Sunday, August 29, 2021

Tea, in a Plaza

So, thanks to my friend Dale, a friend and co-worker at both TSR and WotC, and since, I made it without a hitch to The Plaza, where I'll be staying the rest of this trip. We even had a light meal in their courtyard,* which has never been open on any of my previous visits here. It was past their busy time so they told us it was fine if we wanted to linger over our beverages (mine was tea, of course). So we had a v. pleasant time catching up and reminiscing, while I admired the cafe sparrows.

*I assume this is the 'plaza' after which the hotel is named.

Afterwards I even got in a grocery run (thanks again Dale) to help me take advantage of the little kitchen in my room. Pity I did not discover until later that the oven was inert: both stove and burners weren't functioning. Probably just a pilot light is out, based on past experience. They shd have fixed Monday. And luckily till then I've still got the microwave.

For today (Sunday) I was looking forward to a get-together over brunch with another TSR & WotC friend (hi Sue),** but she had to cancel, so we'll try that again another time. 

**who was also at Marquette as well, but our times there did not overlap.

Yesterday's meal out in the courtyard having been so pleasant, I thought today I'd repeat the experience. If there was a long wait, why not: I had a book (well, my Kindle) with me and didn't have anywhere I had to be (we'd deliberately left the day mostly open so I'd be well-rested when the main purpose for the trip, the time in the Archives).

Then the forty-five minute wait got stretched by another twenty minutes. This was the second wait, but I decided to stick it out.

Then the sky opened.

I'd forgotten what Midwest downpours are like (we don't have them out in the Pacific Northwest much). So now they had to close the courtyard and combine the two waiting lists, Inside/Outside, into one (Inside only). Eventually an apologetic staff got me seated and I had a pleasant if somewhat tardy meal, breakfast/brunch having transitioned into brunch/lunch at some point in there.

I had thought of taking advantage of the wide-open afternoon to go up to Sip n Purr, Milwaukee's cat cafe, but after the rain stopped it had gotten really hot. So I went back to my room, where made some preparations for the Archive work tomorrow.

Then, for a change of pace, I spent some time with character creation for a 1st edition AD&D solo game I'm hoping to run off and on during the evenings; we'll see how it goes. I am finding that this iteration of the rules, my all-time favorite, relies heavily on the player already knowing the game v. well --which seems fair enough, given that they put 'Advanced' right there in the name.

We'll see how far I get.

--John R.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Tea, in the Dark

So, thanks to my friends Jim and Deb, whom I've known since Marquette days, even before TSR, I got smoothly from the airport to my hotel, and even got some frozen custard* along the way. After a good visit I settled into my room for the night.

That's when the power went out. It flickered a minute or so as if it were trying to restart but didn't. So with the aid of a little alarm clock/ pocket flashlight I went down to the front desk. No light, no elevator, no wifi, no phone, and no tea.** Luckily the door keys still worked, and the 'Exit' signs kept the corridors from being totally dark. 

The people at the front desk said they didn't know what was going on, since the phones were out, leaving them with no way to talk to the electricians who ought to be on their way. This was not encouraging. I'd planned to catch up on sleep that first night of my trip, but this was a bit much.

Back to the room where I waited some more and organized stuff I'd brought with me as best I cd with the aid of the little flashlight and some light coming in through the window. After a time I went back down again, where the staff seemed to be pretty relaxed about things. By now it's starting to get towards late afternoon, and I'm not looking forward to the prospect of an unfamiliar dark room once it gets dark out. I asked if it were likely the lights wd be back on before dark. Of course, they said.

Sure enough, the power came back, lights and internet and all,  after near-total darkness from 4.11 to 5.20  --more than an hour.

--John R.

*a Milwaukee tradition that has failed to establish itself in the Seattle area.

**luckily I'd made a cup shortly before the power failed, but there was a limit to how far I cd stretch this out, and the tea-making equipment in the lobby was inert.

