Friday, July 29, 2011

Music All Around Us- Guitar Strings

SSSSssshhh -just listen !! by jodimuli
Photo by Joey DiMuli via 365 Project

I've been coming across all kinds of music videos and posts lately about unexpected places we find or are inspired to create music, unusual interpretations or use of music, and just raw musical talent, both in plain view and hidden in surprising places/people.

Photo via Piano Playing Info

I took piano for years and while I'm slowly descending further and further into "out of practice", I still like to plink away at the keyboard when no one's listening. I've even been known to sing, though the comments and accompaniments in the background have become rather cacophnous as the dog population in our house has increased.

Photo via Life With Dogs

But I grew in a home with music, thanks to the interests and genetic gifts of my parents, and though I myself have only a fraction of their musical talents, I have just enough to know what I'm lacking. So when I come across incredible and unexpected music, be it quirky, cute, or glorious, I feel a deep appreciation for the gift of music. Thought I would share some of those encounters with you from time to time because there is, after all, music all around us.

Image via Barcelona Photoblog

Image via West Virginia Old Time Musicians

Image via Photo Mish Net

Photo by Andrew Rogers via Daily Sentinel

Photo by Brittany Randolph via Flickr

Sometimes it's the actual music that amazes- either the composition or the talent of the performer, sometimes the effects of music. Sometimes it's the attempts at music, or maybe it's what music is actually doing right in front of our eyes and ears that we can't see or don't notice that is captivating. The video below is an example of music, or in this case the musical instrument, doing what we know it does but we are able to see it from a new perspective. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It Wasn't Just Hitler

(Warning- this post is for history buffs. There are no cute crafts, sinfully yummy recipes, or whimsical reminiscences. Not even any butterflies. Sorry, but History is what I read and like to share. Expect more. You've been warned.)

Finished this book lthe other night. In 1933, William Dodd became the US Ambassador to Germany. In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson follows Dodd's first year in Germany (there's a bit a of wrap-up at the end). Dodd, a history professor, had studied in Leipzig during his college years and went into his tenure as Ambassador with warm feelings toward the German people and nation but no diplomatic experience. Dodd was not Roosevelt's first choice for Ambassador. Or his second. Or third. In fact, Dodd was embarrasingly low on the list. No one else wanted the job. While the persecution of the Jews, initially subtle, was beginning to be discussed in political circles, Dodd felt that most Jews were over-stating the problems in Germany and strove to be neutral on the issue. Dodd and his daughter Martha both looked at life in Nazi Germany with rose-colored glasses, wanting to believe in it's innocence and quaintness. Consequently, it was almost a full year before Dodd and his family (wife, daughter, and son) came to understand the truth of Hitler's threat to the world. The last straw was the June 30th 1934 purge of the leadership of the Storm Troopers, then led by Ernst Rohm. Hitler, as did many of his loyal fellow leaders, saw the Storm Troopers, the SA, as a threat to the traditional German military and their own political ambitions. Between June 30th and July 2nd, Storm Trooper commanders and supporters were arrested and executed for treason. No trial, just executed. This purge became known as the Night of Long Knives. Hitler declared to the German people that he had averted an attempt by certain SA leaders to overthrow the German leadership and was thus justified to naming himself judge during the purge. Hitler claimed just over seventy traitors were executed but the historical record shows that individuals who opposed Hitler, such as a priest, journalists, Jews, and others were killed in the action. Some estimate the casualties closer to 700. We will most likely never know the exact number, but for the shootings to have continued for three days indicates that the violence was more widespread than the Nazis wanted the world to believe. We see clips of Hitler giving speeches in which he is ranting and spitting like a mad man (huh, image that) but to read some of the translations is interesting. Hitler was a master orator and manipulator (oh and a lair, just sayin') and the German people by in large, at least in the beginning, swallowed his speeches hook, line, and sinker. Later it was fear that kept them silent. The Night of Long Knives was a pivotal truning point for the German people, who had been increasingly dissatisfied with Hitler and his Nazi tactics, his initial use of the SA as his personal bully army as part of the reason. By regining in the SA, the German people believed Hitler had actually eliminated a threat to their security and way of life. Some did see it for the dire warning that it was.

Image via Traces

Larson's book focuses mostly on Dodd and his daughter Martha, who had several affairs with high ranking German officials, as well as a man who turned to to be a Soviet spy who has been tasked with recruiting Martha to spy for the Soviets. Martha was, as they used to say when it used to matter, a floozy. Dodd and his left-leaning daughter could not have been more opposite if they had tried. Larson provides an interesting look, through diary excerpts and official cables, at how the US Embassy functioned, Dodd's struggles as Ambassador, the daily lives of those living in Germany, and gives insights as well into the Nazi leadership and the psyche German people after WWI. It wasn't just Hitler. Himmler, Goebbels, and Goring to name the big three were power hungry- oh let's just say it- lunatics- who manipulated Hitler and used his mental instabilities to their own advantages.

