Flowers #4781C, 4789C, 4786C, 4790C, 4782C, 4788B & 4783C

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November 30, 2013

Chrysanthemums, more commonly knows as Mums, are a member of the Asteraceae family of flowers.  This flower is considered a hardy perennial, although many consider them only as a short-season, fall-planted annual, as they bloom in late summer and fall.  There are forty known species and thousands of different varieties of Mums.  Most species originally came from China, Japan, northern Africa and southern Europe, although China is thought to be the original starting point of the plant, dating there as far back as the fifteenth century, B.C., where the flowers have customarily been boiled to make a tea and also used medicinally to treat influenza.  The plant has been grown in Japan since the eighth century.  Over five hundred different varieties were known to exist by 1630.  Chrysanthemums are considered to have been introduced in America in 1798, when Colonel John Stevens imported a variety known as Dark Purple from England.  The plant is considered the death flower in Europe because of its widespread use on graves.

The word Chrysanthemum is a derivative of two Greek words, chrysos (meaning gold) and anthemon (meaning flower).  This particular genus of flower at one time included many more species, but was divided into several different genera a few decades ago.  The National Chrysanthemum Society recognizes thirteen different classes of flowering blooms of the plant, based on form and the shape of its petals, although there are only eight major types; anemone, cushion, decorative, pompon, single, spider, spoon and quill.

Chrysanthemums are divided into two basic groups, garden hardy and exhibition.  Garden hardy are perennials capable of surviving winters in northern latitudes and produce a large quantity of small blooms.  Exhibition varieties are not nearly as hardy and sturdy; usually require staking and being kept in a relatively cool, dry location over the winter, sometimes requiring the use of night-lights.  In addition to its many different types of blooms, Mums come in a wide variety of colors, ranging not only of gold, but also white, yellow, bronze, red, burgundy, pink, lavender and purple.  The plant also comes in an assortment of heights as well, ranging from a height of eighteen inches up to three feet tall, depending on the particular variety, growing conditions and whether they are pinched regularly during the growing season.  Pinched plants will generate a smaller, bushier plant, producing many more blooms.

These plants can be planted either in the fall or in early spring.  Those planted in the spring will produce a more vigorous flower.  Mums prefer fertile, highly organic, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight.  The plants should be spaced roughly eighteen to twenty-four inches apart, although some varieties might require spacing up to three feet.  They can be fertilized once a month up through July.  Mums particularly need plenty of water once they start blooming.  Every two or three years, Chrysanthemums should be divided to invigorate their growth.  If bought as a potted plant in the fall, as many people do, they should be planted at least six weeks if not more before the season’s first killing frost, although it seems that many who buy fall pots will throw the plant away after the frost kills the blooms, having never transplanted the flower into a garden.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment.  Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

Black Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving – November 28, 2013

For the life of me, I have never understood the rationale behind getting up at three o’clock in the morning to go shopping, fighting mobs of bargain hunters and over limited sales items, even if one does save a few dollars.  Yet this is precisely what millions of Americans, and I assume it is mostly women, do the day after Thanksgiving, which has become known as Black Friday.  It is this holiday weekend that officially kicks off the start of the Christmas shopping binge, the time of the year when a good many businesses make most of their yearlong profits.

However, all this is changing this year as more and more stores are opening on Thanksgiving, enticing shoppers to leave their families at home on the day this nation supposedly celebrates all for which they are thankful.  Granted, most women probably find nothing more boring than watching three National Football League games all day long, thankful to get out of the house.  As I get older, I find myself watching fewer and fewer NFL games, thus depending on the games being played this day; I might or might not watch them all.  However, if I am sitting at home watching a game, I have a guitar on my lap, picking away and not really playing much attention to the game.

