Image of the Month: Edward, the Black Prince

Not long ago I wrote of my determination to finally read Michael Jones’s biography, The Black Prince, which details the life of Edward of Woodstock, son of King Edward III of England. Having owned the book since 2019, I’d been really ancy to get going, and not too long ago, at last, I made a start to it.

One thought that often lingered in my mind regarded how Edward appeared, probably because I didn’t know much about him. Seeing someone, whether in real or by way of an image, gives us an idea of their personality, what they are (were) like, or at least we seem to think so. Having none of this—at the time I found only dozens and dozens of sites with images of his tomb—then pushed me toward the book, and here we are.

My copy’s cover has only a drawing of the Prince’s effigy (though I hasten to say it is beautiful), but another edition carries a painting of Edward: Edward, Prince of Wales, 1330-76, The Black Prince by Benjamin Burnell (c. 1820).

Edward looks to me like a serious man, which fits in with how I had begun to imagine him—humored, perhaps at times, with some of life’s peculiarities, though never really showing it. I thought the image was a little bit attractive, and I especially liked his nose and beard. Still, it is halved, perhaps for dramatic effect, and I really wanted to see it all. Without the entire picture, something seemed unsettled, not quite right. I found the full painting in a few pages, such as here and, for a fuller image, here (scroll down at link).

I was right to wonder about it. On Jones’s cover, the prince appears to be focused, even “contemplative,” as this blogger notes; in the full painting he looks, well, sort of steely. Oddly, this rather fits in with the divisive portrait of him within society, at least that segment of modern society that knows enough about him to ask: warrior hero or villain? According to History Extraeven Edward’s contemporaries challenged his hero status, and one of the theories as to his sobriquet lays the blame on his brutal treatment of civilians at Limoges in 1370. Victorian children’s author Meredith Jones referenced his “angry flashing eyes,” which may or may not have been influenced by Burnell’s treatment of the Prince, itself perhaps born of historian Jean Friossart’s embellished records of Edward’s career.

Ostrich-feather crest ~ Early 17th-century painted carving on the main gate of Oriel College, University of Oxford. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, he was said to be generous to a fault, and seemed to have well learned the lessons taught to him by his father, who endured a four-year regency overseen by his mother, Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, after they drove Isabella’s husband, Edward II, off the throne, brutally executed his abusive gatekeeper and brought England dangerously close to civil war. In his own time he is also perceived as chivalric, and he famously adopts the motto of the blind Bohemian King John, whom he fights against at the battle of Crécy in 1376. It reads, Ich dien, “ I serve.”

So if we ask, “Who was Edward of Woodstock?” and are presented with the same image of opposing perspectives, it leaves us with as much mystery about who he was as when we started. A little bit of knowledge, however, could go  long way, in this case after having a look at the black armor Edward wears, and French historian Dr. Guilhem Pepin provides this in the article linked above. Black being rare in heraldry, he reasons, it then would be “completely feasible” for such a nickname as “Black Prince” to arise. After all, with so many Edwards—and so close together—to name, it also makes sense that at some point someone would have come up with something else to call him in order to avoid confusion.

For me it seems telling that Edward is said to have adopted King John’s motto, a piece of history that Jones writes of in The Black Prince. Edward defeated the blind king at Crécy, but seemed to have no barrier to speaking his admiration for John’s actions. From the small amount I have read about Edward in Jones’s book, he does indeed seem to have been contemplative by nature, however sneeringly the blogger above uses the word, and this may be his state of mind in the painting after all. Given that I’ve come across very little on Burnell thus far, it’s nearly impossible to say. What I can relate with accuracy, however, is that the Black Prince’s image gives nothing away, paving a path for further necessary investigation into this remarkable historical figure.

Previous Image of the Month: I’m Just Gonna Leave this Right Here

See also Stephanie’s Image of the Month: Proserpine (Persephone)

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The Conduit of My Record Player

If there is one thing many of us have in common this past year of staying home, it’s the new hobbies. It goes without saying that this has been a tough year for so many, but one thing that has helped me personally is to take an interest in what others are doing, in terms of new hobbies they have picked up, or perhaps made new commitments to. I’ve been doing this mostly in a more passive sense, as opposed to joining in or leaving comments and so on. It reminds me a bit of how I’ve always liked looking at décor, even if I’m not in the market for it in my own home. I love to see the different things people can come up with, stylish and cozy ways in which to create a retreat away from the world, to decorate a space of their own that reflects their personalities, interests or passions.

As for myself, I have a few projects going, but the one I love best doesn’t provide tangible results. This is because it involves the sharing of conversation with my teenage son, who has for years been a very devoted film aficionado, and recently had begun to invest in television. I’ve always said he is an old soul, and he continues to prove it with his love for shows such as Friends, Cobra Kai and Stranger Things—and that this last one’s Blu Ray case is designed to look like a VHS tape. Our shared watching experiences have provided absolutely endless conversation on too many topics for a small blog entry such as this, so suffice to say, to aim us in one direction: storytelling.

