Christopher Payne • Photographer

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A lazy week drifting betwixt jingling bells and confetti’d ballrooms.  What came to mind?  Taking a Mulligan, to borrow from the venerable game of confidence, we would post a catchy photo-montage from the NYTimes.  Start off tracing the “Mulligan” phrase to the seventeenth century.  Distract our readers from blatant thievery and possible copyright violation.  Knock a smooth three-iron over the dogleg, coming up nicely short of the green.  Chip and putt, an easy birdie.

Upon the hallowed fairways of the Old Course At St Andrews such a phrase did not originate.  No noble and dusty lineage to Messer Mulligan.  An act of Parliament such as created their Links Trust cannot change that.    

We still have the photos to introduce.  Christopher is a photo-essayist of vision and intuition.  Here he captures the esteemed General Pencil Company of Jersey City, NJ.  Practically next to Manhattan,  its location again reminds our Mid-Atlantic staff state boundaries know no logic.  As if they were drawn by the king’s whim.

With thanks to Christopher Payne, Sam Anderson, The New York Times Magazine, and the entire population of the eastern seaboard, we bring you the General Pencil Company!

Such radical simplicity is surprisingly complicated to produce. Since 1889, the General Pencil Company has been converting huge quantities of raw materials (wax, paint, cedar planks, graphite) into products you can find, neatly boxed and labeled, in art and office-supply stores across the nation: watercolor pencils, editing pencils, sticks of charcoal, pastel chalks. Even as other factories have chased higher profit margins overseas, General Pencil has stayed put, cranking out thousands upon thousands of writing instruments in the middle of Jersey City. – Sam Anderson for The New York Times Magazine

andy weir • artemis

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Another perfect trip to a well-stocked library yields the latest by Andy Weir.  And in spoken work, great during bamboo runs for our hometown hero, Peter’s Panda Rescue.  Motoring along smooth Maryland asphalt, Rosario Dawson’s diction convincing me she is, indeed, the title character, The Martian‘s famous author has scribed yet another winner with Artemis.

The title character is ~ SPOILER ALERT ~ a 26-year-old unmarried Saudi female.  She emigrated to the moon when she was six, so lunar living is all she knows.  Smart as heck, Jazz Bashara makes MacGyver seem like an eleven-year old.

This novel has it all.  Mr. Weir’s clear understanding of lunar conditions, a familiarity with common technology and issues we’ll live with on the moon, along with the human condition in one-sixth gravity.  He explains the engineering in a way which makes it seem like we already have a city on the moon. (Wait, what is really on the other side?)  This book could easily have been written in 2218 as a story “set back in those days of chemical propulsion”.

As usual, Andy Weir got to it first.

Shawn Colvin

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Every year after Thanksgiving a shoebox is retrieved from the top shelf of a closet.  Stuffed with holiday music, I wrap presents and make soup as north winds bring Arctic chill.  Singers Gen-X’ers know not.  Bing Crosby?  Perry Como?  You’ll get blank stares.  Judy Garland singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.  Such a poignant statement she makes.  How quickly two generations forget the 1944 musical Meet Me In St. Louis which brought Judy’s performance to the world.

After I plow through the standards one CD ends up in permanent rotation.  For the remainder of the season, maybe into the New Year, Shawn Colvin’s 1998 release Holiday Songs and Lullabies is played over and over.

Vocals, instrumentation, arranging, I hate to use the word perfect.  If we could ignore the teachings of a great tile setter Only God is Perfect, now would be the time.  I discover something new with every listening.

Recorded in sweltering Austin Texas, waiting for Shawn’s baby to be born, her life and passion come through with every word and phrase.  Doug Petty’s production is a labor of genius and love.

Shawn’s recording began as a youth.  Receiving the book Lullabies & Night Songs from her parents when she was about eight.  Singing Christmas carols in four-part harmony during car rides.  All-year around.  🙂  This is an album of Shawn’s memories.

And mine also.  New faces and smells and sounds.  A foggy winter, rural mountain foothills, wolves howling at midnight.  Steamy kitchens, multi-colored tissue across the table.  Stacks of presents.  Hobbies, crafts, hours fitting century-old instruments back together.

My apologies to Ms. Colvin for presuming to sum her life and passion in two hours on a Sunday morning.  I make a second cup of coffee, listen to her CD again, and continue editing.  After two decades her recording is still new.  Still fresh.  Maybe I’ve been working on this article not for two hours, but for two decades?  The room is now quiet, my coffee cold.  Where did the time go?  Into memories born upon Shawn’s recordings?

