Friday, December 14, 2018

Shipwreck - Nova Scotia. Unknown date.

Clear Creek sometime in the 1950s

My American grandfather and his brothers owned property here. Today there's a small park and much of the rest is off limits as part of the Northern California watershed.

As children we had endless good times here. I almost stepped on a harmless ribbon snake. Scared me spitless but the snake seemed on concerned. ...

The little store you see still exists I'm told. When I was very young my first taste of red cream soda came from this store. It was paradise.

My one and only novel, Pixie Warrior is set in this forest. It is a place of mystery and adventure. My dad took me on a longish hike in it when I was maybe ten [or close to it]; we found a single, gorgeous example of an opium flower growing wild in the forest.

We visited the logging camps hidden in the forest. It was for years a major part of my life.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Stalkers and Peeves

            I’ve acquired a stalker. This isn’t new. I’ve had them before: A group on Second Life composed of trolls, gay boys, and the very vulgar; a man with questionable morals who cheats on his wife; someone from twitter. So this isn’t new. The new stalker is from New Jersey. The IP address traces them to Haledon, New Jersey. [Their IP says Oakland NJ 07436 but another source says 111 New South Road, Hicksville, NY, 11801, US] He/she follows me all over the Internet. They’ve visited the blog of a Second Life Troll. They read my twitter posts. They’ve read reviews of my book, and they’ve looked for my address. They won’t find that. ... Mostly because de Vienne is a small part of my maiden name and not my married last name.
            Mr. Haledon could simply ask me questions ... But stalkers do not do that, do they? It would disrupt their hobby. There are some things I do not share. I do not share some types of photos. I do not share my dissertation. I wouldn’t write it in the same way today. Its defects [from the standpoint of our current research] mean I do not want it cited as an authoritative voice in the same way Separate Identity is. An extremely interested person might be able to find it, but I doubt it. The university from which I earned my PhD posts theses online, but almost all of them are dated after my post graduate work was completed. So, NO, you can’t have it.

            Stalkers do not need a reason for their behavior – other than mental defect. I do not know Mr. Haledon’s motive, though I suspect it is a bad one. I suspect a specific motive, but at this point I cannot prove one.

Now, on to other things ...

            My youngest is working on a Future Cities entry. She’s full of questions and concepts.

           Daughter 4 sings solo in our community choir. She practices endlessly ... and though I’m prejudiced ... I am her mom, after all ... I think she’s quite good. Really good.

            Come spring term the next two oldest are off to their respective universities. This will become a very quiet very empty house. I’m already suffering empty nest anxiety. However, both of my sisters who live here have growing families. My youngest sister, the mother of toddler twins, came by this morning with Salted Caramel lattes and frosted sugar cookies, hemmed and hawed and finally announced she is pregnant. She hasn’t told her husband. She just found out this morning. She’ll tell him tonight. So even with departing children, I’ll have more children circulating in and out of our house than I can track. As I calculate it, there’s a child or two of every age from under one to 20 something spread between my sisters and some cousins who live nearby.  

            One of my cousins –we’re especially close; people used to mistake us for twins –
emailed me this morning. Her husband used to work at the UN, but they’re back in France now. And apparently, she’s not happy to be there. She’s German born, and I get the impression she’d rather live there. Me? I’ve been to both countries enough to know I do not want to live in either. Major swathes of Europe have gone mad and turned themselves in to public sewers. I like Poland, Lithuania, Austria, and though I’ve never been there, I like Italy. I would like to visit Bulgaria, though because of health, it’s a big deal to drive across the bridge to the ‘big city’ on the other side of the river. We aren’t that far from the coast, and I couldn’t make the trip. Dang.
            I have a long list of peeves, most of them of no consequence. But when I’m especially ill, I’m easily peeved by certain things. My major peeve is that an important archive simply refuses to answer my writing partner’s letters – and given the amount of money and material he has funneled their way, this is disreputable.
            And how was your day?

