Monday, February 27, 2012

From Occasional Reader ...

Everything goes in threes...

Who said that?

One theory is that is comes from Pythagoras, another is from Christendom’s traditional trinity, but why that should be translated into a series of disasters I could not say.

But I was mindful of the old saying just a week or so ago.

I was just completing a very happy week – working for a charity, meeting lots of people I have known for years, and if some were a bit down, hopefully leaving them feeling a bit better at the end. Unlike the person for whom I was deputizing, I drove into town in – not a shiny new company car – but an old fourteen year old set of wheels, that was worse than nearly everybody else’s. People sorta warmed to that.

But it did have its downside. Disaster one was traveling home on the second to last day. My old car was ancient when I bought it nearly five years ago, and I had clocked up nearly one hundred thousand miles in the meantime. Manual gearbox, wonky electrics – it was destined to be finally pensioned off when the next annual test came up.

But then, a mile or two from home, it happened. The gear stick actually came off in my hand! When it happens to Laurel and Hardy you laugh. When it happens to you, your first reaction (if religious) is to briefly contemplate that the resurrection is a wonderful hope...

We ground to a rather dramatic halt. The sum total was that for my last day away I had to be ferried there by a friend – which warmed the hearts of the people we were visiting no end. Yes – we lived in the real world – when not laughing, they felt my pain...

I am now the proud possessor of a much more modern set of wheels, automatic gearbox at last (the significant other will now share the driving) and am slightly older, wiser – and considerably poorer. Vehicles are a pain in the wallet.

That was disaster one. Then, as I was preparing to catch up with secular activities to pay for the unexpected expense, my autoclave had a hissy fit. Literally. It is designed to sterilise equipment at 134 degrees, and resembles a rather sophisticated pressure cooker. It was new quite recently, and already we have had the engineer out for a couple of hours of drinking tea and eating biscuits and no sense of urgency when it turned into an impersonation of a geyser – which, according to the manual, it is not supposed to do. Memories came back from a million years ago, when my mother had a new fangled pressure cooking which – due to her inexperience – had a technical malfunction. Our dinner was imbedded in a circular pattern on the kitchen ceiling.

So, autoclave malfunction again. It is time for the “I-don’t-want-you-fixing-it-badly-again-I- want-a-new-one-under-guarantee-thank-you-very-much” conversation. That is waiting for me when I get home from vacation. I don’t like those kind of conversations.

And disaster three? Checking out the website that makes autoclaves, I noticed a nice little program with a Windows logo called System Check. One click. Yes, you have various slight problems, just click here to solve. Click. Whoosh. Now you have all sorts of things wrong – just send your credit card details and pin numbers to a site with no name... Realization dawns. You have Dumb, Dumber – and Occasional Reader.

Normally, as what Rachael might call “a slightly-techie old guy” I can burrow into system folders, find a restore point, and reclaim life as it was the day before. Not this time. It blocked everything. I couldn’t access the screen or anything. When did I last do a full back up? Yeah – last September...

A friend who believes he can do anything on computers came round. He confidently started, but after an hour and a half of burrowing into the mysteries of ancient DOS, with sweat pouring down his face, had to admit defeat.

So I went to a computer shop. The first one was manned by two scruffy lads, who knew even less about computers than I did. But the next stop I walked in – I was, to my surprise, greeted by name. It was run by someone of my own faith, whose congregation I had visited officially several years before. Lovely to see you. How was I? I was fine. How was my computer? Sick as a parrot. I have to say that he knew what he was doing. Over a couple of days, he rescued all my stuff. He cheerfully explained that I had caught something that only dates from January this year that gets through your virus software as a Trojan which you then activate by clicking on it... But it had a Windows logo on it I plaintively exclaimed... But yes – I was the first. He was confidently expecting a steady stream of ashen faced people coming through his door with the same problem. One man’s rain is another man’s sunshine.

