Saturday, January 31, 2009
That might change, however. Peggy reports that her dog Ivy started growling at something outside last night, and when Peg went to check, it turned out to be an honest-to-Wisconsin badger. She says she had never seen one up here, either. We will have to keep our eyes out. Maybe we too will be blessed with a visit.
Not that I am likely to try to get up close and personal. Badgers are not noted for their friendliness.
BTW, I understand that the association of Wisconsin with badgers is not connected to the wildlife at all. The name refers to the lead miners who came to the area in the 1820s and 1830s. They first dug out caves and tunnels into the hillsides for shelter in the winter. Since badgers burrow underground, the locals called the burrowers badgers. So to be historically accurate, Bucky Badger should not look like the animal but like a miner.
I know, I know. Way too much information!
Friday, January 30, 2009
It is amazing to hear from someone after that many years. The summer after we were in St. Louis together, Edgar worked in a parish in Wisconsin and came to visit me at Holy Hill. When I was still living in Chicago, one day in 2004 I walked over to the local market and ran into another classmate from the St. Louis days. It turned out that there were two others in town, and before I left Chicago in 2006, one of them moved into the house across the street from the Carmelite house.
Very small world!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Meanwhile, despite some frustrations with this, I am readying some other books and even Tom is working on one. The people who do the manufacture, marketing and distribution are not the publishers. They make that very clear. Since Tom and I are planning to keep publishing things this way, after much discussion we have decided to create something called Pileated Press. Tom designed the logo:
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
BTW, a new Mexican restaurant is supposed to open soon in Baraboo. I'm sure it won't compare with any Mexican food in Texas, but we'll have to give it a shot.
Well, today we hardly get letters at all. E-mail does for that. Except Kristin and Vince (mostly Kristin, I suspect) are very good about sending cards for just about every occasion. (Thanks for the Valentine, by the way.)
But even though I don't get many personal letters, I regularly read the Letters to the Editor columns in the local papers. Amazingly, the Baraboo paper has had several days with no letters at all of late. Must be the winter weather, but I would have thought being cooped up inside would have inspired even more letters from some of the more colorful and cranky people who frequently write the papers.
Today is one of the days when the Baraboo News Republic has no letters. On the other hand, the Wisconsin Dells Events -- which only comes out a couple of times a week -- had a letter from a Dr. Kenneth L. Russell, who is identified as a "professor orf education, emeritus, Sam Houston State University."
The letter is a long reflection on the problems with the economy, but I was more intrigued by its author, of course. Daddy and Ted are both graduates of Sam Houston and Mama took some courses there, as I recall. In Huntsville, just about everyone who wasn't connected to the Department of Corrections was connected to Sam Houston in some way.
The letter had no indication of where the writer lived, unlike almost all the other letters in the local papers. So I went to the telephone directory to see if Dr. Russell may have somehow wound up here in The Waterpark Capital of the World. Finding no one of the name listed (although there is a gentleman with a similar name in Friendship, up in Adamas County), I googled him. Apparently he is about 98 years old and still lives in Huntsville. He and his late wife of 72 years (there's a goal for Mama and Daddy to aim for!) founded the Universal Ethician Church, which describes itself thus:
The Universal Ethician Church is a worldwide interfaith-ecumenical church tasked by the one and only God of the Universe with protecting Creation from destruction due to the unparalleled escalation of human greed and ignorance which is destroying God's biosphere.Part of their project is establishing Ethician Cemeteries (there is one in Huntsville apparently) where you are buried very simply, without embalming or any coffin at all. They are described as "green cemeteries" invoking the Biblical injunction of "from dust to dust."
Its further mission is one of bringing peace and joy to the world by instilling in all of God's children, a deep respect for one another based on The Golden Rule of the New Millennium.
Please join us in the critical mission of defeating the greatest threat to ever face Planet Eden since the beginning of human history.
Unless we, God's children, join together in a common bond of love and respect for each other and respect for God by preserving and protecting all Creation, we will continue down the path to the final destruction of the very life-support systems which God has so generously loaned each successive generation until the complete self-induced collective suicide of the human species takes place.
