Thursday, December 31, 2015

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2015


(This piece was originally posted June 20, 2015, but seeking verisimilitude, I've moved each year's reviews to Dec. 31. It's too hard to find them buried mid-year.)
I'm an avid ebook reader and reviewer—I read mostly escape fiction, most of it not so good. Some of it deplorable. But, hey, it's free. And I'm cheap, I'll read just about anything. Especially at 4 AM, when I'm desperate to go back to sleep, and hope I'll nod off from sheer boredom. Sometimes it backfires, I find a great book. Then it's 6AM and I'm owl-eyed.

As I said, I'll read just about anything. But not without some teeth gnashing. So I review some of the ebooks upon occasion. Sometimes I get lucky and even find gems among the dross. They get full five-star rating. Check those authors out. Usually the first book's free....

I consider the review process a good honing skill: I read and mentally edit books as I go. My cousin, tired of listening to me complain about how awful some of those ebooks were, said: Why don't you review them too? (And shut up, already.) And so I did. Another tool in the craft toolkit.

What do I look for when I review a book? Strong plot, storyline, and interesting characters with depth, not flat, stereotypes. Some young writers, not clear on the concept of show, don't tell, rely upon the crutches of rampant consumerism to flesh out their story. Using designer clothing labels to define a character, or to set the scene, and the story reads like an ad. Does the description build our understanding of the character, or plot? Is it necessary to the storyline? Do I need to know the protagonist wore an Ann Klein blouse?

I look for a believable plot, good storyline, and figurative language that doesn't intrude, and subtle intellect. Novels stem from the oral tradition. Storyteller George Sanders says it best:
"...the process of crafting a good story means not condescending to your reader. It means creating sentences that clue them into something unnoticed about the character, and allowing them to figure it out. “A bad story is one where you know what the story is and you're sure of it," he says in this short film, George Saunders: On Story."
Then there's the actual structure of the story. Check out the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet: opening image (backstory), set-up (dilemma), theme/catalyst/debate, acts 1 & 2, intro of storyline B, premise, enter the bad guys, dark night of the soul, act 3 (with help from Storyline B), finale, final image/epilogue. Finis.  I love the liveliness of this layout, replete with examples. Less dry than English 1A's plot breakdown, as exposition, and denouement and everything in between, both eluded and deluded me. (Why couldn't they just say setup, conflict, and resolution? See also The Five Elements of Plot Structure.)

Then there are the typos, and poor craft. It's a bad omen when the writer has typos in the synopsis. I generally won't download a book if it does. And then there are the stories that have typos on page one. Really? If an author doesn't know the difference between it's and its, it does not bode well for the "sullied craft" of writing. Possessive apostrophes do not need to precede every single word that ends with ess. Doorknobs don't need to possess the room, unless, of course, they're possessed. But that's another kettle of fish entirely.

Please mosey on over and LIKE some of my reviews. Amazon's all about Like, just like on Facebook. Except, like, the buttons are, like, different. My older reviews are buried deep. But the most recent ones should be fairly easy to access.

Go to MoHurley's Amazon Reviews click on the comments section under my review and that will take you to the review where you can like it. Click on that Yes button under my review as it boosts my ratings.... And then I get Amazon brownie points. Ridiculous, I know.

I began, in 2013 with an even more ridiculous score of 3-point-4-million-something from the top of the reviewers' list, and I am slowly wending my way forward, to 26,578th in line. I'd love to make 25,000th in line. I am (not) a number! A friend liked 3 reviews (truthfully I had 249 liked reviews, now I have 251) and my ranking improved. I am 24,762. Thank you Carol!
  • Oops! Now I'm 25,278 with 253 helpful votes. Statistical vagaries. — 6/30
  • I'm ranked at 24,288, with 300 helpful votes, 77% helpful —11/26
  • Today I'm at ranking in at 24,001, with 331 helpful votes. Yes! Thank you! Amazon's revising its webpages and has done away with some stats. Apparently I also have zero followers, and am following no one. Not only do I have to ask people to like my reviews, but now I need to get people to follow me? Urg. Who knew that Amazon was remaking itself over as AzFB?—12/18





I've also posted some shorter versions of these reviews on Goodreads, but I find the format so tedious, I don't often visit. Don't know how long I'll keep it up.
At one point I was keeping all my reviews in one post, but they got swallowed up by the archives, and even I couldn't find them, so I'm dividing them up by year, and reposting them at the end of the year. Really glad I didn't opt for posting them on the day written. I'd never find them all. Small niggling typos, missing commas, and sentences lacking clarity here, have been corrected on Amazon, but not necessarily here. Forgive me, it's too hard to find, and replace them as it's an ongoing process, this revision, even on reviews! Mea culpea.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

In Defense of the Rat


My friend Donna posted on Facebook, a charming story about country woodrats nesting in the back of her woodpile. Donna addressed the give-and-take relationship between the need for woodland creatures to have a safe haven and her need for firewood in order to keep warm. It was a poetic Thoreau moment. However, acute hysteria reigned on her thread. Fear of plague was bandied about. It was like a witch hunt.

I realized that this fear is yet another intersection of the disengagement and distancing between (wo)man and nature. I felt obliged to defend the honor of rats who, by nature, are fastidiously clean, and are incessant groomers.

I tried to assuage Donna's friends' fear by explaining that Donna's country rats, (aka woodrats, traderats, or packrats: Neotoma) native to North America, are not even rats, though they are rodents. No luck. Wood/packrats are related to hamsters and lemmings. City rats, aka Norway, black, roof, or sewer rats, are native to Asia. 

