Sunday, December 28, 2014

Another Step into Technology


I confess. I will be 70 this summer. And one of the greatest things happened to me 13 years ago Christmas eve. I was involved in a ski accident which compressed three discs in my neck and knocked me into my right brain - literally. Witnesses to the accident said I was hit hard enough by a speeding skier to fly into the air and land on my head.

The resultant closed brain trauma CBT or shaken baby head injury turned off my left brain control and let my right brain run completely free. It is why I paint, why I photo edit in such wild colors, and why I do not use manuals to learn technological devices. Hell, I confess, I cannot read manuals any more. Once when I was a technical writer I wrote them. I translated accountants to computer programmers and computer programmers to management. Boy, that wasn't easy.

Since the head injury I have adapted to digital cameras, digital post processing programs, laptops, tablets, and my latest, the ipod. And all without cracking a book. I divine them. If you look at technology as right brain tools to perform left brain tasks they are really simple. Especially since the advent of the mouse and drag and drop (or with tablets swipe and drop).

Meanwhile I seem to be surrounded with left brain friends that have to first download and print out the manuals some nerd wrote. I admit I have from time to time accessed briefly a manual but never downloaded it. It eliminates the search function. Okay, I downloaded my camera manuals to my tablet. But that does not eliminate the search function. The key here is the absolute worst aspect of any technical manual is the Index or table of contents. You are never going to find anything that way.

Today I complicated my Songbird (android ipod) with Amazon Music. But I knew on some totally alien level that the computer would put my music in a common file to be used by both programs. And it did. Back to drag and drop. So America, Seals and Croft, and the Eagles, automatically ripped by Amazon and put in the cloud for me, when I bought the CD's was downloaded today and then uploaded to my Songbird. I totally get clouds. I would not have bought the CD's but just the rips if it was not for Big Blue which does not have a radio with plug in for my Songbird or a USB port for a jump drive.

All of this has allowed me to tune into the songs of my youth before clouds were just those puffy things in the sky. And I think I can access my Amazon Music library in the cloud with my Amazon fire and tune in without downloading. I found the place the ear phones connect.

All of this is in answer to a friend who wants to know how I learned that? A younger sister has helped when I had questions but basically my right brain wanted it to be that easy and my cognitive trainer said, "Why not?"

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

May You Live in Interesting Times

Or so goes the ancient Chinese curse. And if true I have been cursed the last couple of weeks because they have definitely been interesting. Frankly, while I will deny it, I think it is good to be knocked off balance a bit from time to time. The key is to not be standing on the edge of a precipice when that happens.

But perhaps I was flying too high or, even worse, too low. Definitely enjoying the moment with a nice commission for a new painting, finally getting something done on better medicare coverage, good set of pet clients lined up for December and January, and most annoyances out of town. Before the plane flames out there are usually a few coughs and sputters. And there were. The priority envelope for insurance went lost; quick recovery with faxes. Note: it is now week three and the envelope is still lost.  Took the Corolla in for front struts figuring half of the quote for both. Wrong. Of course. But oddly I had the money. Just do not get to spend it on a new stereo for the truck.

Commission was going good at that time. Few non-artists understand all the things that can go wrong with a commission wanted by Christmas. Then one of my canine charges killed my cat Scrappy. In the studio. Under the commissioned painting on the easel. The Lt. Col. taught me well. I went into clean up mode, assured myself the painting was okay. Took the canine charges back to their home. Put Scrappy in a bag and into a freezer. (ground will not thaw until May. Scrubbed the floor. Landed the plane, as it were, and broke down into hysterical tears.

Watching Ken Burns' documentary on the Roosevelt's and how they battled depression by doing. I think I fit into that model. And so I just kept doing. The painting still needed to be done. So do those various other pet sitting jobs. But solutions needed to be found out about the offending dog and its pack mate. Could not get hold of the owner. Only thing which makes a depression worse is being on wait. But there I was. Where Scrappy wasn't any more. Except every time I walked into the studio I could see his body there on the floor under the glorious mustang painting. Artists have vivid memories.

I have in fact been force marching myself out of this wilderness. One step at a time. One foot in front of another. Do what you can do and hide the rest. The painting is done, delivered and hung. The owner of the dogs has called and made it all about her. The killer has been put down, the innocent one is here, being watched most carefully by Willow and me. I am still breaking down in tears about Scrappy, and a couple other fur kids I know who crossed the rainbow bridge in a span of a few days. The Lt.Col. would have admonished me about the tears, but patted me on the back about how I handled it all.

