My Diary
My Diary

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August 2, 2000     (Wednesday)

There is no entry for August first.

I've never been so tired of rain and storms. The storms are just intermittent little things with only enough electrical activity to make it prudent to turn off my computer and other electronic equipment. I guess I need to slap a UPS on everything so I can continue working in the midst of lightning storms. I used to love storms, but that was when I lived somewhere with a nice view of the sky from a sheltered position. Now, the only outside sheltered position I have available to me is the back patio under the awning. The trees, the corner of the house, and the buildings around here block most of my view. It's just not any fun anymore.

I finally got an SLR camera. It's a Canon EOS Rebel X -- a cheap little thing with a 35-80mm zoom lens. I can't get over how light it is. If it would stop raining long enough, I'd go out and take some pictures. It doesn't have a built-in flash, so I'll have to use natural light or my halogen lamps for a while until I can afford to add on to the basic unit. I guess the EF lenses are the way to go now. I'm used to the old C-mount ones that had real glass in them and weighed a ton. I rather miss the rings and dials, too. Now it's all computerized and has an LED display with one dial to change modes and one to adjust values. I may have to learn to use cameras all over again.

One thing I noticed right away is that the old ASA numbers are gone, replaced with the ISO. I suppose it's part of the globalization of everything.

George Dubya Bush was in town yesterday. Zzzzzzzzzz

August 3, 2000     (Thursday)

Nothing much to write about today. I had a doctor's appointment this morning, so I'm not happy for the rest of the day. Doctors, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs. I detest them all. [Aside: should the plural of HMO be HMOs or HMO's?]

I finished up a roll of film in my new camera. It's late now, so I'll take it and drop it off to be processed in the morning. I think I'll go for the standard in-the-store Rite-Aid or Wal-Mart processing on this roll instead of taking it to the camera shop. If anything turns out nice, I'll share it with all my faithful reader. [singular. . . it's a joke. . . forget it]

August 4, 2000     (Friday)

Even when it comes to photography, I tend to lean toward the abstract.

A stone in the wall of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, on the corner of Beauregard Street and Lee Street, East in Charleston, WV.
"I'll huff and I'll puff, and. . . forget it."

August 5, 2000     (Saturday)

It rained last night

August 6, 2000     (Sunday)

Dance the latest fandango. . .
"Separations I"

August 7, 2000     (Monday)

It's tempting to just post another photo here today and let it go at that. That's easy, and worth a thousand words, so they say. Unfortunately, on a web page, a thousand words is worth about 5 K whereas a picture is upwards of 20 K. So on the web, a picture is worth four thousand words. Inflation!

This has been the stormiest summer I can remember. It seems like it's rained every single day since the middle of May. I'm sure there have been a couple dry days, but not many.

Now how is it you make money taking photographs?  I gotta do something to pay for processing. . .
"Stained Glass Tree"

Patience, please. This photograph is a little larger than the usual fare here, so it will take a while longer to load.

August 8, 2000     (Tuesday)

I've taken three pictures in three days. The light has been terrible. It keeps raining and getting way too hot to wander around in the midday sun unless you're a mad dog or an Englishman. Not to worry, though, I've got a backlog of photos and scans to go through.

No bees around here.
"Tuxedo Turnaround"

I'm trying to decide what direction I want to take with the rest of my life. I'm tired of sitting around here, doing little of nothing. A "job" seems beyond my reach. I can't seem to make much money as an artist or freelancer. I think it comes back to my singular lack of officially accepted credentials. I honestly don't know what to do about that either. Most times it's hard for me to concentrate long enough at a time for me to take classes and succeed at them. Hell, it's hard to concentrate long enough to decide what direction I want to take with the rest of my life. Catch 23.

August 9, 2000     (Wednesday)

My horroscope for today says:

You've been working a long time for the recognition that may finally be coming your way. You'll see that your past efforts have not been wasted as people are now beginning to appreciate your skill and vision. Your career opportunities should be expanding greatly. The hard part may be deciding exactly what direction to take, but you should know which way to go within the next couple of days. It feels good to be in demand, doesn't it?

