Here is my 2014 WordPress year in review:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Peace on earth, goodwill to all.

Holiday Greetings . . .

Merry Christmas,
and all good wishes
for a safe, healthy, and happy new year.


This is a repeat, but I love it:

During Christmas in the 1870s, when he wasn’t sending horse-led sleighs piled high with food and toys to his less fortunate neighbours, the inimitable Mark Twain could usually be found at the family home with his wife and young children, often pretending to be Santa Claus. On Christmas morning of 1875, Twain’s 3-year-old daughter, Susie, awoke to find the following charming letter on her bed.

(Source: Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children.)

Palace of St. Nicholas.
In the Moon.
Christmas Morning.

My dear Susie Clemens:

I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands—for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples’ alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister’s jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters—I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself—and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw. But in the letter which you dictated there were some words which I could not make out for certain, and one or two small orders which I could not fill because we ran out of stock. Our last lot of kitchen furniture for dolls has just gone to a very poor little child in the North Star away up, in the cold country above the Big Dipper. Your mama can show you that star and you will say: “Little Snow Flake,” (for that is the child’s name) “I’m glad you got that furniture, for you need it more than I.” That is, you must write that, with your own hand, and Snow Flake will write you an answer. If you only spoke it she wouldn’t hear you. Make your letter light and thin, for the distance is great and the postage very heavy.

There was a word or two in your mama’s letter which I couldn’t be certain of. I took it to be “trunk full of doll’s clothes.” Is that it? I will call at your kitchen door about nine o’clock this morning to inquire. But I must not see anybody and I must not speak to anybody but you. When the kitchen doorbell rings, George must be blindfolded and sent to open the door. Then he must go back to the dining room or the china closet and take the cook with him. You must tell George he must walk on tiptoe and not speak—otherwise he will die someday. Then you must go up to the nursery and stand on a chair or the nurse’s bed and put your ear to the speaking tube that leads down to the kitchen and when I whistle through it you must speak in the tube and say, “Welcome, Santa Claus!” Then I will ask whether it was a trunk you ordered or not. If you say it was, I shall ask you what color you want the trunk to be. Your mama will help you to name a nice color and then you must tell me every single thing in detail which you want the trunk to contain. Then when I say “Good bye and a merry Christmas to my little Susie Clemens,” you must say “Good bye, good old Santa Claus, I thank you very much and please tell that little Snow Flake I will look at her star tonight and she must look down here—I will be right in the west bay window; and every fine night I will look at her star and say, ‘I know somebody up there and like her, too.'” Then you must go down into the library and make George close all the doors that open into the main hall, and everybody must keep still for a little while. I will go to the moon and get those things and in a few minutes I will come down the chimney that belongs to the fireplace that is in the hall—if it is a trunk you want—because I couldn’t get such a thing as a trunk down the nursery chimney, you know.

People may talk if they want, until they hear my footsteps in the hall. Then you tell them to keep quiet a little while till I go back up the chimney. Maybe you will not hear my footsteps at all—so you may go now and then and peep through the dining-room doors, and by and by you will see that thing which you want, right under the piano in the drawing room-for I shall put it there. If I should leave any snow in the hall, you must tell George to sweep it into the fireplace, for I haven’t time to do such things. George must not use a broom, but a rag—else he will die someday. You must watch George and not let him run into danger. If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away. Leave it there always in memory of my visit; and whenever you look at it or show it to anybody you must let it remind you to be a good little girl. Whenever you are naughty and somebody points to that mark which your good old Santa Claus’s boot made on the marble, what will you say, little sweetheart?

Goodbye for a few minutes, till I come down to the world and ring the kitchen door-bell.

Your loving

Santa Claus

Whom people sometimes call “The Man in the Moon”

Things you notice when you’re sick . . .