Image via Amazing Discoveries

There was a point, around the time of the Night of Long Knives, when Hitler could conceivably have been stopped. Had Roosevelt heeded the increasingly dire reports from Dodd and other Embassy personnel, as had the leaders of other countries from their personnel, things may have turned out differently. But for some reason, which Larson wonders about but does not pursue, Roosevelt and other world leaders did not want to speak out against Hitler. In The Garden of Beasts, however, is an interesting look inside Nazi Germany in the years immediately prior to World War II.

This is just a brief peek inside In The Garden of Beasts. Visit Pittsburgh Live for a better review. I like Erik Larson, having read everything he's published since happening upon Issac's Storm several years ago and would recommend any of is books.

So call dibs on the best reading chair, pour a glass of iced tea, and get to reading. I would love to hear what book you've got your nose into.

It's Too Hot To Make A Margarita

Boy! Have we been having some stinking hot weather! So when it gets really hot, I start thinking about margaritas.

Photo by Lumiago via Flickr
No, not Margarita daisies, though that does remind me that I need to get out and do some trimming. It also makes me remember that the nurse on duty when I had my Zippy was named Margarita. What a coincidence because that's how I got in that shape, I do believe....

Phtoto by Samantha Decker via Flickr

I'm not a big drinker and am happy with my couple of beers a week. But I do like tequila, especially in the summer when it is so blasted miserable hot. I really got to jonesin' for a margarita a couple of days ago but I would have to get out of the pool, put on shoes (OK, flip flops), walk to the garage, drive to the liquor store for mix in that hot ol' SUV, deal with the weirdo who works there, drive back, read the directions, find a glass, open the tequila.... by that time I would have been in the throes of heat stroke. So I made do with what I had on hand.

Tequila. I'm not a Patron Silver kind of gal. I much prefer any kind of gold and aged tequila but like I say, I had to make do.

Lime sherbet. OK now- work fast if you're making this in the sun on a day with a heat index of 105 degrees. Good Grief.

Introduce the tequila to the sherbet. Not much, just a little shot.

Then just mush it around with a spoon and enjoy. How easy is that?

OK kids, that's it---  stay cool and be careful 'cause it's a scorcher out there. See ya next time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lemonade Season

Image via That's My Letter

Jaime over at That's My Letter recently shared how she made this lovely lemonade sign, above, for her Etsy shop. It's an easy to follow tutorial and the sign really is a cutie.

It got me thinking back to when my Zippy was a kid (more of a kid than she is now- growing up so quickly). We talked every summer about having a Sunflower and Lemonade stand. We planned to grow all sorts of varieties of sunflowers and when they were ready, we would sell them right out of the garden. Picked fresh while you wait. Organic. Surprise the wife. Treat Yourself. We had lots of marketing pitches.

1. Sunflower, 2. Sunflower with bee, 3. sunflower, 4. Sunflower / Helianthus / 向日葵(ひまわり), 5. Sunflower, 6. Sunflower, 7. Sunflower, 8. Sunflowers, 9. Sunflower

Oh and while you wait, because it would be late summer and hotter than blue blazes, why not have some ice cold lemonade? We researched a nice variety of flavored lemonades for our daily specials and how to keep the ice frozen, how to shade our stand, when to be "open" based upon how many cars drove by at different times of the day (we counted), etc etc. I even sketched plans for the signs.

If you paint the sign and then add glitter to the glass, wouldn't that look cold and frosty as all those hot people drove past? OK, yes, I got carried away with the whole idea.
View Image

But then Zippy came wandering in one day with a board and asked if she could borrow some paint supplies. Just an aside, we have many items around our yard that have been painted over the years, her swingset having become a landmark on our road. "If you get to the house with the painted swingset you've gone too far. Turn around in their driveway." (Arghh, don't turn around in people's driveways!!) She understands what not to paint (cars, house, garage) and to clean up her supplies afterwards. So anyway, I didn't give her request much more thought until I went out to check on her for lunch and found her lemonade stand sign in the grass under the big maple tree.

Way better than my signs.

We never did get the Sunflower and Lemonade Stand act going, mainly because we were often at the beach the week the sunflowers were at their best. But I do have some great art for my kitchen.

I mentioned that it looks kind of like outsider art. And, with all the logic and straight-forward common sense my then 7 year was blessed with she said...

"Well I did paint it outside."

If you pass a lemonade stand this summer, manned by tiny little budding entrepreneurs, you better go ahead and stop. Have a cold one for me.

Thanks so visiting today-- I'll see ya next time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Piano Key Butterfly

Photo via ImageKind

A secret joy of mine is to play the piano late at night when no one is at home. I especially love to do so in the summer, with the windows open. I sweat and drip all over the keys and as soon as I hear a car pull into the driveway the private concert is over. I stumbled across the Piano Key Butterfly the other day and now I will think of them every time I'm pounding away on my old William Knabe.

