Well, if you read this thing from time to time, you know that, in short, two years ago I left my job, couldn't find another, 1 ½ years in I lost my apartment, and had spent seven months essentially homeless...living in basically a horse trailer with no facilities whatsoever.
It's been a drag.
Well, the time to leave the horse trailer came, that time graciously offered by my friend Chris, and I had no clue about what to do. I really didn't want to have to be forced to navigate the shelters. Trying to look for work while living in one of those is obviously possible, but it seems like every notch that I click downward on the social scale requires an incrementally more massive expenditure of energy, even as those reserves of spirit and physical fortitude are being assaulted by the situation. I needed some plan. Couldn't come up with one.
Well, my mother threw out a life preserver. She lives in North Dakota, in a tiny (and I do mean tiny) town called Streeter, in the south-central part of the state. She said to just come out, get my bearings, and have a safe and stable place to be in order to pursue my plans, without the hammering fist of uncertainty obscuring my efforts. It was a godsend, actually.
She had offered it in very much the same spirit when I lost my apartment, but when I was offered the trailer and six more months to stay in Seattle and look for work, I took that shot. I was certain that I could find a job with that extension of time (I did not), so I turned down mom's offer. I mean, wouldn't it be nicer to visit as a choice, rather than being forced to?
Well, I took it, and with all the appropriate energy and gratitude.
(Click to enlarge)
Glad I did. Streeter is a tiny town, a microscopic oasis on the massive empty spaces of the open prairie. When I say empty, I mean exactly that. Flatness in every direction, broken only by the occasional farm. So massive. So peaceful. Barring the 2,000 mile-an-hour winds, that is. The closest Streeter-type town, with the amazing name Gackle (named after the bird), is nearly twenty miles of straight road away, and the nearest actual city is Jamestown, which is fifty miles. After fifteen years of the hyper-liberal, the car-infested hipster abomination that is Seattle, Streeter is just what the doc ordered.
I've been recuperating here. It's nice to have some of the pressure off, for sure. I was having stress-induced acid reflux waking me up every night, and it has completely stopped. Very nice. I've mostly been spending time with mom, getting to know the town, and working on various projects. One of those is a Facebook page that I made for the town, which I started because there was no Streeter presence on the web, and also to acquaint myself with the local population...and them with me. It's been really nice. I've also started the Streeter?Gackle chess club, which is slowly (like most things in the country) getting somewhere.
In any case, life is rolling forward.
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UPDATE: My brother Jeff's little boy Kenji, although he has a very typical infant heart issue (to soon be corrected by surgery), is healthy and strong, and Jeff is turning out to be the great and doting dad that I knew he would be.
There's a proud uncle writing this!
My brother Jeff just had his first son with his beautiful wife, Nori!
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Well, if you've read this blog at all, you know that I left my job 1 1/2 years ago, and haven't been able to find another; proof, in my eyes, that the economy sucks, bigtime. In any case, I'm not one to whine. I've made it, without govt. assistance, for that time, paying the rent, and eating food, through various efforts and the friendship of a few folks that I hold dear.
Well, the roommate got talked to "mean" by a girl at work and walked off his job, so has run off to California to sleep on daddy's couch. The way it works with the deposit, etc., me and the other roomie gotta get out. That means that I have three more weeks left of comfort, before I hang with dad for another month, then off into uncertain future. I'll have to admit that it isn't a welcome idea right now. I was hoping to have found a job before this thing happened, and to easily transition to another fine situation. Such is life, wot?
