What About Those Other Blogs?

Although I would like my current readers (and more) to peruse and ponder each of my daily posts on the blog (and I do appreciate your interest from literally around the world but mostly around the U.S.), I am not much of a reader of blogs myself. I only follow a very few, and periodically check in on some news/opinion blogs and some entertainment ones as well, but not often.

I read what my nephew Tim posts here, and what friend Book Mama has to say. In fact, Book Mama’s blog was one of my inspirations and got me to include the ClusterMaps widget. I also check out Empanada Intifada (another inspiration, as you can see if you go all the way back to the beginning) to see what luscious new recipes appear there. The latter two and some connection I had already made on Facebook got me to use WordPress to publish my blog, and a Dashboard application helps me keep abreast of blogs on WordPress (but only theirs: it wouldnʼt let me add Timʼs to the watch list). Of course for all three of these I have a personal interest, either family or former student.

Speaking personally, I have tried to follow as well the blogs of my readers who felt themselves inspired to start a blog, such as friend Sharkleen’s meditations. However, since Sharon is the only one to let me know she has started a blog, hers is the only one of my readers’ postings of which I am aware.

Once I started using the Scrivener application for my writing, I also stumbled on The Edited Life by a much more tech-savvy and dedicated potential professional writer than myself. For a while she had been posting Scrivener tips each Tuesday, and once I became a Scrivener fan on Facebook, my feed let me know about those posts. Consequently, I have been following her blog also, even though we’ve never met, I don’t know her, and I haven’t let her know about my interest in her writing (or in her blog at least). I do enjoy that like me she is addicted to checking her blogʼs statistics.

Other than that, my blog life is pretty much restricted to some news articles, some intriguing stumble-upons, and other blogs that pop up in my Facebook feed, like John Stewart (although usually just links to his program online) and Rachel Maddow. Somewhat as I used to watch evangelical-goober TV like The 700 Club to make myself aware of (and angry about) the ignorance and bigotry being preached, I do check out the posts of some Rightist/Libertarian* groups and prominent individuals — Rush Limbaugh has refused to even acknowledge my responses, but the ideologue dictators of the world always do refuse to admit (or tolerate) opposition. I have also gotten intrigued/amused by the paranoidsters out there, blithering conspiracy theories of all shapes and shallowness (coming across their ravings sometimes while doing research for possible story ideas). Like Robertsonʼs meanderings, these usually inflame my ire, naturally — but that can be a good thing, too: during my morning runs I have been developing a satirical future for a story to be entitled “No Public Options,” in which government has been eroded to figurehead status and the U.S. is dominated by corporate manipulation and self-interest alone to the natural detriment of ordinary citizens. Maybe I should finish it, post it here, and let it go viral (through your kind cooperation, of course).

Otherwise, I remain innocent of the 141 million blogs (according to this weekʼs Newsweek) percolating around us in this cyberuniverse.

So, even though there are not very many of you out there (and I have absolutely no idea who is creating that big red dot in southern California on the ClusterMap), I do appreciate your taking time (and possibly sometimes effort) to check on what I have to blather about each day. Equally charmed to have found readers across the globe (who mostly have a personal connection of some kind, Iʼm sure, as with my own selection of blog readings).

Making me Gratefully Yours, until next time.

* Now there is a misused and abused term on which I should write one day: no “libertarian” should insist others must think like he does, nor do I feel that the word has any actual connection to the Right (or probably the Left).

Working for a Living

Posts might be getting thin for a while. I just got a job.

The Census called last Thursday evening, and the gentleman in charge offered me a position. I am training this week. Itʼs also a more authoritative position than I had anticipated, so I will truly be working, leaving me little time for posts, I fear. This one at least is going to be brief.

I have been training since Monday and earning some cash while doing so — not a bad deal overall. I even get mileage for the forty-mile trek to the training center. As a government employee naturally I must keep secret all the top secret details of my new temporary career or else I would tell you about every exciting minute so far. Fortunately, my loyalty to the United States isnʼt really forbidding me from revealing anything (figure it out…), so you are not missing much.

…or… some random stuff for a Wednesday

Actually, I am writing this post on Saturday (last Saturday, not this coming one) in anticipation of a busy week, so I really canʼt give you any details yet.

