Category Archives: Fantasy

Here’s Your Hat – What’s Your Hurry?

My local library has begun to accept books back – there is a big bin outside the door during their open hours.  The books will be “quarantined” – until they are out of quarantine, they will stay on my account.

When I called the library last week to check out one of my curbside holds, I asked about the returns and the librarian told me to please not bring all 28 at one time.  So I’ve been stopping by and dropping off 4 or 5 at a time every day.

Yesterday on my way home, I passed a mother and daughter who were clearly headed toward the curbside check-out.  The little girl looked to be about five, maybe six.  At first glance I was thinking “why does this kid have on a hat in this hot weather?”  Then as they got closer, I saw that it was a unicorn hat.  “Aaaah…. never too hot for a unicorn hat!”

Forget the weather, forget hat hair.  What kind of hat will you wear today?

To Baader-Meinhof or Not to Baader-Meinhof? That is the Question.

Photo Credit:  Hulki Okan Tabak

A few weeks ago a friend came over for some socially distant muffins and tea.  We had a wonderful time chatting in the backyard about all kinds of things.  At one point she recommended a series called “Walking Through History”.  The host walks around Britain and archaeologists and historians pop out of the surrounding country add information as he walks.  Sounded like my cup of tea so I searched it out.

I didn’t actually binge watch it but over the next couple of weeks, I had seen them all.  The host, Tony Robinson, seemed vaguely familiar, so I googled him.  Turns out he is SIR Tony Robinson, an English actor and host and he seemed familiar because he played Baldrick in the “Black Adder” show a gazillion years ago.  I read through his entire Wikipedia page and found that he has had a fascinating career of acting, presenting and writing and has made charity part of his life’s work.

I’m waiting for a DVD of Black Adder from the library (to re-watch) and have checked out Bad Kids: Naughtiest Children in History .  It was very funny – a kids’ book about various ways in which kids are raised (and punished) in various cultures throughout history.  There are quite a few children’s books about history in his bibliography.

Another thing that caught my eye in his biography was a television show that ran for 20 seasons on BBC called “Time Team”.  A group of archaeologists and historians (and Tony Robison as presenter) go someplace in Britain (often invited by a town or home owner) to look into the history of some ruin – they give themselves 3-5 days and then present their findings.  It took me a bit to find it, but eventually I did – on demand cable – all 20 seasons.  It’s fascinating.  I’ve watched 2 seasons so far.

So imagine my surprise when this morning, while reading In the Woods, a murder mystery that takes place in an archaeological site by Tana French (which has been on my shelf for a few years and I’m just getting to), I found this:

“How’s the dig going?” Cassie asked sociably.
One corner of Mark’s mouth twisted sourly.  “How do you think?  We’ve got four weeks to do a year’s work.  We’ve been using bulldozers.”
“And that’s not a good thing?” I said.
He glared at me.  “Do we look like the f***ing Time Team?”

French then adds a couple of sentences explaining Time Team for those readers who don’t happen to be binge watching it this week.

I’m sure a mathematician can probably explain the odds of this occurrence, but I’m thinking there just has to be magic involved.  And maybe dragons.

For what kind of show would you like to be a presenter?

Mass Hysteria

I news clip caught my eye yesterday about incidents of hysterical dancing that broke out in Germany in the 1300’s.  Men and women started to dance, and were unable to stop.  Others  joined them. The dancers rarely stopped to eat or sleep for days and sometimes weeks.  They did not appear happy to be dancing, but they didn’t stop. Outbreaks of this dancing continued through out the Middle Ages.  It was sometimes called St. John’s Dance, and, later, St. Vitus Dance and the Tarantella. There are theories that it was caused by ergot poisoning, but that is still up for debate. Other theories attribute it to living in stressful times. It seemed to die out with the advent  of Protestantism.

There was a modern outbreak of hysterical laughing  in 1962 in a girls’ mission school  in Tanganyika which eventually affected  around 1000 people in the surrounding community for 18 months.