Yeah, right. . .

. . . or farther away, apparently.

August 10, 2000     (Thursday)

Yesterday morning I picked up trash that the wind had blown into my front yard. Yesterday afternoon, the wind got its revenge. A storm blew up quickly and the sky got blacker than I've ever seen it get in the daytime (short of an eclipse). The wind was ferocious, and deposited in my yard, among other things, a Doritos bag, several pieces of silvery packaging, Kroger bags, CVS bags, a Burger King cup and bits of nature that had broken loose at some distance.

The storm was huge and fast moving. A scant hour and a half after it passed through here it was making its way into Virginia. There wasn't a great lot of rain, but the winds were remarkable and the electrical activity was impressive.

After some Moo Shu chicken for dinner last night, I sat down, turned the computer back on with the hope of chatting with some friends and maybe getting some writing done. No such luck! Being the ninth of August and Tisha B'Av after sundown, both noted for less than optimal events, another storm started whipping up almost immediately after sunset. The sky got dark and odd looking -- rich, deep grays, pinks and browns, remnants of the aborted sunset splash of color. The clouds roiled and twisted, billowed and rolled across the horizon to the northeast. The wind picked up. This was a large, slow-moving monster.

The wind was fierce. It blew a spray paint can down the street. In the heavy, moisture-laden air, the sound carried better than usual, and the hollow ringing was quite eerie. A large, heavy garbage can blew by. The wind whipped up dirt and grit and pelted my arms and face. It was time to duck under the awning out back, using it as a windbreak.

The storm built slowly. The lightning illuminated the distant sky. But it was too far off for the thunder to reach my ears. By eight thirty, the rain had begun and the lightning was overhead. The rain was heavy only for a short while. The wind was alternately gusty and calm. The lightning strikes were making contact with the earth, the airborne electricity having a particular affinity for the Capitol Hill Area, north of here. The lightning lit sky showed air currents that gave the appearance of possible tornadic formation. Nothing quite cohered, however.

National Weather Service Radio reported a tornado near the Winfield Locks on the Kanawha River. This is only about 30 miles away. Then, at almost exactly nine o'clock, the unthinkable happened. The emergency sirens went off. That could only mean one thing. Tornado. I checked the Weather Channel on the old TV that I wouldn't regret losing to the storm, having unplugged everything expensive or precious long ago. Kanawha County was under a Tornado Warning. That meant that a funnel cloud had been sighted. The wind increased. The rain came harder.

The Tornado warning expired relatively uneventfully. I've heard vague rumors that tornadoes touched down in some of the outlying areas, but I've seen nothing substantial or definitive as yet. After the warning expired, we lapsed immediately into a severe thunderstorm warning. I sat under the awning on the front porch (such that it is) and watched the now nearly darkened city sky. Power was out to about half the city. Ours was still on, but the building across the street was silent and dark. The upper end of Lewis Street as far as I could see was black.

What a lightning display! It streaked across the darker-than-usual city canopy, bright, jagged, and violent. The thunder at one point rolled from one horizon to the other with rich bass and baritone rumbles, counter pointed by the tearing sound of fresh bolts ripping the air apart like a mourner rending his lapels. It was magnificent. Spidery networks of intense light, sometimes pink, filtered by the haze of the rain, ragged fractal paths across the entire dome of the heavens, and bare tree shapes etched into the monochromatic backdrop of clouds presented a show that fireworks impressarios can only wistfully dream about.

The lightning and rain continued, albeit diminished from the peak power of the storm at its full maturity, until after midnight. It's been a long time since I've seen a storm like this. In a lot of ways, that's good, but I still miss being witness to nature's awesome might.

I wish I could have gotten some photographs. . .