Other things I can report on. Dawn and Kevin did come for the weekend (well, for a brief part of the weekend). At least I hope they did: theyʼre supposed to be here within the hour, but they havenʼt arrived yet nor let us know theyʼre on their way. But that pattern is not uncommon for their visits. We should be getting a cell call soon indicating that they are north of Davenport and getting close. Janet is planning Indian food for dinner tonight, and I keep interrupting myself typing (not dictating just now) this post to cut veggies and do stuff for her/with her.

Dawn and Kevin will be leaving early tomorrow (Sunday—sorry about that: Iʼm feeling stuck in my actual present just now), so Janet intends that weʼll search out the site for my training as an activity on Sunday (that way I wonʼt be having to think/find it Monday morning). That should be fun for us, I hope. Maybe we can take the opportunity to enjoy a nice Sunday late lunch or dinner somewhere interesting.

The Decker House, eastern (front) view — click for a link to the intertesting take on my home town in someoneʼs blog

We did enjoy a pleasant lunch at the Decker House (a fairly frequent Saturday noontime event for us) and learned all about our waitressʼs life as a college student working three part-time jobs. She made my use of time sound downright pathetic (and I know—you all thought it was pretty pathetic all along). The Decker is pretty nice, essentially a bed-and-breakfast operation now (if you click the link/the picture, you can see one of the rooms on the photographerʼs blog; amusingly he is currently living in Prague apparently). The Deckerʼs evening menu is quite miderwesternly boring, but we like sitting in the sunshine for lunch—me having the soup and salad with a couple or three Fat Tires. Most of our friends and family have gone there for dinner with us, sometimes more than once.

Unfortunately, except for Flapjackʼs (a family place with big food) and Obyʼs (a longtime bar famous for their nontraditional but really good “Mexican” food—get the burrito), the only choices after the Decker for eating out in Maquoketa are a newish Mexican place (pretty good) downtown, pizza and bars (nasty, divy bars, too, if you know what I mean). To eat, we choose the Decker or go out of town. Which is why I try to cook so much for us at home (although the new job is going to be making that harder to pull off; even making lunch is going to become more of a squeeze-it-in-as-possible chore).

Of course, working for the Census means I have had to cancel some of the sub jobs I had accepted at Andrew—in particular the one this past Monday, when I had hoped to take my photo of the famous third graders. Now I guess I have let them down (letʼs hope instead that their notorious short attention spans have left them with no recollection that I promised to take their picture, perhaps even with no recollection of that one sub they had not too long ago). Truthfully, I had three days slated for this week, and they all had to go for the Census training (and Iʼll be training my own people toward the end of the month; that should be an interesting experience: I never have taught adults yet in my life, outside of directing community theatre plays and doing some how-to-use-a-computer and how-to-get-online workshops back in the Nineties). I hope Andrew will still be interested in hiring me as a sub in the fall…

Janet just had me search for the naan sheʼd bought while visiting her sister in Milwaukee a couple of weekends back (the reason for this interest in Indian cuisine), so this entry keeps getting more disjointed. Maybe I should say that getting toward a thousand words is okay and quit for now. I am, after all, now five days ahead of real life, and maybe work will leave me with a few spare minutes for the blog and actual writing. Weʼll just have to see.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


I did take some effort to look through the page for The Book of Seasons and make some much-needed corrections of computer-misheard words and phrases. If any of you read through it and noticed errors I have not fixed, please let me know. With that page in existence, I think I’ll leave the original posts for the last two weekends of that story’s first two chapters as they originally appeared. After all, it is good to be reminded of one’s foolishness, laziness or excessive haste: I did a couple of weekend posts on self-humiliation and its value to oneself back in January (here and here).

However, reading through the saga of Wakdjunkaga’s arrival in room 430 of the Hotel Allison, I started thinking about that character, how he — imagined in the mid-70s — compares to or parallels with me today, as he is supposed to be the future self of that pompous little narrator. I do remember (vaguely by now) that it was in my head to try to predict my own future self in the description of Wakdjunkaga. Doing makeup in high school, community theater and especially college (when I took an interim course during either my sophomore or junior year for three or four weeks on makeup) and having to play characters considerably older than your actual (teen) age interestingly focuses your attention on the issues of aging. There’s nothing like drawing smile lines and facial creases to make you consider the actual, future swipes of the scythe of time (thanks for that image, Will Shakespeare).

