Friday, August 31, 2012

Midg says this is he and his library.

Personally, I think it belongs to the Pixie on the ladder.

He's just tryin' to make me jealous ....

Occasional Reader in his Library. Photo by Mrs. Occasional.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


"Yah? Well, I've seen your type come and go. I've sent a few of you into the void myself."
By Lilie

Goat Girl.

I've written the first chapter of the new story and hate it. That's not unusual. First chapters are the hardest to write. I'll let it rest for a few days and go back to it.

Roberto's Vision of my Annie


Monday, August 27, 2012

I can. Can you?

Anastasia Marie, Lady d'Isles

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ve run across Daughter 5, aka Annie and Anastasia Marie. Usually I tell you a droll story or present a bit of funniness. Annie is my gentle child, though bringing her to birth about killed me. She was my biggest baby, five pounds three ounces. She cracked my tailbone and ruined my urethra. (You really wanted to know that, didn’t you?) But she’s a very gentle child.

She sleeps around. You may find her anywhere. If she’s lonely or just wants to snuggle, she may wander into one of her sisters’ beds. They usually let her in without complaint. She makes “forts” and tents out of pillow cushions and blankets.

She makes me laugh.

There is another side of Annie that I haven’t presented. Annie pulled down a book I was reading, asking me what I was doing. She was four. “I’m reading a book,” I said.

“I want to read,” she said.

I had, courtesy of the publisher, a full set of the teacher’s edition of the I Can series. These are phonetics based readers. I got book one down and she didn’t let me get out of my chair until we had finished book one. Within three months we’d finished them all.

Annie may say things that make me giggle, but Annie reads things most children do not and with understanding few adults have. I didn’t read Idles of the King until I was thirteen, and I read it then only because it was required reading. Annie is eight years old. Annie has parts of it memorized.

So Annie is my clueless, happy, gentle child – who loves poetry of all sorts, who liked Tale of Two Cities (Good book, fun read. But remember, she’s eight.) Annie loves to be read to. Our last shared book was Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Circular Staircase. When I got to the part where our heroine is in the locked, secret room and discovers someone else in there with her – in the dark – she jumped with excitement. I stopped reading for the day at that point. She couldn’t make up her mind if she wanted to wait for me to read more or if she wanted to finish it herself.

We’ve moved Annie into the Gifted and Talented classes.

Annie finds life surprising and she speculates about everything. My Friday shift ended at four a.m. It takes thirty or forty minutes to get home, and I’m usually weary. I shoved my key in the front door before I noticed a sticky note on the door glass. “Mom, we’re not lost. We’re in the back yard. – Annie,” it read.

The slightly unusual is … well … usual here. So I made my way to the back yard. There are two huge trees and some smaller ones out there. The largest two are about a hundred years old and very tall. Under one of those were four lumpy sleeping bags. The lumps were Knobby Knees, Annie, Katarina, and Isabella. They were having a last “campout” before serious school days.
“Hi, Mom,” Annie whispered. She motioned me down, and I sat beside her.

“They talk to each other,” she said. She wasn’t talking about her siblings and dad. She was looking up at the stars twinkling between the branches. “I think they’re alive.”

Who am I to say otherwise.

“Do you think they’re alive?” she asked.

I started to say, “no.” What I said instead was, “I don’t think so, but I don’t really know. I don’t know how we would know. Do you?”

She shrugged.

“They have names, you know,” she said.

I nodded. I take seriously Isaiah’s assurance that God calls them all by name. Do you name things that aren’t alive? Does God? I wouldn’t know.

“I’m hungry,” she says.

We head off to the backdoor. Katarina stirs but doesn’t wake. We open a box of Graham Crackers, pour some milk and take milk and crackers outside to the patio table.

She decided she’d camped enough. I woke her dad and whispered that Annie was going in. He mumbled something that sounded like “Puzzit bla mikcum.” I translated that as, “I won’t remember this in the morning, but I’ll figure it out.”

My gentle child is a constant surprise.

In the MOOD!

This song has naughty lyrics. I like it anyway.

In the Mood

Glenn Miller (#1 in 1940)

- words by Andy Razaf, music by Joe Garland

- charted by Glenn Miller at #1 in 1940 and again at #20 in 1943

- also charted at #16 by Johnny Maddox in 1953

- as recorded by The Andrews Sisters

Who's the lovin' daddy with the beautiful eyes

What a pair o' lips, I'd like to try 'em for size

I'll just tell him, "Baby, won't you swing it with me"

Hope he tells me maybe, what a wing it will be

So, I said politely "Darlin' may I intrude"

He said "Don't keep me waitin' when I'm in the mood"

First I held him lightly and we started to dance

Then I held him tightly what a dreamy romance

And I said "Hey, baby, it's a quarter to three

There's a mess of moonlight, won't-cha share it with me"

"Well" he answered "Baby, don't-cha know that it's rude

To keep my two lips waitin' when they're in the mood"

In the mood, that's what he told me

In the mood, and when he told me

In the mood, my heart was skippin'

It didn't take me long to say "I'm in the mood now"

In the mood for all his kissin'

In the mood his crazy lovin'

In the mood what I was missin'

It didn't take me long to say "I'm in the mood now"

Old Mail

Little Richard, Occasional Reader, a Date

By Occasional Reader

Looking back on the many shows and performers I have seen, probably the most memorable was in the sixties, when Little Richard first came to Britain. I have my diary here – Granada Theatre, Kingston (south of London).

Little Richard – yeah. Who can forget those immortal lyrics, so full of thought and social significance – Ah wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!

I can just imagine white American parents from the heartland in the 1950s, with teenage kids, suddenly horrified by the Devil’s music coming out of the mouth of this short black man – wearing make-up and with his hair in a huge pompadour, smashing the keys of the piano while sticking one leg on the lid.

They tried to neutralise it of course – Pat Boone of all people did a cover version of Tutti Frutti from which our title comes. One suspects that Boone, later author of the toe-curling ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty, didn’t know the origins of the song – an extremely dirty ditty which needed to be cleaned up for recording, even for Little Richard.

