Music to Write To

I’ve become one of those writers who needs background music, both to help set scene mood and to drown out household noise. Why not just shut the office door? Because a closed door is an Abomination unto Catness and leads to pounding on the door, plaintive meows, and MomRed fussing because I’m being mean to the poor cat . . . And because I need to be able to hear what’s going on in the house, for various reasons. Instrumental music is loud enough to mute other sounds, quiet enough to hear over, and doesn’t distract me the way vocals do. I’m too conditioned to listening for cues after 30+ years of choral and other singing. So what have I been listening to? Continue reading


Book Review: By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean

Cunliffe, Barry. By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia (Oxford University Press, 2015) Print and Kindle Editions

As many of my blog readers know, bemoaning the lack of good syntheses is a hobby of mine. We historians churn out monographs by the score, but finding someone who has pulled together a lot of material into a readable, decently illustrated, single book is relatively rare. The best of these are written by authors who have been working in their fields for a considerable period of time, and have collected an enormous amount of material over the years, and have the chops to say, “This is the book I wanted back then, so now I’m going to write it,” and have publishers say “Please, pretty please?” This is one of those books. Continue reading

Happy New Year – Sort-of

Yesterday, Sunday November 20, brought the year to a close. Unless you are Jewish, in which case the greeting is about a month and a half late.

And all my Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, and other “high church” readers are nodding and winking at the confusion.

You see, for those who follow the traditional western liturgical year, in 2017 Christ the King Sunday fell on November 20. It is the last feast of the church year and symbolizes the end of time, when Jesus will return as King of Kings and bring the present world to a close as G-d establishes the New Jerusalem described in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation. Next Sunday, November 27, is the first Sunday of Advent, the four weeks of waiting and anticipation that begin the church year anew. Different way to look at the calendar, isn’t it? Continue reading

Things In Yards

What ever became of Things in Yards? Not Stuff in Yards, but Things in Yards. Stuff in Yards includes boats, cars, plumbing fixtures, parts of agricultural equipment, tractor tires, and so on. But growing up in the late 1970s-1980s, I remember that almost everyone seemed to have something in their yard, a statue or figure or something. There were the (in)famous pink flamingos, jockeys with one arm extended and either of black or white complexion (for some reason most of them had green and white racing silks), a kissing couple (usually Dutch), Mexican farmers napping under a big sombrero, and concrete lions of varying styles. Continue reading

Hardcore Housecat

Until Athena arrived (wrapped in a blanket, at most 6 weeks old and projecting cuteness rays that would persuade anyone to take her in), I’d never met a cat who did not want to go Out. You see, the cats at Redquarters have all had this idea that a paradise existed on the other side of the door, a paradise called Out. And oh, how they wanted to be there.

Why leave? It's warm, and quiet, and the food and water are three feet from my tail.

Why leave? It’s warm, and quiet, and the food and water are three feet from my tail.

Continue reading