’t touch me.” “Did he show you anything?” What sort of thing?” LOL. ‘Did he show you his legs?” “Oh, yes, I saw his legs alright.”

That fires Mom up to the point of wanting to call the cops, the only reference to that house having a phone. She assures them ‘oh no, he’s not there now” because he ran away after the brick nearly hit him. Did she throw the brick? This answer was hard for me to hear all of the first few times I watched the seen, but in response to “what boy?” she tells them: “the boy with the green ears and the ginger mustache, with a spear running through his head, wearing frog man’ flippers with a machine gun.” That’s the kind of thing I would have done! Smart ass kid.

Speaking of things I had trouble hearing or parsing, it sounds like Mom tells Melody if her father were home she’d get a bloody goody ardin. I wondered what in the world she had said, even though it was obviously meant to be a spanking. Eventually I realized it had to be “hiding,” as in “I’ll tan your hide.” But I digress

That scene ends with Melody popping her head back into the living room after being sent to her room. She says, with a smile, “he’s not got green ears at all, Granny. He’s quite a nice boy really.” So we know who she’s talking about there, even if the cemetery brick throwing scene is purely made up. They have made clear she’s sold.

The next vignette is lunch at school, presumably the next day. This one leaves us wondering what would happen if Ornshaw hadn’t interceded, and sets up a rivalry between Melody and Ornshaw.

We see Daniel getting his lunch and then heading across the room. He goes to her table and asks whether he can sit next to her. She doesn’t say no. She says “well, I don’t know. My friend Maureen usually sits there.” The surrounding tables and Maureen, coming up behind him, laugh. She watches as Ornshaw comes over and guides Daniel away. She and Daniel look across the room at each other after he sits down there. Ornshaw notices, makes a face at her, and she reciprocates.

Next vignette is a dance on what is presumably Saturday. This is where the play in full the song about a shy guy trying to get a girl to notice him, after we heard it much earlier on the radio when Daniel was first introduced. We can see Melody and her friend Peggy dancing, then we focus on a group of boys being at the dance but not dancing. Daniel and Ornshaw are among them, but Daniel only has eyes for Melody. For her part, Melody is obviously trying to attract him. Ornshaw makes fun of her being a stuck up know it all and girls being useless.

This leads up to Daniel saying “I’ve got to dance with her.” “You’re mad!” Ornshaw isn’t amused, and Daniel tries to get him to come out there and dance with Peggy while he dances with Melody. The other boys razz Ornshaw into going along with it. Bottom line is Daniel gets to dance with a receptive Melody very briefly. Peggy is really the one to ruin it, once you see past Ornshaw kicking her and think about it. She should know this is all about her friend getting to dance with her boyfriend-in-waiting, and should put up with the scenario. Instead she insults Ornshaw’s dancing and breaks it up. This leaves Daniel sad and concerned, Peggy sad, and Melody mad at Ornshaw and frustrated.

All of this has been pretty rapid fire. We have quickly gone from Daniel falling in love at first sight to this point, and Melody wanting him right back.

It shows two sequences after the dance. The first is another explosives test. Daniel is with the boys this time. Since they are always duds, nobody takes cover. This one works enough to spray them with dirt. They boys are excited. Things are approaching an explosive conclusion!

The second is Melody, still in her pink dress from the dance, in the bathroom. She is spilling out the contents of what is presumably her mother’s purse or makeup bag. We see her apply lipstick. Then we see her pick her hair up over her head and look at herself in the mirror. She looks a little silly, with the hair like that and the sheer amount of makeup she applied. Then her mother calls her for tea and she has a somewhat panic reaction, wiping the makeup off rather crudely, then looking at herself sadly.

Finally, it’s field day, or maybe athletics day across the pond. This is the ultimate vignette in the course of the build to the two being together, while also starring Ornshaw as the supportive best friend. There’s a lot of them talking and Daniel being embarrassed by his mother hanging around. Lots of fun scenes of kids and adults, just hanging out or participating in events. We see Melody and her friends here and there, but she’s not featured the way Daniel is. There’s a fun bit of payoff to her friend Muriel’s obvious interest in an older, much more mature boy.

Daniel and Ornshaw talk about winners and losers, and who says who will be which. After their conversation ends, To Love Somebody starts playing. There are scenes of the activity through part of the song, cheering but no dialogue. As it nears the end, Daniel’s race in the 220 begins. He is not expecting to win, but to be the one looking foolish by doing poorly. As he runs and the song reaches its end, we see his face, then her, back and forth through the ballet class, assembly, cafeteria, and dance. He gets the inspiration needed to push through to finish first and Ornshaw bursts with excitement. Then Daniel collapses. Faints away.

That’s a great spot for not showing what happens next! Can you imagine his mother being around and seeing that? People checking on and reviving him? Nope. We don’t need all that. All we need is his love for Melody gave him the winning boost.

This is unimaginably great use of the song and what it means. It captures how I feel about that song, one of my all time favorites by any artist, and helps capture how it feels to be in Daniel’s position. Now that I’ve seen it, I’ll never not associate the song with the scene, and I can watch the video of the song set to that every day.

