Friday, December 25, 2009

It needed more animals

Christmas Eve 2009.

Downyflake decides to improve the Nativity set.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The smart ones

November and December are duck-hunting season. We wake at dawn each morning, to the sound of gunfire. It takes place out at the far end of the inlet, but resonates. It's not a likable way to wake up.

Our end of the inlet provides a nice escape for the ducks. Hunters aren't allowed anywhere near here. So these hooded mergansers congregate practically in our back yard.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to use up as much ribbon as possible...

...for the express purpose of not having to tie ribbons on your Christmas packages.

"Well, dern! Out of ribbon. Gotta use stick-on bows."

Another thing I have a bad attitude about is wrapping packages. Tying pretty, neat, evenly-looped, well-placed, creative, color-coordinated bows on packages is a pain. Whoever invented the stick-on bow is my personal hero/heroine.

And remember how, in days long past, the ribbon would come with nice little dividers between each color, so you didn't end up with this tangled mess? No more. A plain cardboard cylinder costs the manufacturer much less and they pass those savings right on over to us consum-- Ha ha! Sorry. Couldn't say that with a straight face.

Extricating a length from this birds' nest only makes using it to gift-wrap even more of a pain. This roll of multiple ribbon colors has been around for several years because I avoid using it.

Meanwhile, last year, Larry wanted to revive his childhood Christmas tradition of making chains out of construction paper. So we did, and we doubled it this year.

And I, who really really doesn't much like craft work, find it the most soothing, delightful activity. Last year that took me by surprise, a very lovely surprise.

It inspired me to keep going and make more construction paper chains to hang on the tree. I hesitated, though, because we use the old-style colored lights and they get hot.

And then the ribbon caught my eye. The ribbon isn't totally fireproof of course, but it is a LOT sturdier, less dry and brittle, more heat-resistant. We never plug in the tree lights unless we're around, and abso-LUTE-ly never leave them on when we aren't home, and I could feel OK about using this to make chains. Lots of our ornaments are string, yarn, wood, and other homemades.

So I put on some music and started chain-making.

This is my kind of craftwork. There is no pattern. There is no planning ahead. There is no measuring. I chop pieces randomly. I cut big loops, I cut small loops. I add them to the chain randomly. I rely on the law of averages to distribute the sizes and colors of the rings, and I don't care at all if I use a color twice in a row, and then don't use it again for quite awhile.

And doing it is wonderful. It's like meditating.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brookgreen in December

Cat-astrophe, by Mary Russell. Part of the current gallery show in Brookgreen.
(I took the photo a little off-center to avoid spotlight glare.)

The other three seasons are a riot of color at Brookgreen Gardens, but winter there has a subtle beauty. In December, Brookgreen is ... green. Mostly.

A few weeks of sporadic cold nights make the water in the pools very clear, and on a still day, you get nifty reflections.

The color that you do see can be eye-catching.

This is camellia season:

Blackeyed Susans. A few flowers ares still blooming, though not in the massive banks of summer.

Even a bee finds some buds to work on
(You'll really need to enlarge this one, but he's there, near the center) :

The gardens are closed most evenings of the year unless there's an event going on, but every weekend in December they have the Nights of a Thousand Candles. Visit in the daytime and you see those square white candle-holders lining the walkways, plus strings of lights, and, in the Palmetto Garden (where it looks like the event is centered) lanterns are strung all through it.

The weather was damp and cold on Tuesday when we were there, so we headed to the indoor galleries when our bare hands got cold holding the cameras.

The current show is of seasonal themes. I love this sculpture. It's called Purity, by Georgia artist Nnamdi Okonkwo, born in Nigeria:

One gallery had the paintings and sculptures. The other, seasonal decorations. These might have titles and probably have artist names, but I forgot to get the info!

This hanging is woven entirely of long-leaf pine needles and decorated with little birds made out of feathers:

I hardly ever dislike a decision that the Brookgreen Powers That Be make, but I'm not fond of this one : they've gathered up the permanent, outdoor sculptures whose subjects pertain to this time of year, removed them from their pretty settings out in the gardens, and stuck them in the gallery.

This one (The Offering, by Marjorie Daingerfield) is so, so much prettier in its usual, ideal place outside, under its stone arch and among the leaves. Here, it's just sitting in a room. Bummer! but fortunately, I have my ten-year-old photo, which shows it to better effect.

Weather has been weird. The next day, yesterday, was hot, muggy, short-sleeves weather, but the chill cut our trip a little short on Tuesday.

Though we did have to stop and wait for a wild turkey crossing.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Are places Holy?

So much seems to depend on land. So many people feel their soul is sourced from a piece of earth.

One of my iGoogle widgets is a daily photo of a sacred site. Many are Christian because a lot of our monuments are relatively recent and solidly built in stone, but others appear pretty often. Stonehenge. The pyramids. They used Crater Lake the other day, which was the first I knew of its sacred meaning for the Northwest Indians.

