Thursday, August 27, 2015

I'm Back

So, it's been a while since I posted last, having been wholly wrapped up in finalizing my Charles Williams piece (the-project-that-wd-not-end), turning my draft tailored for oral presentation into a finished essay, complete with bibliography and, this being me, quite a lot of notes. I originally overwrote, but with Janice's help managed to cut the piece by about a third, greatly improving its structure and, I think, making clearer the relation of the parts to the whole. Much of this deleted material has been moved to the appendices, where those who are interested can read more about specific points without their interfering in the presentation of the main theme.

Anyway, it's now done and off and provisionally accepted, barring my adding a few more necessary details to the bibliography, which I hope I'll be able to take care of with a quick trip to the Wade next month.  Now on to the next project -- or rather projects, since there are several jostling for attention: a piece I submitted that the editors want me to make some changes on, getting in a proposal for next year's Kalamazoo, and of course the festschrift among them.

For now, though, it's good to be putting a big project behind me and moving on to something else; what I call that new project feel.  Plus, it was high time to put all those Wms and Wms-related books I had piled around the desk, ready at hand to consult, back on the shelves.


current anime: DRAGONBALL Z (yes, really), THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA.

today's quote: "It don't look like they're here to deliver the mail" (Powderfinger)

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Watermelon Ninja

So, still working on the Mythcon report -- but in the meantime thought I'd share some pictures Janice took on Saturday to celebrate our having gotten to the Kent Farmer's Market early and snagged ourselves a real watermelon, with seeds. And a good-sized one too. Decided it deserved dispatch with the sword Janice got me a few years back. Janice decided to record the results, and here they are:

--More later.
current reading: 
MALICE IN THE PALACE (the latest in the Royal Spyness series)
THE DWELLER IN THE MOON POOL by A. Merritt (The Book That Wd Not End)
current anime: STARSHIP OPERATORS (re-watching)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Dunsany Praised

So, the query regarding Hemingway and Dunsany, it occurred to me that the extent to which American writers admired the Irish lord's work deserved being highlighted in a post of its own rather than just the comments on a post devoted to a different topic.  Accordingly, here's a paragraph from my dissertation* that summarizes the tremendous splash Dunsany had over here during his brief vogue just after the War.

*BEYOND THE FIELDS WE KNOW: THE SHORT STORIES OF LORD DUNSANY, Chapter Two: THE BOOKS OF WONDER, section (ix) Lionization, pages 123-124:

"It is hard now to convey just how popular Dunsany was in the decade centering around 1919-1920. Mencken considered it a coup to get his stories for THE SMART SET and to be the one to introduce him to the American public. New York theaters fought over the right to put on his newest play. Film studios in Germany, England, and America tried to negotiate contracts to make movies out of his plays or to have him write scripts for them. F. Scott Fitzgerald includes a scene in his first novel where his young hero goes through a 'Dunsany period' at college (immediately after his PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY stage), when he and a friend take turns reading Dunsany's poetry back and forth to each other.  Ernest Hemingway took his tales along with him on a camping trip and read them aloud to his friends at night around the campfire; in typical laconic fashion, Hemingway contributes the briefest evaluation of Dunsany on records ("He's great").  James Thurber starred in a college production of A NIGHT AT AN INN which was apparently a great success. When J. B. Pond lured Dunsany over on a lecture tour from October 1919 through January 1920 he was feted and lionized, ranked with top authors of the day like Spanish novelist Blasco Ibanez (THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE) and recent Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck (THE BLUE BIRD). Between engagements he spent his time socializing with the Maeterlincks and ex-President Roosevelt's family, and meeting Kahlil Gibran (THE PROPHET), Mencken, and, as he casually remarks on one occasion, "all the poets in America." Everywhere he was deluged by reporters, who wanted his opinions on every topic imaginable. His lectures were packed; they were so successful that Pond made plans for him to tour the West as well as the East. At a lecture in Boston he so impressed one writer in the audience, H. P. Lovecraft, that Lovecraft devoted the next seven years to writing imitation Dunsany. On all sides Dunsany was treated as one of the greatest living writers, by public and intelligentsia alike.
   On the one hand he reveled in it, and on the other it made him uneasy . . . "

--and this does not include things like Joyce's interest in Dunsany's play A NIGHT AT AN INN, nor Yeats' role in launching Dunsany's career as a playwright (Yeats also edited the first anthology of Dunsany's work).