Thursday, November 29, 2018



On second thought ... Mr. or Mrs. Haledon NJ may be one of my twitter followers. In which case they are welcome here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

If music be the food of love

by Occasional Reader

     We are currently in the process of slimming down. Not our figures but our possessions. But it seems never ending and no matter how much disappears on eBay, what is left still seems to overfill available space. But in my attic this week I came across some sizeable remnants of my record collection.
     What were the first discs I bought?
     They were on 78 rpm. It was a format usually produced on shellac that replaced cylinders and lasted for around sixty years.
     Showing my penchant for high art from a tender age, my very first purchase from a piggy bank full of pocket money was the 78 rpm recording of Mel Blanc singing (?) “I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat.” I read somewhere that he once mused that he wished he had done something worthwhile with his life, but being the voice of Sylvester and Bugs Bunny is not a bad epitaph.
     Blanc was followed by such delights as “The Singing Dogs” and “The Runaway Train” – Vernon Dalhart’s version. When pop music started to intrude there was Buddy Holly burping and gargling his way through “Peggy Sue.”
     But my real musical discovery with millions of other teenagers and pre-teens was the joys of skiffle.
     In Britain skiffle sort of started with Ken Colyer. Colyer was a jazz musician who went to the States to play with the New Orleans greats, and promptly got arrested and then deported over visa problems. This gave him enormous street cred in the miserable monochrome Britain of the day. He started the trend for Jazz musicians to use a show’s interval for a brief foray into a very limited type of folk music which they called skiffle. It was usually borrowed from old American singers like Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly) and optimistically it involved all of three chords, a washboard and thimbles for percussion and a one-stringed tea chest for bass. If I were writing a thesis on skiffle I would hark back to the American jug bands of the early 20th century. But I’m not. So I won’t.
     I bought Colyer’s “Streamline Train”, then Lonnie Donegan’s “Rock Island Line.” Donegan was an anachronism – he was old, nearly 30, and he wore a suit and a bow tie, but he did have a voice. Before he morphed into that most dreaded of performers (the-all-round-entertainer) he did some good stuff. Skiffle paved the way for the British pop invasion a few years later; the Beatles started out as the Quarrymen Skiffle Group. But coupled with hearing the Weavers on Radio Luxembourg during their McCarthy era blacklist, and then the Kingston Trio on the Capitol radio show – I was to be hooked forever on folk music in its various incarnations.
     78s were phased out very quickly for vinyl 45s (although I seem to remember that Woolworth still briefly used shellac for the new speed) – so there was a very young Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover,” Buddy Holly again, “Learning the Game,” Gene Vincent with “My Heart…” I was now in the era of having more of my own money and that is where it went. O the joys of teenage love songs and punk pop.
     And of course vinyl Long Playing Discs at 33 rpm.
     I still have my very first vinyl LP. Four Rossini overtures played by the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam conducted by Eduard van Beinum. It was on a reissue cheapo label.
     I liked Rossini. Most classical composers seemed to be so po-faced, so very serious, dying for their art and all that. Rossini was a hack. He pinched the best pieces from one opera and recycled them at the next place he went to. His overtures were regularly reused although they had no bearing on the new opera.
      I remember as a small child at school they showed us a short film of an orchestra playing the overture to “The Thieving Magpie.” It started sort of slow and ordinary, then built up a bit, and finally went ballistic at the end. I learned how Rossini wrote arias that certain singers couldn’t sing, just to annoy them. I almost added here that he was obviously a man after my own heart but actually I’m a pussy cat by comparison. Or as Mel would say – a puddy tat. When fashions started to change and he’d made his money he virtually retired and lived the sort of life for his last 40 years that you really wonder how on earth he managed to last that long.
     So yes, my first LP, which is still there in the attic. I wouldn’t part with it. When I pop my clogs and they pore over my collection of junk this is going to be the Occasional version of Rosebud. If you have seen the film Citizen Kane that was Kane’s first prized possession, a wooden sled called Rosebud - the first word in the movie and also the final shot in the film as it goes up in flames.  (Orson Welles would later define this as an unkind joke at the expense of William Randolph Hurst but we will tiptoe away from that).
     It all gets dead boring after that. Later were cassettes where you could make up your own playlists for the first time – I still have wall to wall radio drama preserved in this format – and then CDs. Our new car doesn’t even have a CD slot so that’s the start of a death knell for that format, so now it’s  a trusty iPod and streaming and downloads and all that.
     But even now, nothing can replace the sound of bacon frying on a scratchy old 78 shellac record played with steel needles on a genuine wind-up phonograph.

Monday, October 01, 2018

From Anthony

A fairy about to learn to never flirt with a Pixie's pet man ....