In a few weeks it will be just me, a pack, and my Peerless banjo, with my brand-new Gov't food assistance card in hand, and a chunk of safety dough in my pocket. Whatever happens, it will still be better than the thirteen cancer years. :)
Claytonology will be sparsely written for a while, though I'll still be receiving my contacts. Feel free to write...! :)
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I've always had an interest in the folk culture of the Ukrainian instrument Kobza, which is also called Bandura, depending on how it's played, and/or who is playing it. Access to info and suchlike has always been sparse; in the pre-internet days I only had one LP and a few pictures in a book, and a small entry in a book about music history. Now that I play the banjo, I see so many commonalities between the two.The Bandura
is an interesting critter. As players make their own, I've seen tons of variations on the shape of the thing, as well as a really fuzzy idea of who calls it what, based on shape, number of strings, or whether it's stopped with the fingers on the neck, or played with open strings like an autoharp. It's really amazing stuff. The instrument goes back over five hundred years, and it's mixed inextricably with the folklore of the region. The Ukrainian folk hero, Cossack Mamay, is almost always depicted playing the Kobza.I managed to see a concert many years ago, but the quality was pretty poor(a local amateur player), and it was of the more "refined" Russian orchestral style, played on the huge mega-stringed Russian version of the instrument. Well, thank God for the internets; I've really been able to dig deep, between Facebook(lots of friends who play and build instruments...many of these photos are theirs), Youtube(TONS of videos), and various websites, I've finally been able to build a new room the big inner complex that houses my interests
. So much to learn, and so delicious it is! Enjoy!Below is a slideshow of players playing and making their instruments.Here are related wikis: Kobza
- Bandura Here is a site about the Torban, a related instrument: TorbanMy gallery of Cossack Mamay images: MamayBandura youtube channel: Videos
(click upper-left of image to start slideshow...click again to pause)
Well, it's summertime here in Seattle, and, contrasting with weather reports from all over the world via Facebook, it's pretty mild, heat-wise. We have blue skies, cool breezes, and the lovely chirpings of the tiny birds. Quite pleasant.
I spent yesterday at the Lasley & Russ fiddle shop with my pals Duane and Chris, which was highly entertaining. I always enjoy spending the day there.
One thing that I enjoy, especially in these post-cancer days, during this stretch of unemployment and future-contemplation, is being around people who are doing what they want to do for a living. Regardless of the amount of money is being made, doing what you want to do seems a fantastic thing unto itself. I'm now free and healthy, cancer-debt paid, so a huge portion of my imagination is spent in that direction. I have so many interests, I'm sure that something will become known...as long as I keep at it. The HTML/CSS stuff is hot in the works, though it's seeming less and less of a fantastic and clear opportunity for the future.
The most interesting part about life right now is that I'm not doing what I'd like to be doing, where I'd like to be doing it, and I'm not being with who I want to be with. Lots of barriers between me and those things, and I don't know what I can do about that. If there is anything to do about it, honestly. I have dreams about these things, and they seem so real; spending time with that one particular person in that one special place. At this point I don't know if I'll ever get to do those things, and it's a point to meditate on, certainly. It's the most compelling part of life, this realisation that certain things are out of your grasp...I never used to believe that.
So, I have a little over a month and a half until I hit the big four-five. It feels strange, as I don't feel middle-aged. I'm sure everyone feels that way. I imaging that there is some 75-year-old guy out there that used to be an athlete, but now walks with a hunch and a cane, that feels just as spry inside as he used to be, or perhaps an 80-year-old woman who was quite a looker in 1950, and inside feels just as sexy. I'm sure of that. It's my turn, I guess, to see what that feels like.
I'm pleased at the reception of the new art blog. I get the most hits from that, which is pretty cool. I love art, or at least art as I see it, and I collect thousands of good-sized images to enjoy. It's great to have an outlet to share the stuff that I dig, and to feature people that I like. The internet is such a treasure trove of goodies. I remember the dark ages before the web, when you had to try to find art books with things that you liked, and sometimes had to buy a whole book just to get a few that you really had to have. Sometimes one had to buy a book for just one image! Art books are expensive, too. Now I have many thousands of those images that I like to caress with my eyes...to follow the lines, soak up the colours, and to live the little story. Mmm...what a blessing.
Still baking bread, and have even made some cakes. It's very fulfilling. It's part of my "force Clayton to develop counter-intuitive interests" campaign, and that one seems to be sticking. Wood carving is slow to start, but it's on its way, and the revival of poetry writing is hesitant due to fear of being terrible...I have rather Victorian tastes in that direction. In any case, it's fun. I'm working on some outdoor interests, as, pre-cancer, I was a pretty fit, outdoorsy guy, but the city is completely uninspiring. Still seeing what shape that desire will take.
