Spam!

Spam! An all-purpose 4-letter word.

As we struggle a more perfect union, I observe that more and more vowels are taking a knee replaced with an asterisk to mask the pedestrian words that have merged into the fast lane on the public discourse freeway. She*t. P*ss. F*ck. Low words abundant in high places. But just like we know it’s Superman hiding behind a suit and glasses, we can still read all the words Clark Kent has cleaned up. When the headline includes the word ‘b***h’, Superman knows it isn’t a blush or brush Clark’s talking about.

And so dear reader, when editing or masking words, I’ve taken the tack that vowels remain in place and instead choose to mask select consonants. Sh*t becomes s*it. P*ss becomes pi*s. H*ll becomes he*l, or *ell. Still readable. You still know of what we speak. S*it could be slit and pi*s could be pits but you know they’re not and you do not need to buy a vowel. You’ve got the puzzle covered.

But then the conundrum of how to censor f*ck. F*ck is not so simple. Censored any other way it still sounds like it reads. Maybe *uck? Nah. And so taking a trick from the Monty Pythons, I propose that ‘spam’ be used as a substitute for the words that are still too robust, still too raw, still too pedestrian to walk by the editor’s blue pencil. Spam, a four-letter word, it can be a noun, an adjective, or it can be verbed and we can leave the asterisk alone. Totally flexible that spam:

  • Go to spam.
  • Spamhead.
  • Spam it.
  • What the spam?
  • Spam right off.
  • He hasn’t a spamming clue.

Spam! Bonus: suitable as a substitute for longer words too:

  • That spam better have my money.
  • Grab them by the spam.

You know what’s been said. And the Pencesniffians can read through all that spam too!

Spam. Spam. Spam.

It works.


I offer this clip of Monty Python’s ‘Spam’ in the event you think I used too much spam in this post:

Dear Diary, Vermilion Pastoral.

TL;DR? And this is l-o-n-g … I am on vacation.


Lake Vermilion. One ‘l’ not two. Vermilion, not Vermillion. Lake Vermilion, Minnesota is not a place, not a zip code. It is a lake. One of the five largest lakes in Minnesota, where I’m convinced they count ponds as lakes to get to a total of 10,000.

But then Vermilion confuses this belief.

On the west half of Lake Vermilion the bays separated by rock and island geologic formations seem large enough to warrant being their own lake – Lake Wakemup, Lake Norwegian, Lake Black, Lake Niles, Lake Frasier, Lake Head of Lakes — but instead they are bays. Wakemup Bay, Norwegian Bay, Black Bay, Niles Bay, Frasier Bay, and Head of Lakes Bay.  What defines a lake versus a bay? And when is a lake just a pond? For that matter what defines a lake when a river runs through it? And I’m looking at you Lake Pepin. The Mississippi River runs through it. Why isn’t Lake Pepin just a feature called the widening of the Mississippi River at Pepin?  (Note to self: investigate.)

Maybe Minnesota would have more lakes if the Lake called Vermilion was split up into more lakes. Bays become lakes.

Pluto was demoted from planet to dwarf planet. Lake Vermilion could be promoted to a waterway with contiguous lakes. The Vermilion Chain of Lakes. Expand the galaxy of Minnesota’s lakes by reclassifying bays.


Frood and I take a boat ride with Mr. Viva on Lake Vermilion, a lake so big it has one island for every day of the year and one of those islands is so big it has its own lake.

Skipping across the lake at boat speed taking it all in — wildness, wilderness in chaos, an endless shoreline outcropping of rock; and a better writer would describe the shoreline differently because it is not an outcropping of rock, there is nothing ‘out’ about it. ‘Outcropping’ implies a sticking out, a formation out of the ordinary. The formation on the shoreline is without end. A continuous installation of rock. Normal.

So, I’ll state it again, the entire shoreline is an outcropping of rock. The edge of rough grade sandpaper that has roughed up and raised not just wood but living woods — scrubby and dense with the occasional patches of bare rock still cold and hard, still fresh with the memory of the glacier scrape of millions of years ago. This sandpaper gives no quarter, these rocks have not cracked or broken to give shelter to the roots of a tree.

