February 8, 2018

“Labrit!” A fine “Good Morning” in Latvian. If you go left at Moscow for a good while, you will run right into Latvia sandwiched in between Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.

I abuse my Wisteria. I didn’t intend to be a Wisteria abuser. My heart was pure when I designed my arbor and played the 4 or 5 frail little vines at the base of the columns but now roll the clock forward seventeen years or so and my little vines are mighty as they completely cover the arbor with their lovely leaves and fragrant blossoms. A well maintained, un-abused Wisteria, flowers abundantly and passionately in the spring just before the leaves open and some even will flower late in the summer as well. Our wisteria thinks that January is spring and often will do a second bloom in June. It pretty much just hangs around the arbor in a daze dressed in his lovely bright green leaves until like September when it sighs a kind of huge,”WTF!” and drops them all only to begin it’s ill timed cycle once again in its own January/February spring. Poor dear.

I started another audio book this week. I had forgot just how funny, Carl Hiaasen is or at least how funny I find his stories of south Florida where I grew up. He is very careful to caveat his stories with declarations of total fiction but I swear that I have met some of his characters personally. I have definitely been to many of the locations cited in his tales.

I think I have all my tax documentation so I can begin the painful trip to the governmental woodshed once again. I do think it a bit rude that the government wants to tax you after your “productive years” have ended. Its seems a bit like having to pay for your car registration during the time it is in the junkyard until it is actually crushed and sent to Japan.

This week I learned some stuff:

• I learned that having the right basin wrench makes all the difference. Our new kitchen sink is now fully installed and tight. Yahoo!
• February 8th is a really cool “TooFer” day!!! We have two National Holidays to celebrate today. In 1910, The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated releasing the first edition of the Boys Scouts Manual in 1911. Today is National Boy Scouts Day!!! Did you know that 181 Astronauts were scouts before they were spacemen? I was a scout and as a single parent kid way before single parenting was a term, the Scouts filled some pretty big and empty shoes in my life. Without realizing it, I sort of assembled a composite Dad out of my male scout leaders, coaches and teachers. Scouting provided rules and a structure for a young boy to discover life without too much damage to him or life. I am grateful for what I learned in Scouting. The other part of our “TooFer” holiday is, “National Fly A Kite” day. Kites have been a thing even longer than Scouting or even the United States. Before the United States and everyone else was very good at underestimating them, the Chinese invented the Kite back in 470 BC. Kites have figured into Chinese folklore and history ever since. They were used as communications devices and even fishing. Kites are still widely used in China even though they were banned during the “cultural revolution”. Weifang in Shandong Province is “The” Chinese city to visit when it comes to kites. It was as a Cub Scout, that I first learned how to make a paper bag kite (you remember paper bags, they came with groceries and you made book covers and kites out of them). So grab a scout, make a kite and go fly it. Try to think Chinese thoughts while you enjoy the soaring of your kite. Chances are that same wind helped a kite soar in China before it got here.

Website Update:
• Week 2 of the New Vocabulary Quiz!!!
• I added two more recipes for you guys this week – I liked them both but think they need some more tweaking if you know what I mean. Anyway, you can try your turn at Chipotle Shrimp Tacos and Coconut Lime Chicken too. I enjoyed them both.