These places fascinate me and, lest you think me enlightened, I am drawn to them, especially to the ones tied to my beliefs. Some primitive part of my brain probably does feel that I'd be closer to God if I stood at the tomb from which Christ returned to life, or walked the same ground he walked.

I had a bunch of New Age friends back in my Hilton Head days (still have several of them) and at that time in our lives we were all experiencing tremendous growth and healing of our addictions, psyches, general nuttiness. It's a lifetime process, and I can't really explain why the place seemed to be such a source of healing energy. We all were in a regroup-and-evaluate phase, and supporting each others' journeys helped us bloom a little faster.

But many friends believed in these global meridian thingies ; that their Higher Power had led them to a place where meridians of sacred energy came together and healing power was stronger. There are books and Discovery Channel shows and all kinds of stuff about global meridians and lines of geographic power, and how people believe sacred sites seem to fall on those lines.

Whether the lines cause the spiritual power or peoples' feelings of spiritual connection cause the lines, I'll leave to each person. I wanted the warm glow others felt and attributed to these ideas but they never worked for me. The theology, if it was a theology, seemed weak and riddled with holes. I couldn't really buy the idea that geography had squat to do with whether the Higher Power had more ... well ... more power, or more interest, in re-knitting the dropped stitches in a soul.

I've tried to be open to the metaphoric nature of this stuff, since I can't believe that God connection is stronger in one place than in another, but do emphatically believe that seeking brings finding. I both loved, and respected the intelligence of, friends who believed these things. Whatever the merit, or lack of merit, in such beliefs, the beliefs have everything to do with holes in the soul, and practically nothing to do with holes in the head.

Once, I was on this mundane trip to a shopping mall with a friend who was, and is, battling the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. She counseled with her minister, she read books, she craved a spiritual connection. As we ambled from the car into the building, she was talking about reincarnation. About how her abuser had never experienced any consequences for his actions and how she had to believe that he'd face consequences in his next life, since he hadn't in this one.

Well, I thought, OK, this helps her find some rational balance in God, it helps her cope, so it must be a good thing.

I wish I could say that the ugly logic of this hit me like a thunderbolt, but it did not until she said it herself:

"But then," she said, "I wonder what horrible thing I did in a past life to deserve what happened to me?"

Shitshitshit! NoNoNo. The wrongness of the whole thing. The whole, "I must deserve it or it wouldn't happen" thing. No. No. No.

It was the moment that I saw the flawed logic in the Rules mentality that tells me: Learn and apply the right rule, and empowerment will be as reliable as the room light when you flip the switch. Be in the right spot, or do the right thing, and tap into the power.

The problem is its flip side : wrong time or place, and less attention from God. It's a lot like : All creeps get their just desserts, therefore all desserts are earned justice.

Or : you can make the healing happen by geographic location, and therefore the hurt happened because you were too far from God, where his power is weaker.

We want it-- That's a cop-out : I want it to be within my power to summon God's attention and favors ... until I think about what that means. Then, while I can feel for people who seek comfort in these beliefs, I realize that I fear like crazy for the flip side of their comfort source.

I've been to religious services of many many kinds. Many denominations, New Age groups, Native American, Jewish, Baha'i. Usually, my mind has been in 2 states of consciousness at once, feeling as though real power was present, and knowing that, yes, it is, but it's available anywhere and everywhere. I simply can't sustain the connection through the world's noise. At a spot where I manage to briefly cut through the noise and feel a spiritual connection, I kind of feel like I stumbled into a spiritual wi-fi hot spot.

The problem is: I have to apply this across the board.

My standard, that sites are not really sacred, makes no sense if I make an exception. I can't say that believing I'm closer to God at Machu Pichu or Stonehenge is silly, while you applaud me for saying it ... and then turn around and say, "Well, but that's because those aren't the true faith; a site sacred to the true faith really is holy."

I don't say that and I don't believe it. It doesn't matter where any of us lives or where anyone is standing, when we look for God, or God comes looking for us.

I still want everybody in the middle east to quit acting stupid so I could visit the Church of the Nativity on Christmas Eve someday, but it's better to know that, however nifty that would be, it wouldn't give me anything I can't have any time at all.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Plastic fruit

Nostalgia is just weird. Things that I used to be barely conscious of, or even make fun of, hold this silly sentimentality for me now. OK, aging is weird too. It's occurred to me that mocking something can, just sometimes, be part of the process of growing to love it.

Every autumn of my childhood, as predictable the new fall TV shows and the speciously cheery back-to-school ads, the plastic fruit would appear on our dining room table for its 6-month rotation as centerpiece. A bowl of seashells -- big beautiful ones that my mother collected over the years-- occupied my mother's table spring through summer,

and still does.

