Category Archives: Fantasy

Down Down Down

I like to think that I have a pretty good imagination.  After all, the fantasy genre is one of my favorites – give me a good dragon story any day.  So it wasn’t out of character that yesterday, when I stumbled upon a show called “Mythical Beasts”, I didn’t automatically change the channel.  I won’t go into the ethics of the Science Channel in airing this stuff, but suffice it to say the way they lay out these shows isn’t using exacting science.

It didn’t take long before I was down the rabbit hole.  I started looking for the iconic Loch Ness photo (which was debunked decades and decades ago).  This led me to the Lagarfljot Worm, an ice serpent in Iceland.  It’s supposedly been terrorizing the countryside for centuries, often cited as being responsible for harsh weather and crop failures.  This led me to Nahuelito, another lake-based monster in Argentina, similar to Nessie.  This led me to the Windigo, which I had heard of but didn’t know about.  Apparently it can influence people into greed, murder and cannibalism.  This led me to a book called “Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids” (yes, then I had to look up cryptids)!  Of course, I have requested the book from the library.  If I hadn’t decided to go downstairs for lunch, who knows how long I would have been trolling the internet for made-up beings.

If you had asked me last week if I would be looking up mythical beings this week I would have laughed out loud.  You can just never tell where my bring wants to go.

Any rabbit holes for you lately?

Yawning Portal Biscuits

You all know that my choice of reading matter can sometimes be a little… eclectic.  But I bet most of you would still be surprised to see Heroes’ Feast Dungeon & Dragons Cookbook sitting my kitchen.  I know I am.  I don’t even remember when I first saw this title, but clearly on a whim I added it to my waitlist at the library.  It’s a new title, so it sat with “On Order” status for about five months and then suddenly with no warning last week, it was waiting for me!

It’s unbelievably well-done.  High quality construction, beautiful photos and very well written.  For those of us who know NOTHING about D&D, it has nice introductions to each section (Human Food, Elven Food, Halfling Food, etc.) that describe the different kinds of beings and their foodie bent. 

The food itself has fun D&D names; the fare itself is nothing extremely exotic, so the names are really key to making this cookbook a lot of fun. 

I was having a friend stop by on Saturday morning and had my regular biscuit cookbook sitting out.  The night before I was flipping through Heroes’ Feast and I came across the Yawning Portal Buttermilk Biscuit recipe.  If you are a D&D fan, then you know that The Yawning Portal is a very popular tavern located on Rainrun Street in Castle Ward, one of the wards in the city of Waterkeep.  If you aren’t a D&D fan, now you know.

I’m not going to put the recipe here – it’s a fairly straight forward biscuit recipe.  The one difference is that instead of cutting individual biscuits, you pat all the dough into a pan, score it and then bake it.  I also brushed melted butter on the top as it suggested.  If I do say so myself, when I pulled them from the oven, they looked just like the photo in the cookbook. And they were excellent with homemade jam.

If I were a D&D player, I would HAVE to have this cookbook.  As a non D&D’er, I’ll appreciate it for a couple more weeks and then back to the library it will go.  But I will copy out just a couple of recipes so that I have them on hand whenever I want to make something with a really fun name!

Do you have any “exotic”/theme cookbooks?  Or exotic recipes?

Believe It Or Not

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
                                                                             Hamlet

Unfortunately, while I like to believe that Hamlet has it right, I tend more toward Horatio.  Yeti, Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, aliens in Roswell…. not much room in my philosophy for some of these.  It’s not just that I have never seen them but there’s not any compelling evidence (to me anyway) that anyone has even seen them.  I suppose someday I could be proven wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.

So I was very surprised to see Bigfoot cavorting along a backyard fence as I was driving through Richfield!  I went around the block so I could see it again and then another time so I could stop and take a picture.  Like the underwear tree, the bigfoot intrigues me.  Why would someone put a lifesize cutout of a bigfoot in their yard?  Maybe the author of Harry and the Hendersons lives there??