Onward an upward, then, picking, grinning and bearing it. :)
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I've recently been baking bread, which I find very entrtaining for some reason. I started with the loaf of rustic onion bread that you see on the right (posed seductively with my banjo...ooh, la, la), and I've moved on to biscuits, a white bread, some Hungarian Langos, and even a respectable chocolate cake! I still make that onion bread; I think that's going to be one of my standards.
I really enjoy the process, with all the timed steps, etc., not to mention the creativity that you have in determining flavour. I put a bunch of black pepper, olive oil, paper thin garlic slices, and a splash of red hot sauce in some biscuits, and they were incredible! It's something that I'm making into one of my 'things'...it certainly beats 99% of store-bought bread, and FAR cheaper.
I also found a soup that I enjoy, making use of some scraps that I had. I made a chicken broth with this stuff from a jar, called 'better than bouillon', put in some finely-chopped onions, and a couple of handfuls of oatmeal, but only enough to keep it soup-like. It was shockingly tasty. I suppose it would be called a gruel...hmm...that doesn't make it sound as fulfilling as it does in practice. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about gruel:
"gruel is remembered as the food of the child workhouse inmates in Charles Dickens' Industrial Revolution novel, Oliver Twist (1838); the workhouse was supplied with "an unlimited supply of water" and "small quantities of oatmeal". When Oliver asks the master of the workhouse for some more, he is struck a blow to the head for it. The "small saucepan of gruel" waiting upon Ebenezer Scrooge's hob in Dickens' A Christmas Carol emphasizes how miserly Scrooge is. References to gruel in popular culture today continue to refer to miserly or starvation conditions."
I'm not sure I care for that characterisation; the stuff that I made was delicious and filling...dammit. :)
Folk hero Cossack Mamay
I just finished reading Leo Tolstoy's 1863 novel The Cossacks
(Казаки), and I found it immensely entertaining and interesting. I've been writing a bunch on my art BLOG
about some of my fave Russian artists, and those paintings of Russian history, especially of the Cossacks, has got me on another huge obsession. The culture and history of the Cossack is long and amazing, so...I gotta study it. I found the 1961 film adaptation of the novel on Youtube and I downloaded it enthusiastically. It looks wonderful. Fortunately, I found out how to download the closed Caption subtitles from Youtube as well, so I have both waiting for me! The resolution of the file is very good, which is also exciting...I'll be reviewing it on my movie BLOG
shortly, so if you're curious, keep yer eye out.
I also found another incredible-looking Polish production called Pan Wolodyjowski
, which looks to be a rollickingly macho epic about the conflict between the Zaporozhian Cossacks and the Ottomans. There was a problem with the .srt subtitle file, but I opened it with a text reader and fixed it. Adding to that, I recently got the 1962 movie Taras Bulba
starring Yul Brynner, based on the novel of the same name by Nicholai Gogol. I've also read the book and thought it was was incredible, and the movie looks to be good as well.
I'm afraid the movie blog is going Cossack...for a few movies, at least. Speaking of, I recently rewatched my fave Russian film Брат(click to read the review),
and it had a bit of that Tolstoy-esque loneliness and isolation.
It's interesting. At the end of The Cossacks
, our urban military officer, after a time with insular village folk, looks back and finds that those people have already forgotten him; something similar happens in Брат.
The guy does his best to integrate into the social life of his environment, but there is an eternal disconnect and an apathy toward him...
as he leaves,
it's almost as if he'd never been there.
Very good stuff.
Apropos of nothing
I'm in a "can't sleep" phase right now. I've been up all night again, doing my various hobbies, as well as banging away at damned ol' HTML, and I'm thinking that I'd like to sleep sometime. If only for the sensual pleasure of it, if not the rest. I'm not tired at all, I've just been up for a very long time and it's getting more difficult to fill up the time. :)
Aside from the not-being-able-to-find-a-job thing, life seems to be treating me well. I still do, of course, need that damned job, and I miss Julie a ton(who is she? Never mind...just something I think about), and I can't seem to get where I want to be on the banjo fast enough, but overall things are well. I'm really blessed in the friend department. Jeff, my brother, of course, Brandon, my bro, and Tim, my other bro, my friend Chris Russ, who has been so generous and helpful when I need it(and sometimes when I don't, which is awesome), my sweet and hard-working drum student, Izumi, my dear friend Costi, who I've recently got back in touch with, not to mention Duaney, Red Doug, Jawid, Robbie-Rob, Jersey Chris and Mexican Dave. Of course, there are my internet pals. My doppleganger in Jefferson City, Randy McCleary, Mark "the Tuba terror" Rubin, and my pal Henry Sapoznik, a mensch + 1/2, a cool dude, and #1 personal hero. Add to that other amiable individuals, and I'm a lucky chap.