Given the stressful time we are living in, I started to wonder what sort of mass hysteria might we see occurring. I thought it would be nice to see mass recycling or picking up litter and trash.  Unstoppable acts of kindness would be refreshing as well.

What mass hysteria would you like to see? Have you ever been “hysterical”?

Front Yard Serenade

My nextdoor neighbor, Brian, is a school music teach and band director.  The last time he saw his “kids” was when they said good bye for spring break.  Then schools began to close, so they have had online classes but as you can imagine, band class isn’t quite the same and since Brian is changing schools this fall, he felt a little bad about not seeing them again.

The kids apparently felt badly as well because on Monday, the brass section, along with a drummer, showed up in the front yard and serenaded him for about 15 minutes.  It was a big surprise to Brian; the kids had set it up with his wife, Sarah.  By the end of the performance, quite an audience has gathered, on both sides of Lyndale. 

I know that other entertainments and festivities are happening in people’s front yards.  A young friend of mine had a drive-by college graduation and Tuey, a juggler that I like, has also been doing his show on front sidewalks during shelter-in-place.

I think this is a great way to celebrate even while social distancing.

What front yard entertainment would you like?

Memorial Day Birthday

Photo credit: Justin Casey

My sister is grumpy today. 

For the first twelve years of her life, her birthday was a holiday.  No school or parents working on her day.  Her day.  Then in 1971, Memorial Day became one of the “Monday holidays” which means that her birthday only lands on a holiday every seven or eight years.  This year, when it falls almost a full week before her birthday, is one that she particularly dislikes.  Even after five decades, she still takes this personally.

It never bothered me as a kid that she had her birthday on a holiday.  My folks didn’t actually make a bigger deal about it because of the holiday and I still got to go to the pool (in Missouri, the public pools

usually opened on Memorial Day).  I still got the dinner of my choice and a birthday cake with lots of frosting.  All good, even with no holiday in sight.

My birthday is in August.  There are only two months during the year that don’t have big, recognized holidays in them.  August is one of them.  June is the other, but I always thought June redeemed itself by having the end of school.  And, of course, since I moved to Minnesota, I have always counted the State Fair as a holiday, thereby making August one of the best holiday months.

Even though we won’t be having the Great Minnesota Get Together this year, I don’t hold August responsible for that.  But my sister probably would.

If you could move your birthday to a holiday, which holiday would you choose?  And why?

Driving Miss Daisy

I saw a news story about a high-speed chase in the Seattle yesterday.  The owner of the car struck two vehicles before he headed onto the interstate, where he hit speeds as high as 109 mph.  At one point he drove on a popular pedestrian trail (luckily nobody was on the trail right then).  The police ended up throwing down spikes to end the chase.

During the chase, one officer thought he saw a dog in the driver’s seat and this was confirmed when they finally got the car stopped.  A “sweet” pit bull was in the driver’s seat and the car owner was steering from the passenger seat.  The news story didn’t say who was controlling the gas pedal.  The owner of the car said he was “trying to teach the dog to drive.”  The charges filed against him include DUI, reckless driving, hit-and-run and felony eluding.

Personally I would rather teach my dog something a little more useful – like changing the sheets on my bed every Saturday or how to mop the kitchen floor.

What would you like your pets to do for YOU?

Cool Clear Water

Nimue has always been fascinated by trickling water; I understand from other kitty owners that this is something she has in common with other cats.  Up until her surgery last week, I never let her drink from the faucet like this, but between the cone of shame and her banishment to the dog kennel, I was feeling sorry for her yesterday morning.  I know this is probably a bad precedent to set and she’ll want to drink from the faucet forever!

Why do kitties like to drink from the faucet?  All ideas (silly or not) entertained!

Reading in Place

For years I’ve had way more library books checked out than even I can read before they are due; I spend way too much time (at least what most people think is way too much time) curating what I have checked out, what’s on hold, what’s in transit.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I have my 16-digit library card number memorized.  I never thought any of this would ever come in handy – looks like covid-19 is making me re-think this assumption.

