Finding success as either a stand-up comedian or as
any form of obnoxious ass requires very nearly the same dedication to detail
and timing.A while back, I wrote about
a certain Mr. X.Mr. X had invented a rather unhandy electrical
trick in which he purposely shorted live household electrical circuits to make
sparks fly just as people were looking over his shoulder to either snoop or
make a suggestion to him.Today, I will
tell you about Mr. X and his infamous driving trick.And, no, this trick did not make him a successful
comedian; this one landed him far on the opposite end of the scale.
To perform his driving trick, Mr. X required the
following elements: long lines of traffic backed up on each side of a train
crossing, a shop truck with the name of our employer in bold graphics on the
doors and perfect timing.
Timing often turned out to be the undoing of the
As luck might have it, though, Mr. X regularly had a
chance to practice his driving trick because the electrical shop that employed
us happened to be located very near a railway crossing that often saw trains
blocking a busy street.On many
occasions, I was in the passenger seat to experience both the successful execution
and the not-so-successful attempts at the driving trick.
This trick required Mr. X to watch the train at the
crossing and estimate how long it might take for him to escape from his place
in the long line of stopped automobiles, blast down the empty left-hand lane
for traffic going the opposite direction (passing all of the other stopped cars
ahead of him) and arrive at the rail crossing just as the barrier arms
lifted.If Mr. X arrived at the proper
time, he could drift at angle across the railroad tracks (at or slightly above
the speed limit) and end up in the proper lane on the far side, sailing by the string
of stopped cars waiting for the first car in their line to move.
As I said earlier, timing often proved problematic.If we ended up with more than a twenty cars ahead
of us, our arrival time at the crossing might fall into question. Often, more than one car in the mix had to
give way so Mr. X could maintain forward momentum.On occasion, we ended up more-or-less parked
at the crossing in the wrong lane.More
regularly, a Doppler chorus of automobile horns accompanied our rocketing
escape from the traffic stoppage.All of
the attempts were usually followed by incensed phone calls to our shop, the
irate drivers having captured the number off the side of the truck as we raced
We have entered a brave new world of full
exposure—more like full self-exposure.Social media has presented all of us with the opportunity for (maybe the
illusion of) fame.If not given the full
fifteen minutes of fame Andy Worhol predicted we would all get, most of us can
achieve at least few seconds of notoriety.If by design we don’t desire our lurid-selves to last, we can Snapchat a
fleeting image that flares but for ten seconds and vanishes like a shooting
So here we are, Andy.Here we are Marshall McLuhan.Here we are Marshall Mathers.We post thoughts on Facebook, quip on
Twitter, share photographs on flickr, present blogs on Blogspot and likely
share in a dozen more openly public ways.
We have become a spectacle in ourselves.
We cell our selfies and send them off in seven
We tweet our clever this-and-that’s.
We twerk and flash mob in the glow of light—hoping
We text and sext and hook-up and link-in and maybe
it is not all bad, but at the end of the day we sometimes end up more lonely than when we
started.We have, as we turn off the
lights, only our thoughts and our electronic devices nearby—all of the devices
charging-up at half-glow and awaiting the press of a button so they might burst
with a new color or discharge a word or two in upper case letters.
And by the simple fact that two or more of us have
reached this exact spot of reading in separation… my point is made.
I have had many people tell me that I have a lot to learn
about sex, but I figured out on my own that attempting the Waterfall position from the Kama Sutra while drinking a cup of hot
coffee is a pretty bad idea for at least one of the partners involved.
In addition to reckoning a U.S. population of
308,747,716 persons, estimating a mean travel time for work of 25.4 minutes (for
those older than 16 years) and discovering that an average household has 0.58
of a person living there alongside 2 other whole persons, the Census of 2010
revealed that Butte, Montana is the most “Irish-American” city in America.Something just below 24% of the residents of
Butte identified themselves as having Irish ancestry.
No small accident caused Butte, Montana to have a
higher percentage of Irish-American citizens than any other city.In fact, a census taken as the 1900’s dawned
also saw Butte with the highest number of citizens identifying themselves as
having Irish lineage.