The Piano Key butterfly is on of the Heliconiie butterflies, or longwings, and are found mostly in the neotropics of South and Central America. The Piano Key is more commonly called the Postman butterfly, know in taxonomy terms as Heliconius melpomene. Melpomene, daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne, was originally the Greek Muse of Singing but later became the Muse of Tragedy.

Heliconius melpomene are widespread throughout their range, feeding primarily on the passionflower vine. Doesn't that sound exotic? "I'm the Muse of Tragedy. I live on passionflower."

Image via Heidi Claire

The Postman is long-lived and easily managed in captivity. It has become a favorite with butterfly conservatories such as Butterfly WorldThe Butterfly Zoo , and The Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. As more people have seen the Postman butterfly and noted that some have the striking white and black markings along the hindwing, they have been increasingly referred to as the Piano Key Butterfly. There is a huge variety in the markings of our longwing friend, partly because they are so closely related to the Heliconius erato, sometimes even crossbreeding.

It can all be very confusing if you start to explore genus, species, sub-species..... but you will surely not confuse the Piano Key Butterfly with a Butterfly Grand Piano.

Image via Piano World

The Butterfly Grand Piano was manufactured by Wurlitzer in the 1930's and 1940's. It was generally less the four feet deep and was intended to attract piano players living in smaller apartments. The lid was hinged down the middle as opposed to the side, hence it's name. These were limited production pianos and very few remain available. I've seen then going for $500 to $35,000. The smaller student versions had only 44 keys while the "full-size" butterfly had 73 keys. A full keyboard is 88 keys. Wurlitzer did make an electric version for a short time.

Image via Well-Tempered Forum

Anyway, I've strayed as usual but that's our butterfly friend for today.

 Have a grand day!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Full of Grace

Do you remember this pitiful, dirty, wormy little German Shep-Black Lab mix of a runt? This is the photo her owner texted me when I called about the free puppies. Can you see the sadness in her eyes?

Even cleaned up the day we brought her home, she was still pretty pitiful. It's been a long time since I've worried about a puppy as much as I worried about her those first few days. Five weeks and she could barely stand.

We gave her all the loving we could but she always seemed so sad, even when she began to put on some weight.

 She would sit by herself and just look at us, observing us. It seemed like she was  just biding her time, waiting for something, but for what?

We loved her more and more, and then one day, before we even knew what happened ....

... she sprang to life! Holy Cowabunga! She's a rock-n-roller now! I think our sweet Miss Gracie Mae figures she cheated death once so all bets are off. She feels invincible! How else to explain her near obsessive wish to befriend the ever frightening Smudgie, the Alpha Dog Cat.

She loves to garden. Notice the nice trimming job she did on my Echinacea by the bridge in the rain garden.

Here she's deciding if the lilies need to be trimmed.

She's not as big as her big brother Remy the Rat Terrier yet but she will be soon. And then some, judging by those feet and her lineage, however dubious it may be. Every two or three days we say to each other, "I think she grew today."

Um, just a little note- we don't really have anything against tails at our house. We just don't have any, other than the cat's. Remy's tail was docked before we got him and Miss Gracie never had one to start with.

 She loves her big brother and is a perfect pesky, tag-along little sister. He is as patient as the day is long. He's a good boy.

She is intensely observant of the world around her.

We recently kenneled the dogs with the vet while we took a four day weekend. When we picked them up, dear Dr. S came out and shook his head with a little laugh. "That is the feistiest puppy I've ever seen in all my years as a vet" he said. That made me proud of my girl. Oh and is she ever feisty- always ready for a tussle, not afraid to jump in, full of opinions and fearless energy. Do first, ask questions later. Questions like,

"Will I be able to get my head back out of there when I'm done barking at Remy downstairs?" The answer to that one is, "No, not without help from the momma."

I've gotten several wonderful emails from some dear Butterfly readers who have also taken in German Shep-Lab mix runts, even a few photos. I'm so thankful for each of these folks who let their hearts rule and have been so encouraged, especially early on, by the photos of their big robust happy GermShepadors, as my Zippy girl calls them. As I mentioned in my original post, all of my pets have been runts but this one had me worried.

As I looked at pictures of "GermShepadors", it struck me how so many black lab mixes have the white speckly chest and feet. Turns out Black Labs came from a  now extinct breed called the St John's Water Dog, which originated on the island of Newfoundland. The characteristic white chest, feet, muzzle, and chin markings, called tuxedo markings, still manifests in lab mixes and occasionally as a white chest medallion in Black Labs.

We still notice our Miss Good Gracious Gracie Girl sitting quietly, observing. But I don't think she's sad any more. She's just waiting- to get the party started.

Have a great day and don't forget to play hard, nap soundly, splash in the water, and slobber when needed.