What I find rather peculiar however about this holiday, is the fact that several department store chains, such as Kmart, Meijer and Big Lots, are opening their doors early in the morning, either at six or seven o’clock.  Is there not one holiday left in America, let alone one’s Sabbath, which is set aside for time spent with one’s family and friends?  Of course, there are probably a lot of single people who have nothing better to do than go shopping, but how many mothers, wives and daughters, not to mention fathers, husbands, and sons that will have to spend the holiday working for minimum wage?

Since my divorce seventeen years ago, I no longer have to get caught up in the Christmas shopping frenzy.  When married, I hated going shopping in December, when the stores are filled with stressed out shoppers, all the while seemingly half the cash registers stand empty with no cashiers behind them, forcing shoppers to wait much too long in line, waiting impatiently to check out.  Thankfully, due to my divorce and now the internet, those reviled days are long behind me.

Another irritating feature of the holiday season is that each passing year sees more and more stores putting their Christmas decorations on display earlier and earlier.  Now days, once Halloween is over at the end of October, Christmas then takes its place, if not sooner.  Being raised in a Protestant church during my youth, I never understood the correlation between the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and buying gifts for everyone you knew.  Granted, the Christian biblical story goes that the three wise men each brought a gift to the baby Jesus; however, the Christmas holiday season has become much more of a shopping extravaganza, a celebration of the pagan capitalist god of commerce than the Christian observance of the birth of the Son of God.

May our Lord, by whichever name we choose to call him, have pity on us!

Steven H. Spring

Where Have All The Hippies Gone?

November 25, 2013

With the recent announcement that our nation has agreed to extend the Afghanistan War another decade, I just had to express my trepidation concerning America’s longest armed conflict.  Why is it that World War I lasted only four years and World War II just six, yet the Afghanistan War has now entered its twelfth year, and will last at least another ten?  Does anyone really believe the confrontation will end at that time for the Afghan people as the Taliban and al-Qaeda continue the fight for control of that nation?  It was also not long ago that Afghan President Hamid Karzai stated that if warfare started between the U.S. and Pakistan, most likely due to the numerous drone missile attacks ongoing in that nation, his country would take sides with their neighbor.  I find this statement incredible considering it is our military might that keep him in power.

One of the goals always stated is the need to train the Afghan troops.  We educate our military officers in four years and train our enlisted men and women in two months, yet we have been training the Afghan army for a dozen years now and further training is still required.  This just does not make sense.  We should have trained the Afghan army’s trainers and then let them train themselves.  Afghanistan has a very long history of armed conflict, and is known as the graveyard of empires for its fighting capabilities.  Maybe they should be training us.  During the past thirty years, America has been involved in some sort of military encounter in twenty-three of them.  This is astonishing.  The Iraq War, when it “officially” ended for America was this nation’s longest, has turned into a catastrophe for the Iraqi people.  Every day, it seems there is another car bombing or three resulting in the deaths of three or four dozen innocent people.  Do we really expect better results in Afghanistan?

In my writings, I always like to quote former president and five-star general Dwight Eisenhower, who in his January 17, 1961 farewell address to the nation warned the country to beware of the mighty military-industrial complex.  President Eisenhower stated “…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  Coming from a five-star general, America should have listened.  Instead, during the past three decades America has become the world’s most war-mongering nation.  War is big business and the only way the military-industrial complex stays in business and remains profitable is by this nation engaging in war.  Is this really the business America wants to be in?  For all of our numerous military skirmishes, what exactly have we accomplished?  As a nation, we live in constant fear of another September 11th attack; all the while, we are despised by much of the world.

I, for one, am disgusted by not only the loss of life, but also that of the cost and destruction that war brings.  It is abhorrent that twenty-two veterans are committing suicide every single day.  More veterans have committed suicide than died in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  War is hell is the old proverb.  These two statistics obviously prove this aphorism right.  A recent study by the University of Southern California found that teenagers who have a parent serving multiple wartime deployments have a higher risk of suicide than their peers do.  I always find it incredibly ironic that America can go to war at a moments notice with not a single thought as to the cost, yet country music singer Trace Adkins has to beg Americans via commercials to donate money for the Wounded Warrior Project, to help our injured soldiers when they come home.  This is horrendous.