So with my life rescued, I hastily backed everything up on other external hard drives, and I think I may invest in system 7. I think I may also invest in a little net book for all the crucial stuff – the “I-cannot-live-without-this-and-my-life-is- over-if-it-disappears” stuff – and not access the net at all on that machine – leaving my main machine for everything else, including blogs and research and the like – where if worst case scenario happens, one can retrace ones steps and download again.

So, frazzled and worn out, I went on vacation, and am now gradually settling down to normal.

But yes – it goes in threes...

I suppose it could have been worse.

Everything could have gone in fours.....

Don’t speak too soon...

Friday, February 24, 2012

One of those moments in life ....

I don’t feel like doing much today. I wrote a few paragraphs, made some corrections to one of the more finished chapters, read an article from a magazine published in 1843, ate some shredded wheat, drank some coffee, let my oldest go off to the store and vegetated.

Dau 1’s grade point came down a bit. She’s devastated … So she’ll only be co-Valedictorian … Phfuuut. I don’t remember stressing over those things. I was oblivious to my surroundings most days anyway. Well, that’s not true. I spent a lot of time in high school gossiping and being defender of the weak, smacker of bullies and bringer of home made chocolate chip cookies. (The last made me quite popular.)

I acquired a significant reputation for bully-whacking when I went toe to toe, eyeball to belly button, with a bully. That happened right in the commons, and the gossip spread like wild fire. Most of it was exaggerated, but I never corrected it.

Last night was quiet mostly, though it had its own peculiarities. I arrived early and found the front desk swamped. So I dumped my purse and helped out. I processed the reservation of an older couple. It is hard to pin them to an age, but I got the sense that they’d been married for a long time, and the wife was exceptionally long suffering – emphasis on the suffering.

It went something like this:

I process the credit card.

Man: You’re a cute little thing. Are you a Midget?

Woman: Frank!

Me: No, I’m just very short.

Man: Well you’re very pretty. How old are you anyway?

Woman: Frank, you’re being rude.

Me: [I smile, pass the receipt across for a signature, and avoid his question.]

Man: You sure you’re not a midget. Are you married? Is that a wedding ring?

Me: Yes, happily married with children.

Woman: [Adopts long-suffering look and mouths “I’m sorry.”]

Man: I just wondered. We have a son.

Woman: YOU have a son. He’s not mine.

Man: He’s forty-one and …

Woman: He needs a keeper, not a wife. Frank, she’s married.

Me: [I signal for a luggage trolley and pass across the key card and a map. I pencil directions to their room.]

Man: You’d like my son.

Me: I’m sure I would, but it would make my husband jealous. Enjoy your stay. [I smile my best smile.]

They go off and I can tell she’s giving him an ear full. Of course everything she says spills out the other ear. They’ve probably lived this way for decades.

Things calm down in short order, and I go off to my office. The manager I’m relieving passes down some details. We sip what’s left of his coffee, talking about an employee with issues. We’re all losing patience. … I don’t think she’ll last much longer. He leaves. I go through my emails. Big, big, big boss is arriving next week. He’s fun. He’s got a “significant other,” an ethnic Chinese woman who has a very dry whit and plays up her Madam Wong look. She could have stepped right out of a 1930s movie about Tong wars. She is a hoot.

About ten pm things pick up again. I get a panic call from the front desk and trot out there. Okay so I didn’t trot. I pixie sauntered. It’s not as bad as they made out. We have a man with attitude. We get those. It comes with the trade. The details aren’t exciting; it’s enough to know that he calmed down.

What is interesting is this kid, a boy, prolly 14 or so, standing back in the lobby and more or less staring. It’s creepy. He’s creepy. I ignore it. We get our share of Tin Hat Wearers and they come in all ages.

I head back to my office. I have budget issues to address. I think of something I need to do first and plop myself down in a lobby chair. I pick up the house phone and call the HR extension. I need to leave a voice mail reminder. Its brief and I’m done in seconds. Looking up I see Creepy Kid standing in front of me.

