April 16

Pitcher Plant Flowers

You may already be aware of my love of carnivorous plants. Now that the weather is warming, most of them are starting to bloom and their flowers are amazing. The pitcher plants tend to bloom the earliest in my little shop of horrors, and this year I thought it would be interesting to take a photo every day to capture the flower’s life cycle.

I initially created a gif, but the finished product ended up too small to appreciate the beauty of the flower. That, and the file size was a bit too large.

So I ended up tossing together a video. It’s only about a minute long, but it gives you a chance to see just how incredible these plants are.

I also wrote the music, too. In case you were wondering.

Hope you enjoy this short educational moment.

RB

April 13

Music Moment – Tangled Up in Blue

I know that Bob Dylan isn’t for everyone, but he’s one of my favorite songwriters. With a career spanning sixty years, he’s made an indelible mark on the music industry. His creativity and originality have also been an inspiration for me. I can’t remember the first time I heard one of his songs, but for what it’s worth, it feels like he’s been part of the soundtrack to my life since the beginning.

And without a doubt, my favorite song of his is “Tangled Up in Blue”. It’s what a consider a ‘story song’, meaning, the words read like a lyrical short story. If you aren’t familiar with it, it tells the story of two lovers who end up finding each other even after years apart. They seem to know they aren’t right for one another, yet fate continues to cross their paths. For what it’s worth, I always assumed the woman’s name is “Blue” and the narrator is so tangled up in her that he can’t ever escape. Here are the lyrics as originally recorded:

Tangled Up In Blue

Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’
I was layin’ in bed
Wond’rin’ if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough
And I was standin’ on the side of the road
Rain fallin’ on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues gettin’ through
Tangled up in blueShe was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam, I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
Tangled up in blue

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue

She was workin’ in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept lookin’ at the side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I’s just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me, “Don’t I know your name?”
I muttered somethin’ underneath my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe
Tangled up in blue

She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello,” she said
“You look like the silent type”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafés at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue

So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue

Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music

The original version of the song appeared on the 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks, and it’s been a mainstay of Dylan’s live shows ever since.

What I find interesting, however, is that Dylan never sings it the same way. Every time he plays it live, he changes the lyrics, sometimes adding additional verses, maybe cutting a few, and sometimes almost completely reworking them. An artist’s prerogative, I suppose, but I also think it does that to keep the song fresh and new. Unfortunately, I’ve never had a chance to see him play live, but at least there are live recordings.

Dylan’s lyrics are always sensational, sometimes cryptic, but they always paint a picture in my mind. If you’re interested, listen to the clip below. If you aren’t familiar with the song, I hope you enjoy it. It’s one that continues to inspire me even after countless listening sessions.

April 7

Godzilla Can’t Compare

It’s not often one gets the opportunity to witness an epic battle in nature, but I was lucky enough to see two lizards lock up on my back patio wall the other day. My dog, Siri, alerted me and we watched with wide eyes as the two opponents circled one another looking for an opening. Then things got a little crazy…

My old girl loves to watch the lizards sunning themselves and often barks at them. However, I think she was a little disappointed in this match. As the heat of battle cooled, she let out a little frustrated sigh. Don’t worry, girl. I’m sure they’ll be at it again soon.

Now back to getting the patio straightened up.

RB

March 23

Richard’s Kitchen – Chili Recipe!

Yep, I’m back in the kitchen after a long and unexpected hiatus. If it’s still kinda cold where you reside, seems like a perfect time to make chili. It’s incredibly easy, quick to make, stores well, and the ingredients won’t break the bank. In fact, you probably have most of them in your kitchen already.

Check out the latest episode and let me know what you think.

RB

February 8

Creative Storytelling on Television

I’m not much of a television-watcher. Sure, there are certain programs I’ve enjoyed and will rewatch, like Firefly, Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, Doctor Who, and the original Twilight Zone. Most of it I find less than compelling. My partner watches a wide variety of programming, sitcoms, rom-coms, dramas, sci-fi…if it catches her attention, she’ll watch it right until the last episode. Me? Not so much.

The thing is, I don’t find much that interests me. I get frustrated by poor writing in shows that are supposed to be dramatic or realistic. One that comes to mind is The Walking Dead. The first season was fantastic, spot-on writing, great acting, wonderful production. The following seasons kept the acting and production, but the writing got sloppier and sloppier, with gaping plot holes, inconsistent character actions, and too much redundancy. I found myself talking back to the screen and wondering what the hell the writers were thinking.

But every once in a while there’s something new, something original, that rekindles my interest in television. The latest show to do that for me is WandaVision on Disney+. And no, this isn’t a plug. I sincerely love this show and the way Marvel Studios is integrating streaming programs with their cinematic universe.

WandaVision Logo

I’m won’t go into any plot details in order to avoid spoiling the show for anyone who hasn’t tuned in yet. Instead, I want to focus on the way the show is being presented and how they are telling the story.

Basically, Wanda (aka the Scarlet Witch) has the power to mold reality, and in this show she has created her own reality where she and her lover, Vision, live as a happily married couple. The show utilizes the sitcom format, filming some scenes in front of a live studio audience and using laugh tracks for other scenes, but it’s definitely not your standard sitcom.

What I think I like most about the show is how it plays on the sitcom tropes and play homage to classic shows. For example, each episode of WandaVision focuses on an era of television and incorporate elements from popular shows of that time period. The first episode was a homage to The Dick Van Dyke Show (which is still one of the funniest shows to ever air on television), even presenting it in black and white. The second episode was a tribute to Bewitched, the third was The Brady Bunch, and the fourth episode was Family Ties. For those outside the US, these were all shows that were popular in their respective times and are icons of television that are still referenced today.