One of the stories I’m in the midst of seeing is within the visual pages of a show called Mad Men, which I never heard of until about a month ago. I agreed to give it a shot—Turtle didn’t think I’d get into it and, to be quite frank, neither did I—but there was something about it that intrigued me. Perhaps because it is set in the 1960s, an alien world of people who drink way too much and dress in a manner I wish we still did today. To be honest, I’m not a fan of the time, but I was also a little curious about getting a glimpse into the ordinary: not just the famous music festivals, protests or political shenanigans. Ordinary. What people wore; how they interacted with one another in everyday lives, not only specific occasions; products they owned or wanted to; what was perceived as good or not so good; how much things cost and so on.

Continue reading “The Conduit of My Record Player”

For the Record: The Day the Music Died

“For the Record” is a series dedicated to music
and the personal experiences that surround it.

I have an older brother who, when I was a child, I absolutely adored. It was through him I came to like the Beatles and he filled my information bank with trivia on the Fab Four and other musicians and bands he liked. He was given to talking about song lyrics, and I can recall him discussing with his friends the meaning behind Don McLean’s song “American Pie.” The conversation actually went on for years, at times including me, and the intrigue never left.

I happened to hear “American Pie” on the radio this afternoon and decided to write about it—at least as much as I know of or can recall being told. While many see the 1960s as an almost mythical period, others mark it as a time when the rise of rock and roll coincided with a decline in culture and society, symbolized, with reference to the 1959 plane crash that killed singers/musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, as “the day the music died.” The song’s lyrics also reference various other events that occurred throughout the subsequent decade in the land that birthed rock and roll. The music was majestic, often poetic and awe-inspiring, but what accompanied it was as frequently unholy and depraved, and the consequences were too often dire. Some say this is the flip side of the influence and authority the music held, and perhaps they are not too far off, given music and other celebrity lifestyles’ connection with politics and power.

I didn’t experience watching or hearing about any of these events as they happened, so none of them are personal memories, but I do recall the feel of first hearing the song, how poetic and terrible and wonderful it was at the same time. Like our earlier conversations, people are still discussing today what the song is all about, and what qualities it possesses that enabled it to succeed, despite being an eight-minute song at a time when three were the max. Below is a song breakdown of sorts, and I’d love to hear from anyone who has information to add to or correct something I’ve written below, especially if you’re someone who does know from the experience of living in the late 1950s and/or through the 1960s.

“American Pie” by Don McLean

Buddy Holly and the Crickets in 1957 (top to bottom: Allison, Holly and Mauldin) Image courtesy Wikimedia. Click for details.

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music
Used to make me smile
That of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, pioneering acts of rock and roll in a time of greater “innocence” within American society. Their popularity was changing the face of music
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Maria Elena Santiago, the pregnant wife of Buddy Holly, who died along with Valens and the Big Bopper in an Iowa plane crash
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
As a young teen McLean delivered newspapers, and on the morning of February 4, 1959, as he folded newspapers in preparation for delivery, he saw the news

Chorus:

So, bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Apple pie was used as a metaphor for things American
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
Chevy, short for Chevrolet, was the car to have because it was American made ~ a dried up levee indicates the end of production or an era, possibly the beginnings of shifting American production and jobs elsewhere, depriving Americans of the ability to make a living in an America that itself is no longer American made
And them good ol’ boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Possibly references the Depression and Prohibition eras that would have influenced Buddy Holly’s family life and upbringing, as well as that of Valens and Big Bopper. Valens, at 17, was the youngest of the three and not born until around 1940, but he still would have been influenced by the deprivations his family suffered during the time.
Singin’, “This’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die”
References the final line in Holly’s song “That’ll be the Day”: “That’ll be the day-ay-ay, when I die.”

Image courtesy Wikimedia. Click for details.

 Did you write the book of love
“The Book of Love” – 1958 song by the Monotones
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
References a 1950s song with a similar name, but also alludes to the reality that people were beginning more openly and often to behave in ways not sanctioned by the God their (larger) society worshipped, and the religious heritage their country was founded upon
Now, do you believe in rock ‘n’ roll
Also references a song, this one from the 1960s that asks, “Do you believe in magic?” The line itself referred to the magic of music, specifically rock and roll, that was able to stay with the listener, conjure up memories, be a part of their consciousness in a way that study of other art froms did not, at least for the common man
Can music save your mortal soul?

Continue reading “For the Record: The Day the Music Died”

Bucket List Map of the World: Giant Sequoia National Monument

Today’s entry opens up a still somewhat newish series for the blog, inspired by a book called The Bucket List: 1,000 Adventures Big & Small. I know I’ll probably never make it to most of these locales, but I love to learn about them anyway. I like places, love to see them on maps and discover what they are about.

