Monday, April 26, 2010

I frogot to mention: a little Twain Trivia

From the Wikipedia article on Mark Twain:

In 1909, Twain is quoted as saying:[40]
I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'
His prediction was accurate – Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut, one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth.

^ Albert Bigelow Paine. "Mark Twain, a Biography". Retrieved 2006-11-01.

(All of the above is directly from Wikipedia. I'm really unsure of how to do a double-block-quote, so I'm just letting you know and leaving it at that.) 

Also, just before this in the Wikipedia article:
Twain formed a club in 1906 for girls he viewed as surrogate granddaughters, the Angel Fish and Aquarium Club. The dozen or so members ranged in age from 10 to 16. Twain exchanged letters with his "Angel Fish" girls and invited them to concerts and the theatre and to play games. Twain wrote in 1908 that the club was his "life's chief delight."[39]
^ LeMaster J. R., The Mark Twain Encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis, 1993 page 28

And, from a biography I was browsing in the library today (Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years, by Michael Sheldon)-- which brought this all to mind-- I found out that he started a free public library in his adopted home town: Redding, Connecticut. To this he contributed many volumes from his own library, among which were Hawthorne, which he thought was boring, and some history book (working from memory, here) of which he said that any library that contained it could not justly be called dull.

No, now that I think of it, this quote (which was quoted at the beginning of the biography, but which I had heard before) was what set my memory off, because we were discussing something to do with what Papa was going to wear: "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dear Children (mostly neeflings-not-visiting-me-at-the-moment),

As I am sure you are aware, your cousins, the Penguin Children, are visiting. Both of them have asked me what I want for my birthday, and I told BOTH of them that I LOVE stories and pictures drawn and written by children.

So, I am sort of asking for birthday presents here, but in return I am going to follow the Hobbit custom and post a story for you on the blog today. It's a bit long, so I will post part I today and part II -- um-- very soon. It really is mostly written. Unfortunately for your curiosity, there are three parts (so far), and I haven't even started part III yet. Also unfortunately for your curiosity, my motivation has never grown larger from nagging, so continually asking when I will finish is probably not the best strategy for getting me to do so. Telling me that you enjoyed the story might work, though. And if you are bored, you can write your own stories, right? Right.

Annabel and the Gorgon, part I: Magical Corrective Lenses

The week after Alexander met the gorgon on the way to his grandmother’s house, their Grandmother Hildegaard came to visit them. Alexander and his siblings, as usual, were delighted to have their grandmother for a visit, and they were very persistent about asking questions about her friend, the gorgon. Grandmother Hildegaard was not particularly forthcoming, however. She kept on putting them off and putting them off until finally, at dinnertime, she said,

“Children, I have decided that I cannot really tell you about the Gorgon myself. Her life story is very sad, and I do not have permission from her to tell it. As I think about this problem, I am coming to the conclusion that the only thing for it is for you children to make friends with the Gorgon yourselves.”

Alexander felt alarmed, and the rest of the children looked at each other nervously; but Annabel had been extremely curious about the Gorgon ever since Alexander had had his run-in with her, so she spoke up. "I think that's a lovely idea, Grandmother. When can we meet her?"

"Well, first off, anyone who wants to be friends with a Gorgon is going to have to get a pair of Magical Corrective Lenses.”

The children’s parents exchanged glances at this announcement, but the children did not notice this.

“What are Magical Corrective Lenses please, Grandmother?” asked Annabel.

“They are a kind of lens which allows you to see certain things as they truly are. My own reading spectacles are a variety of Magical Corrective Lenses, though normally I just use them for reading the fine print on medicine bottles and so on.”

Several children started talking at once, but Annabel had learned at school that raising your hand can get a grownup’s attention when nothing else seems to be able to, so she did this now. “Yes, Annabel?” asked her grandmother.

“Why couldn’t we just borrow your magical corrective lenses?” asked Annabel.

“Because the magical part only works for the person for whom the Corrective Lenses have been made,” said grandmother.

Now Annabel turned to her parents, pleading. “Couldn’t I get a pair? Pleease?”

Her parents looked grave. “It isn’t just a matter of going down to the grocery store and getting a pair,” said Griselda, her mother. “I don’t even know if there is anyone around who makes them anymore. And even if there is someone around, it can be quite expensive to get a pair.”

“If Grandmother thinks it would be worth it to be friends with a gorgon, and if getting magical corrective lenses is what we have to do to make friends with the gorgon, then I am willing to spend all of my Birthday money and all of my Christmas money on it,” said Annabel.

The other children were pretty amazed by this. Making friends with the gorgon did seem like an interesting project, but they weren’t sure that it would be worth spending good Christmas and Easter money on.

“If that’s how you feel, I’ll start looking on the Internet tomorrow for a shop,” said their mother.

And that was what she did. She found one the next morning, and it wasn’t even that far away. It was a little shop that was tucked between the book shop they liked to frequent and a cobbler’s shop they always hurried past as fast as they could, because the cobbler didn’t like children very much (especially vampire children), and would yell at them if they got too close to his shoes (and this wasn’t very close).

As they pushed through the front door, a little bell dinged. A few seconds later, Annabel could see something—a tuft of hair?—coming out from the back of the shop; but she couldn’t see much more, because whoever it was was hidden by a counter which was almost taller than Annabel.

Finally he was close enough that the tuft had turned in to a face. “Mr. Rufus Ferner, at your service; and with whom do I have the pleasure of speaking this afternoon?”

“Griselda the Witch, and my daughter, Annabel,” said Annabel’s mother.

