Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More Kitties! A Caracal, a Lynx, and Servals!

We haven't put up kitty pictures lately. Here is a caracal, a lynx, and two fun-loving servals from Julie's Jungle. Thanks, Julie! Raised from a bottle, these gorgeous animals are just like regular house cats...only bigger, about five times bigger.

Note: The Méndez family has a caracal, featured in Distant Cousin: Regeneration and Distant Cousin: Recirculation.

See many other cats in the right column under the photo of the blue-eyed Siamese

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Look at Those Arpilleras from Ecuador

People--not just Ana--have been interested in this unusual textile art form from Ecuador. In the previous post on the subject, it may not have been clear just how three-dimensional they are. They are, in effect, miniature sculptures in textiles (with a few other inclusions). Here are front and side views of two arpilleras: a farmacia (pharmacy) and an orange harvest. You can see that each figure is a separate creation, actually a miniature fabric doll, added to many others to create a view of the artist's society and culture. (Click to enlarge. Enlarging the side views gives an especially good view of the handiwork involved.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Poem About Gravity, and Some Heavy Thoughts

Ana Darcy Méndez, the extraterrestrial woman who came to earth from her planet thanks to the power of gravity, was delighted to find a poem about gravity, and the center thereof. She loved discussing it with her husband. Matt had to show her what a "military Jeep" was (which the poem points out had a high center of gravity), and he had to sketch a picture of an ottoman (which has a low center of gravity). Neither knew that "gravidanza" was the Italian word for pregnancy. Ana was amused by that, and also by the Spanish word for the same condition, "embarazada," which erroneously suggests "embarrassed" to an English speaker.

She was also intrigued by the connotations "gravity" has for human behavior--the absence of which, in a person, the poet calls "flightiness." These connotations are not present in Luvit, her native language, and discussing them constituted a mini-lesson in some of the fine points of English, yet another reason she enjoys poetry.

Earth astronomers, but far fewer of the general population, understand that the original elements of the universe were only three or so of the lighter ones. The more than a hundred heavier elements were generated in the furnaces of the stars, after the big bang. We humans, along with most of the Earth, including the animals and plants, are composed of these star-generated elements. Our elements are eternal: we are literally made of "star stuff," and our elements will be recycled, along with our planet, our sun, and our universe, in the immeasurable course of celestial time. Ana's people not only know this, they celebrate it. The Thoman epic poem about Ana, The Eternal Circle, exalts this process.

That's why Ana liked the conclusion of the poem, the notion that people should have a "center of gravity." She agrees with the poet that the end of life is the "most perfect center of gravity ever."

 The Center of Gravity. by Ron Padgett*
Target page taken down. Please see the workaround!

(See more of Ana's favorite poems in the column on the right, under the LOVE sculpture.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ana's Brain Is Filled with Frisks, and a Duet From Bach You Can Play With a Friend

Why would an extraterrestrial love our music? We've mentioned elsewhere that Ana dearly loves fugues. She tries to follow all the different voices, but usually gets lost in a shiver of wonderment. But that's the point. Those are the "frisks" that fill Ana's brain (among others).

Here's a three-part fugue that's one of Ana's favorites, played by Ton Koopman. It's an outstanding performance. See if you can hear the three melodies interlacing with each other. Just watching his hands play two different melodic threads while he simultaneously plays a third with his feet is disorienting enough. How can humans do this? (By practicing a lot, for one thing.)

Ana's editor, your humble servant, is a musician, but not, unfortunately, on the keyboard. He was a trumpeter in his salad days. He always wanted to be able to take part in playing a fugue, and he finally figured out how to do it: arrange a fugue as a duet for two instruments. A book of his arrangements was his first venture into publishing. It's still in print and still prized by lovers of challenging baroque music.

It so happens that he arranged this same Bach "Little Fugue in g minor," BWV 578, for two treble clef instruments. Yes, it's a three-part fugue--one of the parts was left out, but it's still clearly the same piece of terrific music, and great good fun to play with a duet buddy. You won't feel anything is missing.

This is it, below, a free sample from the book. You may right click it, print it, and call up your duet buddy for a jam session. We predict you'll have a ton of fun!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (DC5): Now Published!

Ana Darcy (née Anneyn Darshiell) was such a famously rebellious teenager that she was willing, if a bit daunted, to leave her own planet forever on her people's greatest-ever voyage of discovery, to planet Earth. The story of what happened to her after that is told in Distant Cousin, volume 1.