They’re warming up to moss though. It’s a start.


And the island on the lake big enough to have its own lake? I wonder if anyone lives on the island. And do they face outward toward the big lake or do they introvert to the little lake? Is the property taxed for lake frontage in and out? Coming or going? A lake with an island on a lake sounds so romantic. The island is a moat.

There is not much conversation on the boat. I miss when Frood points to a white spot on the water. From the motor end of the boat, Mr. Viva tells me, “A dead fish.” I pass the information along to Frood. “Fish.” And I point. She already knows.

We circle in to get a better look. A muskie, 45-46″ long. According to Mr. Muskie-hunter-Viva who would know, the magnificent white belly up is the result of improper catch-and-release. White belly to the sky, laid out, motionless but for the waves. In its former life, this was a predator, a killer, a big fish in a big lake.


Near Merry-Go-Round Reef at the mouth of Norwegian Bay is ‘Square Rock Island,’ a small island with a cubic rock pointing up. Someone in glacier-scrape-sandpaper quality control left before shift end and so this cube sticks out like a die stuck en pointe. A singular true outcropping. And again with the names. ‘Square’ implies two-dimensions. ‘Cubic Rock Island’ would be more apt. ‘Dice Island’ more poetic. (‘Die Island’ more exacting but who would want to go there?) Note to self: have a word with the Minnesota Department of naming things.

The rock on Square Rock Island is very Claes Oldenburg-esque and it was here long before and will be here long after us or Claes. Nature demonstrates. If it was a Rubik’s Cube, the colors have faded to gray.  Or maybe it is the dots on a die that have worn away — no more craps games and we never made the second die for a set of dice anyway.  Or maybe the glacier scraper had something more practical in mind, we’ll never know. This odd rock on an island on a lake that has an island with a lake. Art. Nature validates even though we puzzle as to why and what for.

I would like to see something like a ‘Dice Island’ sculpture on a Wisconsin Avenue street corner as a Sculpture Milwaukee installation. The sounds of wind and water and motorboat would be replaced with street sounds but that could only add to the puzzlement and wonder. A glacier scraper installation on Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI.

I’m here for it.


One of the Sculpture Milwaukee sculptures last year was not the sculpture but the instructions for construction. This seems like a writerly way to create art. Describe, specify, handoff to manufacturing and see what this way comes. Handoff to many manufacturers resulting in a family of sculptures with a shared DNA but each one unique.

I am reminded of the scene in This is Spinal Tap where the artist played by Angelica Huston hands a commissioned replica of Stone Henge to the band’s manager. When the manager inquires as to the delivery of the full-size stage prop, she pulls out the paper napkin spec and points to 11″ — eleven inches. This is it. I’ve finished. The difference a tic makes — 11″ – inches when it should be feet — 11′.

In describing the Lake Vermilion shoreline for hand-off to manufacturing, I would overuse ‘outcrop’ and ‘outcropping.’ The glacier scraper would read “outline the shore with rock outcroppings like glitter only use rock, lots of rock, so much outcrop rock, outcroppings of rock under the water, outcroppings over the water, big outcroppings of rock as islands” and then in protest of all this misuse of ‘outcrop’ and its tiresome variations and to make a very bold, very Claes statement, manufacturing would drop a “Square Rock Island” into the final product. Screw you. Screw your instructions. We know it’s a cube, but this, this is an outcropping rock. Bah with your shoreline “glitter” of 11″. We know it is 11′. We make mistakes made to scale.


American Pastoral by Philip Roth is a sweeping saga of a novel. Oh, glorious redundancy! “Sweeping saga of a novel.” He writes deliciously, delicately, boldly and delivers paragraphs that span pages. A paragraph so long it contains sentences with embedded paragraphs — no twitchy returns or hesitations; a paragraph that spans years of military service and pages followed by another paragraph a few pages later that a lesser writer demanding less of a reader would mercifully call a complete chapter.¹ Gloriously tamped down, packed, and fully formed novels within sentences within paragraphs within a novel.

And in keeping with pastoral, there is not much dialog, but when there is, it is exact. Innocuous. Simple. But loaded.