You just never know what will come in the mail, do you?
Monday, January 26, 2009
So we stopped at a little place to eat. The menu was very small, but we were both pleased with our sandwiches. The young waitress asked how we were doing, and Tom told her we were just out on a pretty day having fun.
"Why did you come here?" she asked. "There's nothing to do."
She seemed genuinely shocked. We explained we were just driving around to look at the country. I imagine she went back to the kitchen to tell them there were some nuts out front.
We did have a nice drive through the Kickapoo River Valley, though. The landscape is great, and I imagine it is spectacular with fall colors.
On the way back, we passed an Amish buggy near Loganville. There are quite a few Amish in the area. Joe did some legal work for some of them when I was working in his office, and he frequently hired Amish carpenters. He lked their work, but he had to pick them up and drive them into Baraboo and then back home, because they do not drive automobiles. Another friend of ours used to earn part of his income driving Amish customers on long trips. Apparently they are willing to ride in a car or van, but they won't drive it. Just like the carpenters would not use electrical tools that had to be plugged in, but they would use battery operated tools. Even then, Joe had to recharge the batteries, because they would not plug in battery chargers. Joe explained it all to me, and there is a certain logical consistency to it. But as is often the case with the practices of other religions and other cultures, it leaves me shaking my head in confusion. As I am sure many Catholic or mainstream American practices leave the Amish shaking their heads, too. (Only the traditional Amish call everyone else"the English.")
Saturday, January 24, 2009
It reminds me of the year I was at St. Louis University. We had some Filipino students who had never experienced a Midwestern winter before, and they could not understand how it could be bitterly cold outside when the sun was shining. For them, sun meant warmth.
Last night I completed the corrections to the book proof and this morning tweaked the cover a bit and sent the updated version out. If all goes well, this time next week I will be able to tell them to put the thing up for sale. I told a nun friend I hoped to have it by Ash Wednesday (February 25 this year) so that people could read it for their Lenten penance.
By the time I headed over to the library open house, it had warmed up to minus 4! (-20 C) I wasn't sure what that was going to do to our turnout. After all, the library and all our exhibits are inside a warm building. The question was whether people would brave the cold to get there. At least it wasn't blizzarding out.
We wound up with a pretty good turnout, at least as good as last year, I was told. I spent most of the time taking informal photographs to be used in a large collage the staff will put together later. It was fun for all, I think. There were tons of little kids there to do the crafts projects -- making their own puzzle and personalizing a puzzle piece to be used to create the frame that will go around the collage of photographs -- and to attend the storytelling by readers dressed as characters in the stories they were reading. A few innocent people happened to wander in and were totally surprised to see such a mob and all the activities.
Friday, January 23, 2009
- Fred Allen
Well, for what it's worth, my mystery novel will soon be available for sale on Amazon. The cost will be $12.95 (I think), plus shipping. It will not be carried in bookstores, but bookstores can order it.
For those who have not been subjected to reading the manuscript, this is the description of the book from Amazon:
THE DARK NIGHT MURDERS takes place in Pastrana, Spain in 1572 and is based on an actual incident in the life of John of the Cross, a Catholic friar and a close associate of Teresa of Avila, foundress and reformer of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. At her instigation he visits a monastery where new members are reportedly subjected to brutal physical penances. John's primary task is to correct the abuses, although Teresa has asked him to look for other problems. He is accompanied by Pedro de los Angeles, a young lay brother. John discovers that the stories of abuse are true, but before he can act an unknown youth wearing the Carmelite habit is discovered dead in the monastery. John struggles to discover the murderer against a background of suspicion, resistance, visions and political tensions in the Spanish court of King Philip II.This is all possible through an Amazon service called CreateSpace, which does all the production and shipping and marketing through Amazon without any upfront payment by the author. It is a compromise between a regular publishing and what is sometimes called a vanity press, where the author pays to have a few thousand copies printed and then has to sell them himself. The proof copy arrived today, and there are several corrections that have to be made before it is ready to go. But it is coming soon! I'll let you know when that happy day arrives.
