Friday, December 24, 2004

My Low-Tech, Postage-Free Holiday Card to You All

Friday, December 24, 2004
8:23:00 PM MST
My Low-Tech, Postage-Free Holiday Card to You All

I don't feel like picking out an e-card this time, I lost the cards I bought at Barnes & Noble, and I don't know Java. So please accept this as my Christmas card to you all. It's not fancy. There's no animation or beautiful art or photos. But it's sincere, and it frees me to get on with all the other stuff I need to get on with. Merry Christmas, everyone!

The wreath on our door is about 40 years old.  The bells are newer than that.If you celebrate Solstice, I'm just a bit late;
If you had a good Hanukkah, I think that's great!
Ramadan's over, Rohatsu too,
But still I wish Happy Holidays to you!

Christmas Eve's here, and the Internet's quiet.
If a present's forgotten, it's too late to buy it.
Web and journal addictions don't need to be fed
As we turn our attention to families instead.

It's just John and me here, with a tree yet to trim,
And I still have to wrap all the presents for him.
My brother's in Cleveland, my dad with the steps;
They've got lots of snow; we have no such effects.

Two hours from now, I'll be in the sacristy,
Preparing to help with our High Mass majesty.
Our "Midnight Mass" starts with 10 PM music.
I've a small cross to bear, and I'd never refuse it.

So whether a boisterous family surrounds you,
Or your Christmas is quiet, I'm glad these words found you.
I send you my blessings. May Heaven above
Bless you this Christmas with peace, joy and love.

KFB, 12/24/04

Celebrations of the Season: info from

Written by mavarin.
This entry has 4 comments:

Thank you for this - it's very, very nice.
Comment from sakishler - 12/28/04 9:39 AM

Comment from deabvt - 12/27/04 9:17 AM

Hope your Christmas was merry and bright...and that you had a nice dinner too.
Comment from ryanagi - 12/26/04 2:18 PM

Merry Christmas to you and yours as well :) Jeff
Comment from jeff466 - 12/25/04 1:27 AM

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Holiday Trivia #49-60

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
12:20:00 AM MST
Holiday Trivia #49-52

Here are tonight's questions.

Question Forty-Nine: “Christmas Afternoon”, a Robert Benchley parody of Charles Dickens, closes with
a) “Bah! Humbug!”
b) Scrooge shooting Tiny Tim
c) “God bless us, every one!”
d) “God help us, every one.”

Question Fifty: What Christmas gift did General Sherman give to President Lincoln in 1864?
a) matched dueling pistols
b) Savannah
c) Atlanta
d) a performance by the Union Army’s boys chorus

Question Fifty-One: What seasonal breakfast cereal first appeared on supermarket shelves in the mid 1980s?
a) E.T.’s Christmas Flakes
b) Cap’n Crunch’s Christmas Crunch
c) Candy Cane Crunch
d) Crispy Christmas Critters

Question Fifty-Two: Which of these is not a genuine record?
a) Yulesville
b) We Wish You A Deadly Christmas
c) Santa and the Satellite
d) Monsters’ Holiday

Answers to questions 16-40, plus player standings, will follow shortly. Then I'm going back to bed. I only got 3 hours of sleep Sunday night/Monday morning!


Written by mavarin.
This entry has 3 comments:

49. D
50. B
51. B
52. B

Comment from ryanagi - 12/23/04 12:33 AM

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

10:25:00 PM MST
Holiday Trivia # 53-56

These should be a bit easier.

Question Fifty-Three: How is Santa dressed in A Visit From St. Nicholas?
a) in red velvet
b) in fur
c) as the Tooth Fairy
d) in long white robes

Question Fifty-Four: In what body of water can you find Christmas Island?
a) Pacific Ocean
b) Arctic Ocean
c) Indian Ocean
d) a and c

Question Fifty-Five:Which of the following was not a real Christmas TV special?
a) The True Meaning of Christmas Specials
b) Miss Piggy’s Christmas Cookery
c) Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas
d) Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Question Fifty-Six: In the song I’ll Be Home For Christmas, how is the singer planning to get there?
a) by plane
b) by train
c) by car
d) by dreaming


Written by mavarin.
This entry has 3 comments:

    53. B
    54. D
    55. B
    56. D
    Comment from ryanagi - 12/23/04 10:30 AM

    These are a bit easier. But I'm still mostly guessing.

    53. b. I always hoped that it was fake fur.

    54. d? I just know it's near Australia.

    55. d is the only one I know for sure was real. I'll guess b because I've heard of most Muppet things and I haven't heard of that. I don't think.

    56. d

    Comment from sakishler - 12/22/04 8:59 PM

    53- D



    Comment from jeff466 - 12/21/04 11:13 PM

    Thursday, December 23, 2004
    12:31:00 AM MST
    Holiday Trivia #57-60

    Here are tonight's questions. Because I failed to mention solstice last night in favor of Christmas questions, it's all solstice, all the time tonight. I am not an expert in this area, so please forgive any superficiality in the questions and answers.

    Question Fifty-Seven: The ancient Roman holiday Saturnalia took place
    a) originally December 17 & December 19th; eventually December 17th through 23rd
    b) on the shortest day of the year (winter solstice)
    c) on December 25th
    d) December 26th through January 1st

    Question Fifty-Eight: What is the relationship between Stonehenge and the winter solstice?
    a) It was built during a solstice celebration 2,850 years ago
    b) The positions of the stones mark both solstices as well as other celestial and seasonal phenomena
    c) Pagans, Wiccans and others associate the site with Druidic and other ancient spirituality
    d) b and c

    Question Fifty-Nine: Which of the following observances, ancient and modern, is not associated with the winter solstice?
    a) Saturnalia
    b) Yule
    c) Ramadan
    d) Alban Arthan

    Question Sixty: Saturnalia was associated with all of the following except
    a) debauchery (feasting and orgies and such)
    b) trees
    c) druids
    d) presents


    Written by mavarin.
    This entry has 4 comments:

    57. A
    58. D
    59. C
    60. D

    I am falling behind on my reading!
    Comment from ryanagi - 12/26/04 12:53 PM




    60-D Jeff
    Comment from jeff466 - 12/25/04 1:25 AM

    Wow. I have a lot to learn about Solstice. So, let the learning begin (after all the wild guessing).

    57. b? Only because that's what the whole quiz round is all about.

    58. d.

    59. c? I don't even think I've ever heard of d.

    60. Hey, cool, debauchery. I guess I'll go with d.

    Off to do a little better on your Christmas Eve Eve questions!
    Comment from sakishler - 12/24/04 12:27 AM

    Question Fifty-Eight: What is the relationship between Stonehenge and the winter solstice?

    I believe they're just friends.

    Comment from plittle - 12/23/04 11:36 AM

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Holiday Haiku 1 & 2

Wednesday, December 8, 2004
1:45:00 AM MST
Christmas Haiku, Part One: At the Mall

I think I wrote these last year [2003].

Christmas shopping goes
From brain-wracking to frenzy--
Is it over yet?

Out in the mall lot
There arose such a clatter:
Presents crashed to ground!

Buying Toys for Tots
Is our yearly tradition.
Got toys--no drop box!

The photo: rain in the Sears lot, Park Place, summer 2004. Photo by KFB.

Written by mavarin.
This entry has 2 comments:

Great `kus!!!
Comment from deabvt - 12/9/04 9:19 AM

Hi :)

I wish I had some talent for Haiku...alas...
I love the photo. Great entry.

Always, Carly :)
Comment from ondinemonet - 12/9/04 5:17 AM

Saturday, December 11, 2004
2:10:00 AM MST

Christmas Haiku #2 Retro Christmas

the current color wheel turns without a tree
The color wheel turns.
Changing hues sweep through the room--
With no tree in sight.

Annual question:
Real tree? White tree? Silver tree?
Can't we compromise?

Pine cones in spray paint:
Turquoise and pink--that's not right!
Retro Christmas time.

KFB 2003-2004

Written by mavarin.
This entry has 3 comments:

Love it!
Comment from cneinhorn - 12/12/04 8:20 PM

R E A L !!!!!
Comment from deabvt - 12/12/04 3:22 AM

LOL Someone in my local Freecycle group was looking for a color wheel the other day. Do you have the aluminum tree? ;-) Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!
Comment from ryanagi - 12/11/04 1:15 PM

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Winter in Tucson, Part One

Tuesday, December 7, 2004
10:23:00 AM MST
Hearing: David Johanson interview on NPR
Winter in Tucson, Part One

the view at 22nd and Wilmot, 12/7/04

Aside from the car with the "Luv U" plate, this was what I saw when I left for work this morning, the view that caused me to go back to the house for the Mavica camera. The snow-topped Catalina Mountains were much more spectacular as seen overlooking patches of desert in vacant lots near 22nd and Swan. However, I'm not quite foolish enough to take pictures while driving at 40 miles per hour along busy, wet streets. So let's just start with what we have, as Count Rugen might say.

