Monday, December 26, 2022

Post-Christmas Gifts (To Me)

 The day after Christmas, and already I'm in Gardner's Used Books to spend that Christmas money!

First -- The 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co. Catalogue.  Now I'll know what sort of shoes, clothing, carriages, appliances, books, cutlery, etc. are proper for the late Victorian Era, in case I write a story about Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Jekyll & Hyde, H. G. Wells, Lizzie Borden, et al.  I actually have similar books for 1895 and 1909, but they are so small I can't read the print, while this is the size of a good old-fashioned big city phone book.  Now hand me that Tincture of Arnica.  I cut myself whilst pedaling my Velocipede.

Second -- Hawaiian Legends of Old Honolulu, by William Westervelt -- a tiny hardback, smaller than the usual paperback book, first published in 1915.  Westervelt wrote several volumes about Hawaiian myths and legends; this is the only one I didn't have.

Third -- In the Midst of Life and Other Stories by Ambrose Bierce -- I've been wanting a paperback-size collection by Bierce for a long while.  This volume includes "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," "The Damned Thing," "The Eyes of the Panther," and many other tales.

Fourth -- More Soviet Science Fiction, edited by Isaac Asimov -- I have the plain-old Soviet Science Fiction; it's an interesting look at how the Cold-War Russians envisioned the future, but a particular story I recall from my youth is in this second volume.  It was about a scientist trying to prove Darwinism by creating artificial life-forms -- that refuse to work the way evolution says they should.  Daring, for Communist Russia.

Missing in Action -- only a week ago I saw The Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes, a nice Penguin Books paperback, in the Classics section.  "I'll wait 'til after Christmas," I said to myself.  "No one's going to a) go to 'Classics' and b) take this ancient Greek saga."  I was wrong, apparently.  It wasn't here, or misplaced on any nearby shelves.  Well, 4 out of 5 ain't bad.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

The Library continues!



Here is a bit more on how I would assemble a genuine library:

Crystal, David.  Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, Third Ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010).  After something as basic as the dictionary and the thesaurus should come the ability to use all those words.  This encyclopedia covers all aspects of language and linguistics, from morphemes and glottal stops to dialects to the possibility that thought itself requires words.  I’ve been looking for a book like this for 20 years!

Guirand , Felix, et al.  New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology (Feltham, Middlesex: Hamlyn House, 1972).  John Kieran suggested a good book of myths after the Bible, so one would understand the alliterations in other works.  His choice was Bulfinch, but I think Larousse is incomparable in its scope and in its range of pantheons, from the ancient (cave dwellers!) to the obscure (Slavonic).

Morse, John M., et al.  Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2000).  Okay, a library needs an encyclopedia, the most basic of reference materials.  Since I’ll have so many volumes on so many subjects, I decided I didn’t need a many-volume set.  A good single-volume edition would at least point one in the direction one needs to go for any subject.  The Merriam-Webster book looked to be the best, having been assembled from that queen of references, the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Tolstoy, Leo (trans. Constance Garnett).  War and Peace (NY, NY: Modern Library, 1994).  Time to get some classics into the library.  I haven’t actually read Tolstoy yet, but War and Peace is often called the greatest novel ever written.  It’s also the definitive “monstrous book you’ve got to read for a class.”  I’ll read it sometime, because I have one of my goofy ideas for a story that involves the place and time (Napoleonic Wars).

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Return of the Library

 After some months in my new apartment I built a veritable mountain of shelves by stacking them, level by level, in the middle of the living room (that being about the only place to put them).  Individually, the plastic shelves often collapse under my weight demands, but these have been tied together at strategic points so that they mutually support one another.  If their structural integrity finally fails, they fall together.

 I also started writing up little accession cards for my many books, on 3"x5" cards, one per volume.  Come on, who hasn't always dreamed of doing that?  Let's see a show of hands!

 . . . I don't see anything.  Well, I'm doing it, and slipping each book onto the shelves when its card is finished.  There are over 300 arrayed on the Mountain already, with more to come!

