Thursday, December 1, 2022

My Spotify Wrapped 2022

What music have I been listening to in 2022?

These were my top podcasts:

You know me and conspiracy theories: I find them fascinating as a kind of contemporary folklore. Although, I have to admit, they used to be a lot more fun before they were weaponized in U.S. politics, and before antiSemites like Kanye West felt emboldened to spew their hate in public.

I made a conscious effort to branch out and listen to a variety of new artists in 2022, yet somehow I still ended up listening to more minutes of Lady Gaga than anyone else.

In the comments, share what surprised you the most about your 2022 listening habits!

Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Gilded Age Thanksgiving

November 24, 1898: “Thanksgiving Day,–Up betimes to seek out my warmest cloathes and greate cloake with new striped orange cravatte, as well, wherein to deck me for this day’s sports betwixt ye rival colledges, and mighty glas to be so well rid of affairs at the office, the others toyling there very jealous. My wife would have it I should don a crimson neck cloth to do honor to my colledge, but I denied her, retayning the striped cravattem her that my father wore when he did go a schoolboy to Nassau Hall [at Princeton University], regardless of mine own colledge. But she very contray calleth me traitor and unnatural man, and prinketh her in her crimson gowne and red roses in very spite of me, and I not the hearte to chide her. So with manyfold furry skinnes and wrappes by coach to the playground, a tedious long drive but for the merry company on the same way with us winding loud horns, with wavying of motley ribands, untill getting to the very doors of ye empty field, we find a mighty mob with loud mouthed peddlars offering their wares,–play bills, pamphlets, passports, and fluttering banners, with many more ribands and horns and little footballs stuck on pinnes, very pretty.

“Then showed I my passports and coming in with the pushing crowde very glad to sit in our seat to behold the joyful antics and clamor of the colledge boys prancing on their benches, shouting their shouts, croaking as they were toades,* and singing ribald songs to lewd musique."

“*Allusion to Yale Freshman’s adaptation of the Frog Chorus from Aristophanes” [Edwin Emerson's note]

- from Pepys's Ghost: His Wanderings in Greater Gotham; His Adventures in the Spanish War; Together with his Minor Exploits in the Field of Love and Fashion; With his Thoughts Thereon; by Edwin Emerson Jr; 1899; Boston, R. G. Badger & Co. Public domain in the U.S.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November


Gun"pow`der, n. (Chem.)

Defn: A black, granular, explosive substance, consisting of an intimate mechanical mixture of niter, charcoal, and sulphur. It is used in gunnery and blasting.

Note: Gunpowder consists of from 70 to 80 per cent of niter, with 10 to 15 per cent of each of the other ingredients. Its explosive energy is due to the fact that it contains the necessary amount of oxygen for its own combustion, and liberates gases (chiefly nitrogen and carbon dioxide), which occupy a thousand or fifteen hundred times more space than the powder which generated them. Gunpowder pile driver, a pile driver, the hammer of which is thrown up by the explosion of gunpowder.

 -- Gunpowder plot (Eng. Hist.), a plot to destroy the King, Lords, and Commons, in revenge for the penal laws against Catholics. As Guy Fawkes, the agent of the conspirators, was about to fire the mine, which was placed under the House of Lords, he was seized, Nov. 5, 1605. Hence, Nov. 5 is known in England as Guy Fawkes Day.

 -- Gunpowder tea, a species of fine green tea, each leaf of which is rolled into a small ball or pellet.

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary by Various: Public domain in the USA.

“Remember, remember the Fifth of November,

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I know of no reason

Why the Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot.” - traditional nursery rhyme

November 5, 1664: Samuel Pepys sees Macbeth: “Up and to the office, where all the morning, at noon to the ‘Change, and thence home to dinner, and so with my wife to the Duke’s house to a play, Macbeth, a pretty good play, but admirably acted. Thence home; the coach being forced to go round by London Wall home, because of the bonefires [for Guy Fawkes Day]; the day being mightily observed in the City. To my office late at business, and then home to supper, and to bed.”

I still find it incredibly charming and cute that "Pepys" is pronounced "Peeps," like the marshmallow candy. 

November 5, 1946: Disco, Gospel, and soul singer Loleatta Holloway is born in Chicago. I become aware of her when I check out the Madonna tribute album Virgin Voices from the South Bend public library; Holloway covered “Like a Prayer” (and in my opinion, it’s the best track on that album). 

She also provided vocals for the 1991 hit single “Good Vibrations” for Mark Wahlberg’s group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. I knew that song in 1991, and although Holloway appears in the music video, I wasn’t aware of her at the time. 

