Thursday, December 29, 2011

Friend Harry

Harry is out of the hospital. You'll be glad to know he wasn't pregnant. (We all hoped he wasn't, right?) He's still feeling rough, but he is home. Feel better quickly, Harry!

So ... too much peace and quiet is a bad thing, no?

Other than chatting online with a few friends and exchanging emails with Occasional Reader, I’ve been updated previously written chapters. Details trickle in. Some of the changes are minor. (We came up with a slightly more exact date for the sale of some property.) Some of the changes are major. An obscure booklet published in 1911 shoved an event ahead from 1872 to 1878. The change in dates produces a major change in the story. So … as I said … I’m doing mostly minor but important edits today.

One really interesting bit is finding out that one of the principal characters was a Wall Street investor. I’d like to follow this trail. I’m not sure we can. We have a few dates when he was in New York City, apparently on business. We have the single statement that he was on Wall Street in the mid-1880s maybe until the late 1890s. That’s it. As with many of these fragmented statements, there is no real trail. However, sometimes a serendipitous find will explain what hard research cannot. One can hope.

One of our challenges is religious mania. Now that’s an old fashioned term, but a good one. Some of those we profile were sane as you and I, except in matters of religion. One of the most prolific writers is a man named Johnson who saw himself as “the earth’s high priest.” Go figure … So we have to balance what he writes against other things. He is ummm ‘mistaken’ often, but right often enough that we cannot ignore him. So here I am on page 434 of one of his books. He says stuff. And “stuff” it is, until one gets about half way down the page. I’m inserting a fragment of this into one chapter. I’ll support it from another source. I’ve learned that it is dangerous to believe anything Johnson says without additional support.

It’s quiet here today. That’s always spooky. Daugthers 3-5 are at a counsin's playing board games, making and eating popcorn balls, and being loud. But they’re not being loud here. Dau 2 is reading a book. Dau 1 is sound asleep. Knobby Knees is off to that God forsaken town of Pasco, Washington, where he is looking at warehouse space for some project. Ever been to Pasco? No? Good … avoid it.

There are dark demonic holes in the universe. They blight our existence. Yakima and Pasco, Washington are just two of them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Occasional Reader and the Mystery of the Cardboard Boxes

So ... It's not a cluttered attic, but it's as close as I can come.


One of the delights of a public holiday is the incentive – with a bit of prodding from family – to “sort out” the attic.

Our family are inveterate hoarders, each individually denying it, but collectively having to fess up. The manuals on clutter advise that if something has been in storage for longer than a year, you no longer need it. Dispose. Promptly. Be Firm. Now. Humph.

So this last holiday we ventured into the attic. The first thing we managed to clear were the ancient cardboard boxes for electrical appliances that had long since gone to that great scrap heap in the sky. Even then, there was a lot of stuff.

Books. Not books we regularly use – they fill the actual rooms in the house below the attic, but ones kept “just in case” or for nostalgia reasons. Plus tons of my daughter’s stuff. She got married well over eleven years ago, and lives in a house that is larger than ours, but somehow we still seem to be the repository.

So what books did we unearth, and what nostalgic memories came flooding back? My first taped box unearthed books on conjuring. As a teenager I was well into magic tricks. My very first paid job (part-time) involved demonstrating conjuring tricks and other “toys” in a department store leading up to Christmas. I veered into magic tricks involving “thought transference” which didn’t sit all that well with my religious convictions – although I KNEW that what I did was trickery, because I KNEW how it was done. Outlets for demonstrating my “powers” were sort of limited in my circle, and the hobby took a back seat and soon disappeared off the radar. But yes – a couple of books as a distant memory – there they were, unopened for – well, quite a long time.

Then there were the textbooks on Gregg’s shorthand. Ah yes – Gregg’s shorthand. Because I planned to work for nothing for a religious charity, I needed lucrative part-time work. Secretarial – a well-meaning relative had this idea – shorthand-typing – that was it! Actually, it never was – but I went to classes and got my 100 wpm shorthand and 50-60 wpm typing. It was not exactly a macho teenage boy thing – I ended up as the only male in a class full of girls. Ten years before I had been the only male in a tap dancing troupe in a pantomime in which my father appeared – that was absolute purgatory – but now this was rather nice. As it happened, copy typing was already pushing shorthand into the cold, and anyway – I soon graduated to composing letters for others typists to produce – and at 50-60 wpm it was generally easier to knock them out myself and save on staff. But yes – Gregg’s – all those lovely short forms and perfected arguments to put down all those deluded people in the UK who still struggled with Pitman’s.

