Another month gone by

The older I get, the faster the time goes and the less I accomplish. I seem to be stuck in picture selection mode. Bill was here yesterday and put up three pictures and 2 pieces of sculpture (wall-hung types). I am now contemplating placement of five largish photos. Three of them were hung in my last apartment. The other two will have to be framed. Having been a photographer for many years, I have lots of framed photos in different sizes. So, unframe two and reframe two others. Then measure and make tiny x’s on the walls where Bill will drill holes.

I spent a lot of time this week being annoyed about the next building over from my bedroom windows. This building belongs to a large Catholic girls’ high school, mostly housed in a newer building. The building near me is old; my apartment’s previous owner mentioned something about it possibly being torn down. I became aware of work being done there when they started making noise late one afternoon. There are three dumpsters and men were throwing things out of windows and into the dumpsters. It struck me as strange. Usually trash is guided into the dumpsters using tubes coming from the windows. I didn’t give it much thought until the next day when I walked past the building. I looked for a work permit and found none, but I found a sign warning about danger from asbestos. I am not happy about this activity. I think it is being done without proper supervision. I suspect the workmen are in some jeopardy, and possibly I am also. I thought about making someone aware of the potential problems and I will think about it again next week if the work resumes.

I have cable TV here–no choice, it’s a comes-with. I must have close to 100 channels, but strangely enough I find myself watching, if at all, the same stuff I watched when I didn’t have cable. Neither public TV or ABC were available to me without cable, but I don’t think I missed much. Haven’t found anything yet that I want to see. I do watch CNN and MSNBC. I suppose I should be happy with that.

I haven’t been taking any of those very long walks, but I walk at least a mile most days to go to classes either at Pitt or CMU.  This is a great location right in the middle.

Exercise and ears

I have lost patience with everything. Last night I turned off NCIS in the middle; I didn't care if the whistle-blower got killed. I can't seem to plan a trip to Israel. This is a country I'm familiar with, although I haven't been there for 20 or 25 years. I don't know where to begin. How much worse than planning for Japan could it be? This morning I can't get through my blog list. I don't know if this is winter doldrums or my brain is finally going. I'm going to exercise. Maybe I'll be able to concentrate when I get back.

I got in a good workout, came back for lunch, then went to a hearing aid place. I've been putting this off for some time. They gave me a good hearing test, a sales pitch about new aids, and readjusted the old ones, now six or seven years old. I'll probably get new ones, soon, but I decided to think about it and also to see whether the adjustments helped. I really hate these aids because they block my entire ear canal. I always feel like I'm up in an airplane with stuffed ears. The new aids don't do that, and supposedly offer more options for better adjustment.

One of our dinner guests on Friday night thanked us for helping test his new hearing aids. He said they were great. I never realized he was wearing aids. He actively took part in the conversation and never asked anyone to repeat. I have to find out which aids he bought. They range in price from $6000 down to about $1500 for a pair. The audiologist thinks I should get the top of the line, of course. Considering I can hear most things without the aids, I am loathe to spend the money. There are so many other things I want.

Mage, thanks for your inquiry. I am feeling fine. If this was a cold, it hasn't lasted even the usual seven days.

January 20

I spent most of the day watching television; more than I've watched in many years. I can listen to this President in a way I haven't been able to do for many years. This time I wanted to witness everything myself, not just hear about it later.

This was also Charna's eighteenth birthday, a great day for a wonderful young woman who supported and worked for Barack Obama, who works for ending the genocide in Darfur, who is committed to environmental causes and who embodies all of the qualities, the hard work, responsibility, creativity and "smarts" President Obama believes we have. Happy Birthday, Charna.
Library - 10329

I skipped my class yesterday; today the Osher program begins with two lectures about current affairs. I will brave the cold and get out of here.

Another exercise meditation

My Japanese art class has been studying depictions of the many Buddhist hells. (Number varies, depending on who you are reading and what you are talking about.) My own version of hell is exemplified by my fitness center. Of course, I should be there right now, instead of sitting here writing this. I’ve always thought about the weight machines as torture devices, watching some of the men groaning and sweating as they increase weight. Since I haven’t been getting there as often as I should, they torture me with just a minimum of weight. But they are not the only form of torture.

There is a large workout room across from the entrance to the women’s locker room. When class is in session the music is so loud I find it painful to walk past. I couldn’t take one of those classes; the loud sound would be more torturous than the exercise. That’s clearly Hell #1.

The locker room is not hellish, although it does have its moments. I wish I could take pictures in there. The woman who usually takes care of the room (cleans the toilets) is short, fat and always decorated with at least ten pounds of assorted rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Her hair is different every time I see her; sometimes short and multicolored; other times covered with an elaborate wig. The variety of nude and semi-nude bodies is amazing. Being fat myself, I am especially fascinated with the really fat women. I am also fascinated with the occasional woman who will walk around nude completely unselfconscious. I couldn’t do that even when I was young and thin.

Which reminds me, there was an exhibit at the Pitt Union this week called the Century Project, a chronological series of portraits of nude women with statements from or about them. I spent a lot of time looking at the pictures, reading the statements and I still don’t know what I think about it. The idea, of course, is to make us understand what real women look like, as opposed to the airbrushed, or photoshopped, venuses we get in the media. It works, but I have a feeling it should have been better; I just don’t know what I would do different.