In October we'd come home one day to find that the shells had disappeared into their winter limbo and the fruit had materialized in its place.

The fruit was actually rather pretty stuff from some nice home décor department. It was also mostly kid-friendly. There were only a few ceramic pieces and they were fortunately not as much fun to play with as the more abundant plastic items ; especially the virtually indestructible grapes, which we'd pull off their little stems and pop back on.

Mom didn't shriek when we played with the shells either. If it sounds like a nice house to grow up in, it was. We, naturally, took all the little touches of class and comfort for granted. They lived in the background, set dressing for the little angsts and dramas of our childhood lives.

The fact that the fruit's appearance coincided with school, getting up early, wearing miserable scratchy clothes all day, cold weather, youknowthedrill, probably contributed to our put-down fruit jokes. The shells appeared around tax time and meant that summer really would come. They lifted my heart and honestly, the appearance of the fruit sank my spirits a little. The first few weeks of school had passed by the time it showed up, but it still meant summer really was over. So my nostalgia for it might be a trifle bizarre.

But I'm now School-Free, and allowed to like autumn again, and when you get down to brass tacks, fake fruit is just .... funny.

We could make fun of our family rituals because they were always there, always reliably in place. I can't recall which book, but in one of them, C. S. Lewis observed that the human soul has a deep-seated need for both variety and predictability. The cycle of the seasons, he said, was designed to provide us with constant change and yet a comforting continuity. When I read that, I had one of those Yes moments. All the family routines, even when they meant something a little sad, nevertheless meant that home, parents, and therefore, life, were running smoothly and could be counted on.

My cousins turned up some fruit just like it as they went through their parents' things, and offered it to me. "Haha!" I laughed. Then realized: "Wait! I'll take it."

What?! Can I possibly be feeling sentimental about ersatz grapes? Yeah. It's just like ours and probably came from the same source. The one ceramic piece -- that little pear -- has the same "Made in Italy" stamp as the apples and eggplant my mother still has.

So now I have my own plastic fruit. As we prepped for Thanksgiving and visits from my brother and his wife and kids, I arranged it in this basket on our -- temporarily -- cleared-off dining table, for nostalgia's sake. It kinda gives me that homey feeling.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a... (PG-13 post)

I've written several posts entitled "Why this is not a Christian blog". I may even post one eventually, but they are usually prompted by some issue or topic that makes it clear to me why, even though I am a professed Christian, I nevertheless do not fit in with the Christian blogosphere. I know some readers would be delighted if the blog were less Christian, others would kinda like it to be more so, and some don't care. I yam what I yam.

But here's one of my reasons for declaring that this is not a Christian blog:

I care absolutely nothing about being a Proverbs 31 Woman.

It's not that Christian writers themselves aren't quite delightful in making respectful fun of this absolutely unreal paragon of Womanly Perfection. They really are. There are lots of books out of Christian publishing houses, from serious to funny, about how we shouldn't keep flogging ourselves for falling short of that description, how it's an ideal, nobody can live up to that... etc. etc.

Great. All well and good. But, see, there's still a problem for me. All of them, the most serious, the most delightfully amusing, all of them assume that we want to be the Proverbs 31 Woman. That we want to shoot that high, and need affirmation for the level we can realistically achieve.

And that's where I leave the building.

I'm in danger of being kind of amusing about it myself. But however much I like writing likable stuff, toning it down to make it sort of endearing does not convey my extreme dislike for the whole Christian "We are so vile and corrupt, we all deserve death and eternal flames," culture. To be more honest, I have to be ruder than that.

Here goes :

I do not give a rat's ass about achieving Proverbs 31 Womanhood. The Proverbs 31 Woman not ONLY can go jump, she can take the whiny male fantasy that spawned her right along with her.

I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bless them to us

On this wet, gray, but still rather warm day, a little wildflower (which I will look up later, between cooking, imminent guest arrivals, etc.) is blooming, and Scooter has accompanied me to photograph it -- vocally expressing his opinion about having to come out of the warm dry garage and guard me, since it was lightly raining on us.

To all who celebrate Thanksgiving, and to all who celebrate their blessings every day as an ongoing thing - have a Happy one!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

IF you ONLY get ONE gadget - get this one!

I put the weather-dot-com gadget on my iGoogle page, thinking at the time that all I would get was the weather.

But they also run the child abduction alerts -- tailored for the zip code that you have put in to get your weather info.

This is a very very wonderful thing they can do to get the alert out there! It comes up, with any weather alerts, in red letters ....

.... and you click it to get the descriptive info you need to keep an eye out. All in plain, easy-load text.

I had this info within the hour it happened, and told the lady at our convenience store while I was getting my Diet Coke, so she could keep a watch too. If you only get one iGoogle gadget, I'd call this an important one -- and it does double duty!

I believe that (if this "share it" link works) you can get it here.

