All posts by Barbara in Rivertown

Epic Opening Lines

As I was wandering up the stairs at our public library the other day, my journey was arrested by the bright-colored bulletin board pictured in the header. This board is changed monthly, and frequently has things like Staff book picks, or children’s drawings with a book pick, etc.

But this was over the top! A bright orange sign up top announces “Epic Opening Lines”, and another orange sign to the left asks “Any of these sound familiar?” On brightly colored cards are printed thirty one- or two-sentence beginnings to a book; you can lift the flap to peek at the title and author of the book represented. It was a challenge to see if I could recognize any of them – a few were familiar, and one or two were obvious, but many I had never laid eyes on. I realized when I started looking them up at home that quite a few were Young Adult or children’s novels.

Since I doubt if you can read them all from the header, I’ll type several of them here, and see if any baboons can guess them – then I’ll reveal answers Sunday. Here you go:

1. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

2. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

3. They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.

4. I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.

6. This is the saddest story I have ever heard.

10. The early morning sky was the color of cat vomit. Of course, Tally thought, you’d have to feed your cat only salmon-flavored cat food for a while, to get the pinks right.

11. The moment one learns English, complications set in.

14. “Where’s Papa going with that axe?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

15. Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement… anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.

16. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

17. It was a pleasure to burn.

20. Of all the things that drive men to sea, the most common disaster, I’ve come to learn, is women.

23. I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.

24. There is a right way to do things and a wrong way, if you’re going to run a hotel in a smuggler’s town. You shouldn’t make it a habit to ask too many questions, for one thing. And you probably shouldn’t be in it for the money.

27. All children, except one, grow up.

28. It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

29. In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

30. Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.

Do you have a favorite opening line(s) from a book you’ve read?

Christmas Treasures

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown.

I happened to come upon an article online this week titled “This is What It Means When You See a Bird’s Nest Ornament on a Christmas Tree.” According the German company Inge Glas in a 2005 ornament description: “The [bird’s nests] represent the love, commitment, and effort it takes to build a happy home. Bird nests are also good-luck symbols. Legend has it that prosperity will come to any home that finds a bird’s nest nestled among the branches of the family Christmas tree.” My nesting bird is not on a tree – it’s on the upper shelf of my buffet – but I still remember how I was attracted to it in the shop where I bought it.

Other ornaments that have meaning for me are a few remaining spherical glass balls made by Shiny Brite – the striped ones especially, thought there are lots of different vintage designs pictured here:  

I can remember, at maybe four years of age, standing on tip-toe to see my reflection in them. They’ve apparently become so popular they’re back in production.

Do you have a meaningful Christmas ornament or decoration in possession, or in memory?

What are you doing this week to celebrate the holidays?

Protecting Good People from Bad Art

When in my early twenties, I escaped the “mundane and uncultured” Midwest and found a temporary mecca in exotic 1970 San Francisco:  the ethnic restaurants, funky bars, antique shops, art museums, concert halls, and the art fairs (which I’d never seen before). After a couple of years in the crowded city, I opted for Half Moon Bay environs –  45 minutes south of S.F. on the Pacific Coast – a town of (then) 5,000 souls,.

There were the schools, a library, a “general store”called Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel, a bookstore, a few restaurants. Forclassical music, there was the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society at the Mirimar Beach Inn. But the center of the art world at the time was the fall Half Moon Art & Pumpkin Fest, where I bought my first local art – a soft leather-bound journal, and a wonderful pottery bowl in my favorite shape.

My next two locales were Brooklyn, NY, and Minneapolis, so of course there were plenty of opportunities to find art (and art fairs). Now that we’re in Winona, MN, I’m aware that I never really needed to leave Small Town Midwest to find art – or maybe it “grew up” while I was not looking. This town, and many other surrounding ones (Lanesboro for one), have much to offer culturally.The ads in my Big River Magazine reveal that every little town along the Mississippi has some kind of art gallery or art center, wonderful sounding restaurants and cafés, community theaters, independent bookstores, charming B&Bs, wine bars, and often a natural foods market.

When we were on our road trip Southeast in September, we traveled some back roads for a break from the freeways. I love traveling through the small towns, and I found the same kind of variety of cultural opportunity. One example would be the in historic downtown Paducah, KY – Paducah Area Painters Alliance Gallery – whose byline is “Protecting good people from bad art.”

Do you have a neighborhood or small-town art center nearby?

Where is your favorite place to view the visual arts?

Are You Batty?

I’ll bet you didn’t realize that October is National Bat Appreciation Month, or that October 24-31 is Bat Week http://www.batcon.org/ . I learned this when I clicked on Tuesday’s bing.com photo https://www4.bing.com/search?q=Common+pipistrelle+bat&form=hpcapt&filters=HpDate:%2220181030_0700%22 

 where I learned that bats:

– help us by devouring tons of insects and forest pests

– and by pollinating some of our favorite fruits

– are one of the largest and longest living species on earth

– the smallest bat – called appropriately enough Bumblebee Bat – has a body about 1 inch long

– white-nosed syndrome has decimated some bat populations since being identified in 2006

When I checked in my Mammals in Minnesota Field Guide (by Stan Tekiela), I found that Minnesota hosts both the Big and Little Brown Bats, the Northern Myotis, and the Red, Silver-Haired, and Hoary Bats.