The Irish flooded to Butte near the end of the 1800s
to work the rich copper mines at the dawn of the age of electricity.Many of the immigrants were still trying to
recover from the famine that had gripped Ireland only a decade before the
mining boom in the American West. Remote and hungry for men to work
underground, Butte made room for the Irish immigrants.By the turn of 1900s, Butte, with a
population of something around 50,000, boasted 1,200 Sullivans in the mix.If you start counting Sullivan families in
Butte today (present population about 40,000) you will garner something near
100 Sullivan families.
The influx of Irish immigrants to the remote Rocky
Mountain outpost of Butte shaped its growth as a city.New arrivals from the Irish homeland found familiar
faces on the streets when they arrived in the mining city.George
Everett notes, in Butte, Montana: Ireland’s Fifth Province, that identifying
yourself as being Irish in Butte soon had enough appeal that a an Arab rug
merchant named Mohammed Akara legally changed his name to Murphy for “business
I once heard that Butte, Montana also boasted the
most taverns per capita of any city in America.I have not confirmed that information.But here is the math:Heaviest Irish Population + Most Taverns = ?
Even in the present, more than 30,000 people gather
annually to celebrate St Patrick’s Day (March 17) in uptown Butte.On that day, everyone in the crowd, including
the Native Americans and the Samoan football players from Carroll College, will
claim some form of Irish heritage.And,
yes, more than a few glasses of Irish whiskey are raised.
I can’t stop myself.If a pretty sunset begins to stain the sky and landscape outside my bay
window, I rush outside with my camera and go to work trying to capture what I
can of the fleeting colors.This is my
Today, I am posting some photographs of the Elkhorn
Range and the Rockies as the sun lowered into a bath of orange and red clouds.
If you have ever heard me sing in the shower—which
is pretty unlikely—you know that we are not all natural born singers.My singing is bad enough that my 40 pounds of
housecat typically scatter and hide in the nearest open closets or distant
rooms before I hit the second verse of anything I sing.Some people have a natural talent for singing
that is nothing shy of astounding when you first hear them.This is especially true when you know these
people for something other than singing.
The video posted today is one of those surprise
We have been lying to one another all along.A leaf is not green.A red rose is never actually red and violets
are most certainly un-blue.
The simple fact is this: the colors we see when we
look at a thing, let’s say a green leaf in this case, is actually the very
color it is not, which happens to be green.We see the leaf as green because the leaf absorbs all of the other
colors in the visible spectrum of light and rejects green.We see the leaf as green because that is the
color reflected into our eyes.The color
of a leaf is actually violet-blue-yellow-orange-red—the remaining colors on the
I only bring this to light (pun fully intended) because
I got to thinking about what impact honesty in our descriptions of color might
have one everyday life.Clearly, if we
began using the actual colors for describing things, our language might suffer
greatly.Imagine someone peering up at
the sky and exclaiming: “Have you ever seen a sky so violet-green-yellow-orange-red!”This may be most problematic with what we
perceive as black, which is produced by surfaces that absorb all colors of
visible spectrum.You may hear, as a
result of this: “That crow I saw was as violet-blue-green-yellow-orange-red as
midnight in a coal mine.”And since
white is produced by objects that reflect all the visible colors of light, we
would need to change the name of the fairytale to Snow No-Color-At-All and the
I think, this late in the game, we might be better
served to keep lying to each other.
A spring-like warm spell has decided to take a
winter vacation in Montana.Yesterday,
the noon sun minted shiny new coins of water from melting snow on my driveway
and cut golden pathways of wintering grass through the fields of white
snow.My resident bird, a certain Mr.
Townsend B. Solitaire, tap-danced with sheer joy (clickity-clickety-clickety-click)
across the metal roof on my house.My
cats, warmed by the sun, developed a very-near-friendly attitude for the better
part of a full hour.
I sat outside on my front step taking in the sun and
the steady thrum of water threading into my rain gutters from the last banks of
snow melting from my roof.
I have been making fun of snow and winter on recent
Facebook postings.In all honesty, I like
many aspects about winter—most aspects.For one thing, winter can attain an all-encompassing (nearly
monochromatic) beauty that evades summer.Today, I am posting two of my photographs that I think capture this.
On the outside I probably look just the same as any
other aging, gap-toothed man standing there; but on the inside I am seven big
dogs and one small cat all piled-up as theytry to rush out a single small door all at the same time.