Don't expect to see it on any best sellers lists, but it is finally out there and I will actually make a couple of bucks if anyone buys one.
The first thing I published, though, was a poem that appeared when I was a freshman at Michigan State. It was in the 1968 Biennial College Poetry Review: America Sings, published by the National Poetry Press.
This is actually a poem I wrote while a senior in high school. I don't know the exact date, but I was writing a lot of poetry then -- like lots of adolescents, and most of it no great shakes -- and there had even been an article about it in the Huntsville High School Hornet Hive. One day it was raining outside and Bill Driscoll, who was sitting behind me in class, said, "Why don't you write a poem?"
So this is what I wrote. There is no title.
Raindrops falling,I did not have any story in mind, as I recall, but was just trying to capture the sound of the rain. I like the rhythm of it still, but it sure sounds like the semi-depressed poems a teenager would write, doesn't it?
Splatter the streets,
Washing the cares
from a tired, dusty world.
Splatter the face,
Washing the cares
From a sad weary child.
Tiny fists beating his brow.
Tiny hands grasping his clothing,
Weighting his body
And slowing his step.
I had a small notebook ful of things like this, but I threw it away at some point.
- Jules Renard
Jules Renard was a noted French literary figure who died while I was in college. This quote comes to mind because next month I have an article appearing in Spiritual Life, for which I will be paid a small but welcome sum of money. The first article I ever published there was in the Winter 1978 issue. I was visiting Steve Yarbrough and Bonnie up at Penn State afterwards and was all excited that I had been published and paid for it. Steve was floored. In the academic world in which they lived, people worked very hard to get published: "Publish or perish" was not a joke. So they had things in these prestigious journals but not a penny to show for it. The payment was that you got to list the publication on your Curriculum vitae when applying for jobs.
I have had that experience, too. Although Spiritual Life has always paid me for articles and book reviews, other places have rewarded me only with copies of the magazine or book in which my work appeared. That's not bad, but a couple of bucks would also be nice!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I had mentioned to him that I wondered how the sculptures were evaluated by the judges. The one based on Picasso's Guernica was the most sophisticated, but it was basically a cube with a bas relief carved into the sides. It was well executed, but it did not require much risk structurally. The butterfly, not all that original to my way of thinking, on the other hand required real skill to get those narrow wings to work. I took a photo head-on to give you an idea. Remember this thing is about eight feet high, so those wings are tall and thin.
Tom took this nice shot of the completed "Deathstalker" scorpion. I told Kris at the library that this one interested me the most, and I don't know if that is good or bad. I said I think it may be my Texas background, since scorpions are a reality to people growing up there.
Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the flamingos in the snow right now.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Also, today when I went by the library, the head librarian talked to me about the job I am hoping for. The board decided not to hire anyone until spring, but she is definitely thinking about me and we discussed what it might involve. So keep your hopes up!
In other news, it may get up to or even slightly -- ever so slightly -- above freezing here tomorrow. But then it will plunge back down to a high of five ( minus 15 Celsius) and a low of minus 10 (minus 23 Celsius) on Saturday.
I guess that is all the January thaw we can expect for 2009.Saturday I will be working the library open house in the middle of the day, so I hope the weather doesn't keep people away. I will also be learning a new technology at the library that will let me download audio books to my computer.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Tom posted this photo of some of the animal skin hats that I mentioned on yesterday's post. That top row is what I was talking about -- complete heads (no skulls) on the front of the hat with much or most of the body forming the rest of the hat, wrapping around the head and the tail hanging well down the back. Someone wearing one looks like they are getting ready to join in a hunting dance for one of the local tribes.
The one on the far right in that row is the one Tom wanted.
Well, the show is not over until today. Maybe he'll sneak back over just before it closes to see if he can get a better deal. If he does, I can hardly wait to see the cats' reaction when he comes home wearing it.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Tom had a meeting in Baraboo this morning, and I worked on some editing while he was occupied. Speaking of which, the quote of the day that popped up on my home page this morning is fitting for me:
I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.After lunch we headed over to the FlakeOut Festival to check things out. It was close to 20 degrees, and except when the wind was blowing in your face, it was rather pleasant out. It was long underwear weather, though. (Sorry, Kristin!)
