Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bleach Series Three

Well, yesterday I got the two figures in Series Three of Bleach by Toynami. Here is what their cards have to say about them:

"Byakuya is the captain of Squad 6. He is the head of the noble Kuchiki clan. Rukia is his sister. His Zanpaku-to's name is Senbonzakura."

"Renji is the Squad 6 lieutenant. Both Renji and Rukia grew up in the Rukon District, where they became steadfas friends. His Zanpaku-to's name is Zabimaru."

What the heck is a Zanpaku-to? One of these days I'm going to have to watch this show. In the meantime, these are very well sculpted samurai-style figures, seven inches tall with rather limited articulation. They both come with a base and a trading card. Cost together: $30. The one with the big saw-tooth blade is Renji, the other is Byakuya.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Man-Thing #1 Part II

How fragile memory is. John tells me it was at another convenience store, Circle K, and not Pic-n-Pac, that we got the comic, and that he bought it, not Pop. But he agrees that the general observations on the communal nature of our property were pretty accurate. That is, I suppose, one of the functions of the recovery of the material objects of the past--to check your memory against a reality. But to go on...

The story starts in the swamp, where the Schist Corporation's efforts to build over it are disrupted by the efforts of the Man-Thing, a horde of demons who have appeared to try to destroy the muck monster, and the appearance of Korrek the Barbarian and Howard the Duck. After a brief and futile struggle, Dakimh the Enchanter appears, whisks the demons away in a whirlwind, then tells Man-Thing, Korrek, and Howard that he has summoned them for an important task. They vanish, and the construction workers who have witnessed the whole thing vow never to speak of it again.

The scene changes to the Congress of Realities, a group of ambitious beings from all planes of existence who, under the leadership of someone called the Overmaster (who looks like a businessman with suit and briefcase) aspire to godhood--the total control of all realities. They are preparing to execute Jennifer Kale, Dakimh's fetching blond apprentice, when she suddenly seems to turn to water and pours through the floor.

It is but a spell of Dakimh's to transport her back to his Castle Between Night and Day. He explains that the Overmaster has put the cosmic balance out of whack, collapsing various realities together, to open a way to the plane of Therea, where he plans to destroy the gods and take over. The little group head to the Nexus of Reality, hoping to restore the balance, but along the way Howard plunges off an airy path. They think he is dead, but we all know now he was really only on his way to his own franchise. The rest reach the Nexus, but before they can do anything the Overmaster and his hordes break through and head into Therea.

The Overmaster heads for a gleaming palace where he believes the gods to be, and Dakimh's little band chase him. They confront him at the palace's moat, and the Overmaster gloating reveals himself to be the Netherspawn. Dakimh sics the Man-Thing on him, whose regenerative powers and psychic opposition to evil and fear make him the perfect nemesis. A battle royale ensues, with Manny finally flinging the Netherspawn into the pure holy waters of the Therean moat, which quenches the demon's power. His horde flees in panic.

The little band gathers back together, and Korrek and Jennifer wonder why the gods never tried to protect the palace themselves. Dakimh says they were never in the palace, and that they mistake the nature of the gods of Therea. He leads them to a nearby cottage where a peasant couple and their dogs are leading a peaceful, natural existence. Jennifer says it's too weird that a couple of peasants are the gods in charge of reality. But Dakimh reveals it is the dogs who are the gods.

Man-Thing, attracted by their goodness, leans forward to pat them. In that instant the "gods" transport them back to their different realities, passing through every point in space to do so. With a better understanding of their place in the universe, the humans go about their business with a renewed sense of peace and awe. The Man-Thing merely wanders back into the swamp, soon forgetting everything that has occurred.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Man-Thing #1

Thirty-four years or so ago, when Mike was 11, I was 10, John was 8, and Yen a mere lad of 5 (our sister yet to be born in three months time), we got a copy of Man-Thing #1. Pop bought it for us at Pic-n-Pac, for twenty cents. Times being what they were, such gifts were often community property in nature, even if nominally bought for one boy. It was read, and read hard, by a succession of kids with varied habits of care and a variety of places: while eating snacks, in bed, on the pot, up a tree, in the dog pens or the chicken coop, in short, wherever we thought we could get some privacy to concentrate on half an acre. The upshot was, that by the time I entered high school (1978) the comic was gone. Whether its surviving scraps were thrown away in one of Mom and Pop's systematic purges, or whether we threw it away ourselves piece by piece till nothing was left, I do not know. It was gone.