Back to hell in the health club: TV. They used to have 8 or 10 sets around the room. You listened with your own earphones, so there was no sound involved. I read when I’m on the bike, but I will watch when I’m on the treadmill. The sets had closed captioning, so I never bothered with the headphones. Now they’ve upgraded to individual sets on each machine, but no closed captioning. TV is torture, with or without audio. I spend most of my time on the bike.

The final torture is also something new: they’ve added a small cafe with salads, sandwiches and smoothies, advertised all over the place. Now you can expend all that energy while the think about food the whole time. I can’t think of anything worse.

Films and glass

I like going to movies in a theater, sometimes, depending on the movie, but I don’t really enjoy watching a movie on my TV set. I always thought it was because the set was relatively small and there were many distractions, like the computer, near me. And I don’t really watch TV programs; I listen. Tuesday morning, my Ancient China class began watching the first hour of a movie about the period we are studying. Even though the screen was much larger than my TV set I must have checked my cellphone (I no longer wear a watch) four times in that hour. (I rate movies by how often I feel compelled to know the time. Zero is the highest rating.)

Today we were supposed to watch the remaining two hours. I really like the class; I wouldn’t get up in time for an 8:30 class if I didn’t like it. But sometimes I have no patience. I thought about staying in bed and not going at all, but I got there for the lecture the first hour and then left. I have a bad cold, the first one since I had bronchitis last year at this time. Maybe that’s my excuse. Also, today is my birthday. I wanted it to be a nice day. Two hours in that terrible chair watching indistinguishable actors killing each other seemed like torture.

I bought a cup of tea and took it to Schenley Plaza and watched children and puppies playing. The family had a bubble machine and the little boy, barely able to walk, kept trying to catch the bubbles. The puppy did it also, when a few of them came his way. Then I walked over to Phipps Conservatory where they have just opened a Chihuly show. I loved the Chihuly show in Chicago, which I must have seen four times even though I was living in New Jersey. But after my experience with Chihuly in the Bronx, last year, I wasn’t sure how I felt about seeing another of his shows. But it was nearby, no coping with airplanes and security, and I really enjoy the Phipps. I finished my tea, walked over and treated myself to a membership as a birthday gift.

It’s a wonderful show and it was a perfect birthday gift. For the most part the work is sited within the plantings. You know it’s glass, but it seems absolutely to belong; like it grew there. That’s how it appeared in Chicago, but not nearly as much in the Bronx. I looked back at my photos from last year. If there were pieces nestled among the plants, I never photographed them. I took a lot of pictures today. Eventually, I’ll post them along with some of the Bronx photos. And I plan to return often.


Yesterday I went to see the Met live broadcast of I Puritani at a nearby movie theater. The music was wonderful. I suppose this is their much touted "high definition." It certainly wasn’t the picture, which ranged from extremely fuzzy to romantic soft focus. I know that lighting has something to do with it, but I don’t really understand what was going on. For the most part I enjoyed it. However, I found the camera work very distracting.

I did not know what to expect when I entered the theater. I had hoped this would be an approximation of attending a live performance. I wanted the camera to show the entire stage from a box, or approximately ten rows back in the orchestra, my seats of choice. Occasionally I would like the camera to move in a little closer, like using opera glasses.  In fact, when I first took my seat the camera showed the stage and  about ten rows in front of it. I was happy. But, I soon realized they had three or four cameras and were using them to show everything from the singer’s teeth to the back of the performer looking out to the audience. There were many close-ups and fast cuts. It’s very distracting to have the camera focused on the singer and, because of camera movement, the candles behind the singer slowly rise. Or a shadow from some unknown source move across the screen, again because of camera movement. It’s enough to have virtuoso performers without the camera person, or director, also trying to give what they think is a virtuoso performance. I know these zooms and cuts are used a lot in film and TV, but opera is it’s own medium and makes different demands. The Met is trying to attract a broader audience for opera. I applaud their efforts, but they need to maintain the integrity of their medium.


It’s been about 10 weeks since I have been connected to most television outlets. When I first moved here I was too busy to care. After six weeks I investigated getting myself connected to cable or a dish. For several reasons I’ve done nothing about it. I finally plugged in the set and found out I get poor reception on NBC, PBS and some Christian channel. I don’t miss television, and I have decided, at least for now, not to pay for any kind of better reception. I tend to use the TV as background noise and found I can get the same effect by using the VCR. I’ve been getting movies from the library, and thanks to my previous employer, I own about a dozen films I’ve never watched.

I got Breakfast at Tiffany’s from the library and watched it for the first time. Not all old films hold up equally well. I had trouble getting through that one. I also watched City Lights. I thought I was getting the second version Chaplin made, which I had seen when it came out. I was surprised to find I had a reissue of his first version. The bad part was that I couldn’t treat it as background noise. But I loved it. The visual jokes are just wonderful. I never fully appreciated Chaplin until I saw this one. He certainly puts our present day comedians to shame.