Black and white photo of Wanda and Vision

The writers on the show are also doing an amazing job. They do a fantastic job of capturing the essence and quirkiness of each show from each era. For example, in the first episode the neighbor comments about Wanda not having a wedding ring and that she’s surprised an attractive eligible woman isn’t married yet. So very 1960s. In the fourth episode – the Family Ties one – the writing slips effortlessly between 1980s humor and drama, incorporating the ‘teaching moments’ that were popular in sitcoms at that time.

Scene from WandaVision

The thing is, there is so much to unpack with this show, but in doing so I’d be revealing spoilers. Maybe once the show ends (it’s only a nine-episode run), I can really dissect it for you and write about all the amazing nuances. Just to give you a bit of a teaser, there’s much more going on than just these old sitcoms. There are weird asides, odd occurrences, and things that just don’t seem to fit quite right into Wanda’s reality. Each episode reveals a little bit more of the overall story.

Wanda with toy helicopter

It also goes to show that television programming can be original, creative, and challenge viewers to think outside the box. Too much of the stuff currently available simply isn’t well written and isn’t thought out. Looking back at some of the shows I listed at the top of this post makes me realize that I like tend to have overarching story lines. You know, where episodes can stand alone, but when put together provide a long-form story.

If you haven’t watched WandaVision yet, I have one word of warning: It’s helps to have some knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You don’t have to go back and watch every film from the first three phases, but it would be useful to at least watch the last two, Infinity War and Endgame. Those will provide enough backstory to get you into the wonderful weirdness that is WandaVision. Check out the trailer below for a little taste.

RB

 

 

January 26

My Evolving Taste in Music

I’ll admit it – when I was a teenager I was a snob when it came to music. Not that I had any reason to be. I was into a mix of classic rock, psychedelic, progressive, and heavy metal. I listened to The Doors, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Hendrix, Judas Priest, Scorpions, and Iron Maiden, to name just a few. Not necessarily a bad or strange mix, but it was purposely limited. I think it was some strange sort of teenage rebellion. And if it annoyed my father, all the better.

Man covering ears
My father’s reaction to my musical tastes.

I didn’t understand jazz, and although I didn’t listen to the blues, I assumed all the songs were depressing. Classical was for old people, as was big band music and the crooners from the 1940s and 50s. Country was too…well, country, and I don’t think I even knew that bluegrass, Americana, and folk even existed.

But over time I began to branch out. A lot of this was due to meeting new people and discovering the local college radio station when I moved to Tallahassee. The station, V89, played (and still plays) an incredible variety of music and soundscapes. Additionally, they have weekly shows that focus on specific genres and eras of music. Saturday mornings are set aside for classic rock and in the afternoon you can catch the reggae show. Sunday mornings are blues, the afternoon is singer/songwriter, and in the evening, jazz.

They also have a world music show that caught my attention, and that’s really when things started to change for me. I mean, I’m familiar with music from other cultures, but only peripherally and usually as background or incidental music in movies and television programs. It’s music you hear, but don’t really pay attention to.

Recently, my eyes have been opened even wider by listening to a playlist on Apple Music titled “World Groove”. It’s an amazing mix of music from all over the globe – Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and South America – and it pulls from different time periods, as well. I’ll hear a 1960s pop song from Japan, followed by a modern dance song from Jamaica, which is then followed by a funky song from Turkey in the 1980s. It’s amazing.

This playlist has turned me on to so many amazing musicians, like Congolese artist Lumingu Puati.

And the Swedish/Turkish band Cafe Turk.

And Brazilian singer Ceu.

I hope you take a few minutes to check out these artists. I’ve found that broadening my musical horizons has been inspiring. These are musicians that I probably never would have heard if it weren’t for these radio programs and streaming playlists. Artists who have worked in relative obscurity – maybe known in their home countries, but unknown to the rest of the world – and it makes me smile to think they probably have no idea that some middle-aged guy in North Florida is dancing in his living room while listening to their music.

Do yourself a favor and push the boundaries on your usual musical choices. Like fiction, I don’t think it’s fair to limit ourselves to specific genres. Read everything, listen to everything, explore the world. You never know what you may find out there, what may inspire you, what may change your life. And be sure to dance.

RB

November 13

New Podcast Episode – Amateur or Professional

As creators, we all dream of being considered professionals. But where is the line that separates the two? Is it definite or arbitrary? Or are these just labels that don’t mean anything? Join me as I look into what it takes to be a professional artist.

The podcast is available at iTunes, GooglePlay, Spotify, Amazon, and PodBean. If you prefer, I also have a YouTube channel.

Or you can simply listen to it right here:

November 4

Richard’s Kitchen – Butternut Squash Soup

Fall is in the air and butternut squash is on the menu. Check out my latest cooking video as I share one of my favorite recipes. Only a few ingredients – the aforementioned squash, onion, apple, and a few odds and ends. Perfect for a cozy night or a chilly morning.

Oh, and this version is also vegan.

Once you try it I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

October 30

A Halloween Treat

I’ve loved scary stories since I was a wee lad in South Florida, and one of my favorite things to do on Halloween was break out a vinyl album of mine. The album was Alfred Hitchcock presents Ghost Stories for Young People. It was released back in 1962 and I think I found it in a record store when I was around eight or nine years old.

I listened to it so many times when I was young I had it memorized…but it still gave me the shivers. Unfortunately, the original vinyl was lost to time, but I was lucky enough to find it on CD a few years ago. Of course, nowadays you can find almost anything online, and someone was awesome enough to post the entire album on YouTube.

If you’re looking for some Halloween chills, give it a listen. Hitchcock is a fantastic narrator, and the stories, while creepy, also contain a little bit of dark humor. It may be geared towards children, but this middle-aged man still loves it.

Note – the stories are broken out into separate videos, so be sure to listen to all of them!

Enjoy!