Gone, but not forgotten. We had read that comic with all the concentration of bored youth, and the storyline and many individual panels stuck with us for years. We picked up the thread of the Man-Thing's adventures with Korrek, Jennifer Kale, and Dakimh in Giant Size Man-Thing #3 (1975), and that comic still survived, and every now and then we ran across one of Howard the Duck's stories, and these helped us remember the old comic. For years, everytime I went into a store that sold comics I looked for Man-Thing #1, with no success.

Enter the Internet. I finally become adept enough to order something off e-Bay; a couple of weeks ago I find a copy for sale for $33. I look at the price. I waffle. I consult with John. "It's only gonna get more expensive," he says. I bite the bullet and order. This Saturday it arrived.

Above are a few of the well-remembered panels that I scanned today. My next posting should be more panels and a synopsis of the story.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Equivalent Of A Red Sportscar

Well, today was my 45th birthday, and I spent most of it reading from the trove of books I ordered to celebrate.

I read from Volumes II and III of The Absolute Sandman. These are massive, slip-cased tomes, collecting the graphic stories of Neil Gaiman. Volume I is coming in the mail, and Volume IV is yet to come. Beautiful artwork and tales, meditations on storytelling, dreams, and myths, that deserve more in-depth discussion than they're going to get at this hour.

I lovingly parsed through Giant Size Man-Thing #3, which contains the story of Korrek and Jennifer Kale, and perhaps one of the greatest wizards to ever live, Dakimh the Enchanter. Our original copy was bought in 1975.

I read some in Walter Hooper's Past Watchful Dragons, an analysis of The Chronicles of Narnia. It includes the few remaing drafts of Narnia stories that never got developed.

When I went out to check the mail, I had got three more books. All the way from Gloucester, UK, a couple of Terry Pratchett books: The Science of Discworld (in which Pratchett tells a tale of the wizards of Unseen University to illustrate the explanations of the state of scientific knowledge given by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) and The New Discworld Companion (with Stephen Briggs).

The third book was The Man in the Moon, by James P. Blaylock. This is the original version of The Elfin Ship, where the last third of the book is very different from the book as first published. It is probably the closest I'll ever get to getting a hardback version of The Elfin Ship. It is copy #519 of only a thousand signed copies, and includes both the signatures of James P. Blaylock and Tim Powers, who wrote the Forward.

These are two of my most favorite living authors.

I know it's not fashionable, but I have to admit I was very happy today. Reading, pondering, smelling the rain-soaked earth after a long hot spell, working on my little projects, a small family meal in the afternoon, Bedknobs and Broomsticks on TCM in the evening... I have more books ordered and on the way. And so "with at least one fine tomorrow to look forward to," I am as contented as any reasonable person can hope to be.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Line U Bagronk Sha Pushdug ToyBiz-Glob Bubhosh Skai.

Just when I think my collection's complete, I run across these fellows on a big toy-seller's site. They are listed as "Coming Soon!", but I don't think Toy Biz is producing the line anymore. Were these actually produced, or are they a great might-have-been? They are described as "Mordor Orc Lieutenant" and "Morgul Lord with Fiery Sword". Further investigation is called for. This discovery elicited the Orkish curse above.