 I wonder:  Suppose I had to create an actual, real public library, volume by volume?  What would I acquire, and in what order?  Could I balance my personal desires with a more legitimate collection (what an actual library might order)?  Every day new books take their places on my tower of shelves.  Perhaps I might even read them, someday, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let’s see:


Nichols, Wendalyn R., et al.  Random House Webster’s College Dictionary (New York: Random House, 2001).  First book out into the light of day.  As Hawkeye Pierce said on M*A*S*H, it has all the other books in it.  I wanted an update of the same dictionary I bought for college, but that’s out of print.  This comes close, however, and it lists interesting etymological details for most of its 207,000 words.

Roget, Peter Mark, et al.  Roget’s International Thesaurus, Fourth Edition (Revised by Robert L. Chapman).  (New York: Harper & Rowe, 1984).  In some ways the thesaurus is more useful than the dictionary.  It’s more fun to peruse, too.  I recall an old Peanuts comic where Sally Brown writes a story about cavemen being attacked by a bloodthirsty thesaurus.  I redrew that comic myself as a kid – and I had no idea what a thesaurus was at the time.  (I think one actually appears in Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings.)  Well, okay, this is getting silly, frivolous, ridiculous, goofy . . .

Holy Bible: Authorized King James Version.  (New York: Harper & Row, 1969).  Any glance over the works waiting their turn to pop out reveals that the Bible is the most important influence on Western civilization:  Dante, Milton, St. Augustine, any philosophy, poetry, history, legend.  As John Kieran writes in his treatise Books I Love, "It is not only a great book but a begetter of countless other books.  It has been published in various versions and many languages.  It has inspired authors down the ages and quotations from it have furnished titles for thousands of completely unrelated books in the different realms of literature.  It is part of our background in history and a cornerstone of our common culture."  This copy was presented to me in Sunday school back in 1969; it still has my scribbled notes in the front.

Shakespeare, William (edited by David Bevington).  Complete Works of Shakespeare, Third Edition (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1980).  What can you say about the Bard?  This is my college textbook, containing not only all the plays and sonnets but also full of biographical notes, glosses, criticisms and even political and cosmological ideas of Shakespeare’s time.  There are even some mimeographed handouts in it, left therein before hence by some rustic clown, by my troth!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Cleaning Up One's Act


About a week ago an important question arose on FaceBook.  Well, maybe not that important.  Someone wanted to know if something mentioned in a Godzilla movie was actually from Japanese legend or just made up for the film.  I happened to have run across a similar legend years ago, and I knew exactly which book it was in in my huge book collection.  Unfortunately, I didn't know where it might lie in my piles and piles of books, magazines, DVDs and papers.  I looked in closets and in boxes and under the sink and in cabinets, and it took me three days to find the right volume.  By then the world had moved on to other pressing questions.

"I've been in this apartment for four months," I said to myself, "and it still looks like I've just stepped in and dumped everything on the floor!"  So I spent a long hard weekend stacking books into columns by subject (so I will at least know to look in the Science pile, the Myth and Legend pile, etc.), boxed up magazines and comics, crammed DVDs into unused cabinet space, and put bill stubs, Xerox copies, and various important papers into manila folders.  I slowed down during the work-week, but by Friday night I was amazed -- my apartment looked rather neat (as near as my tiny one-bedroom place can, with so much stuff packed in it).

Then -- around 10:30 PM I picked up a magazine at random and actually started reading.  Even including more than eight hours of sleep, I was halfway through the magazine by 9:00 AM.  Then I started reading one of my intimidatingly long volumes . . . and opened a few of my collectible comic books and actually read them . . . and pulled out a random manila folder and read the clippings within . . . and I even took out some stories of my own and reviewed them.  This reading (and writing) thing might just get to be a habit, at least I hope so!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

How I Spent My Summer Vacation -- Or At Least Last Week


There is a light switch in my new apartment which logically should have turned on the hall light but which instead shut off all the electricity in the living room.  I've flipped it accidentally several times (it is now taped down).  When flipped back on, the electricity returned, my computer came back on -- but my modem could not connect with the Internet.  The first couple of times I called Cox, and they were able to reboot my modem from their end, but Saturday it remained resolutely inert.  The person at Cox said maybe it was "fried".  From flipping a light switch?