Everything changes after that. This could be a place to stop and move on in a part three. This segment of the film gives the best examples of scenes that are just enough, leaving blanks that aren’t necessary to be filled. Actually, I will stop here. I need to make supper. I was going to add to this while some of the cooking happened, but my son got in the way and I sat back down. The kids are dying for supper, but he slowed it down by making food for himself before he starves. Silly.

Cooking, Blogging and Tech, Oh My

Or: Pay attention to your sites, dude.

Once upon a time, Jeff Soyer started a food blog called Single Guy Cook, which I hough was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it ran out of steam quickly, given limited funds and repertoire.

That inspired me to start one called Married Guy Cook, since I used to post frequently about what I’d cook, and I’d gotten deeply into cooking since getting married. Unfortunately, it hobbled along, given limited funds and repertoire, and I trailed off due to that and other issues. However, it was a popular and lucrative site, for a time, for earning money.

That and being even more broke than ever (I’d never realized while I was self-employed just how low my income was, though I did know that it was incredibly rocky – impossible, technically – to live on it) were part of the inspiration for starting Frugal Guy Cook, to which I ported the posts from Married Guy Cook.

Then I all but abandoned it, despite all my plans to make money from it, and to expand the focus to being frugal in this ridiculous economy and to handling our son’s multiple allergies and sensitivities. That meant it didn’t build much content or garner page rank, and never became a potential source of income. Granted, that was partly the reperoire thing, and the money thing goes without saying, but that was part of the schtick. Only so many things you can tout doing with dried pinto beans, cheap burger on sale (OK, that’s an oxymoron these days; burger that is sometimes on sale for less epensive enough to justify its purchase, if only because we have to eat), cheap beef on sale, cheap chicken on sale, rice, and what vegetables we can afford, or buy regardless. I never buy fish, for instance, because $5/lb and up is “rich people food.” Indeed, my current conundrum is that since my stents, I am supposed to eat healthier, and while there have been steps in that direction, going whole hog means money. And if I do spend more on food, it ceases to be “frugal,” at least by my standards. The next couple weeks will test my frugality. We have a freezer relatively full of meat, which helps, and are well stocked in other things, but I expect to have maybe $60 or so to spend through November 9th (maybe more, but there’s also gas, and I have to plan low rather than optimistic). Bread alone is $6-7 a week. Anyway, I digress.

I slacked off on that site so badly that I have yet to fix the weirdness that porting from the old one caused, or adjust the theme to look less funny as a result (or replace the theme).

On my last big shopping trip, I got a sugar pumpkin on sale for 29¢ a pound. Cheap and I love making pumpkin bread or other things from the source, though canned is easier. Yesterday I went looking for a pumpkin bread recipe. I may have had one saved on my computer, but my computer, and the spare one into which I put the till working drive from the dead one, is dead. I thought I might have written about making pumpkin bread, and if so, it might have made it onto the food blog. Otherwise it’s a matter of finding a likely looking recipe and trying it, rather than using one I knew was good from past use. Not that there’s much you can do to mess up pumkin bread. Besides, I can always make pumpkin cake, which is a matter of using pumpkin as the liquid in the egg and dairy-free cake recipe and adding appropriate seasoning.

In the course of checking whether I’d ever posted it, I found that every picture in every post I looked at had been replaced by a square graphic saying “SHOPWIKI.” Clicking the picture, rather than bringing up a larger version, took me to a site not my own.

“How was I hacked,” I wondered.

Well, I wasn’t. I allowed the old domain to expire, an unusual thing for me, but sometimes there’s reason to let go. The posts I had ported still pointed to graphics (and sometimes internal links) on the old domain. Which now belongs to someone else. My experience with lapsed domains, even if they have no page rank, is that someone snaps them up and makes them page full of ad links, such that they will generate at least something over the cost of registering and hosting the domain. It’s what my old business partner would have called “yawn money.” Make money while you sleep. Even if it’s a little, even if it’s some tiny form of arbitrage, it will add up and be something you wouldn’t make otherwise. I could go for some of that.

I still had all the graphics, mind you. The folder the old domain had been in was totally intact. So I copied it to the new location and modified each wrong URL directly in the database. Easy, but a bit embarrassing, given that it should have been done at the time of the port.

The moral of the story, I’d say, is pay attention. If you’re going to have a blog empire, mind your blog empire. If you’re going to write, write. If you’re going to maintain places to write, maintain them. Don’t be surprised if neglect leads to decay.

At the moment, I am only posting here, trying to do it regularly, building back up a blog we should never have left fallow in the first place. If it weren’t for the difficulty in porting Expression Engine to WordPress, the entire original content would be here, rather than archived. The conundrum is that topical blogs are lucrative. That was part of the reason for Frugal Guy Cook in the first place. I’ll probably post food-related stuff here now, but it’s an opportunity missed. Same for tech blogging and business blogging. I fell out of both, tech in paricular, since I all but stopped doing it for a living, and I lacked the money to keep myself up to date, which feeds the no doing it for a living and vice-versa. We’ll see what happens. For the time being, writing and maintaining this stuff is de facto a job for me, so all the more reason it should get caught up and get done routinely. Income, however speculative and lacking in direct connection to the effort, won’t be possible at all otherwise.