How To Spin a Good Yarn

Sometimes it takes a little imagination to spin a good yarn
Sometimes it takes a little imagination to spin a good yarn

“Spin a Yarn”

I have taken this week’s Illustration Friday topic and expanded it from the original “yarn” to the more colloquial “spin a yarn”. This term is kind of aphorism for storytelling in general, so what follows is a short discussion on storytelling.

Step 1

A strawberry moon is a rare astronomical event that occurs when a full moon falls on the solstice
Spinning a good yarn begins with observing an actual real life event. This yarn  begins with the observation of a strawberry moon, a rare astronomical event that occurs, when the full moon falls on the solstice. In reality, such an event just occurred a few days ago.

Step 2

Spinning a good yarn begins with stretching the truth a bit.
Spinning a good yarn is enhanced when the truth is stretched a little bit. Maybe the man in the picture heard the owl or possibly just saw the bird fly by.

Step 3

Next you need to fib a little bit
Next you need to fib a little bit more. A flying canoe is definitely in the land of make believe.

Step 4

Finally there comes the big lie
Finally there comes the big lie. In this case it is the lake monster.

Once In A Very Blue Moon

A Full Moon

Coming Soon

On tomorrow night August 31st a blue moon will occur. No the moon does not turn blue, for this common pair of words is used to describe the uncommon occurrence . And that unusual event is when a full moon occurs twice in the same month. Since a complete lunar cycle takes 29.5 days and every month except February has 30 or more days, a blue moon can occur during eleven of the twelve months. According to NASA, a blue moon occurs on the average about every 2.5 years.

When The Moon Appears Blue

Normally the moon does not appear blue, when it is full. In fact, a twice-a-month ‘blue moon’ has the same color as any other full moon. However, atmospheric effects, like the presence of volcanic ash, smoke from forest fires or ice particles in the sky, can give a full moon a bluish tint. Documented cases of the moon taking on a blueish color are presented at the space weather website.

Optical Illusion

Some blue moons may be all in your head – or at least in the retina of your eyes. This might happen when a person moves quickly from an indoor location, illuminated by an oil lamp to an outdoor site, where the full moon hangs high in the sky. This quick change of scenery can cause the moon to appear blue for a short period of time. Not surprisingly, this phenomena has more to do with the nature of human vision  than any celestial event that occurs in the night sky.

Nanci Griffith
Nanci Griffith is a popular singer who crosses folk with country, photo by Jem1234, from Wikipedia

Popular Slang

Over the years a saying, ‘once in a blue moon’ has developed. More a musical-poetic interpretation of the phrase you might what to check out this song that is performed by Nanci Griffith, entitled Once In A Very Blue Moon. It is a woman’s lament about events in life that only occur on rare intervals. And if you are into lyrics here a is the opening verse and chorus. By the way these words were written by Patrick Alger & Gene Levine.

I found your letter in my mailbox today
You were just checkin’ if I was okay
And if I miss you, well, you know what they say…

Just once… in a very blue moon
Just once in a very blue moon
Just once… in a very blue moon
And I feel one comin’ on soon

New Shoes

cover image for New Shoes
Cover image for my newly, self-published e-book, New Shoes

The Cover

Today, I self-published a new 3,000 word short story at Smashwords. Tomorrow, I will probably add the ebook to Amazon. The story was easy to write, but coming up with a decent cover was a challenge. I can’t say I’m really excited about this one, but it will have to do for now. I used a couple of free images I found at Morguefile to create this undersea collage.

The Story

The story revolves around a young Louisiana fisherman named Jacque LeBeaux and a bunch of trouble he has gotten himself into with some not-so-nice mobsters. I don’t want to say too much, because it will spoil the sea adventure tale….. But I will say that there is a lot of banter and dialogue that goes on between the main character and his captors. You’ll just have to download it and read it to find out how things turn out.

Leaving Las Vegas

Las Vegas bail bonds ad
Las Vegas abounds with bail bondsmen. Fortunately, I escaped without need of any of their services.

Extended Stay

I never expected that my three-day visit to Las Vegas, NV would turn into a three week overnight stay, where most of waking hours were devoted to my job search. Overall, Las Vegas is a pretty strange city, at least to someone there on his/her first visit. My initial impression was how large the place is and then there was the ever-present desert, which on this part of the planet, was very dry and quite extensive. The population of Las Vegas is almost two million and overall the city is described as being the driest county in the driest state of the union. In fact, why I was there, it barely rained, with much of that moisture being re-evaporated into the air by means of walking rain. During my visit I was fascinated by the city, but this was often negated by the emotional stress involved in trying to find a job in a state with 12% unemployment.