It's true that plague fleas prefer rodents. The marmot or gerbil were probably the original overland flea hosts (who carry in their gut the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, source of the Bubonic plague, or Black Death). Plague originally came from China via the Silk Road of Mongolia, then it resurfaced again by stowaway rats in Southern Italy in 1340. Rattus norvegicus are not first host choice for plague fleas, but marmots and ground squirrels are. So one should add all rodents including chipmunks to the creature avoid-list, if you're concerned about contracting the plague.

We're no longer in the Middle Ages (it's been wiping out Siberians since the Bronze Age), and in North America, plague is no longer a common human threat (there were only two cases in Yosemite; last case was in 1959)In California, plague sporadically resurfaces after long, dry summers. (Apparently there's an El Niño connection, the cycle is 15 years after a warm, moist winter.) California has few human plague victims. By comparison, Arizona's had 64 cases since 1950; ditto that in the Rockies. 


Plague doctor, engraving Paul Fürst, c. 1721 —Wiki

During the Middle Ages, from 1348 through 1351, 25% to 60% of the European population died of the plague, it reduced the world population from 450 million to 350–375 million. Thanks to antibiotics, by 1959, worldwide plague casualties dropped to 200 per year. Plague symptoms (big buboeshence the name bubonic plague), are also very obvious, not something you could ignore, and it's treatable with antibiotics. 

We've had plague fleas in California since at least 1900, possibly since 1855, it arrived by steamer to San Francisco from China via Hawaii in 1899 (originally via rats, but the plague quickly jumped ship to a new host, native California ground squirrels). The last California plague outbreak (one person was infected) was a decade ago. It's a pretty rare occurrence.

I remember a plague warning at Fallen Leaf Lake during the early 1970s. But nobody contracted it. I had rescued a wayward vole wandering down the road, so I was checking my armpits and groin for weeks for signs of plague. But first, you have to get bitten by a rodent flea (not a dog flea, nor a deer flea...) carrying the plague...

However the plague is decimating prairie dog populations in the Rockies, and our endangered black-footed ferrets will ONLY eat prairie dogs. So now scientists need to save the black-tailed prairie dogs from the plague in order to save the ferrets. The chances of Donna's woodrats giving her the plague is close to zero—even if she slept in their nest. Carrying off her car keys or anything shiny and round would pose a much greater threat.

Anyway, fear of rodents is a deep one, but it's highly unlikely you'd catch anything at all from them. (Yes, rats do poop over our stuff), but they do not all carry diseases. As long as rodents are not running amok in my house, I don't have problems with them. But once they cross that threshold, then my killer instinct emerges, the gloves (and shoes) come off. My preferred weapons of choice are sticky glue traps, and a sandal. No poison to enter the food chain, snap traps don't work, and I'm not interested in using live traps. Besides, house mice and most rats are not native creatures.

I would never kill a woodrat, unless he moved into the attic, as they're not plentiful and their habitat is easily destroyed. After my brother kicked apart a woodrat nest in the upper garden, they shimmied up the plum tree to hide in the eaves, then moved into the attic, and set up shop in the walls, so he had to listen to them scurry about and gnaw through 2 by 4 beams at night. When he punched a hole through the wall to shut them up, then small things began to disappear, matchbox cars, coins, thimbles.... Poetic justice.

Woodrats are territorial, solitary creatures as they rarely travel more than 100 feet from their nests. They have plush, speckled fur, almost like chinchillas. Not at all like rats. They're definitely borrowers, or rather, traders. They love anything shiny or round: car keys, bottle caps and quarters. And they will often trade one shiny item for another. Hence the name, traderats. Funniest thing found in a packrat nest: a set of false teeth. Imagine the backstory....

Because woodrats are such great hoarders, archaeologists will often excavate their middens in search of artifacts. Not only that, the middens serve as a timeline as well. The oldest woodrat midden found was dated at 21,000 years old, and from it, archaeologists were able to tell when certain plants arrived in the Southwest. It was also a remarkable record of climate change.

After much back and forth posting on Donna's thread, it emerged that the poor woman really is terrified of rodents. Musophobia is one of the most common socially induced conditioned phobias.

When Donna's friend was a child, she recounted that when she stayed overnight at her grandmother's house, she imagined rats running across her feet as she slept in her feather bed. She remembers her grandmother sweeping a rat down the garden path with a broom. And when a great-uncle made sandwiches for their tea, she saw mice skitter over the drainboard, the stage was set. Clearly her grandmother and great uncle had no fear of mice. So she learned it elsewhere.

She recounted another childhood story, when the family cat brought a mouse into the house, she and her mother climbed onto a sideboard, screaming. Her mother phoned her husband, who was a bank manager, to rescue them from the mouse. I told her that Kitty clearly loved her, bringing her such treats. She was not amused.

My neighbor also had a severe musophobia. I found a wild field mouse trapped in a coffee can and brought it over to show her my treasure. She screamed and climbed a chair... I was shocked. I was about 6 years old and had never witnessed such behavior in an adult. Such a tiny animal. Why was she so afraid? I looked into the can again, and took him home, convinced adults were nuts.

Unfortunately there's no reverse button for musophobia. Those phobias probably evolved for good reason. I was thinking of Victorian women who used to scream at the sight of mice (in novels), the mice making a beeline for those billowing skirts...and I shudder.

I found a deermouse in one of my grannie's old handbags and it leaped out of the handbag and madly circled around under my sweater a few times before it exited. A little rill of fear—would he bite me? I was fairly critter crazy from a tender age and adopted them early and often. I wanted to be a vet. And I did work for horse training stables. So though it was a novel experience, I was not afraid.