Friday, August 27, 2021

An observation about Clark Ashton Smith

So I've started reading a collection of Clark Ashton Smith pastiche, and have come up with a maxim:

People who try to write like Clark Ashton Smith



Tea, on a Plane

So, on my flight to Milwaukee today I asked for hot tea when they offered me a beverage, and they brought me tea-flavored tea. And later a refill. It was Teavana English Breakfast. And it occurred to me that while getting just plain tea has gotten v. spotty at restaurants and, sad to say, even StarBucks, the airlines of all people have toed the line and are getting it right.

--John R.

--current reading: a collection of Clark Ashton Smith pastiche. 

P.S.: I'm in Milwaukee

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A Grove of Strawberry Trees

"They lay that night in a grove of strawberry trees"

--THE WORM OUROBOROS , Chapter XXVIII, page 334

So, I'm nearing the end of my slow and careful re-read  of THE WORM OUROBOROS.  I first read this in the summer of 1980, which means that's probably when I managed to track down a copy,. I'd have been aware of it for several years before that via sources such as Lin Carter's LOOK BEHIND THE LORD OF THE RINGS (which I'd in turn come across at our local WalMart on 3/25-76, a Thursday).

This current reading is (I think) my fourth time through (at least).  

My most recent reading had been for my CLASSICS OF FANTASY column on E.R.E. (March 2003. I found that reading it now I remembered the plot and characters and certain vivid details but had forgotten all the mountain climbing bits. They reminded me of all the whaling chapters in MOBY DICK. Is this how wrong-headed people who think THE LORD OF THE RINGS is too long feel about what they like to refer to as 'the walking bits'?

I did come to appreciate Eddison's descriptive passages when he lovingly describes natural scenes. And his skill with characterization is impressive: there aren't nearly as many spear-carriers as you'd expect in a book this long. Plus there are the two scenes where JRRT clearly borrowed from ERE. Speaking of which I knew about Eddison's borrowing the Induction that starts his book from Shakespeare's TAMING OF THE SHREW but had not fully appreciated how much ERE follows Elizabethan practice in having major events (say, ones that wd be difficult to stage, like a naval battle) take place offstage and be reported aafterwards by an eyewitness.

My conclusion: Eddison came closer than anyone else in the pre-Tolkien era in putting together the elements that, in Tolkien's hands, became the tropes of modern fantasy. All he's missing is hobbits. But that just confirms just how important hobbits are to the mix.

My second conclusion: any man who writes of strawberry trees either is presaging John Lennon by forty-five years or didn't do his own shopping down at the market. Perhaps both.

--John R.

current reading : THE WORM OUROBOROS (just finishing up).

Monday, August 23, 2021

10 years a volunteer?

 So, recently one of my fellow volunteers down at the Purrfect Pals cat room mentioned that she'd been doing this for ten years. I got to wondering how long I'd been at it myself, thinking it must have been at least that long. 


Unfortunately I've only kept sporadic records, which has gotten even more so since my handwriting has gotten worse, but I do post a write-up to my blog --not every week, but more often than not.


I did turn up a notebook in which I kept a record running from W. Jan. 18th 2012 through W. July 3rd 2013. Each page lists each cat by name, whether he or she ate, drank, peed, or pooped, as well as who had a walk, often with some additional notes about a cat's favorite game, health issues,* and any striking behavior.


I know that the person who organized the volunteers when I was first there left not that long after, and died not that long after that, around March 2011. And I know that the person who took over and coordinated things between the Tukwila cat-room's group of volunteers for years told me she started volunteering in October 2009, and I know she had already been there a while when I joined up.


So I can't be sure, but it seems like I must have started sometime in 2011. Possibly in 2010. 


That's a lot of cats, some of who are just a blur, while others stay vividly in the memory . Like Moreo, the best walker we ever had --he even went outside the store a few times (till we got told don't do that). 


Or Edna Jane, who for weeks lurked at the back of her cage and swatted at any hand that came near her, who one day let me pick her up, put on the leash, and walk her. She'd decided we weren't cat-eating fiends. From then on she was like a different cat, friendly and sociable and soon adopted.


