The Detectorists

10 December, 2018

This is a writing challenge because I cannot say enough good things about “The Detectorists” (from the BBC). It’s simply the best television show I’ve seen in years. I won’t compare it to other TV shows I really love (or loved, because all of the ones I really loved were years ago). I won’t compare it because I don’t want those other shows to feel bad about themselves.

The Detectorists (character names: Lance and Andy) are written as ordinary people with foibles and a lampoon-able hobby. You will cringe on behalf of the main characters as they make inexplicable and poor choices, and all the while you will be rooting for them. You will chuckle. You will become privy to the language of metal detecting and the descriptions of the finds. If you’re an American, there will be things you don’t understand. Finding a ring pull from an aluminum can, Lance says, “Tizer” (it’s a soft drink). “Kestral Super” — It’s a beer, mate.

You will appreciate the camera’s long close-ups on the flowers and creepy-crawlies in the fields. The wide shots of the east Anglian countryside are calming, a welcome balm especially if you are a city dweller in need of space relief. You too will want to have a cuppa sitting under the big tree. Even if you aren’t a detectorist, there are few ways to spend a day more pleasant than being in a field under a vast expanse of blue sky.

MacKenzie Crook, the writer-director-actor who birthed the series has given us something singular and unique. Thank you, MC, for a series with heart and soul. Thank you, BBC, for letting MC have free rein. And free reign.

Pub? Go on then.

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The Ringer

Detectorists: When people find it and realise what it is, they hold it close to them

 

Conference Room Kerfluffle

5 September, 2018

LIFE AT WORK: Bumped from Conference Room Edition

Dear CoWorker:

Our program meeting is a standing meeting that was scheduled for the 2nd floor conference room before the scheduling conflict in the 3rd floor conference room arose.

I understand that (YOUR IMPORTANT) program standing meeting dropped off the 3rd floor conference room calendar. If there is a scheduling conflict with (YOUR VERY IMPORTANT) program meeting, I would suggest that you inform the planner of that conflicting meeting that (YOUR SUPER VERY IMPORTANT) program meeting takes precedence as per (DR. GRAND POOH BAH) and (OTHER POOH BAH). If the planner of the conflicting meeting can move into an available slot in the 2nd floor conference room that’s great, but it is not appropriate to bump a standing meeting from the 2nd floor just because there was a conflict on the 3rd floor with your (SO INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT IT CANNOT EVER BE MOVED) meeting.

(Floor numbers have been changed to protect the innocent.)

LV 2009 Planet Hollywood ext 2

Bookishly Yours

26 May, 2018

My friend Karin passed away two months ago. She wasn’t one to share her troubles so her friends didn’t know she was ill. At her passing, we were gobsmacked. If you knew her or read her writing, you know how clever and funny she was.

She really was. She hated links in blog posts but she’ll have to endure this one: Altadena Hiker

Generally speaking, books–the physical things that have spines and pages and take up space–well, those wonderful objects now rest in the delicate balance between “These are the best objects ever” and “What ever will we do with all these?”

Karin departed with no plan for her earthly possessions. On the last day her house was being emptied, I rescued her books from the dumpster. I don’t have room for any more books so I’ve been driving them around in my car all week. Along with her dusty leather jacket and a London Fog raincoat she wore in the 80’s. And a wall hanging that covered a big hole in her bedroom wall. It looked as if she’d given that wall a good kick.

Her books: gardening, gardening in southern California, hiking, hiking in southern California, the history of southern California, cook books, classic novels, a coffee table book about Norway (her parents were emigrees), a sprinkling of favorite childhood books (Caddie Woodlawn, Betsy in Spite of Herself). Jhumpa Lahiri might be pleased to know that she was quite literally snatched off the dump-bound truck, along with “Making the San Fernando Valley: Rural Landscapes, Urban Development and White Privilege” by Laura Barraclough.

One of the guys cleaning out the house asked if I were going to give the books to a library. My mind flashed on the huge library sale scheduled for the weekend. Even libraries are shedding their books these days.

I don’t know what to make of a world without physical books. I don’t know what to make of a world without Karin.

Community

29 March, 2018

You wrote that you were ill, but knowing how private you are I didn’t ask you to elaborate. Even asking a simple question would have felt like prying. So I didn’t ask. Nor did I offer help. But this post is not about beating myself up after the fact.

