Monday, January 24, 2022

Ruth Allen's Sunrise Around the World

 If you didn't know, I've been going with some friends of mine to sing/entertain at an assisted living center every Wednesday afternoon for several years. We weren't able to go there during the original COVID-19 lockdowns. When they had to go back into lockdown from Omicron, we decided to start live streaming our singalong so they could still have some entertainment. Here's the one we did last week:

We'll be live streaming again this week, so if you are reading this before Jan 26, 2022, please drop by YouTube to watch on Wednesday at 3:30 pm Pacific. If you are reading this after Jan 26, 2022, you should be able to find the archive of the live stream on my YouTube channel.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Starting Off 2022 With a Painting


I got some oil pastels for Christmas. Not exactly as a surprise, since they were on my Amazon wish list. I have done a lot of paintings with soft/chalk pastels, but I wanted to try the oil ones. VERY DIFFERENT!

Anyway, someone I’m friends with on Facebook posted a picture of their cat last year that I thought would make a good painting, so that’s what I did as my first oil-pastel trial. Here is Jasmine.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

New Year’s Resolutions - 2022!

 Happy new year! It’s today! Today! The first day of a new year. You may not know this about me, but I like to set a yearly challenge for myself. I don’t think of it as a resolution. It isn’t vague like “be healthier,” or “be more connected with family.” It is something a little more specific. Often, I ask myself to do one thing a month, like last year’s “read a book each month,” which by March changed into “consume a book each month,” since, turns out, I absolutely hate reading. I finished out the goal by listening to audiobooks. It was still a challenge for me and I’ve not listened to an audiobook in about a month, since finishing up my December book early - in November.

One year I did a painting a month. Toward the end, they got to be a little simplistic, but I did them. One year I was going to record a song each month, but my mom got really sick and life interfered with my ability to learn and/or write songs. One year it was “say yes to everything,” which didn’t mean everything, but I said yes to anything I thought might be remotely fun/interesting to do. I went to a lot of shows at Largo that year and have some great memories, but again, there were a few tickets purchased that I ended up not using. Something can sound like a great idea in one month and sound like a not great idea when the day comes.

Well, the pandemic makes a “say yes to everything” year a bad idea. And even though I’d love to set a goal involving travel or going to places, that would just be setting myself up for failure this year. Maybe for 2023 I can do that. After last year’s monthly goal, I don’t want to do that again, at least not right away. So instead, I’ve come up with a little list of 2 things I’d like to accomplish by the end of the year. They are things which will require putting in some work, so not something I can wait until next December to do. Here we go:

 1.      Learn how to properly record a song, probably in Audacity, with multiple tracks. I’m only planning one song here, a song I started writing in 2015 when my dad died and my mom got really sick. I want to finish it and do a semi-decent recording of it and not just a “put the phone on the piano” version.

2.    2.   Learn how to draw a cat. It doesn’t have to be a lifelike cat. It can be cartoonish, but a little bit better than the wonky stick figure cat that would happen if I tried now. (I’ll try now to get a baseline starting point.) But I want to be able to draw a cat without looking at pictures of cats to copy. I’m not sure I can do this, but I’m going to give it a try. By the end of they year, at minimum, I want to have one stock cat I can draw. At maximum, I’d like to be able to draw an assortment of cats in different poses.

I think that’s it for this year. That’s enough, right? I will still try to be healthier. I’ll keep trying to get to the garden for more walking. I’ll try to be more focused on my personal writing to get a few big projects really going. I want to really tidy my house and loft. I want to get better on guitar and piano. I’ll try once more to get my roses to mate. (You read that right.) I want to make more YouTube videos and still want to get my channel re-monetized. But I don’t want to put undo pressure on myself to accomplish those goals. Those are the standing goals. They don’t depend on the calendar page turning from December 31 to January 1.

Okay, 2022. Let’s do this! Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

My terrible unaided attempt at a cat:

Hard to believe I'm looking at several live cats while this happened.

P.S. (added Jan. 2): I would also like to learn how to rip an apple in half, ala Bob Mortimer.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Am I a Picky Eater?

 If you know me, then you probably think I’m a picky eater. The biggest thing you have to overcome is that I don’t eat meat. I haven’t eaten meat in over 20 years. I can’t give you an exact date or time when I decided to stop eating meat. It was a natural progression.

