Play Your Ukulele Day

May 2, 2018

Suddenly it’s Spring. When I came down this morning, John had hung the screen door. The air is warm. I am not wearing a flannel petticoat and quilted skirt and fur lined boots. Sadly, I’d forgotten one side effect of the summer wardrobe. Zoloft has a tendency to secure herself when she stands up beside my knee by digging her claws in- and it goes through summer clothes. As it is the first of the month, we flea treated the cats. Willow is amazing, she can do it by herself. It always takes two of us for anyone else to do it- one to hold, and one to put on the drops. I am nervous about the strong chemicals, but “Tick or scab?” is not a good game, and no other treatment we tried really worked, and that last summer we didn’t use the drops, Zoloft was SO miserable we think she has an allergic reaction to the fleas. We were bathing her weekly, and THAT took several people. She was miserable! Oh, and Liz says the ice is out on the Lake!

 But the forsythia has started- just in time for May Day, and the hyacinth and daffodils are burgeoning! (Although you really can’t see it- the garden is FULL of hyacinth, purple, white, lilac, pink- sadly all those colors seem to blend into the dead leaves!) I really need to clean up the garden, but my feet are still not as recovered as I’d like. I’m still resisting going to the doctor for steroid shots. There must be something less drastic that will work! But the combination of rain most of last week (chilly) and the current sun is a tonic! I would love to start walking again. The cold pretty much finished after a week- which I am given to understand is normal, although I expected it to be 3-4 days; I am really having to come to terms with the fact that  my body, like an old car, is breaking down, system by system, and all I can do now is keep fixing it as long as possible to avoid having to turn it in on a new model.

Sadly, during the rain I think the roof leaked again, the bathroom ceiling is dripping, and we can find no reason for it in the upstairs plumbing. I fear it’s the place where the east wing and west wing meet. Again. Sigh. Thinking fond thoughts of tin roofs, and the ability to save for one.
Sadly,  the next expense may be my computer, as it keeps freezing up- two or three times a day, although I’m using it less often. (I don’t deal well with frustration.)  I will have to get it looked at. Darn. At this point I just want to get through the letter.
 Once I issued the “all clear”, Mark came over and read to me while I painted- the painting is pretty much done. I’m in the stage where I look at it and fix problems. I really don’t like this stage, but it’s better than sending it off with problems, and having those problems replicated on hundreds of book covers for all to see. More leaves on the trees, more blood, the dead bear needs work…
I have come to the conclusion that I want more training in art. I have no interest in being Grandma Moses- her value was in recording history visually, not in the beauty of her compositions. I have talent at catching a likeness, but I lack technique,and I’m not sure how to get it. Each time I’ve taken art lessons, the teacher told me nothing I didn’t know, or wanted me to do things his way. Techniques! Show me how to use the tools! Tell me why this works or that doesn’t! I am reminded of the people who suggest I should teach art. No, I shouldn’t. I don’t know how I do what I do, so I can’t teach it! In the stories Mark is reading me the instructors have a student who has a natural ability manipulating qi, and they discuss how to teach her, since the way she does it isn’t the way it works with everyone else. I remember Ælfwine helping guys find out what THEIR fighting style was, because everyone’s is different. This is a true thing. Back to books I guess. I bet they have techniques there, I just have to wade through everything to find the ones I need.
 Saturday Willow found out there was a Japanese food festival on the Boston Common. Her friend Raye was going and she wasn’t sure she had the energy to do it. We encouraged (I’d have loved to have gone, but while I wasn’t coughing, I don’t know that my feet would have taken it. Kat would also have liked to go, but was still coughing.) But Willow went, and apparently had a great time.
She told us that when they got into the takoyaki line, a lady went by and told them it was 2 hours long, but they stayed and said it was worth the wait.  I think they tried some other foods too. There were some small shrines, but they missed the bit where they were carried around. Apparently Boston there’s a law that won’t allow the traditional gold and wood Japanese portable shrines (I think she said there was a weight limit) so the ones they take to people’s houses in Boston are made from cardboard. There were also other things to do, and they had a good time reading the signs on the trees (many were flowering), and talking to the squirrels. And they took pictures each other- so I got some for a change.
Meanwhile, back at the farm, Kat helped me look at the three open packages of frozen shrimp that had accumulated and tested them to see which were still good. Then we had shrimp scampi for dinner. There were enough that we then had shrimp cocktail last night. I was afraid it was going to go bad and get freezer burned, which would have been a pity. IT’s sort of funny, all these years I’ve head about fancy dishes like Shrimp Scampi and Coq au Vin and such, and then I find out that they are just normal cooking- only with a name for the dish. Shrimp scampi is just shrimp sautéed in garlic butter- the sauce for shrimp cocktail is just ketchup with a splash of lemon and some prepared horseradish stirred in. Why are people so intimidated by cooking? 