Update: They were produced, they do exist, and the Orc is ultra-collectible; i. e., very expensive.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hellboy 2: A Prophecy of Toys

Promised in the future: The Angel of Death, Wounded Hellboy, Princess Nuala, The Goblin King, and Coatless Hellboy. If I had to choose the next figure to make in this series, it would be King Balor.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Hosts of Faery: Favorite Poems

White shields they carry in their hands,
With emblems of pale silver;
With glittering blue swords,
With mighty stout horns.
With well-devised battle array,
Ahead of their fair chieftain
They march amid blue spears,
Pale-visaged, curly-headed bands.
They scatter the battalion of the foe,
They ravage every land they attack,
Splendidly they march to combat,
A swift, distinguished, avenging host!
No wonder though their strength be great:
Sons of queens and kings are one and all;
On their heads are
Beautiful golden-yellow manes.
With smooth comely bodies,
With bright blue-starred eyes,
With pure crystal teeth,
With thin red lips.
Good they are at man-slaying,
Melodious in the ale-house,
Masterly at making songs,
Skilled at playing draughts.
--Kuno Meyer (1859-1919), from the 12th Century Irish.
This is how the dwellers in the Hidden Realm were originally conceived. J. R. R. Tolkien was just restoring them to their ancient dignity. The picture above is of Prince Nuada in the court of Bethmoora from Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Cluster of Quotes on Books

"Jonathan still had a good bit of coin left after the purchase, and he considered that it would likely be folly of some sort to return upriver with too much money. They'd probably just get waylaid and robbed by highwaymen or goblins. Therefore, all things considered, it would be wise to spend most of the rest of his money on books. Few thieves, when you think about it, bother stealing books. They either don't go in much for reading or would have an impossible time carting away the books." ---James P. Blaylock, The Elfin Ship.

Felix Kennaston, an author, considers his Uncle Henry's inherited library:
"And besides,--so Kennaston's thoughts strayed at times--, these massed books, which his predecessor at Alcluid had acquired piecemeal through the term of a long life, were a part of that predecessor's personality. No other man would have gathered and have preserved precisely the same books, and each book, with varying forcefulness, had entered into his predecessor's mind and tinged it. These parti-colored books, could one but reconstruct the mosaic correctly, would give a candid portrait of "your Uncle Henry in Lichfield," which would perhaps surprise all those who had known old Henry Kennaston daily in the flesh. Of the fact that these were unusual books their present owner and tentative explorer had no doubt whatever. They were perturbing books." ---James Branch Cabell, The Cream of the Jest.

"I spent the afternoon and evening...beginning to re-read The Well At The World's End. I was anxious to see whether the old spell still worked. It does--rather too well. This going back to books read at that age is humiliating: one keeps on tracing what are now quite big thing's in one's mental outfit to curiously small sources. I wonder how much even of my feeling for external nature comes out of the brief, convincing little descriptions of mountains and woods in this book." ---C. S. Lewis, All My Road Before Me.

This last quote in particular has been much in my mind lately, what with my remembrance of things past.

The Marvelous Land of Oz

Back in the mid-70's Marvel Comics published giant-size treasuries for the exorbitant price of $1.50. That was about six times the price of a normal comic. We got one of Conan, one of Bilble stories, and the two volumes of the original Star Wars. We often saw full page advertisements in other comics for the whole series,and the two I always really wanted were The Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz.

Last year I found a really wrinkly copy of The Wizard of Oz at our local used book store. It was as I expected an adaptation of the MGM movie. Lately as my thoughts have been turning to early things I thought to look for The Land, and while a pristine copy went for about $50, I was able to order a slightly damaged one for about $10. It came yesterday.

It is a truly wonderful production, edited by the great Roy Thomas and drawn by Alfredo Alcala. Many of the frames therein are based on the original 1907 illustrations by John R. Neill, as are most of the character designs. The Scarecrow and Tin Man are still based on the movie though, as being more familiar to most people.

The frame above is from early in the story, with the boy Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the witch Mombi. The color scheme is largely purple, as they are in the Gillikin country; Munchkinland is blue, the Winkies are yellow, and the Quadling country is red. The Emerald City, right in the center of Oz, is of course green.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Nip and Tuck War

The Nip and Tuck War, by Mary Mian, read in the 1972-1973 school season, which was 4th Grade to me, came in the mail this Monday. The 4th Grade was a sort of mini-Renaissance to me, as I really tucked into reading, partly, I must confess, to impress my teacher, Mrs. Bratton, on whom I had a crush.