The Elephant is one of my favorite indie rock
bands.They are among a group of many
brilliant newer American bands and have produced more than a few innovative and
enjoyable songs.As I watch this video I
am reminded of Eric Burdon and The
Animals from a half-century ago.
“Forty-one, ninety-nine?” The kid asked
I nodded. “Yep.”
He continued: “And that is for just the razor heads,
not the whole razor?”He studied the
small box I had handed him at the check stand.
“A true fact,” I said.
The kid was about nineteen and had just a bit of
peach fuzz for whiskers on his face.One
of the linear fluorescent lamps directly above us in the giant box store pulsed
with bad light.“Buying this kind of
stuff doesn’t really bother me anymore,” I told him.
asked as he punched keys on his cash register.
“Not much,” I said.“I have become practical in middle-age.I am just happy that I feel like shaving and happy to still be here
Yesterday, I spent part of the morning writing a very
detailed section of a technical document I am trying to put together.Such work often requires me to step away for
a while so that I can stack my thoughts and concepts into a decipherable
order.Sometime, I go for a long walk
outside.Yesterday, instead of walking,
I dragged my camera and a pile of compact disks into the sunlight and played
with point-of-view and angles of light.Photography is an activity that always clears my mind.Posted here are two photographs from yesterday.
Setting aside the legitimate argument over whether
pigs are actually pigs, deer are definitely not pigs.I am speaking about eating habits, of course,
Deer tend to go about their eating in the same way
they live life—ever cautious and never standing still for longDeer normally pick at things a little and
then move on.This time of year, I
receive daily visits from the local mule deer.They rather drift through my yard, nosing and nipping at a tuft of this
and a branch of that before fading off into the landscape again.
This winter, I also have a bird living almost
fulltime in my yard.I think the bird is
a Townsend’s solitaire.Every morning,
the solitaire flutters from tree to ground and ground to roof and roof to
ground again, eating seeds and unknown bits, resting and eating again.In the evenings, when I go out back to soak
in the hot tub, the bird flaps up to the rain gutter on the roof of the house
nearby and sits there watching steam rise into the air all around me.
Maybe we are buddies in some kind of solitaire way.
I have taken to leaving things out on the ground for
the bird: blueberries, blackberries, almond slivers or any other sort of morsel
a bird might eat.About a week ago, I
split into various sections a fresh pomegranate and thumbed the seeds into a
bowl for myself.I purposely left a few seeds
in the peel and pulp.After eating my share
of seeds, I took the broken fruit outside and placed the chunks of fruit on the
snow-covered ground so the bird could work at the remaining kernels.
For several mornings the solitaire spiraled down
from the winter sky and gleaned neon red seeds from the fruit.After a few days, I noticed that one of the
mule deer also began to visit the fruit.A smallish doe, the deer would approach the fruit, nose at a single
piece, gobble the piece down and then drift off to the next point of interest.
For several more days this continued—bird and deer
sharing a pomegranate.Just yesterday,
the bird picked free the final red seed and a little later the doe drifted
through and selected the final chunk of broken fruit from the snow.
I honestly think that if some smart Irishman could
figure out a way to make steel by mixing iron with booze they would do so.The final product of this mix would be—as some
of you have already guessed—Irish steel.To make something Irish you simply add booze.Irish cream is an example of this.Irish coffee is a further extension of the
Irish whiskey is something of a shortcut on the
making-a-thing-Irish process.Here, the
spirit is the direct thing.As a point
of interest, the word “whiskey,” as derived from Gaelic, means “water of life.”This seems almost too convenient.Out of profound respect for my many Irish
friends in Butte, Montana and beyond, I will forgo all the jokes that naturally
follow that knowledge.You are welcome to
run with those on your own.
Irish whiskey is made from barley and is distilled
using many of the same processes as those used in making Scotch.Some differences do distinguish Scotch and
Irish whiskey.The Irish spirits, as
example, are seldom distilled with the use of peat in the process.Peat is what introduces the earthy to smoky
flavor that defines Scotch.Perhaps most
importantly, Irish whiskey is distilled three times as compared to only twice
for Scotch.The extra distillation tends
to smooth the flavor.Finally, Irish
whiskey must be distilled in Ireland to earn the name.