(By the way, the flood warning has come up since yesterday and appears to be a river surge coming in from the uplands after recent rains. It might cause problems directly along the river banks but shouldn't affect us much here.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Really big clam

At about 2:30 this afternoon, I was at the edge of the marsh throwing a roast turkey carcass into the water so the crabs could pick it over. As I turned around, I noticed this fair-sized clam shell in the mud.

Clam shells (half-shells, strictly speaking) are fairly abundant on our beaches. Even big ones are the more ordinary pickings that beachcombers find. The size of this one was still pretty cool, and I guess my Inner Tourist impelled me to pick it out of the mud and bring it inside with the thought of keeping paperclips in it or something.

So I lifted it. It was stuck in the mud pretty well, and the outer layer of the shell chipped off, back there at the joint. It may be a fossil. Many are. Nature was doing her work and breaking it down into its recyclables by slowly prying the layers apart with algae or mold.

Drat, hated having broken it, but I kept the pieces, put my finger deep into the mud to really get under it, and lifted.

And lifted. That green part was exposed and the algae was working on it, but the white-ish part shows how much more was buried in the muck.

It. Is. Huge. This photo shows it next to my 1-quart pot. It's 6 inches long, and has enough layers of growth to indicate it celebrated well over 200 birthdays.

So, it's more fragile than I thought and I don't want to lose any more pieces. It'll need an easier life than it would have had as a paper-clip holder.

The pictures can be clicked for larger views. I've left them large, for anyone who wants to see such detail as my camera picks up.

Stats :

Length - 6 inches

Weight - Larry got curious and put it on his postal scale. The shell weighs 1.25 pounds (just a hair over, actually)

Capacity - I got curious and got out my 1/4 cup measuring cup. This shell-half holds 3/4 cup and a little bit more.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Frost warning

We've got a frost warning for tonight, so I harvested the last of the crops for this year. Peppers were my only success, though Larry's garden did better. This last batch didn't get very big, as you can see by the basic teaspoon, but they'll enhance a veggie pizza quite nicely!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Little Teapot Who Needed a Home

I honestly think it's a mistake to teach young children to anthropomorphize inanimate objects. It can be really hard to unteach this whole "inanimate objects have feelings" thing.

I was immersed in all the usual kids' stories about The Little Engine That Could, and The Brave Little Steam Shovel and all that. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years was one godawful tearjerker. Apparently most kids outgrow the idea that manmade objects have feelings. But for some of us -- and I don't think it's very emotionally healthy -- it lives on. There's a child-mind alternate reality that my rational adult mind seems to maintain like an archive, in which everything around me has emotions. Stuffed animals. An old worn shirt. My grandparents' 1950's radio.

Sure, there's an emotional connection with people we love, which kind of gets conducted through something that they used and loved, but I can't seem to break myself of the habit of crediting the objects themselves with having emotions.

My rational mind knows that, for example, a lovely old clock in a junk shop is really just composed of gears and wires and glass formed in a factory. But back there in my Childhood Mind, there's this ghastly little kiddie tale taking shape, of The Little Clock Nobody Wanted.

It's awful. Life has enough real heart-tugging stories. Heck, any animal shelter has plenty of them, and those inmates really do have feelings.

The metaphor could get out of hand but if I picture my mind as a house, with different functions and activities happening in its various rooms, this lingering childhood part of it is like the mudroom in almost every way:

It's messy and organized (if you can call it that) by momentary feeling rather than with Mr. Spock-like logic; I kick this off here, I fling that wherever. It's not served by the heating/cooling system of the house; instead it experiences all the highs and lows of my emotional weather. No pretty wallpaper hides the raw beams and no decorative furniture conceals mud-spattered jackets or dirty shoes. In the mudroom, life's grit and grime have not been cleaned up. It's definitely not part of the house tour.

I'd truly like to quit empathizing with objects, but some part of my psyche got arrested in its development. My rational thinking is alive and well and I do manage to call it up, but it has not banished the magical kid-thinking. Maybe that makes me a better writer. I sure hope it serves me in some way.

So we're in this antique shop day before yesterday, and they have a 75% -off shelf. And on that shelf is a pretty little teapot, date unknown.

When I looked closer, I could see that it was, of all things, an electric teapot. With a heating element built in.

Now that I've researched it, I find that these teapots are very common. They're the precursors of those tinny little hotpots we had in the college dorm. There were and are lots of them around, but since we never had them at home and I never collected anything breakable until we got into this collectibles business, I never knew china pots with built-in heating elements existed.

But its commonness would not have made a bit of difference to me even if I'd known it. I looked at this pretty little thing and said, "Oh, it wants to go home with me!"

The shop owner obviously knew that these pots are abundant, because even before it moved to the 75% -off shelf, she'd priced it at only $7.00. Search for "Moss Rose electric teapot" on eBay and see how many you find, selling for about 9+ dollars. But then, add shipping.

