Thursday, July 28, 2011

Willy Schermele - Red Ridding Hood reminding the Wolf

that pixies like blog comments ...

Willy Schermele - A Pixie Wondering Why ...

No one's leaving comments on her blog ...

Pixies ... writing blog comments

From "Occasional Reader" on Secrets and Five and Stuff

Codes, Monuments, and considerable fiveness.

by an Occasional Reader

A month or two back I had a little fun here in a post on the True Bible Code – “proving” that William Shakespeare’s name is hidden in the psalms. It sort of goes along with pyramidology and other mathematical gymnastics that people with too much time on their hands have extracted to enlighten mankind.

For the closet pyramidologists among us, I thought you might be interested in some information that I have culled from the web, much originating with Martin Gardener’s work Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.

This “proves” how a Divine hand was obviously behind the Washington Monument.

(adapted quote). If you look up the Washington Monument in the World Almanac, you will find considerable fiveness. Its height is 555 feet and 5 inches. The base is 55 feet square, mulitiplied by 60 (or five times the months of the year) it gives 3,300, which is the exact weight of the capstone in pounds. Also the word “Washington” has exactly ten letters – two times five. And if the weight of the capstone is multiplied by the base, the result is 181,500 – a fairly close approximation of the speed of lights in miles per second. And if the base is measured with a “monument foot” (Pyramidologists will understand the reference to their “pyramid inch”) which is slightly smaller than the standard foot, its side comes to 56 ½ feet. This times 33,000 yields a figure even closer to the speed of light (end of adapted quote).

And – and is it not significant that the Monument is in the form of an obelisk – which reeks of ancient Egypt? Or that a pyramid appears on a dollar bill, on the other side to Washington’s portrait. And the decision to print the pyramid symbol was announced by the Secretary to the Treasury on June 15, 1935, both date and year being a multiple of five. And are there not twenty-five letters (five times five) in the title “The Secretary of the Treasury”?

Yes indeed my people – considerable fiveness.

My head hurts....

From Harry ... on Baby Butts

Baby skin is oh so soft. I forgot how soft it really is. My twin grandchildren are two months old now, doing all the things that babies do. I enjoy going over to my daughter’s house to help with them. Two at one time are a handful and Corbin and Maggie have been experiencing problems with acid reflux and gas. My daughter is up nearly all night; changing diapers, feeding, and rocking one, then the other, back to sleep.

My wife gets there around 7 AM and lets my daughter go to bed. I show up sometime around mid-morning and join the fun.

Babies are creatures of habit. They sleep, cry, eat, cry, soil diapers, cry, and if you are lucky sleep again. Today was fun though. When I arrived my wife handed Maggie, who had just finished her bottle, to me. She was content and looked directly at me as I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Her eyes were so wide, so bright. She likes being held more erect now so she can look around and take her world in. She is starting to respond to my voice with little coos.

I read a couple of small books to Corbin yesterday. I can’t wait to start reading the Oz books to them, Peter Pan, Through the Looking Glass, and others. With two teachers for grandparents they are going to get plenty of education before they ever reach kindergarten.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eight pages ...

Well ... I've been at this all day. Writing that is. I've been writing. The sad thing is, all I've produced is eight pages. I lost the source of a quotation. I had to verify some things. That slows me down.

But ... I think these are a good eight pages, especially for a rough draft. ... So now, I'm thinkin' about a nap before work.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pixie Toes and Klutzieness

Way back when my writing partner wrote up a biographical report covering the first 18 years of one of the most important persons we consider in our new book. It’s about 100 pages long and was written as editorial research for someone else’s book. That author ignored what my writing partner presented, opting to repeat the same old story line that is in some respects discredited or at least inaccurate by omission.

I’ve read it and reread it over the last few days. We can’t use it as is, but the amount of rewrite it needs is small. There’s a whole area of new research that will find a home in the finished product, but this report will be the basis for two chapters. My WP really is an excellent writer. One of my Literary Agent friends called him charming, meaning that his writing was engaging. She never met him face to face, but, yes, the old guy can exude charm when it pleases him to do so. He can also zing you with a word or two and it may take you ten minutes or so to figure out exactly what he did. He’s funny, but with a straight face which I suppose is some sort of high comedic art.

I’ve drifted from the subject, haven’t I? Anyway … the research behind his “report” is excellent. He combed through forty years of magazine articles to cull personal statements made by the Mr. Russell who is the man he’s profiled. These are often throw-away lines in an article on a Biblical topic. When assembled, they paint a very interesting picture, though one different from what his friends present. He was very much a man of his times, believing things most of us would see as superstitious, but which many took seriously in the 1870-1910 period.

Biographers and historians should never lose sight of the belief systems current when their subject lived. Russell believed in maternal influences, pre-natal influences. Almost no one take that seriously in that way anymore, nor should they. But you can find the idea in medical text from the era. There were other matters like that too. His supporters ignore those bits because they avoid anything that makes him look less than the intelligent, God-directed man they believe him to be. This is a nonsense approach to biography. His enemies miss almost all of that story too. It’s just fallen off the radar. The bad thing is that it leaves unexplained important aspects of his self-view. Omitting these things from consideration distorts the story.

I’m going to start revising his “report” tomorrow. When I’m done I’ll send it back to him and let him do his stuff. He’ll send it back to me. I’ll look again. … Anyway … If you’ve ever written as part of a team, you know how this goes.

Apparently I depressed the entire world by posting my funeral plans. Sorry, guys. We all die; best to plan in advance.

I’ve been pulling my hair out by the roots (only figuratively) over being directed to a spam page. I’ve run virus scans; I’ve updated my mal ware programs. I still get that stupid page. Turns out it’s not a virus, mal ware or ad ware. It’s my spelling! Or rather, it’s my typing. Leave an “L” out of a web address I visit daily and you get sent off to this page. At least now I know it’s my “klutziness” and not an infected computer.