I had been made aware by the time I left Fort Madison of my impending balditude. It was an incident I have used in another story — not one, thanks to its vulgar language, that is likely to appear here — when I and two friends had driven up to Minneapolis to attend the Minnesota Renaissance Fair. As we were barely out of college and I had yet to meet my future travel agent/wife, we didn’t make much in the way of preparations and arrived on a Friday evening — no, make that pretty late at night — with no hotel reservation. And it was not only the Renaissance Fair but the Minnesota State Fair that weekend. We visited many hotels before we finally found some rooms. Then having driven for six straight hours and searched for several more, we needed to eat and went to some all-night place like Country Kitchen. While in the restaurant my companions, a male and female — a couple at that time, began giggling at each other as I bent over to slurp soup or eat something that lowered my head at them. They wouldn’t confess what was so funny for a while, but it was my incipient bald spot. I was probably 22 or 23. A crushing blow in those days of long, hippie hair (regardless how unruly, scraggly and unattractive my own hair was; and I had even cut my hair to go off for student teaching — a hugely transitional action).

Naturally, in the story’s “prediction,” I clearly have underestimated the extent of my actual hair loss. And I am currently many years from turning 70. Still another example of imagination outrunning reality to one’s personal frustration.

Unfortunately, at least at present, I also underestimated “his” appearance in other ways, particularly in weight. I’ve been working on the issue I raised January 31, and my running routine has recommenced, but I’m afraid this Wakdjunkaga (meaning the genuine me) in this particular actual reality among the potentially infinite variations of the multiverse is not the svelte and scrawny fellow from the story.

Durwood Wakdjunkaga (?) in the portrait infamously not by Rembrandt van Rijn

Of course, I was also misleading myself, suckered by the all-powerful allure of Art. (And I don’t mean someone nicknamed from Arthur.) Also in my head while writing those vastly dated chapters about the Hotel Allison was the first image of actual Art I had ever acquired (and which, to Janet’s chagrin and amusement, I still possess). One day after my family had moved to Mt. Pleasant, while I was still in high school, maybe even in the first year we lived in that community, my sophomore year, I was sent to the grocery store. I don’t remember at all what I was sent buy, but on display were certain “art prints” available at a discount to customers. There had to be more than just one such print, but I only remember the one that hypnotized my utter being: Rembrandt’s The Man in a Golden Helmet. I don’t remember if it came home with me that day or if it took a while, but fairly soon I was the proud possessor of the cardboard print, to be held in its very own “genuine wooden” frame.

The print held a place of honor in many of my residences, beginning with my own rooms in our family home on Green Street. Since our marriage, Janet has consigned it to less important locations than I had preferred. And it spent the last 20 years or more in various places around my room and the drama storage at Andrew Community School, once I brought it there, later to be copied by art instructor Steve Lucke as the portrait of Sir Simon de Canterville for our production of The Canterville Ghost (and Lucke made an excellent copy that looked just like actor Drew Goettler). Now it lives in our garage, alongside my favorite heirloom from high school drama, a photograph of V. I Lenin, which I was altogether too abashed to ever take to school.

Of course, Man in a Golden Helmet is the most famous painting to be infamously not by Rembrandt. Don’t believe me? Click the link in the title of the picture above. Time Magazine explains it all very well. That damned Rembrandt authentication committee! I’m afraid that Janet took great glee (and still does), reminding me the picture has long been discredited, however much I may yet love it.

That old man in that golden helmet, I know, was meant to be Durwood Wakdjunkaga in The Book of Seasons. So if you read those posts or the page, don’t imagine the hairless, chubby author in that role but the well-known non-Rembrandt figure, dressed in modern clothes.

Clearly, if I meant Wakdjunkaga to be a kind of imagined future self portrait, I failed. On the other hand, some elements of my personal taste in clothing seem to have been set earlier than I had recalled. I’m thinking of that vest Wakdjunkaga is wearing. I had thought that at the time I wrote these chapters of The Book of Seasons, the vest was just imaginary. Or at best it was a modification of the blue denim chore coats I had started wearing about the time I settled down in Maquoketa.