This morning the television and newspapers have accounts of the damage -- trees down, power and phone service still out, and likely to be for a while, as repair crews are too scant for the amount of work that needs to be done. I've seen no reports of flooding or any serious damage or deaths. This is good.

There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold. . .
"Summer Brings the Steel Breeze"

August 11, 2000     (Friday)

Something about a wrong tree, he said. . .

August 12, 2000     (Saturday)

I hurt my back, so I can't do the things I normally do, and I can't sit, stand, or walk for more than 10 minutes each without the pain becoming unbearable. I lie on my back a lot. It would be better if I had a TV on the ceiling.

I can't remember the last time I was this bored. I guess this is training so I can have empathy with people who have Attention Deficit Disorder. . .

Using the clouds as my blue filter. . .
"Anyone know what this plant is?"

August 14, 2000     (Monday)

Somehow the aged, the decrepit, the flawed has more visual appeal than the new and shiny, the well-maintained, unless you're talking about Bridget Fonda or Catherine Zeta Jones. . .
"Gettin' Ready to Meet the Saints"

NASA is going to send two more "rovers" to the red planet. They will be launched in 2003, scheduled to arrive on Mars sometime in 2004. The length of the mission will depend on "how long it takes the Martian dust to cover their [the rovers'] life-giving solar arrays."

Excuse me if I seem dense here, but aren't these people rocket scientists? Why couldn't they come up with a method of keeping the dust off the solar panels, thereby extending the useful life of the machines to the limit of mechanical failure? A simple stepping motor to tilt the panels, and a teflon coating on the panels themselves might do the trick, if the Martian dust is as fine as I seem to remember it being from press reports. And, by the way, windshield wipers have been around for a long time, as have blowers. Mars does have a thin atmosphere, right? With all the resources and brain power available to NASA, it seems like such a problem would be little challenge at all.

Maybe they're not used to thinking in such small terms.

I was looking at employment pages. I found one that lists minimum/median/maximum salaries for various positions in different parts of the country. I looked in the graphic arts category. The description for painter/illustrator contains the following:

Relies on limited experience and judgment to plan and accomplish goals. Performs a variety of tasks. Works under general supervision. A certain degree of creativity and latitude is required.

The job description for drafter (by which I assume they mean "Draftsman" or in the current fashion, "Draftsperson") contains this:

Has knowledge of commonly-used concepts, practices, and procedures within a particular field. Relies on instructions and pre-established guidelines to perform the functions of the job. Works under immediate supervision. Little creativity is required.

These are both entry level positions, requiring some training and 0 to 2 years experience. The drafter position typically pays $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 a year more than the painter/illustrator position, both locally and in the major market locations. The national average is about the same, too. It is pretty obvious that our society sees independence, self-reliance, and creativity as less valuable than the ability to follow directions and adhere to past wisdom.

You'll forgive me if I think the powers that be in this society have their heads on backwards.

August 15, 2000     (Tuesday)

I spent the day reading my books on photography, cleaning and straightening things, pulling weeds, and thinking about things. Nothing major on the intellectual front. . .

Since the only comment on my photography so far has been about a picture of a tree, here's more trees.

These are crabapple trees on the river bank next to Kanawha Boulevard here in Charleston.  The lower sidewalk can be seen in the distance.
"Potential for Jelly Unrealized"

August 16, 2000     (Wednesday)

There are lot of things I don't understand. Take for instance the ad I saw in the paper this morning for "Room-sized rugs." These rugs are 5 feet by 8 feet. Isn't that more like "cell-sized?"

Another thing that I don't "get" that also sort of rankles me is the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church is in the process of Canonizing Czar Nicholas and his whole family. Nicholas himself is first in the pipe. They're saying that the whole family, murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution, are martyrs. Martyrs?!? Martyrs to what? Capitalism? Feudalism? Certainly not Christianity. They were killed because they were the rulers of a terrible repressive society. How appalling! I don't claim to be a Christian, but this smacks of hypocrisy to the nth degree.