CK: Do you work here?

Me: Yes, I’m the manager. Can I help you?

CK: [Doubt in his eyes] How did you get a job here? I can’t get a job anywhere …

Me: You’re very young. It’s hard to get a job when you’re young.

CK: [Frowning] You’re not much older than me. …

Me: [Refraining from correcting his grammar] What are you? Fourteen or so? [he nodds]. I’m thirty-four. You’re confused by my size. … Wait a few years or just be persistent. Find things you can do now. Create a job for yourself.

So those were the highlights of last night. The rest was boring, sleepy, quiet. …. Except for the couple groping each other right under a security camera. In fairness, that camera looks like a smoke detector … but still …

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Dau 5: Mom, do I have to grow up?

Me: [Slightly puzzled] Everyone grows up …

Dau 5: Right now …?

Me: Annie, you’re eight years old. All you have to be is eight years old – until you turn nine …

Dau 5: Good! ‘Cause Isabella said I should ‘grow up’ …. [Spins on heels and clumps off. Shouting] Isabella! I do NOT have to grow up! Mom said!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I'm not

Today is a low point for me. I will not hold myself responsible for your actions. You either act like an adult or you don't. If you choose not too, I cannot stop you, and I will not take the blame for it. I live most days hurting, angry at the world for my pain, occasionally angry at God for it. You're not important enough for me to worry about.

I know you wish you were. But you're not. My family is important. My writing is important. Physical effort goes into my daily living. I have little to spare. So decide what you want to do, and decide by tomorrow evening. Afterwards, I'll make the decisions. They'll be quick, irrevocable, and I won't look back.

From Harry

Quotes for the Pixie

Here's a random post from me. At my school I am responsible for the morning announcements which are done in the form of a TV news program presented by the student news anchors. As 'producer' I write the script each day.

I always close with a thought for the day and this afternoon I went to one of my favorite sites, The Quotations Page for one for tomorrow. Today there was an abundance of good quotes and several that I think our dear Pixie would enjoy.

"The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it."
~ Leo Rosten (1908 - )

"Let us take things as we find them: let us not attempt to distort them into what they are not. We cannot make facts. All our wishing cannot change them. We must use them."
~ John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801 - 1890)

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."
~ G. K. Chesterton (1874 - 1936)

"All my possessions for a moment of time."
~ Elizabeth I (1533 - 1603)

"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
~ Elvis Costello (1954 - )

"I think wholeness comes from living your life consciously during the day and then exploring your inner life or unconscious at night."
~ Margery Cuyler

"My theory is that all of Scottish cuisine is based on a dare."
~ Mike Myers

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."
~ Jeff Valdez

"A little learning is a dangerous thing but a lot of ignorance is just as bad."
~ Bob Edwards

Which quote did I choose for the school news tomorrow?

"The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.”
~ David Friedman

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The art of the footnote ...

Or how a wayward Pixie-historian laughs up her sleeve as she writes

So ... in book two of our history series we write about a man who believed that Christians are given a limited number of inspired dreams but that the majority of dreams came from indigestion. This is an echo of Dickens' Scrooge. ... But ... the pixie wrote this in the footnote:

C. T. -----: “Ask What I Shall Give Thee,” The ------ -----, June 15, 1915, page 188. As a side note, attributing dreams to indigestion derives from the ancients. “The consumption of beans was prohibited by Pythagoras and Plato to those who desire veracious dreams, as they tend to inflate. … Cicero , however, laughs at this discipline, asking if it be the stomach and not the mind with which one dreams.”

Will any of our readers find humor in that? One in a thousand. If just one reader finds that mildly funny, I shall have done my job. 