I once found a half-drowned deermouse after a storm and he went bald from stress, I had some liquid cat vitamins, and he loved it. When his fur grew back, I let him go. Deearmice and fieldmice never tame up, not like (non-native Chinese) house mice, who are the ancestors of lab mice.

You can get hanta virus (much, much deadlier than the plague) from deermice (wild North American mice), but it's only a small portion of the population that carries it—on Navajolands, far from CA. 

Some people's fear of rats extends to all rodents, and squirrels often get lumped into the hate bag. Probably because they can be destructive and eat wires. But they usually mind their own business. 

A silly red squirrel lives on my fence, and during the drought I made him a water dish. So he runs up and down the fence, stroking it with his chin, saying "Mine! Mine!" He hides his acorns in the water goblet, then has to dive in to retrieve them as they sink. Hilarious. Just like the squirrel in the animated movie, Ice Age. He has been known to purr, but he doesn't want to share that section of the fence, or that water goblet. However, I don't stand close enough to share his fleas.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Sendoff for Whitman McGowan


Wild frenetic dreams all last night, I think Whitman was very much with us yesterday at the memorial. He was certainly in my head. I gave up on trying to sleep. Middle Aged Dub...

I just met Pasha DeSaix yesterday at Whitman's memorial! All this time I thought she was a man. LOL. We're now FB friends. She knew my mom, and said she was just thinking of her a few days ago. I told her that she had given my mom a n audio tape, Leonard Cohen's 10 New Songs, and after my mother died, I played it incessantly. Thanked her for the unintended gift from so many years ago.

Blue Dawg, we sent you off nicely at the Presidio. I love you always, and I met Pasha! My mother was dancin', dancin', singing White Folk was Once Wild too.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE


Went to grab my vest
only to find he had nabbed it
and left it behind

left at a party
like the vest I had bought him
not so long ago

a gift he had lost
careless love like the others
who'd compete with that?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Walk through the British Museum using Google Street View


When I went to the British Museum more than a half lifetime ago, I got lost in the bowels, somewhere between the Roman coins and the Elgin marbles, and lost all track of time. I had to run through the rest of the museum before it closed. I streaked by Peter Paul Rubens. All those fleshy apparitions.
But now using Google Street View you can  Walk through the British Museum without going to London
I spent hours virtually wandering these halls. Luckily I had the presence of mind to save the URLs. I've made some pitstops below. It's super easy to get lost via Google Street View. 

Ireland & Celtic Europe, where I spent most of my time in the Museum, but it was dark, not like this wonderfulk well-lit display.


Santa and the Stovepipe


When we moved from San Francisco to Forest Knolls, I was going on five, but there wasn't a fireplace in the Forest Knolls house, just a stovepipe. I knew a few things: I knew that Santa could never fit down the stovepipe, no matter how much magic there was in the world. Thus began my doubt that there was no Santa. And the beginning of my doubting most things adults said in general. My grannie (who raised me) didn't have much money so my Christmas gift really was underwear. But I did get a little girl's bike that first Christmas in Forest Knolls when the family dissolved and scattered, after the sale of our city house, after my grandfather died. But my cousin RIcky came down with polio, so they took my bike with tassles away on Christmas Day. I only rode it once. If there really was a Santa, he would've given Ricky his own bicycle. But he didn't. Ricky grew up, and graduated to a Harley, but lost control of that bike one morning early and never saw another Christmas again.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hurley: Sea Tide


"Hurley, Murihily, O Morhelly, Murley, O'hUrthuile Ó Muirthile and Morley from Murthuile meaning “sea tide,” is from mur/ muir. Of the sea tides, the Hurleys were sea-farers and mariners. A name almost exclusively from Cork, where my family hails from.

Wow! Thálatta, thálatta! The sea, the sea. A sea tidal surge as a surname suits me. I am named for the sea twiceover.

And if I play fast and loose, I can also transliterate my first name as She of the Sea (an old boyfriend, Edwin Drummond dubbed me She of the Sea), vs. little Mary, Maureen, Máirín (it's the Irish spelling, not Pokémon character fergawdsakes!).

Upon occasion, I've also been called the Morrígan, goddess of battle, strife, and sovereignty (the phantom, or great queen); the Morrígu or the plural triune, the Morrígna. She is depicted as a skald crow, or raven flying over the battlefield, and her triune animal shapes are the eel, wolf, and cow. Not solely the goddess of death, she is the goddess of wealth of the land. Her triune sister aspects are: Badb, Macha and Nemain (or Anand).

Mor may derive from an Indo-European stem, cognate with Old English maere (which  gives us "nightmare" and rí-gan translates as queen, or rather, king., from the Proto-Celtic, *Moro-rīganī-s. But in Old, and Middle Irish, it was scribed as mór, which means great, grand, big; from PIE, *Māra Rīganī-s.

There is also a connection with the Arthurian Morgan le Faymor may derive from a Welsh word for the sea, môr, but the scholarly argument against that derivation is that the names are from different cultures and branches of the Celtic linguistic tree. However, there are plenty of cognates in Welsh and Irish, so it is not a strong argument. (All Brythonic forms are *mor; all Goidelic forms are muir; Manx is spelled mooir). The Morrígan could be Queen of the Sea, she was tempestuous enough.

The Welsh, Mair, Manx Moirrey, Irish/Scottish: Maura, Moira (English: Mariah), with the diminutive -ín ending added, equals little Mary. Mairenn, Máirín, Maureen. But then, even the name Mary also has connotations with the sea, as in Our Lady of the Sea.  

In the Middle Ages, Mary was equated with the sea, mare, as in Stella Maris. Not that misogynistic Jewish definition of Maryam as bitterness, or bitter herbs, nor rebelliousness (well, maybe that). Mariam, as in drop of the sea. A name considered so holy in Ireland, it wasn't even used until the Renaissance.