Sunday, November 5, 2006, Mishawaka: On my way to Meijer to buy some groceries, I heard a story on NPR. Samuel Menashe had won the Poetry Foundation’s Neglected Masters Award. I heard his poem “The Shrine Whose Shape I Am.” It reads in part:

“There is no Jerusalem but this

Breathed in flesh by shameless love

Built high upon tides of blood

I believe the Prophets and Blake

And like David I bless myself

With all my might”

Later we visited my parents, and in the evening I was privileged to watch a new Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode. The first segment parodied The Blob, the second was based on the Jewish folktale of the golem, and the third parodied War of the Worlds

Thursday, November 3, 2022

A Theatrical Flashback to the Year 2000

November 3, 2000, Mishawaka: Tit and I went out to dinner at Applebee’s. I had an Oriental chicken salad and a couple of strawberry daiquiris. They weren’t very strong.

At 8 p.m., we went to Bethel College. We saw the student performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s one of my very favorite plays of all. I loved the lively romantic comedy since I first read and performed in it. I loved it again last year when I saw the movie starring Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Rupert Everett

I really enjoyed this performance, too; it was full of laughs. My favorite was Puck, played by Michelle Host. Puck is traditionally played as a male character, but in this play she was played with joyful mischief by a women. The costumes for Puck, Titania, and Oberon were great. 

The other fairies were a bit of a disappointment [wardrobe-wise]. They had on masks such as one might wear to a costume party. I much preferred the faces of Puck and Titania, painted with makeup and glitter but still looking human.

Another actor who was very enjoyable was Christopher Ference, who played Bottom. Bottom is a great role, what with the ass-head-wearing and the role-within-a-role of Pyramus. It’s hard work, and a good Bottom takes talent. This guy had talent and he got the biggest laughs. 

From the program: “The Bethel Theatre Arts Department welcomes you to our fall production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Since it was first presented in 1594 this magical comedy of lovers and fairies and ‘rude mechanicals’ has delighted audiences worldwide. We trust you will enjoy the play, our eleventh production on the Everest-Rohrer Stage.” 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Bummer Halloween: Awful Things That Happened on October 31st

Continuing with the project I began after seeing Jordan Peele's Nope. Content warning for death, child death, drug overdose, murder, fire, explosion, car crash. 

On Today's Date

October 30, 2015: A fire inside the Colectiv night club in Bucharest, Romania kills 64 people, including four members of the band Goodbye to Gravity, whose pyrotechnics display had initiated the blaze. Guitarists Mihai Alexandru and Vlad Telea die at the scene; drummer Bogdan Enache and bassist Alex Pascu die in the hospital. Lead singer Andrei Gălu is badly burned but survives. 

Many of those who die in the hospital do so from infections, possibly because of inadequate disinfectant measures used in Romanian hospitals.

On Halloween

October 31, 1926: Harry Houdini dies of peritonitis due to a ruptured appendix. Houdini had visited Canada’s McGill University on October 22, when a student asked to punch Houdini in the stomach (which Houdini was famously able to withstand, when properly prepared), but then did so before the magician was ready. 

October 31, 1963: Spectators gather to watch a Holiday on Ice performance at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana. A natural gas explosion starts in a storage area that food vendors use to store pre-popped popcorn. The explosion kills 81 people and injures an additional 400. 

October 31, 1974: Ronald Clark O’Bryan gives Pixy Stix candy straws laced with cyanide to his two children, two neighbor children, and a fifth child he knew from church. Only one of the children, O’Bryan’s 8-year-old son Timothy, eats the poisoned candy. After Timothy dies, police confiscate the other contaminated Pixy Stix, which O’Bryan claims to have gotten from a neighbor. 

O’Bryan is convicted of the murder, which he appears to have planned to collect insurance money, and executed by the state of Texas in 1984.

October 31, 1990: Magician Joseph “Amazing Joe” Burrus, age 32, attempts a Halloween night stunt at Blackbeard’s Family Fun Center in Fresno, California. He’ll attempt to escape from a coffin made of plastic and glass and buried under mud and wet cement. The weight of the cement and mud crushes the coffin, burying Burrus alive. Although he is quickly dug out of the grave, he can’t be revived.

October 31, 1993: 23-year-old actor River Phoenix is pronounced dead at 1:51 a.m. at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, after collapsing from an overdose of cocaine and morphine.

October 31, 2006: 18-year-old Nicole Catsouras dies immediately upon impact when the Porsche belonging to her parents, which the teenager is driving without permission, strikes a toll booth at over 100 miles per hour. 

The accident is terrible enough, but Catsouras’ family suffers further when gruesome crash scene photos taken by the California Highway Patrol are leaked on the Internet, allegedly by people who worked in the 911 call center. 