I'm lucky in banjo too. My skills are stepping up organically and I like where I am. I can't really take credit for all the cool things happening with the banjo, really; I just practice, and my hands let me do cool stuff. To be more precise, let me do what my ears wish they would do. So much happens that I'm just a silent partner to, just along for the ride, hearing new songs and tunings, new licks and other things, all coming out of my banjo. Stuff that i didn't think of and can't be found in any book. That makes me happy.
Happy. I don't say that much. Honestly, I don't think it much; I generally don't believe in the concept. I do feel happy right now, so I guess I'll just move along so that I don't jinx it.
I've been enjoying the new art blog here on Claytonology. It's been getting lots of attention, to a great extent because of the wonderful Jim Flora post that I did. The folks at JimFlora.com linked me really well, so I got about 450 posts in two days. that's pretty fun. I do this for my own pleasure, but it's cool to see lots of people looking in.
I'm taking a break from a bit of research for the art blog to write this post; I'm doing three Russian art wizards in a row, all named Vasili, and all among my favourite painters...it's going to be a treat. So many great artists.
OK, back at it...the sun is coming up, and the birds are chirping. Very nice.
(click to enlarge)
It is an absolutely beautiful day outside, which is rare for the memorial day weekend here in Seattle. This is the weekend for the annual NW Folklife festival, so its good for those folks that are doing that this year. I'd considered going, but the schedule of events looked pretty poor; sad to say, it's a continuance of the decline of the festival in the last decade. The variety and quality of the music presented has gone downhill. I suspect there are budgetary concerns, but I can think of a million ways to spice it up without a big budget; fiddle and banjo contests would go a long way toward that...get back to the folk aspect of things.
I'm taking a break from the banjo for a week or two, actually. I'm at the edge of a few new style changes, and I need some time away to let them soak in. My drop thumbing and my three-finger picking are negotiating how they want to share my thumb, so while they decide, I'm just going to kick back. I've been watching how Dan Gellert does his drop thumb, and it's really changed the way that I look at it. If you don't know what drop thumb is, it's where the thumb on the right hand drops from the short 5th string of the banjo onto the other strings; it can be quite ornate, and adds lots of different rhythms to the music. Here's a great video of Mr. Gellert doing what he does best:
Funky stuff, wot?
That picture I put up in the upper-right of this post is one of my faves right now. A number of artists are making art out of carved books these days. Some of the results are amazing. Usually I don't concern myself with these kinds of things, art gimmicks(or really art in general these days...so much of it is junk), but this one struck a note with me. I'm really into the little worlds behind artifacts...the history or culture that an object can be a window into. That's a big thing for me, and one of the reasons that I play/listen to music. Each song is a window into a culture, an individual, and event, a time period, an artistic or cultural movement, and each instrument is a collection of innovations that each society that it passes through adds to it. Art is great like that, if you value such things as I do.
I think that's why I'm not into post-modern "oldtime" music so much; bands that didn't grow up with the music, but listened to recordings and got involved as outsiders. God bless them for enjoying and playing, but from my perspective these individuals can't be a direct window into of the culture of the music...they're closer to a brochure about a vacation to the Appalachians than the actual trip itself. If I want to know about the culture of the Appalachian people, their art is the best way for me to interface with it; those minute flavours that can only be had by growing up with that culture swirling around you everyday. That's what concerned musicologist Alan Lomax so much about the blues, that the culture that created and perpetuated it was disappearing...the fountain of the blues was drying up. I feel the same about oldtime music...if one plays Appalachian music and aren't Appalachian, you're basically trying to funnel someone else's experience, or, in an even more distant step, trying to funnel your experience through someone else's lens. I prefer the direct window, listening-wise.