This is the only movie that I know of about a “not proven” creature.  I’m sure there are plenty out there and most likely songs as well.  I’m thinking about that unicorn song by The Irish Rovers that was very popular when I was in high school.

Any good songs, movies, poetry for mythical beasts?

Open & Shut

Shouldn’t be a surprise to me that after a year plus of pandemic, businesses are feeling it.  As I drive about my neighborhood, I see that a few businesses have bitten the dust:  FedEx Kinko’s and Wax City at the Hub are gone as well as Old Country Buffet and my dog-training place, Canine College.

But it’s heartening to see that new folks are still willing to try starting up business in their places.  This morning I see that the Old Country Buffet is becoming a “Million’s Crab” – looks like the first one in the Twin Cities.  And Wax City is being replaced by “The Archery Cosmetic Tattoo”.  I was a little excited about the tattoo place until I realized it’s all about eyebrows and other cosmetic stuff – no skulls or motorcycle gang graphics!  I can’t wait to see what’s going into the FedEx storefront.  The dog-training place is still sitting empty; I can’t imagine what kind of restoration the owner would have to do to that building to make it palatable to anybody else.  I have a small (probably irrational) hope that maybe Canine College might be able to come back.

This is just in my small corner of the world but I’m assuming it’s same elsewhere.  I’m torn; it’s sad that businesses have failed but I’m glad there is enough hope out there that new businesses are opening.  Now if I could just get a bagel shop to open up within walking distance of my house!

Anything business that you valued gone under?  Anything new opening up near you?  What would you LIKE to open up near you?

Rabbit Whimsy

Last month Bill (I think it was Bill) mentioned Voyage to the Bunny Planet by Rosemary Wells.  It had been in print a few years before I was first read it to Child, but I remember that we had it from the library at some point.  The Hennepin Library doesn’t own a copy any longer but I was able to get it through InterLibrary Loan and I’m liking it so much that I’ve ordered myself a copy.  (I have a very modest children’s book collection – based solely on what I like).

There are three stories, each featuring a young bunny who has had an exceedingly bad day —  never-ending math class, horrible cousins, medicine that tastes like gasoline.  At the end of these bad days, the young bunnies wish for a visit to the Bunny Planet.  There they are greeted by the kind Queen Janet who invites them in with a “Here’s the day that should have been.”  Each bunny falls off to sleep with the visions of a perfect day dancing in their heads.

At the beginning of each story, there is a rabbit quote like this:

It is the first duty of a flagging spirit to seek renewal
in the latitudes of whimsy.  I, for one, dream on
beyond the give planets to a world without wickedness;
verdant, mild, and populated by amiable lapins.
Benjamin Franklin

The other quotes are from Rudyard Kipling (“The captain fell at daybreak, and ‘e’s ravin’ in ‘is bed, With a regiment of rabbits on the planets round ‘is ‘ead.”) and Galileo (“I designated this heavenly body “Coniglio,” but alas, never saw it again.”)

It’s gratifying to see rabbits making the grade in heavenly literature but I think it’s fascinating that Benjamin Franklin dreamed of whimsy and thought a perfect world would be a bunny haven.

I say whimsy all around!

Tell me about your “day that should have been” and how your perfect world would look?

Sabbatical

Lisa, our Senior Pastor, is taking a three month sabbatical this summer to spend time with her young family, to finish the editing of a book about women’s struggles as clergy, and to begin another book on the same topic. Our congregation is paying her salary during this time. We appreciate our pastors and we want to nurture them. Local pastors and members of the congregation are going to give sermons and help out.

I always thought the concept of a sabbatical was wonderful. To spend time studying, resting, and getting ready for the next phase of life seems so positive. Husband says if he could have had a year sabbatical, he would gone to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study psychology at Dalhousie University, live in residence, and hang out with colleagues. I would spend time in Germany to learn the language in my maternal grandfather’s village in northern Germany, and study my family history. (I could justify that as a study of the intergenerational transmission of family mental health issues as influenced by economics, politics, and immigration.)