October 31, 2016: Natalie Babbitt, the author of Tuck Everlasting, dies of lung cancer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Sunday, October 18, 2009: Treehouse of Horror

Sunday, October 18, 2009: The highlight of my day was watching the new Simpsons episode, “Treehouse of Horror XX (LABF14).” The first segment parodied an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Better still, the second story parodied I Am Legend. Krusty Burger’s new sandwich turns everyone into cannibal zombies. The Simpson family manages to survive and discover that Bart is immune to the disease. They get him to the safety zone, where Bart transfers his immunity to the other survivors by bathing in their soup.

The last segment was a musical one based on Sweeney Todd. After a gruesome accident, Moe the bartender discovers his beer is greatly enhanced by Homer’s blood. Moe schemes to get on Marge’s good side; he tells her Homer turned gay and ran off. Homer’s “The Gay Song” is rather funny:

“While turning gay the other day,

A thought occurred to me.

I'd like to try most every guy

From here to Timbuk-tee.

Oh, there's so many men around the world

Of every shape and size.

I want to nibble on Jamaican jerks

And teriyaki thighs.

I want to French-kiss a Frenchman

And spoon an English duke.

'Cause frankly, dear

To not be queer

Just makes me want to puke.

So find yourself a man

Who'll want you in the sack.

I recommend our dear old friend...

Bartender Moe Szyslak!”

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Bummer Summer Part II: Awful Things That Happened in September

Content Warning: Accidents, natural disasters, death, guns, mass death.

This is a second sneak peek at a very tentative, very early-stage work in progress I call Erin O’Riordan’s Almanac of Bad Days. Part I dropped on August 3, 2022

September 1, 2019: Spanish dancer Joana Sainz Garcia is killed while performing during a music festival when a pyrotechnics display malfunctions. A faulty cartridge strikes the 30-year-old in the abdomen.

September 2, 1900: A tropical hurricane formed over the Atlantic Ocean makes landfall in the Dominican Republic. This storm is among the deadliest in U.S. history, with a large number of fatalities coming from Galveston, Texas. Meteorologists of the time, and in particular Isaac Cline, didn’t believe that a significant hurricane was possible in Galveston, and so rejected requests from the townspeople that the city should build a sea wall. As many as 8,000 people in the Caribbean, the U.S., and the Maritime Provinces of Canada are thought to have lost their lives in this storm, including Cline’s wife and some of his children.

September 3, 1991: Fire breaks out inside the Imperial Food Products chicken processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina. Some workers are unable to escape due to locked doors, including one door labeled as a fire exit. The building had no sprinkler system or fire alarm. Of the 90 workers in the plant at the time of the fire, 25 died and an additional 54 were injured. Plant owner Emmett Roe pleads guilty to manslaughter and serves nearly four years in prison. 

September 4, 2006: Wildlife expert, zookeeper, and filmmaker Steve Irwin is filming a dive in shallow water near the Great Barrier Reef. He is struck in the chest by a stingray’s tale. The barb of the tale pierces his heart, killing him.

September 5, 1983: Canadian stunt performer Ken Carter is killed when the rocket car he’s using to jump over an Ontario pond overshoots the landing ramp, flips, and lands on its roof. 

September 6, 1951: Joan Vollmer is shot and killed in an American-owned bar in Mexico City by her husband, William S. Burroughs. Both were intoxicated. Vollmer is alleged to have placed a glass on top of her head, and Burroughs was supposedly trying to shoot the glass off her head with a pistol. Instead he shot Vollmer in the head and killed her instantly.

This is portrayed in the film Beat (2000). Vollmer is played by Courtney Love and Burroughs by Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland

Courtney Love attending Life Ball in Vienna, Austria, May 31, 2014. Public domain image.

September 7, 2018: Rapper Mac Miller, aged 26, dies of an overdose of alcohol, cocaine, and fentanyl. 

September 11, 1987: Reggae artist Peter Tosh and two friends are shot and killed when Tosh’s home is invaded by a street gang demanding money.

September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a third target are attacked by commercial jets hijacked by terrorists. Nearly 3,000 people are killed.

September 13, 1996: Rapper and actor Tupac Shakur dies from gunshot wounds in Las Vegas.

September 14, 1899: Real estate developer Henry H. Bliss becomes the first person killed in the U.S. from a motor vehicle collision. The previous day, he had stepped off a trolley car and been struck by an electric taxi cab, knocking him to the ground and crushing his chest. 

September 14, 1927: Dancer Isadora Duncan is killed in Nice, France, when her scarf becomes entangled in the open-spoked wheel and axle of the car she’s riding in, breaking her neck.

September 16, 1977: T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan, who never learned to drive, is the passenger in a Mini 1275GT automobile when it crashes into a fence post and then a tree, killing Bolan instantly.