On another note, I've been reading the Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle(Le Planete des Singes) in the original French language the last few months. It's slow going, as I'm basically learning French on the fly, but entirely rewarding. Reading it in French is a whole new experience; the story is pretty different, especially from the film version. It's written in first person, which is a very cool alternative(from my perspective, as it is actually the original) view into the story. French also has an inherently different flavour linguistically, so the story itself just feels different...I like that.
My next challenge is Julius Caesar's commentaries of the war in Gaul...in Latin! Not as much of a challenge as French, oddly, as I've been at the Latin for a while, but still a brain stretcher!
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Funny...I go through phases on here; sometimes I go for months without posting, then I have a flurry of activity for a while. I guess now is one of the latter times. I don't suppose many(if any) people read this, but it's nice to put things out there anyway, if only to get it out of my head. Claytonology has been a fun project, and has lasted longer than I'd anticipated; I've found my short-term creation to be fun and interesting to do, so I continue to do it. Honestly, it's better than "social networking" sites to me, as I find it hard to take all the posturing...here the only posturing is my own, which I, at least, find tolerable. :)
The painting there is called "Grace", and my dad has had a print of it hanging on his wall since I was a baby. That thing has really taught me a lot. When I was growing up I hated it; some old guy praying over tomato soup(which I loathe) and some grainy bread...it somehow seemed pitiful. I grew up relatively poor, and something about the whole thing made me angry. It wasn't until I moved away from dad's house, went off into the world and returned years later that I then understood. When I passed by it it didn't strike me as ugly at all, but beautiful and profound. I'd learned something about gratitude in those years, and to see this display of it made me happy. It served as a marker of my spiritual growth at the time, my reactions to it being a snapshot of me at two different points in my life. It's not that often that one gets a glimpse into one's growth so clearly, I think.
Another thing it taught me was a bit more intense. It taught me that it wasn't the painting's fault that I didn't like it. That was a biggie. The fact that I could have such polar opposite reactions to the same thing showed me that I could possibly force understanding on myself if I embraced something that I didn't like hard enough. That turned out to be true; I had stumbled on a mechanism in myself that I could use to grow, and much faster than I would have naturally. Not to say that it's flawless, but I've really benefited from that minute experience...a clear example of a counter-intuitive philosophy in a practical situation. Neat stuff.
The last thing it taught me(or more accurately, the latest thing), is that people can change, and drastically. I actually had hate for that thing. Tangible animosity. Yet nine years later I was in love with it, and it's become one of the key teaching tools in my life. That's a powerful thought for me, especially in today's sociopolitical climate, where people throw around words like "Nazi", "fascist", "racist", and so on, as if a person's point of view at a particular moment in time defines their life forever. Oftentimes a person will have one gray-area opinion and then be cast into the pits with the heathens, branded by someone else with a dehumanising word, and often unjustly. I've seen people change, and quite drastically. I know a guy that, years ago, used to say words like "nigger" and "spic" a lot(some people would label me a racist for even writing those words). He always voted Republican, and hated lefties, who he always called "commie". In recent years proclaimed that he liked and voted for Obama...and said that "those bastards[Bush & co.] really left that poor guy a terrible mess". By current standards he would have been labeled for life, and no apology could ever change that..but he uses those words no more, and he voted for a lefty black man.
Change. It is possible for everyone, both for good or bad. That was an important thing for me. The opinions of a person aren't as important as the humanity underneath; the opinions are like their clothing...they wear shorts and black T-shirts for a decade, then suddenly they're wearing jeans and various shirts. The person wearing them is still the same, and worthy of being treated as such.
All that from a hundred year old painting.
I spent most of the day thinking about the next ten years, and about what those years will be like. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I'm thinking about what life seeds to sow, and about what crops that I want to nourish my future with. It's a conundrum. When I was diagnosed with cancer and went through the treatment, recovery took a bit over ten years. I lost momentum, and I really stopped planning. It didn't seem useful to do so at the time, as the most likely result was going to be death...I put all my eggs in the "now" basket, and I lived my life then to the best of my ability. I also had other major losses on top of illness, some of which affect me to this day.
Not to say that I'm doing poorly. Although I haven't had a job in a year, have no vision for my future, have kept the idea of a romantic relationship in a locked box for a decade now, and have a surgery coming up in a month or two, life isn't bad. I have more to be grateful for than many people in apparently better situations than myself. Life now is just static....that's the issue. I'm a dynamic sort of personality, so it's a kind of torture to be in one spot, rowing around in circles. I'm just not sure of where to go; nothing calls to me as things used to call, and most of the things that seemed so obvious have been unreachable.