If you could have a paid for sabbatical year, where would you go and what would you study? How would you rest and rejuvenate? 

I Just Slew a Dragon

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

A friend and I used to discuss troublesome issues in our lives. We called them our “dragons.” Dragons are problems can only be dispatched with exceptional effort and resolve.

Few problems qualify as dragons, which is good. Most of us handle routine problems with routine efficiency.  Alas, some problems are a lot nastier or complicated than others.  Some of us have anxieties that prevent us from addressing certain issues forthrightly. Sometimes problems become entangled with side issues. Throw some procrastination into the mix, and what could have been a baby problem might grow up and begin belching enough fire to qualify as a dragon.

Examples? You don’t gain street cred as a dragon killer for beating a head cold, but beating cancer will earn you respect with anyone. Overcoming any addiction would surely count. The friend referenced in my opening paragraph slew a dangerous dragon when she escaped a marriage that was destroying her soul. From what I’ve read, the nastiest dragon Barack Obama faced down in his two terms as president might have been nicotine.

My most recent dragon should have been no big deal. Last September my computer emitted an electronic scream, seized and died. I had expected that. Computers typically remain healthy and functional for five to ten years. My fifteen-year-old computer was clearly living on borrowed time. I had prepared by backing my data files, although I could not back my applications.

I bought a replacement computer loaded with Microsoft’s Office, a choice forced on me because that is the only way I could get Word, the word processing app I’ve used for thirty-four years. Office costs $70. That is probably reasonable, although it irked me to pay for a suite of ten programs just to get the one program I use. But Microsoft enjoys something like a total monopoly on basic Windows business software.

Microsoft inserts a feature in the Office software that causes it to shut down unless users can prove that they have paid for it. To validate my purchase, I peeled back a piece of tape that covered the confirmation code. The tape ripped the cardboard beneath it, destroying the middle six numbers of a code of about twenty numbers. As it was designed to do, my software soon froze rock solid. I could not create new documents nor could I edit the many files already on my hard drive. Every time I turned on my computer, a niggling message from Microsoft reminded me I had not validated the purchase. As if I could forget!

Worse, there was no way I could contact Microsoft. The company recently eliminated its customer service office. Microsoft now directs customers with problems to some internet data banks that supposedly answer all questions. Of course, the data banks say nothing about what to do when the company’s own security tape destroys a validation number. I learned there are many businesses claiming they can help customers struggling with Microsoft apps. Those businesses didn’t want to talk to me until I shared my contact information or subscribed to their services. Then I’d learn again that my particular problem could not be resolved by anyone outside Microsoft. And nobody inside Microsoft would speak to me.

Over a span of seven months I spent many wretched hours dialing numbers and writing email pleas for help. The shop that sold the computer to me clucked sympathetically but told me to take my complaints to Microsoft. Members of a group called “the Microsoft community” kept telling me it would be easy to fix this issue, but none of them could provide a phone number that worked. While I could have purchased the software again for another $70, the rank injustice of that was more than I could bear.

I finally learned about a set of business applications called LibreOffice, the top-rated free alternative to Office. It is open source software, free to everyone. But people who put their faith in free software often get burned, for “free” often just means that the true price is hidden. I worried that this software would not allow me to edit all the documents I’ve created over thirty-four years of writing with Word. And—silly, silly me—I kept hoping I could find one friendly person in Microsoft who would thaw my frozen software. So I dithered for weeks.

Last week I took a deep breath and downloaded LibreOffice. It loaded like a dream. LibreOffice’s word processor, “Writer,” is friendly and intuitive. Ironically, I like it quite a bit better than Word. With it I can edit all my old Word documents, and I used the new software to write this post.

That particular dragon is dead, kaput and forever out of my life. Other dragons await my attention, malodorous tendrils of smoke curling up out their nostrils. I did not triumph over Microsoft, as that smug firm never even knew it had a conflict with me. Still, I celebrate the way this all ended. When we slay a dragon, the most significant accomplishment might be that we, however briefly, have triumphed over our personal limitations.