-- Peter De Vries
First we went to the Arts & Crafts Show. I found several nice paintings and photos of Holy Hill, and had an interesting conversation with a couple of photographers. I didn't buy anything, though. My checks from the Carmelite Institute will cover my recent doctor visit and lab tests, but that doesn't leave much to spend on non-essentials.
There is an exhibitor at this show every year who has animal skin hats, caps and so on. Very nice (unless you don't like people wearing fur), and Tom is always tempted to get some sort of mountain man hat. The one he really liked was made from a coyote, with the complete head attached and quite striking. I didn't get a photo of that one, but this shot gives you an idea of the sort of thing we are talking about. This one is tame, just the fur. They have all sorts of skins, some with heads, some without: fox, badger, skunks, raccoons. Oh, the one Tom liked? Ran to about $300, so look and like is all he did.
After that we wandered around to watch the snow sculptors at work. This is the Racine team working on Deathstalker -- obviously a scorpion. I was amazed that they could get the tail to stand up so high.
This is the team from Belgium (the one in Wisconsin, not the one in Europe) with Tea Bag. So far it looks like a Buddha or a sumo wrestler.
Tomorrow the prizes will be awarded, and I will try to post some pictures of those from the newspaper. Those should be better quality photographs.
Friday, January 16, 2009
As a result, I am not surprised to hear that Circuit City was unable to find a buyer and is closing down completely. I am sad, however, to know that this means 30,000 jobs are being lost at some 567 locations. Since my experience with the employees was so good, and since the job market is only going to get worse before things get better, I feel bad for the folks who were trying to do a good job but who will soon find themselves in line at job fairs.
I assume someone else will soon be handling the cartridges I need for the printer, but to be honest, I can probably buy a new printer for about what I pay for two cartridges now.
Quia absurdum est. [If your Latin is a little rusty, that means "Which is absurd."]
This is good news for the Annual FlakeOut Festival in the Dells this weekend. The snow sculpture contest is the highlight, and here are the designs for the competition this year. I'll try to get some pictures to post of some of the real things later. The sculptures, by the way, are made from a block of packed snow that is 6 feet wide by 6 feet by 10 feet tall.
"One With Everything "
Steve Lentz - Captain
An 11-year snow sculpting veteran, Steve Lentz brings first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be a state-level competitor.
"Picassnow - Cubed"
Cory Stoner - Captain
Cory and Dave have a combined 13 years of snow sculpting know-how. Dave was a member of the 2008 3rd place Sculptor's Award winning team.
"Evolution of Media"
Sue Adamczyk - Captain
The Adamczyk family has a combined 16 years of snow sculpting experience. They have been sculpting as a family for the past three years.
Aron Hlavinka - Captain
Aron Hlavinka and his team return to Wisconsin Dells for a 3rd consecutive year.
Shawn Czuppa - Captain
Shawn, Jesse and John work together at the design firm of Brooks Stevens. This will be their sixth year of sculpting as a team in Wisconsin Dells.
"Victory Is Ours"
Darren Hamm - Captain
Darren Hamm takes the design reigns of his team for the second year at Flake Out Festival 2009. All three members of this team work together at the design firm of Brooks Stevens.
"Frog In Your Throat?"
Neal Vogt - Captain
Neal Vogt's team has won awards at Flake Out Festival four years running, and was the Wisconsin State Championship team in 2007 and 2008.
"Slow To Melt"
Rebecca Michna - Captain
Rebecca Michna and her team return for their second year at Flake Out Festival.
Shayne Noller - Captain
Shayne Noller's team brings a combined 17 years of sculpting expertise to Flake Out Festival 2009.
"See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil"
Noelle Tomczyk - Captain
Noelle Tomczyk leads the only all-female sculpting team, comprised of artists and art teachers.