Nelson Barbour, The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet is now available for Nook Reader via Barns and Noble.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dau 4 as a Great Cheff

Daughter 4 is a Cordon Bleu cheff in the making, I'm sure. However, today's peanut butter, banana, and Cheerios sandwhich does not seem to have been a hit, judging by the look on her face as she eats it.

Mystery Photo

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wicked Fairies ... disguised as Truck Salesmen

So … Knobby Knees is an Engineer. Civil engineer, that is. They’re an odd breed. I don’t pretend to understand them. All I know is that this particular engineer likes my cute butt (his words, not mine. I mighta said hawwt or something.), and he likes me. He’s a good kisser. He’s occasionally funny, sometimes boring; his jokes are odd. He has … well … knobby knees. I love him.

But … today we went truck shopping. His company is getting a new truck, and, since it will be assigned to him, he gets to pick it out. I think the local truck dealers have ESP or something. They’re having this truck sale at the convention center. Fine. Good. Let him go truck shoppin’ until he drops from exhaustion.

But, instead, it went like this:

“What are you doing, lass?”

“Shopping on ebay.”

“For what?”

“Books mostly. … Why?”

“Come with me to the truck show. …”

“I don’t like trucks. … Besides you’ll look at every truck, analyze every component, and I’ll be bored. I’ll probably drink too much of their free cola and eat one of those nasty hotdogs stuffed with mystery meat and regret it. … And we’re out of Gas-X.”

“Is that a, ‘no’? … Please come. Okay?”

… Twenty minutes later, I’m in the car wishing I was going to one of the antique malls instead. But here I am, off to the Monster Truck Event and RV show.

I think every truck – new and used – from the surrounding 100 miles is here. (Okay, that’s a wild exaggeration.) We wander up and down lines of trucks, red ones, blue ones, endless white ones. We look at huge 4 wheel dive things, and king cabs. I’m sure no king in his right mind ever rode in one of those, especially in the back seats. I listen to him discuss the fine points with dealer reps. I check my fingernails for dirt. He sits in a few, and coaxes me in too.

“This is fun, huh?” he says.

I think, “Yah, well, buster, if you think so.” But what I say is, “Well, it’s interesting, but we’ve been here over an hour. I’m going to get another Coke.”

He nods. “Bring me back another hotdog,” he says. “Put everything on it.”

I nod. Everything on it includes some really poor quality chili outa a can and some pickled cabbage masquerading as sauerkraut. He may sleep alone tonight.

I juggle the hotdogs. Yes, I weakened and got one for myself. And I juggle the Cokes. And go looking for him. Is he anywhere in sight? Of course not. I finally sit on a bench and munch my hotdog and sip Coke, scanning the crowd between bites and sips. I spot him finally, head to head with a salesman. I dump my trash and grab up his food, making my way over to him.

“What do you think of this one?” he asks eagerly.

“It’s red,” I say.

“Maroon,’ he says.

“Vermillion,” the sales person says.

“Whatever,” I think. But I’m too polite to say so.

“So, is this it?” I ask sweetly. I sure as heck hope it is. My feets are sore and I “wanna go home. … Day-o”.

He thinks it is. This is good. So, the deal stuff gets done. I opt out of that conversation, searching for the other free food and drink tent. They have root beer, and I’m now swimming in Coke, but oddly I’m thirsty. Water would be better, and they do have bottled water. The bottled water is bottled tap water from California. Why in heck would I want to drink bottled tap water?

I find the tent, get my rootbeer and lo! They have really gooie lookin’ pastry that’s probably near fossilized with preservatives. I take one. It’s supposed to be apple filled. It vaguely tastes of apple. I sit and wait.

Finally … days and days and days later … or maybe about 45 minutes later, someone from his office shows up with a check. I finally figure this all out. He drives the truck home. Guess who came along to drive our car home? I honest to the Divine One did not kick his shins. He’s too much fun to kick. But I will tease him about that for days and days and days.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I have a blog harem? Who knew ...