According to Wikipedia, Irish whiskey was at one
time the most popular spirit in the world.Popularity declined for most of the last century, but in more recent
years Irish whiskey has seen a sharp upswing in favor again.Since 1990, Irish whisky has witnessed more
growth in popularity than any other spirit.
Good for the Irish, that!
I realize that unsolicited advice is usually not
welcome.Just the same, in closing, I
would like to advise those of you driving an Irish coworker to your shared
workplace in the mornings to take only small sips of any coffee if your Irish coworker
makes an offer.If you drink too much,
you might end up being an Irish worker by the time you arrive at your job.
Today, I am posting a series of drawings I made that
represent a few family lines.Given the
statement: “I come from a long line of __________,” try to successfully
match the family lines in the panels (A through F) with the families listed
below (1 through 6). NOTE: the correct answers are listed below my name at the end of this blog.
= 3(Nomads), B = 4(Cliff Divers), C = 1(Race Car Drivers), D = 5(Engineers), E
= 6(Archers), F = 2(Electricians)
We shall begin with the simple premise that I am “a
bit slow on the draw,” as the saying goes.I often fail to pay attention to important details.Over the years my friends and family have
learned to advantage my mild form of idiocy by having me open bags of chips and
boxes of whatnots.I am apparently funny
to watch.I tear apart the wrong end or
pretty much dismantle the packaging while ignoring the instructions on “easy
opening.”At the grocery, I have largely
given up on opening the plastic bags dispensed from the rollers at the produce
section.If we further consider that I
pronounced rotisserie as “row-tiss-er-rare-ee” until finally corrected about
ten years ago, everyone will grasp how I skip right through details at all
levels of human pursuit.
Now, just yesterday, I discovered that whiskey is
not the same as whisky.Mind you, this is not one of those snooty
proper English snits that has seen Americans pit color against colour or flavor against flavour.Whiskey and whisky are not merely separated by a suspiciously missing
“e”.These two beasts are justly
separated by a kind of distilling gulf.
Here we go.
Whiskey is generally distilled in Kentucky or
Tennessee (USA) and is made mostly from corn mash aged in new oak barrels.Whisky, more commonly called Scotch, is
distilled primarily from malted barley in Scotland.Scotch is aged in barrels previously used for
aging American Bourbon whiskey.
Additionally, in my way of thinking, whiskey tastes
like licking the seal of a one-hundred-year-old envelope.Scotch whisky, however, tastes like a day of
lying against a green mountainside while sheep graze in a nearby meadow after
you just finished French-kissing someone you deeply love.
Irish whiskey is yet again another beast…a rifle and
a fistfight may be required for explanation. I will look into the details for you.
Over the years, NASA has successfully parked several
landers on the surface of Mars. This is
no small feat. The travel distance
required for simply reaching the parking lot is about 300 million miles. The highway has neither a single rest stop
nor a single sign of direction posted. The
minimum time required, from Earth launch to Mars landing, is 150 days. The distance and time traveled may be considerably
greater than the minimum, dependent upon launch details and speed of travel. These
details are associated with finding the best parking spot, which may be a wide
crater or a frigid plain. Additionally, there is the tricky part of
entering a hostile atmosphere at a speed of several thousand miles per hour and
not crash-landing at the end of that.
I find the fact that NASA can accomplish this
successful parking maneuver while driving the vehicle from millions of miles
away astounding. I am especially
appreciative of the feat every time I drive through a parking lot in Helena,
Montana and see dozens of cars taking-up two spaces, the drivers having clearly
parked their vehicles sideways across the brightly painted demarcation lines
there to neatly land them. I imagine the
drivers of these vehicles exiting their ride and hopping right over the lines
on their way to purchase nasal spray or a bag of potato chips. No rocket science there.
I honestly believe that beauty can be found in
almost any place or any situation.Today, I am posting three photographs I have taken of parking lot pole
lights during the winter.I find a
certain stark beauty in the angles and the mix of dark and light.The falling snow and the mist make for a
We are just around the corner from the Winter
Olympics.While watching the news, I
witnessed a sportscaster remarking that the American Olympic athletes are “very
good on paper.”Actually, that may be a
bit unfortunate for those athletes about to hit the snow and ice.