In Tucson, snow is most often seen from afar, atop the Catalinas, Rincons and sometimes the Tucson Mountains, which aren't as tall. Snow on the ground within the city itself only happens about once every couple of years. The rest of the time, including last night, Summerhaven's snow is Tucson's badly-needed rain. We are still in a drought here, and it is a desert, after all.

the jacketIt's been raining pretty much every day (or night, or both) since the end of last week. The rain has brought with it high temperatures in the 40s and 50s, what I like to think of as real "Syracuse weather." It's not windy, though, or bitingly cold. Still, with nighttime temperatures around freezing, it's about as close as Tucson gets to winter.

I bought a new jacket on Sunday, for more money than John would want me to spend under our present circumstances. I chose a red and black one, in honor of the red and black wardrobe of leather and plastic and Spandex clothes I wore for a while when I was much younger and thinner. I still love those colors.

My new jacket has a zip-out lining that I haven't used yet, in case it gets really cold some night, or I go up the mountain or leave town. Without the lining, though, my purchase has already come in handy. It replaces a ratty, black and off-white fleecy thing that my mom bought me from a Lane Bryant or Haband catalog years ago. The zipper came off that last week, but I may keep it to wear at my computer on winter days in my unheated office at home.

I have better pictures of Tucson winters past, but I'll show you those another time.


Update: I took a few more pictures at lunch. There was visibly less snow (it's 59 degrees in the city right now), but here's a picture anyway. The building (across the street from Golden Corral) was low income housing for a while, but I think it's become a hotel again.

Written by mavarin.
This entry has 3 comments:

Hi Karen

Oh to see snow :) California is seeing a lot of rain right now, but I will be dreaming of snow. :)

Always, Carly :)
Comment from ondinemonet - 12/9/04 5:15 AM

Red and black, eh? I wore turquoise, black and purple back in the day. :-)
Comment from ryanagi

I love the scenery of the mountains! I live in an region that is flat flat flat. I have to drive about 5 hours west to see anything that resembles your view. We also have many a winter's day where our high is below freezing with a negative wind chill factor-when that happens, the desert sounds nice :) Looking forward to the other winter pictures you have. Jeff
Comment from jeff466 - 12/8/04 12:05 AM

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Ultimate Christmas Stockings

Saturday, November 27, 2004
11:48:00 AM MST
The Ultimate Christmas Stockings

filling the stockings, 1987I seem to have confused John Scalzi about the Christmas stockings. Let me explain, then.

Of all the holiday traditions I try to observe, the one that my husband John really gets into is the preparation of the Christmas stockings. John and I each have a stocking that's been around for most of our marriage, so long that old "D-in-sewing" Karen has had to sew them back together a couple of times. We've also had stockings at various times for each of our dogs, Jenny (1979-1989), Noodle (1987-2001) and Tuffy Toro (1996-present); John's sister Martha; my Dad and my Ruth; and my Mom and Aunt Flora. Jenny Dog used to get balloons in her stocking. Part of the fun at Christmas was John blowing up balloons and our batting them around with Jenny. Once in a while she would pop one, and then run up to John, demanding that he blow up another one to play with. Unfortunately, Noodle did not share this enthusiasm, and Tuffy is afraid of strange objects and loud noises. Maybe someday we'll have another dog who likes balloons, and revive this part of the Christmas stocking tradition.

Mostly, though, we focus on the John and Karen stockings, which we decorate and fill for each other. Every year, John and I each put a new button, pin or other bauble on the other person's stocking, to the point where we're starting to run out of room now. Then we fill it with fun stuff. I insist on having a tangerine in the toe of mine, another tradition left over from my childhood. Other than that, there may be batteries or other intriguing accessories to go with some other non-stocking gift; silly toys like a Santa Claus bendy or a Santa clicker, ball bearing mazes and other useless gimcrackery; candy and/or nuts, the exact composition of which varies with that year's dietary situation; Disney comics and trading cards; pens, razors or other small, practical stuff; and usually one nice gift that's small enough to be crammed in there.

I usually go to Yike's Toys to fill John's stocking. You may recall that I mentioned the place in connection with buying little toys to give out at Halloween. Same principle here.John still has the Budda-with-a-cell-phone squeaky toy I got him there years ago. Last year I gave him a little plastic mermaid. This year it may be a hula girl to go with the cool pack of retro hula postcards I got him before. We'll see.

So, John Scalzi, when I tell you to blow $70 on two of the best Christmas stockings ever, I'm talking about doing the stocking thing right, inside and out. Get a couple of good, sturdy stockings, and decorate them with the names Krissy and Athena. Put something silly and personal on the outside, too, some little decoration that means, "I, Santa Claus, know and love this person whose stocking I'm filling." Then fill it up with fun stuff. If you do it right, Krissy will enjoy her stocking just as much as Athena does--and you'll be under pressure to top yourself next year.


Photo by John Blocher, Christmas, 1987; the only White Christmas in Tucson since 1916.

Written by mavarin.
This entry has 2 comments:

Strange. Your real life, as told in the entry above, sounds vaguely like Joshua Wanderer. Maybe that is not strange, after all, with the author being one and the same.
Anyway you've given me ideas for Christmas. I am usually clueless But the really magnificent, amazing magical technicolor super-stocking for everyone is inspired. If I can pull it off I'll let you know how it comes out.
Let me see... start with a gold coin in each one. Not a gold foil-wrapped candy... a REAL gold coin, a hazelnut, a loquat, a cumquat, a tin cricket, a penny whistle, .. well, that's a start.
Comment from chasferris - 11/28/04 3:31 PM

I have fun stuffing Christmas stocking too! Comment from alphawoman1 - 11/28/04 6:14 AM

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Haunted By the Mansion

Saturday, October 16, 2004
4:21:00 AM MST

Haunted by the Mansion

This would be better if I knew where that CD was.I knew from the start that the eBay auction to be the 1,000th Grim Grinning Ghost at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion would be out of reach financially, but I'm a little startled how quickly the high bid amount has shot up. In just over a day and a half, it's gone from a minimum bid of $750 to $30,306.66, with another five and a half days to go.

For those of you who may not know what I'm talking about, or what the big deal is, the Haunted Mansion has been, for 35 years now, one of the best and most beloved attractions at Disneyland. Long before Eddie Murphy walked into a movie that was better at special effects than at having sympathetic characters or a coherent plot, Disney fans were standing in the Haunted Mansion's foyer at dusk, chanting the opening words of the attraction: "When hinges creak in doorless chambers..." and happily anticipating what would come next. From the tombstones in the pre-ride area to the dramatic words of the unseen Ghost Host, from the jerking forward of each Doom Buggy past an endless hallway to Madame Leota's seance, from the endless duel and party in the ballroom to the beating heart of the jilted ghost bride, from the singing busts in the graveyard to the exhortation of Little Leota to "Hurry back! Be sure to bring your death certificate!" -- it's just a wonderful time for all. Well, almost. It's probably not wonderful for the guy in the coffin, eternally shouting, "Let me out! Let me out!"

Part of the storyline is that there are 999 happy haunts here, but the place has room for 1,000. Now, at last, someone will be able to answer the Ghost Host's call for a suitable volunteer to fill the quota. The qualification: that someone will have to spend considerably more than I make in a year for the privilege of a tombstone with his or her name on it.

The current issue of The E TicketDisney fans can tell you that the voice of the Ghost Host is that of the late Paul Frees, who played cartoon characters ranging from Ludwig Von Drake to Boris Badenov, among many others. His voice can also be heard in that other great Disneyland attraction nearby, Pirates of the Caribbean. The deep voice in both the Haunted Mansion song Grim Grinning Ghosts and the Pirates song Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me) is that of Thurl Ravenscroft, best known as the voice of Tony the Tiger. With and without his group the Mello Men, he can still be heard in many Disney projects of the 1950s and 1960s, including the Zorro theme and the dog chorus in Lady and the Tramp. He also sang You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch in the Chuck Jones / Dr. Seuss cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Hardcore Disney fans will also happily tell you about the late Marc Davis, one of Disney's Nine Old Men, an animater and imagineer who came up with many of the most memorable images in the Haunted Mansion (the hitchhiking ghosts, for example), Pirates of the Caribbean (remember the dog with the keys to the jail?) and the Jungle Cruise (the expedition in the tree and much more). X. Atencio (the X. is for Xavier) wrote the lyrics and the ride narration for the Haunted Mansion, and provided at least one of the voices. Rolly Crump, Claude Coats, Yale Gracey, Ken Anderson and Leota Toombs also a played a role in the Haunted Mansion's many years of development. unfortunately not the rare edition with the 13th trackAlthough the project was announced by Walt Disney as early as 1958, it went through many stages in story and design (at one point it was going to be a Museum of the Weird), and stood in New Orleans Square for years before the doors finally opened in 1969. It was worth the wait.