My wife’s hoard included the Montessori nursery nurse course. She started work in nursery nursing, before going to Spain to work for the same religious group as I had, when it were still illegal in the dying days of Franco. After detours in life – a major one was marrying me – she became a college lecturer in Spanish, French and Portuguese. Now “retired” she is conquering Welsh. (In-joke – Doctor to Patient – Don’t worry Mr Jones – we’ve found the problem – you’re not dyslexic – you’re Welsh!)

And the fiction books! Now we are both on eReaders, all sort of fiction gets stored in the attic – just in case. The detective fiction – ranging from the strict puzzle based on conjuring principles, with cardboardity of character to match, to modern authors where the turn of phrase is everything, and the plot incidental. Two whole boxes of Simon Brett. A TV producer and sitcom writer, who knocks out numerous tongue-in-cheek pastiches of the “golden age”. Phrases that stick in the mind – a description of the hero’s estranged wife driving a yellow mini – “She roared into the school car park like an avenging slab of butter” – a dodgy receptionist – “a simpering teenager of 45, with hair from a color chart not supplied by God”. Those boxes got opened – a lot of tidying up time lost – before they were ultimately lugged downstairs.

Cartoons books by Styx. No-one today has heard of him – but he was very prolific in his day, and on occasion originals turn up on eBay. The jokes were thin even at the time, but the drawings were brilliant. I modelled my own style on his when illustrating a couple of books – for him it came effortlessly, for me it was hard work.

Notes and visual aids for long ago courses I taught. Actually, one of them did turn up as useful. A few years ago an anxious phone call asked if I could drop everything when illness knocked out someone taking a modern version of the same course – it was all set up and no-one wanted it cancelled. A frantic scrabble in the attic unearthed from nearly twenty years before all my notes and drawings and jokes – (very important to keep people awake) – and being self employed, I was able to make up the lost money in the days ahead. So they all went back into storage with new material thought up for the occasion. Who knows – I might get asked again in another twenty years time...

So where has it left us? All the dead cardboard boxes went into the dumpster. Bootloads of stuff went to our favorite charity shop – and we only bought a little in return – honest. But I don’t know what it is, the attic looks a bit tidier, but overall it still looks very much the same.

Possessions multiply to fill the space available for them – and for hoarders the process just keep on going. I just hope we don’t get totalled crossing the road together and someone else has to try and make sense of it all. They would have a job.

Widder's "Mask"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Get Well Soon, Harry!

And make sure they give you the right meds. This guy is a five year old boy. Two days on the wrong pill did this. Also ... fair warning ... last time I checked into a hospital I came home with a baby. ...

Too much fun!


Bring it on, Fairy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I am not getting enough blog comments. Some of you are neglecting your duty to pixie kind!


So ... I worked all day to pin down just two points. The net result was a single sentence and a footnote. Well, that's not exactly true. Tomorrow I'll write up the results of the second search. That'll be a couple of paragraphs, but they'll be an important two paragraphs.

Daughter 5 and the fairies had a huge fight. The baby fairies landed on her banana cream pie and left tracks. They got stuck in the banana goo. She put them in a jar, clamped the lid down tightly, poked holes in it and cut a new peice. Mommy fairy went nuts, and they had this huge and loud discussion over fairy parenting, or I should say the lack of it.

I made her let the babies out of the jar, telling her they were fairies and not bugs.

"They shouldn't act like flies then, should they?" she snorted.

The babies weren't hurt. They spent most of their time in the jar licking pie filling off of each other.

I think they gave me a head ache.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Noah's Ark Found! 1893

Batavia NY Daily News, July 29, 1893

Knobby Knees and Bits

Knobby Knees: Why are you frowning? …. I didn’t do it!

Me: Huh? Oh no. I’m not frowning at you … yet. I’m thinking about a dead guy.

KK: Why? Did someone forget to bury him?

Me: No, silly. I can’t find the information I want.