So this series doesn’t necessarily represent my bucket list, per se, hence the addition to its name as mapping out across the world, settings worth learning even a little about. One such exploration years ago brought me to this: When Russians are preparing to travel, they sit down for a few minutes in one spot. For contemplation, perhaps, prayer, maybe a little decompression before their travel whirlwind. I also like to do this: reflect on life for just a few minutes and think about where I am heading, and where might any bit of knowledge carry me.

With that said, let us embark.

The Proclamation Tree of Long Meadow Grove in Giant Sequoia National Monument, California. Image courtesy Jason Hickey via Wikimedia Commons.

Locale: Giant Sequoia National Monument, southern Sierra Nevada (mountain range), eastern central California

Hemisphere: Northern

Latitude:        36.13040N*

Longitude:     118.81790 W*

Time of Year: All year*, though roads are subject to snow closures in winter months, per the Giant Sequoia National Monument page of the USDA Forest Service website. Consult park pages for current visitation schedules and protocols.

About the Destination: Located in the Sierra Nevada, the Sequoia National Forest includes about half of the giant sequoia groves currently existing; each contains anywhere from one to tens of thousands of the trees. The giant sequoia is the largest tree in the world and grows naturally only in the western band of its mountain range home, at an elevation of 4,000-8,000 feet. To clarify, these are those trees, gigantic in diameter as well as height, you see pictures of with tiny spots at the bottom that you realize are people acting as size marker. For a few breathtaking images, click here, here and here.

Continue reading “Bucket List Map of the World: Giant Sequoia National Monument”

Weird Wednesday, An Exploration of Our Quirky World: What *ARE* You Doing?

Good day! We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a joint series, partnered with our friends at Layered Pages, that explores the quirky side of our universe. Presently many people across the world cannot access this fabulous place, and even in the best of times we often pass so much by in our haste to get wherever it is we may be headed. So sit down, relax a bit and allow us to bring some of our explorations to you. Here you may find things funny, outrageous, marvelous, out of this world! Feel free to suggest topics and be sure to comment below and click to follow the blog. We’ll be having contests and lots of great content coming up, so be sure to stay tuned!

Ever catch yourself doing something slightly odd, maybe even weird, and keep it secret? Or maybe you knew it was odd and kept it under wraps from the beginning, knowing all the time it would make you look silly? What about some of the things children do, including teenagers? Do tell! Do you do them as well?

What if you were to find out many others did the same things? Would it surprise you to know that it’s often a little more than just “talking to herself,” for example? Could you believe that your co-worker, efficient and sensible, conducts interviews between himself and major news outlets? Maybe children do some funny things, like play themselves at chess, as a tactical maneuver not only to stave off boredom, but in the process also can teach themselves winning techniques. And adults? Do adults ever play pretend?

Below are some funny things people of all ages (yes, yours too!) do that they cover up, often unaware that millions of others do the same thing—and also hide! Some may have logical explanations, but still strike us as funny. Or maybe we do them openly, none in our party finding it odd until we hear a comedian joke about it or a song’s lyrics open us up to the vagaries of human behavior. Check which ones you do, and by all means comment and add to the list!

  • Driving through a neighborhood looking for an address, and you must turn the radio down or off.
  • Wearing headphones/airpods and pretend you’re a singer on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans
  • Eat something horrible at a restaurant, express in words how absolutely terrible it is, then say, “Try this! It’s awful!!”
  • Go through your own social media page after someone friend requests you, looking to see it “through their eyes”
  • Watch people around you and make up back stories about them
  • Pretend you are being interviewed and talk about yourself and answer questions you make up
  • Are shocked by an expensive price tag, but stay in the store, even carry the item around as if you’re going to get it, then make a show of putting it back and the reason why very clear (you’re in a rush to leave, you decided on something else for the gift you seek, etc.)
  • Chew on the inside of your cheek when your mouth is numb after a visit to the dentist
  • Try closing the refrigerator door as much as possible till the light goes off just to see how it looks in there when it’s dark
  • Pick up and move something from Point A to Point B with your foot, just to see if you can, or because you’re feeling too lazy to bend down
  • Have imaginary arguments in your head – with a friend who just slighted you, a famous political pundit, etc.
  • Put your feet up on the bed so the monster beneath won’t grab your ankles
  • Do something else while waiting for the microwave, secretly aiming to finish just in time to stop the micro with one second to spare
  • Position a large hair clip around your lips and leave it there for awhile
  • Insist on looking at your phone while lying in bed, even though you’re very tired, and it falls on your face

 

OK, I forgot to add the WW header, but indeed our last
Weird Wednesday, Eat Bird or Die, can be found here!

And check out Stephanie’s Quirky Meanings at Layered Pages’ WW!!