Ah, well. I can live without being counted among the honorary dead. I wasn't at Disneyland for the 30th Anniversary celebration, with live spooks and a panel discussion featuring Marc Davis, X. Atencio and others. (I do have bootleg video of it, though, somewhere.) I also haven't been to Disneyland for Christmas since they started letting Jack Skellington take the place over for a Haunted Mansion Holiday. Come to think of it, I haven't even written fan mail to Thurl Ravenscroft yet. I hope he's still alive by the time I get around to it.

But Halloween will be here soon. When kids come to the door, they'll hear bits of my Haunted Mansion 30th Anniversary CD: unearthly organ music, the unsettling assurances of the Ghost Host, Madame Leota's seance in rhyme (the second time through it's in French and English), guest appearances by Vincent Price and a Japanese Ghost Host, and many versions of Thurl and others singing about the grim grinning ghosts who "come out to socialize."


Written by mavarin.
This entry has 1 comment:

Amazing! I want the job of the person who can afford to pay $30k for a headstone and trip to Disney!
Comment from cneinhorn

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

John Burp Marching SongFor nearly forty years now, I've been carrying things around in my head that nobody else alive today is likely to remember, with the possible exceptions of my brother and one or two former members of Syracuse Little Theater. My mom, Dr. Ruth Anne Johnson Funk, was a composer and a lyricist, a director and a satirist. (She was also a clinical psychologist and an educator.) I still remember most of the songs and some of the dialogue from her 1960s musical revues, DeManleyville (1964), DeManleyville '65 and They'd Rather Be Right (1968). Here's a sample from one of the songs in DeManleyville / DeManleyville '65:

excerpt from John Burp Marching Song

Let's take the Red out of Red, White and Blue;
America, we'll be true!
The only patriots left are me and you -
and I'm not too sure of you.

--from DeManleyville (1964)

This was the Cold War era, remember. Joe McCarthy was no longer a major force, but there were still accusations that a peacenik (for example) was a Commie Pinko, or whatever term was in vogue that year. That first show satirized a few carryovers from the 1950s, including the Happy Homemakers ("We adore keeping house; it's the thrill of our lives/And we freely admit that we're all perfect wives") and the Beatnik Mama ("In matters intellectual, she's strictly nowhere.") Other targets for the satire were automation, bridge players and General Electric ("But now you've gone and transferred him/And your light in our heart's growing dim").

By 1968, the political and social climate had changed a bit. The former Beatnik Mama was now Rockin' with the Viet Cong. Mom included a slide show memorializing Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., accompanied by Requiem for the Masses by the Association. (One night a member of The Association showed up for the performance, and Mom was thrilled.)

They'd Rather Be Right included a new satirical song for each of the surviving major candidates: Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and George Wallace. The songs were The Newest Richard Nixon ("Has he changed since Checkers was a pup?"), Saint Eugene ("A man of monumental calm/Except on Viet Nam"), Lonesome George ("But would you let your daughter marry him?") and the Hubert Humphrey Blues:

When he's not on tv, I hit bottom.
Tell me, is it fair that Johnson's got him,
And Muriel is stuck with her cigar?
I would gladly share him with another,
singing praise to apple pie and mother.
Tell me how to shake this hang-up, brother,
For I've got the Hubert Humphrey blues!

--from They'd Rather Be Right (1968)

Here's a sample of the dialogue, from a sketch in which a female suburbanite is accused of being middle class ("Oh no! Not that!). I've been thinking about it since I wrote last night's entry about guilt that I'm not out saving the world:

Prosecutor: Do you lie awake at night on your silk sheets--
Defendant: Percale. I got them on sale at--
Prosecutor: In your silk sheets, knowing that thirty million people in America live below the poverty line?
Defendant: I gave to the Salvation Army.
Prosecutor: Thirty million people!
Defendant: And the Community Chest.
Prosecutor: Do you or do you not read William F. Buckley?
Defendant: Whenever I can find a dictionary. You're right. I'm guilty!
--from They'd Rather Be Right (1968)

Over the years there were also love songs, a song about the empty nest syndrome (I think that was in DeManleyville), and even a ballet about a lame little girl who was able to dance with her doll-come-to-life when the clock struck midnight. My doll, Tootles, played the inanimate version of the doll, and I, in a matching outfit, played the doll come to life. I was eight years old, and at least as clumsy as I am now. Trying to learn and perform the simple choreography just about killed me.

Dr. Ruth Anne Johnson Funk, 1950sNow, here's the point of all this nostalgia. For all these years, I've treasured my mom's music and her comedy, with the possible exception of some material she wrote for my school drama club when I was in seventh grade. But looking back now, I'm suddenly finding I have a slightly different perspective. I've always thought of my mom as a Johnson Democrat - pro-Viet Nam War, pro-equal rights, but perhaps a little to the right of my own political views (and believe me, I'm not exactly a Deaniac myself). But thinking now about the out-of-date satire, I'm seeing underlying attitudes that I didn't notice at the time, and don't necessarily share now. I would have voted for Humphrey over Nixon too, as my mom did, but I don't quite approve of a sketch in which a teacher is arrested for saying a childish prayer.

Hmm. Weird. All these years later, I'm reassessing the legacy. I'd like to discuss the old satire and the old politics with my mom, but it's too late for that. She died in 2002.


Ruth Anne Johnson

The Aging Lottery

Written by mavarin.
This entry has 5 comments:'s my first time here and I read all the entires on this page. I'm going to come back when the Man has finished the bill paying and read some more. I love what I have seen; depth, style, charm and honesty.

Good job.

Comment from ckays1967 - 8/11/04 8:24 PM

I love your memories, I find myself doing the same. What we lived through in childhood...when you dissect the memory as an adult it almost becomes Corinithean... seeing in a mirror darkly....I enjoy your writings..thanks
Comment from sdoscher458 - 8/11/04 5:55 PM

Your Mom sounded like a smart Lady. I too, wish that I could sit and talk with my Mother.

I noticed a John Kerry site on your page. If you are a Kerry supporter...You're a Smart Lady Too! Kerry for President!

I enjoyed reading your journal!

Mary Louise of Watching
Comment from mlrhjeh - 8/11/04 10:23 AM

I lied. Drama Queen Blog. (I get so confused!-- see previous comment)

Comment from cyberdancer1008 - 8/11/04 10:06 AM

You're a Johnson? me too! By the by-- I linked you in my latest entry under this screen name.

happy for ya again--your entries have been neat-o keen-o this week of glory!
Comment from cyberdancer1008 - 8/11/04 10:03 AM

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Aging Lottery

Tuesday, July 6, 2004
7:49:00 PM MST

The Aging Lottery

I don't have a picture of my friend Eva, so you'll have to settle for pictures of my parents. The distinguished man on the left is Dr. Frank E Funk, former Dean of University College, former Director of Continuing Education at Syracuse University, former president of the Wilmington Railroad Museum in Wilmington, North Carolina, and former WW II navigator who spent some time in Stalag Luft 1. He's in his eighties now, still doing work for
the railroad museum, still an elder and recording secretary at his church, still working out in an upstairs room at his home, still active, reasonably healthy (albeit a little deaf) and happy.

Exhibit B is my mom, Dr. Ruth Anne Johnson, as she was in the late 1980s. Having had polio, hepatitis C and encephalitis at various times in her life, she wasn't in great health when I was growing up, and was in rather lousy shape by the time she moved to Tucson in the early 1990s. Sometime around 1990, she gave up teaching speech and drama at the Brevard campus of Barry University after a series of small strokes. She was troubled by multi-infarct dementia and diverticulitis, worried about Alzheimer's and her 2001 ostomy, fell fairly often toward the end of her life without ever breaking anything but a tooth, and suffered from depression and other psychiatric conditions. She smoked and was sedentary, but those were just secondary causes of her difficult final years. She was just 75 when she died--a good run, but not at the end.