So ... what's the attraction? You actually like short, scrawny, pixies? I shall refrain from suggesting that any one of you might be umm distracted by scrawny .... but then again ...

This photo removed to address the needs of an unhappy Scot who did not want me to share it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

They're PINK! God invented pink ...


So ... I'm sittin' here readin' the news ... and on Reuters I find a photo of that Russian sub that caught fire ... except ... note this ... the sub in the photo is flying the Union Jack. I think they got this one wrong.

Americans do not pronounce the U in in "jaguar" as a long U (yoo), but as a "w." It's Jag-wahr. Now there is a reason for this, and, contrary to my Brit friends, pronouncing it with a long U isn't "pronoucning it as it's spelled." Dear hearts the original word was Portugese, not English. It comes from an Brazilian tribe's word for big animal. Ask a Portugese to pronounce the original word and then get back to me on your English snobbery. Better yet, ask a Tupi speaker to say the original word. Pfuuuttt!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dear LORD!

As most of my regular blog readers know, my writing partner and I have an extensive research library. Some of the books are rare, some are not. We've never estimated its worth in cold hard cash. Maybe we should. One of the books we own is Day Dawn, or Gospel in Type and  Prophecy by John Henry Paton in the original unrevised edition.

I'm watching an auction on ebay where the same book is listed. With fifteen minutes remaining, the bid is at $4950.00. (Gasp) ... There have been 22 bids so far and nearly 900 views. ... okay, I just checked back and the auction ended at the $4950.00 amount. Stellar! If we didnt' really want and like our copy, I'd sell it!

The book on ebay ...

You know what? I don't think this hat does a thing for me ...

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Reason and Rationality

I should have paid more attention to my psychology class. Having done so might have equipped me to analyze religious mania. I was more interested in social deviance than in the roots of irrational belief.

Religious Mania is probably a too general and too unfair description. Very little of human behavior is rational. Rational thought is not a human birthright. It is an art to be learned. Few of our parents practice it. Of those who possess the skill, few teach it to their children. Children resist learning it. The Biblical proverb’s advice to “acquire wisdom … acquire thinking ability” is ignored.

I was and am a ‘true believer’ though with an increasingly critical eye, and I confess to my own essential irrationality. I’m not overly disturbed by human irrationality because I share in it. I am disturbed by religious insanity. I’ve found it while researching our current project. It runs from self-entitled cussedness to murder at God’s command. I suppose you want details about the murder first. It’s the most lurid and disturbing event. Most of us go for the lurid first, right?

In 1879 a New York “Second Adventist” killed his daughter believing that God had ordered him to sacrifice her as he had ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. God stayed Abraham’s hand. He didn’t intervene in New York, and the girl died. In Christian theology Isaac’s sacrifice is seen as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death. The ram that substituted for Isaac is sometimes seen as Christ’s substitution for humanity. More immediately, the tale of Abraham and Isaac is a consecration of the firstborn story. In pre-state Israel the first born (or the one counted as firstborn) served as family priest. This tradition persisted under the Law, each firstborn male needing a redemptive sacrifice. How this translated into a divine call to cut a small girl-child’s throat is a mystery to me.

Psychology is hardly a science. It is more religion than science, and any explanation it may give for this bit of madness is suspect. Do we see this as demon possession? Chemical imbalance? The result of a parasite ridden brain? What is this? What are the roots of this madness?

A sense of divine choosing drives the acts of at least three of the main characters found within the history we’re writing. Each saw themselves as the specially chosen purveyor of divine light. Each was influenced, though in varying degrees, by Millerite Adventism wherein competing views were forwarded with the phrase “advanced light” and described as “irrefutable.” Each used the phrase or something like it to disparage opponents.

Nelson Horatio Babour saw each of his prophetic failures as a step forward, a passage into greater light. He saw himself as leading the way into divine enlightenment. Those who did not follow him from one failure to the next were not “in the light.” He never explained how stumbling from on false prediction to another was advancing light, and I have no sense of the origins of his self-view.