Anyhow, back to my show – on comes Little Richard – and he blows the audience away. At one point when jumping up and down on top of a long-suffering piano, he suddenly faltered, and collapsed in a heap. The compere Bob Bain rushed on looking worried, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Then – from flat on his back – Gonna Tell Aunt Mary ‘Bout Uncle John – Richard was up again and away into Long Tall Sally. At one point he threw his shoes into the audience, followed by his jacket – and scuffles broke out to try and claim these sacred artefacts. (I understand that later in time, the routine involved Richard’s shirt going as well, but as I remember it, he drew the line on this occasion).

I saw Richard decades later when he was in his 70s – it was sad – but this was a magic moment for a teenager taking his first girl friend to a show.

The first half of the show was closed by Sam Cooke. It was to be his only visit to the UK. It was a strange combination – one suspects the promoters just thought in terms of two black men on the same bill. Cooke was very professional, very smooth – but he had his work cut out. This audience had come along to potentially demolish cinema seats in the spirit of Rock Around the Clock. I was probably one of the few in the audience who knew all his songs – Cooke kept on coming back to me as I sang along to every word in the third row – giving him encouragement. Like Richard, Cooke came from the gospel church background, and used to pontificate on how the Lord kept him safe during trouble. A couple of years later he was shot dead while apparently trying to batter down a woman’s door in a seedy motel after she had stolen his clothes.

The real gimmick of the show, and an even greater highlight for me, was the guest appearance of Gene Vincent. I saw all the old rockers – especially when they came to the UK after their careers faded in the States. Vincent’s live shows were probably amongst the best rock and roll ever. Even when drink had taken its toll, he gave a good show in London in 1968 that I wrote up – and which still survives (uncredited, but hey - who cares – I KNOW!) in biographies of Vincent to this day.

His work permit had expired and, so the story went, he was not allowed to work on a British stage. So he was here as a special guest artiste who sang walking along the front row of the auditorium. I didn’t question it at the time, but the story sounds rather suspect today.

He did one number before introducing “his friend Little Richard.” I can still see him now, in a black leather outfit, limping along the front (Vincent had a leg brace from a motorcycle accident, which gave him enormous ‘street cred’) hollering Be Bop a Lula. It was only when the great man got to the line, “She’s the woman in the red blue jeans,” while smashing the stand mike into the floor, that I noticed my date for the evening WASN’T WATCHING!!! She...SHE WAS...LOOKING...BORED...AT HER PROGRAM... Well – obviously the relationship was doomed.

I try and explain to modern generations how the show was magic – how all the wild behaviour on stage from modern rock icons was first taught by the originals – but it doesn’t make much impact. Still, I have my memories, my videos and my iPod in the car.

At times when I just don’t feel like being older and po-faced and “responsible” I can still be taken back to Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!

Yeah man – rock on.

From Harry

Thank God for Pixies

I saw a pixie this weekend. She was wearing a blue gingham dress and had a white bow in her blonde hair. She was laughing and chasing butterflies on the lawn.

Later As I sat in the parlor of my wife's family home place, slipping sweet tea, I watched her raising her skirt over her head while mom and dad tried to teach her a little decorum. She was having none of that. Being a young pixie of three, I am sure they were lucky that she kept any clothes on at all.

The house was full of pixie that day. Two whom I claim were running through every room exploring and trying to elude their parents and other adults. I was happy to watch and laugh at their antics and thanked God for little pixies.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Post

Post. Noun. What you beat bad boys with. First used in that context in 1554 by Addison the Cruel, head master of Epworth College for Bridge Trolls. Example: "Calvin rip up that fence post and beat the dunce with it."

Other than washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen and reading through my oldest daughter's scholarship papers (which finally arrived today), I've avoided any constructive work. Pixies can go without sleep only so long.

My principal is determined to drive me insane.

Me to him: You've over-filled two of my classes. What do you want me to do? Tape them to the wall?

The Prin: You're now popular. Parents insisted.

Me: Swell. why wasn't I this popular in first grade? ... Don't you know how to say no?

The Prin: You weren't popular in first grade?

Me: You're avoiding the issue. ... All the girls were popular when we were on the monkey bars.

The Prin: [raises eyebrows, looks puzzled]

Me: Mine were usually white with flowers or pink.

The Prin: I don't .... oh, yes. I see. That's why we banned monkey bars from playgrounds. I'm sure.

Me: I need two parent volunteers.

The Prin: I'll do what I can. ... Are you bakeing one of those cherry cream pies for in-service day this semester?

Me: Are you suggesting I bribe you? With pie?

The Prin: No, no. I'll get you the helpers regardless, but if you'd bring a cherry cream pie or two ....

Me: Consider yourself bribed. ... You're paying for the coffee the next two months, right?

The Prin: [Scowls] For the next month. For your pie.

Me: Deal.


On other fronts:

If you walk into the shadows near the sixth street bridge, you'll meet a tall, thin, almost gaunt man. He looks like a man. Mostly. He's about six feet eight inches tall. He has way too many sharp, pointy teeth in his mouth. His smile isn't friendly. It's sharkish. I met him this week. He called me "Lady" and bowed, stepping back into the shadows.

I asked him what he was. Most creatures on Benham Point Island are best pleased to tell you what they are. Genetics matter to many of the extra-normal creatures. When I spoke into the deep shadow, asking him what he was, all I got back was a long silence. As I turned to leave, he whispered, "I just am."

I have an idea the crime rate will decrease in the bridge area. For no apparent reason other than appetite and disposition.

Now, The Goat Girl's unlikely romance is coming along quite nicely. The shape-shifting dragon and his pixie are fun. A grumpy fairy is a good character. I'm almost ready to start writing. How I'm going to write this and work on the history book is a puzzle. But this is too good a story to shelve.


Creepy creatures were out last night. I may incorporate one of them into this story. ... I'm thinkin' 'bout that.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Writing cranky, but accurate paragraphs ...

I've spent way too much time on four paragraphs, two of which are a quotation from Frank Burr. (See previous post) I do not like Mr. Burr. Not at all. Few characters we research produce that strong of a reaction. Most of them are like interesting bugs. A few I know I would have liked. Daniel Cogswell, an Advent Christian, is one of those. It is hard to read what he wrote and not feel an attachment to this gentle man. Burr I would have hated.

