Friday, March 31, 2017

lions and lambs: revised

yeah, lamb skull. poor little guy.
Unfortunately, New England weather has not cooperated this year, and March, IS NOT, going out like a lamb. Nor did any of the days betwixt and between the proverbial lion and lamb, resemble any of the tamer animals, lovingly chosen to represent the normal damp, muddy, sunny, or breezy days of the Marches of yore.

Its was lions every day.

So I've revised the 'lion to lamb' calendar, so its a little closer to what we've had this year.

March 1 - Lion
March 2 - Lion
March 3 - Lion
March 4 - Lion
March 5 - Lion
March 6 - Lion
March 7 - Lion
March 8 - Lion
March 9 - Lion
March 10 - Lion
March 11 - Lion
March 12 - Lion
March 13 - Lion
March 14 - Lion. Blizzard. Nice.
March 15 - Lion
March 16 - Lion
March 17 - Lion
March 18 - Lion
March 19 - Lion
March 20 - Lion, with a first day of spring banner on. And snow.
March 21 - Lion
March 22 - Lion
March 23 - Lion
March 24 - Lion
March 25 - Lion
March 26 - Lion
March 27 - Lion
March 28 - Lion
March 29 - Lion
March 30 - Lion
March 31 - Lion, with a snow storm, that will last until tomorrow (April 1st!)

The March 31st lion is all fat and happy from devouring the poor little lamb, and it looks like it'll be around for a little while longer, just to kick our collective, freezing, behinds.

Cold? I took the average daily temperatures recorded in Boston for the month, and averaged those for the month of March. Know what I got? 34.29 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here's hoping for next year!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Esau is your typical action-adventure story, with a Speculative Fiction slant. Its got some loosey-goosey science (cue sexy scientist, looking to publish her break out paper) and some action-adventure, in the form of Himalayan mountain climbing (cue sexy mountain climber, and sometimes bed mate of sexy scientist.)

You get it. Its fast, its fun, its action, its adventure. Its like bubble gum: tasty, easy to chew, doesn’t take a lot of effort.

So, sexy mountain climber (SMC) goes for a hike in the mountains, and suffers a tragedy, and after returning, seeks solace with sexy scientist (SS) and has doubts about whether or not he still has what it takes to be the SMC he has always been. Whilst suffering from said tragedy, SMC happens upon a scientific oddity in the mountains, that he believes SS would like. SS indeed likes, and proposes a scientific excursion to site of SMCs tragedy.

Cue drama and doubt, mixed with determination, and excitement.

Philip Kerr’s name looked familiar, but a quick glance at his previously published works in the front matter of this book did not foster the same feelings of familiarity. So another quick look on his Goodreads page indicates that Kerr has written 30 something books, and I have indeed read Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton, which was pretty good. I don’t see it listed here in the blog, so I must have read it a while ago.

I bought this book used at the Westborough Library book sale for a dollar, or something, so it worked out great.

Monday, March 20, 2017

melancholy whores

Memories of My Melancholy Whores might be a novella, but I guess that depends on how you feel about the term. Is this book a long short story, or a short novel? This is definitely a stand-alone story, in a beautifully bound Borzoi Book by Knopf, written by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Edith Grossman.

This story is about and old man, written by and old man. So you might expect that some of that old man's dreams may leak over into the other. And that's exactly what this story is; the last best dream of a lonely old man.

I don't know Gabriel García Márquez, so I don't pretend to know what he feels about being older, and I have no idea whether he's similar to the character in this story or not. lets assume, not What I can tell you is, this book is both softly sad, and sometimes sweet.

The main character is a proud, accomplished, but ultimately lonely man, who never had time, or maybe never made the time, for love and instead satisfied his urges by visiting prostitutes or maybe even worse, having sex with women and just treating them like prostitutes. For his 90th birthday, he decides that maybe he should revisit his younger, rakish days, and visit a prostitute. So he calls an old madam and asks for a virgin. The old madam finds him a 14 year old girl, who sews buttons at the local factory to help support her family.

Maybe this is written with a view to (or from) a different era, but pig-child-molester is a phase that comes to mind. But this is literature, so I'll put that away for now, and try to look at this from an artistic point of view. I suppose the girl represents his lost youth, and folly when it comes to love. Because now, he finds that--even though he never touches the girl, other than a little kissing of her body its just art, its just art, its just art--he finds that he can finally begin to feel what it would have been like to love as a young man.