John Henry Paton believed his drift into Universalism was based on a personal revelation. He saw himself as a New Testament saint with an advanced understanding. His age and sense of sainthood left him with a bastard doctrine of uncertain parentage. He allowed that others had a share of divine light – just not as great as his. I am at a loss to explain his sense of divine entitlement.

Charles Taze Russell saw himself as one of the few god-chosen teachers. Eventually he would see himself as the “faithful and wise” servant of Jesus’ illustration. He was publicly cautious, seldom, but privately he promoted the idea. Russell cast stories from his childhood in a Biblical fame work. He was like Samuel, dedicated from birth to God, a divinely appointed child who would in time become God’s prophet. One must give Russell credit for emphasizing Christ and not himself. But there is a recognizable sense of divine choosing. How does one measure this?

The most we can do is let each speak through his own words. We quote them. We document what they said, what they did, how they did it. The questions that touch on reason and rationality are beyond our ability to answer.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The NEWS from Zambia .... Just sayin' ... I mean ... I'm speechless

The Invasion of the Shapeshifting Whores!

There has to be a story line in this, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the one to write it:

In October last year, another local man was caught having sex with a donkey, which he claimed had transformed from a prostitute, picked earlier at a nightspot. He was then arrested and taken to court.

Sending the court into hysterical laughter, the 28-year-old man told the magistrate: “Your worship, I only came to know I was being intimate with a donkey when I got arrested.”

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Small Fae ...

A film by someone who knows their true nature.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Trials and Tribulations ....

I feel as if I were working my way through hip-deep mud. I fell down the stairs yesterday, an experience that left me walking like a ninety year old woman. I had one of my “episodes” and crashed. Fortunately I was not far from the bottom. Unfortunately I had a full cup of coffee in my hand. Two of my daughters cleaned up the mess.

Today I’m in a mental fog. I’ve tried to write some, but it’s coming out as nonsense. I thought my aunt was coming down today, but she’s not here yet, and I can’t reach her on her cell phone. She forgets to turn it on; so I’m not worried. If I don’t hear from her in an hour or so, I’ll call my uncle and find out what’s going on.

I got Knobby Knees to take me to the Goodwill Store. (Yes, I’m still peeved at them! But a Pixie has to shop, doesn’t she?) I didn’t buy any of their now over-priced books, but I found three cups. Nice ones. These were part of a punch bowl set. One is from the 1880s, the other two from about 1900. The oldest is quality pressed-glass. The other two are right on the transition from Victorian style to Edwardian elegance. All have turned purple from exposure to the sun. They were fifty cents each. You can’t sneeze at cheap elegance, or at least it’s not polite to do so.

Sometime last year my aunt and I drove to a town near to where I live and hit the thrift stores. I bought some old spoons and a butter knife. I just liked the pattern. Besides, they oozed quality and age. I polished them up and put them in my silver chest intending to research them. As often happens with pixies, I was distracted and forgot about them. Last week I got them out and went searching for the maker. Turns out these are important items. They’re from the late 1850s to mid 1860s. They’re “coin silver,” very heavy silver at that. My dollar sixty-nine cents each has turned into a buncha money. Now I have to find a buyer. That will take time, but this is a good find. We need the money right now for some repairs to the house.

Back to the writing stuff. … I’m trying to fix something we wrote earlier. We’re trying to explain the vital differences between two religious movements that have been confused in the minds of casual researchers for say a hundred years. I envisioned this as a four or five paragraph explanation. It doesn’t work as a brief explanation; so I’ve been adding detail. The research is good. My writing is (okay this is MY blog and I can be vulgar if I wish to be) crappy. So I’ve given up for the day.

People either hate or love my writing. I do not understand this. There is no indifference, just like or hate. My goal is to be able to handle English so well that readers are lost in the words and thoughts and no longer think about the quality of writing. I want them to be lost in the music of words as I create it. Most day I’m certain I will never achieve that.