I went shoppin’ – on line mind you – for baby shoes. NO, no, silly, I’m not pregnant. One of our employees is though, and I’m lookin’ for a present. Cottage Closet makes lovely hand-made baby shoes. If you have an infant in your life you should visit their store.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When I die ...

Don’t go looking for the names and titles. I’ve changed them.

Victoria Louisa Stewart, Fürstin von Schwartzberg, Baroness Athol and Skye

Music: Purcell, Funeral Sentences (Requiem)

Vocal: Andrew Lloyd Webber: Pie Jesu

Invocation: James Lassitor, PhD

Funeral Oration: Elder H. C. Crisp

Vocal: Isaac Watts, Am I Soldier of the Cross

Eulogy: Johann Peter, Großherzog von Isengen

Choral: He Will Call

Prayer and Blessing: Elder H. C. Crisp

When a Pixie Sings

Pie Jesu, (4x)
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Dona eis requiem. (2x)

Merciful Jesus,
Who takes away the sins of the world,
Grant them rest.

Agnus Dei, (4x)

Qui tollis peccata mundi,
Dona eis requiem (2x)
Sempiternam. (2x)

Lamb of God,
Who takes away the sins of the world,
Grant them rest

Friday, July 22, 2011

The News ... from August 20, 1881

A girl opened a barber shop in Homer, Ill., and closed it in a month, having already married one of the men whom she shaved.

A convict was released from an Iowa penitentiary on a pardon forged by himself, which he sent to his wife for presentation to the warden.

An Iowa husband on going home found his wife carousing with four men. He adroitly got the five offenders into five separate rooms, locked the doors, and thrashed them soundly one by one.

There is trouble in the Methodist church at Hickory Point, Ill., because cigars were sold at the Sunday school festival to small boys, several of whom indulged in their first smoke on that occasion.

A twenty-five cent divorce case has been commenced in the Clinton county, Iowa, circuit court. The aggrieved party says that her husband bought some candy, and, instead of giving it to her as a dutiful husband, he gave it to another lady. Therefore she applies for a divorce.

Elder Atwater, a Wisconsin Methodist preacher, affected the Peter Cartwright style of evangelism, and gained an enviable reputation for piety and eloquence; but his downfall has been caused by a committee, who watched his conduct at a camp-meeting and made discoveries, confirming their worst suspicions.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pixie Mind Melt and Odd Stuff

I’m suffering a major mind melt down! Okay … here’s the story ... You remember a few posts back I said I’d lost track of a quotation? It was something I’d read and ignored but found I needed. Fine. Not an insurmountable problem. After turning about 1800 pages, rapidly scanning each, I found it. Good, right?

The problem is this changes bunches of things we’ve written. And it leaves me with tones of unanswered questions. Scads of them! … And I can’t find the answers. This is akin to eating lemon peel. It tastes good but it makes your face pucker.

One the Western Front things are better. I found a bit of ephemera yesterday. It’s important enough that I’m taking in two unmatched sterling silver nut dishes that belonged to gramma and sellin’ them. Original research is expensive. Sometimes you gots to make the choices, see?

I haven’t put a singe word on paper today, but thinking and research are writing too. We have two trails we’re following. Both are faint but suggestive. One of them will result in no more than a paragraph. I only need to verify a couple of dates. The other looks long and hard and rocky.

Daniel Webster Whittle (aka Major Whittle) was a prominent 19th century evangelist. He was also … pardon the vulgarism … a dirty bastard. I’ve traced down his diary, and we’re trying to pry a copy out of reluctant hands. We’re also trying to track down an open letter written to him in 1898 and circulated as a tract.

So much for that. …

Now, on to other observations on Pixie life. The first of these is I now know how to get a comment out of Anthony. Semi-naked pixie pictures and a poem about dancing pixies will prolly do it every time!

Everyone else I practically have to blackmail into commenting. I think my mommy probably taught me that if a pout fails, blackmail. Or maybe that was my oldest sister.

Then there is this: Research as an occupation is reputed to be dull business. It isn’t, boys and girls. Aside from the excitement of treasure hunting you find irrelevant but interesting stuff. For instance, while pursuing a Boston evangelist, I learned about assorted murders, a murder-incest conspiracy, and the bad doings in a Chicago stable. (Good thing he didn’t get that poor horse pregnant. Think of the paternity suit!) This was all “on the same page” stuff.

I learned about criminal gambling rings, prostitution in Newark, various ships sinking, a search for lost treasure, a fossilized snake found in a coal mine and a drunken woman running down a Brooklyn street screaming and stark naked. Who says research is boring! The trouble is that all these interesting things are distracting.

One could produce a book out of old scandals. It wouldn’t take much. Reproducing some of these old articles would do it.

This is a so-so example. I found this bit looking for stuff about N. Barbour and C. Russell, which I indeed found on the same newspaper page as this. The material I used for our history book is great. ... But this was fun.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anthony and the Pixie: A Pixie Insta-Poem.

Pixies dance naked under the sun.
I’m sure if Anthony saw one he’d run.

Entranced by her toes or maybe her nose,
I’m thinkin’ I know where he goes.

Would she flirt with her wings
Or demand that he sings?

I haven’t a clue; do you?

I’m am certain he’d remember it for life,
But it’s probably not something he’d tell his wife.

Yes, yes, I know it's bad poetry. It's all I could come up with on the instant.

Bronze Pixie by Franze Rosse

so ...

Am I boring you all silly?

Anthony, ... tisk ... go here:

The Bath, Otto, Smellin' Nice, and Cake

Well … sometimes life is frustrating. I read something in a book. The problem with that is this: I read a book or two a day. Sometimes that becomes a blur. I didn’t take notes because I didn’t think it important. Guess what? It is. Now I can’t remember where I read it. I probably have it down to one of three books, and I’m slowly turning pages looking for key words.