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Book Review: The Liminal Zone by Richard Abbott

The Liminal Zone – by Richard Abbott
Book Three in the Far from the Spaceports Series

Selkies in space?

Nina Buraca, investigator of possible signs of alien life, has heard tales of mysterious events on Pluto’s moon Charon, where a science outpost studies extrasolar planets. Facing opposition from her colleagues, she nevertheless travels from Earth to uncover the truth. Once there, she finds herself working with a team of people who have many secrets. To make progress, she has to take sides in an old dispute that she knows nothing about.

Can she determine who – or what – is really behind the name “selkies” that the station’s staff have given to this uncanny phenomenon? And how will the discovery change her life?

The Liminal Zone, a novel in the Far from the Spaceports series, takes you a further twenty years into the future – and out to the edge of our solar system – for an encounter with the unknown.

My copy: Paperback, 242 pages, ISBN: 978-1-8380120-0-7

Richard Abbott likes to write on a variety of topics, so it should come as no surprise that his Far from the Spaceports series—set in a future collection of space colonies—would also eventually shift away from financial fraud in the outer reaches to mystery of another sort. In this case, investigator Nina Buraca makes her journey to probe the idea (possibility?) of selkies in space, having first gone up against obstruction at home and, now, seeming dead ends at her new duty station. Her journey is physical as well as emotional, having left behind a relationship with Aquilegia, her AI companion of over six years. As her time at Charon, Pluto’s major moon, moves forward, she encounters resistance, particularly from her assigned house AI, simply called House, and questions her own motives and behaviors as much as she does House’s obstinacy and peculiar shortcomings.

In the Far from the Spaceports universe, it isn’t unusual for humans to interact with their AI partners in ways that bring disagreements, petty jealousies and even offense on the part of the AI to the fore, and these are treated as they would be in humans, that is to say without surprise at the source. Abbott’s novels have gone far greater distance than any movie featuring AI in giving the concept sustained credibility, and here he takes a completely different approach to achieving this by way of any references to Aquilegia as in the past: she makes no appearance in the entire book apart from within Nina’s own memories.

Nina’s musings pair with her out-loud conversations and she runs up against a lot of frustration as the inhabitants of Charon seem to do their best to block any discussion of selkies in their galaxy. The novel’s progression reflects this as the creatures are not mentioned a great deal, most often by reference or implication, creating a sense of the mystery for readers, as it envelops them as much as does the claustrophobic feel of gravity deficiency. An encounter Nina experiences perpetuates this impression as we cheer (in lower tones) for her success, despite the bleak outlook for her exploration. Will she ever find selkies? Will anyone even ever talk about them?

For those unfamiliar with the mythical selkies, an exploration of their history is available here. Especially given our contemplation of the metaphorical role these beings inspire, it makes sense that Nina’s journey becomes as introspective, alongside its investigative nature, as it does. Few people enjoy discussing their emotional states of mind, so it almost stands to reason that those in Charon would withhold any topics that essentially force them to face their own character. As the novel progresses, we realize Abbott’s aptitude for creating a study of human nature that runs alongside the plot of Nina’s story, which can, on some levels, be ours. Space becomes far less alien than the unknown and often deliberately unexplored range of our own inner terra incognita.

In language use, Abbott once more makes reading about previously-perceived “dense” topics actually fun, with talk of “massaging” data and signal processing code that we not only understand, but also delight in as we move through the concepts. He also does impose limitations on his AIs, which surely contributes to their authenticity, one example being a human emotional state witnessed by an AI, with the human response that brings them closer in footing:

Unaccountably she was crying, and out of habit she shook her head to let her hair hide her face for a moment. He made a little wordless noise, of recognition, or appreciation, or something. She deliberately brushed her hair back again so that the wetness in her eyes and on her cheeks was in plain view. If he could face the prospect, she owed it to him to face it with him, to the extent possible.

Third in the series, The Liminal Zone, like its predecessors, stands alone as one story. Concepts such as AI remain, though the characters are completely new, and the protagonist’s journey is longer and perhaps more fraught with anxiety of a deeper level, given its exploration of the inner landscape. There is joy to be had as well, a Shakespearean sonnet makes an appearance and a subtheme of constructive silence—silence being feared by many—is threaded throughout, with subtly and calm. Also, as with Far from the Spaceports and Timing, it is a story to experience repeatedly as readers happen upon discoveries of their own.

*********

Other previous blogs featuring Richard Abbott and his work ~

Poetry in Bloom: “The Lady of Shalott”
Half Sick of Shadows
Audio Book Excerpt: Timing, Extract A 
Audio Book Excerpt: Timing, Extracts B & C
Book Excerpt: Half Sick of Shadows, Audio/Text
Guest Post: The Culture and Adaptability of Space Settlement
Cover Crush: The Liminal Zone

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A copy of The Liminal Zone was provided to facilitate an honest review.