Writing and Painting Update:
• One more time into the breech! Some time ago, my friends , Roger and Robin took a very interesting picture of a stream that was leading to a waterfall. I asked for permission to use their pic and attempted to paint it. It turned out awful. I hung my head in shame. So some time has passed, wounds heal so I tried again. It still sucks but t sucks less than the first one. I am going to attempt a larger acrylic on canvas of chewy this week. I must love the feeling of self loathing:)
• Perhaps to add insult to injury, I obtained a 16 x 20 stretched canvas to begin work on the Chewy acrylics Portrait. I realized that I had progressed in painting in acrylics to the point of capturing a pretty nice portrait of our friend Frederick on his perch on the landing of our stairs after he passed. It seems like a good way to remember these four legged folks that added so much to our lives. I haven’t touched acrylics since then and need to find them to get started on Chewy’s painting.
• The ceramic cuss jar came out of the kiln looking remarkably like a mangey dog version of a cup shaped thing. The best thing about the jar is the clear coat but even it had issues in the form of inexplicable bumpy spots. The porcelain white color I had envisioned when I was putting on the undercoat glaze became this sort of dingy brownish grey color. The cup shave was covered in what were supposed to be bright spots of different colors, blues, reds, yellows, greens, etc. For the most part the spots stayed round in shape but the colors were kind of translucent. I learned that one must be very heavy handed and diligent in the application of underglaze. In any case, Jessica claimed the poor thing for her pens an pencils.

• Although it may not always be apparent but I have invested a lot of money, time, thought and effort in my digital presence. I have assembled and created digital assists that are both personally meaningful for me as well as represent this rather large investment. These UJT Update or as I think of them as my crumb trail in the universe are mine to give and save. BUT ONLY AS LONG AS I LIVE. The big tech companies make you click “accept” on those incredibly verbose “End User Agreement (EULA)” before you “buy” software or a song from your iTunes Store or Google Play store. I never read them either. But in addition to threatening you within an inch of your life if you do bad things with their content, you are also agreeing that at the end of the day, it is their content. You cannot, today, pass your digital “property” to your heirs. This has been bugging some of us for a long time. How weird is that ??!! If I bought the record I would be able to give it to my kids when I pass, it seems to me that this should be the same thing. Today, it is not. There is work being done at the state level in some states. Delaware is busy. But I would encourage you to email the lazy useless self promoting “leaders” that represent you in congress and tell them that you want them to create and pass legislation to allow us to own our digital assets and pass them to our heirs.
• We had another Super Bowl this week.We all now the results now. But as I write this part of the UJT Update this week it is early and dark on that Sunday morning before the game. I really want to Patriots to loose horribly. I am typically an underdog kind of guy but this years contest is truly a David and Goliath reenactment. I am so sick of the smug self-satisfied faces of “Humble “Bs” (Belichick and Brady) that I want the game to be lopsided in favor of Philadelphia from kick-off to the long walk off the field. Now that is not going to happen. The Patriots are favored by 4.5 points. But I am the kind of guy that loved “Invincible” where Mark Wahlburg played a Philadelphia barfly with a dream and hellva lot of determination. Hell, I cried when they carried “Rudy” off the field at Notre Dame. I celebrated with Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman when the Washington Sentinels beat Dallas in the last seconds in “The Replacements”. So for me football is all about heart. Today, we will find out if the mutts with heart, the Eagles, can somehow overcome the cold calculating soulless winning machine that has become the Patriots. Hey, if the Eagles can pull this off, it will give the rest of us underdogs a smile to last us through till next season.
• Kids should not get sick. Every time I hear the cry of a feverish baby, even if they are just teething, I get an ache deep inside. I remember when she was real little, Jess was sick with the flu, “Daddy make it get better and I will be good.” Man!! And that is just the normal stuff. Sometimes when I am alone at night, I feel so grateful for how fortunate I have been in my life. All of the truly tragic stuff hit the people I love at older ages when they could understand and already had life experiences. I have no idea how these people whose kids suffer from such terrible diseases make it through each day. My heart breaks for them and I am such a coward, that I don’t even want to think about them too much. Its just too hard and it isn’t even happening to me!! So when you get a moment, keep a good thought for the Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Brothers and Sisters of all the kids that got dealt shitty hands in life and are playing them the best way they know how. I have to believe that somehow it makes a difference.

Music Update:
Click here for week’s UJT Radio program. Sort of Great News! The Custom UJT music player is back so you can play the music as a play list or pick and choose as you wish! Almost… at least it appears to work well in Firefox but after I uploaded new songs I found problems when using Safari. Oh well.