Here's a piece of "found art." This piece of rope is rather large. I found it down by the Levee, so I expect it came from one of the riverboats or barges. I thought it had character, so it followed me home. . .

Rollin' on the river. . .

Any nautical types of people out there who can tell me anything about this? My guess is that it's a knot tied in the end of a piece of rope to provide extra weight so the line can be tossed.

August 17, 2000     (Thursday)

Exactly when was it that we stopped expecting companies, as well as individuals, to behave ethically and honestly and to obey the law? When precisely did corporations become laws unto themselves just because they are very large and very rich and have operations in more than one country? Modern businesses pay little heed to the law, less to ethical behavior, and none at all to morality or "what is right." Completely unconscionable behavior is dismissed out of hand with a shrug and a sigh and the words, "Oh well, that's business. Nothing personal."

In the paper this morning, our <sarcasm> beloved </sarcasm> governor was quoted as saying he didn't believe in global warming.


The overwhelming body of evidence validates the global warming hypothesis. If ol' Cecil would pay attention, he see that the past few winters have been exceedingly mild, and the summers have been blistering, alternating between too dry and too wet. Floods all over are prevalent, and I suspect the sea level has raised a millimeter or three over the past 50 years. Why is it that conservative politicians refuse to acknowledge scientific fact and evidence, all the while clamoring about how fixing the problems indicated would cost jobs, yet in the next stroke sign away jobs to increase campaign contributors companies' profits?

Here's some more "found art." I don't remember exactly how I got this piece, but I do remember cleaning dried mud out of it and polishing it up a bit. I love the shape and the way it catches light.

I keep finding things that say "art" to me.  Random is one of my favorite artists.

August 18, 2000     (Friday)

Mastercard is suing Ralph Nader over a parody of their "priceless" series of TV ads. Seems Ralphie did one relating to campaign contributions and debates. With all the other sarcastic and pornographic parodies of those ads floating around, why do you suppose Mastercard chose to sue Nader's campaign?

Oh, pardon me, my cynicism is showing.

Landscape setting -- f5.6 @ 1/125th
"Corner Lot (vacant)"

This path is to be found at the corner of Dixie and Thompson Streets in the East End of Charleston, West Virginia.

August 19, 2000     (Saturday)

I'll never forget the Indian girl. . .
"Formerly Broad Street"

August 20, 2000     (Sunday)

I was out walking this morning. I think I got some nice photographs. I went up the old carriage trail that leads from the end of the Southside Bridge to the Sunrise Museum (formerly Governor William A. MacCorkle's house). The carriage trail is a peaceful woodland lane right in the middle of an urban area. It's truly one of the most amazing places in the city.

I always enjoy my walks up there. They give me time to reflect and think, sometimes to sketch or write, or, like today, to take photographs. I did quite a lot of thinking too, and I was ready to write it all down and put at least a portion of what I'd thought about here. But, I stepped on a twig or a rock or something that rolled a little bit. My foot slipped, my ankle turned and down I went, head first. I haven't fallen down on gravel since I was a kid. It still hurts. I skinned up my right forearm and elbow, my right knee and shin, and a little place on my left knee. At least I didn't mar my beautiful face (other than punching a hole in my cheek with my tongue just now). The camera is okay, too, and I don't think anything fell out of my bag that I didn't pick back up. I'm gonna be sore for a few days.

Looking through the back door, I saw the sun going down through the front windows.  It's always dark in a steel mill.
"West Virginia Steel"

August 21, 2000     (Monday)

There's this old garage out back, all boarded up, being used for long-term storage of who-knows-what. At some point someone tried to break into it by beating down the plywood over the window. All they managed to do was gouge holes in it. It looked like a mouth to me. . .

Remember "Big Bambu" cigarette papers?  Well, this, folks, is REAL big bamboo. . .
"Got A Match?"

