According to accounts I found on a variety of news
sources, including the Guardian, the Huffington Post, and the Associated Press,
controversy has tarnished the latest Mister Ugly contest in Zimbabwe. Beauty contests and, apparently, not-so-much
contests are kind of a big deal in Zimbabwe.
The winner of this year’s Mister Ugly Contest, a very
happy fellow named Mison Sere, is accused of cheating by being, well,
handsome. More specifically, he is accused
of cheating because he is missing a lot of teeth and is capable of manufacturing
ugly faces. When he is not smiling, according
to detractors, Mison is a fine-looking man.
Only when he smiles can he possibly win the ugly competition.
According to some contestants—including, William Masvinu,
last year’s winner—Mison Sere should be disqualified because he is not truly ugly. Masvinu and his supporters mobbed contestant
judges with objections following the selection of Mison. “I am naturally ugly,” Masvinu complained. “He is not!”
Another indignant contestant shouted: “Do we have to
lose our teeth to win? This is
I will be the first to admit that I am not a great
judge of the physical attractiveness of men.
Just the same, I think Mison Sere is righteously ugly. Of course, I mean that in the nicest of ways. I have reposted an AP photo so you might judge
Honestly, I’d be pretty happy to be disqualified from
winning an ugly contest because I am too handsome. That’s the kind of problem I have always
My friend, Kevin, with the help of his siblings and his
kids, has been cleaning his father’s house from top to bottom. He has been living in the house for for a
good part of this year. After his father’s
passing, Kevin began sorting through a house filled with many years of keeping
old jars, miscellaneous screws, papers, stray dinnerware pieces, and stacks of half-full
boxes of assorted dry goods.
The other night, I stopped down at Kevin’s place to
pick up some plastic bottles and glass bottles so I could recycle them along with
my own truckload of recyclables. Kevin
looked pale and exhausted. Apparently, Kevin
is a vigorous, if not thrashing, cleaner.
“How’s it going?” I asked as we dragged a couple bags
of plastic bottles out to my truck.
“I am just about shot,” he admitted. “I cleaned out the basement kitchen cupboards
today. I kept getting hotter and hotter
as I cleaned. I was sweating like
crazy. When I finally looked at the
thermostat, I saw that it was 90 degrees in the basement! I must have bumped into the thermostat when I
was cleaning. I was ready to collapse!”
Kevin is also an early riser. Usually, somewhere near 5:30 in the morning,
he sails past my house in his van and drives the two miles of country road out
to where our mailboxes are located to retrieve our newspapers. I wake at about the same time and watch for
his returning headlights. If awake, I
will step out to grab my paper from him as he returns home again.
The morning after I picked up Kevin’s recyclables, I
watched the headlights of his van swim across the darkness to the drive as he
drove back home with our newspapers. I
stepped outside to meet him when he neared my house.
I stood in the early morning chill chatting with
him. “I had a nightmare about black
widows last night,” I told him. “They
were everywhere. I hate spiders.” I pointed my rolled newspaper skyward in an
expansive gesture of disgust.
Kevin’s eyes expanded.
“I killed seven spiders
upstairs in my house this morning,” he said.
“Seven,” he repeated. “I think
the heat from when I cleaned my basement drove them upstairs.”
I grimaced. “Almost
makes you want to stop cleaning…”
I know more than a few people who have gone
huckleberry picking only once in their life.
They have every opportunity to go picking again but find the prospect a
bit too close to actual work.
Gathering huckleberries can be challenging. While I contend that huckleberries will grow only
in strikingly beautiful mountainscapes, they also tend to flourish in the nearly
inaccessible places there.
I recall one afternoon when I and my buddy Bill spent
an entire afternoon desperately clinging to bushes growing on what was,
essentially, a cliff. The berries were large
and plentiful on the cliff. We wanted
I have often fallen down inclines and tumbled amid the
crosswise deadfall. I have threaded incautiously
through rockslides. I have crawled under
thick brush. All of this in the name of
gathering huckleberries. All of this
while watching for bears and swatting at the horseflies whizzing around my head
with bad intent.
At the end of a good day of picking huckleberries, a
picker may have a gallon or two. If
three people go picking, at least one will likely end up with a bruise or a
nasty scratch. By the end of the trip, everyone
will have a stiff back and sore feet.