Annabel was a very well-raised child, and she knew very well the rules of politeness, but she wasn’t sure which one applied here: the pair of spectacles he was wearing was so extraordinary looking that she wanted to stare at it, but she knew that staring was rude. On the other hand, she knew that it was also rude not to look someone in the eye when you were meeting them. She felt frustrated as she realized she had already stared for several seconds, so then she made up her mind immediately, and stared at the floor.

"What do you want?" asked Mr. Ferner.

 "I would like to get a pair of Magical Corrective Lenses for myself, please," she said.

"YOU want to get Magical Corrective Lenses?" he asked Annabel, sounding very shocked. "WHY?" And he came around the counter to see her face to face.

"My grandmother is friends with a gorgon and I want to make friends with the gorgon too, and grandmother said that I should get Magical Corrective Lenses so that I can."

"Hmph. They're very expensive, you know."

"Yes, I know. I have all of my allowance here, and I am willing to bring in all of my allowance all summer so that I can get them."

They looked at each other for a moment.

"Well. I appreciate the offer, but magical corrective lenses are a great deal more expensive than THAT." He shuffled back around the counter and struggled for a moment to pull open a drawer. "Ah! Here it is." He held up what looked like a seed packet; it had a picture of a red flower on front, and the bottom of it bulged out a little. "This is my second-to-last fire-flower seed. Fire-flowers are extremely rare and valuable. If you will grow this seed in to a grown-up fireflower, then the fire-flower will produce two seeds. You may keep one for yourself, but bring the other one back to me, and I will make you the magical corrective lenses. I warn you, it will be very difficult."

"I would like to try anyway, thank you. I will ask my Grandmother Hildegaard for help."

"Hmph. Well. You're one of Hildegaard's grandchildren then, are you? Them there is some chance you will succeed." He studied her face very carefully for several seconds, and she tried not to squirm. "Would you like to have a look at mine?” he asked.

Annabel looked up with a huge grin on her face that said, “yes,” and Mr. Ferner took the spectacles off and handed them to her. “You can put them on if you’d like,” he said.

And by now you are really wondering what those spectacles looked like, and I am going to tell you, if I can manage. If anyone can draw me a picture, that would be most handy. At any rate, the spectacles looked a little bit like a carnival mask, if you have ever seen one, only instead of fancy glittery mask, the part that was spread out was made of lenses. All of the lenses were attached to hinges, so that they could be slid down in to place in front of the wearer’s eyes, or slid out of place, as the wearer wished.

Annabel put on the spectacles and looked up at her mother. At the moment, only the basic, first-level lenses were in place, but her mother looked pretty much like she always did. Annabel slid a set of lenses in to place; her mother now looked quite glowy, and Mr. Ferner’s hair had turned black instead of the white it was in real life. When she looked around the room, she saw-- well, I am getting distracted from the real story. Perhaps someone could draw a before-and-after picture of the shop, too.

Annabel took the Magical Corrective lenses off and handed them back very carefully to the Magical Corrective Lens Maker. "Thank you," she said.

"You're welcome," he replied, and then he said "good luck," and Annabel knew that this was his way of saying that she should leave, so she carefully tucked the seed packet in to her coat pocket, and then went outside with her mother.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

And Now, Spring

Moss on the roots of the neighbors' cherry tree:

And a bush, whose name I should know but don't, at the corner of our property:

The poor, snowed-upon hedge by the front walk has been rejuvenated (I was going to take an "after" shot from the same angle that I took that one during the snow storm, but then I realized that only a full-on side view could do justice to the beauty of the new growth. It's almost like a teenager, it's so leggy.)

And finally, an only slightly blurry shot of the walk up the side of the house-- it doesn't normally look quite this ethereal, but I happened to be out at the right time of day to make it seem like Galadriel was going to make an appearance at ANY MOMENT. (Though you may notice that the "Galadriel Effect" is somewhat dampened with the realization that the boxy thing at the top of the hill is in fact our (communal) mailbox.)

And now my camera card has properly been dumped, and I'm off for an evening walk.

Maybe tomorrow, if I can, I will get a shot of the cardinal which has been frequenting the deck. Wish me luck.

Friday, April 2, 2010

When my Grandma Cox was little, her father used to tell her that the call of the meadowlark was "El-ner's a pretty little girl! El-ner's a pretty little girl!" (Elner being Grandma's first name.)

My own Papa told me this last night as we were chatting; he was talking about how he had just found out that day that a Killdeer is the same thing as a Plover, and he and Mom went on for a bit about how they used to see Killdeer all of the time in their respective rural homes-of-origin (Mom in Northern California, Dad in Southeast Idaho), and then they got on to how they would see Meadowlarks fairly frequently, too. For some reason I asked what the call of the Meadowlark was, and that is when he told me what his mother told him. (I have been thinking (non-continuously) for about twenty-four hours about how I was going to tell this story without using the expression "he told me that she told him that her father used to tell her, and now I'm telling you..." but here now I've just gone and done it. Oh, well.)

Here is a link to a web page-- scroll down a bit-- with a video-with-audio of a Western Meadowlark (it is helpfully labeled "Youtube"). Evidently one of the few things which makes them truly distinguishable from the Eastern variety is their call. The third call on the video is the one which I think fits best with the rhythm of the chant/tune that Dad told me about, but the fact that they don't match up exactly makes me wonder: do we have our birds mixed up? Is there a bird which isn't a meadowlark, whose song more closely resembles the one Dad sang to me? If anyone knows anything about this, please comment away!