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Cultured, well-read, well-travelled, funny and clever. You had your theories about life and people, and they always rang true. You had a command of words. Your writing was funny, wistful, charming…

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I found this book on your desk, and it is a shame you are not in it. But you wrote about your own mother in this post. Brilliant.

— * * * —

Tim wrote a poem for you:

When walking on a hardwood floor,
she preferred to be bare-footed.
When sharing foodie wonders more
Green lipped mussels would be assure-ed.
Her sport ‘twixt equus and tennis soared
with blinding thought awareness.
Karin, your somber, elegant vibe
hiked out in blogger even-fairness.
To all such fancy we celebrate
the watchful eye you fathomed,
Whilst conjuring life’s circuitous course,
A leaping o’er the chasm.

Twelfth Night with a Pasadena Twist

6 January, 2018

Christmas music is a wonderful thing, made terrible by repeated play over a short period of time, compounded by the more popular tunes being played ad nauseam while perfectly wonderful music is left by the wayside. I suppose I’ll be waiting for pop radio to play “The Rebel Jesus” by Jackson Browne for years to come.

A Christmas tune popped into my head—“Some Children See Him.” I’ve heard the James Taylor version. It was written by Alfred S. Burt, who wrote a Christmas carol each year—a tradition started by his father, Bates G. Burt. The elder Burt was an Episcopal priest who wrote a carol every year to include with his Christmas cards. Son Alfred studied jazz at the University of Michigan, and he continued the tradition, collaborating with Wilha Hutson after the elder Burt passed away.

Albert Burt’s carols gained popularity and an album called “The Christmas Mood” was released in 1954, shortly after his untimely passing at age 33 (lung cancer). I’m not familiar with all the Burt carols, but I love choral music and who can argue with four-part harmonies?

Why I love the Internet – Part #93

A little clicking around and I discovered that Alfred Burt’s older brother was John H. Burt, an Episcopal priest like their father, Bates G. Burt. John Burt was rector of All Saints Pasadena (1957-1967), and cemented All Saints tradition of being at the forefront of civil rights issues. From his obituary in the Los Angeles Times:

“A friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Bishop Burt helped organize massive civil rights rallies in Los Angeles, including a 1963 event in South Los Angeles that attracted 30,000 people. He also was a vocal supporter of César Chávez and the farm workers’ movement.”

The carol tradition continues with Diane Bates Burt (daughter of Alfred Burt), and Abbie Burt Betinis, granddaughter of John Burt. Wow –listen to this. What a remarkable family!

Rose Parade 2016

1 January, 2016

On TV, the Rose Parade looks orderly. Polished. Once the parade gets past the network cameras, it’s real life and real people.

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They say never to view the parade from the north side of Colorado Boulevard because the floats are built to look good for the cameras located on the south side. And, as the parade goes on, the sun rises right into your eyes. I stood on the north side anyway, because it was nice to feel the warmth of the sun.

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Parades are like coconut or cilantro. You either like them or you don’t.

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I like parades. Oh, I know the Rose Parade is corporate and blah blah blah. The floats are beautiful, and half the fun for me is being in a crowd of people who are having fun.

The Disney float was a crowd pleaser.

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One need not watch The Batchelor to appreciate this float, and one need not include said Batchelor in the photo either.

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Another hometown crowd pleaser. The two young women standing next to me made a point of staying to see this one.

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I like it that flowers are fashioned into things terrifying and beautiful:

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RB 2016 Dragon 2

And into things whimsical:

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The parade had its usual fits and starts this year…big spaces between entries; traffic jams during which the parade stopped and dancers performed for 5 minutes straight – and bless their hearts they still had five miles to go; and floats that had to be towed.

Good-bye until next year–

RB 2016 Wave to Band

P.S. It was too beautiful to spend the rest of the day inside, so I watched the sunset from Chaney Trail. The lights in the center are the Rose Bowl.

1:1:2016 sunset 1

 

Apple, Can You Hear Me Now?

23 October, 2015

I made a dreadful mistake when I bought my iPhone 5S. I bought the phone with a 16 GB capacity—even after the recommendation of the esteemed Robin Collins, a noted academic and all-around good guy who contemplates (and speaks and writes about) heady things like the relationship of science and religion. When he buys a device he pays the extra bucks for more memory–especially when the option of expanding the memory yourself does not exist (as in all things Apple)–because the point of the device is to hold your stuff. To this, I can add a resounding note to self: DUH.