September 16, 1985: Aerobatic pilot Arthur “Art” Scholl crashes his plane and is killed while filming spin footage for the movie Top Gun. He crashes into the Pacific Ocean; his aircraft is never recovered.

September 18, 1970: 27-year-old Jimi Hendrix dies of asphyxiation at St. Mary Abbots Hospital in London. He appears to have aspirated vomit after taking an overdose of barbiturates, presumably his girlfriend’s sleeping pills.

September 19, 1902: One hundred fifteen members of the Shiloh Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, are killed in a stampede after one of them called out “Fight!” and this was misheard as “Fire!” 

September 20, 1997: Musician Nick Traina, the son of author Danielle Steel, passes away from an overdose of the prescription medication lithium. He is 19 years old.

Link80fan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

September 22, 1978: Stunt performer A.J. Bakunas dies from his injuries after a failed stunt fall from Lexington, Kentucky’s Kincaid Towers the previous day. Bakunas lands on the air bag as planned, which splits, allowing his body to hit the ground at approximately 115 miles per hour.

September 27, 1986: Metallica bassist Clifford (Cliff) Burton dies in a tour bus accident in Sweden. The bus skids off the road while members of the band are sleeping in their bunks. Burton is thrown out of his bunk and through the window; the bus falls on top of him. 

September 30, 1997: Post-modern writer Kathy Acker, age 50, dies of breast cancer while undergoing alternative treatment in Tijuana, Mexico.

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Friday, September 2, 2022

Flashback: The Cleveland Museum of Art

Sunday, September 2, 2001, Cleveland: We visited the Cleveland Museum of Art. Its main exhibit was of Japanese painted screens. These were somewhat interesting, but I didn’t deeply connect with these centuries-old images of nature and of scenes from samurai novels. I enjoyed the hall of Asian sculpture more, with its life-sized Hanuman, Buddhas, Krishnas, and Durgas. 

Among the European medieval artworks I particularly enjoyed a sculpture of St. Sebastian. European arts led into French furniture, but I had little appreciation for these French arts. We took lunch in the museum’s cafeteria. We ate in the courtyard, which had a bubbling fountain, sculpture, and nice shaded tables. 

After lunch we saw a more enjoyable part of the museum’s collection, the ancient Egyptian art and the 20th century art, which included a Dali and a Jackson Pollock. The museum also had multiple Blue Period Picassos. The Egyptian collection wasn’t huge, but it was very cool. It had a fantastic bust of the lion-headed goddess who personifies the heat of the desert sun, Sekhmet. 

For dinner we put on the best clothes we’d brought with us and went to the Ritz Carlton. The sushi chef made us California rolls with flying fish roe plus salmon, squid, tuna, and octopus sashimi. The second course was fresh asparagus. For my entree I had red snapper served over tomatoes and potatoes. The fish was so meaty it almost had the texture of chicken. As an after-dinner treat, the chef presented us with a bowl of fluffy pink cotton candy. 

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Thursday, September 1, 2022

September 1: Walden and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


Sep*tem"ber, n. Etym: [L., fr. septem seven, as being the seventh month of the Roman year, which began with March: cf. F. septembre. See Seven.]

Defn: The ninth month of the year, containing thirty days.


Sep*tem"brist, n. Etym: [F. septembriste.]

Defn: An agent in the massacres in Paris, committed in patriotic frenzy, on the 22d of September, 1792.

September 1, 1846: “Already, by the first of September, I had seen two or three small maples turned scarlet across the pond, beneath where the white stems of three aspens diverged, at the point of a promontory, next the water. Ah, many a tale their color told! And gradually from week to week the character of each tree came out, and it admired itself reflected in the smooth mirror of the lake. Each morning the manager of this gallery substituted some new picture, distinguished by more brilliant or harmonious coloring, for the old upon the walls.” 

- Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, September 1, 2001: We left the house at precisely 8 a.m., driving east along the I-90/I-80 toll road. We stopped twice, once for breakfast at Hardee’s and again to stretch our legs and get hot beverages from Starbuck’s. We arrived in Cleveland around noon. 

We walked from our downtown Holiday Inn hotel to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From the ceiling hung the cars that U2 used as stage props during the Zooropa tour. On the lower level we saw a Jimi Hendrix exhibit; I was most interested in his drawings and the handwritten lyrics to his songs. We perused the collection of stage and album cover outfits worn by everyone from Dave Matthews to Madonna, including Madonna’s wedding dress from her “Like a Virgin” video. We saw Jim Morrison’s baby book (donated by his parents) and the not-terribly-impressive art of the lost Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe. 