The Last Dance: Courting Basketball and a Weekend Waltz

“In the fall of 1997, with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls beginning their quest to win a sixth NBA title in eight years, they agreed to let a film crew follow them all season long. It’s an unlikely scenario that serves as a fascinating backdrop for the inside tales of the tension-filled season. As the series chronicles the 1997-98 season in-depth, it also explores the years and achievement…”

As you may recall, I’ve been watching quite a bit of TV these days, and sometimes I think I’ve inhaled more of it in the past year than in all my life combined. At one time I wrote about my quarantine viewing, which I suppose is where it all began. Then, on Christmas Day, I started watching Chernobyl, and not long after, Game of Thrones. (You can click here to read a bit about it, but know it is super outdated since I’ve watched more, and I will be writing about the series again!) And then, closer to now, I’ve been semi-binging Mad Men and sort of—what’s a polite way to say pushed into?—persuaded to watch The Last Dance, a docu-series spotlighting the Chicago Bulls, with specific attention paid to their superstar shooting guard, Michael Jordan. Now, I joke about being strong-armed into watching because, well, before last weekend, here is what I thought I knew about basketball, the game:

  • The ball is orange and round
  • You score points by shooting it into a net
  • Taller players have a bit of an advantage
  • You can play it inside or out
  • The shoes are super expensive

So why am I writing here about The Last Dance and not, say, Mad Men? There are some things I don’t care for within Mad Men, but it’s got an addicting power over me and I will in fact write about it as I keep watching (I’m just about to start season three). However, I’m only about to start episode four of The Last Dance and it has created a bit of excitement for basketball that I never really knew I had before.

Well, it could be I didn’t. Basketball was never as boring to me as, say, football, but it wasn’t the highlight of my life, either. I wasn’t into it, but could see the appeal for others. Also, I did have enough curiosity in past years to know famous players such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dennis Rodman, and respected their accomplishments. Barring ice skating, which I watched obsessively and used to do (as a total amateur, mind you) before an injury sidelined all that, and gymnastics, the twists and turns of which horrified and thrilled my soul, only swimming interested me. I’ll admit that baseball is rather thrilling to watch live; there’s a charge in the air that alerts you to things happening on the diamond. But for me (both times) it was just a thrill to get caught up with in the crowd; I didn’t take any of it home with me. And football just reminded me of traumatic brain injuries. Even without any TBI, there just is no appeal in constantly slamming into other people or being dogpiled. Outside. In the cold. Sometimes rain. If I want to be outdoors in the elements I’m going to have a sleigh underneath me and/or loads of children begging to be pulled back up the hill. And I do love rain; you’ve seen me say it here a number of times—but always when it involves a snuggly blanket near a window and lamp bright enough to read by.

Michael Jordan at Boston Garden. Image courtesy Steve Lipofsky via Wikimedia Commons

So what is it about basketball that kept me watching this series? Well, I think I might have liked Michael Jordan a lot more than I ever knew I did, even though I didn’t know much about him. For example, a lot of athletes’ behavior or demeanor perpetuates the “dumb jock” stereotype, but Jordan’s never did. I never knew his scores or records, but when he talked, I listened. He seemed naturally intelligent and I was aware he was a top player—not a bad combination. Still, I didn’t seek him out or follow his career.

But when I began to watch The Last Dance, it was so easy to admire the trajectory he took, from childhood passion to college basketball to being drafted into the Chicago Bulls, who were third to choose but may have won the best victory that day. Built into the series is archival footage, much of which shows Jordan’s heart-stopping and utterly thrilling, and I mean thrilling, means of getting the ball into that net. Why it appeals to me so much is perhaps related to why I love the other two sports I do: the creative movements people can perform with their bodies is seemingly boundless, and this was all new. It wasn’t “just” turning yourself upside-down and gliding all over the ice. In fact, the movements often, though not always, were much smaller in the space they occupied, but no less astounding. I may not yet quite have the words to describe it, but I’ll try: When I shoot a ball into the hoop, I might pivot up onto my tippy toes, and definitely extend my arms forward, maybe my fingers sort of dance ahead of the rest of my hands as they hover in the air.

Gracious reader, I am here to tell you this is utter child’s play. Jordan, visibly utilizing the tips of his fingers down to about his elbow, swishes the ball rapidly through the air with an underhand sort of twist and then lifts back up to dunk it in. And I want to see him do it over and over. Or he might be nowhere near the hoop when a teammate, with the ball and being guarded by an opposing team member, tosses him the ball and he quickly sinks it in from afar. Or, as in one clip I injured my lower jaw watching, he takes flight and his feet are higher in his jump than my head would be if I stood nearby. His physical strength also seemed so intense it was next to impossible for other teams to guard him. It was such a problem to them that one , the Detroit Pistons, developed techniques especially for him, labelling them “the Jordan Rules.”


Click here for a beautiful, basketball-related image.