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - christmas-movies Screencap

  1. Swallowing grapes is not so easy.
  2. Making a cup of tea takes a long time when you throw away the tea bag and keep the foil packet.
  3. Knocking said cup of tea over immediately after sitting it down becomes a job for tomorrow.
  4. The dogs decide they need to go outside one an hour, probably just being good care-givers and making sure you can still move.
  5. You (I) can, but very, very slowly.
  6. Chocolate at 2 in the morning doesn’t taste nearly as good as it usually does.
  7. Mucinex liquid was invented by the same descendants of Marquis de Sade who invented the original Nyquil.
  8. If you are able to swallow it, Mucinex feels warm all the way down your esophagus.
  9. This is reassuring as I was pretty certain I had coughed up my esophagus on Friday night.
  10. Cold and flu medications always stop working in the middle of the night.
  11. Alka-Seltzer cold and flu medication needs to be dissolved in hot water and then chased by bourbon.
  12. Just kidding . . . not really . . .
  13. It would have been honey and bourbon and lemon instead of the medicine, but I only had the bourbon.
  14. I switched from second to first person somewhere along the way.
  15. Whatever.
  16. The Christmas cards I started on so eagerly and full of self-satisfaction over a week ago laid on my dining room table until I unearthed them this afternoon.
  17. I unearthed them this afternoon because I felt better and decided to clean.
  18. I always do this.
  19. It always hurts afterwards.
  20. A lot.
  21. It all began because I smelled something, and I wasn’t really sure if it was (pardon the total truth here) my dog’s bad gas, my feet, or the bedroom in general, having been a sick room for three days.
  22. So I needed to change the sheets.
  23. Which meant that I needed to do laundry.
  24. Which took four trips from the hamper to the garage.
  25. I do not have a large house.
  26. It’s a ranch, and the only stairs are in the garage.
  27. I still almost tripped on the stairs.
  28. I remembered to wash the bath mat that I used to sop up the tea I spilled yesterday.
  29. Or was it the day before?
  30. So I finished the Christmas cards and put them out for the mail only to notice that the UPS guy had delivered the shipment of dog food.
  31. It’s a heavy box, and I had used my daily quota of energy on useless things like cleaning and bathing.
  32. So the dog food is still on the porch getting rained on.
  33. I could so not care about the dog food.
  34. I did use my time in bed wisely: I started watching season one of “Orphan Black” on Amazon Prime (connected to my television, woo hoo) on Saturday.
  35. I think it was Saturday.
  36. I finished Sunday morning, and then I debated about whether or not to purchase season two on Prime.
  37. I debated for two minutes, and then cashed in a few dollar credits for skipping fast shipping on books and started season 2.
  38. I am now humbled to realize that I cannot buy season 3 because it isn’t a thing yet.
  39. I don’t know what to watch next, and it’s hard to read when you’re coughing.
  40. I haven’t sat at this computer in over a week.
  41. I know this because my e-mail notification says something about plus 700 new emails.
  42. Yahoo lies.
  43. There are probably 5 real emails, and the rest are people still trying to get me to order for Christmas.
  44. Probably better that I haven’t been on the computer.
  45. God I need a laptop.
  46. Or even, sigh, a tablet.
  47. Tablets are evil.
  48. I haven’t looked at myself in a mirror in days, she said, apropos of nothing.
  49. It’s amazing how many dishes one person can make in three days.
  50. Maybe the dirty dishes made me start to clean because I had run out of tea mugs.
  51. Not really.
  52. There are at least 20 more in the cabinet, but I don’t like any of those when I’m sick.
  53. Coffee tastes really bad when you’re sick.
  54. Tea tastes better with honey and lemon, but . . . well, see 13.
  55. I realized that I was walking around the house with rubber gloves on after I did the dishes.
  56. So I did the floors.
  57. Kidding.
  58. Not really.
  59. So, yeah. That’s been my life for more days than I care to admit.
  60. Corey gets home on Christmas Eve.
  61. Let’s hope I can summon up some energy to drive to the airport.
  62. I’m not sure what day or date it is.
  63. At least the house will be mostly clean because I have once again retreated to my bed (with the clean sheets) and am now rewatching certain episodes of “Orphan Black.”
  64. I can’t believe I had so many things to say.
  65. Tired now. Bye.