Three months beyond all of that—on a cool sunshine day
like yesterday—we pickers receive our just rewards. Posted today are photographs of a collection
of pickers gathered at my house to bake pies and make jam. The house smelled of huckleberries for the
whole day. Reward for our days in the
Can you find the
smiley face in the huckleberry pie?
Fierce and sustained winds kept me awake most of last
night. The stronger gusts roared so loudly
against the west wall of my bedroom, I pulled a pillow over my head to reduce
the noise. A brief volley of rain
sounded like stones thrown against my windows.
After a while, I stumbled out to the sofa in my living room and flopped
down there to try and sleep.
Not much better.
The wind continued to cry against the edges of my house
and moan at the windows.
I slept for a while and awakened to an electronic chorus
of beeps and whistles as electricity—having been lost at some point—brought back
to life my smoke detectors, microwave, and printer.
I brewed my coffee two hours late this morning and
then stepped out the front door to see if my solar array survived the
night. Snow in the mountains. Trees still standing tall. Solar array upright.
Yes, bird, butthink about this. Fox eats cat…cat
eats mouse…mouse eats spider…spider eats fly.
I have canned food for you. We
can stop the endless cycle at this window.
Why add more madness to the world?
The climate is askew. Radical Islam
is running amok. I’m not sure I’m ready
for retirement and I’m out of potato chips.
If you wish to learn a great deal about wine and, at
the same time, have a good time, a trip to Topper’s Cellar in Helena, Montana
might be your best choice. Topper is a large
man. He is also gregarious and passionate. His knowledge of wine and beer is vast and he
loves sharing all that he knows. He is exactly
how you might picture a connoisseur of wine and beer.
The other day, I took that girl to Topper’s so we
could purchase wine. We found Topper
behind the sales counter. I said to him:
“We are having lobster for dinner tonight, what do you suggest for wine?”
That led to a pleasant twenty-minute trip around the wine
racks of Topper’s store. The trip
included Topper conducting a limited discourse on the history of Old Europe;
including a discussion about a few varieties of the grapes found there. France and Italy were of special interest.
“Wine is a gift,” Topper assured us. “We should drink wine every night.”
Eventually, we gathered around a rack at the very
front of the store. Topper pulled a
bottle of EST! EST!! EST!!! from the rack—a dry white wine from Italy. Topper felt that this white had the perfect
level of “acidity” and the proper flavor for the meal we were planning. Cradling the bottle the way a person might
cradle a newborn, Topper shared what he knew about this particular wine.
A legend of sorts stands behind the wine’s name. This legend holds that in the year 1111 a
Bavarian bishop named Johannes Defuc was traveling to Rome to see the coronation
of the Pope. The bishop loved wine. To assure he imbibed only the best that the
countryside had to offer, he sent an emissary out ahead of his party to let him
know if the local wine was good. If the
emissary found the wine served by the local inn worthy, he was to mark “Est” (It is) above the inn’s door. Upon
reaching Montefiascone, the emissary found the wine so good, he marked Est!
Est!! Est!!! above the door of the inn.
The wine adopted that name.
We purchased a bottle of Est! Est!! Est!!! Later that evening, we sipped the white wine
while eating lobster I grilled inside the split shell. Normally I do not enjoy white wines. I make great exception for this white.
Back in my days of working construction, I had a habit
of teasing everyone on the construction site.
Toward that end, I made up a variety of sayings and nonsensical
statements that I would blurt out to fellow workers when I bumped into
them. One of those saw me walking up to
someone and asking: “So…what kind of a
pid are you? Are you the stu kind of pid?”
As it turns out, I am the stu kind of pid.
My problem is doors.
Doors. The ones you open and walk
through and the ones you open before pulling out your automobile. I wrote about this previously, but the
problem persists. I think I may be getting
Push and pull doors completely kick my ass. I am always pushing on the pull doors and
pulling on the push ones. If a sign is
posted to tell me which kind of door I am dealing with, I invariably do the
opposite of what the sign says. I
usually end up crashing into the pull doors.
My garage door is the most baffling—which is weird
because opening the door is a simple matter of pressing a button. The exact problem is that it is one of two
buttons. My job, so to speak, is to
press the correct button and open my door.
I seldom press the correct button.