And then there's Eva. She's not a relative of mine. I've only known her a little over a year. I pick her up for church at St. Michael's most weeks, if she's well enough and doesn't have something else going on that morning. After church we sit at coffee hour and gab. Some weeks she invites me and my friend Kevin over for ice tea and some kind of high-carb dessert. Eva turned 99 years old on May 18th. She's a retired nurse with several generations of offspring, dead and alive. She grew up in Seattle, lived in Alaska, divorced one husband and buried another, and has generally had a full and interesting life. Her hearing isn't great and neither are her eyes, but her sense of humor is intact and so, for the most part, is her mind. She's grateful for the ride to church and appreciates our friendship; but really, Kevin and I benefit from Eva's friendship at least as much as she benefits from ours. She's a joy to be around.

Since my mom died in December, 2002, I've been very aware that my dad probably doesn't have a lot of years left; but you wouldn't know it from his busy schedule of charity work, travel and social events. And here's Eva, laughing at Kevin's witticisms and seldom complaining about anything, health-related or otherwise. Eva and my dad both won the aging lottery. Yes, they both kept active, they don't smoke (although Dad did when he was younger), and they both have a good attitude, which helps a lot. Even so, I'm sure that luck and genetics are involved as well. It's impossible to say which factors matter more, the ones they control, or the ones they don't.

When I talk to either of them I can't help thinking about my mom, especially her last couple of years, which she spent in and out of rehab facilities and the adult care home. I'll never forget calling my dad on Thanksgiving and crying, because my mom was so out of it that day (we never knew whether it was a psychiatric problem, a medical one or overmedication) that she consistently failed to get any food on her fork before bringing it to her mouth. (I also can't forget the day, many years earlier, when my dad cried because his mother no longer remembered him.) I wonder: how much of my mom's poor health was bad luck and bad genes, and how much was bad habits and bad attitude?

Do I have the discipline--and the genes--to live like Dad when I'm in my 70s and 80s, rather than like Mom? Is every day without working out, every dietary indiscretion, leading me inevitably toward strokes and dementia, no matter how hard I work at keeping my brain active? The answer is less than 30 years away.


Written by mavarin . Link to this entry
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Your father sounds like one of those people I wish I could be, with energy and drive and positive thinking. But your Mom sounds more like me. Fighting depression since I turned 30, Graves Disease, then getting MS at 50. I'll tell you one thing though the MS cured my depression, well not really Prozac helped, too. LOL .But MS has given me the gift of finally being able to sit back and smell the roses. It sounds like your Mom was one of those creative types (like me). But she did a lot with her life, too. Songwriting and all and teaching. My daughter goes to Barry in Miami Shores. But the dementia thing worries me, too. I forget a lot already and I wonder is it MS or Menopause or ME? Thank Goodness for this journal...keeps me connected.
Comment from gypsytrader49 - 7/7/04 12:40 AM

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Guilt; Vocations

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
10:21:00 AM MST
Feeling Angry


I'm all discombobulated today because of my disproportunate response to a pair of unpleasant emails from a man claiming to be a minister and longtime friend of Madeleine L'Engle. He accused me of promoting saccharine falsehoods on my L'Engle pages, said I should be ashamed of myself, and called my site fawning and obsequious. I eventually figured out that he was objecting to certain items on my L'Engle FAQ page. That page had not been updated since March, 2001, and was so labeled. The man was apparently incensed that I hadn't always known that some of L'Engle's reported details of her life were not entirely accurate, and said so, in the most perjorative terms possible. Or, failing that, that I did not update the site to include the most negative details of the New Yorker article on the moment I read them, or the moment he told me of them.

This whole thing has been distressing to me, especially this attack from a stranger who expects me to believe every word he writes, but does not provide his last name. Readers of this blog and the AOL sf writers' boards are aware that I've agonized about the New Yorker article and my best response to it.

Well, I've updated the FAQ page. I acknowledged most of the points raised in the article, but not all of them, and I've done my best not to attack either L'Engle or her family. Still, I'm not comfortable about all this. I have no perspective at all. That explains why I'm wasting time at work writing this when I have so much work to do (I'm terribly behind!), and why I got virtually no studying done last night for my accounting final tomorrow night. I need to stop worrying about this and get on with my life!

This is much worse than obsessing about the Mâvarin prequel.


Written by mavarin.
This entry has 1 comment:
    What I would do you mostly did. Update the FAQs and post that I've done so, that mea culpa, I hadn't earlier and I should've. Thanks to someone for pointing it out. I wouldn't name him.

    If the emails were nasty, I'd block him from emailing me or posting on my journal and I wouldn't answer him. I don't think people who are nasty deserve a response.

    Since you didn't state whether or not you responded to him directly--or I missed it--I can't comment on that. But if I did feel I should respond, I'd simply say, Thank you for pointing that out. And I'd leave it at that.
    Comment from shellys555 - 4/28/04 10:25 AM

Friday, April 30, 2004
11:14:00 AM MST

Vocations (no, this isn't a religious entry)

Last night I used all four hours of scheduled class time struggling through a final exam in Advanced Accounting. Afterward I told Fred, the CPA and UoP instructor, "Another four hours and I'd have nailed it. As it is, I'm not happy."

Even on the open book, open laptop test, I simply couldn't do all that work in the time allotted. My spreadsheets didn't balance. Good thing Fred gives partial credit for getting most of a problem right. Maybe I'll get a C on this; if I'm really lucky, a B.

Until my previous course, Intermediate Accounting III, I hadn't gotten less than an A for a course at University of Phoenix. Now it looks like I'll be A-less for two courses in a row. Rats.

It matters, because all this is a warm-up for taking a CPA exam next year. I have to learn this, or $20,000 worth of student loans will be for nothing. I was so good at this stuff in the early stages, but it's getting harder, and I'm getting slower at working it all out. I keep reassuring myself, Stewart Smalley style, that I'm good enough and smart enough. But my confidence isn't, shall we say, at an all-time high. Still, I have to keep going. It's a bit late to study for some other profession, even if there were something better suited to my talents, interests and personality. Accounting is a good profession for an introvert, and that's what I mostly am.

All I want to do, really, is finish the final edit on Heirs of Mâvarin, and work on To Rule Mâvarin and Mages of Mâvarin. But there's no money in that, especially if I don't submit anything anywhere. I haven't sent out a query in 18 months.

So this weekend I'll do a little Mâvarin stuff, and start reading downloaded chapters for the tax accounting course. It's supposed to be an easy course, and the instructor is really good.

Maybe after that course, I'll feel less desperate about whether I'm really up to this accounting stuff.


Written by mavarin.
This entry has 2 comments:
for a while before revising
    I've been told that only 7% of people without postgrad degrees pass the CPA on the first try. Pretty daunting! --KFB
    Comment from >mavarin - 5/1/04 10:56 PM

    My hubby's one-time pass on the CPA exam, notwithstanding, I've been told this is hard to pass on the first try, at least in NYS, sort of like passing the bar the first time. It's do-able, but many folks don't do it. Your grades aren't as important as understanding the material. Good luck!
    Comment from shellys555 - 4/30/04 11:48 AM

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Testing Capabilities; Living the Fictional Life

Sunday, April 25, 2004
12:02:00 AM MST

Testing capabilties

Aha! I've been wondering how Shelly got pictures into her entries without those big ugly white boxes around them. Cool. I've now got the journal set to wrap the text around the big white boxes when I do use them, and now I know I can do the little clip art thing, too.

I also added the "not Rani" picture to the About Me box, and added Wil Wheaton, of all people, to the journal list.

As long as I'm using the book quote gif thingy, I'll go ahead and recommend the book I'm reading now, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. I'm not fond of the title, but the book itself is excellent. (In case you've missed the minor hoopla about it, it's a British bestseller about punctuation--really!)


Written by mavarin . Link to this entry
This entry has 4 comments: (Add your own)
To Shelly: Nope! I found a camera icon near the text controls. (Was that there before? I don't think so.) Clicking on that gives me a chance to type the URL of the clip art I want to appear in the same box as the text.

To HG: In the early days of eBay, when John and I cruised the yard sales every Saturday morning, we were frequently annoyed at the sight of printed metal signs advertising estate sales run by a couple named Brown. "The Brown's Are Selling" was a slogan on the signs, and on Mr. Brown's smock (apron?), I noticed, when I attended one of the sales. John and I always derisively call the couple "the Brown Is," not to their faces, of course, but from the privacy of our car. The happy part of the story is that the signs were changed a year or two ago. The offending apostrophe is gone. I like to think that so many people gave them grief about the error that they finally changed the signs, either for the sake or literacy and professionalism, or just for the sake of peace. - KFB
Comment from mavarin - 4/25/04 10:08 PM

It will be interesting to see just how big a sensation E, S & L becomes over here -- and whether it has real impact. A half-million Brits have read it; is that nation becoming any better punctuated?