Coming of age during the Vietnam War, I grew up watching the horror of war on television as Walter Cronkite reported each week the casualty figures, a conflict that resulted in the deaths of more than 58,000 Americans and has been estimated to have killed as many as 3,000,000 Vietnamese, 300,000 Cambodians and 200,000 Laotians.  Because of all the anti-war demonstrations that filled the airwaves during that horrific conflict, I never imagined that this nation would become involved in another war, let alone become perpetually engaged in warfare during my lifetime.  All those peace and love hippie baby boomers turned out to be just as sadistic as their parents.  It is time to stop this madness!

Steven H. Spring

Flowers #4722C, 4723C, 4726B, 4724B & 4725C

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November 23, 2013

Zinnias are a genus of twenty species of flowering plants of the Asteracea family, however more than one hundred different plants have been cultivated since crossbreeding them began in the nineteenth century.  Zinnias, which is also its botanical name, are native to the scrub and dry grasslands of southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America.  Noted for their long-stemmed flowers that come in a variety of bright colors, Zinnias are named for German professor of botany Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759).

I must admit, that until I really looked at these flowers up close, I would have never paid much attention to Zinnias, as they just seemed to be too common a plant to catch my eye.  However, that all changed in a big way about a six weeks ago.  I was walking to the dollar store back behind my apartment complex to get a bag or two of Cherry Sours, a sugar treat to soothe my sweet tooth when I noticed a neighbor’s flowers blooming.  On the way back home, I stopped by to see what he had growing.  Deciding they were worth photographing, I dropped off the candy and grabbed my camera and quickly went back out and fired away, shooting about 125 shots that afternoon.  The closer I zoomed in on the flowers, the more amazed I became.

Thanks to my recently purchased digital camera, shooting many pictures is very inexpensive.  And, as anyone who has ever taken a photograph of a flower knows that even the slightest breeze will cause a flower to sway.  Moreover, the closer you get to a flower, as I definitely like to do, the more a flower sways.  When you combine that with the fact that one of the side effects of the massive, nearly fatal mid-life crisis I experience seventeen years ago was to kick my life-long nearly dormant obsessive-compulsive disorder in overdrive, one can understand why I went back the next day and shot another 200 plus photos.  A few days later, I was telling my local librarian this story and told her that Zinnias are now my favorite flower. She replied, “I thought Orchids were?”  I could not argue with that.  However, I find the inner part of this flower to be incredibly surreal looking.

Zinnias are a perennial flowering plant in frost-free climates, but are an annual everywhere else.  With leaves opposite each other, their shapes range from linear to ovate, with colors from pale to middle green.  The blooms come in different shapes as well, ranging from a single row of petals to a doom shape.  Their colors range from purple, red, pink, orange, yellow and white to multicolored.  There are many different types of Zinnias.  They come in dwarf types, quill-leaf cactus types, spider types, ranging from six inches high with a bloom less than an inch in diameter to plants four feet tall with seven-inch blooms.  This plant will grow in most soil types, but thrives in humus-rich, well-watered, well-drained soils.  They like the direct sun at least six hours a day; however, they will tolerate just the afternoon sun.

If grown as an annual, they can be started early indoors around mid April.  Any earlier and they just might grow too large to manage as the plant germinates in only five to seven days.  However, these plants are said to dislike being transplanted.  If seeding is done outdoors, they should be sown in late May, after the threat of the last frost, when the soil is above sixty degrees.  They will reseed themselves each year.  Plant the seeds a quarter-inch deep, covered with loose soil.  For bushier plants, pinch off an inch from the tips of the main stems while the plant is still young.