Then there's Muirín from muir f ‎(genitive singular, and nominative plural mara). Old Irish muir, from Proto-Celtic *mori, (Welsh môr, Manx mooir), from Proto-Indo-European*móri, (Latin mare, English mere, German Meer). I guess the idea of a rough sea was always a nightmare.

Hebrew word ma'or for star and yam for the sea equals Maryam. Stella Maris, Venus. Sea-star, also Polaris, the lode-star leading the way. Once I was chosen as Queen of the May, and I crowned the statue of Mary with a crown of roses. And I was baptized at Star of the Sea. Ave Maris Stella. And I grew up in Marin, within sight of the sea, if I climbed up Mt. Barnabe.

Thalatta! Thalatta! She is our great sweet mother.*
Epi oinopa ponton. I'll drink to that.

Ah, the hidden poetry of naming. 

 Goleen Star of the Sea, Mizen Head, Co. Cork, most southwesterly point in Ireland —Wiki


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Donkey Wars


Donkeys will do what donkeys want, and bribery seldom works. Ask me how I know. My first mount was my friend's donkey named Joshua, a beast so mean, that no one else would ride her. She threw me off at every opportunity, she was very canny, she knew when the cinch was loose, and having no withers, she'd suddenly break into a stiff gallop, and then slam on the brakes. Head down, fetlocks together, pointing like a ballerina, and I went head first into a ditch, usually replete with a thistle patch. That donkey contemplated lots of shenanegans that required deliberate planning. One ruse  included a hogwire fence around a fruit tree. She broke my arm with that one, among other things. Once she mistook my finger for a carrot (or not), and kept grinding away at it, as I pounded on her head, it was hollow as a drum. I thought I'd never get it back. Joshua was a mean old donkey, it made me into a determined rider, trying to outfox her.

A Note on my Writing Lifted by Other Websites


I sometimes stumble upon bits of my blog posts on other websites, with no credit. If I can find a link, I will write to the offender, and usually they'll make a link back to my site, etc. But there are some websites where there is no way to reach out to the plagiarist.

One Hollywood-type, a reality TV producer's assistant, Tinsley, lifted my massive post on Chilean miners, and posted the entire piece on her Tumblr blog (all gone now), apparently, because she was "very liberal," she was also very liberal with my post.

Many of my enraged friends bombarded Tinsley's site, and she took it down. I called it my Tinsleygate. I wouldn't have cared if she had at least asked me, published a portion of it with quotes, then made an obvious link back to my blog. But she didn't do that. She was getting all the traffic and kudus as if she had written it. Thing is, I was still revising it (I revise a lot), when she snagged one iteration of it...

Tinsley later apologised, see her letter at the bottom of my Chilean Miners post. She back-pedalled a bit, to say the least. Rather than just use bits of my piece, or give me credit, she took it down. I guess we took her down when she realized the legal implications between the concept of "fair use," and copyright infringement.

Borrowing a few lines is considered to be fair use (for educational purposes only) under the copyright act.

Someone also lifted my Black Bart story, but a few emails later, it was resolved nicely...a Dutch fellow interested in old firearms, used my story to illustrate his antique gun collection. Turns out he just really, really liked my story.
black bart - Dutch Gunswww.dutchguns.com/black%20bart.htm‎ Het origineel is te vinden op http://mohurley.blogspot.com/2009/09/black-bart. html. This article is not mine, but found on the internet. It is written by Maureen ...
  1. Another nefarious sort lifted my entire interview and photo of Jim Dodgethen posted it on his own blog, zoran rosko vacuum player with no link or mention. Grrr. I guess the word vacuum explains it all. I was able to leave a comment:
    Maureen Hurley7/29/11, 5:19 AM If you're going to lift my entire blog post and repost it here, please at least use my name and offer a back link to it. BTW, you're also breaking copyright.
    Maureen Hurley   http://mohurley.blogspot.com/2009/09/jim-dodge.html
At the time, I thought there was no legal recourse for me. I've never resorted to legal means, but in each case, no one was actually making money off my pieces. To be fair, Zoran Rosco did remove my photo, and credited my work to a literary blog I belonged to, RedRoom, as the author. But not to me.

However, if you find your work appearing on other sites, do check out this helpful post from the National Writers' Union, Are Websites Stealing Your Work? There are some great links at the bottom of the post. (And see my links at the bottom of the page.)

An architectural magazine in Australia followed proper blog etiquette when they ran one of my blog pieces, but they contacted me first and asked permission. (Can't find the link.)

A couple of blokes delving into brewing a heady quaff, did source me (not sure why!) for my bit on St. Patrick & Annals of the Four Masters. Cheers! I'll drink to that. Moor: Dining and Dwelling Part 4

This particular link is more of a tribute, than a theft, but it's done right. A synopsis, and a link back to me.  The Hall of Heorot:  Literrata: Olaf the Peacock's Irish Mother Which, in turn, was a reblog from Ireland's Eye on Myth, from Nov. 30, 2013. And also in Fuck Yeah Vikings and Celts! (But I couldn't find the post. OK, so I'm a little late to the party.... three years later. I't not like I have a huge following,  "This domain listed #3 054 178 number in the world.")