Worse yet, I not only wired and installed the buttons—I
have also been using them for a full twenty-four years. In spite of that, I regularly press the wrong
button and open the wrong door. Just
yesterday, I failed to open the correct door (on my first attempt) when leaving
my house in morning and then pressed the wrong button to close the door when I
entered the house last night.
I collected pretty much everything when I was a
kid. I collected rocks. I collected matchbooks. I collected feathers. I collected old bones. I collected old newspapers. I collected old bottles. As mentioned in a previous blog, my sisters
would not to go into my room because it was, according to them, “gross.” I lived in a boy-cave.
Sisters just don’t get it.
Bottles have changed a great deal over the years. At one time, bottles were both ornate and
colorful. Many of my older bottles have
long slender necks. Some have fancy
writing expressed on the glass itself.
Most of those are greenish in color, brown, or relatively clear. My favorite are the purple bottles.
Fact is, most bottle-makers wanted to produce clear
bottles. According to an article I found
at the Corning Museum of Glass website, most of the older greenish bottles are
that color due to impurities such as iron oxide. The bottle-makers were shooting for clear but
missed their mark.
In the mid-19th century, American glassmakers
started using manganese oxide, which they called “glassmaker’s soap,” as a
decolorizer. Bottles made with manganese
dioxide were clear, but only in the short term.
The bottles gradually turned various shades of purple when exposed to
sunlight or any other source of ultra-violet light. Some have turned a deep purple by this date.
Early in the 20th century, new
manufacturing methods produced clear glass without the use of glassmaker’s
soap. So ended purple bottles.
Bottles today are not even bottles. I give as example the crinkly, squeezy
plastic thingies we use for water. Glass
bottles are now, for the most part, simple and utilitarian. Posted today is a photograph I captured of
what you find inside a “box” of wine.
Not a bottle in any sense—more like the entrails you might expect to
find if you dissected Barney (the purple dinosaur).
Now that I consider it, dissecting Barney is one of my
Not much beyond a stone’s throw from the last cluster
of buildings as you drive east along Highway 200 leaving Lincoln, Montana, you
will find a small road named Sculpture Way.
If you exit the highway onto the road, you immediately find yourself at
a small parking area surrounding by a forest of tall, quiet ponderosa pine. From there a footpath will guide you through Blackfoot
Pathways, Sculpture in the Wild.
Sculpture in the Wild is a sculpture park featuring
works created by a variety of internationally renowned artists. The sculptures are scattered throughout
several acres of timber and understory.
You will also chance upon an occasional gathering of upright sticks or
perhaps an unusual stack of stones created by a visitor to the park. Visiting children are especially encouraged to
create small works with gatherings of sticks and stones or any other natural
things they might find in the park.
Established in 2014, the park celebrates Montana’s
cultural and economic traditions as well as extols our unique landscapes. The park is admission free and is open from
dusk till dawn.
Saturday, that girl and I spent an hour walking around
the forested park for the first time. We
immediately fell in love with the place and plan to visit again during each
season of the year. Details about each
sculpture (and each artist) are posted near the sculptures. Some of the works gave me great pause.
I have posted a few photographs. I highly recommend stopping to see the park
for yourself if you pass through Lincoln at any time.
Just because I can, I am going to start with a
pun. Ready? The term contrail
is a condensed version of condensation
trail. They are basically made of
water and a few particulates from the exhaust of jets slipping high overtop us
in the chill air at high cruising altitudes.
They are line-shaped clouds.
As such, contrails tend to be ephemeral and normally fade
away rather quickly. In certain
conditions, though, especially those of high humidity in the upper atmosphere, contrails
may persist for hours. They may even
grow in size as they collect more moisture from the thin air around them.
We experienced just such an event over my house
yesterday. The contrails of over a dozen
passing jets lingered for several hours.
Researcher organizations from around the world
(including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have documented
such persistent contrails evolving into significant cirrus cloudbanks in the
bustling flyways above densely populated regions of the planet. Such researchers believe that, on occasion,
these man-made clouds may be enough to modify the weather.
Posted today is a photograph of the contrails
stretched above my house yesterday morning.
last, four of us bundled into coats and drove to Last Chance Gulch for the 32nd
Annual Fall Art Walk. I was impressed
with the size of the attending crowds.