I did make our usual chocolate Beltane cake (although we put on the maypole, I didn’t add the dancers this year), and I used the wheels for the pasta casserole, I think they look like pentagrams.)
The other thing I did Sunday was talk on the phone with Kerensa for three hours- I ran out of battery on a succession of three cordless phones. Gosh it’s too bad there are so many wonderful people who live so far away we can’t chat without technology. But I’m happy there’s technology!
I seem have missed most of March and April (although I did get a lot of studying done). Time to get my act together and sign up for the autumn shows. After missing last years’ I’m falling off the lists. But yesterday Willow went to the Blake Brother’s open house and picked up some silver for any spring shows- I fear the next will be Panteria. This weekend the girlswill be celebrating Kat’s birthday “KatCon”, and then in June there will be the Stonemarche Palio and the East Kingdom 50th anniversary.
 I have been cooking more as I’ve been feeling better, and I finished the silky rainbow scarf I’ve been knitting on- just in time for it to be too hot to wear until next fall. Knitting has the advantage that I don’t have to look at it while I watch- a definite plus while watching silent films. Kat came down and watched The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with me, and then Genuine  an addition I didn’t expect on the disk. It was subtitled The Tale of a Vampire, but in this case they used the term as we use “vamp”- a woman who uses her feminine wiles to lure a man to his doom. In the (1920) movie they did have her start as a gentle priestess who was stolen into slavery and mistreated until she became cruel. The costumes and scenery were amazing and bizarre. (Apparently it is on Youtube).  We were confused because it starts with Percy the painter, then Genuine coming out of the painting on the wall- which has no connection to the rest of the story. Perhops it’s mean to mean that the rest of the movie is a dream he’s having. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was equally as bizarre- the sets look like the Maitland house after Beetlejuice got hold of it. Kat and I had fun suggesting words for the actors during the silent parts. Having enjoyed that, I went back and watched Shadow of a Vampire again, and will be watching the original Nosferatu to compare with it, and I hope Kat will watch it with me. I prefer watching with someone, sharing the experience. Willow tells me they’ve got something on the computer so people can chat while watching something together. I find that an excellent use of technology.
I also “watched” the three Blade movies. While they are about a vampire hunter, they are mostly an action/ martial arts type movie. They I liked the Whistler character as done by Kris Kristofferson.  Nice to see some kick ass older men.
I watched two movies that left me confused this week. The Phantom Thread was apparently big in the Oscars this year, and it just left me wondering what the heck had happened. There seems to have been an obsessed high fashion clothier, and which meant the woman he loved didn’t get the attention she wanted, so she poisoned him (Munchhausen at remove I think it’s called), and yet the two of them seem OK with it. Synergistic mental illness really doesn’t make for a good romance in my view. I also watched the 1946 spy movie Notorious, which was supposed to be Hitchcock’s greatest, but again, it’s hardly clear. Cary Grant plays a man who convinces Ingrid Bergman to become a spy since her father was a traitor, and at his urging she marries Claude Rains, who seems to be part of a group of Nazi supporters. I find it very oppressive that they would ask a woman to sleep with someone she doesn’t love. I think the idea was that if she had been a “bad girl” before, then it doesn’t make any difference, since she’s damaged goods. While Alicia and Devlin have fallen in love, he has issues with her past, and she feels betrayed by his lack of treating her as he would a woman without one. The only one not part of this nastiness is her husband (Rains) who had apparently always loved her, and was horrified when he realized that she was only spying on him. His evil mother was perfectly willing to poison her, but he helps Devlin get her away, going back to where his compatriots will surely kill him. Perhaps there is something I am not getting because I don’t understand the way they thought in the 40s. I’m sure anti-Nazi feeling was strong, and the idea that a woman is “damaged” if she isn’t monogamous was almost certainly stronger back then than it is now, and even in the current period, men seem to think that once a woman has said yes to anyone she’s not allowed to say no ever again, except if it’s within a totally monogamous relationship. Still, I can’t imagine pretending to want to have sex with someone- no matter how much they loved you, if you didn’t feel it yourself. That didn’t even seem to be part of the story line. I was left wondering what was going on. If it was about the broken hearted Nazi husband, they didn’t develop that much, and timing was off. I think it was Devlin, the American man, coming to the conclusion that it was OK for him to love a woman with a “past”. How generous of him! I was NOT impressed except by the costuming, her outfits were gorgeous!)