Any dragons in your past that you wouldn’t mind mentioning?

Organizing a Salon

I read an interesting review the other day a of new Classical CD, “Music in Proust’s Salons”, in which Steven Isserlis, the cellist, recorded pieces written by contemporaries of Marcel Proust. Proust loved organizing small concerts following fancy meals at elegant Paris restaurants. Pieces by Faure, Franck, Hahn, and Chabrier figure prominently in Proust’s selections for his guests. I thought what fun that must have been for all concerned, and I began imagining what sort of salon I would organize. We have many musical friends, so I would invite them to perform. Some are more classically trained, some are Native friends who play a variety of instruments. The guests would be a hodge-podge of coworkers, church friends, and professional friends. We could have dessert and coffee, finger foods, and snacks. Our living room is pretty small, so we would have to find a community room somewhere so we could have enough space as well as a kitchen. I think it would be lovely.

If money wasn’t a problem, who would you invite to play at a salon you organized?  What would you want them to play? what food would you serve?  Have you read much by Proust?

Dream State

I have very few bad dreams.  Or at least not that I remember once I’m awake.  But I had a doozy last week, the kind that leaves you wanting to stay awake so that you don’t fall back into it.  I made a trip to the bathroom, splashed my face, had a glass of water and when I got back into bed, I dreamt, but not the same nightmare scenario that had woken me.

I was starting a new job in a big business building downtown.  My new boss owned the whole floor, although his actual business only took up five or six rooms.  I don’t recall if I knew in the dream what I was supposed to be doing.  The rooms of the business were messy and it seemed clear that there wasn’t an actual office (or even desk) for me.  I had been given no direction about where I was to settle.  I was pretty well-dressed in the dream, although my dream self was a little worried that I didn’t have many nice work clothes. 

Of course, in part of the dream, I wandered out into a hallway and had trouble finding my way back.  My boss was in and out, fairly frenetic, again giving me no clue what I was supposed to be doing.  I worried about how I would get downtown every day.  I wondered if I should take matters into my own hands and order a desk.  Oh, did I mention that my new boss was Barack Obama?

I’ve probably said here before that I view dreams as a recycling of the day to day detritus in my subconscious.  Usually I can track bits of my dreams back to a waking trigger, but I’ll admit this one has my stumped.

Any dream interpretations for me?  Any good dreams you’ve had lately?

A Watery Surprise

For many years, I was a Marvel / DC movie fan.  Not a rapid fan, mind you, but enough of a fan to watch the movies.  And not enough of a fan to pay money for those movies…. that’s another story.  The last few years have soured me however.  I never could keep the X-Men timeline straight and the movies became darker and darker.  When I started to see spoilers about who would die in the last big Avenger extravaganza, I decided it was time to take a pass. 

Over the weekend, I was surfing around the on-demand movies and saw the Aquaman had once again jumped to the top of the list.  I turned it on with a little trepidation, telling myself that I could always just turn it off – not like I had and expensive ticket stub in my pocket or a full tub of popcorn on my lap.

It was a classic underdog good guy against bad guys who just seem to be bad because they can. Aquaman’s human name is Arthur, which was a bit endearing, and I managed to suspend all sense of reality.

But the big surprise was the lead female character, Mera.  She was intelligent, strong, driven and a magnificent warrior.  In every fight scene (and there were many) she held her own and in fact, saved Aquaman at one point.  Never did she scream, faint, shrink back behind the hero or need to be rescued by him.  Towards the end of the final battle, she is the one who plants a whopper kiss on him, not the other way around.   The only other female character (Arthur’s mother) was also fabulous – a warrior queen who made the ultimate sacrifice for her family.

It’s too bad that there were only two of these splendid characters.  The rest of the movie was fairly predictable, although it had a few minutes of wry humor here and there.  It was entirely because of the two women that I can say I enjoyed the overall film. 

Tell me about your favorite women movie characters!