On the personal hygiene front, I can say I smell pretty, my legs are smooth and silky, and my hair is nice and clean. Pixies enjoy their bath time.

I’m depressed over Otto’s death. I don’t know why. He was umm 98 I think. I should live that long! Franco offered Otto the Spanish crown, but he had the good sense to refuse it. Otto was smart, very handsome as a young man, a partisan in Austria at the end of the war. Hitler wanted him dead. I don’t read German well at all, but Otto could write. He would have made a very entertaining novelist if he’d chosen that path. He liked politics instead. Otto was staunchly Catholic.

My aunt Karen is off with my daughters shopping. That makes her one brave woman. She took them to a movie last night. I slept. I was desperate for sleep. I crawled into my library bed at six pm for a little pre-dinner nap and didn’t wake up until almost two am.

The young woman to whom we rent what were gramma’s private rooms is throwing a fit on the phone. She’s really being loud. I think she has mental problems.

My publisher is very ill. I’m sorry for her. I know what that’s like. Everything is up in the air right now, including the release date for Pixie Warrior as trade paper. She offered to return all rights, but I’m going to stick by Drollerie Press for now. It’s a good company, though it’s overly dependent on one person. And Deena is an exceptional editor.

I need to write a very brief chapter on two women. I see it as ten pages at most, and I would be happier yet if it were just a side note. I keep putting this off because I think we can put all the essentials into a chapter we have only as an outline. Dunno though.

A friend of our research who lives in the Netherlands sent my writing partner a bunch of newspaper clippings about Albert Delmont Jones and his dad. Some of this we knew. Some of it we did not. The really interesting bit was about a charity Jones established in 1884. A newspaper suggested it was questionable. There are all sorts of fragments of detail in the articles. We’re left with all sorts of trails to follow; probably most of them will dead end. One really interesting detail is that someone Jones would not name had contributed two thousand dollars to the charity. I wish we could pin down the name. I can make a fairly good guess. But I can’t verify it. By 1884 Jones had only two supporters with any sort of money. I think one of them is unlikely. That leaves me with one name, but no proof.

For all the sleep I got last night I’m still profoundly tired. Part of that is medication. The rest of it is that I’m simply overworked. I need to decide this week if I’m going to quit the one job and teach full time, but I’m no where near a decision.

One of my daughters baked a cake. Not bad for one of her first tries. It’s all gone. With five kids in this house nothing ever lasts long. Even if they complain about it, someone usually gobbles it up. No one complained about the cake! Cake and two gallons of milk went poof in a day and a half.

M. J. Neary - Guest Post

About me

I am a multilingual arts & entertainment journalist, award-winning historical essayist, novelist, dramatist and poet. I'm addicted to Catholic guilt and plastic surgery.

About my style

One of the genres I have explored (with considerable success) is Neo-Victorianism, a contemporary reinvention and re-imagining of the 19th century tradition. I started writing "Wynfield's Kingdom" before I even knew what Neo-Victorianism meant, at the ripe age of fifteen. The first novel took me 16 years to complete, simply because those who had read the early drafts had very few positive things to say. So I wrestled with the plot for a decade and half. To my pleasant surprise, the manuscript was very well-received. I got several contract offers and went with Fireship Press, a publisher in Arizona that specializes in historical and nautical fiction. "Wynfield's Kingdom" was featured on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and reviewed in the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal in Wales. The sequel, "Wynfield's War" written at the publisher's request took only 9 months.

"Wynfield's Kingdom" - 2009, Fireship Press

Welcome to 1830s Bermondsey, London’s most notorious slum, a land of gang wars, freak shows, and home to every depravity known to man.

Dr. Thomas Grant, a disgraced physician, adopts Wynfield, a ten-year old thief savagely battered by a gang leader for insubordination. The boy grows up to be a slender, idealistic opium addict who worships Victor Hugo. By day he steals and resells guns from a weapons factory. By night he amuses filthy crowds with his adolescent girlfriend – a fragile witch with wolfish eyes.

Wynfield senses that he has a purpose outside of his rat-infested kingdom; but he never guesses that he had been selected at birth to topple the British aristocracy.

"Wynfield's War" - 2010, Fireship Press

From the chaos of an extensive slum known as Bermondsey, Wynfield finds himself in the Crimea where he experiences a military campaign that makes Bermondsey look orderly.

The spring of 1854 was filled with violence, deceit, and bereavement, and marked the end of Wynfield’s reign as the king of the Bermondsey slums. His memory shattered and his perception of reality distorted, he falls under the influence of an unlikely patron–the ruthless Lord Lucan. Known to his Irish tenants as “the exterminator,” Lucan plans to mold his ward into a brainwashed ally for his upcoming Crimean campaign.

While in the company of some frightfully incompetent and arrogant generals, Wynfield travels to the Crimea as a junior officer in the British cavalry. There he catches a glimpse of the personal war between Lords Lucan and Cardigan, which results in the blunder known as the Charge of the Light Brigade, and discovers the darker side of the saintly Florence Nightingale.

Short-lived alliances with comrades who would never make it home to England, and haphazard sexual encounters with women he would never see again, challenge Wynfield’s innate sense of loyalty. Having seen so many heroes trampled and so many cowards exalted, Wynfield must choose sides and, in so doing, shape the course of the rest of his life.

There are theatrical derivative adaptations of both novels, "Hugo in London" and "Lady with a Lamp: an Untold Story of Florence Nightingale". They were produced in Greenwich, CT, in 2008 and 2009, at the height of Great Recession.


The Library of Royal Observatory at Edinburgh has C. Piazzi Smyth's papers from 1845 to 1888. We think that the Pyramid file is worth a look, but we have no way of doing that. Some of you live in the UK. Anyone curious enough to go take a look?