Or little black ball of fluff Amy Lynd, who one day was out for a little walk when she realized that all those bags on all those shelves, row after row, were full of catnip. 


Or Old Man Hank, who was determined to cheat on his diet at every opportunity, in each walk visiting the likely spots where a morsel of kibble may have fallen out of sight and falling upon it with satisfaction. 


Or Tessa, I think her name was: a blind cat who nonetheless was one of our best walkers


And so many more. I'm glad Janice talked me into volunteering as a cat socializer. It's been a good ten (-ish) years.


--John R.



*this is where I learned about the dreaded Calici virus, and how to spot the warning signs


Friday, August 20, 2021

A mile up a mountainside

So, yesterday I was not able to read any more on THE WORM OUROBOROS, because we were belatedly celebrating an anniversary by joining a little tour up Mt. Rainier  (or, if you prefer the local peoples' name, Big Tahoma).

It was pure coincidence that the passage I've been reading describes, in detail, the heroes' climb up the great mountain Koshtra Pivrarcha. 

 Obviously we did not go anywhere near the top, but it's still amazing to travel from thirty-three feet above sea level here in Kent to fifty-four hundred feet at Paradise lodge half-way up the mountain. We saw marmots (a first for me), and grouse (three together), tadpoles (favorites of mine; it's been a while), tall trees (fir, spruce, cedar), waterfalls (e.g. Nisqually Falls), the remnant of Nisqually Glacier (black ice, like ice tends to get when it's old), and far too many steep ledges for an acrophobiac.   

A good outing, and one I'd gladly do again.

--John R.

P.S.: This just in: The WORM turns out to be available in Kindle. That might save some wear and tear on my old copy.

Marquette Manuscript Event

So, thanks to friend Jeff for the following link.

Tolkien manuscripts on display? All I can say is Sign me up. 

--John R.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The World Wobbles

 So, here's a piece from a while back I'd intended to post a link to but never found the right time. So here it is as a companion piece to the Gulf Stream article from a few days ago. Just another of those disquieting things that show the world is changing --on the whole in predictable but unwelcome ways, but sometimes with sudden unexpected shocks.

--John R.

--current reading: THE WORM OUROBOROS

--the newest arrival: ALONE AGAINST THE TIDE solo CoC adventure. Long ago their ALONE AGAINST THE WENDIGO was great, and their ALONE AGAINST THE DARK good enough, so decided to give this one a try while on an upcoming trip.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Is This a Cheese Shop?

 So, I've been happy that the friendly neighborhood Starbucks is open again so that once a week or so I can take my laptop down, put the earphones on,  and work away* at one of their little tables. I was a little disappointed the first week that when I ordered tea they were out of English Breakfast. I went with Earl Grey instead --a mistake, but at least I'd know better next time.

The second week they were again out of English Breakfast, but rather than oil of Bergamot I went with a hot chai tea latte. Good, though not what I really wanted.

The third week they's run out of English Breakfast, so I went the chai route again. Starting to get annoyed.

The fourth week, today, they didn't have English Breakfast. I asked was it discontinued, did they not carry tea-flavored tea anymore? They said no, they carried it, they were just out today. So I ordered a cup of hot water. Techically I ordered a large Earl Grey but told them not to put in the tea bags yet. Then once I got safely to a table I disposed of the E.G. teabags and used two teabags I'd brought from home.** Call it a workaround.

There must be a way to get these folks to sell me a cup of tea. But so far finding out how is, shall we say,  a work in progress.

--John R.

--current reading: THE WORM OUROBOROS

*today it was finalizing the text and trimming back the endnotes for my piece on Wm Hope Hodgson

**Market Spice's Northwest Breakfast blend


. . . And the next time I went in and ordered a hot tea, they got me a hot tea. English Breakfast. Tea flavored tea, with no fuss.  Which makes me luckier than Dent Arthur Dent.  --JDR

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Gulf Stream shutting down

So, the most alarming story I've seen in a long time appeared in THE GUARDIAN last week: The Gulf Stream is becoming unstable --slowing down, cooling down.