Growing up, Saturday night in my family was steak night. My dad would usually cook the steaks outside on the barbeque grill. It was Texas, so unless it was raining there were only a few weekends in the year when the weather was too cold for grilling outside. I don’t remember ever having a steak. I just remember hating steak.

Since it was steak night and the meat was being barbequed, it didn’t take long for my parents to stop buying steaks for me and instead buying chicken breast. Slathered in enough barbeque sauce and cooked to being charred, I could usually force down a small chicken breast, although sometimes it became an episode of Let’s Make a Deal with me convincing my parents I had actually eaten enough of the meat to not drop dead from a protein deficiency.

I remember eating hot dogs and bologna when we lived at our first house, so before I was 12 or so, but at some point I jettisoned those items from my diet. I was sent to elementary school with a bologna sandwich in my lunchbox and would convert it into either a mayonnaise sandwich or a potato chip sandwich once I was at school and it was time to eat. I pulled a lot of slices of bologna out of sandwiches in my youth, throwing them in the trash at school. If you gave me a hamburger from a fast-food place, I usually pulled the patty out after a little over half-way and refused to eat another bite of it.

When I finally moved into my own apartment, in my early 20s, meat was not allowed in the house. If my mom came to visit, she could buy meat for herself but it had to all be gone by the time she left, or I was throwing it away. I think for a few visits she thought just by leaving a bunch of meat in my refrigerator I’d feel guilty and eat it after she left. Well, she gave up on that fantasy pretty quickly.

I don’t understand the vegetarian who adds meatless meaty things in their diet. I don’t like meat. I don’t understand meat. (I think the world of animals and have trouble convincing myself that any animal would taste good enough to justify killing it.) I don’t eat meat. I’d rather have a hamburger bun, tomato, lettuce, onion, ketchup and cheese without a Beyond Burger than with one. I will order a hamburger without the meat at fast-food restaurants and sit-down restaurants alike. If I’m eating a veggie burger, I want the patty to be made of recognizable vegetable parts with the consistency of vegetables.

Other than meat, I can’t stand peppers. This goes for anything called a “pepper” ranging from a bell pepper to a jalapeƱo to a peppadew to the black pepper you might crack over a salad from a comically large grinder. Again, this was hard for my mom to understand. She’d buy pepper when she would come to visit and if she was cooking, I had to remind her not to put any pepper in the food until it was on her plate. If there is black pepper in my food and I bite into a piece of it my meal is pretty much over. My mouth is on fire and I can’t taste anything else.

I am one of those cilantro people. If I order something in a restaurant and don’t realize it has cilantro in it, I’ll spend the meal wondering why the kitchen doesn’t rinse their plates and utensils better to clean off the soap residue. Disgusting! I’ve never been eating something and thought to myself, “This would be improved by a little drop of dish-washing liquid.”

Beets taste like dirt. Brussels sprouts make me want to throw up. Green beans? Yuck.

I don’t know what got me to researching the topic, but somehow I found myself looking at some articles about “super-tasters” and reading comments from these super-tasters. Aside from super-tasters supposedly not liking sweet foods, like cake and cookies, I fall into the category. I’ve never been tested, but it would explain a lot.

As the articles all go on to explain, super-tasters don’t have an edge over normal-tasters or non-tasters. It has nothing to do with having a good palate. They/We are tortured by food to some extent. Things taste supercharged. So yes, beets taste like dirt. Cilantro tastes like soap. Coffee, although it smells good, tastes terrible and I’m not going to try to get past that.

We like our meals to be “bland.” We avoid hot sauce and spicy foods. A trip I took to an Indian restaurant with friends a few years ago turned out to be a terrible decision on my part. There was nothing there that tasted even remotely edible. I felt terrible for making my friends feel terrible that there was nothing but rice for me to eat. And at a Japanese restaurant, I’ll probably eat rice. At any restaurant known for their flavorful, exotic cuisine, I’ll probably just eat rice. (I love rice.)

Bland food isn’t bland to us. It has a lot of flavor. I like acidic foods and sweet foods. I love balsamic vinegar. A caprese salad is one of my favorite things to eat. I go through lemons like they are going out of style. I’ve developed a taste for kalamata olives, but don’t try to feed me a green olive. I can taste the differences in bottled water and, by the way, Dasani water should be illegal to sell it tastes so bad.