On the second floor we saw recording equipment from Sun Records, an exhibit about disc jockeys, and the covers of Rolling Stone and other music magazines. The largest exhibit was about John Lennon. Many of its photos and artifacts were on loan from Yoko Ono, so not much came from the Beatles years. Instead we saw pictures of John as a schoolboy, a few report cards, pictures of his teachers, and his drawings of make-believe characters. A cute set of photos showed John, Yoko, and their little son Sean on vacation in Japan. 

Particularly interesting was a set of collages John made from magazine clippings. He gave them to friends, including Ringo Starr and George Harrison, for their birthdays. Another portrayed various cute, naked men and was a birthday card John made for Elton John. 

On a much sadder note, the exhibit included the paper bag containing John’s clothes that the coroner gave Yoko after John’s murder. The museum even displayed the blood-stained glasses he’d been wearing when he died. 

Another fascinating object was a white telephone which, supposedly, Yoko will occasionally call. How I hoped she would call! I would have told her how I admired her when I read her introduction to She’s a Rebel by Gillian G. Gaar. The phone did not ring. 

After the Hall of Fame we walked along Lake Erie, taking in a beautiful pink sunset.

Saturday, September 1, 2007: Mom and I went to Plymouth, Indiana, for the annual Blueberry Festival, as I wrote about previously on this blog.

September 1, 2019, Indianapolis: We went to Greenwood Park Mall, where we had lunch at TGI Friday’s. Afterward we stopped at Home Depot. Tit wore his Slaughterhouse-Five t-shirt from Out of Print. The cashier told us about the years he spent volunteering at the Kurt Vonnegut Library and Museum and the one time he met Kurt Vonnegut. The cashier told Vonnegut, “You remind me of one of my drunk old uncles,” to which Vonnegut is said to have replied, “Could be.”

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Saturday, August 6, 2022

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Bummer Summer Part I: Awful Things That Happened in August

Content Warning: Accidents, natural disasters, death, child death, mass death.

As I mentioned back in June, I've been working on a time-based project. A sort of almanac, if you will. That project was well underway as I sat in the Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie the other day, watching Jordan Peele's Nope

I'm not going to spoil anything major about the movie, but here's a minor spoiler that occurs in the first few minutes: Weird things fall out of the sky. 

This reminded me of a particular genre of reading I enjoyed as a young adult: Collections of short, weird, allegedly true paranormal happenings. These books would collect ghost stories beside tales of strange happenings like alleged cases of spontaneous human combustion, reincarnation, and rains of weird things such as frogs

It occurred to me that part of Jordan Peele's writing process was collecting bits of news, little ripples of anxiety that run through our American culture, and weaving them together into a story. This reminded me of my almanac project, which isn't specifically focused on cultural anxieties or weird happenings, but does mention some of them incidentally. For example, I was alive on September 11, 2001, and I've written about it; some of that writing made its way into my first almanac draft/work-in-progress.

I don't want the entire almanac to be a bummer. But this gave me an idea: What if I wrote a separate document, a companion almanac, a slimmer volume that was focused on the bummer parts of history and American culture?

This is the first little peek at what I'm tentatively--very tentatively--calling Erin O’Riordan’s Almanac of Bad Days. I'm me, so it's still a bit literary-focused.

August 2, 1973: Approximately 50 people are killed when the Summerland indoor amusement park catches fire. The building’s ceiling is constructed using a transparent acrylic material, which melts, raining burning-hot liquid acrylic down on the victims of the fire.

August 2, 1997: William S. Burroughs dies, having had a heart attack the previous day.

August 7, 2016: 10-year-old son Caleb Schwab is killed while riding the Verrückt water raft ride at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The tallest such ride in the world at the time, the ride had a screen over the top, held in place with a series of metal support rings, to keep guests from accidentally flying off the ride in the event that the raft should become airborn. Caleb, who was riding on the front of a raft with two unrelated women riding on the back, struck the metal support ring and was decapitated when his raft became airborne. 

August 10, 1978: Three teenage girls, all members of the Ulrich family, are killed in an automobile accident while riding in a Ford Pinto. The state of Indiana charges the Ford Motor Company with homicide, claiming that the company was aware of manufacturing defects that made the vehicle more likely to cause death in the event of certain types of accidents. Ford is found not guilty.

August 12, 1964: Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels and of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, dies.

August 12, 1982: Japan Airlines Flight 123 crashes into a mountain after the pilots lose the ability to steer the plane. Of the 509 passengers and 15 crew members, only three passengers and one crew member survive. Rescue operations are delayed due to darkness and mountainous terrain, which means many people who may have initially had non-fatal injuries died of exposure, blood loss, and other conditions. 

August 13, 1521: Hernán Cortés and his small army of Spanish conquistadores conquer the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán after an extended siege that began in 1519. 

