Monday, March 28, 2011

sherlock holmes ii

Not much to say in this post except an update. I gave up on A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes, and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this book STINKS.

Adrian hanging with his Jousting Collection. He's so butch.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying the Sherlock Holmes stories very much, but I was right about Treasury. Adrian Conan Doyle screwed this one up, and I won't be going back to read his introduction. Clearly, not all of the stories could be included in a 600-plus page volume, but there are some glaring holes in the overall storyline in the Treasury. Until you've read some of them, you wouldn't know this, and I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that many of the stories refer to earlier works. Not in very substantial ways, but in ways that make it wise to read them all, and to read them in order. Son Adrian chose to leave out stories with some pretty big plot lines, and then put the book together with the remaining stories out of sequence. Yeah...good move. I'm sure dad would be proud.

I have since gone to the library and picked up The Complete Sherlock Holmes, published by Doubleday. Its got all four novels, and all 56 short stories, in order. 1122 pages baby, and an introduction by Christopher Morley.

Monday, March 21, 2011

sherlock i

Sherlock Holmes is conceited, pushy, needy, selfish, righteous, and obsessive. He takes his only friend, John Watson, for granted, and talks down to him, as well as everyone else. He smokes too much, the cocaine use can't be good, and he can get a little manic at times... but he's brilliant!

I had an idea that I would read Sherlock Holmes from beginning to end, starting with A Study in Scarlet, and just crank through the books in the order they were written. Then I found this volume in a used book store and thought: What the heck, this seems like a good collection. Its called A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes. It's got a few of the novels, and a bunch of the short stories, and it's bound nice, although it's and older volume and the binding wasn't made to last unfortunately. I feel like I'm missing something however.

The stories were selected by Adrian Conan Doyle (Sir Arthur's playboy son) who also wrote the introduction, which discusses how he didn't really have complete freedom in the selection of the stories, and worked with the folks at Hanover House to insure that it would all fit into the volume they were willing to publish. I didn't finish the introduction as it was one of those chatty things where the writer goes on to analyze the stories and drops one spoiler after another because he assumes we've all read Sherlock a thousand times I guess. I'll go back and read it afterward. So without knowing more, I get the feeling that the stories are either out of order, or there are some gaps in the chronology due to the stories that were left out.

Otherwise, its so far, so good. Some of the stories are better than others, and there are a few that just don't satisfy very much at all, but I'm enjoying the book generally. And I don't really feel bad for Watson, by the way. He's just a tool the author uses to talk to me through Holmes's lips; explaining the things I don't understand as we go along. For my part, I don't say much, I just hang next to Watson (where the action is) and I leave it to him to ejaculate "Good God Holmes!" or some similar exclamation of our mutual amazement and admiration.

Go get 'em Sherlock. More later.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

la feabhra

The rimy black limbs of winter,
Creaking beneath woolen skies,
Flush to red-budded brown
-- And dry.

The hills, casting off their hoary coats,
Revel in Lugh's shinning light.
Flaunt their Connemara underthings
-- And sigh.

Exultant; Lugh hunts for Frost,
Driving his spear into cracks.
Decay weeps not for his peer,
But gnaws and withdraws from attack.

Burgeoning hills flourish and swell,
Spilling waters into the moors.
Buds erupt from every nerve-ending,
And the verdant child is reborn.

Under quiescent care of paladin pine,
The trees slowly reclothe their bones.
In finest attire for Imbolc feast,
They delve into heath and stone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

philadelphia museum marker

This pretty thing is from the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the occasion of their 'Late Renoir' show, at the end of last summer. I didn't go, but a friend gave this to me. The reverse also lists a series of other exhibits including one that is still running: Flora and Fauna in Korean Art, which wraps up this spring.

The detail on the bookmarker is from Gabrielle et Jean, 1895-1896 which hangs at the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris, but I assume was on loan to Philly for the show. Gabrielle Renard worked as a nanny for Pierre-Auguste Renoir beginning at 16, and is seen with Renoir's son Jean, who went on to be a filmmaker. Renard was a popular model for Renoir, and is pictured in many works, and often with the children. Renard was the cousin of Renoir's wife, Aline Victorine Charigot Renoir, and they were born in same town: Essoyes.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I read another of Richard Harris's books, back in November, and I made a plan then, to go get the first book in his Cicero trilogy and read it. Well, I didn't do that, but my wife was kind enough to score a copy for me for Christmas! Nice, but... this isn't it.

In addition to the first in the trilogy, Imperium, she also gave me a copy of Harris's other roman era historical novel: Pompeii. Imperium is still on my list, but I'm finding that I'm not in a big hurry because the third one hasn't been released in America yet.

Pompeii is just as good as Lustrum (titled Conspirata: A Novel of Ancient Rome, in America for some reason) and I think it may predate the events of the Cicero trilogy. Pompeii as you can imagine, follows the story of the volcanic eruption that devastated that city in 79 BCE, as seen through the eyes of an aqueduct engineer, newly come to the area to replace his predecessor, who has gone missing.

Our hale and energetic engineer is soon knee deep in the local politics, and then water, and then ash. The story takes place just days before, and during the eruption, and Harris manages to squeeze in all kinds of information about Pompeii, and the other towns nearby: the architecture, the local governance, the Roman navy, daily life, art, literature and science of the day. The focus is on the volcano, and the signs it gave in the days leading up to the eruption, and about the Aqua Augusta, the Roman aqueduct that served Pompeii and the surrounding towns, which gave signs of its own that not all was well beneath the earth.