The confused Pixie posted this to the wrong blog ... but it can stay here too, I guess.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Niggling Suspicions

The stamps I bought for my collection arrived today. I’m really pleased with them. As I explained in an earlier post, these are semi-postal stamps from Germany. There are several expensive sets, so expensive I cannot afford to buy them as a group. But individual specimens show up in auction lots offered by the discount stamp dealers. By buying lots like this I’ve slowly filled in the blank spots in my pre-war Germany album at a price I can afford. The two auction lots I just received contained several stamps I would not have purchased otherwise. This is fun.

I’ve spent most of today either sleeping or re-writing a chapter. I thought we were done with this chapter, other than edits. We obviously are not done. I found a bunch of important biographical information about a Mrs. Viola Gilbert, a street evangelist in New York City way back in the 1880s. Turns out she was the widow of a wealthy New Yorker. I found her picture too! This is good. Also we found a fairly lengthy explanation of something one of the major characters said. This is both good and bad. The good bit is we can now date this event more accurately. The date makes sense. As we understood it, this occurred about a decade before it actually happened, and that understanding conflicted with other evidence. The bad bit is that we’ll have to do a major re-write, cut-and-past surgery to this chapter.

Occasional Reader (he posts here and is one of the ‘editors’ for our history blog) pointed me to an extract from an Evangelical Adventist paper from 1895. Following that lead I found another article too. Lemme just say that who ever wrote the 1895 article was an unabashed liar, but … dealing with liars makes history interesting. I get to be cranky to a dead man. He doesn’t mind, and the story we tell becomes clearer and more accurate.

I have other major mysteries. My writing partner sent me off for an explanation of something found in a magazine article published in 1885. I may have the answer, but I’m not at all certain. There are two possibilities. Either a small magazine published in California in the 1885-1886 period is meant, or something called “The Flying Scroll” is meant. At least I think so. I favor the obscure California magazine. No copies exist, but there is a scrapbook full of articles clipped from it resting in one of the California libraries. I’m not sure this is important enough to spend money on it. Our research fund is at zero as of today.

It got to zero because we paid too much for an obscure booklet. Still, I’m happy we found the booklet. It’s not dated, but it appears to be from the early 1890s. It’s an opposition booklet written to refute a major doctrinal stance. Most of these kinds of booklets are very, very silly. They’re usually poorly written with more indignation than refutation. But this is part of history too.

… Knobby Knees says I have a cute butt which is as soft as a baby’s. Did I ever mention how distracting he can be? Oh … and I’m back. Miss me?

Anyway … my writing partner and I have been accumulating the polemical booklets and articles. Some of them are really helpful in a backwards sort of way. One of the major faults in previously published “histories” of this movement (Note the quotation marks. None of these qualify as History in my opinion.) is that no one has told the full story. The haters use defective polemics as if they were God’s absolute truth. Those who support the groups we consider see any negative comment as anathema! You can’t write good, solid history and ignore half of the story!

We had white tail deer in our parking lot last night. I’ve told you about this before, I think. Last night one of our security people beeped me on the Nextel and told me they were there. They don’t hurt anything, and they seem fearless. I found our security person out in the back parking area face to face with a small doe trying to talk her into wandering back down to the river. It was funny. He’s chatting away, and she’s looking at him as if thinking, “What IS this human prattling on about?!”

Tonight is my night off. I’m going to bed early. I’m sleeping late.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tabloid History, Stamps, and Geschichten-Weltsicht

I don't own this one yet.

My family has scattered today. So this is one of those rare quiet moments that mothers long for, but find a bit disturbing once they occur. …

One of those who subscribes to our history blog has been looking for documentation to support our project. He sent us a clipping from a Boston newspaper published in August 1878. One half of a very sort paragraph is relevant. The relevant bit just a longish compound sentence. Ho-hum. Right? No ‘ho-hum’ about it! This sentence puts someone somewhere important. It raises questions. Why was his name omitted from the “official report.”? I have my suspicions, though there is obviously no way to verify them

Actually there is a way, but the relevant document is in the hands of a family reluctant to share it. We’ve tried three times to pry it out of their firmly clamped fingers but with no result. Ethically, a historian cannot write what she cannot prove – usually. We can raise questions and leave them unanswered, but even that is a radical and often stupid thing to do.

One of the members of our history blog is a professor at a major American university. He’s a nice guy, and he’s helped us find things. But he makes me shudder when he comments. He falls into tabloid history. I just made up that phrase. Like it? …. Anyway, he speculates endlessly. Our blog is not about speculation. It’s about what can be verified; it’s about solidly established historical narrative. When he reads a post that piques his interest he goes off like a shotgun and thought-pellets go everywhere. Speculation drips from his comments.

Speculation is fine if it leads you onto a research trail.

Another thing that puzzles me (and I’m not suggesting any one in particular) is that some of our readers have comprehension problems. The one person I have in mind has a preconceived view of the events we research. When he reads something that strikes at his Geschichten-Weltsicht (I think I just made that phrase up too. You get to do all sorts of interesting things when you write in German.) his reading comprehension dies. For instance, we recently posted a very raw, first-draft introduction to a new chapter. We quote from an article written by one of the participants in the events. His grammar is on the rough side, but it’s not much worse than many religious writers in that era. Our friend, and he IS our friend, reads the quotation and chokes. It presents a view different from his idealized world-view. It’s as if someone threw the off switch.

I don’t write tabloid history. I can think of a few who do. We deal with that in footnotes. I admit that the cranky footnotes are usually mine. And we’re not always uniform. We have a certain amount of cooperation form writers who I might personally like but whose books are poorly presented. One of these writers has a personal controversy going with the religion he writes about. That affects his objectivity and it shows. But there are greater problems with his book.