By the end of last night, I am caught up.  I have read ALL the library books that I had checked out at the time the libraries closed up, plus a couple more that have arrived since my local library started allowing curbside pick-up.  I’m not in any danger of running out of things to read… plenty of online stuff and a good number of books that I’ve accumulated over the years but never read.  But it’s a nice feeling to be all caught up with the library.  I’m pretty sure that as soon as shelter-in-place is over, I’ll be back to my old habits!

Here are a few that I’ve read:

His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik).  5 stars.  Read this (again) for Blevins.  Bit of revisionist history of the era of the Napoleanic wars with dragons thrown into the mix.  First of the Temeraire series.

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls (Julie Schumacher)  5 stars.  This is the same author who wrote Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirements.  It’s a young-adult fiction but a good read and very well written.  Four girls thrown together over the summer to discuss their school required reading list.

Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan).  5 stars.  Bit of very fun fiction from the viewpoint of a female “dragonologist” at a time when women were supposed to be staying home and knitting.

Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie).  5 stars.  Read this again (read all of AC in high school) to refresh my memory on which of the two movies was the most loyal to the book.  Although I am normally irritated by mystery writers who don’t give you all the clues, since I already know who the murderers are in all her books, I was able to let it go and just enjoy her writing.  (And the 1972 movie was much closer to the book!)

The Crypt Thief (Mark Pryor).  4 stars.  Found this when I was looking up the video on the French cemetery that was discussed on the Trail in February.  Murder mystery involving the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

I know you’re worried that I’m going to review every book I’ve read in the last 2 months, but I’ll stop here (except to say no need to read Fooled by Randomness (Taleb) or Wreck the Halls (Graves).  Only 2 stars each.

What’s the latest book you’ve finished “in place”?

What If?

Photo credit:  Manfred Richter

One of the lawns along my walking route got an aerated overnight.  As we walked by, I was struck how all the little sod pellets looked like goose droppings, although more brown than greenish.

There aren’t all that many geese where I grew up (suburbs of St. Louis) so I could not have made this comparison until after I moved here.   If I hadn’t come to Minnesota, I probably wouldn’t know be a single parent.  I don’t know if I would have finished my college degree.  And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t know what hot dish is.

Imagine you are still living in the city of your birth.  Tell me how your life would be different.

 

Narration

This was one of the poems last week on Writer’s Almanac.

The Cross of Snow

In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face—the face of one long dead—
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Although I’ve never been a huge Longellow fan, I had been thinking of Rhiannon right before I clicked on the site, so this poem really spoke to me.

Of course, I had to look up “benedight” (it means blessed) and that led me down a rabbit hole where I eventually found this spoken version on YouTube.

The poem is read by Jean Aked, but I found it a little off, partly because it’s a woman’s voice narrating a poem from the point of view of an older man, but also because of her English accent; Longfellow was such a quintessential American poet.

Several years ago I might not have really noticed this, but listening to lots of audiobook has made me a bit of a voice “connoisseur”.  There are quite a few book narrators whose voices I recognize when I hear them and I have favorites: Simon Vance, Robert Bathurst, Jayne Entwhistle.  I usually like it when authors narrate their own books (like Bill Bryson) because they bring a special nuance to their own material.  Occasionally I don’t like a narrator at all, which can actually sour an audio book for me.  One of the most prolific audio book narrators is George Guidall.  Unfortunately, the very first audio book that I heard him narrate was something I just couldn’t stand.  So even after several years, every time I hear his voice it takes me right back to that dreadful book and I have to really concentrate to get past my negative feelings.  But he is a very good narrator so I continue to try to get past this.

All this leads me back to the Longfellow poem.  I’ve heard two narrators read it now and I think I’ll stick with the Garrison Keillor version!

It’s the story of your life.  Who would you like to narrate it?