I’ve made a few discoveries about some professions, such as that trial lawyers, really good trial lawyers, have to practically be as skilled as a psychologist in reading people (one reason I love Law and Order so much—this is stunningly portrayed). Some people see in numbers what to others resemble just a jumble, and I’ve met a few engineers who are extremely talented at accurately assessing a large amount of information in s short period of time. In this case, I saw the artistry some can create with their physicality in a particular sport I never really knew—until now—had any.

Moreover, within episode four, viewers are introduced to the triangle offensive strategy, a particular setup of players that facilitates quickly passing the ball, each pass determined by opposing team’s defense and with specific purpose. It reminded me a bit of the art within baking that I cannot seem to achieve, despite it being more a science to me, and in spite of being a very able cook. You might know each particular move and exactly when to execute it, but without the artistry required, it may end up flat.

The episodes also show how, like ingredients, teammates worked together just right. Coach Phil Jackson knew exactly how to utilize Scottie Pippin, who I grew to like quite quickly, to complement Jordan’s techniques and abilities. With this, it also grew in me a greater appreciation for a certain eye and what it can see: Jordan’s, for example, in hitting the shot and the geometry of his moves, and Jackson, in how he combined awareness of physics, dynamics and chemistry to whip up a marvelously exciting team to watch – even in small clips and on TV.

I found myself really attached to these scenes and more than once found myself shouting out in approval or dismay, and know I shall again. See if you don’t as well!

Watch number 23, Michael Jordan, lower right at start of clip. 

Stay tuned for more on the amazing career of MJ and more!

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Random Pics, Newsy Chat (with Contest Reminder) and a Little Bit About TV and Book Reviews

Good evening and happy Monday, All! Finally the weekend came and I was able to catch up on some of my reading. I was pretty psyched a couple of Saturdays ago because I started Richard III (by David Baldwin) at 08:00 and finished it that night! I’d read chunky passages of the book before but never cover to cover, and it was well worth the day. I do have a Richard III tab up top—or click here—that I haven’t been keeping up with, so you will see changes to this coming in the days ahead, and I invite readers to submit links for resources you would like to share, found useful, etc. I daresay you will be hearing more from me re: Richard, with a nice surprise coming in July.

There’s another nice little thing coming up next week, and that is the announcement of winners for the contest I am holding as a way to thank people for following my little blog all these years. I deleted one of my social media accounts, which cut my followers roughly in half, and I’ve been so busy lately that I didn’t advertise this quite as much as I wanted to and should have, so any shares you can give will be much appreciated. And what are they? Well, I’m gifting two $10 Amazon cards on Valentine’s Day, so if you’d like to win one of them, click here to find out how! I probably won’t win, you say? Why would you say that? Someone has to win, why not you!? Give it a shot and see what happens!

Speaking of Amazon: One of the books I just started reading, Strong Advice, is one I actually gifted my son for Christmas (we are both interested in this book). I surely paid too much for it, but, as far as I can tell, its author, Nzube Udezue (aka Zuby, rap musician, author, podcaster and computer science graduate [Oxford]), works independent of this behemoth, which increases his own expenses, and I wanted to support his brand, through which he cares about people and their ability to do the best for their bodies and health as they can. I didn’t really interact very much with him when ordering and after, but when I did email (a couple of times), his response was very timely, cheerful and customer-service oriented.

As for the book, I have skimmed it (a bit heavily) so far, and have a date with it later this evening. A word about this small work, though, is that it’s not the sort you read cover to cover and then put on the shelf. Provided you find currency with what it advocates, you have to live it. So, once I read it all, well, I do have to return it to its owner, but I will be referring to it until what it teaches me becomes absorbed enough that I won’t need to so frequently reference it. I will say, though, that Zuby’s chosen writing style is not only accessible, but also real—as in he speaks like a real person and as if you are real, not unlike an informed casual conversation that you walk away determined to follow up on. That adds to the encouraging nature of its advice, and of what I have read thus far, I don’t feel reads like some elevated being passing down to me, but rather as I have said above, a real person who actually is in touch with the sorts of concerns I have.

Continue reading “Random Pics, Newsy Chat (with Contest Reminder) and a Little Bit About TV and Book Reviews”

My Tottering TBR: About to Topple?

Well, that title might just reflect the state of mind I have been experiencing since some time: wanting so very much to read but often being unable to actually do it. For various reasons, this circumstance has the fine ability to create a fair amount of anxiety, putting my pile as well as myself into uncertain territory. However, there has been a nice turnaround lately and I am steadily working on keeping that leaning tower of pages all in one pile. Each time I close a book, I feel a similar sort of sensation as when I swipe my highlighter along the lines of a to-do list, perhaps a kick of adrenaline, especially if the work ended with a magnificent question or connection that brings the thrill of recognition, causing so many loose ends to come together.