I’m eternally disorganized, and for someone who loves order, that’s a tragedy. The eternal struggle to keep my library-workroom in some sort of workable order continues. I can see the top of my desk today. I don’t think I’ve seen it in a month or two. Writing history is clutter-intensive. At least that’s my excuse.

My writing partner has started to research what will be the end chapter. I sent him an essay written by modern opponents of one of the religions we research. Written in 1976, it refutes a single paragraph from a commentary on last-times subjects. Usually things from this source are stupidly written. This one is helpful, taking us to original source material. I come away from much of the polemical material wanting to wash my hands. Can’t these people assume some personal responsibility in life?

On the brighter side of life, I found Knobby Knees’ missing screw driver. He left it in the laundry room. He’ll be happy. You’d think his tools were important or something. (Insert Pixie snicker here.)

One of my younger cousins starts college this summer. She’s enrolling in the same college that my oldest. They get along well. I hope they can support each other. At least my daughter chose one near enough she can live at home. She’s matured greatly in the last two years, but we still have some maturity issues.

I’m faced with a mother’s dilemma that has been passed down to me from six generations past. This is a mother to daughter gift, given on a wedding day. It’s a cut glass plate in a pattern that resembles a wedding ring. It’s green glass, made in Germany sometime before 1850. My mother chose me. Now I have to pick among five daughters. None of them are close to marriage, of course. But this is an important family tradition, one of many we keep. I frown every time I look at that plate. How am I going to make this decision?

When my mother gave it to me, all she said is, “I know you’ll treasure it.” I do.

Reminder to self: We need a jar of silver polish.

Note: Daughter 4 can mimic her grandparents Scots accent perfectly.

Note: I seem to have inherited the local colony of small brown and blue fae. They’re pests. … And dangerous.

Note: I bought some really cheaply priced stamps off of ebay. This was a great find. Poorly described, mostly over-looked, and very nice material.

I lost a student from my critical reading class. I’m not sorry to see them go. I gained a student for my writing class. Along with him I gained a worried parent. Parents are always welcome in my classes. You have to understand that with intellectual brightness one sometimes finds difficulties with judgment, especially at the age of many of my students. You’d probably have to be in the situation to understand fully, but I’m sure you’ve observed this. I drove my parents to distraction.

You ever read Havelock Ellis’ Psychology of Sex? I did. I was twelve years old. I read all umm what? Six volumes I think. Can you imagine the questions I asked my parents? Can you imagine the challenges they faced answering them? God invented children to keep parents busy and to drive them insane.

Where? Why?

Where is Harry? You okay, Harry?

Why is no one playing the What if Game?

Okay ... that's it! I'm pouting!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Santa Clara, Wrecked at Coos Bay, Oregon

Guest Post - Occasional Reader

Silent movies

I have always been fascinated by silent movies. Not just the evolution of cinema storytelling, but the very early efforts – Fred Ott sneezing in 1894, the train coming into the station at La Ciotat in 1896, which reportedly caused panic in the audience – my family thinks it all rather strange, but still make sympathetic noises and ask if I want to lie down when I go into over-enthusiastic mode.

Of course, when the movies found their feet there was a lot more to be fascinated by. I once spent a whole holiday holed up inside the Academy Cinema in London when the British Film Institute first showed the restored Buster Keaton films, rescued from a vault in his old house. One might gather that I was single at the time. I still watch the DVDs. I collected the silent films of Laurel and Hardy on standard 8mm film and was a sure hit at parties showing Liberty and Habeas Corpus. (Fortunately for L&H, their voices suited their characters and their film career survived until 1951, but those early silents remain the cream for me.) I learned to appreciate the grandeur of Griffiths’ films and the stupidity of his vision at times. And I enjoyed the epics – from CTR’s Photodrama of Creation, to the 1920s Ben Hur – with a better chariot race than the 1959 version. Even the duds had their charms – Michael Curtis’ Noah’s Ark had the Almighty talk to Noah through a burning bush and presenting him with instructions for building an Ark on tablets of stone – Curtis had obviously recently seen De Mille’s Ten Commandments, and was not too clear on his Bible stories... But the actual flood on my 8mm print was quite spectacular – and not a touch of computer graphics on the horizon.

