Sunday, July 29, 2007

I discover YouTube

I haven't done much blogging lately, mainly because most of this month has been consumed with our move to new digs about a mile from where we used to live. We still aren't finished, and my wife and daughter left yesterday for Utah, where they will remain until August 8, so I will have to do much of the remaining work myself. In connection with the move, we have been going through a major downsizing, getting rid of stuff we should have gotten rid of at least 10 years ago, when we left Ohio. But that's another story.

Yesterday we got high-speed Internet for the first time. Up until now, we had been using our 56K phone modem, which was state-of-the-art technology a few short years ago but is today of little more use than a rotary-dial telephone. With this new setup and some extra time on my hands, I spent much of the evening making my first real visit to YouTube. I have the impression that YouTube, like Flickr, contains much that is either pornographic, uninteresting, or of amateurish quality, but that it likewise features much that is informative and pleasing to the eye and the spirit, if one is willing to make the effort to find it.

I enjoyed this little introductory journey, which lasted until I went to bed sometime around 1 a.m. During that time, I marked 17 videos as favorites, and the choices might say something about me, although I don't know what. They include the following: the national anthems of the Soviet Union and the Islamic Republic of Iran; several renditions of "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi," probably my favorite song of all time; a tribute to fallen troops, set to the accompaniment of a song called "Dante's Prayer;" a performance by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey of "When You Believe," from "The Prince of Egypt;" portions of Ronald Reagan's funeral, including the tribute by Margaret Thatcher and "Mansions of the Lord;" a montage of kissing scenes, apparently taken from various TV programs and accompanied by a beautiful waltz tune from the "Pearl Harbor" soundtrack; several of my favorite oldies, including "Be My Baby," "Duke of Earl," and "This Magic Moment;" the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing "Come, Come Ye Saints" (I sent a link to this one to two friends in Iran); and Ronald Reagan challenging Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down this wall."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson, 1912-2007

I can't say that I particularly admired Lyndon Baines Johnson, although I do acknowledge him as one of the most interesting, colorful, and significant American Presidents of the 20th century. From all that I have read about him over the years, he must have been about as difficult to live with as a category-5 hurricane; but by all accounts, he did manage to marry exceptionally well. Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson, known to everyone since her infancy as Lady Bird, wed the future President after a whirlwind courtship during the autumn of 1934; and during the remaining 38 years of LBJ's tumultuous life, she became his trusted advisor and confidante, an astute and successful businesswoman in her own right, and a charming and gracious counterweight to his volcanic, overwhelming personality. She endured his infidelities, barbs, and other assorted cruelties, but in her case, this was no sign of weakness, as Lady Bird Johnson could have defined the term "steel magnolia." As one commentator put in in today's online edition of National Review, "In an age where marriages end over far less, she was an example of the sacrifice and endurance that must undergird matrimony. 'For better or for worse,' goes the phrase, and Lady Bird Johnson had it worse too often. When it was better, it was an expression of her endless love."

I have always regarded this lovely and remarkable woman with respect and affection, and thus am saddened at the news of her passing yesterday at age 94. Nearly four decades after the Johnsons left the White House, Lady Bird is best known for her efforts at conservation and beautification of the environment, and her most enduring memorial today might be the millions of wildflowers which now grace the byways of her beloved Texas. If I am ever able to go there and photograph them, I will think of her. Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A great (if sobering) comeback

Read this post by Barney Madsen in Odd Bits, together with the article linked to it. This is about a letter to the editor, recently published in the Arizona Republic, and one reader's response to it. To the credit of the author of the original letter, he later apologized for what he had said, and did so in the Letters section of the same newspaper. But I told Barney that if I had ever written such a letter and received the response it generated, I would have felt about belly-high to an earthworm, and for good reason.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The beauty of weeds (?)

Weeds in my backyard
Originally uploaded by gwilmore
This picture, which I took shortly before sunset yesterday, might reveal more about me than I really want it to. Specifically, it's proof that I don't spend quite as much time out working in the yard as I probably need to, although that is something I freely admit anyway; moreover, we are going to be moving within a matter of days, so this little failing of mine won't matter for much longer. (Our new digs will be about a mile from where we are now, and we will continue living in our same LDS ward. I do plan to enlist some help and come back in a couple of weeks to spiff up the yard; but with Sheila's health issues and my own limitations being what they are, it is simply more than we are able to handle ourselves.) But on the flipside of this coin, perhaps it is good that I am able to recognize beauty in the most ordinary, everyday, and mundane of things -- in this case, a group of backyard weeds. That's right -- WEEDS! What's more, this picture has already been featured on Flickr's Explore page, which is a sort of showcase of a given day's 500 best images. (In a typical minute, between 2500 and 3000 new images are uploaded to the site, so making Explore is quite an honor -- sort of Flickr's equivalent of making Law Review.)

This one came about as I was swimming laps in our backyard pool. During a pause at the pool's east end, I noticed the light effect presented here by the setting sun, as well as the contrast to the dark background. I ran inside, got my camera, and stepped back into the pool, then took this picture while I was standing chest-deep in water. In some ways, the result may be among the most personally satisfying images I've ever captured.