Mission Church in New Mexico
Mission Church in New Mexico

Out of the Mission

As time went on and my job searches continued to yield no fruit, I had to shift my living quarters from a hostel to a Christian Rescue Mission. The price was right and contrary to my expectations, the required religious services were quite enjoyable, due to the outstanding musical contributions from a dozen or so of inspired and very talented musicians. However my love of music and by easy going nature could not prevent me from being kicked out of the place, for arriving late to check-in on my last night. This merely meant that my planned departure got bumped forward by 24 hours.

Supermoon
Supermoon

Night of the Super Moon

My eviction came at 4:15 on Saturday afternoon, so I picked up my bags and took a local bus to Boulder City, a Nevada city located just a few miles from the Arizona border, where hitchhiking was legal. The bus contained only a few passengers, but one adventurous soul had brought his mountain bike with him, so he could observe the rare astronomical event from a desert mountain. The “supermoon” arose 9p.m. and true to its name lit of the desert countryside like a Fourth of July flare. From the side of the highway, the night landscape came alive under the reflected sunlight from orbiting sphere. The light from the full moon made my nocturnal hike to Boulder Dam, all the more stunning, as the moon cast its glare on the rough mountain terrain. Finally around midnight, I set up my tent and crawled inside. However, the intense lunar glare made it hard to sleep. Still, I had  a lot to be grateful for: I had left Las Vegas without incident.


The Colors of Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Urban Scene

Thunder Bay used to be called Port Arthur, but now goes by a more colorful handle (my opinion) that owes a lot to the natural forces of nature, which for some reason put on fantastic thermo-electrical displays, when they pass over the rocky harbor and bay. I was witness to one such event and it was quite impressive. It also seems to be a slight deference to the ever-present Native American community, which is quite prevalent in this Ontario town.

Shadows Cast On a Red Door
Red Pattern On Red Door

For me, Thunder Bay was a great place to take pictures, mostly because it was a city in need of repair. I love the old, functional architecture in need of small repair and a fresh coat of paint, as well as the towering grain elevators that lined the edge of Lake Superior, a  body of water that the locals affectionately refer to as Gitchee Gumee.  Along with this post are a few of my favorite results from my photographic efforts.

Yellow Night Light

The above is twilight shot taken while a deep blue afterglow remained in the night sky. For me this brief period when photocell operated lights come on and cast contrasting shadows against a slowly darkening sky, are amongst my favorite times of day. Here’s one more picture.

Twilight Parking Garage
Twilight Parking Garage

Best Free Ride In America

Lower Side NYC Skyline Viewed From the Staten Island Ferry
Lower Side NYC Skyline Viewed From the Staten Island Ferry

Free Ride

The Staten Island Ferry just may be one of the best free activities in all the US. These boats carry passengers only back and forth from Manhattan’s Lower Eastern tip to Staten Island. Designed as a commuter transport that run around the year, this 25 minute one way trip also attracts an inordinate amount of tourists and sightseers. Where else can you get a grand view of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan Skyline and Brooklyn Bridge in less than an hour without paying a dime, unless you splurge for a hot dog or ice cream. And don’t forget the majestic Verrazano Bridge that gateway to the sea, where all the oil tankers pass through on their way to harbor.

The Ferry at dock
The Ferry at dock

Details

During peak hours the ferry company of New York has to keep as many as five of these boats in service to service the commuter traffic. Once on board there are many places to sit indoors, where the temperatures are kept warm, no matter what the month. However, non-locals tend to flock to the open-air docks, where they can watch all the sights pass by and smell the salt air. Perhaps the best time to make the one-hour round trip is just after dusk when the lighted up buildings are accented by the dark blue afterglow of the twilight. The terminals are also an unique experience, as travelers get a chance to mingle with the large local crowds that are always traveling back and forth on the large metal watercraft.

Statue of Liberty surrounded by sailing schooners
Statue of Liberty surrounded by sailing schooners

Film Noir

Peculiar Galaxies of Arp 273
Peculiar Galaxies of Arp 273 Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

Noir

Everything profound these days seems to have the word “noir” added to it. All that noir means is “black” in French. In fact, this stylish phrase would sound very politically incorrect, if we used the Spanish version of the word. Somehow a “film negro” festival just doesn’t cut the mustard. And for all you Anglophiles, film black is better, but not as catchy, as the French version. And as a sideline, if you go to a restaurant in Paris and ask for a cafe noir, you’ll receive a cup of coffee without any sugar or cream. Go figure.

Classic Era of Film Noir

According to Wikipedia, the term “film noir” was first used by the French film critic, Nino Frank, in 1946 to describe a set of intriguing murder mystery movies made in black and white. Moreover, the heyday of Hollywood’s “film noir” lasted from the early 1940’s to the late 50s, including such movies as “The Big Sleep”, “D.O.A.”, “The Big Heat”, “The Set-up”, “Gun Crazy” and “The Night and the City”. Most of these movies were low budget, black and white affairs, which lead to similar bigger budget dark films, such as the “Maltese Falcon”, “Key Largo” or a host of Alfred Hitchcock productions.