What follows is a crazed obsession, and while the writing is interesting, and the translation reads well, I'm just not sure what else I'm supposed to feel. I mean, I guess its nice that the old duffer finally gets to feel, but I'm not sure why it couldn't have been an 18 or 19 year old woman. Still vulgar, but not horrific. Again, maybe its a cultural thing, and this certainly could have been set back in the day. They do talk about newspapers as a going concern, so it could have been 50 years ago in Spain or Mexico (I don't recall.) Was this kind of thing socially acceptable then?

They made a movie in 2011, based on this 2004 book! In the movie, the girl is 20. I don't think it would (could!) have been made if she wasn't. Another interesting tidbit, the flower on the book jacket was added to the American edition, to cover up the exposed breast of the model. Like it wasn't bad enough, dude.

Friday, March 17, 2017


I read The Hunchback of Notre Dame a few weeks ago, and forgot to write about it. I was about halfway through before I realized that was reading an abridged version. After finishing, I might be glad it was abridged. A little too repetitive, if that's the right word. Seems like every time it looked like La Esmeralda is going to catch a break, she falls back into it. And that seems to be the case with all of the main characters. ah! oooh... ah! oooh... ah! oooh. like a hundred times

Written by Victor Hugo in 1831; translation by Lowell Bair in 1958. This is an old Bantam paperback that has been kicking around for a while. Looks like the type of book that was handed out to high school students in the 70s by the millions.

I'm not sure what was abridged out of this story, but it certainly seemed like there was plenty of fat left. This could have been a wildly successful novella, but then maybe the fault lies in the translation; what do I know.

La Esmeralda is a young gypsy girl, living in Paris, in the 1400s. She can be found dancing with her trained pet goat in the plaza before the Notre Dame cathedral, where she has caught the eye of a holy man (who should know better) and his adopted foundling son, Quasimodo,* who lives and works at Notre Dame as the bell ringer.

There are thieves, kidnappings, hangings and public torture, uprisings, alchemy, stabbings, weddings, unfaithfulness, corruption, malfeasance, knavery, assault, insanity, loss, blasphemy, unrequited love, obsession, and... repeat.

So I guess you could read it, if you have to. If you do, and you read a different translation, I'd love to hear about it.

*  Quasimodo gets his name from the day he was found: Quasimodo Sunday, or the Octave of Easter. It comes from the first two words (in Latin) of the prayer for the day: "Quasi modo..." which means, basically, "like this."

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Sam Jones is apparently a recurring character in Lauren Henderson's books. There are a series of Sam Jones mystery novels, set in England. that's where Henderson is from This novel--and the main protagonist--is  hip, witty, tough, and sexy. Sam Jones, like many in her imagined line of work, fall into crime scenes, especially murder, at an alarming rate. If Jones and her contemporaries really did see as many murders as they do, I think the police would be watching them a little more closely. If you're on holiday, and you see Jones, Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, or anyone else like that coming up the boardwalk, make tracks! Your chances are grim.

Jones is a sculptor, who happens to be between sculptures right now, and is doing a stint on a TV show, standing in for an actress, whose character is actually based on Jones. So Jones does the standing in when it comes time to do some welding, grinding, cutting, and various other studio busy work. Then she trains up the star to hold the tools properly for the close ups. Nice gig. 

Oh, and she's also banging a movie star.

The writing is quick, fun, and doesn't give too much away. Its not your typical whodunit, where all of the evidence is presented throughout the story, and then crushingly revealed in the third act, making the reader feel like a dolt, albeit a satisfied one. All in all, Chained was pretty good. If you're into this sort of thing, there are a bunch of these out there.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

king in the tree

The King in the Tree: Three Novellas is a collection of short stories by Steven Millhauser; the last of the three lends its name to the collection.

If there is theme or thread that ties the three stories together it has to be that they are based on older stories or myths; re-told in a way the makes them both more immediate and more relevant. More importantly, perhaps, is that they all include complicated love triangle, or other polygon, as I describe below.

The first, Revenge, reads like something one might find in Esquire magazine. Its mainly a monologue, told by a middle age woman, to another woman who is viewing her house, which is currently for sale. As the narrator takes her guest on a tour of the home, she points out the things, the places, and the memories she shared there with her late husband. This one is a passive-aggressive crusher.