Considering that this time in 2020 I was still working on my first book of the year, I’d say there has been some improvement, hey?

So what am I reading or recently read that has been so satisfying? Well, for the recently reads, you can click here to check out my material over at Goodreads. Not everyone loves this site, and at least one author has told me she avoids it like the plague, though I never really asked why. But, so far at least, it suits me fairly well, though for now I tend to use it only to record and have not been doing much exchanging or interacting on any of its threads. I did used to be in a few groups, but deleted them for my own lack of responding to the millions of notifications I received. Perhaps I ought to look into groups soon and see if anything catches my fancy.

In any case, moving forward I have some other cool reads going on right now, and am thrilled about this because I can feel an opening up also occurring, which sort of makes me imagine the top of my head on hinges and the information and stories being poured into my brain. Perhaps I’d better get to the books?

The Black Prince by Michael Jones –  I know, I know, I keep talking about it. But imagine if you had food in your cupboard you couldn’t get to. You reach and reach but just as your fingertips seem so close, the gap widens! Yes, dear readers, I’m comparing books to food – they nourish me and are as necessary as the air I breathe. And The Black Prince, which I have wanted to read so badly, has been hanging around my house since *checks Abe orders page* September 2019.

As of now I’m still in the first chapter, but I’ve been reading about Edward of Woodstock’s grandparents, Edward II and his queen, Isabella, inhabitants of an era I’m not overly familiar with, though I do remember something about a she-wolf in a documentary I watched ages ago. Yes, I’m fairly certain this is the same woman, though the documentary really portrays her in a terrible light, if memory serves, whereas here in Jones’s telling, her position is quite a bit more understandable. (Though Despenser’s end really was rather grisly.) Still, there is that thrill of recognition and excitement about finally, finally, finally getting to read about someone I’ve wanted to for so long it’s a bit ridiculous!

To the Land of Long Lost Friends by Alexander McCall Smith – This was a “for the heck of it” present from my teen son, who purchased it for me, oh maybe last summer. Not long after that he presented me with another AMS tale – I’m a big fan, by the way – and at Christmas yet another, a modern-day re-telling of Jane Austen’s Emma. I don’t recall what that middle book was called, and when you’ve lost track of what AMS books you own, you know you’re not keeping up with this very prolific novelist.

I’ve actually started this book – twice! – but have had to put it aside, also twice, both times starting at page 1. I’ll have to do that again this time, even if I do remember what was happening where I left off, because Mma Ramotswe isn’t just read, she is savored, and merely “picking up where one left off” just isn’t done. She deserves her proper attention, and besides, she might kindly relate to any of us the pitfalls of trying to carry on, say, a conversation, over the course of two days but months apart. You might remember everything but giving your fellow conversant a recap is just the polite thing to do. And anyway, you enjoy their company, so why not?

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer – Not a  place I’d really want to live, truth be told, though if an Elizabethan was smart, he would say the same about our era. Still, I’ve attempted to make this trip before, though this book as well I’ve had to put down. And so here I am, my first real reading, in perhaps my whole life, on this period that I willingly got on board for. It’s not that I don’t like the Elizabethans, I just somehow never really got around to them beyond associations with Shakespeare.

Because I’m in love with the ordinary – Mortimer writes for people like me – this book is amongst a set of works I truly cherish, alongside such other titles as this author’s Middle Ages version of time travel and Ruth Goodman’s How to be a Victorian. I have never either been a great fan of Victoria’s era – though I hasten to reassure that my “I’m not a fan” comment is not used here in the manner I often employ it, which is to mean I do not, in fact, like something – but I still enjoy knowing what life was like for ordinary men and women and how they went about their day-to-day concerns, what food was available, what was interesting to them. I especially love it if there is something I can replicate (or at least attempt), such as food or a craft. I wonder if I will recognize any of these people?

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn – When writer and Le Cordon Bleu graduate Flinn happens upon a woman in the grocery store and advises her on food choices and meal preparation, it marks the beginning of a huge change in her life. Inspired to gather novices together with the aim of revealing to them that cooking is not as frightening as they believed, she begins to learn about herself as well. What these lessons are I cannot precisely say, because I have only reached the portion of Flinn’s story in which she has taught her volunteers the real deal of kitchen knives (you really need only very few of them).

As far as I can tell, I haven’t exactly been yearning for this particular book, but that’s probably because it fell off my radar – more dangerous territory for both book and myself. I did spy it one day a few months back and pull it to my kitchen shelf so I would at least get visual reminders, but didn’t pick it up again until two days ago. As I was reading it this evening I happened to flip through and found within some later pages a Costco receipt dated October 4, 2012. Yes, you read that correctly. At first I thought perhaps I’d bought this secondhand and that must be the previous owner’s receipt. However, I admitted to knowing I’d purchased the book new, and the merchandise on the brief receipt are all items I would buy: Palmolive, strawberries, even this book itself. I must have gotten further I than I realized, because the last thing I remember, a recipe involving alfredo sauce, is quite a bit out from where I now am. Why did I stop reading? Well, I distinctly recall trying that recipe and it not working out.