If I am fortunate to have you view my photographs and you find the color saturation too much or the color schemes of the mats do not match either themselves or the photograph, please let me know via a comment.  Being color-blind, what might look great to me might look like sh*t to everyone else!

Steven H. Spring

November 22, 1963 – The Day That America’s Baby Boomers Lost Their Innocence

JFK Grave Site #2B

November 22, 2013

On this date in 1963, fifty years ago and ironically enough also on a Friday, at 1:30 p.m. eastern standard time, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dealey Plaza along the parade route during a trip to Dallas, Texas.  Oswald, a former Marine, was shot and killed on live television just two days later by Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner while being transferred to the country jail from the Dallas police station.

It was this tragic event that America’s baby boomers lost their innocence, and set in motion the turbulent ‘60s, a decade that saw the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, civil rights and anti-war demonstrations that resulted in the deaths of students on our college campuses, and the deaths of four young black girls attending the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

This is definitely not one of my better photographs; however, what I find truly amazing of President Kennedy’s gravesite, with the symbolic Eternal Flame standing watch, located in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., is how simple it is for such a great man.

Steven H. Spring

Joe Walsh #67B & 23B

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November 20, 2013

Joe Walsh was born Joseph Fidler on this date in 1947 in Wichita, Kansas.  Adopted by his stepfather and taking his surname of Walsh at the age of five, the family lived a number of years in Columbus, Ohio before moving to New York City and finally settling down in Montclair, New Jersey, where he attended Montclair High School.  His mother was a classically trained pianist.  Joe first began his musical journey playing the oboe and clarinet, before switching to bass guitar, and playing in local New Jersey bands The G-Clefs and The Nomads.  While going to school at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, Walsh finally switched to over the guitar, playing in a local college band, The Measles from 1965-1968.

During January 1969, Joe joined the James Gang, a Cleveland, Ohio based band that at that time was a five piece unit, but soon became a power trio when the lead singer and keyboardist quit, leaving only Walsh, bassist Tom Kriss and drummer Jim Fox to carry on.  Dale Peters soon replaced Kriss, forming the classic lineup for which the band is most famous.  While in the James Gang, the band released four albums:

Yer’ Album  (1969)
James Gang Rides Again  (1970)
Thirds  (1971)
James Gang Live In Concert  (1971).

The live album, recorded at Carnegie Hall in New York City, features an album cover of three horses tied up out front of the world-famous theater, in an obvious nod to the notorious western outlaw gang.  The James Gang is most famous for their songs Ashes The Rain And I, Walk Away, Midnight Man, Funks #48 & #49, The Bomber, Tend My Garden and Take A Look Around.

Leaving the James Gang, Walsh formed the band Barnstorm along with bassist Kenny Passarelli and drummer Joe Vitale.  Barnstorm released two albums, Barnstorm (1972) and The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get (1973), however both album covers are credited only to Joe Walsh.  Barnstorm contains the classic track Turn To Stone, while Smoker features Rocky Mountain Way and Meadows.  Becoming a full-fledged solo artist, Walsh released So What in 1974 before joining the Eagles in December of 1975, replacing Bernie Leadon.

As a member of that band, they have released the following albums:

Hotel California  (1976)
The Long Run  (1979)
Eagles Live  (1980)
Hell Freezes Over  (1994)
Long Road Out Of Eden  (2007).

While still a member of the Eagles, Walsh has continued releasing solo album through the years.  They include:

You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind  (1976)
But Seriously, Folks…  (1978)
There Goes The Neighborhood  (1981)
You Bought It, You Name It  (1983)
The Confessor  (1985)
Got Any Gum?  (1987)
Ordinary Average Guy  (1991)
Songs For A Dying Planet  (1992)
Analog Man  (2012).

Over the years, as a guest musician, Joe has played on many other artists’ albums.  Among them are albums by Ringo Starr, Manassas (Stephen Stills), America, Rick Derringer, Dan Fogelberg, Keith Moon, Jay Ferguson, Steve Winwood, Al Kooper, Bob Seger, Warren Zevon and the Beach Boys.