I did enjoy Coco. This is a story about a kid who wants to be a musician, but his family is down on music, because his great, great grandfather had dumped his great great grandmother to go off in pursuit of a career in music. In order to try to break into music, he breaks into the tomb of a famous musician to borrow his guitar (shades of the Sword in the Stone), but because he tried to steal from the dead on La Did de Meurtos, he’s sent into the land of the dead, and can’t get back without his family’s blessing, and even the dead ones are “dead set” against him doing music. The art and music are great, the story and characters as much fun as one would expect from Disney Pixar. Let’s face it, it’s normal for Disney’s heroes and heroines to have dead parents, but in this case, it doesn’t matter, because half the characters are dead anyway! Coco, by the way, is his great grandmother, who we also get to see in flashbacks as a little girl. I am not thrilled at the idea that somehow the dead are stuck in the form in which people remember them. I much prefer the way they handle it in the Haunting Danielle series, where they appear as they choose, and often choose a familiar form for those who see them.
I continue to read about vampires, (working on the map this week), and am reading Montague Summers, who was a great scholar, if perhaps a bit too uncritical of his sources when they supported his own theories. His writing is ponderous and pedantic, and he (as so many 19th century scholars) tends to assume that “of course” his readers all know Latin, Greek, German and French, so he doesn’t need to translate those, only more obscure languages. (Feh!) These days we are debating whether kids need to learn to decipher script handwriting (or read analogue clocks)! Are kids less capable now or are we just not bothering to require work of them? His point that people have “fed the dead” in most cultures, is well taken, and it may not be unrelated that as we saw in the Odyssey, ghosts needed blood to have enough energy to communicate with Odysseus, and that vampires need blood to sustain them.
I don’t think I have time to finish the Scientists: a history of Science told through the lives of its greatest inventors, it’s quite a tome, but I do love that approach. As is not unusual, I have become distracted by the story of Giordano Bruno- who was not one of the scientists, but apparently his reputation caused problems for others with similar beliefs- like Galileo. I’d heard of him in passing of course, but now I feel a need to learn more about him. One thing I noticed about a lot of these medieval scientists, they studied all over Europe. We don’t think of people traveling much, but apparently they did (or claimed they did?). As I work on the map of which vampire came from where, I am reminded how Anglo-centric our American history education is. We leave out The First Nations, Africa, Asia, China, India; none of them seems to matter, they even mostly ignore Eastern Europe to concentrate on the Mediterranean (“the Glory that was Rome”), then England and France, with a bit of German and Scandinavia thrown in when they interact with England.
When I finished The Ask and the Answer, I started Buried to Deep a book on Roman Britain, but put it down again as soon as Monsters of Men, the third book in the Chaos Walking trilogy arrived from the library. Even though I haven’t finished the third book yet (and I probably will as soon as is physically possible) I cannot recommend it enough. It is totally gripping. I love that while the teenaged protagonists don’t give up on the good things in which they believe, they also don’t ignore, and do see how others can go other ways. I understand that it’s aimed at young adults but the weight of how one can be caught between decisions both of which are so wrong seems hard to dump on kids. At this point I’m tempted to get a copy (I’m reading from the library) because it’s such a good book, but would I ever get back to it?  Excellent story that makes you care about the characters and want to see what happens next.
I am also loving A History of Food (which includes myths and symbolism of various foods) and Food in History, which has more of what effects use and trade of different foods had on the cultures that consumed them. As I read about food symbolism, I think “would this make a good panel for Changing Times?”, because that’s what I’m doing currently for the con. Luckily this year I have Thor and Janine Marie helping, but I’m thinking about what topics would benefit from being looked at by people with different backgrounds. This is why I try to always be reading some fiction, some science, some history, and something else, because the juxtaposition of ideas creates new and wonderful combinations. I’m also trying to figure out how to get people from different backgrounds to come. The greater the variety of backgrounds we get, the more cross pollination of ideas will happen.
Well, until next week,
Yours- with affection,
“With the right music, you either forget everything, or you remember everything.”
Þ 3 Chocolate Custard Day, Paranormal Day, Sun/Earth Day, Garden Meditation Day
F 4 OJ Day, Bird Day, No Pant’s Day, Star Wars Day “May the forth…”, Space Day
S 5 Herb Day, Hoagie Day, Midwifes Day, Revenge of the Fifth, Cinco de Mayo
⨀ 6 Lemonade Day, Crepe Suzette Day, Beverage Day, No Diet Day, No homework Day
M 7 Roast Leg of Lamb Day, Tourism Day, Barrier Awareness Day
T 8 Coconut Cream Pie Day, Teacher Day, No Socks Day,
W 9 Butter Scotch Brownie Day, Receptionists Day, Bike to School Day