Kevin Sawicki - Captain
Kevin Sawicki retuns to Flake Out Festival after representing the United States at the Breckenridge International Snow Sculpting Competition in 2007 and 2008.
Glen Walters - Captain
Comprised of an industrial designer and two design engineers, Team Walters competes in their 5th Flake Out Festival competition.
Gina Diliberti - Captain
Gina Diliberti, a graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art, captains a team for the first time at Flake Out Festival.
Mike Dretzka - Captain
Mike Dretzka's team returns to the Flake Out Festival competition after an eight-year hiatus.
Wendy Bagatta - Captain
Wendy Bagatta brings her eight years of snow sculpting experience to the table as she leads her team of art teachers from the Oak Creek Franklin School District.
Mikhail Becker - Captain
Mikhail Becker's team will compete against his father, Eric Becker, at Flake Out Festival 2009 - the youngest team to compete in the event.
Mark Mayzik - Captain
2006 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Champions, Team Mayzik has 19 years of snow sculpting knowledge.
"That's A Moray"
Skip DeBack - Captain
Skip DeBack's team has placed four of the six years in the Flake Out Festival competition; mostly recently receiving the 2008 2nd place Media Choice Award.
Aaron Mach - Captain
Relative newcomers to the competition, Aaron Mach's talented group returns for their third year of sculpting at Flake Out Festival.
C.K. Worrell - Captain
Team Worrell took second place in the 2007 People's Choice Award category at Flake Out Festival.
"Fire And Ice"
Joel Ingebrigtson - Captain
Joel and his team are returning for the second year of sculpting at the Wisconsin Dells event. They hope to walk in the footsteps of Joel's father and brother, state champion snow sculptors in their own right.
Tony Kaminsky - Captain
Tony Kaminsky's team follows this philosophy: "As much as we do our best to impress the other teams, our main goal is to entertain the kids and the crowds."
"You're Fired - R2 In Trouble"
Don Swanson - Captain
The Swanson brothers have been regulars at the Flake Out Festival competition since 1999; and having won the People's Choice and Sculptor's Choice honors in prior years.
"Cup Of Tea"
Scott VanVreede - Captain
Scott VanVreede leads his team at their second Flake Out Festival competition. New to the medium of snow sculpting, they have won awards at Milwaukee's 3rd Ward Ice Carving Competition in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
"The Sunny Side Of Life"
Jeffrey Shawhan - Captain
This team has been creating art at Flake Out Festival since 1998, winning the 2006 Wisconsin State Snow Sculpting Championship.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
As far as I know, it never got above zero today. Tom and I canceled dinner with the Screnocks for tonight because the wind chill forecast makes it likely that we would run into car trouble with a vehicle sitting outside for a couple of hours. One guy somewhere north of us was reporting that his diesel fuel was gelling. (Not good gelling like those annoying Dr. Scholl ads, either.)
The library, on the other hand, did open and I went in to do my volunteering this afternoon. If they're open tomorrow -- when it is supposed to get to 2 above -- I will probably go in again to help out. At the moment they don't have any regular volunteers coming on Friday afternoon, and it is a big help if someone will handle the requests for book loans to other libraries. There are no scheduled volunteers for Saturdays, and so the list of books and other items requested can just keep growing until next week. To give you an idea of what that may mean even in our small library, the list I handled this afternoon had 76 items on it.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Anyway, not totally to my surprise, I was the only man there. When I walked in, one of them said, "Oh, we're going to have a boy!"
That speaks to both the gender and the age group involved.
It was an interesting experience, though, and I am glad to join in the fun. It will be an opportunity to network (dreadful verbing of a noun!) with people who are connected with so many other things in town, including the schools, the historical society and so on. And it will be one more thing to keep me occupied and out of trouble.
I normally work at the library on Thursday and have been thinking of going in on Friday afternoon as well; but today Kris told me to call before coming in the next couple of days. Due to the weather forecast for subzero temperatures and wind chills of 30 or more below zero, the schools and the library are likely to be closed.