Let me tell you that this shouts out that I – despite that I enjoy cooking and am not super afraid of making mistakes in the kitchen – fit at least part of the profile of the very people Flinn is attempting to reach out to when she speaks of cooking, good cooking, being very much within our reach. This is one of those books that moves you to say, “This book was written for me.”

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Mythical Monday: Searching for Selkies

Good morning and welcome to Second Sleep’s new series, Mythical Monday. Within this series we will explore, as our title implies, the world of myth. Particularly because learning is our objective, we will most often seek topics unfamiliar, and welcome suggestions at any time. On occasion we might dive a bit deeper into myths that seem common, yet harbor a history we aren’t necessarily aware of or perhaps link to new or recent discoveries. Apart from the topic being mythology related, there isn’t a specific formula that governs the series, with the exception perhaps of enjoying ourselves as we explore the world that seeks to explain ours.

Ulysses and the Sirens by John William Waterhouse (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

In the world of sea creatures, mermaids and sirens seem to get all the attention, and many recall the great lengths Odysseus goes to be able to hear the plaintive song of the sirens. Passing by their island as he attempts to sail home from the Trojan War, the would-be king of Ithaca has himself tied to his ship’s mast and extracts a vow from his men, who all must wear ear plugs, that no matter how he tries to persuade or trick them, they must not let him down until they are well past. In this manner Odysseus is able to hear the sirens’ seductive tune without falling victim to the lure of its enchantment, which would mean destruction amongst the rocky coast of their island.

However, there exists a counterpart to these dangerous beauties. It might be said that selkies get little spotlight, though it could be they prefer it this way. Inhabiting Norse and Celtic mythology, selkies are shape-shifting seal creatures who can, when shedding their skins, walk upon land as humans. Most tales center around female selkies, typically when they are lured away from their skins, leaving them trapped on land. On other occasions, human men happen upon a selkie sans sealskin, perhaps bathing in the sun, and he compels her to wed him. The selkie, though, misses her sea home and after a time simply leaves, sometimes taking her half-human children with her, other times not.

Scottish folklorist Walter Traill Dennison differentiated selkie from the merfolk, though in northern Scotland they are referred to as maighdeann-mhara, or “maiden of the sea” (selkie being the diminutive form of the Orcadian word for “gray seal”). In the traditions of other lands also including such mythical creatures, such as Iceland (marmennlar) and Ireland (murdúch), they also are conflated with the merpeople so common to a collective awareness. Still, going back, it would not be out of line to wonder if at some previous point a similar pathway separated, sending merfolk and sirens into one direction, selkies into another.

Relief map of the Orkney Islands (excluding Sule Stack and Sule Skerry), UK. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

Orkneyjar speaks of another legend that adds to this cast of characters, with a history not quite as benign as we may have believed. While the selkie “have come to be regarded as gentle creatures,” their Fin brethren (?) were “dark” and “malevolent.” Orkneyjar credits the split as related to the distinct cultural differences between the Norwegian and Saami cultures, particularly following the Norwegians’ adaptation of Christianity. Though the two influenced each other’s culture and religion, there remained an “otherworldliness” about the Saami, for their neighbors, a perspective that can be traced to Old Norse literature.

Perhaps what we are seeing here also connects to human recognition of their own behavior and attribution of a dual nature. People can be amazingly, beautifully kind and go to great lengths to aid those in distress; sometimes they simply perform small acts of generosity that benefits them not at all. It remains a reality, however, that at other times humans are responsible for unspeakable acts of horror that go far past any sort of defensive explanation, or even retaliatory. The “uncannily human eyes,” not to mention the facial expressions that seem recognizable to us, goes a long way in explaining why seals in particular may have bonded in our ancestors’ minds as a creature who carries a nature much like our own.

Faroese stamp – The Seal Woman, issued February 12, 2007 (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

It also is not difficult to understand why selkies, then, might prefer to be left alone, despite their apparent inquisitive nature regarding humans. We too, experience moments of preferred solitude, especially when the company of other humans plays out against our best interests, as it so often does with selkie females of the tales referenced above. These and many other legends contain a range of variability we couldn’t begin to cover here, so we encourage you to look into these fascinating folk beyond this blog.

 

Here are a few  great links to intriguing and informative selkie talk:

Orkneyjar – The Folklore of the Orkney Islands
(continuing series)

Mythology Wiki – Selkie

Wilderness Ireland – Irish Myths & Legends Part 4: The Selkie

Icy Sedgwick – Are Selkies as Dangerous as Mermaids and Sirens?

Happy Mythical Monday, everyone, and welcome to your week!

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