August 22, 2000     (Tuesday)

Another roll of film processed today. This one had problems. There is a blue line across the top of the negatives, some more distinct than others. I managed to crop and touch up all but one of the scans. I'll add some of these to the queue. Here's the first one:

Things aren't always what they seem
"The Law of Conservation of Energy"

August 23, 2000     (Wednesday)

Lately I've noticed that I've become a lot more tolerant of things that would normally "piss me off royal." I don't know exactly what's causing this sudden mellowing, but I'm not going to complain. It makes things much simpler. I just hope I don't lapse into lethargy, complaisance, or despondence.

Here's a snapshot of a couple of 3 dimensional pieces I did last year. Neither is titled. The one on the left is just an interestingly shaped rock I found at the river's edge and painted to a very smooth jet black finish. The egg is a plastic egg glued together, gessoed, wet-sanded to an (ahem!) egg-shell finish, then sprayed with acrylic paint using an atomizer.

I make interesting knick knacks. . .

One of the things that used to get on my nerves that no longer does is the singing of the cicadas. Now I listen to them and think of it as music. I must have lost my mind, huh?

August 24, 2000     (Thursday)

Another rainy day. The Verizon network had problems all morning and into the afternoon. I think the problems started several days ago. It seems to be cleared up now, at least for the time being.

Maybe the moon was made by the local trade union. . .
"Strange Terrain"

August 25, 2000     (Friday)

I thought this view of uniformity receeding into the distance was both visually attractive and telling of modern city living.
"Marching to Pretoria"

August 26, 2000     (Saturday)

On Quarrier Street looking back toward downtown, the sun was making such beautiful scenes with the clouds.
"Quarrier Street"

It took a very long time for the fog to lift and burn off today. It was nearly two o'clock in the afternoon before I saw any evidence of the sun other than the fact that the sky was white instead of black. The humidity is high, too, the dew point most likely rising along with the temperature.

I ate too much yesterday. I think that's contributing to my being tired and lethargic today.

Well, it's later and I've had my exercise. I walked from here to the Capitol and back -- about two and a half miles. I finished up the roll of film I had in the camera and dropped it off for processing. The pictures all came out pretty good except for a couple, and I was able to correct the problems with them after I scanned them in. Here's one:

I'm determined to take the definitive photograph of the West Virginia Capitol building.  This one is in the running. . .

August 27, 2000     (Sunday)

It was thirty years ago. I was a young buck, playing in a rock'n'roll band. We'd booked a gig in Richwood, West Virginia, at a "Teen Center." Teen Centers were all the rage back then. It seemed like every town had one, mostly started by the local gentry as an effort to prevent the dissolution of their youth. It was pretty much to no avail.

Back then, we were playing a lot of British Blues, things like Cream, and Yardbirds, John Mayall, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Traffic and the like. We played the more "progressive" American bands' material, too -- Allman Brothers, Ten Years After, and Crosby, et. al.

We'd played the Richwood Teen Center before, and were scheduled for this one final gig before leaving it behing for bigger and better things. At every performance there was always this "mountain man" looking individual, standing next to a metal post just off the left of the stage (they had a great stage). He never danced or spoke or moved much. He just stood there and nodded his head in time with the music. Sometime during the evening, when no one was looking, he'd vanish. This (advertised) last gig was different. During the first break, as I was putting my guitar (one of two) in its case, he approached the stage.

I hopped down to the floor and he walked up to me. Holding out both hands, he proffered me a gift. It was a wide leather guitar strap. He only said, "I like the way you play. This is for you." I took it and looked at it, felt it, smelled the freshly cut and cured leather. I turned and placed it inside my open guitar case. As I turned to thank him, he was gone. I used the strap starting with the next set. The second hole in the butt end of the strap hit the peg on my SG exactly. The first fit my Vox perfectly. How had he known how long to make it? Halfway through the set he appeared at his post again. After the song we were playing, I stopped, stooped at the edge of the stage and beckoned him. I reached out, shook his hand, and said a very sincere thank you. He smiled. By the time the next song had finished, he was gone.