The walking mall and shops along the Gulch were often shoulder to
shoulder. Over thirty artists (of every
medium) displayed their works at the various participating venues—which
included public entities such as the Lewis and Clark County Library, shops, and
a few local taverns.
you need a reason to love living in Helena, Montana, this event is certainly one
to employ. Some of the paintings and
photographs on display stopped me dead in my tracks with their beauty or unique
perspective. I circled around some of
the detailed woodworks in awe. All of us
were impressed with the unique shops on Last Chance Gulch. That girl and my sister purchased items from
several places. All of us stepped into
the Rialto for a drink.
found myself most impressed with a young artist named Hailey Hendrikson. A crowd stood outside a small women’s
boutique called PHILOSOPH(i.e.) watching through an outside window as Hailey
worked on a drawing. I captured a
smarter-than-me-cellphone photograph of Hailey.
We have slipped away from the sun just a bit more. Our array of stars now swirls to new
locations each night. The night shadows merge
behind my sofa and within my jade plants.
Our nearest mountains—freshly tented-over with snow—look like ancient sailing
ships set to sea upon a vast ocean of summer’s prairie grass. The lights of distant homes and of small
towns sparkle against the swells between.
We have drifted into a chill season, drifted toward
our winter. The day-skies are bluer, the
nights brighter, colder. For the last
two days, a lone two-point buck mule deer has crossed soundlessly through my
yard—no longer thrashing his antlers against the standing juniper.
We have all matured.
We have all pulled on our heavy coats.
Some of us need to be in a place where we can see our
exhaled breath blossom pure white against the chilled air. Some of us desire to stand there when the
first snowflakes drifts upward just a little before finally settling and melting
against the palm of an outstretched hand.
Insult comics have been with us for a while. Don Rickles immediately comes to mind. More recently there is Triumph, the Insult Comic
Dog. If you are unfamiliar with Triumph,
I can give you a taste of his rapid-fire and unsavory invectives. While visiting French-speaking Quebec and addressing
a French person who did not speak English, he said: “Pardon me, I only know your basic expressions like ‘I surrender’.” This is Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog speaking
on stage with Jon Bon Jovi: “So you’re
acting now, you’re in a vampire movie, yes?
That’s good. Finally, a role that
requires you to suck.”
You get the idea.
I mention all of this after having a late lunch on
Sunday afternoon at Dick’s Last Resort.
Dick’s is located inside the Excalibur on the Las Vegas Strip.
They serve a tasty “sammich” at Dick’s. More importantly, the servers there have a
really bad attitude. They are sarcastic
and unconventional. We took a table for
ten and were immediately given the task of passing out our own settings and spreading
our own paper table covering. Our
server, a young woman in her twenties, immediately took to calling me “grandpa.” When she returned with our drinks and started
setting them on the table, Debbie, the woman sitting across from me, started
reaching for the drink intended for my sister.
“What in the hell are you doing?” our server admonished. “That’s not for you! Try and remember what
you ordered. Okay? This stuff is not that hard. What’s wrong with you?”
She picked on Debbie from then on.
I was saved.
The servers at Dick’s also create paper hats with
totally off-color statements written on them and then place them on everyone at
the table. I have posted a fairly poor
smarter-than-me-phone photograph from our lunch. It might be better if you cannot make out
exactly what the hats say. I think you
should go there and get your own.
We all enjoyed our time at Dick’s Last Resort. Our condescending little server made for
While whisking through a variety of news feeds online,
I chanced upon a Reuters article about a dog that shot its owner with a
shotgun. According to the story, written
by Mary Wisniewski, a dog answering to the name of Trigger shot a woman named Allie
Carter once in the foot.
That’s pretty much where I stopped reading the article
because…the less you know…
Posted today are photographs from our Las Vegas
Halloween. My sister handed out over 10
pounds of candy. Hundreds of kids
stopped by her house. Her house has
become something of a local “must visit” on Halloween for both kids and adults.
The entire yard was enshrouded by webs and filled with
sound effects and manufactured fog.
Strobe lights flashed against a fake graveyard. Giant animated spiders flexed under thick
webs. Hand-sized spiders were affixed to
the walls of the house. A giant
inflatable figure from the Nightmare before Christmas towered over everything.