“Memory swells our reflections.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from ” Mural”

Hovsep Pushman Reflections 2, oil on board 1920s
“Reflections 2” (1920s, oil on board)
by Hovsep Pushman

 “I am convinced that memory has a gravitational force. It is constantly attracting us. Those who have a memory are able live in the fragile present moment. Those who have none don’t live anywhere.” ~ Patricio Guzmán, from Nostalgia for the Light

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not so cold, 50 degrees.

So late last night I wrote another poem. I’ve had the first line in my head for about a week, mulling it over, and then it came to me. It’s about my mom, so I really can’t tell if it’s any good. But I like the title . . .

Anyway, I’m hoping to put up the tree today, but I’m at the mercy of my sons, so I’m not counting on it. You see, Corey took all of the Christmas stuff—decorations, wrapping paper, tree—and put it in my mom’s garage, which is huge. I need all of it to come back over here. Alexis still has Corey’s truck, although I found out that Mike’s been driving it, which doesn’t make sense because it costs a fortune to fill up, but the Lex saga continues unabated, and I don’t want to talk about that right now.

Hovsep Pushman The Violets of Yesterday
“The Violets of Yesterday” (1920s-30s, oil)
by Hovsep Pushman

But because I don’t have the truck, I need Eamonn’s SUV. Unfortunately, on Friday, one of Eamonn’s closest friends died. I don’t know the circumstances yet, but I’m really hoping it wasn’t a suicide. So Eamonn is pretty devastated, and I don’t want to push him to bring over everything, even though he said earlier that he would help.

Brett and Em are coming over to do the outside lights, and they are bringing some stuff with them, but he can’t fit a lot into that old Honda, so I have no idea what I’m going to have here and what’s going to still be in the garage, and so once again, everything is much more complicated than it should be, and stressing over it and everything else is not helping me to get in the holiday spirit, as it were.

“Longing is not memory, but rather what is selected from memory’s museum. Longing is selective, like an adept gardener. It is the replaying of a memory after its blemishes have been removed.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish

So perhaps I shall turn the rest of this into a random thoughts post . . . yes . . . why not?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
“Harmony in Silver and Green” (nd, oil on panel, detail)
by Hovsep Pushman
  • I have read that a movie is on the horizon called Big Eyes, or something like that; it is based on those pictures of children with huge eyes, popular in the 60s, I think.
  • I have never understood the attraction of those images, but I remember that one of the grocery stores that my mom frequented gave away reproductions.
  • That was when you could actually get encyclopedias and such for coupons earned on purchases. (Remember green stamps? I do, vaguely) . . .
  • Apparently the artist (Keane) who became famous for painting those images did not actually paint them. His wife did.
  • Another woman shafted by the system.
  • Those pictures always freaked me out as a kid.
  • The irony is that today, most cartoons and comics (especially Asian anime) feature characters with over-sized eyes.
  • I still find that kind of characterization creepy.

“Memory belongs to the imagination.” ~ Alain Robbe-Grillet, from The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction, No. 91”

So since this post is kind of about memory, here are a few more random ones:

Hovsep Pushman Statue, Vase and Bowl color lithograph
“Still Life: Vase and Bowl” (nd, oil)
by Hovsep Pushman
  • The first bit of verse that I memorized: “Where the bee sucks, there suck I: /In a cowslip’s bell I lie;”
  • It was by Shakespeare; I was seven or eight.
  • The first book of poetry that I ever owned: A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • I think that it was given to me right before we moved to the Philippines after my father retired from the Navy.
  • I once thought about memorizing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Just to see if I could.
  • I was 11.
  • I remember the first line of a truly dreadful poem that I wrote in the 9th grade: “I, am nothing, without you”
  • I thought that putting the commas in would give me pauses.

“Nothing is left of that time beyond memories, only a faint remembering.” ~ Cesare Pavese

Hovsep Pushman Reflections oil on panel
“Reflections” (nd, oil on panel)
by Hovsep Pushman

Do you want to know something ironic? I think my memories of my early life are more easily accessible than my memories of the last ten years.