Anyway, I loved it, and here it is. 75% -off of $7.00 is ONE dollar and SEVENTY-FIVE cents, and that's what I paid, and however many there are out there, it makes me happy to glance up and see it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To an Old Love

Corn syrup solids ne'er more brightly dyed!
Confection once belovéd, not despised!

Young alchemists, we bit each layer to savour
each subtle nuance of each colour's flavour.
Yet such restraint, our passion must defeat.
We'd by the fistful cram ourselves with sweet.
Thou caked among our teeth, we'd ram our tongues
thy sug'ry mortar to dislodge therefrom!

O how we loved and gorged ourselves on thee!
O! fickle lovers? never would we be!

But lo, now others fly to other Chews
of faddish shapes and flavours, garish hues,
and in their shadow thou hast come to rest
like fruitcake, an obligatory guest
derided and dismissed, at Hallow's Fest!

But thou deservest better, for the years
of joy thou gavest us, despite our tears
when sentence harsh the dentist would pronounce -
Sweet memories those sorrows surely trounce!

They err who treat their early love with scorn.
For first loves merely sleep and are reborn!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Building business for you !

You can click this for a more legible version.

But the cartoon captions are STILL hard to read, so I'm adding bigger versions of each one -- scroll down to the bottom of this post and you can click them there for the big versions.

I occasionally post a comic-strip ad from the heyday of that kind of advertising. This one uses panel cartoons, but I thought I'd throw it in because it's an ad for ads, touting the benefits of signing on with Sylvania and letting their cartoon ads help you attract customers to your repair business.

Sylvania asks you to contact them in order to participate. It sounds like you made Sylvania your parts supplier and you'd get a big version of that round logo for your window. Passers-by see it and recognize it from Look or the Post and know that it's "the Sylvania sign of dependable service"! And of quality, name-brand, Made In U. S. A. parts.

It's from Radio & Television News for January, 1950:
These humorous ads, running in the cream of the nation's publications, help assure you a steady stream of new customers and greater profit.
The artist is Russell Patterson whose Jazz Age drawings became iconic and who kept going strong for decades.

Eye-catchers, they definitely are.

If you click each one below, it should come up at a readable size:


Friday, October 09, 2009

Me and Authority

I sometimes say that I'm really not a very sweet, nice person and I usually get reactions along the lines of "Ha ha! You're funny!" or "You're too hard on yourself."

But honestly, sweetness has never been one of my major virtues. As a young child I trusted nobody, felt suspicious of any motivator or program designed to improve my mind or attitude, and felt contempt for kids who jumped enthusiastically into whatever project they were told to jump into.

It would be easy to pump myself up by saying that such children were duller and more sheeplike than I was, but it's seriously untrue. School Enthusiasts were often genuinely bright, creative kids.

Below you'll find an approximation of one of those elementary school motivational doohickeys : The Rainbow Reading Chart.

This is NOT the actual chart. I did not cherish or keep mine, and I've looked at all kinds of reading incentive tools online but cannot find anything like it, so this is a guesswork version that I've created purely from memory.

I've guessed at the categories, but I think the chart was evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction and I'm pretty sure that we got that bonus circle in the middle to use for an extra book in a category we liked best.

No matter - it gives you the general idea.

It's good for kids to expand their horizons and not just read the same kind of thing over and over -- actually I do, really, pretty much see the merit in that -- so some educator somewhere came up with using color as a motivator.

For each book we read, we colored one box in the correct subject row. We were allegedly inspired to read at least one book in every category so as to complete the outer circle, coloring every box around the rim. Then work our way inward, reading more in each row.

We all had to do and turn in a chart, but our level of achievement was up to us. It was handed out by the librarian during weekly Library Time, and wasn't graded. This being the 1960s, when humiliating kids was considered just fine, she held up each chart when we turned them in, so that the reluctant reader, with only 3 or 4 boxes colored at all, got to squirm for a few seconds. In many ways it was a majorly sukky era.

Here's my recreation of the completely filled and exquisitely colored chart of a Paragon Of Educational Achievement and Good Attitude, whom I will call Suzy :

"Suzy" always delivered with gusto. See how snarky I'm being? It's jealousy. She was truly smart, both a good artist and a good creative writer. No idea what became of her after elementary school but I suspect good things.

Anyway she got really into assignments like this and her chart was held up for us as both a show of well-rounded reading -- I mean, Suzy would read anything -- and a great coloring job. Other cool coloring jobs were also praised.

Creative coloring was not discouraged. They weren't rigid about coloring rules, really. Fun was OK. You could use the rainbow, or do all shades of purple or whatever you liked. The main idea was to read widely.

My chart was nothing to brag on. I read only what I wanted to read. It annoyed me that extra books weren't counted once their category was filled, but I basically said "Pffft" to switching over to some topic I didn't care about, when I could be reading another Nancy Drew or Little House story.