Maybe I should Google myself more often than once every five years. I also found this BOOK! entry on my Tiki Junction piece. It looks like a bibliography.
The Tender Soldier: A True Story of War and Sacrifice - Google Books Result
https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1439177406Vanessa M. Gezari - ‎2014 - History
See also Price, “Barney West Famous for Tricky Tikis,” and “Tiki Junction, Sausalito,” http://mohurley.blogspot.com/2007/03/tiki-junction-sausalito.html, accessed ...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Salvaging old files (again)


Having grown weary of scanning and transcribing old journals (from the pre-electronic era), for poems and journal entries, since mid-October I mosied on over to my MFA papers, and collections folders, where I found lots of material I'd forgotten about. A few of my missing poems from 2000-2003, for starters. The beggars!

I also found a treasure trove of folklore collections for Alan Dundes, and book synopses from my Celtic Romanticism class at UC Berkeley. Wish I had discovered them when I was prepping for my Celtic bard talk at Sacramento Poetry Center last month.

Some of those lean middle years of little writing posted on my blog, suddenly swelled to respectable numbers. But alas, there were few poems, and a few pieces I was hunting down an electronic copy of, were corrupt beyond belief. I took a few screen shots. Ugh. (See below.) The worst culprits seem to be from the Works 2, and Word 4 era; they were updated to Word 5, and beyond, but they ghosted themselves into ASCII oblivion anyway. Word 5 docs also didn't fare well.

The early pre-electronic years on this blog have gained many entries. It makes for an interesting timeline. I did that then? So while some writers are deep into NaNoWriMo, I'm spelunking the past for treasure, and revising some pieces. My NaRevWriMo.

In order to rescue corrupted files, I experimented with different applications, and discovered that sometimes those blank docs would reveal some of their secrets if I used other word processing programs (not Word, itself), and I opened them in TextEdit, RTF, etc.) Usually cracking a document open, revealed all the corrections as well as random ASCII bits. In other words, hodgepodge.

I am constantly correcting and updating my work. That's what writers do. Revise, revise, revise. Imagine every iteration you ever wrote, saved all in one doc., in fragments, like an old laundry pile. That's what lurks behind the scene on your Word.doc. (What you see is but a shell hiding the messiness of writing, rewriting, and endless saving—not to mention your printer's vital stats.) In other words, it's a word salad. Not useful. More like electronic cuneiform. In my attempt to salvage some of those docs, I've rewritten poems, so are they new poems, or old poems?

And since I've backed up all my old files onto new hard drives, I've merely copied the corrupted files there too. Yiii! I do have some old work on CDs, from 2000-2003, so that's my last hope, other than finding hard copy.

My advice to you all: don't assume your old files from the last century, are safely backed up on old hard drives and floppy disks. Open them up and air them out, then transcribe them to a new format before it's too late. Otherwise the cybergods will find them and eat them up—like moths to cashmere sweaters deep in the closet of time.


A Response to a FB Post Conflating Vikings with Bronze Age Celts

((Note bene: Because this piece begins in medias res, right in the middle of things, it doesn't have an introductory lead-in paragraph. I didn't know I was going to get so involved in it, or I would've saved the Facebook poster's statement. At one point, in her attempt to equate all things Celtic as Scottish, she conflated Vikings with Bronze Age Celts, by then, I was gnashing my teeth. Hence this bloggy bit. Of course, at this point, I'm writing into the void, as she'll never lay eyes on this post. Hopefully it will entertain you. There are some cool maps at the bottom too. This is how my Irish redheads blog evolved as well. In bits and pieces. Unlike Athena who sprung, full grown from Zeus's forehead, I have to ramble about to get to where I'm going—and I often know not where. And so, here we are, together again.)


Dear Historically-Challenged Reader,

The Vikings were LATE on the Irish cultural event horizon by nearly 2000 years. They had less influence in Ireland than what they were given credit for. Not only that, they were quickly assimilated in Ireland.

That's what happens when you marry Irish women, their children are half Irish, whose sons will who marry more Irish women, so they're now only 1/4 Viking in two generations. You see where that goes—since the Vikings brought few Viking women to Ireland.

And Viking power waned after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 at the hands of Irish High King, Brian Bóruma mac Cennétig. If the Norsemen hadn't attempted to impose taxes in Munster, then, Irish history might have been different, then Viking influence would have had a profound impact.

Viking heritage in Ireland is but a drop in the bucket of time. Viking settlement and rule lasted roughly 200 years. And of course, those Icelandic Vikings had a lot of Irish ancestry, as the migratory brunt came from the Dublin Norse stronghold. See  the Icelandic Laxdæla saga, and Burnt Njall's saga, etc., rife with Irishmen and Irish women—most favored as slaves and feisty concubines.

Yes, the Vikings did settle permanently in Shetland, but the Celts (and pre-Celts) who lived there before the Vikings arrived, never actually went away. There's the historical misnomer. (Lots of Celtic DNA survives to this day.) Ditto with the Viking settlements in the Hebrides, and the Isle of Man. The Celts, or more technically correct, the Irish Scoti as they were called (which does NOT mean they were Scottish, but Irish), eventually drove the Vikings out. (Battle of Largs.)

Also that marrying/taking the Irish women thang, applies here too. Somerled, Lord of the Isles, was more Irish than Viking by blood (and by allegiance). The Norse-Irish culture was hybrid, not just Viking.

BTW, the word Scotland comes to us via Latin naming by way of Ireland. Scotia Major was Ireland, and because there were so many Irish living in what is now called Scotland, which was known as Scotia Minor until the 11thc. and the term was still used up to the 16th c.).

Isidore of Seville in 580 CE wrote: "Scotia and Hibernia are the same country." Adomnán, St. Columba's 3rd cousin, referred to the Gaels as Scotti.