Actually, I believe the panda on the cover visited a Goodyear auto service shop in Lynn, Mass., sometime last year. The sign out front read "GOODYEAR WELCOME'S COMMUTERS" for a year or so. Last year, somebody (or some Asian, bear-like mammal) painted over the apostrophe in a not-quite-matching shade of gray. I can only hope that scores of customers and passers-by, not just one nagging grammarian, complained.

Comment from eeyorehmg - 4/25/04 8:06 PM

I guess I should add that I have Eats, Shoots and Leaves on my To Buy list. And I love Wil Wheaton's blog. It's an award winner, I believe. I found out about it when I saw his book in B&N.
Comment from shellys555 - 4/25/04 7:13 AM

Actually, someone on the Journals message board explained how to copy and paste after you upload graphics to My FTP space and when you do that, there's no white box. Is that how you're doing it now? It looks good.
Comment from shellys555 - 4/25/04 7:11 AM

<> Sunday, April 25, 2004
9:56:00 PM MST

Living the Fictional Life

I've interviewed dozens of actors, writers, producers and other creative people over the years, mostly in connection with Doctor Who and Quantum Leap and, decades ago, Star Trek. Celebrity tends to accrue more to on-camera types than behind-the-scenes people, so it's the actors who turn up most at conventions and golf tournaments. The writers are more easily found in production offices or at home, and there are fewer opportunities to meet them unless they're named John Vornholt or Ed Bryant or David Gerrold. Consequently, most of my interviewees are actors. That's fine with me.

When I talk to an actor, the question I'm always driving at, usually without arriving, is this: what happens in the actor's mind at the moment of performance? When I do ask the question, I get a variety of answers.

Some actors claim that it's simply a matter of hitting their marks, saying their lines and not bumping into the scenery. But is that truly all they're doing? Is it as calculated and external as that, just a matter of saying the lines convincingly, without ever feeling them?

The next level goes along with the cliche, "once more with feeling." In this scenario, the actor uses his or her own feelings and experiences to inform the performance. It's a relational thing. The actor has not been through quite what the character is going through. The character is upset about the death of a sister, but the actor isn't upset about the character's sister. The actor remembers the death of a dog, or a mother, or a friend in high school. It's enough to put real feeling into the lines about the death of the sister, but they're not the character's feelings.

One level deeper, and one gets to "being out of your head," as Richard Herd puts it. This is the level of controlled madness, or, perhaps, loss of control. This is the edge of, I suppose, the Method, but I've never read An Actor Prepares, only a short story by Harlan Ellison ("All the Sounds of Fear," I think it's called.) The actor actually slips into the personality of the character, and maybe, in some fashion, experiences what the character experiences, lives bits the character's fictional life.

I'm not sure whether that really happens, or whether it''s just another way an actor chooses to look at the process. It may be that the line-sayer and the method actor are doing pretty much the same thing, but perceive it differently. It could also be that the idea of an actor becoming the character, however temporarily and vicariously, is just my flawed interpretation of what Scott Bakula and Richard Herd and others have said.

I'm not an actor. I took an acting class at the age of five or six, and appeared on stage in Syracuse in 1965 in one of my mom's musical revues. In school I played a skunk, was a narrator several times, and beat Dan Cheney as "Bobby Fischer" in a sketch that marked my last stage appearance ever. I have no feeling for acting, no drive for it. The closest I get to acting is when, like today, I get to read a passage to the congregation in church, especially if there's dialogue in it, or read a passage from my novels aloud to a friend.

What I am, aside from a bookkeeper and student and wife and all the other things I am, is a writer. My creative process that isn't the same as what an actor does, but in a way it's similar. Like the actor who has an inkling of what it's like to be an alien or a member of the opposite sex or Lee Harvey Oswald by virtue of playing and embodying that role, I have an inkling how a tengrem thinks because I've written from a tengrem's point of view. It doesn't matter that there's no such thing as a tengrem. It doesn't matter that Rani and Del and Crel and Fayubi aren't real. It doesn't matter that Scott Bakula and Willie Garson probably don't really know what it was like to be Lee Harvey Oswald, and that nobody really knows what it's like to have two hearts and twelve regenerations. It's still an important and valuable thing, bringing these people to life, on stage or page, big screen or small. Knowing how Crel feels about power, how Fayubi feels about playing the fool, and even how Rani feels about rabbits, gives me a chance to experience and feel and, most of all, think about concepts and principles and emotions that I'd never come across while balancing credit card accounts against vendor payables--at least, not unless my mind is seriously wandering at that moment!

There's one more level, one more step in the process. That's when the reader or viewer reads the book or watches the performance. If the creative people have done their jobs well, the reader or audience will also have some inkling what it's like to serve on a starship, be shot in Philadelphia, escape from Castrovalva, or catch a rabbit and eat it raw. Whether the experience itself is a good or a bad one, the consumer of the entertainment will enjoy it, be shocked or inspired by it, learn from it, or all of the above. Some of those consumers will then create or embody fictional people of their own, and pass those real emotions and unreal experiences to further audiences.

Neat, huh?


Written by mavarin.

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Friday, April 23, 2004

The Inconvenience of Inspiration; Character Profiles

Friday, April 23, 2004
2:39:00 PM MST
The Inconvenience of Inspiration

Okay, now I'm in trouble. I just spent part of lunch working on my prequel, Prince of Mavarin, which will probably be renamed To Rule Mâvarin. The book will take Jor from teenaged prince to widowed prisoner of the tengremen. Most of the characters from his generation - Fayubi, Sunestri, Lormarte, Genva, Jami, Lokvi, Pol, Wil, and Harisoni - will be in it. I think it opens with Fabi (the future Fayubi) writing his most important prophecy while Hari/Harisoni hums in his sleep. It will probably end with some version of the scene with Jor shown here as Otherworld Journal Entry #5.

Why now? I have no time for this!


Written by mavarin.
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Saturday, April 24, 2004
10:59:00 PM MST
Character profiles on

...have all been written and uploaded. Each character page has a portrait by Sherlock, a brief introduction to the character, a brief quote by him or her, and either a fictional "journal entry," a book excerpt or both. The journal entries are the same ones posted here, and do not appear in the books themselves. Eventually I hope to have both an original entry and a book excerpt for each page.

While I was at it, I reordered the "next character profile" links to cover all eleven pictured characters with no orphans. (At least one page was accidentally "left out of the loop" before.)

A propos of my earlier musings about writers, privacy and family relationships, I made a link from the Rutana page to the Ruth Anne Johnson page, but not from my mom's page back directly to the Rutana page. People can just use the back function or go to the index page.

My mom, Ruth Anne Johnson, was a Renaissance Woman of sorts, a psychologist and singer and playwright and composer-lyricist and teacher and administrator and all-around overachiever. Her page doesn't really go into all that, or what she meant to me; and really, you probably wouldn't be interested in such details unless you knew her. What is on the page, the part that may be of interest to people who care about music and writing, is the lyric to one of her best songs. Take a peek sometime, if you feel like it! Perhaps one of these days, I'll post lyrics to Merry-Go-Round or The John Burp Marching Song. And if anyone has cheap-and-easy ideas for transcribing my mom's handwritten, faded sheet music from 1964-1972, please drop me a line. Mind you, there's a lot of it, so transcribing it all is probably not something you want to volunteer to do for me!


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Monday, April 12, 2004

Updates; L'Engle Controversy

Monday, April 12, 2004
2:38:00 PM MST
Updates and Things to Come

I just revised my recommended authors page to include links to some author-related websites, particularly for Harlan Ellison and Douglas Adams. The most recent addition to the Mâvarin material is a page for Li Ramet (see below).

Still to come: one more religious entry to finish off my series of Lenten/Easter reflections and self-examination. Please understand, everyone, that these are not intended as a criticism of anyone else's religious, agnostic or atheist views. They are merely a sharing of my experience and information concerning Episcopal practices as I've observed them in recent years.

Also, I will be writing about an article in the current issue of The New Yorker about Madeleine L'Engle [link to be updated]. To fans of this wonderful writer, the article is somewhat upsetting. I will offer some perspective on this as soon as I have a moment to do so. Meanwhile, I'm terribly behind on my schoolwork!

And finally, I have a rant in my head about all the pictures of Rani I've gotten poor Sherlock to do over the past several weeks. I will probably post about this on AOL and to the UrsaMajor email list rather than here. Stay tuned.