Nip was a boy raised by animals who could understand their language. Tuck was the head goat of the herd that Nip cared for. When the villainous Baron Gnarl and his son Cramp try to overthrow King Boldo the Ninth (which I at first tried to pronounce so as to rhyme with plinth) and his beautiful daughter the Princess Cristella, Nip leads an animal resistance to free the imprisoned royalty and restore peacful times to the kingdom.

I remember I set out to prove at the time that the story of Nip and the story of Mowgli bore more than a passing resemblance to one another. It's the first instance of literary criticism I ever essayed. One line I always remembered from it over the years: "Witless wight! A wart thou wert!" I always thought it was spoken by an evil Duchess, but it turns out it was the ersatz dragon at the beginning of the tale. Alliteration and archaicism have always been favorites of mine.

While I was re-reading it, the style of the illustrations nagged at me. I had seen the imprecise coloring and uneven line somewhere else before. I looked up the artists, Beth and Joe Krush, and saw that they had done all the Borrowers books by Mary Norton. I think it is a good style that complements the text, and it screams the 1960's.

So another old book hunted down. Right now I think I might have tracked down the old sea serpent book. We shall see.


Three more Hellboy2: The Golden Army action figures acquired! While wandering the wasteland, waiting for my doctor's appointment, I whiled a little time away at Hastings, as is my wont. There, on the other side of the Hellboy display where I found my Hellboy figure Sunday, I find more figures. I quickly snatch up Abe Sapien, Wink, and Prince Nuala. They accompany me to the waiting room, to the examination room, and on the walk home. When questioned, I cravenly claim they are "birthday presents" for others. Yeah, birthday presents. Usually I proudly claim action figures when asked about them, but I have psychological awe of doctor's offices. Anyway, this just leaves Liz Sherman and Johann Krauss to be got.

The Abe Sapien figure was good, but I would have preferred the sculpt of the head to have featured his eyes rather than the goggles. I know that is how he has to appear through most of the movie, but the eyes would have been more expressive.

Prince Nuala is well done, but I found his weapons to be rather blocky, not as elegant as they look in the movie.

Wink, Prince Nuala's trollish associate, is in some ways the best of the lot. The heft of this figure is a perfect echo of the weight of the character in the movie. His accessories of Mace Fist and Iron Box are perfect. But his head is from an older CGI version that was changed in production. His older look was more vicious; the one actually shown in the movie is more...well, personable. Mezco includes a form offering a free new alternate head if you send the form in with the bar code. Which is nice of them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My "Mummy's" Son

Want to see my brother? Go to YouTube and make a search for "Brendan Fraser at Universal Studios Orlando", and see him emceeing the promotional event, handing out Tee-shirts, introducing Mr. Fraser, and winding things up. Love you, Yen! Hope your own movie is out soon!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Order of the Triad Action Figures!

The Alchemist: Sweet! The action figures came!
Jefferson Twilight: Finally! Merchandising. That's where the real money's at!
The Alchemist: Mmm, cha-ching!
Dr. Orpheus: Actually, Hasbro passed. These I made myself.
Jefferson Twilight: Hmm, nice work. A little on the creepy side, sculpted these yourself?
Dr. Orpheus: Oh, heavens no! I merely repainted an old Mego doll of the Falcon.
The Alchemist: You rather be Spock with a bald spot? I'll trade ya.
The Venture Bothers. Watch it. Buy it. Base your life on its teachings.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Speak Of The Devil

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army opened on Friday, and when I swung by Hastings I found one HB2 figure on its' lonesome: Big Red himself. One down, five to go! He's a whopping 7 and 1/2 inches tall, and comes with favorite guns as pictured above. Cost: $16.99.

Also picked up: the Jareth the Goblin King and Hoggle. Nice, but at $29.99, a bit steep. Still, that's 15 bucks for each figure. For a picture, see the posting below.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thaddeus Jones and the Dragon

In 1970 I was in Second Grade. Every classroom in our little school had it's own library, and from their eclectic and casual nature we guessed they were stocked by whatever haphazard volumes the teachers themselves saw fit to add to what the teachers before had collected. No-one was obligated to check these books out, as we were our weekly reading from the school's main library. But during free period, while most kids bogarded the toys, I was interested in the books. I noticed the class reading had check-out cards in the back, just like the main library books, and I asked Miss Nowotny if I could check some favorites out. She seemed surprised but encouraging, and I started a little mini-trend of class check-outs.