So ... even though I detest the man, and given a chance might spit on his grave, I have to be fair to him, neither exageraing his faults or blaming him for things which were out of his control. That leaves me with the task of expressing our doubts about his veracity without stepping over an ethical line.

As it stands now, the introductory and concluding paragraphs of this section read thus:

An organized Second Adventist body existed in Dansville from at least 1849. Frank Burr, later editor of The Advent Christian Times, moved to Dansville apparently in mid-1864. He had been pastor at Honeyoe for approximately three and a half year, preaching throughout that part of New York State. Burr strikes us as pugnacious and mentally unstable. His short biography ignores all most all of his known associates, focusing only on himself. He is always the hero of his own story, nearly the sole actor. That is, of course, rank distortion. He also claimed that Christ spoke to him personally. That Advent Christians three decades hence would admire him for it seems puzzling. He would remain pastor until December 1866. As he puts it, he was the sole Advent preacher in the area. This is patently untrue.


We were not able to independently verify any of this. His quotations are contrived. The grammar shows this. We could not locate the Methodist paper, proof of the minister’s ‘downfall,’ or sustain from original sources any of this. We suppose it is in the main true, even if the details may be gloss. Burr believed he was God’s special messenger. He believed that Christ spoke to him with a secret, internal voice. All of Burr’s stories glorify Burr. If we accept his story as basically true, we must note that friction between Adventists and Methodists died after he left Dansville.

We will continue to probe his story best we can. We have access to the Dansvill papers. I can't find, or at least have not yet found, anything like the story he tells. He leaves out key names. The Allens in Honeoye, Cogswell in Dansville. Those are key omissions. That he omits characters at least as important as he was raises my suspicions to peak level. If Burr were more important to the story we tell, I'd spend more time on this than I will.

Burr is the Advent Christian version of W. R. Coovert, fraudster, mental defective, nut case, minister who made his way through One Faith to Winebrennerites, and finally to SDAism. The both give me the shivers!

The Real Harry and the Character he plays on TV

Three more from the bottom shelf ...

Anon: The Kings of the East; an Exposition of the Prophecies; Determining from Scripture and From History The Power for whom the Mystical Euphrates is being Dried Up; with an explanation of certain other prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel, 1849.

B. W. Newton: Aids to Prophetic Inquiry - First Series, 1853.

J. R. MacDuff: Memories of Patmos; or, some of the great words and vision of the Apocalypse, 1871.

Pixie's thought: I need MORE books, MORE I SAY! and BETTER!

Headline of the Day

Lab tech parties with escaped monkeys - University employee found with pants down, monkeys roaming free

A Georgia Health Sciences University lab tech was recently discovered in a campus locker room engaging in unusual behavior.

Authorities said 32-year-old Coley Mitchell was jailed after he was found intoxicated with his pants down in a locker room in the Sanders Research and Education Building while two lab monkeys were found roaming free, outside their cages, the Augusta Chronicle reported.

Mitchell was booked into Richmond County jail on charges of public intoxication. The monkeys were examined and found to be unharmed.

The Pixie's Comment: I knew there was a reason I've avoided Georgia.

Just because ...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Midg says this is his photo...

Does he mean the machine or the man? He didn't say. ...

Bottom Shelf Books - The First Nine

J. L. Martin: The Voice of the Seven Thunders, 1872.

Hiram Mattison: The Resurrection of the Dead, 1865.

Robert Landis: The Immortality of the Soul and the Final Condition of the Wicked, 1859.

Edward Bickersteth: Water from the Well-Spring, 1854.

The Christian Baptist, Volumes 1-7.

A. Keith: The Harmony of Prophecy; or Scriptural Illustrations of the Apocalypse, 1851.

John Newton: Forty-One Letters on Religious Subjects, 1831.

John Newton: Letters and sermons with a Review of Ecclesiastical History and Hymns, 1796, 1797, volume 5 and 9.


Frank Burr and the Forgetful Pixie

So … back to more interesting stuff. … An Advent Christian preacher and editor appears in our WIP several times, mostly as a third tier character. He wrote a book about his adventures as a Saint back in 1895.

As I’ve said before, I have considerable sympathy for many of the people who show up in this history. Mr. Burr falls into the nut-case category. I don’t like him much, even though he’s pretty much dead.

Mr. Burr was verbally abusive; many Second Adventists were. He saw himself as the center of each story he recounts. Dear hearts, I’ve read many of the contemporary articles behind the stories he told thirty-five years later. He was prone to exaggerate. He didn’t exactly lie, but he got close to it. He omits the names of others. He doesn’t tell what they said and did, really. If he can avoid it. He frames his own words as if they were the quotations of others.

He believed Jesus talked to him with a voice only he could hear. I find it disturbing that the Advent Christian community could hold him in honor either because of or despite that claim. He saw himself as specially protected by God. A Methodist clergyman’s downfall occurs because he challenged Mr. Burr.

He threw out people who disagreed with him, even if their belief was within what the AC Society allowed. He disrupted the meetings of Age-to-Come believers, recounting that will some glee.

While I allow (Isn’t that nice of me?) that God and Christ can talk to whomever they wish, I’m fairly certain that Yahweh did not say much of anything to Mr. Burr. And Jesus probably never noticed him. Mr. Burr got enough attention from himself.

Now, Pixies can be forgetful. I’ve been pineing after his book. It’s expensive. I want it! Except … well, I was looking for something else in our research collection and VoilĂ ! I spy a thin, green-covered book on the bottom shelf. “What’s this?” I say, and I pull it off the shelf. Why (Saint’s preserve us!) it’s the very book I want. I have no memory of buying this. None whatsoever.

I read it last night. Good stuff in it, even if it’s written by an evil troll who pretended to be one of God’s saints. (I’m sure that if god spoke to him, that god’s name is represented by the initials S. T. D. … And I do not mean sexually transmitted disease.) We’ll have to use this material cautiously because he’s such an obvious liar? … let’s go with exaggerator. He tells us more about a small church in Dansville, New York. He explains his connection to Union Mills, Indiana. Stuff. Good stuff. I’m quite pleased. I’m not pleased that I cannot remember buying this book. Probably we bought it back when we were working on book one in this series and shelved it for future reference. I dunno though. Evil elves may have sneaked it onto my bookshelf. Never fear, I keep Elf repellant handy!