Written by mavarin

This entry has 2 comments:

This is going to sound lame, but I don't know how to access Usenet any more. I haven't been on rec.arts anything in over a decade. - KFB
Comment from mavarin - 4/16/04 10:35 PM

If you have access to Usenet, you might check out rec.arts.books.childrens when you have a chance. A discussion of the L'Engle article is already under way and is, so far, troll-free.


Comment from eeyorehmg - 4/14/04 2:57 PM

Friday, April 16, 2004
11:03:00 PM MST
L'Engle news and perpectives

As many people know, Madeleine L'Engle is one of my favorite writers, probably my very favorite writer. I maintain an online bibliography to her work, although I've been very delinquent in updating it in recent years. Here's the link to the main page, which I just updated:

Two recent bits of L'Engle-related news have caused quite a stir among her fans. The first is good news: after years of delay, the 3-hour adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time will air on Monday, May 10th. I was beginning to worry that it wouldn't air during the writer's lifetime.
The other news is that there was a profile of Madeleine L'Engle in an early April issue of The New Yorker. Normally, I'd say this was a good thing, but the article was upsetting. L'Engle's children and grandchildren, who were interviewed extensively for the article, allege that L'Engle's nonfiction is too fictional, that her fiction is too real (and therefore an invasion of their privacy), that Hugh Franklin cheated on L'Engle, and that her son--well, never mind. Basically they resent appearing in her work, both under their own names and in the form of fictional characters with similar traits or experiences.

After reading the article, I have to say that my opinion of L'Engle is not much diminished, but I'm quite annoyed with her progeny--not for telling their version of the truth, but for their obvious resentment of these wonderful books.

Every writer is told to "write what you know!" Not all do so, but many, like L'Engle, take bits of their lives and the lives of loved ones, and twist and fictionalize them into something more interesting and dramatic. L'Engle has been doing this, and doing it extremely well, since the 1940s. There is nothing wrong with this, in my opinion.

What is wrong, it seems to me, is that now when L'Engle in her mid-80s and in less than perfect health, her relatives have decided to blurt to the national press their condemnation of the books that damaged their lives by invading their privacy. I can see that it would be difficult for them, but nobody's life is perfect. This article seems like a long-delayed betrayal on their part.


Written by mavarin (Link to this entry)

This entry has 2 comments:

Didn't Christopher R. Milne have problems in adulthood dealing with his father's having frozen him in childhood in the Pooh books?

I can understand that sort of resentment -- I'd have big problems with my mother or father publishing the names of my childhood stuffed toys and imaginary playmates; fortunately, neither is an author -- but the long delay by the L'Engle children and grandchildren is hard to figure. Could it be that no writer of a L'Engle profile had thought to talk to them before this one? You've written plenty on her -- had you ever sought out the children and grandchildren?

That said, it does seem as though some sort of resentment of some aspect of their relationships with L'Engle, not just resentment of being used as fictional characters, may be at work here. It's petty and quite unseemly at this stage of the game, agreed, but when feelings are hurt nasty words are often spoken. We don't know what L'Engle has said, privately, to these people over the years; perhaps they have been hurt as well.


Comment from eeyorehmg - 4/19/04 7:59 PM

A lot of humor columnists write about their families, as do many writers. Gerrold (sp) Durrell wrote a book, My Family and Other Animals, and really got up close and personal. To take offense at a fictional work seems odd. I suspect they didn't have a good relationship with their mother or they wouldn't be attacking her in public this way...
Comment from pagadan - 4/19/04 6:29 PM

Monday, April 19, 2004
10:01:00 PM MST

More on L'Engle controversy

I'm getting a variety of responses on this, not all on this page. Some people have more sympathy for the kids than others. One correspondent pointed out that children of celebrities pretty much inevitably suffer, but it seems to me there would be a spectrum there, too. A really abusive, troubled or unloving parent is going to do more damage than a stable, nurturing one, regardless of fame. Still, I suppose the fishbowl component is a genuine problem.

I've had very little contact with the children and grands, just the occasional email (usually a listserve or form letter) from one of the grandchildren, who issues biannual health updates. My impression from that is that until now the family has been protective of L'Engle, disseminating slightly rose-colored news and gradually taking over the writers' correspondence (the fan mail part of it, anyway). That makes the New Yorker gripefest all the more shocking.

For the record, I don't have much sympathy for Christopher Milne, either.

My mom wrote a couple of award-winning one act plays while she lived in Florida in the 1980s. She told me outright that the characters were based on me and my best friend growing up, Joel R. One of the plays has the pair running away together and hitchhiking across the country. I think the other one may have the characters married to each other. Joel and I never did anything of the sort. I've never read the plays, and never really thought much about them. As far as I'm concerned, the characters in them are just that--characters. They are my Mom's perspective of two real people at a certain time in their lives, filtered through my mom's own attitudes and personality, experiencing events that are mostly imaginary. Why should it upset me that Brevard County theatergoers once saw an actress portray someone a little like me, doing things I may or may not ever have done? Granted, that character isn't a world-famous magical child from a major literary work read by generations of children and adults, but I'm not sure that would change my response substantially. But who knows; maybe it would. If I ever come across those scripts in my mom's stuff and actually read them, I may have a clearer idea how L'Engle's progeny feel. Or not. I suppose if the character is depicted as cruelly betraying her mother, I'm not going to be happy about that--not because someone in Satellite Beach thinks Ruth Anne's daughter was mean to her, but because it would be a reflection of my mom's distorted perspective of my stormy relationship with her right after her divorce, which was very upsetting at the time.

I have to wonder whether the family trusted the New Yorker writer with candid remarks that were never intended for print. I also wonder, if L'Engle has read the article, what she thinks about it all. If she isn't bothered, maybe it's not such a terrible thing for the family to unburden themselves after all these years.


Written by mavarin

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The next entry from Musings, Otherworld Journal Entry #5: King Jor, can be found on Messages from Mâvarin.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Repose, Parts 1 and 2

The Altar of Repose during the English Faire

(Note: This picture did not appear on the original Musings entry, but was added when I first reposted this piece on the St. Michael's Arts blog.)

Friday, April 9, 2004
6:30:00 PM MST


Last night at midnight, my friend Kevin and I spent half an hour reading and praying at the altar of Repose in the back of St. Michael's & All Angels Church. The Eucharist lies hidden away there for nearly 24 hours each year, from the end of Maundy Thursday mass until the beginning of the Good Friday service. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, with its insitution of Holy Communion, otherwise known as Holy Eucharist, the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. Maundy Thursday also commemorates Gethsemane, with its sleepy apostles and the sweating of blood, and the arrest of Jesus. Good Friday commemorates his death and burial.

Some of the Eucharist consecrated on Thursday is set aside for Friday, which has no Eucharistic Prayer of its own. While it's there at the Altar of Repose, parishoners and clergy keep vigil in half hour shifts, usually two at a time, all night and all day. In effect, we are waiting up with Jesus on the anniversary of the Passion, staying awake as Peter, James and John did not.

All this takes place, at St. Michael's, in an area between the last pew, the ushers' table and the church's heavy wooden doors. The Altar itself is an an alcove on the right. Behind it is a painting of Jesus, attended by angels as he suffers. In front of it are two large candles, which I long to staighten--they both list to the right. To the left is a bank of votive candles, which may be burned for 25 cents each. Accomodatjons for the faithful include a rickety kneeler with attached rail, a couple of folding chairs, and the usual books: the Book of Common Prayer, the Eucharistic Lectionary and the Hymnal, not that we would sing through this. Some yeard there are laminated printouts of suggested prayers. Not this year. We're on our own.

(to be continued)

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Friday, April 9, 2004
6:39:00 PM MST

Repose, Part Two

This year at the Altar of Repose I did pretty much what I always do on this occasion. Part of it I spent in prayer, of course. This consisted mostly of a rather self-absorbed monologue in which I attempted to make a connection, intellectually and emotionally, with Jesus: who he is, why he did what he did, and what he wants now. The rest of the time I read a couple of psalms, two chapters of Acts and two of John, and the Maundy Thursday readings I'd missed in favor of a four hour class about the equity method and the purchase method of accounting for business combinations.

At the end, just before Father Smith and his daughter arrived for the next half hour slot, I found myself wondering: did I get anything out of this? Am I supposed to get anything out of this? Or am I supposed to be giving something to it? If the latter, did I manage to do so?

I don't know, but I tried.