“Fish.” Dead fish. I wonder at the life of the muskie. Territorial, predatory, making its way through years of unchecked behavior becoming of a master of a pond or a large lake or Lake Norwegian Bay. Caught up by the lure, the appeal of a Lindy line, hook, and sinker. Caught. Photographed in shame by a proud fisherman — he had to have been, a muskie this huge. The muskie was stunned by too much fresh air, thrown back without enough catch-and-release care to reacclimate, belly to the sun, dead to the end. No more the big fish.


Pastoral. The definition:

  1. used for or related to the keeping or grazing of sheep or cattle.
  2. (in the Christian church) concerning or appropriate to the giving of spiritual guidance.

Early in the saga of Swede, the protagonist, the narrator claims he was completely wrong, completely wrong about his understanding of the Swede. Wrong about the Swede. Pastoral, both definitions apply. But wrong. The writer, the narrator’s brain. Roth nails it. Meet someone once and nail their character, their personality, their imagined experience to a wall. Crucify them on your storyboard with a glance. And then Roth nails us. Pins himself up for examination and scrutiny.

“I was wrong.”

And me too! I always am.

Dig under the veneer, lift-up the corners, look at the underbelly. “If you knew your neighbor’s problems, you’d keep your own.” – anonymous

That’s where the story starts and as the tale is told, I shift my scrutiny of Swede and his story to the narrator as look through his prose, his descriptions, his glass, darkly. The real story is the subtext of what’s onstage.


There is a breeze on the lake and by breeze, I mean a cool sometimes stiff wind. We’re in a small boat, there is a healthy chop. And then a speedboat towing a floaty ring with a couple of kids on it zips by and they must be freezing. The water may be 60°F. Small human ice cubes in the making.

But then kids burn hot.

Back in the early ‘70’s of flowers and large bell-bottoms, my Aunt made us – we were kids — swim, get in that water on that Lake Vermilion public beach. The ambient temperature hadn’t risen to above 70°F until after the 4th of July and the ice may have broken just the week before, but you are going in that water. Looking back, we were an offering, her sign to the universe that this was summer; in this land of 10,000 lakes and some ponds and a lake with an island with its own lake, it is warm enough to call it summer, hot enough to order a sacrifice of small warm human bodies into a cold lake.

Shepherd the children into the lake to show the universe what you’re willing to sacrifice and maybe summer will follow. Kids burn hot. I only remember the fun of the beach.


I’m currently taken with the time-lapse function on my camera. Pointed at the seemingly unmoving landscape of trees, water, sky, the camera picks up the micro movements in the macro frame.

My bleacher seat today is on the deck of a porch looking at a lake with an island that is big enough to have a lake.

From the porch across the road, I must look like a woman intent on a notebook, enjoying too much coffee, glancing away occasionally. Or I am just a woman in a pink sweatshirt feeling the breeze. Whatever. Their frame doesn’t show what is written, doesn’t show micro movement. They don’t know that I’m writing that their beach towels and lawn chairs are thrown about and it looks like a mess of a vacation.

Micro-movements.

When I’m plugged into the news, into the micromovements of macroas*holery, I realize the frame I’m looking at isn’t large enough. In the sweeping glacial movement of time, daily news is a scratch.


Here’s a picture of coffee.

Coffee in repose.

Still life.


In Ankle Biting Black Fly Cove I kill a couple getting drunk on the sweet elixir I call my precious lifeblood. A check of the Lake Vermilion map doesn’t show a bay named Ankle Biting Black Fly Cove but it should. I must have a word with the namers of places. People should be warned.


Pastoral. While reading American Pastoral on a Lake Vermilion beach, I wonder if there is a word to describe in one fell swoop inland waterways and large swaths of freshwater lake and rock and scrub. A single word that could stand in and replace hundreds of words in this post, but the words I trip across seem salt-water based. Maritime. Aquatic. Seafaring. Oceanic. So far removed from here.

Either there is an obscure word that is not coming to mind (mine), or there is an opportunity to create a new word. ‘Lakquatic’ as a mash-up but it doesn’t contain the hardness, the coldness, the glacial scrape of life in the north woods. I need a word that encompasses the blue-red vermilion water, the scrubby trees, the rock underlying and overlaying, the mosquitos that sound like small helicopters, the loons that mate for life, the expensive rod and reel sunk to the bottom, the large predator floating belly up, the all of it.