  • My mother once put me up to engaging my father in conversation in a very proper British accent while Dad was talking to someone else.
  • I did it. I remember I began with, “Father, dear. Mummy has . . .”
  • That’s all I remember of that, but can you imagine how strange that man must have thought I was, how strange our family was?
  • I once spent about four weeks speaking in nothing but a Cockney accent
  • It became so much of a habit that I actually answered the phone by saying, “‘Ello, luv.”
  • I really should have been on the stage.
  • Speaking of which, I gave serious thought to moving to New York right after high school graduation, but I’m pretty sure my mother talked me out of it.
  • As someone who loved to pretend and act, how did I end up with three kids who are all afraid to be on a stage?

“I was going to be a memory when I grew up.” ~ Alejandro Zambra, from Ways of Going Home

Let’s bring this full circle:

Hovsep Pushman Silence Oil on canvas
“Silence” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Hovsep Pushman
  • When I was about 8 or 9, my mother told me that I could marry the Prince of Wales.
  • Where did my mother get her airs from?
  • She never got over leaving London and coming back to the states.
  • I wish she had gone back to London for a visit, yet I’m glad that she didn’t because the London of today is nothing like the London of my childhood.
  • I just had a flash of a wild memory: My dad shipped his convertible to London when he was transferred there. We used to go on country drives on Sunday, you know, family, friends, picnics . . . I had seen in some movie how this glamorous woman sat up on the back seat of the convertible and let the wind blow through her hair. You guessed it, while no one was paying any attention to me, I got up on the back seat (on the part that housed the folded soft top) and sat there for a good part of the drive until my mother turned around and saw me.
  • I still wonder if my dad saw me in the rear view mirror and didn’t do anything because he thought it was funny.
  • No seat belts for us.
  • I guess I got my airs from my mother and movies.

My new poem is below. I’ve also included a particularly beautiful poem by Philip Shultz, not because I’m comparing mine to his, but because I love how it ties in to the idea of memory.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Armenian artist Hovsep Pushman (1877-1966).

Music by Memoryhouse, “Old Haunts (Aurora Remix)”

                   

Shopping at Wal-Mart the Week before Christmas

It all began with the Almond Rocha, you see,
the richly colored pink and gold tin
I took from the shelf without thinking,
one of my mother’s favorites, even though
each time I gifted her this sweet,
I was sure to hear a weary sigh
followed by the words,
I have diabetes, you know,
even as she dug into the can
for one of the gold, foil-wrapped
butter crunch toffees, as if somehow
the knowledge of her condition
had slipped my mind
sometime since the last time
she had reminded me
of the circumstance she herself
ignored so judiciously,
but every Christmas
I would give her a large tin
because it was the only present
I was sure she wouldn’t hate, the only one
that wouldn’t have to go back to the store
for one reason or another,
and I’ll let you in
on another little secret—
I didn’t find a single empty tin
when I spent those long winter days
erasing her from the home
in which she had spent almost
a half century, not one
nestled among the endless packs
of charity greeting cards
with their insipid messages,
not a single one
hidden among the baskets
filled with long-dried bingo markers
in red and green and blue,
not even one left neglected
in the old bar, where funnily enough,
I found an almost empty bottle of tequila
and a very dusty liqueur bottle
shaped like a monk.
So I replaced the new tin on the shelf,
among all the other holidays confections,
left my half-filled cart
of soaps, nail polish,
and lemons, and promptly
walked out into the night
before the memory of her voice
could catch me.

L. Liwag
December 14, 2014

                   

Talking to Ourselves

A woman in my doctor’s office last week
couldn’t stop talking about Niagara Falls,
the difference between dog and deer ticks,
how her oldest boy, killed in Iraq, would lie
with her at night in the summer grass, singing
Puccini. Her eyes looked at me but saw only
the saffron swirls of the quivering heavens.

Yesterday, Mr. Miller, our tidy neighbor,
stopped under our lopsided maple to explain
how his wife of sixty years died last month
of Alzheimer’s. I stood there, listening to
his longing reach across the darkness with
each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

This morning my five-year-old asked himself
why he’d come into the kitchen. I understood
he was thinking out loud, personifying himself,
but the intimacy of his small voice was surprising.