KK: Maybe I could whisper it in your ear ….

Me: You’d just drool in my ear again. What is this thing you have for ears?

KK: You have cute ears. …

Me: Cute butt too …

KK: I’ve noticed. …

Me: I know ...

KK: What are you looking for?

Me: I want some biographical bits. … Details that seem not to exist.

KK: You have cute bits ….

Me: You’re not paying attention!

KK: Yes, I am.

Me: Not to what I’m saying?

KK: What?

Me: That’s what I mean …

So ...

Explain to me why one of the BBC presenters says "pressurized" for "pressured." There is a huge difference in meaning. ...

Explain to me why some of my Brit friends say "chat to" instead of "chat with." Do people from the UK talk past each other, at each other, or to each other? They certainly don't share the same convesation except incidentally if they only chat to each other in preference to chating with each other. You need to stop abusing your prepositions ....

... and then I found this in a religious text: "she could have found some other Scripture that would have been equally forcible." This is a verbatim quote taken down in shorthand by a Mr. L. Jones. One presumes the original speaker said "forcible." I want to know why. Was is common in 1907 to confuse "forcible" with "forceful"?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fairies in the Marmalade

Mystery Photo

Between being too sick for words and yelling children, I’ve done some good stuff today. I’m pushing to finish what will be chapter one for the new history book. I’m in what has been the most difficult part. Recovering someone’s childhood from chance remarks is iffy. My writing partner culled quotations from someone’s articles and speeches, wrote it up as a narrative, and I’m adding bits and dropping things that don’t seem to contribute to the story or which are duplicate thoughts. Dang chapter is already too long. The end is in sight though … at least for this chapter.

I’ve added my own ‘finds,’ quotations and stray thoughts the main character wrote that I ran across. Well, that’s not the right phrase at all. I actively looked for them. I also spent a lot of time sizing up what others have written. There is more myth out there than solid history. A man named Zydeck wrote a ‘biography’ of this guy. Zydeck’s book is fantasy fiction. The man should be ashamed. Instead, he seems complacently self-pleased.

The baby fairies are about the size of house flies and just as annoying. Apparently fairies do not believe in monitoring their children. They either live or they die and they might grow up. At least this is the case with the small fae. I try to get across to the mommy fairy that she needs to watch her children. She pouts at the scolding, but she does listen … reluctantly.

This is the last time I’m extracting one of these things out of the jam or honey! I had to throw out a whole pot of marmalade. You don’t need the details. I keep yelling at my own children to put the lid back on the jams and jellies, but it’s like pounding nails into concrete.

My aunt is toddling off to Tacoma next week. She’s going off to see her sister for a few days. She always comes home from that visit stressed. The two aunts are fun separately. Put them together and one of them is her oblivious, wheedling self, and the other does a slow fume.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Old booklets and Fairy babies.

Well … I’m rather proud of myself. … Sick or not, I think I’ve done some stellar research. I’ve found hints of things for months. The hints lead me to believe one of my major – probably the major – characters we profile in our new history book was influenced by Benjamin Willis Newton. Newton was a superb writer, though in a typical 19th Century style. If he had written fiction, we’d still be reading his works and discussing them in literature classes.

I started buying Newton’s smaller works maybe five years ago, mostly on a hunch. Some of them are quite expensive, but I always buy the neglected items from on-line auctions rather than pay book store prices. Along the way we have acquired some key booklets and one book, all of which presented doctrine so similar to those we consider in our new book that I became one suspicious Pixie. Two more showed up on ebay, at inflated prices I might add. I added them to my watch list anyway. Sometimes things do not sell. I have a fair ability to estimate of what will sell and what won’t – at least at the price asked. I was certain these two booklets would not sell. They didn’t.