It wasn't until the 15th c., that Pope Leo X (1475-1521) decreed that Scotland was, well, Scotland, and as such, had exclusive right over the word Scotland, which resulted in a huge landgrab as the English-Scots took over Irish monasteries on the Continent (i.e., Schottenklöster Irish Benedictine monasteries in south Germany taken over by Scots.).
Schottenklöster (meaning "Gaelic monasteries" in German, singular:Schottenkloster) is the name applied to the monastic foundations of Scottish and Irish missionaries in Continental Europe, particularly to the [Irish] Benedictine monasteries in Germany, which in the beginning of the 13th century were combined into one congregation whose abbot-general was the Abbot of the Scots monastery at RegensburgWiki
So there must've been internecine Irish/Scottish/English squabbling over who owned what, and perhaps some genuine confusion, for a pope to adjudicate as to what country owned the placename. The Irish monks got kicked out of their own monasteries; I'm sure there were some seriously irritated Irishmen. I bet full coffers were also at stake.

So, the next time you notice that Lindisfarne is referred to as an Anglo-Saxon monastery, that's propaganda, the polar opposite of historicity, at work. It was an Irish founded Hiberno-Saxon venture. But I digress. (If Blogger had a sidebar, this would be encapsulated, but I don't want to start another post.)

Where was I?

As to your note on the Viking and Irish similarities in artwork, therefore the Vikings must've taught the Irish how to utilize knotwork design, the Irish practically invented it! The La Tène culture, the source behind a lot of Irish art, equally predates the Viking era by 2000 years. A lot of native British Celtic art is erroneously attributed to Anglo-Saxons in Great Britian, who also predate the Vikings. (The Irish and the Britons shared many cultural traits, including artifacts. Then there was the British-Irish_Anglo-Saxon hybrid culture that followed.

I would venture to say that the Insular art style with Celtic spirals, curvilinear, and geometric shapes employed in the Book of Durrow were not influenced by Norse or Viking raiding artisans. This kind of complex, intricate art did not suddenly spring forth in a brand new art form, the illustrated book arts. Especially when one's homeland was being invaded by Vikings. So what came first? Chicken or egg? (See folios 1v, 85v, 125v at bottom of Wiki page.)

There's more of a correlation with Anglo-Saxon art, and even that was a hybrid art form, later called the Hiberno-Saxon style. I find no Germanic Continental evidence of this Insular art form. What each of these cultures have in common, is exposure to Insular Celts. Early medieval Celtic book treasure bindings were highly coveted by the Vikings. One can only imagine what the lost treasure cover for the Book of Kells looked like.
Various metal fragments of what were probably book-mounts have survived, usually adapted as jewellery by Vikings. —Wiki
(Also, the Bronze Age Celts, and Celtic culture dominated the Continent, so some of their artifacts could have been found by what later become the ancestors of the Vikings.) There was cultural contact. But there's scant evidence that Viking artifacts predate Irish and Celtic art styles. To make an absurd parallel, many little girls the world over love Hello Kitty, that doesn't mean they were all Japanese samurai.


Gospel of Mark, Book of Durrow, 650-700 AD. —Wiki

The Vikings were raiders, they brought back artifacts from other cultures, which in turn, influenced their art. Geometric interlace doesn't appear in Viking culture until after they had contact with Britain and Ireland. They also brought back (Irish) slaves, who were artisans....Again, keep in mind the timeline, and it was a hybrid culture].

(See mid-9th c. Oseberg ship-burial. Artifacts included the Oseberg bucket, with patterned enamel figures similar "to the Gospel books of the Insular art of the British Isles, such as the Book of Durrow, (ca.650 AD)." —Wiki, and Irish Archaeology.

Several Viking ships in Roskilde Fjord, and the Skuldelev ships were made in Ireland. So claiming who did/owned what in the past is never quite as simple as it seems from our perspective. We don't know who carved the ships, and, again, it was a hybrid culture. Also, there was no timber in Iceland, so Icelandic ships too would've been built in Ireland or wood imported to Scandinavia.)

Book of Durrow Carpet page, similar in style to the Oseberg bucket, 650-700 AD. —Wiki
Check out the timeline, The Vikings (780–1100), and this one, but keep in mind that much of what we think of as Viking art was the result of artifacts collected from other cultures during raiding.

If you get a good grasp of the pre-Classical, Classical, and post Classical Celtic cultures, and migrations, then it will all make more sense.

Unfortunately working from a knowledge base that dates to the Plantation of Ulster as a reference point, is politically biased, therefore suspect. History written in the voice of the victor, and all that. Also, the intense hatred the English harbored for the ethnic Irish has also adversely colored "history." So, most Irish connections were extirpated. The OED is a prime example.

In Scotland, a lot of so-called Scots, were actually Irish. The Industrial Revolution, and two famines meant that many Irish immigrated to Scotland—especially The Barrows in Glesga, and along Clydebank (ships).

Yes, the Romans named the Picts, Picti, after a Continental Picti tribe, who were probably from the same Gaulish tribe. Picts were probably P-Celtic vs. Q-Celtic speakers. The Picts were also in N. Ireland, they were called the Cruithne, or Cruithín (they have an asteroid named after them, LOL!) The Cruithne/Criuthín included several tuatha, including the the Dál nAraidi—who settled in Scotland. Qritani/Cruithne comes from the word *pritenī (Pretani). Q-Celtic Irish speakers hated the plosive P sound and swapped it out for a more gutteral cough sound, hard c/q/k C: Cruithne/Pritani. mac/map, etc.