He is a close friend to a major controversialist. My writing partner knows this guy too. He bills himself as a historian. He’s not. At best he’s a collector of things. So … while it’s good to know people with the documentation you seek, taking their word for something without seeing the document is a bad idea. That’s what our historian acquaintance with “issues” has done. You can find an occasional footnote traceable to the controversialist that suggests something for which no real reference is given. (Dang it! I think I tortured that sentence!) For instance, in a footnote one finds the assertion that Man A wrote to Magazine B in 1869. No issue is cited which is not unexpected, since best we can tell, it did not happen. If it did happen, it would be important. But, Dear LORD and all his LITTLE RABBITS, do not include the point without seeing the proof!

Because controversialists like this book, bits of it show up all over the internet. Often the worst bits. This is tabloid history. This is “oh my, a flying saucer kidnapped my poodle and brought her back pregnant with aliens” history.

So, you’d think that with a quiet day I’d be getting scads of writing done, huh? Nope. I have a twelve hour shift tonight. With travel time that’s almost fourteen hours. Other than writing one short paragraph and this blog post, I’m not writing anything that matters.

I had a fairly short shift last night to compensate for the long one today, but I feel as if I met myself at the door. … Speaking of doors, ours is broken … again. The front door latch is older than the hills. It sticks. It’s not repairable. You can exit the door; you can’t get back in. We’re using the back door while we try to find a period door latch. There is a salvage place near here that sells old architectural features. I’ll go prowl its boxes and shelves on my day off.

I bought some stamps for my collection. I don’t often do that. Most of my “stamp money” goes onto the feet of five children. But I found two auction lots of German semi-postal stamps. Probably none of my American readers know what they are. They’re a charity stamp. You pay the standard postal rate and a few coins extra as a charity contribution. Some of them are just gorgeous little works of art. As I said … I found these two auction lots. They made me mutter something like, “I want those! Damn it! They’ll go for more than I can spend!” I bid five dollars on the one lot and ten on the other, knowing I would be out bid. But I wasn’t. I got both lots for about four dollars each. This was nice …

Not as nice as my seductive, knobby-kneed Scot, but right up there, at least for five minutes or so.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

You can't change the past ...

20 November 1912 -- 4 July 2011

Gary Inbinder!

Hi Rachael!

Thanks for inviting me to post on your blog. My new novel, The Flower to the Painter, explores some big themes, including gender bias and the effect of the marketplace on culture within the context of what I believe is an engaging and compelling read, especially for those intrigued by the late Victorian period. Here's a brief synopsis:

Marcia Brownlow, a young, unemployed American
governess in late nineteenth century Italy, masquerades as
a man to advance her career. She adopts the persona of
her dead brother Mark and becomes the protégée of Arthur
Wolcott, a famous American expatriate author who
discovers Marcia's artistic talent. Wolcott introduces his
protégée to wealthy art patrons in Florence, Venice, Paris,
and London, including three women who, deceived as to
Marcia's sex, fall in love with the captivating artist.

Marcia emulates her idol, the great English landscape
artist William Turner. As she develops her skills, James
Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Sir Frederic Leighton,
the leader of the London art establishment, praise her
paintings of Florence and Venice. However, on the eve of
her greatest triumph, Marcia's first love returns to threaten
her with exposure and scandal.

I've always been fascinated by the Victorians, and have read about them extensively in literature of the period, Historical Fiction, and non-fiction. And I've found the Merchant Ivory films and BBC productions a great resource as well. Nevertheless, I had to research quite a bit, especially to get enough detail on those painters, like Sir Frederick Leighton, who are not so well known today. I also had to do a good deal of reading to get Marcia's voice right. It's a challenge for a man of any era to write from the perspective of a woman, and even more so from the point of view of a woman from a much different time and place.

I believe my novel will appeal to readers of Historical Fiction, and especially to those who like art related themes and are fans of writers like Stephanie Cowell, Susan Vreeland, and Tracy Chevalier.

By the way, I've already received compliments and questions about the cover art. The painting is, "A Morning Walk," by John Singer Sargent.

Thanks again for inviting me to your blog, which I might add is itself a great resource for Historical Fiction aficionados.

Here's the link.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Abend Wird es Wieder

Abend wird es wieder, Über Wald und Feld.

Säuselt Frieden nieder Und es ruht die Welt.

Nur der Bach ergießet Sich am Felsen dort,

Und er braust und fließet Immer, immer fort.

Und kein Abend bringet Frieden ihm und Ruh,

Keine Glocke klinget Ihm ein Rastlied zu.

So in deinem Streben Bist, mein Herz, auch du:

Gott nur kann dir geben Wahre Abendruh.

The Miscellany of Life

I’ve been making lists of things today. Pixies aren’t immortal, as much as we wish we were, so I’ve been going through my list of who gets what of my personal possessions. I’ve decided that I need to make an inventory. My family hasn’t a clue what’s trash and what’s really nice. They’ll need some guidance.

Some things are troublesome. I have a dresser set. Well … it’s most of a dresser set. The remaining pieces are a mirror, two brushes, and a comb. Aside from the glass and bristle parts, they’re silver. They date to about 1790 and have the Isenberg crest on them. They came to me from my grandma. Two of my girls are fascinated by the set. How do I decide who gets it? Have them draw lots? I don’t know. …

A lot of this stuff should just be sold. It matters to me, but I’m sure it doesn’t matter much to anyone else. There are three levels of things. A lot of this is junk. I like it but it has very little value other than to please the soul. Some of it is valuable enough to go up for sale. And a bit of it is more than a little valuable. In this category are my Lladro figurines and my stamp collection. The stamp collection was started by my grandfather. It fills sixteen large albums. The focus is on the first 100 years of stamp production. This should be sold piecemeal. There are several pieces of Swedish, American and English art glass.