We'll see how things go, won't we? :)
This is what happens when I play minor key music on a rainy day; I start contemplating. It probably doesn't help that I played murder ballads all day, either! The banjo has a way of taking one to interesting and far-off places. That's why I love it.
In other news, I got a gift in the mail from my brother Jeff! I do love getting and giving gifts at random times; I think that people underestimate the power of a randomly given gift. This thing is entirely cool, and I'm sure that I'll enjoy it for years to come. That, I think, is why I love gifting. A well chosen gift can change a person, can uplift a person, and if the right one, will keep interfacing with them for a very long time. That's a big deal. It also shows a person that you were thinking of them when they weren't around...that's some special stuff.
Ok, no more of these kinds of posts for at least a week! Banjos and other things for the duration!
Up early, as usual, picking and having some toast(the photo to the right was taken mere moments ago...). It is again another fine rainy/cloudy day here in Seattle, and I'm feeling mighty fine. I've been obsessed with cool weather lately; I really enjoy how it feels...in more ways than just the physical. Rainy weather is just a touch more philosophically inclined than the sunny, I find, and I'm often more philosophically inclined than otherwise. Rain...mmm...
(click photo to enlarge)
| Clayton Walter - Cumberland Gap - mp3|
|File Size: ||267 kb|
|File Type: || mp3|
I'd like to share a wonderful blog that I found a while ago, called The Friends of Oldtime Music, which can be found HERE
. It is an absolute treasure for anyone that really loves old school Bluegrass music. There are hundreds of rare, out-of-print albums available for free download. The live shows from cassettes are the best part; non commercial moments-in-time, with some of the best picking that you'll ever hear.I'd also like to share my favourite poem this week.
It's from an upcoming book titled The Poetry of Victorian Scientists: Style, science and nonsense
, and I think it's completely charming. The beauty of poetry is in the slender slice of the universe that each poet has to share, and to see Victorian scientists trying to use their particular lens to comment on the everyday world strikes me as lovely.
The Mathematician in Love
by William J. M. Rankine
A mathematician fell madly in love
With a lady, young, handsome, and charming:
By angles and ratios harmonic he strove
Her curves and proportions all faultless to prove.
As he scrawled hieroglyphics alarming.
He measured with care, from the ends of a base,
The arcs which her features subtended:
Then he framed transcendental equations, to trace
The flowing outlines of her figure and face,
And thought the result very splendid.
He studied (since music has charms for the fair)
The theory of fiddles and whistles,-
Then composed, by acoustic equations, an air,
Which, when 'twas performed, made the lady's long hair
Stand on end, like a porcupine's bristles.
The lady loved dancing:-he therefore applied,
To the polka and waltz, an equation;
But when to rotate on his axis he tried,
His centre of gravity swayed to one side,
And he fell, by the earth's gravitation.
No doubts of the fate of his suit made him pause,
For he proved, to his own satisfaction,
That the fair one returned his affection;-"because,
"As every one knows, by mechanical laws,
"Re-action is equal to action."
"Let x denote beauty,-y, manners well-bred,-
"z, Fortune,-(this last is essential),-
"Let L stand for love"-our philosopher said,-
"Then L is a function of x, y, and z,
"Of the kind which is known as potential."
"Now integrate L with respect to d t,
"(t Standing for time and persuasion);
"Then, between proper limits, 'tis easy to see,
"The definite integral Marriage must be:-
"(A very concise demonstration)."
Said he-"If the wandering course of the moon
"By Algebra can be predicted,
"The female affections must yield to it soon"-
-But the lady ran off with a dashing dragoon,
And left him amazed and afflicted.
____________________________________________________________________________________Now, wasn't that fun?
I read a lot of poetry, but it's been a bit since I've read one quite so entertaining. I suppose some poetry buffs out there might look down the haughty nose at it, but I think it fulfills the deepest spirit of what poetry is all about; wiping the mist off the metaphorical mirror, using whatever old rag is handy, in order to see our reflections better.