Ireland had many P-Celtic speaking tribes, as well as Q-Celtic speakers (Gaels, Galicia). See Ptolemy's map of Ireland for tribal names: Briganti, Dumnoni, etc. Cruithni and Menapi were probably Gaulish. The Ganganoi were also in N. Wales. In the 5th c AD, Gwynned was an Irish enclave, so there was a lot of back and forth movement.
A rendition of Ptolemy's map (Vlaclav Hollar, ca. 1650s-70s) —Wiki
Julius Caesar, in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico, is the first to call the island Hibernia... Wiki

Galicians were not Spaniards, but Iberian Celts, one of many CeltIberian tribes. Asturias, Galicia were Celtic kingdoms that managed to survive until the Middle Ages. They probably were the original Hispania immigrants who settled in Ireland, according to the Lebor Gabala Erenn (where the name Scotia is chronicled.)

In the Song of Amergin, the first Gael to settle in Ireland, (Galician) poet-druid Amergin (mac) Mil quells the sea, after the very tall Tuatha Dé Danánn send a big wind spell, proving he was a bigger, badder druid, than they. And to really ridiculously telescope mythological time, they slunk away, shrank, went underground, and became the fairyfolk!

Here's a lovely Roman world view map of Scotland & Eire; note the use of the word Scotti in N. Ireland. Note also that Scotland was not called Scotland, but Valentia, and Caledonia. The Brigantes of Maxima Caesariensis were a buffer between Caesariens (Roman Britain) and what we now refer to as Scotland. Only Southern England, Kent, Cornwall and Devon (Cantii, Damnonii and Belgae tribes) was called Brittania.


Roman Britain —Wiki

Another old map.


Roman Britain in 410 —Wiki

And an updated 1654 map that chronicles Scotland as Scotia and Ireland as Hibernia/Ivverna. Pope Leo X (1475-1521) decreed (when?) that Scotland had exclusive rights to the term Scotland.
In early medieval times Ireland was known not only as Éire but also as Scotia, a name that the Romans used at times to refer to Ireland as well as Scotland. —Wiki

A 1654 map that notes Scotia as Scotland and Hibernia/Ivverna —Wiki


Friday, November 20, 2015

Meeting Annie Leibovitz


“The camera makes you forget you’re there. It’s not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much.” – Annie Leibovitz

Don't I know about that one. Bearing witness, so intimate, yet, one is removed from the event. Sometimes the camera renders one invisible. I met Annie once at a museum opening of her work, and the work of Hung Liu. Larger than life, Annie was hardly invisible! I was pretty chuffed, I even have a photo of her. But it's out of focus, as if the lens couldn't take all of her in.

Snow Mountain Wilderness, our Newest National Monument


Sierra Club photo, The Davis Enterprise
In winter, whenever we traveled back from the Sierras after skiing, we'd look for the sun setting in the Berryessa Gap, and then we'd look to the north, where Snow Mountain stood out like a sentinel, dusted with snow in an otherwise indistinct long, dark ridge of coastal mountains. 

I always longed to visit Snow Mountain, but we never did. Whenever we were headed east to the Sierras from the Bay Area, it was too far out of the way. Returning home, we were too tired from skiing. When we traveled north on Highway 99 (what later became I-5,) in summer, I'd look longingly at the peaks, but farther, more exotic, mountain ranges beckoned. Again, Snow Mountain was too far off the beaten path to be a convenient side trip.

That is not to say we didn't visit many of the dirt roads of the North Coast, driving from Ukiah to WIlber Hot Springs, or Orr's Springs, on isolated forest roads to the coast. (I was sure we were going to die up there one time when we got lost on one long east-west ridge).

Or a hair-raising detour to Humboldt County's Lost Coast, when it truly was lost. And a memorable drive to the southern lip of the mouth of the Klamath River in Del Norte County. But we never made it to Snow Mountain. On my bucket list.

At 7,056 feet, the east peak of Snow Mountain, one of the highest mountains in the Northern California coastal range, supports an astounding array of biodiversity.

Surrounded by deep canyons and a steep elevation gain, several ecological biomes are compressed, resulting in biological sky-islands. Added to that, the geology, with serpentine, greenstone and basalt, as well as an array of sedimentary rocks, creates unique and diverse biomes.

More than 500 species of plants including mountain mahogany, rare Sonoma manzanita, pygmy stands of Sargent's cypress and serpentine willow, as well as 122 species of wildlife, including Tule elk, threatened species, Western pond turtle, and endangered sooty grouse, not to mention nearly half of California’s 108 species of damsel- and "kamakazi" dragon-flies, call Snow Mountain Wilderness area home.

BLM photo (dead link, thanks #45.)
In spring, a dazzling display of wildflowers that rivals that of Lancaster's Antelope Valley's poppy preserve, paint the slopes in impressionist splashes of golden, and lupine hues.

Tuleyome Conservation Group photo, The Davis Enterprise 
Part of the North Coastal Mountain range, the twin summits of Snow Mountain are the result of an ancient upthrust seamount. Sort of like my favorite volcanic plug, Morro Rock, and her 12 (not 7, or 9) Oligocene epoch sisters (23-28 million years old). Both were volcanos born from tectonic faults, but it seems that Snow Mountain was a slightly younger undersea volcano from the Miocene epoch.

Snow Mountain is an interesting melange, both genetically, and geologically speaking, with serpentine; greenstone, basalt and pillow lava—submarine volcanic rocks that commuted from far west of California, courtesy of tectonic uplift, as well as a full compliment of sedimentary rocks from the North American plate. Some, laid down during the Miocene epoch, when the Central Valley was an inland sea.


The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument —of which the Snow Mountain Wilderness is a part of, includes portions of seven counties; Glenn, Lake, Colusa, Mendocino, Yolo, Napa, and Solano counties.