Film Noir Today

Film Noir never died, it just transformed itself into the modern equivalent of Crime Fiction, which can still be found in film as well as TV and literature. Modern stories, such as “Pulp Fiction”, “Body Heat”, “Miami Vice”, “L.A. Confidential” and Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Series”, all owe at least a little bit to 40s and 50s Hollywood. This ever-popular may even be seeing a resurgence today – perhaps even a golden age, where superb film productions and literary efforts can be found in many quarters.

A Quick Look at NYC

The Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center in Midtown New York
The Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center in Midtown New York

I had the pleasure of riding the Greyhound bus from Montreal to New York City and then continuing my journey to  South Carolina, where I will spend the holidays. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze a twelve-hour stopover in the “Big Apple”, where I got to partake in a busy December Saturday, when everybody was out and about. Many were Christmas shopping others were just enjoying the sunny weekend day.

First stop for me was the grand ole library at  Bryant Park. This landmark city building was jam-packed with visitors and users. An exhibition concerning the origin of three major religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) from one small region of the world (the eastern edge of the Mediterranean) was the big attraction, but the spectacularly high and ornate ceilings of the Rose Room attracted many sightseers as well as regular users.

Outside the massive limestone walls stood Bryant Park. The ice rink was filled with skaters, who struggled to navigate their way through the mass of humanity that was out on the ice. The rest of the tree-lined park was home to a myriad of artisans, who had their works out on display for all to see.

From the Public Library I boarded the subway and headed downtown to the Soho area. Next, came a visit to Katz’s on Houston Street for lunch, but a line ran halfway down the block from the front entrance, discouraged a visit to this well-known eatery.

The trees at Bryant Park
The trees at Bryant Park

Instead, a couple of slices of pizza and a Mexican beer at nearby Ray’s was my lunchtime repose. More wanderings took me further south where soon I was strolling at the base of the Wall Street tall towers. This is the lower section of tall towers, where the once majestic WTC once stood. This conglomeration of tall towers is located a good distance away from midtown Manhattan, where such giants as the Empire State Building, Pan Am building, Rockefeller Center and Chrysler Building form the rocketing skyline.

The Brooklyn Bridge was a popular walkway, filled with pedestrians despite the cold winds that carried across East Bay and the East River. As dusk approached the partially-clouded sky created dramatic lighting that filled the western sky. Even with the great view, I was still happy to arrive back on solid land, where I could seek shelter from the wind at one of the many small coffee shops that frequented the Wall Street area.

By the time I reached the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the tip of the island, darkness had set in. Even so the huge metal and glass atrium was filled with a mass of humanity, all waiting for the arrival of the large metal transport. The crowd of a thousand plus people packed into the vessel with ease and quickly departed the dock for the short crossing. I stood at the rear deck of the boat watching the Manhattan skyline recede into the distance. With the bow of the ship acting as a windbreaker the ride was much warmer than my walk upon the Brooklyn Bridge.

Upon my return to Manhattan I went underground and rode the subway to Rockefeller Center, which now had a large skating rink and Christmas tree installed at its base. However, the biggest attraction was the window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. After cruising by the glowing windows one last walk awaited me. Although by this time the night had become quite cold and windy, the neon marquees still lit up the night with their colorful messages. Finally, I entered the confides of the port Authority Building where it felt good be out of the cold.  All in all it was a busy 12 hour break from my overland journey.

Wall Street Sunset
Wall Street Sunset
Saks Fifth Avenue Window Display
Saks Fifth Avenue Window Display

First Snow In Montreal

Winter Mural in East Montreal
Winter Mural in East Montreal

Our first snow fell today in Montreal, leaving two to three inches of the white stuff all over the city. The extra few degrees of cold temperatures is a bit of a shock, to the system, but the snow looks very stately as it fills the city parks and covers the cars.

However,  the wind that whips down the cold canyons in the downtown area takes some getting used to, for it chills your right down to your bones. Actually, a warm-up is on the way, but that means all the snow will melt. Life is finished trade-offs, even among the little things.

My departure date from Montreal back to the states is getting nearer everyday. It is not an event that I wish to undertake, for I would be quite happy remaining here at the border of French-speaking Canada. I like the metropolitan area, especially the abundance of art which can be seen everywhere, such as the mural on the side of the building that is the subject of the photograph. Take a close look at the tree in the foreground of the picture, for it is not part of the painting, but a real tree growing on the street. Still, my departure my Montreal has a good side to it, for I will be in warm and sunny South Carolina for December and January. I’ll still miss the friendly city.

The Baie at Night
The Baie at Night