This wd bring, in the words of their reporter,  "catastrophic consequences around the world".

I think its importance is shown by the immediate response it got from the first three people I shared it with: 

            Oh my God.

Here's the link: 

--John R.

current reading: 


 Eaves & Kimpel's Introduction to Richardson's PAMELA (1741)

and (taking lots of notes) the preview of Carl's new book THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH (2021)

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Preview of the new Tolkien book

 So, thanks to friend D. for letting me know about the just-released preview of THE NATURE OF MIDDLE-EARTH, ed. Carl Hostetter (and thanks to T.O.R. for providing the link.  For those of us who can't wait till September, here's a thirty-five page sampling from the book.

I know what I'll be reading on tonight.

--John R.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

MFA finalists

So, the Mythopoeic Society has now announced the five finalists for this year's Mythopoeic Award in Inklings Studies:

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies

That's an impressive array of interesting books, each of which makes a significant contribution to Tolkien studies, and I'm pleased that a work I contributed to made the list.

For more information, including the nominees for the awards in fantasy studies, fantasy fiction, and fantasy fiction for young readers, see

--John R.

--current (re) reading: THE WORM OUROBOROS by E. R. Eddison

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Re-Reading Twain

Re-Reading Twain

So, it shd be easy to spot the theme that links my recent reading:






I'd read the first two of these years ago, probably not long after I bought a paperback copy combining the two (on Sunday January 12th 1986). I didn't think much of TOM SAWYER, DETECTIVE then and don't think much of it now, though the trial scene at the end is interesting to the extent that it shows how far back the 'Perry Mason' tradition (Defense Counsel Explains All) goes. At any rate it's better than the two other detective stories by Twain I've read, "A Two Barreled Detective Story" (which includes a parody/pastiche of Holmes, whom Twain hated, as a character) and PUDD'NHEAD WILSON (which starts with a good idea --twins separated at birth, one raised 'white' and the other 'black'--and utterly fails to do anything with it).

ABROAD isn't much better, but at least it links Twain up with the Poe-Verne runaway balloon tradition.

The third entry, HUCK FINN AND TOM SAWYER AMONG THE INDIANS, I read years ago (as in decades). Back when I was in high school or junior high this is one of the many, many books I read while working as a shoe shine. The edition I hunted down for reading now, on Kindle, prints the start of the novel by Twain which then segues into a much longer continuation and conclusion by a Western writer I've never otherwise heard of: Lee Nelson. His contribution, while interesting for its historical backdrop (something Twain tended to keep vague), isn't anything I'll be needing to read again. The same applies to Twain's fragment as well -- although Twain is my favorite American author* there's a smattering of works by him I've never read, and I'd rather read on them and re-read some favorites than to give this one an undeserved third try.


That just leaves SCHOOLHOUSE HILL, the only one of these I don't think I've read --though I've had the book it's in since August 18th 1979,** and despite the fact that I've marked up other sections of the book (which contains three variant texts of Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER. I was surprised by how good it is. After three duds I was prepared with lowered expectations, but he really came through. Pity he broke off and left this version unfinished.

So I'll certainly need to read the other two alternate versions of the story (posthumously assembled from his papers). I'll probably skim several more Twains I don't think I'll need to keep, I'll definitely be adding other Twains to the read-this-at-last shelves.

--John R.

current viewing; think now's a good time to dig out and re-watch Hal Holbrook's MARK TWAIN TONIGHT.

*some of my favorites of his works including THE LETTERS FROM THE EARTH, THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER, THE DIARY OF ADAM AND EVE, and of course stories like "A Day at Niagra", "His Grandfather's Old Ram",  and "Journalism in Tennessee", not to mention the lecture "Advice to Youth"

**only about a week after I graduated from Magnolia, moved to Fayetteville, and started graduate school:: clearly I picked it up pretty much the first time I was able to get into a bookstore