One of these is probably Occasional Reader ... maybe

Old Guy with Attitude

Wanna bet I get in trouble for posting this?

[yup, I was soundly scolded; but it was fun while it lasted.]

You'd have to know him to notice, but he's actually smiling.
Really he is.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oklahoma Schools at it Again

A school in Oklahoma City made a five year old turn his shirt inside out because it had a Michigan logo on it.

Brilliant! or NOT. Is Oklahoma in the United States? Or is it a third world country?

My apologies to my readers from Oklahoma who are all nice, upstanding people. But your schools suck lemons.

PIllow fluff ... Not that this post is about that at all ...

I’ve looked all over for a portfolio of fine art prints. I looked in my over-sized storage cabinet. I put vintage newspapers in there, and old maps, and large papers and broadsides. It wasn’t in there. I was fairly certain it would not be. I looked everywhere I could think of. I’m down to the … gasp … storage room.

I peeked around the door …. Sure enough …. There it is. Way in the back! I will don my pith helmet, strap on a pistol, slather myself with shark repellent, and make my way back there to retrieve it sometime later today. I really need to finish cleaning that room out. We stuffed it full after mom died. Those things had to go somewhere. Oh, well, we have one more yard sale later this month.

I fell again. Down the stairs. There is no part of my little body that does not hurt.

I am supposed to be writing about A. P. Adams, a one-time Methodist preacher. He was a nut case. I have tones of sympathy for many of the characters that show up in our history, but he isn’t one of them. He was belligerent, insulting, a first-class twit. I’m not even looking at the file folder. Well … it’s not actually a folder. It’s a four inch wide three-ring binder. One of our history blog readers and his wife took time out of their trip to Boston to visit an uncooperative library and make photocopies of important papers. This was stellar.

Boston University is Methodist. The librarian didn’t want to make copies, and she misrepresented the collection. Stupid. This stuff happened in 1878. No one CARES! Besides, we all know that Methodists are evil plotters bent on WORLD domination! Right? Anyway, we now have these papers. They take a bit of deciphering. Not the writing, though. It’s fairly clear. But some references have required a bit of research. Research is my life’s blood! Okay so it’s not. But it can be fun.

We had a very brief thunder, lightning, rain and hail storm last night. Odd for August. Prolly a peeved dragon caused it.

Guys, I did not take down the post on dreams and neurological problems because I was angry at anyone. It was a bit too personal. I usually don’t get that personal on my blog. I took it down. I’m not upset at any of you.

I have too many “irons in the fire.” I am making a list of our holdings of a long defunct religious magazine. I’m trying to write, with no real spirit for it today. I’m trying to find a free version of Grand Canyon Suit that I can download in MP3 format. I’m trying to foist dinner prep on my Knobby Kneed Scot. …

Oh, update on the boat! The engine is reassembled. It actually runs. The hull and super-structure are finished in nice original red and white colors. The brass fittings are all stripped of old paint and lacquer and about half of them are re-lacquered. (That was a messy job.) The ship’s wheel was un-repairable. We found another on ebay. It was sold as a “wall decoration.” We’re down to replacing parts of the “top.” That prolly has a name. I wouldn’t know it. One of KK’s friends thinks he knows where there’s some teak flooring. I try to shut this out of my hearing most days. KK thinks his project should be done by last month. That marks him as an optimist, but one who’s behind schedule.

I suppose we’ll see launch day sometime in September. That means I have to find junk food for five guys. They can bring their own beer. Thanks. I’ll wave happily as they inch the boat into the river, and I’ll pray they don’t sink first time out.

I watched a video – a slide show – of abandoned houses. We no longer have many around here, and I need to reconnect to creepy places for my pending short story. Not that we don’t have our share of them. But they’re not what I want to see.

Sometimes truly creepy places are ordinary looking. When we first moved here a man was arrested for producing child porn and for child-rape and incest. He lived about six blocks from us. I can’t pass the house he lived in, even now, without a bit of shuddering and revulsion. It’s had three residents since, but the feeling of inherent wickedness persists.

Another place that awakens my feeling of “this is just wrong” is an RV dealer’s lot. I cannot tell why this is so. Maybe it’s just that we don’t have money for a camp trailer, and I don’t want one, and it’s on the irritating side that I tag along and look at them. I prefer a tent. If we camp, I’d rather be under the stars in summer heat or in a tent. I hate RVs. They smell bad, new or used.

When Knobby Knees drags me out to this place, I go, but reluctantly. The pavement is cracked, old looking. The buildings were put up in the 1970s and are on the shabby side. They are brick. Someone’s painted them over to make them look better. What they needed was a good steam cleaning. Now, they’re a brownish-yellow color. I’m certain that God never intended anything to be that color.

The sales people are right out of a Stephen King novel. One of them is named Arthur. My husband – rather unkindly – refers to him as “Art the Fart.” Scotsmen!

Sometime before I was born they dug up bits of the parking lot to lay electrical cable for the parking lot lights. They filled the ditches with gravel. Thirty-five years later, they’re still unpaved. Parts of this place are surrounded by a chain-link fence. It’s battered and sits askew. I can’t remember when it wasn’t this way. Going there is like stepping into a bad neighborhood in Oz.

I decided that if I weren’t married, and if he spoke with a muted Scot’s accent, I’d date the goat-boy whose picture I had up on the now deleted post. My only issue is that whoever drew that picture confused cow horns with goat horns. Guys, artists of all sorts, fantasy art is fun, but for goodness sake, is it that hard to actually LOOK AT an example of the creature your going to morph into something else? Really?

I think Portland, Oregon, is the product of a demented mind.

Seattle, on the other hand, just happened. I think it was a lab accident. I need a trip to the Old Curiosity Shop. The mummies and the giant crab are missing me.

Daughter 5 to Daughter 1: “Arpita, who is Donkey Hoh Tee?”

Daughter 1 (who was co-valedictorian): “Mom, how do I spell my middle name? I never use it.”

Speaking of Valedictorians, the Oklahoma school that has retained a student’s diploma because she used the word “hell” in her speech needs to come into the 20th Century. I’m sure they’ll find the 21st Century sometimes near 2099. I notice they took down their web site, putting up a “site under construction” page instead. They’re probably tired of all the adverse emails. If you live in Prague, Oklahoma, you should vote your school board out of office and fire the administrators. Hire a professional instead of a joke.