The story arc is short, lively and very entertaining, and I felt like I was learning something.

Read this book.

Friday, March 11, 2011

lion to lamb

We've all heard it a thousand times: March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. So you're asking yourself: if the first day is a lion, and the last day is a lamb, what are all the other days? My thoughts exactly.

Say you poke your head out on a blustery March day, and you think: well its not as bad as a lion I guess, but that freezing mist bouncing off my eyeballs isn't exactly lamb-like, I wonder just how bad it is today? Couldn't be simpler, just check the handy chart below to find your answer.

Here's an example: Today is the 12th, so its a lynx. Wouldn't want to get in a scrap with a lynx, would you? But if your fast, you can probably make it. You're fine mate! Its only a lynx, jog off to work. But you may want to bring a bit of raw meat to drop and run, if needs be.

So here it is. I put at least 20 minutes of hard work into this, so its bound to be adopted worldwide in a flash. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave me a comment, though I can't imagine how this could be improved.

March 1 - Lion: This one's a given. Look at those TEETH!
March 2 - Tiger: One could argue that this one should really be first... too bad.
March 3 - Bear: Oh my! Black, Brown, Polar, you never know.
March 4 - Shark: If it rains hard enough, they'll be in the streets.
March 5 - Wolf: Bad enough alone, if days like this run in packs, you're done for.
March 6 - Bull: One word: Pamplona.
March 7 - Moose: Brake for moose, it could save your life.
March 8 - Eagle: Beautiful and majestic from a distance, not as nice when its on you.
March 9 - Scorpion: What harm could a day like this do?
March 10 - Dingo: No, its not a stray dog.
March 11 - Hawk: See eagle, only slightly less bad.
March 12 - Lynx: The good news: its not a lion. The bad new: everything else.
March 13 - Bat: They're kind of cute... until they bite you.
March 14 - Monkey: It might wear a fez... or throw poo. HBD Coleen!
March 15 - Snake: The Ides of March. Snakes are known for wisdom, and treachery.
March 16 - Ox: Its like a bull, only slow and kind of stupid.
March 17 - Elephant: Wise, big, powerful and gray.
March 18 - Raven: Dark and brooding today.
March 19 - Stag: Power and compassion. You might see the sun!
March 20 - Crab: This one can sneak up on you.
March 21 - Goat: Stubborn and tough going.
March 22 - Horse: Strong and reliable.
March 23 - Pig: Smart but messy; wear your boots today.
March 24 - Dog: Friendly and good-natured; take a walk.
March 25 - Dolphin: Fun and wet; bring an umbrella.
March 26 - Rooster: Proud strutter. Crow at the sun!
March 27 - Turtle: Muddy, but adorable; boots again.
March 28 - Toad: Are they greenish-brown, or brownish-green?
March 29 - Robin: These guys are out when the worms show.
March 30 - Rabbit: How can you be scared of rabbits? HBD Kelton!
March 31 - Lamb: Mmm... arrosticini. Smells like spring!

According to one source I read "This phrase has its origins with the constellations Leo, the Lion, and Aries, the ram or lamb. It has to do with the relative positions of these constellations in the sky at the beginning and end of the month." Yeah, rams and lambs... Sounds good to me!

Chin up everyone; tomorrow's a bat!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

snow falling on cedars

The about-the-author bit in the frontmatter of the book, notes that David Guterson lives on an island in Puget Sound. The fictitious San Piedro Island (where the story is set) sits just off the southern tip of Lopez Island, in the San Juan Islands, where Puget Sound meets the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Strait of Georgia. They say that writers should write what they know, and in this case, Guterson wrote about his own backyard. The scene is set carefully, and lovingly, on a beautiful wooded island, in the 1930s through the 1950s, when life was simpler, and neighbors knew one another's business.

In the middle of that time period, of course, is World War II. The life on the island changes during that time, just as it changes everywhere in American, when its young men go off to war, and some don't return. And like many western American places especially, a large portion of the their population is of Japanese decent, who are taken away by the War Relocation Authority in 1942, after Pearl Harbor, as part of the Japanese-American Internment.

The Interment is what Guterson uses to crack the quiet, fishing and farming community of San Piedro Island open, to see whats inside. What he shows us, is the lives of the Japanese immigrants, and how they settled on the island to farm, and sometimes fish, and how the American neighbors saw them: as foriegners, no different than the native American and Canadian seasonal workers, who came to the island to pick strawberries, and sometimes stayed.

The status of the Japanese families changes over time however, as their children are born as citizens, and some go off to fight the Germans and the Japanese in the war. But when they return, to some, they are still just Japs. Its a story of the history of the island, and its families, the war, and how it drove a wedge into their lives, and ended up in a murder trial about which the story is woven.

The film, Snow Falling On Cedars, based on the book, was partially filmed in Greenwood, BC, selected to depict the fictitious village of Amity Harbor, on San Piedro Island. Interestingly, Greenwood is not a harbor town at all: in fact it sits at 2454 feet above sea level, and at least 200 miles from the coast.

I made it sound complicated didn't I? It isn't. Read this book.