I’ve recently been trying to incorporate “an apple a day” into my life, to, as the saying goes, keep the doctor away. As part of this, I’ve tried changing up the apple types I buy. Some of them, even when they are advertised as sweet, are so bitter to me that I can only manage a few bites before the apple goes in the trash.

If you love hot sauce on your foods, you probably are a non-taster or on that end of the spectrum of taste. It doesn’t mean you don’t taste anything, it just means you need a lot of help with your food. You need hot sauce. You need spices. You need pepper. I don’t.

I’m not a picky eater, food just tastes different to me than it does to you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

December Book Report and Some Thoughts on the Year: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris


The collection of essays, Me Talk Pretty One Day by humorist David Sedaris, starts with a story of how in elementary school he was taken out of classes to attend speech therapy sessions. Rather than having his speech corrected, he worked around things by expanding his vocabulary to avoid the words with the “s” sounds he was deemed to be not good enough at. What follows are essays woven around the loose theme of talking/speech, presented in (from what I remember) chronological order, following his upbringing in North Carolina, his young adulthood in New York and his adulthood in New York and France. The tendency to choose different words as a workaround for speech problems continued into his adulthood. Rather than learn the genders of words in French, he would order things in multiples, since a “la” or “le” word transforms into a gender-neutral “les” when pluralized.

I found the book to be enjoyable, but largely forgettable. I was most interested in the stories about France, where he would give literal translations of things he tried to say in French and how the sentence structure was different and sounded juvenile in English. But the way he only presented the English end of the translations left me wanting to hear him say the thing again in French. When he talked about his first trip to France where one of the only words he knew was “bottleneck,” I longed for him to tell me the French word for “bottleneck.” Looking it up, Google Translate offers three different choices. Was he saying goulot? I’ll never know. And this is the kind of thing that really bothers me.

There were sections where I laughed, which is a pretty good endorsement, but sitting here today, I can’t tell you where those sections were or what they were about. I’ve forgotten them.

I didn’t actually read this book, I listened to it. It was read by the author. His voice, if you haven’t heard it, is similar to Droopy Dog from the old cartoons. A little southern, a little lispy, a little depressed. It was fine, really, but it drew attention to itself. For a book called Me Talk Pretty One Day, having the voice of the reader be another character in the stories works. A friend who adores David Sedaris was a little miffed that I told her my book report wasn’t going to be an overwhelming lovefest. She adores him and would listen to him saying just about anything. Sure, I feel this way about David Mitchell (the other one) and Richard Ayoade, but I do not share the passion for David Sedaris. I guess I need an English accent along with the whine to really enjoy it.

As far as the production goes, some of the chapters in the audiobook were recorded live in front of audiences and music was added in places, as chapter bumpers and during the live readings. I found this a little jarring.

Did I love it? No. Did I hate it? No. I’m sort of indifferent. If my friend said, “This other book is so much better. Listen to that one!” I would consider it. But I’m unlikely to seek out another of his books/essay collections on my own. It was whatever.


Anyway, I’ve finished my New Years Resolution of a book a month. Yay, me! What have I learned from this experience? I think I already knew it, but just reinforced that I actually hate reading, but I love books. Holding something with ideas inside, looking at the covers, smelling the pages…all great. Filling bookcases? Love it. Going to a bookstore? Love it. Finding a book with a cover drawn by Edward Gorey and adding it to my collection? Love it. But actually sitting and reading a book one of the worst things you can ask me to do. I guess that’s why it took me 10 years to edit my own novel. The idea of sitting down and having to read the thing was torture. Listening to books is better than reading them. But did I “enjoy” it? No. If I had, then the extra books I still have in my Audible library wouldn’t be sitting there, unlistened to. I actually finished this book in November and since then I’ve spent maybe another 30 minutes listening to a book. Knowing I was done and that I just had to write up the book report lifted a weight from my shoulders and no book has enticed me since then.

I’d like to blame my job for my disliking of reading. For work, I have to read a lot of screenplays. Sometimes I have to read a screenplay because of the continuity I’m writing and sometimes I’ll take work proofreading them. Reading = Work. For relaxation, I’m much more likely to put on a record. Listen to music. Practice piano or guitar. Write my own stuff. Do some crocheting or make some jewelry. Dig up weeds in the yard. Pull out my pastels and make some art. Sometimes I can put on an audiobook while I’m doing those other things, but just as often I’ll put on music. Or talk radio. Or a podcast. Or I’ll start the series of QI running at A and let it go. Background noise. A book isn’t background noise. It demands attention and mostly I don’t want to give it that attention.

