Alleged Road Repairs

We have a strange concept of “road repairs” in Ingham County, Michigan. Or maybe everywhere.

Rather than do something good and worthwhile, SOP here is to lay down a coat of tar, then cover it with a layer of pea-stone gravel. That’s it. Done. Walk away. Go get a beer. In the olden days I think the road crews used to bring out “steam rollers” and roll the gravel out and down into the tar. Not anymore. Now they just go away and subcontract the work to us, the citizens, to tamp down and level out the gravel with our tires. What, so I’m working for the county now? And providing my own equipment? For no pay? Just the risk of a cracked windshield and chipped paint? I’m not even getting the benefit of free undercoating from the tar. I should call National Labor Relations Board.

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A Ride in the Country

We live in the country. Such as it is. You know: overrun with dirt and insects and vile nature and stuff. When it comes to the Green Acres dilemma of Fresh Air v. Times Square and The Chores v. The Stores, I’m ready to side with Mrs. Douglas. We got critters everywhere, even in the attic and the walls. Seriously, I’m ready for a condo.

We now have a pesky woodchuck who’s determined to move into our garden shed and set up housekeeping. I’ve evicted it twice, the second time after it got locked in and had second thoughts about the shabby accommodations and mice, and nearly tore the siding off trying to get out. So I set out the live trap and baited it with soon-to-expire sushi. That should be high living for a lowly woodchuck. I thought.

Got up this morning to find a small possum in the trap. Okay, I try to be humane and relocate them. (Don’t tell the DNR, I’m sure they have rules against this, and fines, licensing requirements, background checks, multiple fees, etc.) But anyway. My process involves putting down a thick layer of newspapers in my trunk and giving him a ride in the country.

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Free Life Insurance

I just got another offer from my credit union for $1000 of free life insurance. This is to be purchased in my name for me by my credit union. The total cost to me is saying NO! every time a rep from the life insurance company calls to make an appointment to push more insurance on me at their “low, low monthly rates.” I can afford that. It occurs to me if I’d been accepting all these offers when they first started coming to me 45 years ago I’d probably have tens of thousands of dollars worth of free life insurance now, just sitting there, waiting to be paid to my survivor. At no (monetary) cost to me.

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

I get burned by this law all the time. You know it, even if you don’t know you know it. “No good deed goes unpunished.” That pretty much sums it up.

I bought an in-dash touch-screen infotainment unit for for my car. Unwise, I know, but I wanted it and I had the money. Mostly because it has the navigation feature. We’ll get to that in a minute.

After having the marvellous new touch-screen infotainment unit installed in my dashboard, I discovered I got no more audible alerts from my car. No seatbelt chime, no door ajar chime, no key-in-the-ignition chime. Not even the click-clack of the turn signals. Turned out all those sounds come out of the factory-installed entertainment unit, i.e.: the radio that we had just removed. I needed an optional wiring harness with its own built-in chimes. Back to the installation shop with more money in hand.

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Summer Blockbuster Syndrome

The summer movie blockbuster season is upon us again, and I have to admit I can’t get excited about it. I was put in mind of the comedian who told about his grandfather coming back from a major league baseball game. Someone asked how the game was. Grandpa grumbled, “the millionaire on the mound pitched the ball to the millionaire at the plate, he hit it to the millionaire in the outfield, who threw it to the millionaire at first base…”

Let’s face it, the “Marvel Universe” doesn’t exist. Ditto the Star Wars Universe, the Alien Universe, the X-Men Universe, the Guardians of the Galaxy Universe… It’s just going to be another season of “the CGI villain beats up on the CGI hero, they toss CGI cars and CGI people into the CGI buildings of a CGI city with CGI jets and CGI helicopters screaming overhead…” I mean seriously, why do we care about any of this?

Some things I’d rather see? How about this image of the Panama Canal, a project so huge you’d think these photos could only be done with CGI.

Or maybe this one of the propellers of the Titanic, built in 1909 through 1912.

These are both phenomenal things that were built in the days when a Ford Model T was pretty much state of the art for automobiles. And now of course the Panama Canal has been massively expanded, a project  so huge it’s almost dizzying in photos, and you would swear they were CGI if you saw them in a movie, but they’re real.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am pretty much over CGI. Hopefully these three photos will expand to fill your screen if you click on them. If not, I’ll find a way to fix that. Probably with CGI. But then also there are these photos to give a better idea of the scope of the Canal expansion.

That said, I admit that I recently watched a CGI ape battle a CGI T-Rex and swat CGI helicopters out of the CGI sky. The original Kong was forty feet tall, the Kong now is maybe 100 to 150 feet tall, but that was not enough to be overwhelming, or even enough to make it a good movie. I can’t say I was underwhelmed, because that would oversell my expectations. I guess I was just merely whelmed.

Although finding King Kong: Skull Island uninspiring, and I will almost certainly find myself watching Alien:Covenant and Blade Runner 2049 this summer. But seriously, I don’t know what the future of summer blockbusters will be, but someday I hope it’s not just this. It’s hard to write, and harder to imagine, but maybe it’s going to have to be up to Millennials to redefine, with their entertainment dollars, the whole moviescape for all of us. It might not be pretty, but they’re blooming into adulthood now and maybe it’s time for them to step up and take a leadership role. So far they’re not inspiring confidence, but who knows? The Powers That Be in Hollywood are, in my opinion, drowning in gridlock… to mix a metaphor.

But what do I know?

 

Sad End of an Era

Interesting developments deep in the U.P.: the end of a lease agreement for people who have had camps on the Ontonagon Rive in the Ottowa National Forest. Now that the 25 year lease is up they have to abandon their camps and walk away. Still hurts, even though they knew it was coming.

http://www.freep.com/story/news/columnists/john-carlisle/2017/04/29/michigan-upper-peninsula-cabins/100594194/

Music and Muses

I enjoy good music on some good headphones while I write. Especially when I write in a public space, like at one of our Peninsula Writers weekend retreats. Earbuds just aren’t sufficient to dissuade interruptions by fellow writers who are more sociable than I am. One of my recent discoveries is an American band with an international flavor, Pink Martini. Smooth and delightful. I’m building up a suite of their albums. Or CDs. Or downloads, as the case may be. I was recently thrilled to find I could tune in a Pink Martini channel on my phone with Google Music– even more thrilled to find I can stream it on my 1.5mbs “high speed” wifi.

But my pick for theme music for Tales of Life in Deathe would be Joe Satriani’s The Forgotten, Parts 1 and 2: Continue reading