One of my favorites was Thaddeus Jones and the Dragon. I devoured it again and again, trying to commit it to memory, because when I moved out of Grade 2 I knew I wouldn't see it again. Mom and Pop certainly couldn't buy it; money was tight and I'm not sure they would even know how to go about ordering a book on their own. There was no local book store at the time.

I moved on to Third Grade in due course, and details inevitably began to fade. In time I forgot the title, and some details became blurred. But I always remembered the sheer fact of the book's existence, the large details of the plot, and the name of the dragon: Dudley. When the Internet came along I tried to track it down, but without title and author (who pays attention to authors when they're seven?) it made it hard. There was another series of books featuring a Dudley the Dragon, always trailing across my search like a red herring.

Then just last month I put in Dudley and Dragon in a search engine as I did every few months or so, and the name popped up: Thaddeus Jones and the Dragon. Immediately a wave of remembrance washed over me. Of course, Thaddeus Jones, just like Thaddeus was Mr Toad's name in Walt Disney's The Adventures of Mr. Toad. I've always had a fondness for names like Thaddeus, Cornelius, Nicodemus. Perhaps that stemmed from this very book.

A quick scramble produced the author's name: Jerry Hjelm. I checked on e-Bay. Several copies were available. Soon, for slightly less than ten dollars, my old childhood dream was on its way. So, yesterday, a month later, here it was.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It is one thing to have something from your childhood for years. You have the memories, but you also have the memories of the memories attached, so in a sense it has "grown" with you. But when you have a fresh steamy slice of nostalgia served up hot from the past, it can be a powerful revelation.

The first thing I realized was how much the illustrations had sunk in and affected my own drawing style. In 8th grade, when I really started trying to draw, I would have sworn I wasn't doing it. The six years in between was half my lifetime. But comparison between my drawings and the illustrations above show that Thaddeus was emerging in my style, whether I was thinking of it or not. In a lot of ways, I've been trying to draw that picture of the wizard all my life, and that castle on the hill keeps re-appearing in the background of many of my drawings.

I also realized one big blurred memory. I had always remembered the wizard's name as Metatoras. I found out it was Meteoras. But I did remember how Hjelm had broken the name down into syllables once--"Me-te-or-as"--to help young readers handle it.

My memory of the main plot were fairly accurate. Thaddeus Jones, a young squire to the king, is sent to get a new supply of instant magic for the castle from Meteoras. He comes to the wizard's tower and witnesses the explosive creation of the new batch.

Meanwhile Dudley, a cranky dragon who cannot breathe smoke and fire and so has taken up the habit of smoking five or six cigars at a time to mimic the action, has decided to capture the princess so he can blackmail the king into handing over the kingdom.

He does so, and the king puts up a proclamation along the usual lines: the hand of the princess to whoever gets rid of the dragon. Thaddeus arrives and immediately sets off to rescue her. When he gets to the dragon's lair, however, Dudley captures him and ties him up.

Helpless, Thaddeus remembers the bottle of instant magic and squirms it out of his pocket. Dudley sees it and asks what it is. Thaddeus, cleverly assessing the situation, tells Dudley not to drink it as it will fill his belly with smoke. The dragon instantly swallows it, and falls down rigid.

The king is coming sadly to hand over his kingdom, when he meets the princess, Thaddeus, and Dudley on their way back to the castle. Dudley explains the magic potion made him think clearly for the first time in his life, and that he realizes there is nothing wrong with being a smokeless dragon. The king makes him his liaison between the kingdom and other dragons.

"And did Thaddeus Jones and the Princess one day marry and live happily ever after?

"Well, what do you suppose?"

