Mixed Nuts

NOAA Wx Radio’s Greatest Hits

We call him Jose because he seems to have a south-of-the-border ESL quality to his robot speech as he reads the weather synopsis, forecast or current readings of conditions around the area. He came out with a good one yesterday. Of course he just reads what the statisticians put before him:

November 19, 2006. Blacksburg Virginia set a record for snowfall amount of TRACE which exceeds the former snowfall record for this date of ZERO recorded in 2002.

Words Fit to Print

Drove to Wytheville yesterday to make final arrangements for the notecards. They are spot-on and will be ready for me to pick up on Friday, December 1. But the best part of the trip was the guided tour of the facility at Wordsprint, owned and operated by Bill Gilmer. We knew Bill when he moved to Wytheville in the mid-eighties, a young man with the purpose to live away from town, and write–short stories. He took in typing by the page because it was something he did well. He now has both floors of the old Leggetts building on main street, twenty employees, and a thriving regional print and mail business. I’m pleased with what he’s produced for me, and more than that, with what he has produced for himself and the community by persistence, character and hard work.

Words Fit to Finesse

Two words were added to the Fragmented Fred lexicon at the writers workshop in Tennessee a few weeks back. I’ll share: 1) efreet (or afrit) — an evil spirit, especially in Arab mythology. It came up in a bit of science fiction poetry that was read, and everybody went HUH? and 2) ekphrasis, which poets are more likely to know, perhaps, than other flavors of writers. And I guess it deserves more, because without knowing it, it is this kind of one art leading to or enhanced by another that is inherent in my “images in words and pixels” relationship between photography and the written word. Here’s the fuller description of what the word means:

Ecphrasis has been considered generally to be a rhetorical device in which one art tries to relate to another art by defining and describing the essence and form of that original art, and in doing so, “speak to you” through its illuminative liveliness. A descriptive work of prose or one of poetry, a film, or even a photograph may thus highlight through its rhetorical vividness what is happening, or what is shown in, say, any of the visual arts, and in doing so, may enhance the original art and so take on a life of its own through its brilliant description. The kinds of art described in this way may include painting, photography, sculpture, architecture, etc.

And a third word often used, never dissected by me until someone did so in church a couple of weeks ago. The word is SARCASM, and I claim it reluctantly as a perverse gift of mine, pulled out when threatened, wounded or frustrated, usually with family. And I should have picked up on the word root long ago; it is well-known in medical terminology (e.g. sarcoplasm). It is in the word sarcophagus. In the word sarcasm, too, sarc– means flesh. When we use sarcasm in our language, it causes the hearer to bite the flesh of their lip in pain, is the original meaning. I’ll remember this, next time my words risk wounding another.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred, I am finally admitting to you that I have been reading your blogs for months. I was first attracted by your photographs, which are absolutely remarkable in their ability to communicate a deep sense of place. But I am really caught by your writing as well. So today, is my first comment to you. If you will allow me, I will try to be faithful in my response for I do not intend this to be just a one-time “hello/goodby”. Tuesday’s words of ecphrasis is fascinating to me in my passion as photographer and my vocation. I have thought for a long time that that there was within art another dimension that was clearly communicating something more. I would be intersted in learning more. Thanks as well for your observations about sarcasm. It is a helful reflection on a cultural obsession.

  2. Hi John, thanks for stopping by. I skipped over to your place, galleries in particular, and have at least a half dozen almost identical images. Especially good to see the yellow lady slippers and the spicebush swallowtail on button-bush–a southern plant I haven’t seen in some years! You didnt leave an email, nor is there an email address on your site, so perhaps you’ll catch this reply.