If you wish to protest their 19th Century, hypocritical, controlling behavior, the administrator’s email “Prague, Oklahoma, School District” is Email him. Tell him What an UTTER jerk he and the High School Principal ARE.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Time to say Goodb'ye

trading places ...

I was thinkin’ … If I had to trade places with one of my ancestors, who would it be?

Probably it would be a (then) young woman born in England in the early 1830s. She met a young man from Germany and wrote to him in a clear, delicate hand from the time she was fourteen. Her letters alternate between German and English. All of his that we know of are in English. He wrote clear, idiomatic English.

He was handsome, I think. Thin, middling tall, erect. She was smallish, had a very sweet face. Her letters are chatty, full of the news of the day and family gossip. She was lonely I think. Her papa had political interests. Her mother seems distant to me. I may be reading back into the past emotions that weren’t there.

She and her young man married eventually. She was nineteen. I have seen but do not have a copy of a wedding photo. They made a handsome couple. There are charming letters between husband and wife. They weren’t poor, but she worried about the cost of a dress. He fretted through a brief separation while she was pregnant with their second child. There is an outpouring of grief when one of their babies dies.

We have two letters between father and daughter. They’re brief, and it’s hard to read into those few brief lines – a notice of her mother’s impending visit, and a when will you come note – any feeling between the two. But my thought is that he missed her terribly.

Our German lad had family connections in England. It was that era after all. After the 1848 revolutions, they moved to England for a few years. Our young woman died old, in 1922. I cannot read her letters without considerable sympathy and fellow-feeling. If I had to trade places, she is who I would pick.

I poured my heart into that post

but it's gone now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Pixie in Stamp Collecting mode and ... Books

I have, as I've remarked before, collected stamps since I was a child. This past week I bought a small lot of stamps from Danzig. Danzig was a Free City, formerly a part of the Kingdom of Prussia. I did good!

These are the stamps I purchased. The two in the middle are fairly common. In fact I have those. I've had them since I was a pre-teen. I have maybe a dozen duplicates. The two on the ends are less common. An unused example of the 100 Mark stamp is common. A postally used example is less common. I'm happy to have this one.

Now note the 40 Pfennig stamp on the end. See how its separations are different from the green and red stamp next to it? The 25 Pfennig stamp is serrate roulette. That's a kind of separation. The red stamp is perforated. It's scarcer. Hard to find, in fact. So this made me happy.

Eventually I'll trade off the two common stamps or just give them to one of my students who collects. The other two will go in my Germany and Colonies album.

I also found a nice copy of Walter Scott's commentary on Revelation as a first edition from 1903. This is not a rare book, and it only marginally touches our research. But ... I'm happy to add it to our collection. At some point someone will have to explore Plymouth Brethren influence on American Millennarians. If we decide to do that, this will be an essential resource.

When the Pixie race was young ...

The Columbia River roared over these falls, once the largest in the world. Dry Falls Park, Washington State.

You may want to turn off sound for this video.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So, you guys are afraid to tackle the 27 reasons post?

Big boys would not be afraid of a little pixie with attitude, would the?

Guys! The original post asked you to find in her picture all 27 reasons for not peeving a pixie.

Male Toys

Miss Sara N. Dipidous Strikes Again ...

Remember my comments on William C. Hicks? Turns out he's far more important to our story than I thought. ... I'm reading letters and articles he wrote in the 1870s. If he didn't push another major charater over the brink of reason, I do not know who did! Fun stuff.

My writing partner sent me two updated paragraphs that will be our first mention of Mr. Hicks. They're quite good, I think. The bulk of what we will say about him will be in a chapter that exists only an an outline and notes. This is good stuff. It clarifies the story considerably.

I'm a mutt ... and here's why

The American Bits of this pixie …

Through my mother, I have dual citizenship. I am an American and I’m a citizen of some obscure European state noted for its marches and waltzes. Also through my mother I have a generations-long connection to American history. Let me tell you the story of the American side of mother’s family.

The two earliest settlers of English ancestry to reach America probably represent all of the reasons the English came here. One of them arrived in 1608 as part of the Jamestown settlement. He seems to have come to find Gold and prosperity. The other was bonked on the head by a rock. The rock was thrown by Anglicans determined to suppress Separatist belief. He lived for a while in Leiden. His residence in the New World was limited. He died at Provincetown Harbor Christmas day, 1620. His wife died shortly after, and a daughter named Mary was raised by others. I descend from another daughter who with her husband arrived soon after.

In the colonial era most of these people were farmers. The Virginia part of the family moved north about 1820, finding a home in northern Pennsylvania. There they married their daughter off to a German immigrant family. The sons of an impoverished German with pretensions to minor nobility arrived about 1760 and scattered their progeny through New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Most were farmers. They would move into other trades. Another German immigrant family settled in New Jersey near the same time. A man named Johan Peter Rockenfeld/Rockefeller married off his daughters to all sorts of people. I descend from him in two lines that reconnect in 1918.

A pair came from Ireland in 1838-9, sailing from Liverpool on the American ship SS Madison. They would produce one son and two daughters. They were orphans within a few years. The son ran away from an orphanage and lived on the docks in New York City until he was arrested for stealing food. He was placed in the Home for the Friendless and then apprenticed to a Dutch descendant farmer. He would be a farmer all his life; he was also a writer of military history.

In the mid 1870s the son of a Hohenzollern relation ran off to America with the maid. He was disowned by his unhappy papa. He turned his hand to farming in the American mid-west. His great grandson wrote science text books. They changed their last name for reasons that are somewhat obscure. Personally, I think it had something to do with bootleg whiskey and an unhappy marriage, but you never know.

