Saturday, December 15, 2012

Full on December

The Jays were waiting high in the tall Cottonwood when I went out to feed in the gray light of morning fog.  The sparrows, chickadees, juncos, and siskins lodge in the tangle of oak and Hawthorne for good reason.  I was barely back to the porch before the first of the Steller's Jays had descended to the feeder to start shoveling it in.  Time for new suet cakes too; these are days of hunger for all the birds.

The December effect is enveloping me. 

Though I’ve successfully avoided most of the ‘shopping’ venues', I recently heard my first  medley of Christmas carols and I have regularly been feeding the bell ringers’ pots outside the grocery stores I frequent.  Last Saturday my resistance crumbled;  in the morning we went out and got ‘the tree’ and brought in the boxes of lights and decorations from the shop.  Today I rolled around on the roof in a tangle of light strings and rain gutter clamps.  I got frustrated trying to find that one little bulb refusing to cooperate, thus holding back all the rest of his shiny pals from their three weeks of glory.  The rest of traditions will follow. 

We got a tree from one of the local tree farms.  Fun talking to the folks with the little back yard tree farm.  They flooded in 07' too.  I recall seeing those two toned trees for weeks afterward:  Flood mud taupe up about 3 feet, and then Christmas tree green above.  There are reasons to be thankful this Christmas.

The guy had a couple bow saws hanging on the shed wall, and turned us loose.  He said if we needed help to let him know and he'd bring a chain saw.  Mr. "I worked in the woods for 25 years" was not likely to holler uncle. After much perusing and consultation, we eventually found ourselves at the end of the plantation where as might be expected, we found a suitable specimen.  The bow saw needed a little work: I am not sure the toothed edge of the blade was any sharper than the back side but eventually we got the thing on the ground. Once home there was a little pruning and trimming of the butt to get it to fit in the stand. 

We jostled the furniture in the front room to make way for the farm field monstrosity.  As could be expected, Chairman was fascinated and underfoot every step of the way.  He has been particularly bored, perhaps even depressed with this three week run of heavy rain so this will be like a Christmas vacation to Wally World for him.  Wild Birds, where I get the sacks of bird food and suet cakes always offers authentic looking small bird ornaments this time of year.  We usually get one or two, and hang them low on the tree.  They are made with bird feathers and for the first few days after the tree is up he relentlessly stalks and attacks them.  We hung last years little birds, a Stellar's Jay and a  black capped chickadee down where they would be easy to attack.  'Meh' says the cat, to his early gifts.  I guess little Johnny would not be all that excited to find last years fire truck under the tree either.  We'll have to stop in at Wild Birds and get some new 'ornaments'.  Christmas truly is for cats and kids.
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On the first day of Christmas ...
We have decided not to take a trip to the world of sunshine and balmy days this year. We both recall last year's sojourn longingly.  But I had a little scare at work; budgets and economic trends being what they are we are once again going through reorganization and my position has been 'modified'.  I still have a job, just not the one I would most like to have, but a job with a pay check none the less, one more reason to be grateful.  I could write reams here about how well our ‘leaders’ are doing their jobs back in the other Washington, but it would make me hoarse and give me a migraine.  I’ll just say this:  Do you know the difference between the Boy Scouts and the US Congress?  The Boy Scouts have adult leaders.

So, since we won’t be heading south for the holiday I thought I might participate in another seasonal tradition. (sorry Joe, I WON’T be there for the the solstice ride this year)  From now till January first I’ll be including one of those ‘year in review’ element to my posts.  Not notable Hollywood flops, celebrities jailed or bankrupt, or the top ten worst fashion faux pas of the year: Book reviews.   