August 13, 1944: Lucien Carr, friend of Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, stabs and kills his acquaintance David Kammerer. Carr will serve two years in prison for manslaughter, then go on to father children who include novelist Caleb Carr

August 17, 1966: English race car driver Ken Miles is killed when the Ford Mk IV he is test-driving crashes at over 200 miles per hour.

August 21, 1986: A naturally-occurring limnic eruption of Lake Nyos in Cameroon releases poisonous carbon dioxide into the air, killing 1,746 people. 

August 25, 1984: Truman Capote dies of liver disease.

August 26, 2001: Tit and I got out of bed this morning and turned on the news to hear that the singer/dancer/actor Aaliyah had perished in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Born in 1979, she was only 22 years old.

August 27, 1883: Mount Krakatau (Anglicized as Krakatoa), which had begun to erupt on the 20th of May, intensifies in seismic activity with an eruption that destroys more than two-thirds of its island. The eruption is one of the loudest sounds ever heard by human ears, with the explosion being heard 4,800 miles away from the Indonesian site of the volcano. Pyroclastic flows, ash expelled into the atmosphere, and resulting tsunamis are estimated to have killed more than 36,400 people. Only the 1815 Mount Tambora explosion is thought to have been deadlier.

August 28, 2020: 43-year-old actor Chadwick Boseman passes away from colon cancer.

Monday, August 1, 2022

My Visual Art on Pinterest

Did you know that in addition to writing, I also draw and make old-fashioned, analog collage art? I drew this Little Golden Book in 1998.

The image makes a cute design for a baby onesie.

This old-fashioned, cut-and-paste paper collage, also created in the '90s, decorates the inside of one of my diaries. 

Another cut-and-paste collage from an old diary represents my favorite color.

I drew Madonna (Ciccone) in the style of a Fernando Botero Madonna. 

This collage represents a more traditional Madonna, although with the addition of a few beauty products as a frame. 

I've even designed a few dresses.

Comment with the name of your Pinterest profile so I can see some of your favorite pins.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

July 31: Lammas Eve

July 31, 1994, South Bend. After a visit to Target at which I ordered a Frozen Coke in the café, I saw Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet for the first time. I wrote, “It really is a good story. The actor who played Romeo was seventeen when it was filmed.” I noticed Leonardo DiCaprio but I didn’t know his name yet. 

According to Shakespeare, July 31st or Lammas Eve is Juliet Capulet’s birthday:

Nurse. Even or odd, of all days in the year,

Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.

Susan and she—God rest all Christian souls!—

Were of an age: well, Susan is with God;

She was too good for me: but, as I said,

On Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen;

That shall she, marry; I remember it well.

Saturday, July 31, 2010, Mishawaka: Tit and I went to Battell Park for a free, open-air performance of The Taming of the Shrew by Notre Dame’s The Young Company. It was positively delightful. It had been too long since Tit and I had seen live Shakespeare. 

Monday, July 4, 2022

July 4th in Literary History

July 4, 1804: Nathaniel Hawthorne is born. 


Haw"thorn`, n. Etym: [AS. hagaborn, hæg. See Haw a hedge, and Thorn.]


Defn: A thorny shrub or tree (the Cratægus oxyacantha), having deeply lobed, shining leaves, small, roselike, fragrant flowers, and a fruit called haw. It is much used in Europe for hedges, and for standards in gardens. The American hawthorn is Cratægus cordata, which has the leaves but little lobed.

“Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter shade To shepherds” - Shak.

(Webster's Unabridged Dictionary by Various: Public domain in the USA.)

Find the sticker on Redbubble (not an affiliate link)

July 4, 1845: “I began to occupy my house on the 4th of July, as soon as it was boarded and roofed, for the boards were carefully feather-edged and lapped, so that it was perfectly impervious to rain; but before boarding I laid the foundation of a chimney at one end, bringing two cartloads of stones up the hill from the pond in my arms.”

- Walden

July 4, 1862: Lewis Carroll writes in his diary, “July 4 (F) Atkinson brought over to my rooms some friends of his, a Mrs. & Miss Peters, of whom I took photographs, & who afterwards looked over my albums & staid to lunch. They then went off to the Museum, & Duckworth & I made an expedition up the river to Godstow with the 3 Liddells: we had tea on the bank there, & did not reach Ch. Ch. Again till ¼ past 8, when we took them on to my rooms to see my collection of micro-photographs, & restored them to the Deanery just before 9.” 

The little expedition rowing on the Thames with Alice Liddell and her two sisters near Christ Church (Ch. Ch.), Oxford, was the beginning of the author’s inspiration for writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Three June 16ths

June 16, 1893: According to the Awe-Manac by Jill Badonsky, “On this day in 1893, Cracker Jacks were invented by R.W. Rueckheim."