Bits of an Austrian family started immigrating to America about 1848. The last of these came in the 1930s and again in the 1950s. They married into the American bits of my family. And here I am. Somewhere in there is a Greek-born descendent of the Oldenburgs who moved to New York and sold clothes to the filthy rich. There is a short bastard from Russia, a truly unlikable man. There’s a chemist, a couple of politicians of no particular note, a woman of questionable character, and a host of minor players including one General, a bunch of Privates, and an occasional sergeant. Lots of Army guys, actually … from King Philip’s war to Gulf War one. There is at least one sailor. He didn’t look a thing like Popeye. There are two newspaper writers, one of them was entertaining. The other didn’t leave any articles behind that I can locate. There was a forester, one of America’s first unsung conservationists. One lumberman finds a place in my ancestry. A gentleman with whaling ships left bits of paper, later collected by the Massachusetts historical society. One young man (and his siblings) was kidnapped by the Iroquois in the colonial era. It’s rather a famous story in an obscure way.

There is an endless stream of farmers, a few writers, a few teachers, at least one whore (I’m pretty sure she was.) and a cowboy or two. There’s more than one princeling turned farmer or writer. None of them were particularly successful at their chosen trade. They should have stayed in German or Austria. Or not. … Escaping Hitler’s grab for Austria was probably a good idea.

Funny how we pop out of an improbable mix of ancestors. … And then there’s my dad’s side of the family. THAT dear hearts is a whole different story. …

Up late ... and sippin' coffee .... cold coffee

Well … here it is … 1:19 am, and I’m still up. Overly medicated too. But sometimes being up late and woozy from medication is a good thing. Take tonight, for instance. One of the most recent mysteries generated by my research was the identity of William C. Hicks. Do you have any idea how many W. C. and William C. Hicks there were in 1880? Bunches!

So … with cold coffee and pixie determination (and a frown at the monitor), I set my self to finding him. Did too. And he’s an interesting fellow. An Irishman by birth, he immigrated to Canada, marrying a Canadian woman. He studied law for a while, but gave it up for the Second Adventist ministry. I’m not certain which flavor of Adventism he followed, though I’m certain he was never a Seventh-day Adventist. Others in his family are connected to one of the non-SDA sabbatarian groups. I do not think he was. Doesn’t matter though. Knowing that isn’t essential to the history we’re writing.

He wrote a novel in 1903. Now this is interesting, though it will probably only merit a footnote. H. V. Reed’s (He’s another of the Age to Come dudes) daughter was a well-known novelist. (You’d know her as the author of Lavender and Old Lace.) The fiction generated from this broad religious movement is unexplored, at least its social-formative aspects are. Some of the less relevant non-fiction is too. Elizabeth Armstrong Reed’s books have fallen out of favor among Orientalists, and they don’t seem terribly relevant to our history. But I wonder if all of this extra-curricular writing shouldn’t be explored. If we write book three in this series, we may have to pursue this topic.

There’s also a significant body of poetry, much of it very badly written. Many of the books and articles generated by the Age to Come and non-Sabbatarian Adventists are poorly written. It’s as if they loaded a shot gun with punctuation marks and fired it at their manuscript. Where they hit is where they stayed, no matter what.

One novelized anti-book was written by Sydney Watson. It’s a nasty piece of work, but it comes from an era beyond that covered in our work in progress. Fun book for all its nastiness. Watson is the great grandfather of all books similar to and including LaHay’s Left Behind series.

Anyway, back to Mr. Hicks. … Hicks lost his faith in the Advent Movement and turned to Age to Come Universalism. This, for the uninitiated, is a subset of Literalist belief. You now totally confused? Of course you are … You really need to pay attention to my more boring posts … just sayin’ …

[Damn it! I’m out of cold coffee … ]

I want to find Mr. Hick’s photo. But that’s a low priority. We need the exact dates he lived in Union Mills, Indiana. We can place him there in 1884. Was he there in 1877? It would help to know.

I’m also perusing the agonies of a Miss Allen. Lizzie (Elizabeth) Allen is a satisfying character. An agonized woman, scorned at some point by her nameless lover, married to an unsuitable man in her mid age and died fairly young. Details are sparse. We can’t write what we can’t absolutely prove, but she’s still an interesting person. … In a train-wreck sorta way.

I can’ find her photo either. Finding photos of these people is very difficult. When we find them, they’re usually very poor quality. But one uses what one has.

Twenty-Seven Reasons

There are twenty-seven reasons why wicked fairies should not peeve a Pixie. They're all represented in this picture. How many can you find?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Okay, fellow Grammar Nazis ....

untangle this mess ...

Voters picking up their newspapers in swing states on Sunday got a small glimpse of what kind of coverage Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can expect between now and Election Day. -Tampa, Florida, Times

I'm starting my AP English students off with ...

a list of "bad sentences" to edit. This is first on my list:
"The entire mission will last just 300 seconds, but will be the longest the craft has ever flown for." - London Daily Mail

Obviously the man who wrote this does not know when to use a preposition or where to place it. There is no need for a preposition in this sentence. It should read: "The entire mission will last just 300 [three hundred] seconds [no comma here] but [and would be better] will be the longest the craft has ever flown.

If one is addicted to prepositions, one must remember that they are called PRE-positions for a reason. Stick a preposition in this sentence and you break it, even placed in its proper spot.

Way to go, Daily Mail!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Mr. Warf, do you know Gilbert and Sullivan?

Occasional Reader as the Very Model ...

Gilbert and Sullivan

In connection with another of Rachael’s blogs, I often check old newspapers for information about the activities of a certain 19th century religious writer who we shall call CTR. Not long ago while scouring pages of old Pittsburgh papers, I noticed that a touring company of Gilbert and Sullivan players were performing The Pirates of Penzance in his area. A strange vision came into my mind, of CTR walking home through the streets of old Allegheny humming to himself, I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General. It was quite incongruous.

(As an aside – and I’m afraid my posts are always going to be full of asides – you really must check out the parody of Major-General by American satirist and mathematician Tom Lehrer, who sang the Periodic Table of the Elements to this tune... Available on YouTube and all good internet video sources...)

So why on earth has this all come to mind now? Probably because I am writing from Buxton in Derbyshire, U.K., at the 19th International Gilbert and Sullivan festival, that’s why!

We visited the book shops and charity shops, and booked one coach excursion and five operas in three days – as you do when you are a glutton for punishment. You obviously have to like this stuff, because it doesn’t come cheap.