My book collection is most troublesome. I own parts of this jointly with my writing partner. We’ve been trying to find an institutional home for it. The list keeps changing as we get responses. I have a moderate sized collection of Bible translations, Greek and Hebrew texts and such. They go back to 1664 and number about 500 volumes. Only one of my girls would be interested. I think I’ll let them pick and choose and dispose of the rest.

My vintage and antique photo collection should be sold, except for the family pictures. I have bunches of old post cards with family on them. Yes, yes, back in the day some of us were kinda celebrities. I think at least one of my daughters would like those.

I have some numbered signed lithographs, some of which are now expensive things. Three of them are really high-end things. The nicest of these I bought at a yard sale for a quarter and then spent one hundred dollars to have reframed. That may sound silly, but in one of the guides to prints and lithographs it’s listed at 1700 dollars.

I think I want to be buried in one of the family plots in the little Westwood cemetery. I haven’t made up my mind about that. There is a family vault in Germany in which I have a hereditary right to be interred. The expense of shipping what ever is left to me off to Germany, a place I’ve seldom visited, seems excessive. Maybe they can put weights on my legs and drop me down a disused well ….

One of my girls takes religion seriously and has decided to follow her grand uncle’s faith. I have no objection to this. I’m pleased by it. I can think of no other faith that will keep her focused on doing right, keep her socially responsible, and call her back to good sense when she strays. I’ll give her that part of my library that contains denominational books. It’s a large collection because I write about that group. Yes, we’ve had many discussion about religion and why I differ in some beliefs from her uncle. She’s got good sense, and I will not dispute her choice. Every religion is flawed. They cannot help but be because all worshipers are flawed.

I have high-church Episcopalian and Catholic relations. I refuse to allow any of them to take over funeral arrangements. And they’re bossy enough to try. (Bossiness runs in the family.) I want one song sung at my funeral, Isaac Watts’ Am I a Soldier of the Cross. If there were any in the family that could sing in Welsh that lived nearby, I’d add “Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean.”

Anyway, this is all very morbid, but it has to be done. I’m not ready to die yet. I have things to see, places to go, people to annoy, things to write, rocks to throw. But it’s always good to plan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sensible People, Odd Things, and a Rant

There's religous stuff in this post. Skip it if you're so inclined.

I was supposed to go to the doctor today. I'm not going. I'm tired of doctors. For now I'll live with things as they are.

I'm on the angry side today. Probably that stems from how I feel. Sometimes I churn out some pretty fair writing when I'm peeved. So maybe there is some benefit to being cranky.

Last Saturday I attended a religious convention with my writing partner. It was well presented, I think, not that there weren’t things that grated on my religious nerves. I think the most disturbing thing was the opening prayer. I usually do not criticize other’s prayers. Prayers are such private moments. But since this was a public prayer spoken into a microphone for thousands to hear and share in, I feel less restraint. The person who spoke the prayer thanked God for their more advanced understanding of truth given to them by “the faithful and discreet slave.” Now you have to understand that they believe that the Faithful and Wise Steward of Jesus’ illustration is a class of heaven bound persons. They teach that the Faithful Slave works through a representative agency, their Governing Body. They’ve built a religious mythology that makes them comfortable but has no connection to reality.

In point of fact the Governing Body is a self-chosen, self-perpetuating body. Think of it as a very small College of Cardinals working without a pope. Those who see themselves as part of the body of Christ do not have any role in choosing members of this agency. They are not representative of the Body of Christ in the sense that they are chosen by their fellow Christians. However, they’re free to have what ever organizational structure they want. Right? What bothered me wasn’t that they’ve chosen this organizational structure, but that the man praying (as does almost all of his audience) believes that understanding ‘truth’ comes through that body of elite clergy.

If one chooses to believe the Bible, then one ought to follow what it says. What the Bible says is that Holy Spirit guides believers into all the truth. There is no intermediate agency such as a governing body to stand in the way. He should have thanked God for his Holy Spirit that has guided them into what truth they posses.

This whole affair is based on a misunderstanding of Jesus illustration. The misunderstanding is harmless until it shoves them into idolatry. Putting any ecclesiastical authority in the place of God, his son, or the Holy Spirit is idolatry.

That’s my rant about that.

The rest of this convention was lovely. And, despite their misguided faithful slave doctrine, I always come away from their conventions feeling as if it was time well spent among fellow Christians, even if they are slightly confused fellow Christians. The advice is almost always practical, workable, and thoughtful.

I’m really depressed today. But … despite the depression … I’ve put in some good work. My writing partner gave me a 103 page paper he wrote back in the early 1990s as background research for someone else’s book. Almost none of his research was used, probably because it presents a view of events contrary to the other writer’s cherished religious mythology. I’ve been rewriting parts of it and “cutting and pasting” bits of it. We’ll use it as the base of a new chapter. We can’t use it all because some of it is a lengthy discussion meant to convince someone that they had a date wrong and misrepresented an event. The point is valid, but we can make it in a paragraph or footnote. It’s just that the person for whom this was originally intended is – excuse me if you’re sensitive on this issue – pig headed and stubborn even in the face of irrefutable evidence.

My writing partner praises my research skills, but there is no one, including myself, who is better at this than he is. He is more patient than I am too. I know I’m not doing well and my view is colored by my health, but I’m intensely angry at his church authorities for ignoring a simple request he made in mid-March. A simple yes or no would suffice. They have ignored his letter, choosing not to reply. This is wrong. This cavalier attitude toward others in the faith is one of the reasons I do not associate with that religion. Their ecclesiastical authorities believe themselves next to God and everyone else as open to question and as the subject for control. This is one half-step away from dictatorial cult behavior. As I see it, they’re on the very edge of an abyss. Something has to change.

I’m probably being overly protective. He’s a tough guy in surprising ways, and sometimes he’s a closet rebel. But he’s also a true believer. What he is is his to be. Why he finds a comfortable place in a religion that is secretive I do not know. Sensible people do odd things sometimes.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Damn it!