The Lovely Mrs Dr C gifted me with an E-reader for Christmas the year before last and it is a surprise how much I use it.  I could go on about the pros and cons of bits and bytes versus dog eared pages and sticky note place marks but that’s grist for another post. The net effect is that my reading time has gone up significantly.  I’ve read a lot of books I would not have otherwise, including a few that I would recommend. So, in no particular order;

I just finished “John Dies at the End” by David Wong.  This book is waaay out of character for me.  I am not sure where this book would be filed in the Dewey decimal system.  Perhaps horror, or sci-fi, or somewhere in between but two things to note:  This is not typical of the books I read, and I didn’t choose it for the story.  I picked it for the writing.
When you use an e-reader there are nearly endless ways to comb the stacks. Because I have a Kindle, Amazon is more than happy to suggest books in their catalogue that they are sure I might find interesting.  Sometimes they guess pretty well, other times I am glad to see that my brain is not such a good fit for their algorithms.  Then too, because I am bookish I will often look at their editors’ picks or daily posts mostly just to get a sense of what they think is currently on the rise in literary circles. These Amazon picks seem to be the literary equivalent of ‘Dancing with the Wannabees’; heavy to vampires, murder mysteries, and chick lit.  But if I run across something that is slightly interesting they (Amazon) allow me to download a sample of a chapter or two.   That’s how I was attracted to this quirky book.
I like classics, but I also like history and biography.  So as I mentioned this book is not typical for me.  I read it because I am also interested in writing, and this book is written in what I might call the new century style, same language but not a lot beyond that to connect it with Hemingway or Zane Grey.  I found it funny and entertaining, and I enjoyed it more for that than any literary merits.  I am sure that serious book worms would discount it as literary cotton candy.  For me it was entertaining enough that I frequently had to re-fluff the pillows to get to the end of a chapter as opposed to tucking it away mid-page.  (I read myself to sleep most nights).  I liked the phrasing; it is refreshing for a boomer to hear words put together in new ways. 

How to characterize the story? It’s about two 20 something losers (would these be Gen Xers, gen Y, millenials?) who stumble upon a centuries old underworld that is bent on subjugating all of humanity.  The story jumps back and forth in time, and between alternate universes.  Sort of the new millennium version of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.    
David and John engage in skirmishes with various forms of demonic beings.  David is the fairly lucid main character of the story (works in a video rental store, already dated) who recognizes deadly danger when he sees it and usually opts to go the other way.  John is the looser wing man who wakes up in the morning with cold pizza, warm beer, and a cigarette. He’s attracted to the unknown, the guy who discovers the secret door to the evil underworld, and then rushes in.  He constantly hatches plans on the fly that seem to have no relationship to plans, or logic. These two do not fit the classic model of the American anti hero, you would not recognize Harry Callahan in either of them.  As I said I liked the book more for  Wong's writing and less for the story.
There is little risk of me giving anything away with the plot because basically there is no plot, just a series of terrifying encounters with ever changing forms of evil.  In fact, this may be a case of art imitating art.  I'm no gamer, but much that happens in this book seems alarmingly similar to a 'side strolling action game'.  And,as might be expected John spends endless ours playing video games.  This may be giving away a little too much but the title is John Dies in the End, remember?  Fear not, John didn't die in the end, but I see that there is a sequel.  

About those hungry birds I started off with.  The little birds swarmed the feeder like locusts so that by noon the cupboard was bare so to speak.  I went out with more food: a few of those pine siskins just stayed munching, either on the ground or on the tray as I poured the feed on.  Desire overcomes risk. 

I noticed two hours later that there was still plenty of food but there was not a bird in sight. Often in the hour or so before dusk the birds come in to gorge for the night.  I was working in the front yard, and as I came around the side of the house a big bird startled from the top of the oaks and caught my eye.  It was the Cooper's hawk come to invite one of his little friends home for dinner.

1 comment:

  1. This is actually an e-mail, but I don't have your address.

    I, one of your "twelve" loyal readers (I think it was "twelve" that you recently referenced), has made the terrible mistake of voting for you in the RUSA elections. However, I am worried that if you win there will be fewer "Dr. C" posts, and possibly of less quality; therefore, I'm sure you will understand if I write that I hope that none of the other eleven is as foolish as I have been.


    Merry Christmas to you and Mrs. Dr. C.

    Martin Shipp, #6218

    BTW, have you been using that fountain pen?