These two photographs were shot on June 17, 1981 at the Palace Theater in Columbus, Ohio, a historic theater seating 2,827 patrons.  The price of the ticket was $10.00.

Steven H. Spring

Throwaway, Not Throwback Uniforms

November 18, 2013

Watching the very end of the Michigan-Northwestern football game Saturday, I was tempted to update my post concerning the wearing of obscenely dreadful looking uniforms by both college and professional teams in both football and basketball, but decided against it, as it was only just a few weeks ago that I had previously done so.  Northwestern players were wearing some sort of variation of the stars and stripes, I assume out of respect of this past Monday’s Veterans Day celebration.  I am not sure if being color-blind had anything to do with it, however, the uniforms did not look all that red, white and blue to me, looking nothing like the colors of this nation’s flag.

That all changed yesterday afternoon while getting ready to watch the Battle of Ohio as the Cleveland Browns took on the Cincinnati Bengals, who themselves always wear somewhat revolting looking tiger-striped uniforms.  Granted, as a life-long Browns fan, I must admit that I hate the Bengals, no matter what they wear, and have a very biased opinion regarding their uniforms. During the final minutes of the Fox network’s pregame show, the station showed the Pittsburgh Steelers preparing to take the field wearing their throwback uniforms.  Prison stripes was the first thought that came to mind when watching quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lead his team onto the field.  Seeing those ridiculous looking uniforms made me decide to update this post.

Why is it this nation’s sports teams take great pride in wearing hideous looking throwback uniforms?  We all know the answer, that being money.  Uniform makers, such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour make millions of dollars selling team jerseys, and by having more than just the typical home and away jerseys means much more revenue.  Granted, there are several pro teams whose throwback uniforms look better than what they currently wear, as the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and the San Diego Chargers come to mind.  I believe the Bills have decided to switch back to their throwback uniforms as the official team uniform.  What sets these three teams apart from all other teams is that they came into existence in 1960 during the creation of the American Football League, which later merged with the National Football League in 1970.  I have yet to see a throwback uniform dating back much longer than 1960 that does not look repulsive.

Another thing many teams are doing is wearing black uniforms, even though the official team colors are anything but that.  Again, the reason is money, as athletic apparel makers know all to well that black jerseys sell.  While channel surfing in search of a good game to watch; now days you never can tell what teams are playing because of all the different uniforms being worn.  Call me old-fashioned, or just plain old, however, when I watch a game I like to be able to recognize the teams playing by their uniforms.  Not being able to do so, I might as well be watching a game between the Muncie Flyers and the Canton Bulldogs, two original NFL teams instead of two current Super Bowl contenders.

Thankfully, when the Browns, the team of my youth, wear their throwback uniforms, they look almost identical to what they currently wear.  The only thing that indicates something different is a small number on the helmets.  The reasoning for the popularity of these modified throwback uniforms, we are told, is that the players like them.  However, we all know the real reasoning for the old-time uniforms.  Authentic team apparel is big business.  That is the sole reason for throwback jerseys rapid rise in popularity in recent years.

As a nation, America long ago lost any sense of pride we have in our appearance.  It always amazes me when I see photos from the Great Depression, where men stood in soup lines wearing suits and ties.  These days, in our anything goes culture, young men proudly wear their pants down around their knees, arrogantly displaying their underwear for all to see.  One need only walk throughout a shopping mall or grocery store to see that now days, the less clothing the better.  People no longer get dressed up to go to church.

As proof to my claim that people just don’t care about their appearance anymore, one need only view the website People Of WalMart.  The first and only time I did so, my thought was this just has to be some sort of Halloween prank.  Surely, these people did not appear in public thinking they looked respectable.  However, it turns out that the photos posted were actual Wal-Mart customers.  Unbelievable is the word that comes to mind.

Steven H. Spring