Working on soaring again. In the back of my mind (maybe to keep it off of images that kept replaying) I have been working on an idea for a new painting. One of Ravens at a Wake. Solstice has passed and the days are getting longer. Not opposed to interesting times. They allow you opportunities for growth and proving your mettle, but routine has points in its favor.

Friday, December 19, 2014

It's Complicated

It's Complicated
A dog
killed a cat.

More complicated
Her dog killed
my cat.

My close friend's dog
my beloved cat
in my house.

Even more complicated,
a friendship which
had its issues 
before her dog
killed my cat.

She lied about the dog
before she left him
in my care
 in my house
Where brutally this morning
he killed my cat.

The case of murder
is more complicated, Judge,
than just the facts
There is betrayal, lies, evasion
the killer
still in my care.

Who is at fault
The dog I have known for ten
the owner I have known for forty
the cat being too trusting
or me for trusting them all.

It's complicated
I am less one cat
less a trusted friend
but still must
care for the dog
that killed
my cat.

Rest in Peace, Scrappy.
j. binford-bell
December 18, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Moving toward 2015

Eagle Nest Lodge
Blindly we move toward 2015, poised on the edge of another economic cliff, and being shoved over by a greedy tea party members.  I say blindly because corporate capitalistic America gets us involved in a feeding frenzy of materialism at this time of year when we should be paying attention to the thieves in DC. But being as I am unconcerned with materialism (well, there is a new laptop I am looking at), I was lured by a spring like day so I set forth with camera to record my neighborhood. Yes, escapism, but one can stand just so much of Scrooge (or Scrooges as in GOP Congress), besides I voted and it did no good, but my conscious is clear.

So cameras in Big Blue I motored to the thrift store in Eagle Nest, New Mexico and arrived too early for the favorite to be open but just in time for a great series of photos with awesome lighting. There are three major landmarks which I have photographed as a marker of my time this side of the mountain: Eagle Nest Lodge, Eagle Nest Lake, and Wheeler Peak.

Wheeler Peak

When I talk of life on this side of the mountain (as opposed to the Taos County side I once lived in) it is this mountain I am talking about. Well, Wheeler and Old Mike to the left. From Angel Fire you actually see Old Mike but we tell the tourists it is Wheeler. Just seems easier.

It is notable that for mid December there is precious little snow on the top of the mountain or even further down. It does not bode well for Eagle Nest lake at its base.

Eagle Nest Lake at 50% Capacity

How low the lake is probably best explained in the opening photograph. Note all the rings of grass and imagine the water covering all that grass to just the other side of the cottonwoods. In the photo above the water would come up to the first broken ring of conifers all around the lake. Color that blue.

For those greatly distressed by the low level of the lake let me assure you it has been lower. Or so the State Engineer explained on a recent dam tour. Mind you I am opposed to dams in general but this is one dam that is being used for the reason it was built - to preserve water for irrigation of ranches down stream. But if you left it to the visitors and citizens of Eagle Nest they would want to keep it all. But the Cimarron River downstream is a viable fishery which also requires water. Fish need to swim. And the town of Raton gets I believe a large segment of its drinking water from the melted snow contained here. At the moment there is not enough melted snow.

Casa Loma and Eagle Nest Lodge

But when the lake is full no doubt the old Eagle Nest Lodge has a ringside seat. It was built in the late 1920's and is shrouded in legend as to its history, the fire(s) and its closing. Growing up in New Mexico I know of many tales of the "speak easy" days and the gangsters and free spirits who escaped here. Scheduled for demolition since the early 2000's I was surprised to find upon my last visit it has been sold.

The bulldozer is frequently under appreciated as a remodeling tool in New Mexico. And the lodge crumbles on some beautiful property. I had to get out with my camera and record what might well be its last days. And its view of the thirsty lake and the spring like mountains. I think there are ghosts too and wrote a short story about the lodge which appeared in a collection, Enchanted Circle Mysteries, available at the library in Angel Fire.

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and I sometimes wish we could just erect entry ports on all our major highways and require visas to visit here. I am not sure I am happy we are a part of the United States just about now.