This time around I read about Jerry Hjelm. He was (or is) basically an artist, and did work for a nationally known advertising firm, illustrations for other books, and, if he is the same Jerry Hjelm I googled, now does realistic nature paintings for sale from an art gallery.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Coming Soon That I Want--And My Birthday's Near

First Picture: The 3rd Series from Bleach, featuring Renji Abarai and Byakuya Kuchiki. These might already be out.
Second Picture: The Chamberlain from The Dark Crystal. At last a figure from the 1982 movie, produced amid rumors of a sequel, The Power of the Dark Crystal. But how about a Mystic? I love them!
Third Picture: Jareth and Hoggle, from Labyrinth, another Jim Henson pic. There has already been one Jareth figure, but this one is significantly different.
Fourth Picture: Dumbledore and Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Not a whole lot of figures came out with this movie. Having a great NECA sculpt of the Richard Harris Dumbledore is a dream come true. Having Fawkes the Phoenix, the Sorting Hat, and the Sword of Gryffindor are the best accessories possible.
Fifth Picture: Fred and George Weasley, and Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Mad-Eye Rules!
And of course (not shown) all the figures coming out from Hellboy II: The GoldenArmy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Broll Bearmantle and Zabra Hexx

I will admit that I know next to nothing about the World of Warcraft. It might be a fine product, and the comics and books spun off it might be complex, spirit-sustaining soup for the imaginative soul. From the outside it looks like Cup-o-Noodle to me, but again, I could be wrong. But what I do know is that every now and then it spits out a nice looking action figure or two, and I have to buy them.

Such are Broll Bearmantle, a Night Elf Druid, and Zabra Hexx, a Troll Priest. The size of the figures, the fineness of the sculpting detail, and the reasonable pricing ($16.99 for each, at our local Hastings) make them very attractive acquisitions, indeed.

I especially like Broll Bearmantle. He's not exactly my conception of an Elf, but his woodland design of green hair, antlers, and fur and leather armor could make him a close cousin to the Green Knight, and that's "Faerie" enough for me. His antlered and hoofed staff is a great accessory.

Zabra Hexx looks a lot like the Oriental conception of an "ogre", especially with those curving tusks, stiff red hair, and gilded armor appointments. His staff, being a skull surrounded with Egyptian-like blue and red rays, doesn't engage my attention so much ("Skulls, my dear! Really, how seven centuries ago!").

Both figures have little articulation, and thus fall more in the "poseable model" category. The staffs come apart so they can be placed in the figures' closed grip, then popped together for a secure hold.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Glenstorm and Peepiceek

Another addition to my Narnia cast of legendary creatures. Glenstorm the Centaur with broadsword and mace, and Peepiceek, the Mouse second-in-command. I got them at Hastings on Saturday for $12.99. They are in the 3 and 3/4 " format. While I was trolling about in various on-line stores I saw that there was supposed to be a Satyr in the 6" format coming out sometime. Musts to get in the smaller format: Reepicheep, Trufflehunter, and Trumpkin.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Latest Decalogue: Favorite Poems


Thou shalt have only one God; who
Would be at the expense of two?

No graven images may be
Worshipped, except the currency:

Swear not at all: for for thy curse
Thine enemy is none the worse.

At church on Sunday to attend
Will serve to keep the world thy friend:

Honour thy parents; that is, all
From whom advancement may befall:

Thou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive
Officiously to keep alive:

Do not adultery commit;
Advantage rarely comes of it:

Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat
When 'tis so lucrative to cheat:

Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly:

Thou shalt not covet; but tradition
Approves all forms of competition.

--Arthur Hugh Clough, 1819-1861

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beginning Reads

My good friend AlanDP over at The Blogonomicon ( lately had a post about the first thing he ever read. He recounted his early fascination with Peanuts that lead to him learning to read way before first grade.

I had a similar experience. My brothers and I pored over volumes of collected Peanuts long before we could read and wondered what they said, often making up stories of what we thought was going on. It was a great impetus to us to apply ourselves in school.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about our early reading resources, and prompts me to jot down a few notes and memories.

Pop would sometimes bring home paperbacks of collected comics to give to us after one of his long hauls at truck driving. There were volumes of Peanuts, of course, and some Don Martin collections, like the one above, where we were introduced to National Gorilla Suit Day(which has since become a real holiday; Jan. 31st, look it up!), Fester and Karbunkle, and Captain Klutz. Long before there was Gahan Wilson and Edward Gorey in our lives, there was Don Martin.