Anyway, I had to take off part of Wednesday to wait for the Cox repairman to come.  He examined the modem, replaced some wires/cables he said had been spliced in badly, and, Lo!  The Internet!!

He left -- and two hours later the first of a series of thunderstorms marched through the Tulsa area and knocked out the power.  Only for a few minutes, but afterwards -- you guessed it, no Internet.

"Now, come on!" I told myself.  "There was a time you had no Internet.  There was a time you had no CD player, DVD player.  You were about the last person to buy a PC or cell phone.  So why the panic over a temporary Internet outage?"  True, but these days I pay most bills via the Internet (and billing time was almost here); I can't send out stories to magazines without it, and I tossed my last phone book long ago so I can't look up many important phone numbers without traveling elsewhere.  So I called for a repairman again; he'd be there Friday.

MEANWHILE -- My monthly rent is on automatic payment.  So is water and sewer and Cox itself.  I could have sworn the Public Service Company of Oklahoma was, too, until I idly opened an envelope from PSO late Wednesday night and found a Final Notice and a date for cutting off my electricity.  The date: a week earlier.

MEANWHILE MEANWHILE -- the storms marched through Tulsa.  Because of them my power went off twice a day anyway, judging by the number of times I had to re-set my clocks.

Thursday I fretted all day about PSO.  At lunch I spent half an hour on the phone trying to talk to someone.  Eventually someone answered.  I explained my non-auto-payment mixup, and I was assured PSO wouldn't actually cut off the power until August 9.  I hung up in relief -- 

But it was too late.  You see, the air conditioning where I work is always cranked up to subarctic conditions, especially so during the recent heatwave.  Thursday it was only about 80 degrees F. outside, but the A/C roared on as cryogenically as ever.  It was insanely cold.  Being on edge the previous few days didn't help.  I guess I lowered my bodily defenses, and by the time I went to bed that night I had the first raging head-cold I've had in years.

On the way home Thursday however, I stopped at the library to use their Internet and try to pay PSO's bills/late fees/reinstallment fee/whatever.  But I couldn't create an account unless I got their activation code from an email -- and I didn't know my passwords for AOL or OUTLOOK.COM (come on!  I signed on once 15 to 20 years ago, and they've stayed on since!  I forgot 'em!)  Replace the passwords?  Sure -- but you had to answer an email each company sent to the other email address . . .

Friday I stuck a check to PSO in the mailbox on the way to work; it would get there long before August 9.  I felt so ill at work I went home early.  I tried to call PSO to tell them the check was on its way, but a recording flat-out told you not to call for the present because all operators were tied up answering lines down and power out calls.

Yes, the storms were still around.  I got home about 3:00 PM, and the power was out.  The Cox repairman called and said he was amazingly ahead on his calls and could come at once.  I said the electricity was out; well, he couldn't do much without that.  He told me to call him if the power came back on.

So I sat there on my little bed, head pounding, snot dribbling, in my dark little apartment, and a horrible little thought came to me:  What if, despite all the assurances of the PSO operator, I had only reminded them of my tardy payments?  And they had finally gotten around to cutting me off?

I stumbled outside.  Other apartments had lights on.

"It's Friday, 3:30.  I have a 90 minute window before the libraries close," I muttered.

This time I took credit cards, bill stubs, the file of papers I signed when I first rented my apartment, my thick three-ring binder full of IDs and Passwords, everything.  I got online about 3:50, created a PSO account, gave PSO $180 in fees, late or otherwise (there's another $180 check headed their way in the mail even now, I hope that holds them for a while), and got home about 4:45.  I'll give 'em this, my power was already back on.  The Cox guy came, found out my modem was way too powerful for the apartment's wiring capacity (didn't follow it all -- he said something about needing a "four-way splitter"), and finally I was back in business.

I flopped into bed for thirteen hours.  I still have some hacking and coughing, but I feel like I've hit the bottom of some sort of abyss and am now bouncing up.

It's hard to explain, but most of the events of the past several years seem to fit a pattern -- learning experiences of a sort.  Problems and catastrophes, yes, but ones that settled themselves in an orderly fashion, and would have been utterly devastating had they occurred in any other order.  I'm not quite sure what I was supposed to learn from this week's events, though.