Friday, June 16, 1995, Sevilla: We took a bus tour of Sevilla, then visited the Spanish pavilion of the American-Iberian Exposition. A Spanish dog attached Courtney’s shoe. Next we visited the Alcazar, a park surrounded by Moorish and Gothic palaces. We saw the Giralda, the bell tower (formerly a minaret) of a cathedral (formerly a mosque) with a giant, revolving sculpture on top, called the Giraldillo. 

After that bit of sightseeing we went into a department store. I bought some castanets and a copy of Alicia en el Pais de las Maravillas. We had strawberry ice cream. Outside, some street musicians played guitar and sang, and I saw lemons growing on trees that lined the streets. 

In the evening, we took a boat cruise down the Guadalquivir River. While the boat was docked along the riverbank, we were entertained by flamenco dancers. Once the boat was in motion, the auditorium became a dance floor and there was a floating disco.

Saturday, June 16, 2007, South Bend: After lunch, a nap, and some writing, Tit and I went to the Chicory Cafè for open mic night. I read a poem, one I wrote for Friends Writing Group. It wasn’t a great poem, but I also got to talk about my books. 

Before, I had ordered a decaf with coconut syrup. Afterward, we both got gelato. I picked the tiramasu flavor with crumbled-up ladyfingers in it; very delicious. Tit used the purchase of gelato to flirt with Alison, the joke-telling barista.

The most entertaining performer tonight was a poet who had been in prison and who wrote poems about Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Eve, and the all the great female singers and rappers who inspire him. 

Oh, and I saw a streaker in downtown South Bend, running down Michigan Street with his bare ass hanging out. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Throwback: It's 1995, I'm 18, and I'm in Spain

I've been working on a time-themed project, so have a little peek backward in time: 

Thursday, June 15, 1995: The tour group and I left Madrid and went to Córdoba. This was a long drive, but along the way I began to see palm trees, which I had never seen in nature before. Then we were in Andalusia, the region that Federico García Lorca loved so much. 

I made a niche, Spanish valentine for Valentine's Day 2022.

We visited the Mezquita-Catedral, a gorgeous example of Moorish architecture that was once the Great Mosque (Mesquita) of the city but was then claimed by the Catholic Church and is now technically known as the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. It was amazing, absolutely amazing. 

The tour group stopped for lunch. I had calamari and a Coke, which I ate while watching Nirvana on European MTV. We then got back on our tour bus and went to another Andalusian city, Sevilla. Our hotel in Sevilla seemed really nice. Some other American girls were hanging out of the windows, passing American candy to our Spanish peers. 

At 10:30 we went out to a disco. Spain has no minimum drinking age, so we bought beers and danced. A good time was had by all. Then when we got back to the hotel, we had a bit of excitement because our chaperone Mrs. Sullivan and her friend Sonja had a lizard in their room. A boy named Alex came and caught it in a cup.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

I Saw Neil Gaiman Last Night

My husband and I were lucky to see Neil Gaiman do a live reading and question-and-answer session on the Butler University campus last night. Now I feel like a Victorian lady must have felt after she saw Charles Dickens on one of his American tours. (Except Neil Gaiman is an English person who lives in the United States; I don't think Dickens ever moved here.) 

Mr. Gaiman began the evening by reading a short poem about reading to children, aimed at some friends in the audience whom, he knew, had their young child with them. Secondly he read us "Chivalry," a delightful short story which you may remember from LeVar Burton Reads.

Someone asked him how he came to be so obviously fascinated by myths. He said, in a deadpan tone, "When I was four, I was bitten by a radioactive myth." I suspect the sincere answer has more to do with an autobiographical story he told later about asking his parents to leave him at the local library all day, where the librarians would treat him, a child, with respect and use inter-library loans to get him almost any book he could think of. 

Later he read "Click Clack the Rattle Bag," a funny/scary horror story, and then a short story that was sort of a sequel to "Chivalry," about the woman who releases the genie from the silver lamp, but doesn't want any of his offered three wishes. 

Neil Gaiman talked about his children a lot. He was quite adamant that he can't be happy unless they're happy. He especially mentioned Holly, because she was the inspiration for Coraline, and Maddy, but he also mentioned the time Michael became frustrated with him because, Michael said, "You make things up." He didn't mention Anthony by name, but again I stress, he can't be happy unless all of his children are happy.

He spoke lovingly of his Good Omens co-creator Terry Pratchett, who apparently was a wonderful friend to talk to over the phone, a bit prone to calling out of the blue. He also spoke lovingly of Stephen King, relaying an incident in which the King family offered to take Mr. Gaiman to dinner after he finished his 4 p.m. book signing. The Kings sat impatiently in their car from 7:30 to 8:30, still waiting for Gaiman to finish signing things, when Joe Hill (approximately 22 years old at the time) came in sheepishly to let him know they were going back to their hotel, where Mr. Gaiman was welcome to join them after the signing. Which he did, at 10 p.m. It was a very long book signing line. 