I waited to see if the seller would relist. I learned the hard way that if I ask a seller to re-list, they often do it at a lower but still inflated price. They have interest, right? So they’re reluctant to decrease the price. There’s a Life and Advent Union booklet on ebay that has been listed at $40.00, since the first day. The practical worth of this booklet, given the date of publication is $15.00. Because another dealer has it listed on for nearly two-hundred dollars, the seller won’t come down. It doesn’t matter that neither of them can find a market for it at those prices. So, I just wait and watch. Sure enough the seller re-listed. No one bid. We now own the booklets. The oldest is The Prophetic System of Mr. Elliott & Dr. Drumond Considered. This was published in 1850. Ages ago someone added a protective cover to this stitched booklet, and it remains in spectacular shape. The more important booklet is Atonement and its Results. This was published in 1882, but it is a reprint (with revisions) of a series of tracts published much earlier. It is, dear hearts, all about Substitutional Atonement. Now other than maybe five or six of my regular readers (who could comment more often, if you ask me) most of you could care less what substational atonement is. However, it plays a huge role in several chapters of our book.

I can’t prove it yet … notice the yet … but if Pixie’s were the betting sort, I’d say Chuckie read at least one of the original tracts. I’ll spend days verifying this, of course, but I’m convinced. Conviction alone does not meet any sort of solid evidentiary standard, but it’s a good start.

We have fairy babies. Twins. They arrived this morning at 4.42 am. More later. One observation: If you let the fairies move in, put the lid solidly down on the honey pot.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Ick, Dead People, Fairies

So … here I am. Miss me? I’m still sick. But I’ve been writing furiously. The only really bad thing other than the persistent ick is that I also had “an episode.” I came home from work, got in my warm jammies, walked over to my bed and fell into a seizure. I hit my head on the way down. My old Victorian drop-leaf table reached right out and smacked me on the side of my head. This was not fun.

I’ve been contemplating the dead. Historians do that, you know. I was going to write a longish essay on getting to know dead people, but I feel really icky again. So I’ll skip that. Perhaps tomorrow.

I’ve been turning the pages of my stamp albums without paying much attention to them. It’s a bit of distraction that allows me to focus on other things. In this case it’s a dead guy. (Yes, I know I’d save the essay for tomorrow.) But I’ve not been totally inattentive. I like my stamp collection. In the early 20th century as many as four out of five people in Germany collected stamps. (I read that in an old newspaper article. Don’t know if it’s true, but I suspect it is.) It’s a nerdy hobby now, but I like it.

I’ve been buying a few each week. With the economy as it is, a careful auction shopper can come up with bargains. I’ve only gotten zinged once. I bought some Bolivian stamps that turned out to be reprints. That wasn’t all bad. I collect the reprints too. But I thought I was buying the genuine article. I’ve focused on my French area and German albums, the German album most intensively. Instead at looking at the individual sets, I go for the larger lots. I find that the low end dealers, the penny-listers, will sometimes have a real gem stuck in a lot of common stamps. I’ve managed to acquire some really nice semi-postals that way. I could never have afforded them otherwise.

If I thought you all were at all interested, I’d post some photos of album pages. But I know most of you aren’t. Stamp collecting is a soul-centering occupation for me. Turning the pages, looking at the familiar colors and pictures, the odd things, the bits of history, calms me when I’m sick and distressed. I’ve looked at lots of album pages the last few weeks.

We bought two booklets for our research collection. I’m really impatient for their arrival. They’re both by the same Brethren author. The exclusive Brethren sit at the periphery of our research. I suspect they have more of a place in the 1871-76 period than we have suspected. I’m not really focused on that yet. It’s just an educated guess. But when relevant tracts and booklets show up at auction, I bid on them if they aren’t too expensive. This pair was originally listed at a very high price. No one bid. The seller dropped the price to 9.99 and we were the only bidders. They are exceptionally rare items. I’m pleased.

The blue-house fairy is gone for now. Lots of things have happened, not all of them pleasant. On the funny side, the male got himself stuck in a canning jar. I have some old 1858 Mason’s patent jars on a shelf. He and his mate were sitting up there. (I still have trouble understanding their high-squeaky voices, but I’m fairly certain that she was telling him off for something. She’s getting cranky as her due date approaches.) He was sitting on the edge of a wide mouth jar; she took a swipe at him; he leaned backwards and fell in. Because he landed on his back, he couldn’t right himself. She panicked, squealing loudly, scolded him some more, and finally flew down to get me to help. That little female is one tough cookie.