Oh, well -- writers are supposed to produce material for blogs, websites, FaceBook, Patreon, Twitter and more if they want to keep in the public eye, and my flow has atrophied over the past year.  Maybe now I can start churning out interesting essays and anecdotes again -- starting with this one.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

The Continent of Cronos


                            Well, one of the above is Francisco Goya's Kronos Devouring His Son.

In trying to recapture the magic of my college days, I've been writing notes on index cards and in notebooks as I did in the days of yore.  One of my (admittedly malleable) categories is "Mythical Lands", fantasy places which might be real in some Otherworld.

Having mentioned it in a story, I decided to scribble notes on "The Continent of Cronos."  Briefly, according to Greek mythology, after Zeus overthrew his father Cronos [or Cronus, Kronos, etc.], he exiled the tyrannical Titan to a place far to the west, beyond the limits of the Greeks' known world, an extensive land known only as the "Continent of Cronos."

I decided to find an authentic reference to this fragment, just as I found similar tid-bits in old texts and journals at college.  It ought to be easy, I thought, since it appears early in the Grecian timeline -- probably in Chapter One of any book on Greek Myth.

I flipped through Apollodorus' Library of Greek Mythology but did not find the anecdote.  I looked well into the night through Gertrude Jobes' Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore, and Symbols, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Hesiod's Theogony, Graves' The Greek Myths, to no avail.  I finally found the reference I wanted in Plutarch's Moralia, in an essay called "Concerning the Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon."

Cripes, I'm putting as much effort into writing up a couple of 4" x 6" cards as I would writing an actual article, I thought.  And my articles are often long in appearing because I want them to be the most thoroughly researched essays ever!  Oh, well -- when I churn out enough articles, sketches, anecdotes and essays, maybe I can divide them into categories and publish them as a series of books.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Children's Crusade


I've mentioned several times how my writing was inspired in my college years by wandering through the Oklahoma State University's Edmond Lowe Library and delving into its hundreds of volumes on mythology, folklore, ancient and medieval history, cryptozoology, biography, and everything else under the sun.  A large part of the "mythos" that evolved sprang from the idea of a parallel world touching occasionally upon our own, into which earth people -- Amelia Earhart and the Roanoke colonists, among others -- have occasionally stumbled.

The Children's Crusade of the Thirteenth Century was to have a major influence on the Other World -- the hundreds of misplaced earth children were to found several countries therein.  Naturally, George Zabriskie Gray's 1870 book The Children's Crusade -- the first major work on the subject -- was of immeasurable help here.

After college (and after being laid off from my first major job), thoughts of writing stories and novels set in a fantasy world began to fade.  The nasty ol' real world kept impinging on my life and creativity.  I just sort of puttered along, not really trying to further my writing career.

One Saturday I visited the Tulsa Fairgrounds, which used to house the state's biggest flea market in the enormous IPE Building (now called the SageNet Center).  I wandered down aisle after aisle of tables full of pottery, toy cars, oil paintings, old tools and the usual flea market detritus.  I took little interest in anything, because money was tight at the time (when isn't it?).

One table featured books, so many some had to be pinned in plastic baggies to a huge vertical pegboard.  I glanced up at the pegboard and spotted, hanging over the rest like a Christmas angel, a small, reddish-brown hardback with gilded gold highlights on the front cover.  The Children's Crusade:  An Episode of the Thirteenth Century, proclaimed the title.

I asked to examine it.  Yes, it was the book by George Zabriskie Gray, an original edition published in 1870.  Someone named E. G. Patterson purchased it in 1886, as his ancient pencilings informed me.  It was in amazing shape for a century-plus-old book, and the bookseller wanted a measly ten dollars for it.  Of course it became mine!

Since that day The Children's Crusade has been one of my favorite possessions, and along with Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould, No Longer on the Map by Raymond H. Ramsey, and Aristeas of Proconnesus by J.D.P. Bolton, it has been one of the major foundations of my story-universe.

Well.  Having written that after a very creatively-dry six months, I guess I'd better dig out my Children's Crusade novel and finish it!