—But this particular post may have run on long enough for today. We’ll discuss vests and pockets another time.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Blushes of Warmth: Some Randomness Today

150 Hits in One Day!

Wow. We got nearly 150 hits in one day yesterday! That’s not even an achievement in the world of real blogging (i.e. for profit or political advantage), but it’s a major development in the little world of Wakdjunkaga’s Blog, nearly doubling all the views so far. I’m quite pleased, although I have to admit the obvious advertising I tried on Facebook yesterday afternoon clearly paid off and therefore proves lessons about shameless self-promotion I would rather not acknowledge.

Regardless, thanks all, for taking the time from real life to visit my little realm of musings and maunderings. Please, follow the lead of my distant friend Sharon (who actually bothered to comment yesterday—fantastic!) and tell all your friends. I would actually enjoy being forced to consider what it’s like to write for an audience of more than one (or two or three).





another cold day in Iowa (notice the plant I call “zazu grass” to the left)

Still Cold Here…

looking west from the office (sorry about the screen—again)

I just decided on the title of this piece, and I wish it referred to the temperature outdoors (or here in the little office Janet decided last late winter we were going to create from our third bedroom). It’s still below zero out there with a noticeable breeze shoving and tugging at the neighbors’ little stand of zazu grass and the tips of the lilac bush just outside my west window. Since the office sits on the northwest corner of our house—featuring the irritating view of Gasser True Value and Fareway’s backsides; my, how I miss the old field and the cows—it’s probably only about 55 in here. Even with my defingered gloves cloaking my palms and (up to the first knuckle) fingers, the keyboard is cold to the touch today. And we’re looking forward to more snow already—heading in Wednesday night into Thursday, supposedly four to eight inches. I am beginning to be very glad that Janet suggested we buy a new snowblower…

Ah, well, Iowa in winter. Probably you will all be reading about shoveling and snowblowing adventures later this week. All the news broadcasts last night were jubilantly (weather people are a strange breed) demonstrating that Minnesota and Iowa had the coldest air in the nation flowing directly south from Hudson’s Bay at us—a dark purple trace directly down the body of Minnesota, widening over Iowa. Officially, winter’s just begun, too.

Limitations of Our Electronic Reality

Speaking of nature, I called the neighbors’ planting “zazu grass”—a term I acquired orally from Janet (so I’m just guessing at the spelling), but trying to search that word on Google and Yahoo gave me no results—except for the Lion King hornbill , a California hair salon and roadhouse, and an Alabama restaurant. Yahoo suggested I try “Yahoo Answers,” but that route also ended in frustration and The Lion King. Wikipedia (as I had predicted to myself) was even more worthless, being even more mired in popular culture and teenagers’ preoccupations than the internet at large (meaning only The Lion King). The Encylopaedia Britannica site, being so veddy veddy British, predictably had nothing on either “zazu” or “zazu graass.”

There’s food for thought here. Are we growing too dependent on a source of information that actually restricts the amount of information we can receive to elements from popular culture only? I mentioned in revising my personal profile for this site yesterday that I have a novel about François Villon baking. Internet research on fifteenth century Paris is remarkably limited in its results (even in French—more or less unreadable to me), whereas various books I own (and many more cited as references in those books’ bibliographies) provide much more. But fifteenth century Paris is not particularly part of popular culture, even with a Disneyfication of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The internet feels, especially with multiple thousands—sometimes millions—of hits resulting from any search, that it has unlimited resources of information online. But so often it turns out to be the same stuff reported in often the very same words from site to site. Or the paranoid expostulations of politically psychotic conspiracy addicts…

Looking for Your Help

Here’s the plant. What is it? What would you call it?

Perhaps more on all that later. For right now, my frustration about having the right word for this plant made me think that having a visual search engine would be useful. (I know that Google and some others are working on just that. Even my iPhoto program tries to create a database of faces from all the photos I load on the computer.) And then I realized that if I had some readers, perhaps I could draw on your knowledge to identify what I was looking at. Examine the picture and let me know, if you know. Possibly the real value of the internet is the digital communities we are forging into existence by our use of computerized communications.

I just learned yesterday that if you click on the photos in WordPress blogs, you can see the full image in its true size (which means to me that I don’t have to keep working so hard at the placement and sizing of pictures from now on). It also means that you can click on the “zazu grass” image to see the plant somewhat larger, and hopefully that enhancement will help your identification.

This seems a kind of a cheat as an entry for today, but I really have been thinking about the weather and the information unavailable via the internet.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.