So why does G&S still survive a century after their passing? Their popularity probably rests on Gilbert’s rapid-fire lyrics, puns on words (which Brits generally love), along with humorous social comment (even if 130 years out of date at times). And it has to be admitted that Sullivan, when not being po-faced trying to write grand opera, did write some jolly tunes. Generally, the Buxton festival favors the traditional approach, and all performances are professionally videoed in a three camera set-up and you can buy them as souvenirs the day after the performance.
Mrs Occasional has taken the opportunity to “dress up” and even Occasional has been a bit tidier than usual.

Perhaps the best show so far has been performed by what is called “the youth theatre.” Strenuous efforts are being made in the UK to interest people under the age of 90 in the joys of Gilbert and Sullivan. A number of school and university groups are having a go. To appear in the Buxton “youth theatre” you had to be between 9 and 18 – and that included the orchestra! So youngsters from all over entered auditions, and just a week before they came together under professional direction to put the performance together. They performed a lesser known work called Ruddigore. For any stray readers who may know the opera it contains a patter song usually called It Really Doesn’t Matter that is A REAL STINKER! But they nailed it! Of course we bought the performance DVD the next day.

For a marked contrast to Buxton’s traditional approach, about two week ago we spearheaded a gang of people from our “congregation” (there must be a more appropriate collective noun than ‘gang’ but I can’t think of one at present) to an open air theatre production of G&S’s The Mikado - that was anything BUT traditional.

Open air theatre in Britain tends to have one special element: rain, usually torrential – where the audience is in the dry and the cast splash around emulating “the drip of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd.” But on this day we had sunshine – lots of it.

The innovative angle this time was that a second-rate concert party circa 1930 had arrived at a theatre to find it had no roof (joke number one), and also to find that, unbeknownst to them, they had been booked to perform The Mikado. A lack of appropriate costumes and a considerable amount of improvisation from a totally unsuitable cast was the order of the day.

It could have been a disaster – one of those bright ideas from someone just out of Drama School or University designed to bore or offend as many people as possible. In the event, in its own non-Buxton way, it was extremely successful. I loved it. I roared out loud. People looked quite concerned. Grumpy, world-weary Occasional doesn’t often do that.
The Mikado kept on starting an aria from the wrong opera – to be shouted down by the rest of the cast – and for his big number, The Punishment Fit the Crime, suddenly whisked out a ukulele and tried to sing his song in the style of George Formby (a particularly British phenomenon from the 30s and 40s from whom American culture has probably mercifully been spared) while the rest of the cast tried to wrest the instrument from him.
Ko-Ko was played by the company’s ventriloquist, who did a “bad-vent” routine, complete with the traditional disastrous drinking-a-glass-of-water-while-the-dummy-tries-to-speak routine for Ko-Ko’s speech when he is summoning up courage to propose to Katisha.

I suppose this amateur production had a certain resonance for a number of reasons. My father ran concert parties for most of his life – meeting at least two of his wives that way. In folk clubs I have been known to play the ukulele – badly. My paternal grandfather (who I never knew) was an amateur ventriloquist. And my maternal grandfather (who I also never knew) was a director of Gilbert and Sullivan operas for years at the Alhambra theatre in Bradford, where my maternal grandmother had been a mezzo-soprano... They met and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, these are just some haphazard disjointed thoughts in our hotel over a pleasant glass of red wine, while Mrs Occasional is avidly glued to her e-Reader. What you might call a random catalog. As Koko in the Mikado might say:

“I have a little list...”

Well, you see ... Mom had too many wine coolers and it was a confusing night ...

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

There really are Monsters

             Occasionally, writing history makes me feel like … a voyeur? That’s not quite right. Occasionally … sometimes … once in a while I find something really unpleasant. If it doesn’t further the story, I let it go. But a principal character’s agony is part of the story. Let me explain.
            A young woman shows up in this history when she is fourteen or so. She lives in New York with her parents. There are hints of things about her father, only documented by a third-hand report. This is not good solid history. But it’s important enough to mention with all the proper qualifiers about evidential value. Now the young lady is very talented. In her twenties she blossoms as a writer with occasionally stunning style, even if her reasoning is skewed. Most of the characters in our history illustrate their points from their own life. (“When I was a boy ….”) Elizabeth never does that … exactly. She never says anything that starts with “when I was young …” or any such thing.
            We’ve had a basic biography of Lizzie since 2008, but none of what we knew gave us a real feel for her personality. She is one of the hardest personalities to grasp … until recently. We read things over and over, especially the most important documents. New research developments mean we come to the papers with a clearer vision. So … I was rereading the full year 1898 of a religious magazine just looking to see what I could find that was ‘new.’ Lizzie wrote for that magazine.
            In one of her articles she pours out her heart in ways that we hadn’t taken as a personal statement before. My writing partner is a smart guy. When we started the previous book he off-handedly said he thought Lizzie and one of the people she wrote for had a prolonged affair. He had no proof, only a feeling. The paragraph from Lizzie’s pen seemed to point to life-long regrets and a sense of irredeemableness. I noted it in our WIP with the usual cautions, and then I went looking for more. I found it too. … And I’m devastated. I ache for a woman who’s been dead for over a century.
            In her middle teens, apparently, she gave away her virginity to … someone … and I think I know who. He was a much older man, almost what? Twenty years older or so? She was a very religious girl and remained religious as long as we can track her. It left her with a profound sense of guilt and self loathing. Because she felt unworthy of redemption, she fell easy pray to the universal salvation doctrine. Even believing that God will save everyone no matter what did not free her from a life-long sense of self loathing. And I cry for her.
            It will take a significant amount of work to bring this story to life and to tell it accurately. I have so many things to read with a new, fresh eye. Historical discovery is usually fun. This has not been fun. This has been an emotion-filled walk into someone else’s blighted life. I’m very sad. … But if I can document the name of the man who seduced this child (14 is a child’s age!), I will include it in our book. Vengeance delayed is still vengeance!
            Along the way there have been other ‘finds.’ We touch briefly on the fracturing of a Church at Union Mills. I found new material. Significant material. I passed it on to my writing partner for review. He’ll write it up while I work on Lizzie’s life. There’s a new character and a magazine we did not know about. His life needs exploration. There are bits of things too, just small details that will go into our mostly completed chapters as a phrase, a foot note or a sentence.
            In the mean time … I was seriously out bid again. I really wanted a group of four booklets on ebay. But I only had seventeen dollars to spend. They went for thirty dollars to a book seller who knows his stuff. It’s okay; they aren’t essential. The really essential one comes up tomorrow. I spend our total research fund (which is now very small) to get it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


I haven't put anything on paper yet; I'm still imagining the story. But I think I have three main characters. An old guy who is uncle to a Pixie. (Sound familiar?) The pixie. A Caprine (goat-girl to you.) who they find washed up on a river bank. She is seriously wounded.