Now, sixteen years after she has made a home on her new planet--her ancestral planet--it's her turn: she has her own teenagers to contend with. Like their mother before them, and teenagers everywhere, they are growing fast and becoming adventurous, though perhaps not quite as in control of themselves as their parents might hope. When each gets in trouble, how will Ana and Matt be able to care for them if Ana herself has disappeared halfway around the globe?

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (Amazon, paperback)

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (Amazon, Kindle edition)

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (DC5): Maps

Two of the locations in Distant Cousin: Recirculation (DC5) (click to enlarge):

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (Amazon, paperback)

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (Amazon, Kindle edition)

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (DC5): Photos

Here are some photos to go with Distant Cousin: Recirculation, DC5 (click to enlarge):

Mata Ortiz, in northern Mexico

Mount Cristo Ray (Christ the King) statue, near the intersection of Mexico, New Mexico, and Texas

An onza (jaguarundi)

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (Amazon, paperback)

Distant Cousin: Recirculation (Amazon, Kindle edition)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Read an E-book Week: Something Different This Year

Read an E-book Week is March 6-12, 2011. This year we're doing something a little different.

The Distant Cousin stories have been hugely popular as e-books (indeed, they're ideal as e-books), and if you haven't at least tried the first one, we hope you will. Instead of mentioning them again, however, in the interest of promoting e-reading in general, we'd like to recommend some other e-book titles. We have read (and reviewed) all of them.

You're invited to check them out. Remember, Kindle readers can sample 10% of any for free. Smashwords is more generous. The size of the free sample may vary, but in the case of the Distant Cousin series, it's half the book! Most of the books below are also budget priced as Kindle editions. If you were to purchase them all, you'd very nearly pay for your Kindle!

The Saga of Beowulf, by R. Scot Johns
Yes, THAT Beowulf, the one you had to read about in grade school. But this one is actually readable, actually fun: it's a novel, full and complete, and a steal for the price.

We Hear the Dead, by Dianne Salerni 
A carefully researched historical novel, YA but suitable for all readers, about the Fox sisters, who accidentally founded the Spiritualism Movement.


Knoxville 1863, by Dick Stanley

Outstanding, carefully researched historical fiction that brings the Civil War alive.

Gone Over, by David Chacko

Both novels are about the life of Benjamin Potter, a real but little known (except perhaps to historians) Revolutionary Era American whose wide experiences (on both sides) bring to life the feel of those troubled, exciting times.

God's Money: A novel based on actual events, by Tad Hutton

A short, highly entertaining story involving modern pirates and the colorful, multicultural peoples of the waters of Southeast Asia.

The Adelsverein Trilogy, by Celia Hayes
     The Gathering
     The Sowing
     The Harvesting

Beginning with German immigrants settling in (and creating) Fredericksburg, Texas after the Goliad Massacre, just before Texas Independence, these books takes the story of several families almost to World War I. Entertaining and well-researched.

The Hummingbird's Daugher, by Luis Urrea

The utterly fascinating true story of Teresita Urrea, the author's great aunt, who became a healing woman, a near saint, and such a threat to the Mexican government that she was deported to the United States.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ana Whips Up Some Tortilla Soup

Those who have only a passing familiarity with Mexican cuisine may tend to think in terms of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, refried beans, and rice. The truth is that Mexico has dozens of regional cuisines and an astonishingly varied repertoire of dishes. In particular, Mexicans love soups. Along the border with the United States, caldo (soup) is a standard item, usually beef- or chicken-based, but full of nourishing vegetables in a savory broth.

For those interested, some larger grocery stores, especially those grocery stores specializing in foreign foods, will have several Mexican varieties of Campbell's soups. Crema de lentejas (cream of lentil), crema de flor de calabaza (pumpkin squash blossom), and crema de chile poblano (cream of chile poblano) are especially worth trying, and totally unlike Campbell's American soups.

Tortilla soup is a Méndez family favorite, and can be prepared from scratch in twenty minutes. We don't intend to give you Ana's recipe here--she doesn't really have one, and they are easy to find online.

For those interested in sampling some of the delicious, lesser-known Mexican dishes, we recommend taking a look at the books of Rick Bayless. Bayless not only writes his recipes to include commonly-available ingredients, he also includes a section with each on "riffing" with the recipes, that is, modifying them to taste. A good introductory cookbook would be his Authentic Mexican 20th Anniversary Edition (Kindle edition).

I do not know if Ana Darcy Méndez knows about Mr. Bayless and his cookbooks. But it wouldn't surprise me if she does!
(See more cooking ideas and recipes in the column to the right, under the picture of cranberry apple pie a la mode.)