When my father’s vending business was failing,
he’d talk to himself while driving, his lips
silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.
He didn’t care that I was there, listening,
what he was saying was too important.

“Too important,” I hear myself saying
in the kitchen, putting the dishes away,
and my wife looks up from her reading
and asks, “What’s that you said?”

~ Philip Schultz

“I’m not quite the last.” ~ Marcus Sedgwick, from Midwinter Blood

Carl Larsson Midvinterblot 1915 oil on canvas
“Midvinerblot” (1915, oil on canvas)
by Carl Larsson, in situ at the National Museum in Stockholm

“Indeed. People think the name of this island means ‘blessed,’ and so it does, but ‘blessed’ does not mean what people thin kit does. In the old tongue it was bletsian and before that blotsian, and before that, just blod. It means sacrifice.” ~ Marcus Sedgwick, from Midwinter Blood

Saturday, late afternoon. Partly cloudy and not so cold, 51 degrees.

I just read the most amazing book: Midwinterblood (2013) by Marcus Sedgwick. The painting above, which was created for the central staircase hall of the Stockholm’s National Museum, figures prominently in the story, or rather, stories, seven to be exact.

It’s a fast but intricate read, tracing the tale of Eric and Merle through hundreds of years, and seven iterations. I was fascinated by the deft mixing of mystery, fantasy and history that links the seven stories, beginning in the future, and traveling back before time on record.

Apparently, it’s a book for teens, but I find that classification a bit useless. What defines a book? That’s a whole other post. But what aggravates me about that category for this book is that while the stories would appeal to teens, it takes a bit of life to understand and appreciate that love through seven different lives does not have to be passion-filled love between lovers in order to be important. I’m not sure if I’m making much sense, perhaps because I literally just put the book down and walked over to my desk to write this.

Alex Brown of tor.com wrote a wonderful review, which you can find here. And here is a short YouTube promo for the book that I found intriguing:

More later. Peace.

Music by Delerium (featuring Azure Ray), “Keyless Door”

                   

When I awoke this morning, I was mulling over the last line to Robert Browning‘s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. Which brought to mind (a non sequitur, I know) bits of the following, which I had to search for before finding the actual poem, and then hours later I realized that I had gone of on some tangent and had completely forgotten (once again) to publish the post . . . anyway:

Longing

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to others as to me!

Or, as thou never cam’st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth,
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say, My love why sufferest thou?

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For so the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

~ Matthew Arnold

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Noooooo………


Argh. I forgot to hit schedule. Dang it all…………..

This week’s headline:

Done . . .

Meanwhile, in Canada:

Um . . . excuse me? You fed the pears?

This:

What a charming place to wile away the afternoon . . .

Another doggie for you:

I have come to love Key & Peele. In this clip, girlfriend Meegan is the worst moviegoer ever:

A few facts for you from :

  • Dr. Dre has made more money from selling his popular Beats headphones than he did making music.
  • The North Korean World Cup soccer fans are actually hand picked by the NK government and are also made up of Chinese volunteers since North Koreans are not allowed to travel.
  • US President Harry Truman fell in love with his future wife Bess in Sunday School when he was 6 years old and she was 5. He never loved another woman.
  • A gamer once complained on the Runic Games forums that a specific camera effect made a game unplayable for her due to a rare eye condition. Mere hours later, and early on a Sunday morning, the developers released a patch that added a user toggle for the effect.
  • The “Gangnam Style” video has surpassed 2 billion views on Youtube and is the first Youtube video in history to do so.
  • Netflix employs a team of “taggers” who are paid to just watch movies/shows on Netflix and tag the content.
  • The astronomer Tycho Brahe not only owned a tame moose. That moose died by falling down a flight of stairs while drunk.
  • In 1971, a thief broke into a house and was shot in the legs by a trap set up by the homeowner. The thief then sued for damages—and won.
  • The Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty concluded around 1259 BCE is the oldest written peace treaty that still survives today.

Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9