My interests really weren't all that narrow. I had spells of engagement in various topics. I pored over the World Book's anthropology section. My family was full of doctors and I went through a phase of fascination with medical advances. History was fun if there was good drama. Squanto and the Pilgrims was a wonderful, sad story. I devoured lots of those Bobbs Merrill Childhood of Famous Americans biographies for kids that later, in library school, we were told were didactic and boring turnoffs for children. Sheesh. They weren't for me!

But anyway, this chart was a one-time thing, done between certain dates. My bursts of nonfiction interest took place either before or after it, and naturally, reading World Book for fun didn't count.

My parents, who were/are none too fond of conformity either (This, by the way, is a Clue), instilled in me no ardor for incentive programs. I read plenty without charts, and they actually kind of wanted me reading less and playing outdoors more. I was really a little snot about the enthusiastic kids. Can't they see through all this Pretty Colors, certificates, Gold Stars crap?! I wondered. When the grownups want to make us do something, they try to fool us into thinking that we're the ones who want to do it.

The thing that -- I guess? -- made me differ from the other kids was not that I was such an independent thinker, but that I had a trust problem. The Suzys of the world really believed that teachers and other Powers That Be had our best interests at heart; that even annoying assignments most likely had good motives behind them. For Suzy, the glass was half full; for me, half empty.

It persists, in that I really really do NOT like authority. I always saw authority as being the creator of meaningless Dilbert-style busywork that keeps people too busy to rock the boat.

It's how I felt about assignments that actually had no dark purpose at all, and were only ways to help me grow and learn. This was one of them -- now I see it as kind of a neat idea.

It's how I still feel about School Spirit blather, which I think is strictly a way to channel kids' energies into supporting the Regime in Power, rather than questioning it. It's for sure how I felt about the county I used to work for, with its endless round of meaningless meetings and procedures.

My mission, and I guess I choose to accept it, is to learn to sort good authority from bad, but I will probably never get past thinking that anyone who issues rules or requirements for me is guilty of a power trip until proven innocent.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Major announcement

Since I occasionally mention the fact that i'm a professed Christian, I need to make an announcement.

I've switched. I've become an atheist. If there were a God, then no child would be saddled with the family that Tripp Johnston is saddled with.

- Ruth
with a cold and in a bad mood

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tonight's excitement

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I was distressed to read that one of my college profs died in August, thrown from his vehicle and NOT wearing a seatbelt.

Dick Caram taught English and creative writing at Stephens College when I was there, and I took his poetry writing class. He was a good teacher and a good guy, and a talented writer, and it is a MASSIVE waste.

I don't want to hear ONE more story about any smart person dying for such a stupid reason, so WEAR YOUR BLOODY SEATBELTS, friends. Got that?!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Potentially hazardous

Twice a week we pack the items we've sold and take them to the post office, where they know us well by now, and know that most of our packages contain books. Still, they are required to ask the standard question about our shipping : "Are any of these liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous?" After we made the joke about how "Haha! Books are always hazardous! Ideas are dangerous!" a few times, it got old, but the truth remains. They are.

In 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his novel, The Satanic Verses. It was mainstream news, not "mere" book news, and got a lot of attention, with the local paper interviewing all in the book business to see if we were brave enough to defy any violent militants who hopped into town.

20 years later Rushdie is alive and so are all the booksellers and librarians 8~) who were brave enough to declare they would stock it anyway. It was truly scary, at least in major cities, at the time. Nobody knew what could happen. I kept this issue of the Barnes and Noble catalog, explaining their commitment to intellectual freedom, and I still admire their courage.

During Banned Books Week, here's to book peddlers everywhere who keep the light burning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One of those "Questions" memes

Well, at least I warned you in the post title!

I'm afraid I'd do these memes more if I liked the questions, but readers need not worry. I rarely like the questions. But I liked these. Thanks to Catherine, whose blog I found it on.


1. Please share one middle school memory. It can be good, bad, ugly, funny. Pictures or words, I don't care, just share.

In 7th grade, I fell madly, head-over-heels in love for the first time. I was a target for some bullying in junior high, and on this occasion, a guy who was usually not such a target was getting a loud raucous razzing from his "friends" for some reason. He just stood there with this "O good grief" look on his face, waiting for it to end, and then... our eyes met. For just one instant I saw that he understood what we pariahs went through. I fell. Major crush, but it was admiration from afar. Obviously no one, even the Cool People, was immune when hecklers could find a reason, but still, he was one of the Cool People and I wasn't. He really was a nice, smart guy. Except for one bad mistake much later in life, I actually had pretty good taste in guys.

2. What's your favorite Beatles song?

I'm Happy Just to Dance with You

3. If I asked you to describe your most comfortable outfit, what would it be?

Workout pants (without the actual workout), T-shirt, bedroom slippers.