Next year, my resolution will not involve books or reading.

Monday, November 1, 2021

November Book Report - Agatha Christie “Cards on the Table", a Hercule Poirot Mystery © 1936

 This month not only did I listen to a book by Agatha Christie, but it is available as an episode of the TV series Poirot starring David Suchet, so I watched it, too.

The title of this book, Cards on the Table, refers not only to the idiom of putting ones cards on the table (meaning to be open and honest about something) but to a game of bridge. A mysterious man who likes to dress like Mephistopheles, Mr. Shaitana, decides to hold a dinner party where he invites four sleuths, including Hercule Poirot and his occasional companion Ariadne Oliver (portrayed on the series by Zoe Wanamaker), and four criminals. Mr. Shaitana has learned through gossip that the four criminals he has invited are, in fact, murderers who have never been suspected of the murders they have committed.

After the meal, during which Mr. Shaitana baits the murderers with hints about the murders he knows about, the dinner guests break into two groups for bridge, with Mr. Shaitana sitting the game out by the fire. The murderers play their game in the room with Mr. Shaitana while the sleuths are in the next room for their game. Sometime during the course of the night, Mr. Shaitana is murdered. The sleuths have been out of the room the whole time, so it falls on them to learn the dark secrets held by the murderers and determine which one of them was able to murder Mr. Shaitana, without the others noticing.

I made the mistake of watching the episode before I finished listening to the book. This lessened my enthusiasm to finish listening to the book, but I did. There are some notable differences between the book and the show, the main one being that on the TV series Mr. Shaitana is a hobby photographer who has taken pictures of most of the murderers (maybe all, I forget) and the police detective who is in the sleuth group. There are no photographs of importance in the novel. This was added entirely for the TV show.

Two of the characters, Anne Meredith (murderer) and Superintendent Battle (sleuth), are changed from the novel as well, with Anne Meredith being more sympathetic and Battle being thrown into the suspect category.

There are other changes to characters, but not as notable to the story revolving around them. I will say that I adore Zoe Wanamaker’s performance as Ariadne Oliver on this and other episodes of the TV series, and would love to see a spinoff series of Ariadne Oliver solving crimes. Ariadne is much more likeable on the show than in the book.

Up until the very end, I wondered if the TV show had also changed the identity of the murderer, but it didn’t. The novel just makes a very convincing case for a different character which the TV show didn’t follow through with in the same way. The murderer also has his motive heightened for his original murder in the TV series. I’m still not sure from the novel why he did his original murder. If I heard the reason, I have forgotten it.

The audiobook was, like with the other Christie novel I listened to, read by Hugh Fraser. He is excellent at this and makes the characters come to life, doing all sort of accents and pitches with his voice. I enjoyed this story more than the last Christie one and infinitely more than the mystery from last month.

Somewhere (which means on Facebook or Twitter) I recently read about how mystery novels differ from other stories in that the detectives are not expected to have any character growth over their series of stories. They are only expected to be interesting and competent in solving mysteries. It got me thinking about Poirot, Miss Marple, Agatha Raison, Jessica Fletcher, Columbo and others. True. They don’t grow and change as people. They solve crimes and they do it the same way, which is what the audience finds so satisfying. They start off as interesting characters and the reader/viewer wants to learn more about them, not to see them grow and change. Anyway, I thought that was interesting and worth pondering.

Anyway, this month’s book is one of the better ones from the year. Oh, and I should mention that I basically know how to play bridge (my dad never let anyone else keep score, so I can’t do it), so that part of the plot wasn’t confusing for me. It might be for you if you are not familiar with bridge at all.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ruth Allen Sings English Music Hall Songs (Mostly)


Ruth Allen was born on January 20, 1929.

On October 26, 2021, I asked her to sing some songs for me. She’s 92.

Here’s what she sang:


Fred Earle, Frank Carter & Gilbert Wells


R.P. Weston and Fred J. Barnes

 FIVE EYES (1922)

Poem by Walter de la Mare published in 1913


Fred W. Leigh and Charles Collins


Harry Lauder


Fred W. Leigh and Henry E. Pether


Irving Berlin


Maurice Abrahams, Grant Clarke and Edgar Leslie


Ruth Allen