The second novella is titled, An Adventure of Don Juan, and it tells the story of the famous romancer and rogue, who strikes up a friendship with an Englishman visiting Venice, just as Don Juan begins to tire of the city, and he follows the Englishman and his family--a pretty wife, and her spinster sister--back to their estate in the English countryside, for an extended stay. Don Juan finds himself taken by the relaxed and homely feel of his stay, and quickly falls into a routine, of late mornings walks in the grounds, interesting conversation his his host, who is a gentleman scientist, and a bit of a dreamer, and chats with the wife and her sister.

The sister appears, at first, to be natural prey for the rakish Spaniard, but she is curiously aloof, while the wife, seems somewhat willing. A strange and stage-set-mythology stained love triangle (quadrilateral? rhombus?) soon erupts, bringing this story to a startling end.

The title novella, The King in the Tree, is a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde myth (often grouped together with the Arthurian Legends.) Tristan is a faithful and brave knight, and the nephew of the King (King Mark of Cornwall is not named in the novella, that I can recall), but he has, it appears at first, to have fallen in love with the King's young, Irish wife, Isolde. The King suspects something is up, but he trusts his wife, and he especially trusts his nephew. This telling examines what the breakdown of trust can do to a person, and how they rail against their misgivings, as much as the pain of what they know must be true.

I didn't love these stories but something about them sucked me in. The King was actually the long and repetitive, but I found that I could wait to see what would come next.

I wouldn't go out of my way but if you like the short story and especially if you like a myth retold, this one may be for you.

[I bought my copy without a book jacket... somewhere. I liked the above cover image best.]

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

lions and lambs

Did my own artwork this year
Ah March!

The most freezing month of the year? Doesn't sound right, but that's what we just had. It was 70 on my birthday in February, now we're just bouncing back from 9 degrees a few days ago.

I'm a little late this year--today is actually Moose--but I can attest to the lions, tigers and bears this year.

So maybe you're used to this by now: If March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, the other days must also have animality. So we need a scale, so you can see how lionish or lambish we are on a particular day.

Seem like Moose to you today?

Here's how it stacks up this year. yes, its the same every year, that's why we call it a tradition.

March 1 - Lion: Of course. Its in like a lion, right?
March 2 - Tiger: Up to 11-feet, and nearly 700 pounds!
March 3 - Bear: Oh my! Definitely polar bear this year.
March 4 - Shark: Everyone knows that shark week is not really a thing, right?
March 5 - Wolf: The Timber variety. They're coming back, baby!
March 6 - Bull: One word: Pamplona.
March 7 - Moose: Brake for moose, it could save your life.
March 8 - Eagle: Don't leave your pets outside... or your chickens.
March 9 - Scorpion: Step on it before it steps on you.
March 10 - Dingo: No, its not a stray dog.
March 11 - Hawk: Not hawkish. That's for scared people, pretending to be strong.
March 12 - Lynx: No honey, that's not a tom cat, don't feed it.
March 13 - Bat: Wanna put on your Batman suit, party on!
March 14 - Monkey: They're cute but can also throw poop! HBD Coleen!
March 15 - Snake: The Ides of March. Snakes are known for wisdom, and treachery.
March 16 - Ox: Hard working in a plodding kind of way.
March 17 - Elephant: Wise, big, powerful... gray.
March 18 - Raven: Nevermore.
March 19 - Stag: Power and compassion. Might make a good patronus.
March 20 - Crab: This one can sneak up on you. First day of spring!
March 21 - Goat: Stubborn and tough going.
March 22 - Horse: Strong and reliable. Sometimes crappy on the back end.
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: Get up early and wake tehe neighbors.
March 27 - Turtle: Muddy, but adorable; boots again.
March 28 - Toad: Similar to turtle, but a little squishier.
March 29 - Robin: I guess you could wear your Robin costume today. You cosplay nut!
March 30 - Rabbit: Roasted with rosemary and potatoes! 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, Aries, the lamb, that must be it. Somebody is thinking too hard. I think the origins of something like this are pretty self-evident.

I think I can feel it one week into March; its breaking. It all going to be easy, if sometimes muddy--sailing from here on in.

Ready for Spring! Lets go!