Neil Gaiman mentioned the bucket list he wrote when he was around 10 years old, which included writing an original musical, which he still wants to do. Some of his works have been adapted for the stage, but he hasn't written anything original specifically for musical purposes yet. I had to chuckle, because Tit Elingtin and I had seen Something Rotten! at Footlite Musicals on Sunday. The plot involves an Elizabethan soothsayer predicting that musicals will be the next big thing in theater. 

The presentation ended with two poems, both written collaboratively with input from the Twitterverse. The first was about how to stay warm, and was part of a project aimed at collecting money for some the world's estimated 65 million refugees, from Afghanistan and other conflict zones. The current number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world is believed to be the highest it's been since the end of World War II. 

The last poem was written expressly to be part of an unnamed person's full-back tattoo. Mr. Gaiman agreed to take part in this project not imagining that the illustrated who provided the art would also say yes to the project...but he did. 

Lastly, my beloved Tit Elingtin braved the book line to get me several pre-signed copies of Neil Gaiman books. They'll be a prized part of my book collection. I'm sure they were all signed with his favorite writing instrument, the fountain pen.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Very Specific Associations with Very Specific Songs

I'm back, and I'm very curious to hear other people's thoughts on this one, especially other writers and people in creative fields: When you listen to certain songs, do you have very specific stories you associate with them? Do you associate a song with a book, a fic, a movie, or fictional characters of some kind?

There are some of my Very Specific Associations for songs I listened to often in 2021.*

"Already Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. Remember when "The Broken Man and the Dawn" was my favorite RPF? Well, whether one does or not, that particular story has a plotline that involves a couple who's lost a child having a painful but overall rather amicable breakup. Although Clarkson famously wrote this gentle breakup song for her ex Justin "Little Sweet from the Dr. Pepper commercials" Guarini, in my mind it's about that breakup from "The Broken Man and the Dawn." 

"Girl Crush" by Little Big Town. I made a whole post about this one by itself; it's one of my songs for the fictional couple Destiel.

One of my other Destiel songs is the Deftones cover of Sade's "No Ordinary Love." 

"Runaway Crush" by Stella Soleil. This one is both super-specific and a mishearing. The actual line in the song is, "I'm feeling the soft of your skin," but before I looked up the lyrics I always heard it as "I'm feeling the SALT of your skin." Granted, salt doesn't have a particularly nice feel (it's just grainy), but I liked to imagine ocean-dipped Mediterranean skin which, when kissed, might taste quite nice. 

I rediscovered this gem of a song at roughly the same time I developed my Baron Helmut Zemo fixation. My association with Zemo and salt is this Tumblr post by a native Russian speaker. Daniel Brühl is famously multilingual; he acts in German-, Spanish-, and English-language films and also speaks Catalan and its cousin French. Apparently, though, his Russian accent is less than ideal and when Zemo has to utter the command phrase "soldat," he sounds like he's either saying "soldier" in a baby voice or asking, "Want some salt?"

Thus my runaway crush is a Sokovian war criminal. (It's ok, he's fictional.) 

If you want to fall even deeper into the salty rabbit hole in my brain, you can listen to this episode of Cult or Just Weird in which a self-described alien contactee says the aliens always give him salt as a parting gift. 

"Send My Love (To Your New Lover)" by Adele (Adkins). Like many people who spend too much time on Tumblr, I had a BBC Sherlock phase. I imagine this song is what Sherlock says to John when John marries Mary. 

"Watching You Watch Him" by Eric Hutchinson. I mentioned this one years ago, but this song enjoyed mild popularity when I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Thus I experience this upbeat ode to jealousy as being from the point of view of Jose, witnessing the early stages of Anastasia and Christian's relationship.

"Water Under the Bridge" by Adele (Adkins).  In my mind, this is another Johnlock (BBC Sherlock), but this time from John's point of view, upon his learning that Sherlock was not actually dead. 

*I'm trying to learn some new music for 2022. Here are a few current favorites:

  • "Boyfriend" by Dove Cameron
  • "Celebrity Skin" by Doja Cat, a cover of a Hole classic
  • "Chocolate Cake" by Melissa Etheridge
  • "DFMU" by Ella Mai
  • "Flamin' Hottie" by Megan Thee Stallion, which samples "Push It" by Salt N Pepa
  • "LOUD" by Sofia Carson

Anyone, at any time, please feel free to tell me your Very Specific Song Associations. Even if you stumbled upon this post in 2032.