A friend of mine sent me some very cool YouTube links that lead me down this nice path of musical exploration. One was a cut from our old friend and world class guitar player, Eric Johnson and the other was someone that I had never heard of before by the name of Emma Dean Moseley. They both are from Texas. Emma is 16 years old and does some incredibly complex covers of some of my favorite songs on YouTube. The one I chose to share here is her cover of a beautiful song by Tommy Emmanuel (yeah thats right this 16year old Austin girl is playing Tommy’s songs!) called, “Ruby’s Eyes” Give it a listen here. I think you will be as impressed as I was. I don’t think she has any records yet but it won’t be long.

Sir Elton, Neil Diamond and now Paul Simon are all closing out their careers as Troubadours. They all are masters at that very special craft and as far as I know are all leaving the stage intact in the sense that the life they chose didn’t kill them or render them incapable of really enjoying the rest of their days. That is a magnificent accomplishment! We ask so much of our musical heroes that it sometimes kills them. Well Done Lads!!! And Thank you for all the memories! I hope you like this week’s samples.
• Ub40 — Red Red Wine — I always loved this song. It kind of just reminds me of too hot and humid days when every thing is moving at 33 1/3 instead of 45 or 78. Some days that is just right.
• Eric Johnson — Once Upon A Time in Texas — This is a fine acoustic performance by one of the very best players I have seen.
• Elton John — Love Song — This one comes from his 1971 Tumbleweed Connection album. This song didn’t really fit on the album. It is a love song written by Lesley Duncan. All the others on the album are more story telling song written by Elton and Bernie Taupin. It is just a beautiful song sung beautifully.
• Paul Simon — You Can Call Me Al — This version comes from his Greatest Hits, “Shining Like a National Guitar” album that came out in 2000. I even loved the stupid video for this one which featured Chevy Chase. For the longest time I thought that Paul played that amazing bass run on the record because he is playing bass on the video. Actually, the base player on the song and the Graceland album that the song was originally released on was a South African bassist, Bakithi Kumalo.
• Neil Diamond — Cracklin’ Rosie — No one can deny Neil’s commercial success. But there was something about this guy…This came out in 1970! The Who recorded, “Live At Leeds” that year. Grace Slick and Abby Hoffman showed up for a tea party at the White House with LSD to spike the tea. Slick was recognized and asked to leave (Hoffman out on bail was not recognized). Cracklin’ Rosie is a story about a radio program director that Neil was infatuated with and who directed what music got played on CKLW which was a very influential station at the time. She still lives in Windsor, Ontario across the river from Detroit.
• Grateful Dead — Friend of the Devil — From the Vinyl!!! In our weaker moments we all seek friendship with the Devil to get us out of the terrible mess we managed to get ourselves into with the least bit of encouragement. This story comes to us from Jerry Garcia, NRPS’s Marmaduke – John Dawson and of course Bob Hunter penned the lyrics. Insider rumors say that the story was inspired by the Dead’s RoadManager/Advance Man, Rock Scully, who had a penchant for getting into lots of trouble with women including his common law wife and a host of new friends he made on his extensive travels working for the band.
• Mungo Jerry — In the Summertime — This is a one hit wonder song that captured the hearts and minds of many in the 1970s.
• New Riders of the Purple Sage — Whiskey — NRPS are a story all unto themselves. They kind of sprung out of the Grateful Dead family of folks in the 1960s. The story is that these guys were roadies who started getting Jerry to sit in when they did their own music for sound checks when the Dead toured. This one comes from their “Gypsy Cowboy” album released in 1972. I have the vinyl but it was abused a lot and this copy is from the good folks at Apple.

That’s it… Do the best you can; Laugh every chance you get; And always remember … The best is yet to come!

As always, thank you for being my friend!

Under the Jacaranda Tree URL: http://www.jfmccann.com