I rescued him, of course, sliding him out of the jar onto the kitchen counter. He sat on the edge and pouted for a good hour. There’s danger afoot in the fairy world. I’m afraid I’m at the center of it. I have a major decision to make soon.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

New Era-Gleaner (New York) April 16, 1885

The Old Dudes and Words

It started with a word. Things like this usually do. My writing partner sent me a roughed out intro for what is supposed to be chapter two but will probably end up being chapter three. It started with this sentence: “When Russell insinuated himself into the meeting at Quincy Hall, he started on a path that would lead to an examination of the three principal strands of prophetic thought.”

I took his work which was part outline and part rough draft, added to it and sent it back. The first sentence did not concern me. As he used it, “insinuate” means to introduce slowly or gradually. I think the word fits because he seems to have entered a meeting in progress. I’m pretty sure he didn’t fling the door back and stomp down the isle to a chair. After I’ve added my bits I email it back and we fire up the cell phones and discuss it. He says to post part of it to our history blog, which I do.

Enter stage left one of my favorite blog readers. He thumbs his dictionary (Okay … so he being a tech savvy old guy, he may have used one of the online dictionaries. But being old-guyish, he probably used one of those paper things …) and has an “ah ha” moment. He writes to me saying:

“It’s only a question of semantics and style, but I just wonder if "insinuated" could be open to slight misunderstanding? My dictionary defines insinuate as to maneuver oneself into a position of favor or office by subtle manipulation. It has a negative connotation. Did you mean that? And being strictly historical and pedantic, did not CTR's position of favor or office, however obtained, come from his own independent study group - not from the Age to Come congregation at Quincy Hall?”

Ah! The wonders of multiple definitions. … Now I don’t address this. I did not write the offending sentence. Old Dude writing partner did. So I write back: “Why do you always assume that I wrote the bits you don't like? I've forwarded this to Bruce, since the sentence is his.” As I hit send, I snicker, muttering “Let the tease begin.”

Old guy probably wouldn’t hurt anyone on purpose. He is now suffering angst. He writes back: “I did think afterwards that, although posted by you, it sounded like Bruce - and I should have cc'd him with the email - sorry - please don't take it personally. I like most of what you both write - honest!”

This, dear hearts, is too good to pass up. I write: “What's this ‘most’ stuff?” To this he replies: “Ermm - nearly all - well, virtually all, well practically all...waves white flag and retires for the night...”

Who says historians have no sense of humor. … So I pass all this on to my writing partner and we debate the sentence. I suggest a neutral word like “entered.” He squints at me from his chair (I’ve driven up to his house) and says in educated, considered tones: “We could use slithered.” I spilled hot coffee on myself.

“Yes, we could,” I say. “Or oozed. Oozed is a good word. I like ooz.”

Now I’m noted for my cranky refutations of nonsense usually in a footnote. Pixies can be academically cranky. So … WP sends me a section for another chapter. Sample? Read on …

“Opposition writers, particularly former adherents, often seek in Russell’s faults justification for their disaffection. This is problematic behavior, leading to wild speculation being accepted as fact. If one asks why such justification is needed, a blank stare and prolonged embarrassment often follow. That in turn is followed by an indignant response. But if one no longer believes Watchtower doctrine, is justification needed? The roots of these uncritical and sensationalized presentations sometimes rest in a rejection of strict behavior standards. Again, one might ask if justification is needed, and if it is needed should it lead to a sensationalized, falsified record? If justification is needed, is not it sufficient to say, “I don’t want to live by these standards”? At best criticisms from former adherents undermine the exaggerated claims made by some of Russell’s admirers.

“Some claims are manufactured out if the fevered imagination of those who lack a passing acquaintance with the principles of logic, who lack any appreciation for research and evidential standards, or for whom attacking their former religion is a hobby to be pursued even at the cost of historical verity. Two of these pseudo-historians write through a drug-induced haze that fosters in them a belief that they are immensely clever. Alas, this is a mistaken belief. Those who parrot them uncritically are either lazy or gullible – perhaps they are both.”

Now that “drug-induced haze” bit will probably go. I’m sure it was fun to write though. And it is true. You can find web postings by these two where they admit the drug use. … But it will probably go. … And yes, it produced a reaction when I posted it on the blog. I’m not going to tease over this one. … I’ve teased old guys enough. Next in line is my pet knobby kneed Scot, as soon as I stop running to the potty to be sick.