– these live 15-20 years – females often gather in “maternity colonies” of between 30 and 75 bats, depending on species

– some species live in holes in trees or even under bark, and either migrate or hibernate in winter

– others make their summer homes in attics, church steeples, barns and other buildings; spend winters in caves and mines

– most Minnesota bats are between 1-1/2” and 4”, with wingspans between 8” and 16”

Bats are our friends. One way to help them is to build or buy a bat box, giving them a safe place to roost:

http://www.batcon.org/resources/getting-involved/bat-houses

Got any bat stories? What actor played your favorite Batman, or your favorite Count Dracula?

Regionality

While on our recent road trip to visit relatives in central Georgia, I was able to take a side trip to Greenville, SC, for a reunion with nine friends from college. We do this every couple of years now, and one of our rituals is a Saturday night book swap. The book I offered this time was Gardenias, by one of my favorite “regional” authors, Faith Sullivan of Minnesota. I’ve loved her books since one of her earlier publications, The Cape Ann; in fact, I included a used copy of that book for background, since it has some of the same characters.

Wiki has this to say about American literary regionalism, or local color: “In this style of writing, which includes both poetry and prose, the setting is particularly important and writers often emphasize specific features such as dialect, customs, history, and landscape, of a particular region.”

I was delighted to find that the book I drew, One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash, was also by a regional author – Carolinian Appalachia – and now that I’ve finished the book, I’ve learned some background history of the area I just visited. I also got to hear some local dialects; got to know some characters whom I would probably not have found in, say, Minnesota; and read descriptions of places I’ve seen only from a distance. And although the ending to this tale was sad, I would probably read another book by Ron Rash.

I have found (and loved) over the years several authors I whom I consider to be regional writers, but will wait to see if other Baboons name them before I do. To that end:

Do you have a favorite regional author? Is there a region of the USA that you would like to learn about through reading?

Some Truthiness

Friday during Sherrilee’s “Destructo Kitty” post, I referenced one of those scroll-through-25-pictures articles, which wasn’t a very grown-up thing to do – who (besides a retired person) has time for that? The list (of truths to accept if you’re a real adult) was clearly compiled by a much younger person, but I did find some of the “truths” that resonated with me.

I also found one or two that made me snort tea. Here’s the link if you want to read the commentary, but the “truths” are listed below.

You’ll know you’re a real adult when you accept these 25 truths:

  1. Life’s tough. Get a helmet.
  2. If you want to play hard, you really do have to work hard.
  3. If you mess up, it’s your responsibility to fix it.
  4. Your driver’s license photo will never, ever be flattering.
  5. Sometimes you have to give people the benefit of the doubt.
  6. You have control over your life.
  7. Making compromises is a good thing. Compromising yourself is NOT.
  8. Success is just about perception.
  9. Some people are just big jerks.
  10. School doesn’t come close to teaching you everything you need to know.
  11. Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s a choice you make.
  12. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.
  13. Money won’t solve your problems.
  14. You are not the center of the universe.
  15. Things are rarely as cool as they seem.
  16. You can’t make everybody happy.
  17. Sometimes you have to put yourself first.
  18. Jealousy is a huge waste of time.
  19. Change is good. Sometimes.
  20. You’re not getting any younger.
  21. Sometimes you just don’t have the answers.
  22. It’s never too late to change.
  23. Even if you have “more important” things to do, you NEED to get a good night’s sleep.
  24. You can’t have it all.
  25. The only time you should look back is to see just how far you’ve come.

Which one (or two, or more) of the above resonates with you?

Sky Wonder

Although it peaked Sunday night, Aug. 12, the Perseid meteor shower sounds like something worth staying up for this week.. Found this piece on Space.com:

“According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, the Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower of the year; and in 2018, they’ll be the best shower of the year. During the Perseids’ peak this weekend, spectators should see about 60-70 meteors per hour, but in outburst years (such as in 2016) the rate can be between 150-200 meteors an hour. The meteor shower’s peak will be visible both the nights of Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, Cooke said, but he’s inclined this year to lean toward the night of Aug. 12-13 for the better show.”

We plan to go out Sunday or Monday night after 10:00, find a darkish spot in the country, and follow these guideline I heard at the above website:

– take a comfortable chair or sleeping bag for viewing

– New Moon will set before midnight, allowing for more darkness

– find a spot where you can take in as much sky as possible, with as few lights as possible

– wait ½ hour for your eyes to adjust to the dark (avoid looking at cell phone, as the bright display can prevent your eyes from adapting)

– if you need a light, use one with a relatively low intensity and a red filter

– the show starts around 10 p.m., with #s of meteors gradually increasing as dawn approaches

Have you ever gone out of your way to view an astronomical wonder, or an earthly one?