I never saw him again, but I thought of him every single time I donned that strap, thousands of times over the ensuing thirty years. I don't know his name or anything about him, but I'd like him to know that his strap is retired now, mostly due to my ignorance in how to care for such a perfect gift. When the strap became unusable, I didn't play much guitar until I made my own replacement for it. I couldn't stand the thought of using something not made by hand after thirty years. I still keep the strap in an honored place, and there's not a week goes by that I don't get it out and hold it and remember all the good times.

Item one for the museum after I'm gone. . .
"Thank you"

August 28, 2000     (Monday)

Well, let that be a lesson to me. I'd just typed in a rather lengthy diary entry for today. I'd even run a spell check on it so I wouldn't be embarrassed by typographical mistakes. I was happy with the content, pleased with the prose, and delighted that I had something up so early in the day. Well. . . as I went to save the document, I got an error that told me my editor couldn't create the document. The only option was "OK." When I clicked the button, my work all evaporated. I've thought about whether to try to recreate the entry word-for-word, and I can't really decide what to do. Oh, what the hell. . .

It's nearly eleven o'clock in the morning, and the light outside still says six-thirty. The air is heavy and still. It doesn't feel or smell like rain. There's a slight haze in the distance, but nothing like the late-leaving fog of yesterday. The sky is the color of ashes from the end of the world. The intensity of the blue morning glories seems undiminished by the blue-filtering effect of an overcast sky. I have this feeling of foreboding. I'm pain-free in a moist environment. That's not natural.

(Well, it's not verbatim, but that's the gist of the first part of it. Pointless, eh? I think I'll let it go at that. The rest was just stream-of-consciousness rambling on, and were I to attempt to recreate it, it just wouldn't be the same.)

There is a whole streak of this paint diagonally across the Exxon Station lot near the Capitol, from Washington Street to Greenbrier.  It is the effluvia of one of the vehicle/machines that they use to paint the yellow lines on streets and highways.
"Complex Numbers"

August 29, 2000     (Tuesday)

Two more days and August is over. I'm supposed to have lost five pounds in August. I guess I can fast today, tomorrow, and Thursday (grin).

I tried some of the Kodak MAX 800 film. They were offering sample 12-exposure rolls for a buck ninety-nine. I don't see where there's much advantage with it over the usual 200 or 400 in most cases. It allows a wider f-stop and the product is quite a bit grainier than the faster films. I think if I was going to go with a low light film, I'd opt for the Kodak Royal Gold 1000 or the Fuji equivalent. This 800 speed (recommended for Zoom -- what's up with that?) is a poor compromise at best.

Here's my favorite picture from the roll (it's a little big, so please be patient while it loads):

The One Valley Square Building, home of the One Valley Bank, formerly the Kanawha Valley Bank, soon to be the BB&T Bank.  Sheesh!
"One Valley -- One World"

I may have to wait for a bright, sunny, blue-sky day and shoot this shot again with some 100 speed. I think it was about 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon when I shot this one.

August 30, 2000     (Wednesday)

Part of the West Virginia War Memorial, Joe Mullins, designer/sculptor

August 31, 2000     (Thursday)

For the last day of the month, I bring you something special. A couple weeks ago I got up on Sunday morning and went walking. For my route I chose one of the more interesting parts of the city -- the old carriage trail.

Click Here to take the tour
Caution: The entire tour, 22 pictures and all, is on a single page, so it will take a couple minutes to finish loading. Patience, please.

I know it's still three weeks until fall, but the air today, the light, and the flocks of birds gathering and darting around readying themselves for their migration makes me think of autumn. In some ways it's my favorite season of the year (You know, the four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and hockey). I look forward to Saturday afternoons, watching football, walks in the woods watching the leaves change colors, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the harvest moon, everything that goes with the third season.

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