Karen Funk Blocher
Good Friday, 2004

Written by mavarin

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Note: the next entry from Musings, "Excerpt from Prince Talber’s Mâvarin Journal," can be found in Messages from Mâvarin.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Silent Night; Doing Good

Wednesday, April 7, 2004
10:19:00 AM MST
Hearing NPR

Silent Night

Last night I went to post a fun little piece on the expression "did good" (hi, Howard!), but AOL's journal posting function was apparently offline. I'll try again tonight. Also on tap: another new fictional journal entry, this time from Prince Talber of Londer. You can see it now. though, on his new page on I've been posting one character profile a day over there, and he's the latest.

I've accessed Musings from Mavarin from AOL for Mac OS 10, on the latest AOL for Windows, and via the Web (Netscape and IE). It's highly variable. Sometimes I have text controls, sometimes not. Sometimes I can paste prewritten text into this box, sometimes not. This seems to be true even comparing different instances using the same program and computer. Weird, huh? The other day I had to retype my Palm Sunday piece from scratch, and partly from memory, when the second entry ran too long.

Which reminds me, this entry is probably long enough.

Written by mavarin (Link to this entry)

This entry has 1 comments: (Add your own)

The journals have been wonky since the upgrade early Tuesday as the beta testing is over and the revamped journals went live. I could only add entries via IM and couldn't edit. Someone suggested going in thru IE and that worked, and then doing it thru AOL worked. Finally. We can do much longer entries now--25,000 characters--so it's been worth the temporary inconvenience, IMO.
Comment from shellys555 - 4/7/04 6:00 PM

Wednesday, April 7, 2004
6:15:00 PM MST

Doing Good

NPR's All Things Considered aired a commentary yesterday by a sixth grade teacher named Daneil Ferri, objecting to the use of the expression "did good" by his students and by sportscasters, most particularly (allegedly) Bob Costas. Although it was a funny piece, Ferri missed an important point, prompting me to write the following email to NPR:

At the risk of being a goody-goody or a goody-two shoes, I must take issue with Daniel Ferri's commentary aired April 6th,about the expression "did good." His otherwise amusing story overlooked the possibility that erudite sportscaster Bob Costas may have spoken correctly.

"Good is an adjective," Ferri insisted to his class, and to his listeners. It is, sometimes, but what if it isn't? Sometimes "good" is a noun meaning the quality (or quantity!) of goodness, as in, "the battle of Good and Evil," or "In the battle for correct grammar, James Thurber was a force for good," or even, "Bob Brenly's batting order
du jour may do some good." Costas may have said something of the sort, and said it correctly. By the same token, people who try to save the world are correctly called "do-gooders," not "do-betters." Myself, I'd like to do some good, and do it well.


Karen Funk Blocher

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I haven't watched one minute of a Diamondbacks game so far this year. Even if I didn't feel as if they're no longer the team I knew, I just haven't time! - Thanks for posting! - Karen
Comment from mavarin - 4/11/04 10:05 PM

Maybe, but the pitching order (rotation) is pure evil.
Comment from eeyorehmg - 4/11/04 9:58 PM

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Palm Sunday Heresy, Parts 1-2-3

Sunday, April 4, 2004
1:17:00 PM MST
Palm Sunday Heresy, Part One

When I was about six or seven years old, I used to hold my own little mass in what my family called the game room, the library-shelved, leftover furniture filled finished room next to the basement, in which my mom met with her patients in private practice. I would put a purple towel on my mom's desk, set up a statue of Mary that my godmother had given me, and read through the Weekly Missal, very fast. I didn't quite credit, at that age, that it didn't count unless there was a real priest present, and that only men were priests. In those days, no women served at Mass at St. Anne's in Manlius, New York. Acolytes were called altar boys, and even the readers were male deacons at least.

By the time I reached high school, some of the altar boys were girls, and there were lay readers, some of them women. I wasn't among them, although I still sat in a pew every Sunday. I was in my Jesus Person phase, illustrating a Jesus Christ Superstar album cover for art class with a somewhat graphic depiction of the crucifixion, singing songs from Godspell at Area All-State, going up to the front at the War Memorial when invited to do so by David Wilkerson protege Nicky Cruz, where some disciple wrote down "H.S" as the reason I came forward. Despite everything, though, I didn't get what I was looking for, a little spark of feeling in my soul that I knew for sure to be God, waving and calling out, "I'm here. I'm real."
I kept looking for that through college. I went to church at St. Patrick's across town to see Father Ed Van Auken, who once said, "Theology's not my bag." I attended get-togethers at Newman House where a priest whose name I've forgotten preached against the Pill I was taking. I had long discussions about God with a close friend who wanted to be among the first female Episcopal priests, but who was rejected. I agreed less and less with the Catholic Church and the Creed. I wasn't sure what I believed any more, in something, certainly, but not in "the resurrection of the body." Then I married an agnostic, soon to be an atheist, who liked to say, "one man's religion is another's belly laugh." That was the end of my churchgoing, except for the occasional Christmas, for many years to come. If I didn't believe it, why go to church to say it?
(to be continued)

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Sunday, April 4, 2004
7:28:00 PM MST
Palm Sunday Heresy, Part Two

Fast forward nearly 20 years, during which I hardly ever went to church, hardly ever looked at a Bible. In all those years of waiting for inspiration to hit, waiting to find out what I believed, I never really worked at it. I thought going to church and saying the creed would make me a hypocrite. I did, however, build a rather impressive collection of Madeleine L'Engle books, including a bunch of religious nonfiction. I've never read most of them, but I got the impression from what I did read that the Episcopal Church, a cathedral of which L'Engle attended, was worth a try. It seemed to have all the things I liked about the Catholic Church, and none of the stuff I didn't. That's an oversimplification, but it proved to be fairly accurate.

So I went to the church up the street from me, the one with a socially conscious sign out front. I've been going there ever since. It turns out that faith, for me, at least, is more a function of doing in public than of thinking in private. I was never going to find faith (much less prove anything to myself logically) by ignoring the subject most of the time, never going to church, never reading the Bible or any other books on the subject. I had to go to church, read the readings, listen to the sermons, think about the prayers, and maybe have a cup of ice tea in the Parish Center afterward. Once I started doing these things, I discovered that the Nicene Creed didn't bother me nearly as much at age 40 as it did when I was 20. I don't believe every word on a literal level, but I believe them on some level. And I learned that maybe there is a little spark inside me that says that God is there, God is real, even if I don't feel it every second, even if I don't understand, even if I don't know exactly what to believe.
(one more part to follow.)

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Sunday, April 4, 2004
8:31:00 PM MST
Palm Sunday Heresy, Part Three

These days I act as crucifer about twice every six weeks, and read to the congregation about once every ten weeks. I never quite get it right, somehow. When reading, I go a little too fast, or lose my place and blurt out, "Wait a minute...," or stumble over a word. Carrying the crucifix on a long pole near the front of the procession, I walk a little too fast, or too close to the thurifer (incense-bearer), or let the candles (candle-bearers) get ahead of me, or knock into something, especially outside before and after Mass. Up in the sanctuary, I forget to go get the stand for the readings, or to put it back, or to retrieve the cross during the prayer over the catechumen, until Proscovia nudges me or gives me a look or says my name. So I don't do it perfectly, ever, but I get by. Afterward I eat high carb food at coffee hour, and go home and update the church website at http://smaa/mavarin/com/smaa.html, or more likely just the schedule page.

Why do I forget to do what I'm supposed to do? I'm thinking about what I believe, or the parts of the ritual others perform, or the pain in my knees as I kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer. I'm trying to sing a hymn without the hymnal, because I never have one when I serve as crucifer. I'm wondering whether 98-year-old Eva's okay, because she didn't come to Mass, or she fainted, or she just stepped outside. I'm thinking about the readings, and the prayers, and the styles of the different priests and what they each have to say. I'm thinking about my novels, or my school work, or my stomach ache. So mind mind wanders, until Proscovia nudges me or my mind wanders back on its own.

It's not good enough. I know it's not good enough. I'm not attentive enough. I still don't know exactly what I believe. I don't do much to save the world or feed the hungry. I don't have faith the size of a mustard seed.

But at night I go to bed and pray my repetitive, idiosyncratic prayers, full of gimme and give us and not at all full of praise, because I'm not good at it and don't know how to say it sincerely. I think about Heaven, which I neither understand nor reject entirely. And I talk to God, as I've always done. He never really answers, but I know he's there. He's real. He's listening. There's no ecstatic revelation, just a feeling, the same one I've always had.
And, because of Him, it is enough after all.

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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Web Update

Thursday, April 1, 2004
9:48:00 AM MST
Web Update

All 11 of Sherlock's illustrations of Mavarin characters are now on Character profile pages will follow soon. So far I've added one for Cathma and one for Fayubi.