Now that I think about it, I bet Pop must have bought those books to read himself before passing them along to us. I don't think that he would ever have admitted to reading "funny books", as they were considered too childish for grown serious men.

But by far the biggest supplier of reading matter was Mom. There wasn't much money to go around in those days, with four kids and a truckdriver's pay, but she got us what she could. Gold Key Digests (both Disney and Ripley's Believe It or Not), Classics Illustrated, and the Whitman Classics that came as premiums with Folger's Coffee were all bought at the local supermarket, Baenziger's. The first copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz I ever got was with a can of coffee, and it's the first "chapter" book I remember reading on my own. Reproductions of copies appear above.

And of course there were Weekly Reader book orders, if you could pry the one or two dollars out of your parents to get a few precious volumes. Thus Harvey's Hideout, The Mystery In The Night Woods, 101 Dalmations, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks were obtained. And Homer Price books. Does anyone remember Homer Price? And The Man Who Lost His Head, and Ben and Me, and Georgie (the ghost), and Norman Bridwell books.

Of course, most of the books I read at the time were in the school library. I have always kept an eye out for favorite volumes since school days, with little success, until the internet time. I've been able to get The Visitors From Oz, Witches, Witches, Witches, Uncle Wiggly books, Thornton Burgess animal books, and Walt Disney's Toad of Toad Hall. Right now I have on order Donald Duck Visits South America, Thaddeus Jones and the Dragon, and The Nip and Tuck War. I remember The Nip and Tuck War fondly because when I read it in 4th Grade I performed my first act of literary criticism on it, as I demonstrated the parallels between it and The Jungle Book.

Then there are books that I remember much of the story of, but neither the title or author. When I was a kid the least important words in a book were the author's name. There was a book on sea serpents we all remember fondly, with wondrous black, white, and charcoal illustrations. It starts with an old sea serpent putting it's head on the boat of the artist/illustrators man and wife team, and telling them the story of various historical sightings. Then there's the story of a brother and sister who find George, a talking rabbit with glasses, who helps them and then leaves in best Mary Poppins' manner. And there's the book about Cinderella's footman (was he a rat? or a mouse?) who only half-way transforms back and is left a little ratty man with no history to deal with the ordinary world. I remember he helps Cinderella in some post-ball adventure having to do with the glass slipper. I believe Disney has since come up with a sequel to their Cinderella along the same lines.
Anyone who can help with finding these, please do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"I Saw A Peacock With A Fiery Tail": Favorite Poems

I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud wrapped with ivy round
I saw an oak creep upon the ground
I saw a pismire swallow up a whale
I saw the sea brimful of ale
I saw a Venice glass full fifteen feet deep
I saw a well full of men's tears that weep
I saw red eyes all of a flaming fire
I saw a house bigger than the moon and higher
I saw the sun at twelve o'clock at night
I saw the man that saw this wondrous sight.


This is a kind of puzzle poem, a sort of lesson on the importance of punctuation. As you can see, it only has one period. But if you punctuate it with a period or a comma in the middle of each line, it makes perfect sense. ("I saw a peacock. With a fiery tail/ I saw a comet. etc.) It seems to date from the 16th or 17th Century. But the images that are generated are visionary.

"Pismire" is an old word for ant. The picture is actually of a Russian firebird, but fits well, I think.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Last Saturday

Last Saturday we went to San Antonio and did the rounds. That is to say, we visited six or seven stores in one fell swoop, to save money on gas, as it's about 30 miles to and 30 miles back.

Anyway, at Toys'R'Us I got a double set of Edmund and the Gryphon from Prince Caspian. It came with a sword and a piece that attaches to the deluxe Castle playset. Just another incentive to the temptation to buy that playset, but it's $70. The Gryphon is great, but it's foreclaws are set in a grip that makes it hard to stand.

We also went to Big Lots in New Braunfels on the way home, and they had a ton of The Golden Compass figures and vehicles. I bought the polar bear (the good one, voiced by Ian McKellan). It was $6; the humans were $3, but I already had them all from Florida months ago, at the same price.