Although it is off the point – but hey it’s my post, I’m allowed to ramble – I also love the early days of sound – when for a short while films were so dire, they have a hypnotic appeal. I have fond memories of Joan Crawford – later Grande Dame of cinema, singing – badly – and doing the Charleston even worse! Oh the joys.

But back to the silents - which brings me to the current film, The Artist.

After all the ballyhoo – for a couple of weeks there was only cinema in my country of residence showing it. This one cinema was in a city where I used to live and work, but the costs of parking for the performance were three times the cost of a ticket, and the thought of the traffic trying to get home afterwards would have dominated the experience. But then, as it gained awards and more publicity, a few more locations took a chance – and there was a reasonable audience when I saw it earlier today.

In Britain it has had mixed reviews. Apparently patrons of a cinema in Liverpool walked out because it didn’t have any sound... Duh!

So what is the Occasional Reader’s critical review?

First, to call it a silent film in a sense is a misnomer. Music was the key. It always was. Not a just a tinkly piano with Keystone cops flickering on the screen, but a full orchestra in picture houses that were often called picture palaces, they were so grand. The music in The Artist really held everything together. And the conventions of silent film were observed, and not sent up. (I can still enjoy Mel Brooks mugging in Silent Movie, where the best joke was when the only sound spoken was by Marcel Marceau – a famous mime artiste – but The Artist was not a parody. People who watch opera don’t expect method acting, and people who watch ballet manage quite OK without dialogue – once you accept the conventions of the form). In The Artist sound gradually came in as it did in the movies. For me one of the best sequences has the “hero” who cannot speak suddenly discovering sound. A cup put on the table makes a noise, to his horror something knocked over makes a bigger noise; at the end of the sequence, he opens his mouth to scream – and nothing comes out.

At the very end he does speak a couple of words. You then realise why he couldn’t speak in movies at that time. It’s not as funny as Jean Hagen’s Brooklyn accent in Singing in the Rain (“Well of course I can talk – don’t everybody?”), but it makes the point – silent cinema had a universal language. Once sound came in everything became regionalised by language and even accents within language groups. Until of course dubbing was mastered and America did its best to take over the world of commercial film. (Which is another subject).

There was a brilliant performance by the dog, Uggie. My other half came along to please me, but found herself really enjoying the film, but especially the dog. A canine Oscar should be in order.
It was a film that also paid homage to the history of film – sequences brought back fleeting memories of the music from Hitchcock’s Vertigo, the pathos of Chaplin’s The Kid, and the ending of Welles’ Citizen Kane. There was a nifty rush to the rescue sequence – which brought back memories of the race to save the condemned man in Griffiths’ Intolerance, or the so politically incorrect Ku Klux Klan riding to the rescue in his Birth of a Nation. And there’s a lovely payoff sub-title joke at the end of it.

I hope the eventual DVD will have some extras.

Yes – silence is golden.

Now for an evening of noisy TV.

Return of the What If Game

What if Sherlock Holmes became Dr. Moriarty’s apprentice?

What if it were really Holmes and not Moriarty who died at Reichenbach Falls? What if through artful disguise he took Holmes place?

What if Jack the Ripper were really Jane the Ripper?

What if one of those who died in the Nevada desert facility had lived to tell the tale? Where would we be then?

What if there were a genetically neutral species that could reproduce with anything? What would its offspring be?

What if the reason no one visits the play lot is that it’s in another world that only just touches our own?

Would sparrow kill a crow at a pixie’s command?