In other news, I got a B in Intermediate Accounting III. That's the first course since I went back to school for which I didn't get an A. 12 As, one B. What's my GPA now?


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Saturday, March 27, 2004

Mâvarin, Illustrated; Thought for the Day

Saturday, March 27, 2004
12:03:00 AM MST
Feeling Happy

Mâvarin, Illustrated

(note updated picture of Del/Carli above)

Woo-hoo! Suddenly I've got text controls! Maybe I can go back and do my Otherworld entries in color now.

Above are a couple of preliminary versions of Mâvarin character portraits I commissioned sf/fantasy artist Sherlock (Sherry Watson) to do for I just got them by email today.

In other news, I learned today that Sarah Kishler, one of the froodiest people on the Prodigy Hitchhiker's Guide boards a decade ago, has a short story collection on i-Universe, called Spark Stories. I ordered it on Amazon today, because I like Amazon and they have my address already.


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(Note: the two pictures were originally shrunk down into a tiny YGP box.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
9:47:00 AM MST

Thought for the Day

A propos of a large number of George W Bush's policies, I offer this quotation from my old literary hero and acquaintance, Harlan Ellison:

<<...After all, there was a war on. But wasn't there always?>>

from "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman,"
Paingod and Other Delusions

More quotes on my recommended authors page:

and my favorite quotes page:


[The last link has been updated to being on instead of AOL. Links at the bottom of that page will be changed as I get everything moved over.]

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004
1:18:00 PM MST
Feeling Happy
Hearing NPR

Obsessing About Rani
He's on my desktop at work, and he'll be on my desktop (along with the other Mâvarin characters) when I get home tonight. He's Rani Fost, the protagonist of Mages of Mâvarin, beautifully drawn by the well-known sf/fantasy artist Sherlock. Read about Rani (and see a bigger version of the picture!) at


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Thus ended March, 2004 on Musings from Mâvarin. And thus ends my first evening of moving all this stuff to Blogspot. - KFB

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Googling for Dollars (sort of); Late Night at the Office

Thursday, March 25, 2004
11:51:00 AM MST
Feeling Happy
Hearing NPR

Googling for Dollars (sort of)

I spend a lot of my time at work - such as now - looking up contact info and such on Google. Usually it's clients or vendors, but not always...

A week or so ago I took a call from a newspaper reporter, who wanted to know the correct spelling of a place mentioned by one of our agents in connection with a classical music package. The agent wasn't there, so I pulled up Google. The place was Ile Ste-Hélène. The reporter evidently had Google in front of her also, but couldn't make sense of what she saw. In sans serif lettering, it looked like lle Ste Helene. She couldn't figure out what "LLE" stood for.

"It's Ile Ste-Hélène," I told her, and spelled it (without the accents). "It means St. Helen's Island." She thanked me and hung up.

Is it unreasonable of me to feel that a newspaper reporter should have been able to figure this out without consulting a travel agency bookkeeper?


Written by mavarin . Link to this entry
This entry has 3 comments:

That's what curmudgeonly, yet omniscient, copy editors are for!

Seriously, the reporter's desire and ability to divine the meaning of the vexing "Ile" would likely depend on a couple of things: her interest in the subject matter and her eye for foreign languages. Maybe she wasn't interested in the subject. Maybe she was ignorant of French and couldn't connect "Lle" with "Ile" and "Ile" with "Isle."

Verdict: Unreasonable. But that doesn't make you a bad person.

Comment from eeyorehmg - 3/28/04 4:30 PM

I think the reporter was having a brain glitch, been stressed and busy. Even so, it's hard to see the place name "Ile Ste-Helene" as an unfathomable mystery. --KFB
Comment from mavarin - 3/25/04 11:18 PM


You are now a reporter's resource. Possibly she was on deadline and couldn't focus on the data, or she wanted to be sure.
Comment from pagadan - 3/25/04 5:28 PM

Thursday, March 25, 2004
9:18:00 PM MST
Feeling Happy
Hearing Walk Through the Fire - from Once More, With Feeling

Late night at the office

Okay, I admit it. I'm posting this now just so I can truthfully say I'm listening to a Buffy CD instead of no music at all.

I'm just at the office for a bit because my class let out early. Schoolwork has cut into my office time, so I've been making up for a little of it. That's the end of Intermediate Accounting, and not a moment too soon. I can do this...I can do this...!

Time to go home.


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The next three entries from Musings can be found on Messages from Mâvarin, and therefore won't be reprinted here:

Otherworld Journal Entry #1 - Crel Merden

Otherworld Journal Entry #2: Fayubi the Seer

Otherworld Journal Entry #3 - Crel

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The First Day of Musings, Reposted

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

7:13:00 PM MST
Feeling Hopeful
Hearing Nothing

Hi there!

See what you started, Shelly? This is just a quick hello and placeholder. Tonight I have to look over some team homework, do individual homework and start on a take-home final, all in Intermediate Accounting. I'd much rather be reading a Buffy/Angel novel, watching Season 3 of Dick Van Dyke and eating the turkey roll that's got another hour to cook. Chances are I'll do all of those things before the night is over.


Written by mavarin.
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heh. Not only is blogging addicting, it's also contagious. Who knew? :)
Comment from shellys555 - 3/23/04 8:10 PM

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
7:24:00 PM MST
Feeling Hopeful
Hearing still none


Growing up Catholic, I was used to the concept of "giving up something for Lent." As an adult Episcopalian, I don't always do it that way. Sometimes I add things rather than take things away. Or do both.

This year, pretty much everything I've tried to "give up" for Lent, such as cheating on my diet, hasn't worked out well. I'm doing better with the additions than the subtractions. I'm working my way through the Gospels (and probably Acts), and reading a book called Girl Meets God. A schedule of three chapters a night on the Gospels tends to make me rush a little, cutting down on comprehension when I'm already tired (I do this at bedtime). Funny how much of it seems a little unfamiliar, even after all these years, partly because I read New American Bible at home, NRSV at church.


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Tuesday, March 23, 2004
7:38:00 PM MST
Feeling Hopeful
Hearing the fan on my Compaq

Googling Mâvarin

I check the site statistics on often. It's interesting what I find. Traffic isn't heavy (nor do I expect it to be), but certain pages get a fair number of hits. A lot of people find the recommended authors page, either by looking for that kind of page or by searching for literary quotes and/or for specific writers. The tribute page for my mom gets people looking for people named Funk or Johnson, or for psychologists. At least one person got there Googling WW II parody songs. Mom wrote parody songs, and I mention WW II, but the two references don't go together in this case. Google doesn't care whether such juxtapositions are accidental or intended, so people find themselves on plenty of unlikely or unhelpful pages!

I was a little nervous writing pages about the magic system in my Mâvarin books, and about the variety of religious beliefs reflected in that fictional world. People have found those pages looking for "immoral magic" and for "sample real magic spells." So far, I haven't received any hate male from either end of that spectrum, for which I'm grateful.



This is to test the IM/Buddy List feature of this journal. Here goes nothin'!

I've looked over the team homework, eaten dinner, updated the Mâvarin home page, and listened to two Dick Van Dyke episodes while doing the other stuff (same ones I watched last night). Now to do some actual homework!

(The answer is: it's not a full-featured entry, but can be edited after the fact. Big deal.)

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Quick Rundown of Miscellaneous Opinions

Top reason I'll never vote for George W Bush: I disagree with virtually everything he says, does, or believes.

My opinion of gay marriage: the marriage of two men or two women does not in any way invalidate, impair or cheapen more traditional pairings. So how does forbidding same sex marriage "defend" the institution? It doesn't. This is a civil rights issue, fought against more for emotional reasons than ethical ones.

On the Middle East: "an eye for an eye" is the worst possible approach to solving the many problems over there, as evidenced by the constant retaliation and terrorism. So why is that pretty much the only alternative ever tried?

On religion: if you think you have all the answers, you probably haven't asked all the questions. You may think one answer (e.g. "There is no God" or "It's in the Bible, so it's true") covers the lot. I respectfully disagree.

On Buffy: Spike's much more fun than Angel, but Angel clearly wins over Spike in the "Buffy's True Love" contest.


This entry has 1 comment:

    I agree with you about Angel , but I loved Spike. 'Course he had some great lines.
    Comment from pagadan - 3/25/04 5:30 PM

And that was it. My first day of blogging. In reproducing my AOL-J entries from 3/24/04, I've added italics and my beloved circumflex in the word Mâvarin, removed links and junk code, and taken the pictures out of the YGP boxes (which I always hated, anyway). But the words are the same ones I posted then. - KFB