4. Would you rather host a party or be a guest?

Be a guest. If people have a lousy time, it won't be my fault!

5. Do you think we will move completely from traditional books to digital ones, and if we do, are you OK with that?

I could survive it, but it's not my preference. Honestly, I think we will not. I think a high percentage of people who like reading like a book in their hands as much as I do. You'll notice that even vinyl records still have their fans, and I think books have a whole lot more fans.

6. Do you learn best by reading, listening or experiencing?

Experiencing, unfortunately. I don't retain heard information well, and while I love to read, I don't retain that kind of learning very well either on a first reading. Though re-reading is a much less painful experience than making hands-on mistakes and re-doing!

7. If you are (or when you were) single, what is the kiss of death for you concerning the opposite sex? (That is, what is one trait or behavior or habit or anything at all that immediately turns you off from considering that person a potential match for you?)

Disrespect for nature and nature's creatures.

8. Snacks. Salty or sweet?

Both! I can alternate eating chocolate and potato chips for hours.

9. Look around you in a four foot radius. What object is around you that you didn't realize was there or forgot was there? How long has it been there?

Hey, thanks! A five dollar bill I pulled out of the coupons/receipts/cashback wad of purse paper when I was balancing my checkbook last week. Forgot it was there in the pile of non-receipts.

10. What is your favorite Tom Cruise movie?

Not particularly a Cruise fan but Rain Man was very good.

(C'mon, let's get real here. My question:

What was your favorite Cary Grant movie?

My answer: Notorious.)

11. You buy a bottle of shampoo and discover that you don't like what it does to your hair at all. What do you do with that full bottle?

Pour it out and recycle the bottle.

12. Your favorite Fall comfort food?

Chili with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Corn bread on the side.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Memories of Hugo

It's hard to describe the downpour I woke up to in the pitch darkness of September 21, 1989. I've still never seen rain so hard, and it was only an edge of hurricane Hugo. At this point I was still on Hilton Head, where it never even hit.

But none of us knew that yet. It was looking like it would slam us, and evacuation was underway. We'd prepped the library the day before and closed early.

At 4AM I woke up to blackness and rain like I'd never seen. Pitch dark, the power now out, and torrential rain drumming straight down.

And no wind. Dead-still air and a downpour so heavy that it was truly eerie, like something out of science fiction.

I'd packed what I could in my tiny Tercel and I got outta there after saying a tearful goodbye to my beloved books, my adored stereo. Not that I'm prone to melodrama or anything. I was on the road by 5 AM. Even then, traffic crawled, but it became gridlock later when the evac order became mandatory, and I missed that.

Ever heard of the old Arabic tale about an appointment in Samarra? Because I went straight to what seemed like the most logical retreat. Way inland. Free of charge, because my parents kept an apartment there, so if the island got devastated, I wouldn't be paying hotel rates for days or weeks.

Charlotte, NC.

Quit laughing.

I got there mid-afternoon (Normally, the drive would have taken 5 hours). I did one smart thing -- I filled the gas tank. I hit my favorite newsstand/bookstore, and bought this issue of Elle,

which I still have, and, i think, another magazine. BOY did I come to wish I'd bought more reading material.

(Enjoy the fan service, because it was unintentional and it's the only example this blog will ever have!)

I grocery shopped and noticed people buying up bottled water, batteries, etc. But I figured I'd be out of Charlotte in just a few days anyway, so I bought ... too little.

Let myself in to the apartment, turned on the TV and saw that the storm had increased 2 levels during my drive. From a category 2, to a 4. And had turned a little northwest. And they were warning us to batten down, here in Charlotte?! %#$*!

That was one frightening night. The storm pounded the building. My parents had bought new mattresses for 2 of the beds, and the delivery company had left the old ones on the bedroom floor. I was so afraid that that wind would hurl objects through the apartment windows, that I tried to prop the old mattresses against them. These mattresses had come with the beds in the 1930's and were too limp to prop.

In the morning, despite my full tank of gas, I couldn't leave because power lines were down across the complex's entrance. So I listened to the radio (Working batteries! Way cool) announcing the few gas stations that had power to run their pumps. Sweated in the increasing steamy humidity. Read what I could find. Phoned people. Took some pictures.

In this photo, it's a few hours later and someone has pulled the downed trees aside enough for the lines to raise and allow at least small vehicles to get in and out.

By then, I had to stay and get the place ready for my mom.

My parents lived right where they do now, in the badly hit Grand Strand. They had evacuated inland, to relatives in Conway, and came back to find the living space of their house intact, but the ground floor washed out. Dad stayed in Conway, waiting for the the local motel to reopen and in a couple weeks both parents were in the motel while repairs were done. There was water and phone service in Charlotte, if nothing else and Mom decided to camp out there, with the dog, until there was a better option.

Meanwhile, my friends back on the island were cheerfully informing me that they had no damage. They had power, water, air conditioning .... Tee Vee!