So ... some of you will remember this picture. It's now a bit dated, but it shows the South West corner of my library/work room. See the old fashioned modular bookcase? The wooden one? I had one of my ... well let's call them "dizzy spells" ... today and fell into that. I knocked the top section off, spilling the books from the top four shelves onto the floor ... where most of them remain.

Fortunately I only ruined one book, and it's not a very expensive one. Some of those are expensive - too expensive to replace, even if I could find another.

Me? Glad you asked! I'm bruised and sore. What's new? That seems to be my lot in life lately.

On the good side I rewrote a short biography of a man named Caleb Davies, a merchant from Cleveland who had breif prominence religiously in the 1880s. This turned out well. On the bad side I hurt. My pride hurts. My little body hurts. And it will take me days to put those books back in order. At least it gives me an excuse to dust them all off ...

Harry's view of the previous post ...

Moms don't get any ....

I’ve posted about this before …. But since more than half of my blog readers are guys, it’s worth another post. If you’re a mother, you get no privacy. Children camp out on the other side of the bathroom door, just wondering what you might be doing in there. Or they burst into your bedroom without knocking, just to ask if you’re awake and do you know where their [insert article of clothing here] is. You become Complaint Central for everything, the fall back position being their dad. In our house the phrase “Mom Said” has taken on some sort of official stamp to everything. Eg: “Arpita, it’s your turn to empty the dishwasher. Mom Said!”

So … while I’ve been on the more than usual sickish side, I’ve been sleeping on my library/work room bed. I hurt too much to climb the stairs. It’s a nice bed with a special mattress designed to accommodate a really sore body. It also accommodates a knobby kneed Scot and at least one wiggle in child. Children just show up around here … Like the time when I was just vaguely awake and thought my legs were paralyzed. It was daughter 4. She had wandered into our bedroom sometime (who knows when) and wiggled her butt in between K. Knees and my self, stretching herself sideway across us both. It took all day for my legs to regain their circulation. (Okay, so that’s an exaggeration).

Now my workroom is more or less like public library space. Children and K. Knees wander in and out while I work. Annie will sit on the floor and play. Katarina will stand at my elbow and read over my shoulder. Knobby Knees comes for a smootch and nuzzle. You get the picture … Life’s crises play out in my work room. (“I hate her, mom!”) or (“Mom, why can’t I go to Ohio?”) Because it is more or less public space at least as far as our family is concerned, sleeping there is a lot like an invitation to a sleep over.

I crawl into bed, turn on the heating blanket, beat my pillow into submission and …. Children start showing up. Fortunately there’s a lock on the door. However, a locked door seems to be an invitation to loud knocks and endless questions shouted through the doors. The entry is a set of double doors. There is a slight gap between the two doors, and it’s not uncommon to see a little eyeball trying to peer through.

I figure I’ll get privacy when I’m 105, have moved into a cave in the badlands, and have my mail forwarded to the dead letter box. Don’t misunderstand. I appreciate the hugs, squeezes, chatter and such. But … at least a bit of quiet would be nice … sometimes.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

One of my favorite places ...

Mt. Hood - 11,249 feet

I really like this version ...

The Sick Pixie's Lament

I’m sorry I’ve neglected this pitiful blog. I’ve had to retreat from some regular activities, giving my energy to the most important things. …. Like the hunt for obscure newspaper articles, lost toddler shoes, and work for which I am actually paid. I may teach full time next year and drop “the other job.” I haven’t made up my mind. It is tempting.

It would change my life significantly. No more sleepless and sleepy nights dealing with rude guests, lost children, drunks, and cranky employees. Cut in pay though. … That matters. So, we’ll see. I have to decide in the next three to six weeks. They haven’t posted the job yet, though the principal emailed me with a “you might be interested in this” kinda invitation to apply.

Even though I’ve been sickish, I’ve done some good work. Same goes for my Writing Partner, who’s also on the sickish side. There is good and bad with this. We found some significant newspaper articles that gave us a more complete and better view of stuff that happened in 1877 and 1878. Occasional Reader sent us two old books, and I culled some things from them. Only two points fit into the chapter we’re working on. Well, three do, but we decided not to use the one point right now. It’s something we need to verify. I’m not sure we can. If we can’t, we’ll let it go. The source is a man who was religious fruitcake, but he was also very observant. Oh, there’s a fourth point too; this one we will use, but we’re debating location. It fits in this chapter, but also in the one that precedes this. We’re still talking about that.

My oldest daughter is cranky as heck today. She thinks she’s everyone’s mother, including mine. Guess what! There is only room for one mommy in this house, and that is me.

I’m driving up to my aunt and uncle’s on Saturday to attend a convention with them. This is a religious event connected with their religion. Since I write about this group, I usually attend at least a part of each year’s program. They’re a mixture of exhortation, exposition, and dramatized object lessons. Some of it is always boring. Some of it is very interesting, well done, and well thought out. The problem with “boring” rests in the quality of speakers. In this part of the country, many speakers lack the ability to speak dynamically. It’s purely a regionalism and not unique to this religion. You find the same thing in college lecture halls where it is often worse. It’s as if what ever feeling one has in their heart does not translate into modulated and thoughtful words.

I feel so swamped with everything. The high spot of my day consists of actually getting out of bed, taking a pain pill or two, and managing to type a few words or read. I have read constantly though. That leads me to an observation.

In the 1950s and through the 1980’s the fashion among some SF writers was to frame their stories around a “redemption through evolution” setting. Now I don’t have the science back ground to accept or reject evolution as a proven truth. I approach that subject as a rationalist mystic. (Not as huge a contradiction as it sounds.) As a rationalist and as a closet mystic, I reject the plausibility of evolution. That doesn’t keep me from enjoying the SF sub-genre that employs it as a device.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Bunch of Pixies

Guest Post from Occasional Reader

[This is not Occasional Reader, his Wife, Daugher or any other relation (I'm pretty sure).]