--JDR, 1990.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Back from Mythcon

So, we had a great time at Mythcon and are back safely, and even have been forgiven by the cats. I'll see what I can do in the way of writing up a Mythcon report over the next few days.

--John R.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Return of The Cat Report (W.8/4-15)

Thanks to all for covering me when I was out last week. The convention went great. The week before that I'd arrived at the cat-room to find a black cat (Pepper), a black cat (Gemini), a black cat (Kon-Tiki), a black cat (Bean), a black cat (Okra), and Dobby (who I'd never mistake for any other cat). With Tiki's adoption, Peaches' return, Eddie's adoption and then un-adoption, the arrival of purrbox Fruity Pebbles, and (temporary we hope) departure of both CHESSA and EDDIE both back at the clinic over health issues, we're back at six cats: Mr. PEPPERGEMINI ("Mr. Jimmy")bonded pair BEAN & OKRA, and beautiful gentle FRUITY PEBBLES (a semi-senior cat) and PRINCESS PEACH (Peaches).

Since Mr. Pepper's been in such a foul mood, I decided to see if special treatment would improve his mood. It did. First I let him out first thing when I arrived and let him have the whole room to himself, putting a short cat-stand in front of his cage and petting him then and there. He enjoyed this so much that I put him on the leash and took him out for a long walk. He was nervous at first but then got interested and explored. He even made the discovery that those bags on the shelves were full of food and put a row of them to the smell-test, one by one. When we got back inside we had a game, again just one-on-one, and he loved it. Hadn't known he's v. fond of the string game. I also petted him some more, gave him catnip, and combed my fingers through his fur; the loose fur came off in surprising quantities (shedding for summer, I assume). He even let me rub him down with a wet cloth to get more of that loose fur off.

Once I started letting other cats out his mood changed. He moved from the short cat-stand by his cage to the tall one near the cabinet, and here he showed his other side: objecting with hisses and swats at any cat trying to get up, or down, or pass by his spot on the mid-level of that cat-stand. He also swatted at me any time I went to get some cat dirt or cat food. It's a territory thing, I think. Had a hard time getting him back in his cage at 12.30, only to have him beg to go out again as I was finishing up. I did, and again he was on his best behavior. Although he got spooked shortly after we went out he behaved while out and also upon coming in and (reluctantly) going back into his cage.

My cat Parker was like this: the switch between wanting to be petted and hissing, swatting, or nipping was split-second. The only thing to do was to be watchful, and not to escalate things (since then he'd get really worked up, and angry rather than just briefly annoyed). Think once Mr. Pepper's in his own house he'll settle down a lot.

The other walker today was GEMINI (Mr. Jimmy), our current Boss Cat (luckily he has a sunny disposition). He played all morning, sometimes with a piece of string (which he'd catch in his mouth and reel in, sometimes carrying it off) and sometimes with feathers-on-a-stick. He's a great cat. I was particularly amused by the way he announced himself with a little mrr! whenever he arrived, whether jumping up onto the cage-tops or down from the cage-tops onto the cat-stands or bench. At once point several people (employees) gathered for a discussion about something outside the door to the cat room, and he went over and started talking to them (mrr! mrr! mrr!) from our side of the door, clearly asking to go out and join the conversation. He had a long walk and loved it. He also really enjoyed the catnip I distributed all round after he came back in (as did they all, but esp. Pepper and Jimmy).

Little BEAN followed him around like a little brother and played whatever game Gemini was playing. Glad to see Bean overcome his shyness: he likes being petted but would prefer to be played with. All the cats enjoyed playing w. the feathers and the string, but Mr. Jimmy and little Bean were the most enthused (I'd say those two played Advanced String Game 101). He was out pretty much all morning, while his sister OKRA stayed in, then came out, then went back in, all morning long. She's much the shyer of the two but is starting to gain some confidence; she came out whenever she saw what she thought was a good game going on and retreated when things got hissy from Mr. Pepper.  

PEACHES, a truly beautiful cat, with long fluffy fur like dark-streaked orange marble, decided to go high as her strategy to avoid conflict, spending much of the morning among the blankets in the top level inside the cabinet. She liked it there so much, in fact, that after leaving that spot she returned to it later, climbing over a startled Pepper and launching herself into the cabinet -- only to fail to get a grip on smooth metal shelves and come tumbling right back out again. Luckily she didn't seem hurt, only chagrinned, so I lifted her up and put her where she wanted to go, where she stayed for over an hour until deciding to come out, getting herself hissed at some more (poor Peaches). She ended the morning in a box on the cagetops, which she found restful and a hiss-free zone. 