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

22 Infantry Division - Prussia - 1916

Photo - Officer and Detail. None of them are identifiable.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Saturday, August 18, 2018

By Sousu

Choice of shoe style reflects one's personality.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Cambridge 2018

by Occasional Reader

     So for the fourth year running the Occasional family behaved like superannuated hippies and attended the Cambridge Folk Festival along with 14,000 others. Last year it rained. This year it didn’t. The sun blazed down and we baked, cooked, roasted…

     As always the festival for us started with a queue. The gates to the main center and campsite opened at 10 am – we got up at some unearthly hour to be in the queue from around 7 am to get our key spot, somewhere with shade but not too far from the rest rooms... So I sat on my camp chair in the queue for three hours and read my Times newspaper. There was an article on the front page that said that drinking four and half bottles of wine a week (about three times the recommended UK limit) will mean you are less likely to go down with Alzheimer’s disease than if you were teetotal. I read that again. It really did say that. So looking at the necessary provisions my fellow queuees had, it seems they were really taking that to heart, although the weather was more suitable for iced beer than red wine. Of course it could just mean that if you downed four and half bottles of wine each week, you might just die of something else before Alzheimer’s got you. Still it was a thought.

     What do we want?
     Better memory.
     When do we want it?
     Want what?

     Or as no doubt I have said many times before; when you get to my age three things start to happen. First your memory starts to go. And the other two I can’t remember…

     I always determine when I go away that I am going to catch up on so many things. So I took away a number of volumes that I had started, but not finished.

     There was the detailed report of a conference on a religious group in which I have an interest. I assisted two of the authors with their chapters, but my particular interest was in what can only be called the lunatic-fringe. I did read some of that, shook my head slowly, laughed (sort of) before having another beer.

     There was the latest biography of Jerome K Jerome. It was rather nice to find myself referenced in it, as I have written on this author on a number of occasions and supplied several chapters for a 150th anniversary celebration book. (Pause to look smug). One of the first articles I ever wrote on this blog was about a school teacher, Mr V, in what the UK calls the juniors, who tried to read Three Men in a Boat and went red in the face and guffawed most of the time in front of a large class of bemused eight year olds. But that is how I started. There was a special second hand bookshop that I used to visit when returning to London and they put Jerome books away for me. Alas, like so many others, long gone. But I read a little.

     What I really planned to do was to complete an article for a history blog on a fascinating character named John Adam Bohnet. He spanned crucial decades of a certain group’s history and whenever they (collectively or through individual members) found themselves in court, he would invariably turn up as a witness. But I lost my notes. When I am home they will turn up no doubt, but they didn’t turn up before we left for Cambridge, so John Adam is going to have to wait a bit longer.

     What I did read at length, because it was on my eReader was Lying for Money by Dan Davies, subtitled How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of our World. It was both hilarious and sad in equal measures; from people being sold not-existent land in South America in the 19th century, to the failed attempt of notorious London gangsters, the Kray Twins, to liquidate their book-keeper, to Ponzi schemes and huge business frauds of recent decades. One highlight was the American fraudster who used huge vats of salad oil as collateral for his wheeling and dealing. He was known as the salad oil king. However, since oil floats on water, the vats were actually full of sea water with about two inches of salad oil on the top. He got away with it for years. News of its crash and exposure was overshadowed by the assassination of John F Kennedy which happened on the same day. The subject matter was to be taken as “A WARNING” - or as a guide for future fraudsters.  Take your pick. I enjoyed it immensely.

     Of course we came to listen to music and make music. As always, some was good, some was execrable. Perhaps the worst (and I won’t give a name) was someone who decades ago was a real wild child. More punk than folk, she used to cuss at the audience and spit. When you see the same person as a lady in her seventies with matted white hair, still cussing the audience and spitting – er, as the Sunday papers used to say when exposing “VICE” – we all made our excuses and left.

     Of the good guys, we saw Darlingside again, who sing four part harmony with full instruments around just one mike – the technique for getting the balance spot on was amazing. Rosanne Cash (daughter of Johnny Cash) was a revelation. I knew her work because one of her biggest hits in the eighties was Runaway Train, written by John Stewart, although she didn’t include it in her set. But with one accompanying guitarist and harmony singer (her husband of 23 years) she made a fantastic sound. The CD tent was cleared of all her merchandise before I could get there, which tells its own story.

     On a personal level I found myself roped in to sing on two different stages with Amy Goddard, and also to do a live interview and sing on Radio Cambridge 105 with her. I don’t know how many people actually tune in to Radio Cambridge, probably miniscule, but the program was to be beamed around the folk world on mix-cloud. One weekend I am speaking to thousands in another context, the next weekend I am warbling folk songs into a radio mike. Weird. Positively weird. Ten years ago I would never have dreamed of singing at all. It is what is known as growing old (dis)gracefully.

     So then it was “home James, and don’t spare the horses” which in our case was a five hour motorway drive with no air-con in tropical conditions for which the dehydrated Occasionals were just not prepared. Back to work, back to catch-up, and back to nearly keel over. I really must pace myself better. While carefully following the Times’ advice to ward off Alzheimer’s of course.