The pixie is sick and very stressed. Occasional Reader to the rescue!


My daughter grew up on folk music. She didn’t have a lot of choice – I drove her to and from school for years, and then to work after that, and on the car stereo cassette player were all my folk albums. She got top grades in classical guitar, but then had to do all grades anew in rock guitar, because that’s what her students want to learn! But normally she plays acoustic folk, and her living room wall is covered with 4 string, 6 string, 8 string and 12 string instruments. Question – how many instruments does a folk singer want? Answer – one more...

But she and her husband suddenly suggested – why not join them at a folk festival? A folk festival? Er – you mean like us, your elderly creaky parents, join you? You mean like Woodstock? Hippies? Mud? Drugs? National Guard? State of emergency? Pictures of respectable father being carried off by police in tabloid newspaper? A piece of doggerel came to mind – For I’m a happy hippie, with paint instead of clothes. Unless the weather’s nippy – I tried it once, and froze!

But I was assured that their kind of folk festivals were the most respectable events you could possible attend. And so it was. Although in one sense it was almost like a throwback to 40-50 years ago – with the same people now more much sedate. Now the men were of portly build (a lifetime of real ale causing slipped chest syndrome) with bald heads and pony tails as a kind of compensation, and the women were earth mothers wearing what appeared to be tents resembling Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. And kids – lots of kids – doing face painting, circus skills, and joining in on the choruses.

So after a couple of biggies watching stars from the folk firmament in relative comfort, a couple of weeks ago we settled for a weekend in a field at a place you would never have heard of even if I did give the name away – for a Folk and Ale festival. And we camped. The kids (my daughter and son in law are in their thirties, but they are still kids to us) had something resembling a tepee for them and the dog. We had the latest in frame tents with numerous rooms, proper camp beds, cookers, kitchen sink – and mod cons like eReaders. All that was missing was the chandelier.

Putting up the tent was – interesting. I won’t try and describe the process, but there is a scene in Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat which give the flavor. But the biggest challenge was our latest acquisition – the toilet tent. The girls had drawn the line at tramping through a muddy field in the dead of night to the delights of the communal Portaloos, so our very own toilet tent was the height of luxury.

But getting the thing up in the wind, and stopping it blowing away over the fields when we had got it up, required all hands. And it looked so easy in the diagram.

Once installed and pegged down against the gale, two things came to mind. First, there was that scene in Jurassic Park...

And then, many years ago I had the responsibility of accommodating many thousands who came to an international event. It included a tent and trailer park, with several thousand on it. In the days before health and safety legislation killed off most things, we installed a series of toilet tents on the ridge of the hill complete with state of the art chemical loos, and rigged up a lighting system with power from the local farm. All was fine until night fell, and the power was switched on. And there, silhouetted against the sky line... but I digress...

The sleeping arrangements for us were actually very comfortable. The only problem after the first night ended way past our usual bed time, was the following morning’s dawn chorus. One little girl of about 10, who sang sweetly with her father the night before, decided to get up early – and our tent was just by the swings in the park ground. She had obviously seen the musical Oliver in very recent memory and was enamored with it. From about six in the morning she swung back and forth and trilled her way solo through the whole score. Well, at least she was happy.

It was a good weekend, and for us, the highlight was the sing around – where everyone had the opportunity to have a go.

What is it like to sing? As a teenager back in the Cretaceous age I used to sing a bit. Back in the early 1960s, a dear friend had a serious accident and was hospitalized for about six months – so my working partner and I put together a tape with all sorts of double tracking effects to “cheer her up”. I have recently been warned that a tape of my impersonating Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps singing Baby Blue (as featured in the film Hot Rod Gang) is still out there, and what is it worth...?

But after several decades of quasi-musical silence, we attended a folk club with daughter and son in law and were gently encouraged to try. The first time was absolutely terrifying. In one life I was used to speaking to large crowds – as an Australian would say, no sweat! – but to face 30 folkies with my other half and try and croak our way through an old Welsh ballad – please can the floor open up and please can we disappear... But then I heard some of the others. And that gave me hope.

So it got better. My voice may still sound like bathwater escaping, but who cares! A certain recklessness comes with time. And our recent sing around at the Folk and Ale festival was a most enjoyable evening.

I was going to do my party piece – a song called Coyote written by a Native American Peter La Farge – but it is not exactly something you can sing along to. (My daughter keeps threatening to put me on YouTube as the yodelling pensioner). But that night, everyone wanted to sing, to join in, for it to be a truly communal event.

So I switched to the old Merle Travis’ number Dark as a Dungeon (one of the first records I ever bought was the Folkways recording of Bob de Cormier and Peter Seeger doing it) and it went down a storm – even if I say so myself. And then, second time around the old standard that is so well known no-one ever seems to sing it – We Shall Overcome. A nineteenth century hymn slowed down and turned into a twentieth century union song, and finally with a very slight tweak into a civil rights anthem – with Martin Luther King picking out the words, if not singing it. I could manage the chords – and the audience drowned out my inadequacies.

My other half wowed them with Delia Murphy’s Spinning Wheel (fresh from our 78 rpm collection), and got everyone going with the Mingulay Boat Song.
So – the times - are they a changin’? Can music change the world? Religious and patriotic music can certainly have a big effect on people and move them – for better and sometimes for worse. And some music just makes you stop and think. Perhaps Tom Lehrer summed it up in his parody, Folk Song Army. Great last verse:

So join in the folk song army,
Guitars are the weapons we bring
To the fight against poverty, war, and injustice
Ready! Aim! ....Sing...?

Whatever – it does make you feel good. Even if a little bit hoarse!