The release’s artwork is original 1965 Maurice Sendak.  I’d share inner fold J-card images from the CD but do not want another lawsuit for copyright infringement.

The 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis has been deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress.

Photo by Michael Wilson

George H.W. Bush

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George Herbert Walker Bush  1924 – 2018

“You don’t see anybody trashing this president … Whether they agreed with him on certain policy positions or not, people respected him and liked him.” – James A. Baker III

He was that rare figure in Washington: a man without enemies — or with very few, at any rate. –  Adam Nagourney

We love this photo of the former president skydiving on his 80th birthday.  Particularly the way the Army parachute team is looking after their former Commander-In-Chief. – ed/pub

Bridgeport Brass

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Not too long ago we spent half our hours in smoking darkness.  Candles, oil lamps, then kerosene lamps followed.  Just in time for indoor plumbing to make its appearance.  After the glory of a home with a pump in the kitchen came water delivered via pipe into the residence.  Next, the most amazing of inventions, hot water showers!

With us just about the whole way, from 1865 at least, Bridgeport Brass Company supplied the tools, devices, and materials to make it happen.

This company was organized in 1865 to make brass clock movements, and later made hoop-skirt frames, kerosene parlor lamps and the first successful kerosene bicycle lamp, exhibited at the World’s Fair in Chicago, in 1893 . . . Forgotten Landmarks

A few years after The Great War local farmland was consumed by developers.  The new crop of housing sprouted faster than summer corn.  About the same time our pile of bricks was hurriedly stacked, a more ambitious heap was raised up the hill.  Three stories of cells, each to have both cold AND hot water.  The water pipe?  Brass pipe manufactured by Bridgeport Brass Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Shaft-mounted roller dies had stamped a repeating trade name along the length of the pipe.  Plumrite.

Decades later discovered disconnected within wall cavities, a usefulness lost to cracked threads after its three-generation life expectancy, a few feet of Plumrite are saved from the scrap yard.

Here we have a piece of c.1928 Plumrite brass pipe in use as a pipe clamp.  Certainly lends a touch of patrician elegance to the old chap, what?  Genteel, experienced, ready to fasten together the most fractious of violin tops with good manners and charm.

Four Seasons

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We’ll have a cold wet autumn and deep snow this winter.  So the ‘old timers’ warned me.  Not sure there’s much difference between them and me, at this point.  🙂  And I’ve no particular inkling of impending doom-like weather.

But as Issac predicted and warned before the massive Storm of 1900 inundated Galveston – at one point water levels rose four feet in four seconds;  not a wave or swell, but a change in depth – so too have the learned tolled their predictions.  Which are largely coming true.

Down to 8˚ the other night, and we’re still officially mid-autumn.  Yesterday hours of drenching 40˚ rain.  Not a day to be putting in a water service.  Today a bit of clearing.  One last opportunity before the fifth ice age covers Philadelphia up to William Penn’s nose.

Democracy – 2018 –

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California is burning.  Mid-term elections seem largely forgotten.  A few candidates hang by a chad, screaming foul.  Charges fly.  Voter suppression.  Illegally handled ballots.  Racism!  Existing laws broken and court orders ignored.  Is this politics, mommy?

Politics concern the whole world around us, from what we teach in schools;  to where we send our military;  to whether we fix our roads;  to how we handle crime, poverty, addiction, mental health, and the homeless;  to whether pink slime can be included in our burgers;  to a hospital’s obligations to the uninsured.  Laws.  Products of politics.  We live by them.  Some work, some don’t.  Some bad ones need to be changed, and some good ones need to be protected.  Democracy turns on participation.  Around the world, people continue to fight for the right, as did our forbears.

So we fight to make it work.  In some areas, with clear majorities, it works quickly and efficiently.  Where razor-thin margins appear, vote counting and recounting slows.  Ballots are “found”.  Tabulation numbers shift daily.  Judicial Circuit Courts issues judgements, duly ignored.  The process slows to a crawl.

It’s a really fine mess we’ve got ourselves into, when officials cannot publicly provide voter data as mandated by law.  Hey, don’t rush them.  Provisional, mail-in, and early voting ballots are mere suggestions of citizen intent.  In the right hands, they can swing a national election!

Clearly, the honey tastes better on the other side of the fence.  Call me when it is all over.  🙂