I bought my iPhone 5S from my carrier, Verizon, at a time when they had shelved their happy habit of subsidizing phones.The helpful hint of the esteemed Dr. Collins did not echo in my cotton wool grey matter as I stood in the Verizon store on Mother’s Day, 2014, being wooed by an employee who threw in a free Mophie and lovingly applied a screen protector to my iPhone 5S with its paltry 16 GB.

Yes, I had the promise that I could upgrade to an iPhone 6 after six months. But when the iPhone 6 came out, I couldn’t see the point of making the switch. So I didn’t, and now I’m just about done paying full price for an iPhone even though I have been with Verizon for 15 years. Thanks, Verizon!*

More on the upgrade I missed: I reckon I should have checked to see how much of my 16 GB I was using when I first became eligible for the upgrade and before I started receiving the dread, daily message: “Your storage is almost full. You can manage your storage in settings.” Naturally, this message pops up when I’m taking a photo standing in the middle of Times Square and the Naked Cowboy happens by. (NB: He’s not really naked.)

Enter another science guy…my friend LT who works at JPL. LT is that lovely sort of science nerd who is always ready to talk about the latest Dr. Who. One day LT pulls from his pocket a marvel of human design, the lovely OnePlus One mobile phone. As much I as like the look of the Christian Louboutin Vampydoly Asymmetric Red Sole Pump in Black for $1095 (seen here), you’ll not see one on my foot because in all things sartorial, comfort is king for me and a shortened Achilles tendon is not an option. But show me a slick new device and I’m jelly-kneed, and a bit jelly-brained as well because my first thought is, “Oooh, pretty!” and not about the specs under the hood.

Turns out the OnePlus One is quite robust under the hood (if you can live with a non-removable battery) and quite reasonably priced. So I got one, took it to Verizon and BOOM. It’s a GSM phone that will not work over Verizon’s CDMA network. I knew about GSM vs CDMA before I bought the phone, but of course did not bother to check it out (oooh, pretty!). Besides, I wanted a phone that works in Europe without paying Verizon’s completely extortionary prices for the privilege.

Do I go to Europe frequently? Why, no, I don’t. But I intend to rectify this any year now. This past summer, I did go to Europe…France and England. I loved trekking down Oxford Street to the O2 store to get a SIM card. I loved, for a brief two weeks, having a UK phone number. (Of course in my case this is directly related to having lived in England as a teenager. Every teenager wants a phone, right?)

Back at home, I parted ways with my lovely OnePlus One–but not before it greeted me: Welcome to America! Reunited with my iPhone, I have been deleting apps, moving pictures elsewhere…yet still The Dread Message appears.

Let me take a little detour here and talk about why it is important to know (and remember) that there are simply some subjects that your significant other may not have the facility to handle. Simply put, know your significant other and trust that certain things Must Not Be Discussed.

My SO (aka: The Scout) has many wonderful qualities, but talking tech is not one of them–that is, if a discussion about cell phones and memory and data plans can even be considered true tech talk. It is possible that the Scout is so tech-adverse as to actually harbor a suspicion that mobile technology is a threat to our humanity—that it is eating away at true human interaction and replacing it with a simulacrum. In his mind, we are our true human selves in the wilderness, sitting around a campfire, wearing yesterday’s underwear and looking at the stars (he would allow a telescope in this instance).

I will confess that my screen-time habits are less than stellar. I wake up in the middle of the night and grab my phone. I’m not sure why it is critically important to me to read the New York Times “Your Morning Briefing” at 4:00 am, but I often do. The Scout rolls over and is met with an eerie lipid-green glow. He is sure that my soul is being sucked away. I try to tell him it’s not the technology that is a challenge to the soul–it’s the reading about Syrian refugees, unnecessary deaths, and all manner of impending doom…

In an effort to reunite with my OnePlus One, I’ve gone off the deep end researching other cell phone providers: the big guys and the MVNOs—Mobile Virtual Network Operators. I had to consider whether to leave Verizon so I could reunite with my ‘summer love’ phone. The short answer is No. Reasons:

  1. I get a nice 22% discount with Verizon thanks to my employer. (In other words, I’ve been grabbed by the short and curlies.)
  2. Verizon’s coverage is excellent, and it is especially good for the Scout—the self-proclaimed “Sultan of the Mojave Desert.”
  3. I have six people and nine devices on my plan. One of these six people is a true blue Verizon believer and his head will explode if I change to another carrier.
  4. Thanks to Verizon’s new data plan, we now share 18 GB of data for $100.00 per month.
  5. Verizon is throwing in 5 GB of cloud storage for “free.” That’s lovely. Too bad I don’t have room to download the app on my iPhone.