This is Vermilion Pastoral.

-Viva E., Lake Vermilion

July, 2018


¹ Epic paragraphs in American Pastoral by Philip Roth are on pages 211-213 and 220-224 if you’re still reading along, Ann.

Time-lapse: Happy Mother’s Day!

Well, I am a people watcher reporting from the bleacher seats! And last weekend I watched a crowd of graduates which included Frood,¹ process their way into an auditorium, receive their diplomas, and process their way back out.

I recorded time-lapse videos of the event — the crowd is in place, the chairs fill; the chairs empty, the crowd pours out. The view from the bleacher seats. Parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, the all of us smooshed into a ceremony in celebration of a major milestone and achievement!

Enjoy! Or not …

I was interrupted during the filming of the procession out, but smacks! Look at that crowd in the bleachers on the other side of the auditorium MOVING on OUT, that yellow of the empty seats pops!


¹ Frood is still not her real name.

The joy of old media!

Today in the age of news that precedes the facts, I would like to take a moment to celebrate The New Hampshire Gazette, “The Nation’s Oldest Newspaper (TM), founded in 1756 by Daniel Fowle, A Non-Fiction Newspaper.” And this entire post is my shameless blatant endorsement of a paper that has not gone soft due to the whiz-bang-wow of the immediacy of electronic devices.

I did not know of this free and fine publication until Ann tossed me a copy on her return from a trip out east. “You might find this interesting.” And I read it. Front to back. The whole enchilada newspaper. Published once every two weeks, it is a respite from the barking news media. It is social and political commentary and observations made from the distance of space-time removed from the right NOW. National, state, and local news. Not all of the news for sure, but enough. More would just be showing off.

Here are excerpts that make me aspire to write better, smile or outright laugh-out-loud. From Vol. CCLXII, No. 15, April 13, 2018 (my bold):¹

The Fortnightly Rant:

“Now Uncle Sam’s shoelaces have been tied together — by the hand of the GOP.”

“The EPA, now being run by its own arch-enemy, Scott Pruitt … “

“In the perfectly-normal mind of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, … the only proper way for a child to learn is from a perfectly-matched pair of parents — one of each gender, if you please — who can somehow find the time and wherewithal in today’s nuked economy to operate their own single-family school district.”

“… consider Mick Mulvaney and all his works.”

“As a nihilistic representative of corporate chaos determined to clear all obstacles to Wall Street’s goal of world domination … “

Busted by the Flag Police

Issues I’ve read to date, run the feature Busted by the Flag Police — a photo of a desecrated US flag and why its display is not in keeping with the decorum expected of flag handling and display. This issue features a painting by Jon McNaughton of President Trump holding a desecrated flag, “specific charges … will be ginned up at a later date.” Jon McNaughton’s work “would appear to be updated works of Hieronymus Bosch, but for the marked absence of skill, imagination, and wit.”  Supposedly this painting was purchased by that great wit Sean Hannity who, since the publication of this issue, has been outed as a Michael Cohen client. And I laugh.

Letters to the Editor: A Veterans’ Day Parade Done Right

“Just a thought, but as they say, “Nothing’s too good for a soldier, but we give it to them anyway.”

– Dan Mannschreck, Col., U.S. Army (Ret), Eliot, Maine

And I feel a connection.  Dad used to say, “Nothing’s too good for the poor, but we get it anyway.” Hmmm, perhaps he learned this in the army, too? Note to self, investigate.

Admiral Fowle’s Piscataqua River Tidal Guide (Not for Navigational Purposes)

And finally, enjoy a sampling of historical events noted on the back page:

Sunday, April 15, 1992 — Leona Helmsley, America’s anti-sweetheart, takes up residence at a federally-owned Crowbar Hilton in Lexington, Ky.

Thursday, April 17, 2013 — A fertilizer plant located next to a middle school in West, Texas, uninspected since 1985, blows up. Fifteen are killed, mostly volunteer firemen, 250 others are injured.