I grocery shopped to stock the place for her. We waited in long lines to get into barely lit stores, They'd count us off in groups of 20(? I think) and let us in, then let in another 20 when enough previous shoppers had come out. They took cash and, if I recall, credit cards, by using those old knuckle-scraper machines and hoping that the card was good. I hope I remember this correctly but it actually makes sense. You might as well sell what you've got and make what money you can, rather than turn people away for lack of cash and then just leave the stuff sitting for looters or spoilage.

Anyway, I remember dearth, rather than money, being an object. There wasn't much to buy except canned fruit and potato chips but I got what I could.

She arrived and we hung out for a couple of days and then I couldn't stand the boredom and went home.

Looking back, this whole plan makes no sense. We all knew Hilton Head was untouched. And closer to my parents' home in the Inlet by an hour, though storm damage would undoubtedly have necessitated a detour inland, but OK, call it a longer drive ...

Still; factor in the undamaged comforts of power, air conditioning, plentiful food, and ... Tee Vee! AND the fact that once the roads were cleared it really WOULD be a shorter drive for her to get back.

Why didn't Dad and Mom and I just plan for her to come to Hilton Head and hang out there till they could make longer term arrangements?? I have no idea. I can't remember. All I can figure is that we were all too mentally wrecked to be flexible or change plans. Lack of sleep probably had a something to do with it.

I went back to HH and back to work. These photos of Hugo damage at Garden City Beach (right next to Murrells Inlet, but out at the shore rather than tucked inland like we are) were taken a whole year later, when we had another weird weather event, a BIG snow. Snow flurries occur every 5 years or so, but a few inches are rare. On December 24th, 1990 it snowed 11 inches, which is outright bizarre. The tides have eaten away at some of the snow here directly on the beach, but that really is snow you see all over the destruction, unlceared after a year.

I really hate hurricanes.

[Dates corrected.] [Again.]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More book repair stuff

Since I was fixing these 2 books anyway, it occurred to me (after I'd gotten started, of course) to document and post another book repair entry, this time showing what I do when a book has completely split apart.

For anyone who happens by -- I talked about the basic materials in my first post on repairing books -- so I won't repeat that here, I'll just refer any interested readers to that post, but I will repeat one thing which is too important to skip:

NEVER repair a book unless you are willing to destroy its value. Repair pretty much does exactly that. If you want to sell it, collectors would rather have it in disrepair. Really. Repair only no-value books that need to be used and handled.

OK. You'll see 2 books here, but i'll show the repair steps for the more complicated one.
It's complicated mostly by my choice. I want to keep the original bookplate and to keep all of the original paper of that ripped endpage.

You may not want to. It would be simpler and would, in fact, look neater to discard the torn paper and make a big, neat, new pastedown. But I like the plate. I like the personal history in an old book. And I also tend to keep as much of a book's original material as possible ... just ... because!

The general idea is to secure the text block to the cover.

The first step requires a decision. There's paper backing against the bound page edges.

The bookbinding guide calls this the "hollow back." It is NOT hollow, it's thoroughly glued to the bound edges, but they call it that.

Is that backing secure? Or is it shredding, or peeling off?

If it needs fixing or replacing, this is the time to do either one, by gluing it down, or peeling it away and replacing it, the same way I have placed new paper on this one.

Two views, one from each angle:

But in this case, the old backing was very securely glued down already and needed no attention, so I just placed the new piece on top of it.

Now -- BEFORE gluing the book together, it's a very very good idea to close the book on the new piece.

This shows me exactly how the piece will conform to the cover.
AND when I DO put glue on the pieces, they will already be shaped to each other and will fit together in their natural position, without pulling against each other.

All I need to do now is glue the new piece onto the cover.

IMPORTANT : NOTE that I have put NO GLUE ON THE SPINE. The cloth spine is not supposed to stick to the back of the pages. The text block, as it's called, just kind of hangs into the spine like a hammock, attached ONLY at the hinges.

Press it together. Since glue always oozes out around the edges, lay wax paper between the repair and its facing page, till the glue dries.

If I were discarding the old torn edges, I'd pretty much be finished, but I chose to trim the new piece to fit around the plate ... and to glue the torn paper back onto the pastedown. It looks kind of yucky, since it's been crumpled down into the spine, probably for decades, and darkened. But I wanted to put it back where it belonged!

And here are both books. In the other one you can see that this technique makes a pretty neat repair, especially if you sort-of color match new paper to the old paper.

This is another book I should sell. I'm not sure that a real booklover should even be in this business. I should sell collectible thimbles or something.

Marvels of Insect Life, by Edward Step. NY:Robert M. McBride, 1916.

Loads of amazing photos. as well as the spectacular color plates. This photo close-up of a honeybee's tongue is amazing. Maybe I'll sell it ... um ... later.