Sunday, October 30th, 2005
Our bedtime story tonight was "The Fir Tree", the final story in Tales From Moominvalley, which Ellen and Sylvia picked up the other day at Scandinavia House. Sylvia requested this story because the picture on the first page of the story is of a young Woody, who looks kind of like the Dweller Under the Sink from Moominland Midwinter. The DUS is a mysterious creature who does not speak the same language as the Moomins, and when Moomintroll tried to talk to him, he got angry and said "Radamsah!" which Sylvia found just hilarious. So, we read this story with Sylvia specifying that I call the Woody "Radamsah", which substitution I did make most of the times his name came up. (When I failed to make it, Sylvia was quick to correct me.)
(This occasionally happens when we are reading a story, that Sylvia asks me to make some substitution -- for instance when we read Moominland Midwinter, the instruction was always to refer to Too-Ticky with masculine rather than feminine pronouns. -- Note that this is kind of interesting in a weird way as Too-Ticky was modeled on Jannson's female partner, maybe Sylvia is picking up on an intentional gender confusion?)
"The Fir Tree" is a wonderful Christmas story, one of the best ever I think. To summarize: The Moomin family normally hibernates through winter and so do not know about Christmas; but this year the Hemulen wakes them up because he is resentful at their sleeping peacefully away while everyone else works so hard at celebrating Christmas. He doesn't bother to explain what's happening though, and the best the Moomins can make out from their fractured interactions with various Hemulens and Gaffsies, is that some kind of dangerous creature named Christmas is coming when it gets dark, and they need to find a fir tree and decorate it, and cook a dinner and set out presents to placate the monster. They end up setting up a very nice Christmas jubilee for the Woody and his small friends and relations, who are impoverished. And then go back to sleep, still not really understanding what is going on. While we were reading the part where the Moomins were arriving at their conclusion that "Christmas" is the name of some monster, Sylvia observed, "like the Dr. Seuss Christmas monster, who takes all the presents away." Yes, nice parallel to find.
Saturday, October 29th, 2005
I bought a used copy of The Evolution Man by Roy Lewis, through Amazon. I remember it from my childhood as being a laugh riot -- it came yesterday and I read some of it tonight, and it does not disappoint.
The idea of the book is to show some of the milestones of human evolution and social development, as seen through the eyes of a young early hominid named Ernie, his Luddite uncle and his forward-looking father. It's a little bit the same effect as Kipling's "Just-So Stories", but more clever and insightful.
Thursday, October 27th, 2005
Sylvia and Ellen were at Scandinavia House (on Park Ave. and 37th) yesterday, and found to their great surprise that the gift shop there is just full of Moomin merchandise. Gee, why didn't I think of that? Seems pretty obvious now -- they have stuffed animals, pottery and a bunch of other stuff. They did not get any of that, but did pick up the CD of "Muumilauluja" -- lovely but hard to understand, being in
Finnish er, Swedish and all. We listened to it last night and played "try to guess the character who's speaking" based on the voice characteristics, which was pretty fun. This morning I did a search and found that the CD is translated into English as Moomin Voices, available from CDBaby. Update: Er, I'm confused here. Looks like "Muumilauluja" is, as I at first thought, in Finnish; and "Moomin Voices" is in Swedish. No English translation, I think.
Wednesday, October 26th, 2005
At the beginning of last night's dream, I was reading an article in a history journal, regarding the discovery of a bag or box lunch which Martha Washington had prepared for her husband. It was believed to have been from early in their married years. The central idea of the article concerned the discovery that George or Martha (I forget which) had not deigned to smell the lunch; or maybe that George had requested that Martha not smell it, or prevented her from smelling it. This was presented as evidence of a lousy marriage, specifically of George denying Martha's full humanity. I remember thinking both, Wow, how would you discover something like that in the historical record, and That seems like a pretty wild extrapolation from the data point. Maybe they just didn't have good smellers. Or something.
I was reading the article on the train going in to work and as it arrived in Hoboken, I climbed out the porthole onto the platform -- this train was equipped with portholes next to each seat. I was sitting in the front of the second car, as is my wont. Apparently I did not wait until the train came to a complete stop, because a conductor (a black woman) yelled at me from the first car to please return to my seat until it did. As I made my way back to the second car so did she, more quickly than I, and when she got to my seat she found the bag lunch which I had forgotten to take with me, and handed it to me through the porthole. Not sure what the relationship is between the two parts of this dream.
Friday, October 21st, 2005
A comments thread well worth your perusal, is under Kieran Healy's Ye Ladies of Easy Leisure post at Crooked Timber. I am of course modestly proud of my own contributions but the whole thing is pretty well at the acme of the form. People are talking past each other, personalizing, crying in their beer, and the whole thing just magically hangs together. Plus Belle called me a pervert.
Also, this Michael Berube post on classic rock FM radio has lots of good stuff.
Thursday, October 20th, 2005
Sylvia's birthday present from her grandparents was a bicycle accessory we've been thinking about getting for a while now. It is a tandem trailer, which converts my bike (or Ellen's) into a bicycle built for two, with the rear seat being low enough for Sylvia to ride on it. She loves it! Here are some shots of us riding around.
Friday, October 14th, 2005
... I broke my router. But it's all fixed, now, at least enough for my web site to be online. Enjoy!
Monday, October third, 2005
Tonight we finished Moominpappa At Sea -- Sylvia surprised me by telling me, "Dad -- maybe the lighthouse-keeper is the fisherman" about two pages before that identity is revealed -- she's been paying closer and more subtle attention to the story line than I had thought she was. Then she said, "I've been thinking about the moomins all day."
And how cool is this -- the events of the last chapter take place on October 3rd, which is the date we're reading the last chapter on!
Friday, September 23rd, 2005
- Go into your archive.
- Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
(Way back on May Day, 2003.)
- Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
- Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
"I ended up cutting a rabbet in the end of that piece of siding so it would fit over the end of the piece around the corner from it -- that seemed to work ok but now I need to seal it."
And, ack, I believe the end of the siding remains unsealed 2 years later...
Sylvia and I watched the first two episodes of Moomin-Mania last night. She was crazy about it, which strangely created a bit more distance for me, than when I watched the first episode before. I am thinking the changes in the story-line make for a less interesting story than the book. But, the visuals are fantastic. And the voices are generally really good too, although there are spots where they are not quite properly synchronized with the action.
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Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.