Friday, April 20, 1971 — Mistaking the National Mall for their lawn, Supreme Court Justices tell Vietnam Veterans Against the War to get off it.

Saturday, April 21, 1971 — In Washington, D.C., Vietnam Veterans Against the War defy the Supreme Court by staying on the National Mall. Park police decline to arrest.  Tomorrow’s headline: “Vets Overrule Supreme Court.”

Monday, April 23, 1014 — Vikings are defeated at the Battle of Clontarf.  High King Brian Boru is slain by Brodir, but Brodir is soon disembowelled [sic] by Brian’s brother Wolf the Quarrelsome.

Friday, April 27, 2017 — “This is more work than my previous life,” says President Donald Trump. “I thought it would be easier.”

Friday, April 27, 1773 — The British Parliament passes the Tea Act. Oops.

Saturday, April 28, 2016 — Ex-Speaker John Boehner calls Sen. Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh,” and says he “never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

By publication end, I feel all the better for the reading. Smarter, calmer, able to breathe. I’ve been delivered real news and opinion in hardcopy format. Although I knew that Sen. Ted Cruz is a miserable son of a bitch, I was unaware that Wolf the Quarrelsome could be so fatally unpleasant.

And while the US Postal Service is still in business, for the fee of $25, 26 fortnightly issues are delivered to locations other than locally “free”. A mental health break bargain


¹ Footnoting being what it is in this electronic age — I have not discovered a superscript number beyond three (³) in WordPress — all of the indented texts above contain direct quotes from The New Hampshire Gazette, Vol. CCLXII, No. 15, April 13, 2018.

² On the subscription page, The New Hampshire Gazette is also open to donations.

A visual: The Genesis of a blog post.

I start blog posts with the best of intentions, but I swear every time, every time, every.time, Michael Palin as the Boring Prophet in the Monty Python movie, Life of Brian, kicks off the festivities in my head:

… rumors of things going astray, and there shall be a 

great confusion as to where things really are …

Things and rumors of things and stuff and perhaps

I could be a little more general.

A little less specific.

The struggle is real.

Enjoy!

A Sundry Assortment: Winter Olympics 2018

Before I start on my sundry assortment of 2018 Winter Olympic observations, I must say that after Mueller’s indictment of Russians meddling in the 2016 election,  I tripped across the comment “It is still possible Mueller could still indict Americans for knowingly helping Russia.” ¹ (Hat Tip: WTFJHT)

And I thought: All 63,985,134 of them? Mueller might be taking names …

Bwahahaha! Okay. Enough. On to a couple itty-bitty Olympic-size observations.


Men’s Figure Skating

I happen to be liking Tara Lipinski & Johnny Weir commentary. Not at first and every now and then, sure, I’d still like them to shut up. But as Mr. Viva & I watch an entire skating event, as the precision of performance on the ice goes up, their rate of commentary goes down. And when I listen to them yammer, they do know of what they speak. They have occupied Olympic ice.

Which brings me to presence. For many men,”sports” do not depend on having a “presence.” And let’s face it, the best figure skaters exude a dynamic presence on the ice. Figure skating is not about facing down an opponent or other team and overcoming by scoring more points or beating them up.

And this is why many men don’t see the sport in Men’s Figure Skating competitions. No one is tackled. No harm. No foul. There is music. There is choreography. There are not uniforms.  Individuals wear “outfits.”

No sport.

This explains a lot.

Speaking of Presence

Johnny Weir has presence in spades. He is a joy and a delight!

And I love that his hair last night in profile — swept up and back and very black — reminded me of my great-aunt Amy. And she was beautiful.

Thank you, Mr. Weir.

Pink Floyd takes the ice.

Thrown into the mix of classical music during the final skate of the Men’s Ice Skating championship last night was a skate to a Pink Floyd medley including Shine on You Crazy Diamond and Money.

And then Mr. Viva & I reflected. Pink Floyd’s song Money was released in 1973 or forty-five (45) years ago.

It a classic.

Now it’s like, classical …

Extreme Sports

Back in the day, more than 45 years ago, in black and white, I watched skiers go off the end of the ski jump and watched the official tape measurers measure the length of the jump.  And catching air and sailing, ski tips to the nose while in flight, landing with maximum distance. I was mesmerized.