Once I realized that I will be wedded to Verizon for a while longer, I bought a tablet for The Scout (details below). He’s got an old flip phone, and this spiffy device gives him an easy way to check his e-mail or send a text when he’s out in the field. Not that he really wants to do either of these things, or the gazillion other things that are possible. Will he take a picture of the stars and upload it for all to see? No. He’ll insist you see the stars for yourself. I can’t say I disagree with him on that.

As for me and my summer love, I plan to play the field. I am going to buy a one month plan with an MVNO for my OnePlus One. More on that later.

*To be fair, Verizon has gone back to their two-year commitment pricing, so I could upgrade to another phone for less than full price.

Notes on the tablet: Costco is offering an LG GPad X8.3 for free (until 10/31/2015). “Free” meaning you pay $150.00 for the device and Costco sends you a $150.00 rebate to use at Costco. Of course, you pay Verizon an upgrade fee ($40.00–a bit nasty of them, I think), and you sign a contract for two years for the device ($10 a month). But this nifty little LG GPad has some nice specs: a USB port (rare for a tablet), expandable memory (Apple, hear that?), a stylus and a decent display. The CNET review is here.

 

Lakenheath Gathering in San Antonio

7 April, 2015

There was a gathering of Lakenheath Lancers in San Antonio over the weekend of 4-5 April (folks who attended high school at RAF Lakenheath, UK). Photos below and at: http://imageevent.com/getdown/lakenheathinsanantonio

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Don’t take my picture!

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Help Keep a Family Housed this Holiday Season

5 December, 2014

Easter update: Many, many thanks to all who donated to this effort. We raised $1,955.00 – a mere $45 from the goal of $2,000. The family still has their rental house and they are doing well. Thank you!

Happy Holidays and Welcome to those who have arrived here from Indiegogo. For those who’ve landed here from elsewhere, I’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign to help a family keep a roof over their heads this holiday season.

You can read about the campaign here: Help Keep a Family Housed this Holiday Season. The short version is: Family breadwinner with health problems without paid sick leave equals financial disaster and threat of homelessness for said breadwinner and her children.

Donors to the campaign have the option to claim a Perk. This campaign is offering photographs by Timothy Down, photographer and motion picture location specialist. All photographs are printed on quality photo paper and are suitable for framing.

Below are images of the Perks available to donors of “Help Keep a Family Housed this Holiday Season.”

1. Planet of the Apes Location – (Trona Pinnacles) – For a $50 donation to the Indiegogo campaign, you have the option to receive one of the following six images. If you have a strong preference for a particular image, leave a comment below and we’ll get in touch with you via e-mail.

Trona Pinnacles 1

Trona Pinnacles 2

Trona Pinnacles 3

For a donation of $75 or above, choose one of the following images:

Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica Beach, California

Mojave Desert Railroad Crossing

Mojave Desert Railroad Crossing, California

Butterfly In The Sky

Butterfly in the Sky, Los Angeles, California

Mars Attacks 1

Mars Attacks, Owens Dry Lake, California

________________________

All photos by Timothy Down.

Thanks for looking!

Art Appreciation

8 October, 2014

I’ve just discovered Niki de Saint Phalle. Love her version of The Three Graces:

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Photo courtesy of Arts Observer.

More Niki de Saint Phalle goodness via Arts Observer here.

These sculptures were a temporary installation, placed by the National Museum of Women in the Arts as part of the the New York Avenue Sculpture project, which is “…the only public art space featuring changing installations of contemporary works by women artists in Washington, D.C.”

Yay for public art!

But wait – there’s more. Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido is Niki de Saint Phalle’s only American sculpture garden. It’s been closed since last year for repairs, but it will be open this Saturday, 11 October 2014. Details here.