FRUITY PEBBLES was a little more low-key; she tried several places high and low (inside the basket, atop the cages, under a cat-stand) but didn't seem to find a spot she really liked. Offered her some lap time several times but she wasn't in the mood. I'll have to make sure she gets some one-on-one time and special attention next week. I wonder how she'd do on a walk.

And that's pretty much it. Several visitors, but none who seemed serious prospects for adopters. 

--John R.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pegana Colorado

So, yesterday was a travel day, first to fly to Denver and then to drive down to Colorado Springs, site of this weekend's MYTHCON (at the Hotel Elegante). The evening yesterday was devoted to unpacking and settling in. Wanting to be well-rested for the con, we made an early night of it,  which turned out to be a good choice.

Today we went out and about, visiting what sounded like the thing we'd most regret missing if we didn't go by & see it while in the area: THE GARDEN OF THE GODS.

These are spectacular pillars and columns of brick-red sandstone, deeply eroded. I was expecting something somewhat like the Hoo-doos of Yellowstone,* something like the eroded ridges of Frenchman's Coulee,** but despite a few similarities here and there this was really different. If you like this kind of thing at all, you really should make the trip out; it's spectacular, it's easy to get to and easy to walk around in once there. I was particularly struck by the wildlife: at one point there was a deer feeding perhaps twenty feel away from us, sheltered by a row of wild sunflowers. I saw a magpie (or at least some sort of unfamiliar jay) on the way there and several more unfamiliar birds while there, but was most taken with the swifts, who nest atop the rocks and were disturbed by climbers getting too near their nests.

Given the recent cave-in of the ice-caves at Big Four Mt, which we visited last year, JC and I took the warnings about hazardous areas with high potential for falling boulders more seriously than did many of our fellow visitors: there were lots of kids among those posing beneath a crumbling cliff with some rocks half-fallen and at this point only being held up by other rocks. Luckily, today Fate refused to be tempted.

And of course we saw the dinosaur -- a single skull, discovered more than a century before, which is the only piece of this particular kind of dinosaur that has ever come to light; a good reminder of how happenstance our evidence of the long-ago can be.

In the end, I thought that rather than 'The Garden of the Gods', a better name for the place would be PEGANA. One can easily imagine those tall, eroded, sometimes tumbly red rocks in the background for one of Sime's pictures for Dunsany's first two books (e.g., 'The King That Was Not'). But that's probably just me. A classicist wd almost certainly see the heads of Titans and their hands reaching up out of the soil; anyone acquainted w. the Mythos wd recall the carven crags in the Dreamlands; a Tolkienist wd recall the Argonath; and any Eddist wd immediately recognize this as Troll country.

There are plenty of interesting things to see and do in this area, from the modern-day reconstruction of cliff-dwellings and a chance to feed giraffes at the local zoo to the Arkansas River riverwalk down in Pueblo, But I think Janice was right to give this one the nod as 'if you only have time to do one touristy thing in this area, this is the one'.

And now, off to do some final small preparations for the con.

--John R.
current reading: POETRY AT PRESENT by Charles Williams [1930]
THE MOON POOL by A. Merritt [1919]

*which were really memorable, despite being perched on the edge of any acrophobist's nightmare. worth the terror.

**for an inadequate description thereof, see

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Today I'm Drinking . . .

. . . Ernest Hemingway's tea.
And that's "Ernest Hemingway" with a circle-r following it.

Saw this in World Market a few weeks back and was bemused enough to buy it. Turns out to be ordinary Assam they've put Hemingway's name and picture on as a selling point. How very odd. I did buy some "C. S. Lewis Blend" a good while back via mail-order from a tea shop in Austin, but then Lewis was famous as a tea-drinker -- cf the quote that starts off Hooper's Preface to CSL's essay collection ON STORIES:

'You can't get a cup of tea large enough of a book long enough to suit me' 

Whereas if Hemingway drank tea that fact has eluded my admittedly somewhat slim knowledge of his biography (derived mostly from reading his autobiography and Carpenter's GENIUSES TOGETHER). 

Still, it's odd how some thing stick to an author's 'myth'. In Hemingway's case it's polydactyl cats, yes; tea-drinking, no; living in Cuba, yes; dying in Idaho, no. 

And there's this to consider: Hemingway was a fan of Dunsany's early work, which is just about as different from Hemingway's own as it's possible for two writers to get. So I think I'll have a cup of tea and think kindly thoughts for that about a writer who, though v. good, is not exactly my cup of tea.

--John R.