I haven’t been followed the addition of new extreme winter sports to the Olympics. And so, I watch drop-jawed gobsmacked the half-pipe snowboarding and aerial freestyle skiing or whatever it’s called, events. (“The US Stunk at Winter Olympics Until Extreme Sports Came Along”)

Hurl yourself down a ski jump, flip a couple times in the air, land backward and ski to the next jump which is taken backward, perform a couple more flips, land. This is extreme. Also, the face plants into snow and ice on some spills are painful just to watch. I’m relieved when the athlete gets up and waves their arms and … they’re ready to go again? What!?

And I wonder what sports get added after Extreme Winter Sports? Extreme Winter Sports on Steroids? No, steroids are banned. Extreme Winter Sports Plus? Extreme Men’s Figure Skating? Extreme <insert event that’s not yet extreme here>?

Or maybe the Olympic Committee could consider adding age categories.  Give the ‘olds’ some medals. Extremely Old Winter Sports.  Aging out is not an option.

I mean, we can sing along to Pink Floyd.


¹ ¹Strohm, Chris. Mueller Still Investigating Possible Collusion, Source Says” Bloomberg. 16 February 2018 2:32 PM CST. Web. 17 February 2018.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

It is a statement, a sentence, not just a movement, not just a fad.

In a post that is now so last year, I copped to being a ‘Becca’ white woman in the whole of the ‘Becky’ taxonomy.  As stated:

“Keeping in mind that I don’t know what to do or what I’m doing, I will push beyond my Becca-ness of being ‘willing to do the work … but not really.’

I will do work. Really. “

And for me the challenge became discovering a way to 4) Use your privilege to support marginalized movements without drawing attention to … me.  How could I be a quiet, present, and strong ally? Other than pinning up every day which can be seen as an empty gesture used to assuage my own ‘guilt’, how can I be heard without saying a thing?

I’m open to wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt, but that seems too easy, too obvious, and if the BLM movement doesn’t persist, then what?  And my inner optimist hopes I’d be the butt of a joke for wearing a dated ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt when I’m old, but then my inner cynic says “shut up, systemic racism will be here long after you’re gone.”

Much like pinning up, wearing a slogan t-shirt could be interpreted as an empty gesture. I needed to create something of my own that unapologetically makes the statement ‘Black Lives Matter’, and it struck me while working on another project that Morse Code is the perfect medium.

And so this is my artist’s statement regarding the Black Lives Matter: Morse Code collection:

The challenge is to be a present, silent, strong ally making the clear statement ‘Black Lives Matter.’

Morse Code is heard in the darkness.

Darkness doesn’t see color.

Be seen to be heard.Morse code - BLM freehand (2)

Black Lives Matter.


Black Lives Matter: Morse Code t-shirts, sweatshirts, coffee cups merchandise available from Zazzle via the Viva Boutique Vending page. After-tax profits will be donated to Black Lives Matter. (I get a small % from each sale.)

The BLM: Morse Code design was my own vanity project as I want the statement Black Lives Matter to be as easy and accessible as a Roswell or a Saint Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage t-shirt.


The following is included for fun and advanced reading beyond the basic blog post.

I entered some Viva facts in the 500letters.org Artist Statement Generator and it spit out the following which I thought was spot-on, perceptive, and fun. Not unlike a horoscope. Try it and see what kind of artist you’re meant to be.  “Between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves.” Oh? Really.

Viva Escritora

Viva Escritora (United States) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By applying abstraction, Escritora touches various overlapping themes and strategies. Several reoccurring subject matters can be recognized, such as the relation with popular culture and media, working with repetition, provocation and the investigation of the process of expectations.

Her artworks often refer to pop and mass culture. Using written and drawn symbols, a world where light-heartedness rules and where rules are undermined is created. By using popular themes such as sexuality, family structure, and violence, her works references post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.

Her work doesn’t reference recognizable form. The results are deconstructed to the extent that meaning is shifted and possible interpretation becomes multifaceted. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, she creates intense personal moments masterfully created by means of rules and omissions, acceptance and refusal, luring the viewer round and round in circles.

Her works demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves.