Still Story # 13, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy

Story # 13, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is far from self’s favorite, why then has she been stuck reading it for a full day?

Anyhoo, Feathertop the scarecrow has been dressed up in fine clothing, has been taught how to smoke a pipe, and is directed by his fond creator (a witch) to go about. He immediately bewitches the prettiest girl in the village, who fancies herself in love with him. Alas, they happen to walk past a mirror, the girl glances at it, and sees — she is walking with a SCARECROW! A SCARECROW! A SCARECROW! She faints.

A figure burst headlong into the cottage door . . . It was Feathertop!

“What has gone wrong?” demanded the witch. “Did yonder sniffling hypocrite thrust my darling from her door? The villain! . . . Did the girl scorn my precious one? . . . I’ll cover her face with pimples! Her nose shall be as red as the coal in thy pipe! Her front teeth shall drop out!”

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Wu Xia: The Story of Jeon Unchi

This one’s from Korea. And it’s Story # 12 in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy.

It’s written by Anonymous, and translated by Minsoo Kang.

It’s filled with magic and dragons and whirling FANS!

He cast a spell on the pig’s head, transforming it into a long, three-pronged spear. Yongdam also cast a spell, turning the bull’s head into a great sword.

The long spear and the great sword clashed in the air, their blades shimmering as they reflected the light of the sun. Yongdam then threw his fan into the mix and cast another spell, turning the sword and the fan into a red dragon and a blue dragon. Unchi threw in his own fan and cast a spell, turning the spear and the fan into a white dragon and a black dragon. As the four dragons fought, the place became filled with clouds and fog while thunder and lightning struck. Yet no clear winner emerged.

This scene is so very Uther Pendragon, wouldn’t you agree, dear blog readers?

Stay cool.

M. Night Shyamalan, End of July 2021

Self read one review before watching Old. The review said the film had a silly ending. That didn’t worry self. She knows M. Night Shyamalan movies. At their worst, they’re supernatural hokum. But if he sells it, there is a feeling after watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie that is never there at the end of a Christopher Nolan movie, in self’s humble opinion. And she’s seen almost every Christopher Nolan movie (except Dunkirk)

The young actors and actresses are very, very good. Well, the old ones — especially Rufus Sewell — are good as well. It was nice to see Ken Leung in a movie, and in a kind of crucial role.

This isn’t really a horror movie, but by the end, self was vested.

Okay, there was one development that was borderline ridiculous, and it involves a pregnancy. She wants to talk about it more, but she doesn’t want to drop any spoilers.

This is such a strange movie-watching year. When she tried to think of another recent movie that called forth the same pure joy (despite silliness), the only movie she could think of was Mortal Kombat. Truly, Mortal Kombat made self so nostalgic that when she finally heard the immortal lines “Finish him!” and “Get over here!” she wanted to stand up and cheer!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Gogol

In Story # 10 of The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, a man finds a nose in his soup. Not only does he find a nose in his soup, he knows exactly whose nose it is, because the man is or was a regular in his barbershop.

What he doesn’t expect is that his wife will immediately accuse him of having murdered his customer.

Wow, Gogol.

There was another story like that earlier in the book, but that was about a corpse getting lost. And the MC was drunk at the time, so there is a suggestion that he might have been dreaming.

Here, not only does the unfortunate MC have to figure out what to do with the nose, but his wife won’t stop screaming at him. So he walks out of his house with the nose in his pocket.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Luck of the Bean-Rows, Hurrah!

Story # 5 in The Big Book of Classic Fantasy is by Charles Nodier (1780 – 1844) and it features a main character who is two-and-a-half feet high and is called Luck of the Bean-Rows (love the name!) because his beans grow so fat.

When he is twelve, his parents send him off to town to find a market for his magnificent beans (and also to see the world), and before long he encounters a tiny princess, Pea-Blossom, who lends him one of her hundreds of tiny carriages to ride in.

  • “The springs of this carriage are a trifle lively,” he thought to himself (he was nimble-witted, remember); “it started off on its giddy race before Pea-Blossom could tell me whither I was bound. I don’t see why this journey should not last for ages and ages, for that lovely princess, who is young enough to be something of a madcap, told me how to start the carriage, but had no time to say how I was to stop it . . . It sped from the tropics to the poles and back from the poles to the tropics, across all the parallels and meridians, quite unconcerned by the unhealthy changes of temperature.”

Loving this story. Hopefully it will not end on a cliff-y, like that “Hard Nut” story by E. T. A. Hoffmann.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

July #TreeSquare Challenge #12

I adore life of B’s Squares Photo Challenge for July: TREES.

The tree behind the metal dancing figures is in Filoli, in Woodside.

The tree with the dangling glass icicles is in East Menlo Park (between El Camino Real and the 101). A homeowner just decided to festoon a front yard tree with glass ornaments and name it The Tree of Hope.

The Fascination of Simulations

Elizabeth Kolbert is very fascinated by simulations of fragile ecological environments, the ones where scientists test out various doomsday scenarios. Under a White Sky is full of such sims.They cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain.

What must it be like to work in one of those? Self would love it. But Kolbert is a straight arrow: she describes the scientific work in such a way that it appears — by design — dull. Kolbert doesn’t think it’s dull, but the scientists are so self-deprecating.

On p. 109, Kolbert is interviewing Paul Hardity, the Director of SeaSim, a simulation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

She has him saying this:

  • “We come from this planet. Anyway, I’m getting a little philosophical. I’m going to have to go home and watch a hockey game.”

HAR HAR HAR!!!!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Such a Scream

After a whole day spent with scientists trying to save pupfish from extinction, a tired Elizabeth Kolbert kicks back at “the local swimming pool.” The pool’s only other occupant is “a bearded man.” As the man exits the pool, she sees “two large swastikas tattooed on his back.”

LOOOOLLLL!!!

Can you just hear self silent-screaming all the way to the Bay.

All hail, Elizabeth Kolbert.

Stay hydrated, dear blog readers. Stay hydrated.

Sentence of the Day: Still Elizabeth Kolbert

Self is on Section 2 of Kolbert’s Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.

The future of life, Kolbert says, is Extinction.

And no one writes Extinction with a capital ‘E’ like Elizabeth Kolbert.

Kolbert is scary good when she writes about soon-to-be-extinct animal species.

In section 2, Into the Wild, she focuses her tremendous laser-like intelligence on pupfish, whose only known habitat is Devils Hole in Death Valley National Park.

She makes passing reference to Edward Abbey, whose Desert Solitaire made quite an impression on self when she read it, decades ago.

p. 78:

  • Though the book chronicles Abbey’s stint as a ranger in Arches National Park, in Utah, he wrote most of it sitting at a bar in a brothel just a few miles from Devils Hole.

A brothel? Really?

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Sentence of the Day: Elizabeth Kolbert

Self keeps wanting to spell the author’s name as “Colbert” because she loves Stephen Colbert.

Anyhoo, this author is FUNNY. Considering she’s writing about how we are all DOOMED because of our own stupidity, that’s quite a feat.

Essay # 1 of Under a White Sky did not slay self (Loved The Sixth Extinction, so Kolbert had big shoes to fill), but then Kolbert began discussing carp. Yes, you read that right: carp as in everyone’s Favorite Aquarium Fish. Apparently they have eyes affixed to the bottom of their skulls, meaning they are grazers like cows are grazers, only instead of grazing for grass the carp are grazing for algae or snails. After that, self became completely hooked. Anyhoo, someone had the genius idea of introducing carp to the Chicago River and they are destroying shellfish. Basically, the Chicago River is turning into one giant aquarium, there are probably more carp there than there are in China. They breed like crazy and it’s no use trying to make carp a popular food because they are so bony.

Essay # 2 is where self found the sentence of the day:

  • I was anxious, too, though only a little, since the Mississipi we were looking at was about five inches wide.

The author sets up all these challenges for herself, such as trying to reach the Gulf by WALKING from New Orleans and running into a little problem of wet socks. A paragraph later, she introduces us to an engineer who is keeping a close eye on a simulation of the Mississippi Delta while sitting in a folding chair in the Center for River Studies at Louisiana State. This model simulation must be really ACE because the engineer, Kolbert noticed, also “had wet socks.” The model was so accurate that it kept flooding, and the engineer couldn’t move from the folding chair because it was his job to document everything. At least, I think, Kolbert got her wet socks while actually WALKING.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

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