Secondary characters abound. The bad guy keeps changing character, but I have the basics. I know where this story is going, which is an essential. It's really the ultimate essential in story crafting. The title keeps shifting. Right now it's "Night Walk."

I'm setting it on Benham's Point Island. I made this up mostly. I suppose its ultimate source is a place I played when I was a child. BPI as I see it was not an island until a huge flood in 1895. The flood cut the point from the mainland, creating an island. Parts of the old city remain. It's fallen on hard times, but the gentrification process has started and some of the old building are getting a face lift and new residents. It connect to the shore via a bridge. The City (no name for it yet) straddles two rivers.

The idea for a point of land cut off by water comes from Columbia Point formed by the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima Rivers in Washington. When I was a child we used to hike out there. Sometime in the late 1950s (I forget when.) the Columbia River flooded and cut it off from the mainland. That wasn't permanent, but you can see the channel cut by the flooding waters. My uncle is old enough to remember that flood, and I've seen photos. That's the source of the basic idea.

The "city" in the story is a composite. I've taken bits of it from Manhattan, from Pittsburgh and from a couple of small town in Northern California. I haven't decided if I should name it or leave the name unstated.

The Benham's point section is old town with newer bits mixed in. It's a place of old houses, old trails, old alleys ... and surprising residents. Among these is an over grown troll who likes pizza, a shape shifting dragon and his pixie mate, a not so nice fairy; a small blue fae; and a bunch of others. We meed a vampire, but that's quite a brief event. Being a vampire doesn't make you smarter than you were before you became one. This one is clueless, rather stupid. He dies. In the pixie world, vampires are not the 'undead.' They're infected with a virus. (Yes, I borrowed that idea from I Am Legend. Still worth reading. Forget the movies.)

There is, of course, a love interest, though an unexpected one. It develops early, last through the end and has potential for more story.

There are things in the world that most of us choose not to see. We look at them and interpret them as we wish they were, not as they are. This is a story about seeing.


I was seriously out bid for a small book. Makes me cranky ... just a little.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Bits of Stuff

The world functions because there is stuff. The history book my co-author and I are writing is full of stuff. It’s not uncommon for bits of stuff to come our way after we’ve “finished” at least the rough draft of a chapter. I’ve been adding bits today. One of the bits I’ve added is a biographical paragraph about John Henry Paton’s school days.

Never heard of him, huh? (A few of my readers will know of him. Most won’t.) So … not to be too blunt or nuthin’ … but I think Paton was slime. I suspect all sorts of things about him, but I can prove very few of them. None of my suspicions will go in the book because suspicions do not make good history. They turn a history book into a novel. But suspicions drive research. There is nothing like a good guess to move research forward.

The short quotation I’ve added shows him (In my opinion.) to have been a clever student who grew to be overly confident of his own opinions. The man was full of pride but not of the good kind. We avoid lengthy analysis, preferring to let these men speak for themselves. We made a few short observations on his elaboration on his adventures in mathematics. The man did not live pink!

Now, we also found a letter from a man named Joseph F. Smith. No, he’s not that Joseph Smith! This guy was partners with his father Henry and a brother in a largish Pittsburgh business. They called themselves “Merchant Tailors.” We included the text of the letter today. Ultimately we may have to move that to another chapter. But we will use it. While serving on the board of directors of a tract society, he maintained a correspondence with an opposition writer, read his magazine and books.

My writing partner and I differ over this. We do not include an analysis with the quotation, though in a subsequent chapter we’ll have to address the issues raised by this letter. I do not condemn Smith for reading contrary opinions. It’s the height of condescension to suggest that another is not capable of developing informed opinions and should not read anything but what ‘you’ may wish them to read. I think Smith made a bad decision, but it was his decision to make. “You” step into God’s place if you forbid another to consider other opinions. It’s just not anyone’s business what another reads.

There is a clear line between encouraging someone to be discriminating and censoring their reading. It is ironic, I think, that to write this book my writing partner must read all sorts of things the reading of which was “discouraged” back when they were newly published. There are few people who know Paton’s writings as well as my partner does. Knowing what Paton wrote does not seem to have corrupted his faith.

We’ve have several ‘unsolvable’ mysteries too. We have two letters signed with initials and place of writing. Knowing who “Mrs. J. B.” and “J.G” both of Pittsburgh are is important. I doubt we’ll ever know unless “an angel rubs our nose in it” (Attribute that to my Uncle Bruce.) or we make a serendipitous connection.

Another really good find is an article by a woman signing herself as LAA. This is Lizzy A. Allen. Her personality does not come through in the short biography we’ve written. I have a very hard time figuring her out. However, I re-read a series of articles she wrote in the late 1880s and found what I think is a very revealing paragraph. We’re taking this slowly. There is a tenuous connection with something her youngest sister said. We want to use this, but we don’t want to draw from it unfounded conclusions. I can see us writing and re-writing this bit of stuff over and over and debating it endlessly. I hope I find more. Sometime this week I’ll read the next year’s worth of her articles.

I also found a comment by her on the parousia (that’s a Greek word. All you non-Koine Greek readers are now informed, huh?) This comes from another magazine and from an earlier time. We’ve both read this article dozens of times. …. This time I managed to see things I had not. (And here I am, one of the few to ever get a perfect score on the WSPCT reading comprehension section. Pfutt!)

We’ve been overspending on research material, but so much has come in a flood. I don’t want to not buy what we may not see again. Some of this stuff is really rare, and it is essential to our research. I’m bidding on a book today that we’ve tried to get five times before. It won’t matter if we don’t get it. It shows up on the book sites about once a year. The other things on my “let’s buy this” list are, while not one-of-a-kind, close enough to it that I’m sweatin’ out the negotiations and auctions.