The Snow Mountain Wilderness, itself, is comprised of parts of Glenn, Colusa and Lake counties. Both Lake and Colusa counties share the remote summits of Snow Mountain. The highest point, the east peak (7,056 ft.) is ithe highest point in Lake County, and the west peak (7,040 ft.) is the highest point in Colusa County. One of the largest swaths of undeveloped public lands in the middle of all this urban density, Berryessa Snow Mountain is truly California’s undiscovered country.

Now that it's our newest (and largest) national monument, there's no excuse not to visit Snow Mountain. Along with Pinnacles National Monument (the closest I've been to The Pinnacles is Cholame, where James Dean died, and yes, that was on my bucket list). Both are located in our proverbial greater back yard. Time to dust off that bucket list.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Power management engineer


My Apple wifi keyboard has been freaking out because I refuse to change the batteries, I get lots of helpful popup windows, and tutorials on how to change the batteries just in case I'm not clear on the concept.

At battery level at 10%, so far, I've managed to eke out at least three months worth of juice; it's now at 5% charge, I'm working on my 2nd month of dying batteries, and it hasn't dropped down to, say, 3%. So those dire warnings are some serious malarkey. It does cut out from time to time, but it always did.  I do, however, get odd letters and artifacts whenever I type.

If I have to use batteries at all, I'm gonna use them until the bitter end. And even when the end is nigh, they're good fr a couple of months on my wifi mouse, then the kitchen clock gets 'em. In that order.

My cameras get first battery dibs, BTW. Keyboard gets 2nd battery dibs, along with the flashlights. Anyone else eke out every available bit of energy from batteries? I get 2-4 separate life cycles out of them.

Alas, the rechargeables (or cheap/regular batteries) will not work at all in my cameras...that's how I got into this bizarre battery management system to begin with.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Red Hair, A German Trait?


This is a comment from my Viking-Irish Redhead Gene Myth blog post turned into a blogeen of its own. I've reposted it here. I wind up doing so much research in order to answer people's comments, it takes me hours to write a rebuttal. Maybe it'll turn into a full post later.
Ross Hunter said...

Red hair is actually a very German trait. I know this not only from my own family history going back several hundred years on my Mom's side of the family, but also from my personal studies on many sources. Even the book "Germania", written around the year 98AD, describes the Germans as having "rutilae comae" which is reddish hair. The Romans who came into contact with the Germans brought that trait into their own society, thus the now large number of red haired Italians. The Germans were described as very warlike in in Germania, and in idle times, they often dreamed of waging their next war. While that may seem to put them in a romantic light, it's actually not that awesome considering their attrition rate. They also were said to have practiced human sacrifice and held a lot of superstitions at the time. They were described as "indians" and wore very little clothing.

I'm actually surprised that people don't associate red hair with Germans more often than they do, it's actually pretty common, even the old bog bodies from Germany have well preserved reddish to golden red hair. Sure, things have changed a lot in the modern days, but there is a lot of historical, concrete evidence to support this. APRIL 27, 2015
Maureen Hurley said...
Dear Ross Hunter,

Sorry I never commented back I must've missed it. A few notes on Germany and redheads. What is now present day Germany now was not Germany then. Much of what is Germany now, was actually Celtic territory, not German. Especially Bavaria, and the area around Cologne.

The bog bodies were found in present day northern Germany, etc., but that doesn't make them German. We tend to use current political boundaries to define ancient peoples, and that is a false syllogism. Ahlintel Man, and others were from Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, which was part of Jutland, so they could also be Frisian/Danish/Scandinavian/Celtic bog bodies.

However, the Nienburg (and the Jastorf) had material cultural characteristics similar to Celtic cultures.... It should, as the Nienburg culture (grave goods, and weaponry) was the northward thrust of the Hallstatt culture. Some La tene influence as well.

The thing to keep in mind here is that Hallstatt was NOT a Germanic culture. Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein were not settled by the Germans unto the 3-7th c.s AD., considerably later than the bog-folk. At any rate, there is archaeological evidence of isolated Celtic settlements as well in Jutland.

Hair color is impossible to determine on a bog body as bog water, heavy in tannins, both leaches and stains. DNA analysis would have to be done to determine if they were redheads. Blond or grey hair would stain read in bog water, so it's not a reliable indicator.

"There has also been migration from former Celtic areas into Scandinavia .... investigations at Dosenmoor, Schleswig-Holstein, and Svanemose, Jutland, Boreas " —The Germani - Haplogroup I2b1 info

There were Celts also in the Netherlands, and many bog bodies were found near Drenthe.

The Celts lived on both sides of the Rhine. Caesar, when he was thumping the war chest coffers stretched the truth a bit (a lot). Hw said that the Gauls were an awful foe, and that the "Germans" were even worse, so he could get funding. Tacitus stretched the truth even further, both did so, to meet their own political needs—which was to get more money from the senate.

Remember, victory was written in the voice of the winners, who had a political agenda. We need to read those old texts with a grain of salt. Rhetoric.

Part of the confusion lies in the fact that the word Germania is not a German tribe, just like Teutates: both are Celtic words. Germania is actually a Celtic war cry, and Teutates, was a Celtic god.

I have read Tacitus carefully, and many of the names he uses are linguistically Celtic, not Germanic, so methinks he was fabricating just a bit. They also could have been a Celto-Germanic tribe. But culturally and linguistically, many of the peoples that Tacitus described, were Celtic, not Germanic.

As to those red-haired Italians, the north of Italy was settled by the same Celts that settled in Anatolia. Especially around Ravenna, Modena, the Po Valley, and the mountains: it was called Cis-Alpine Gaul. So yes, the red-hair gene would be dominant in the north.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Revising Old Poems by Writing them Backwards


Seeking poetry prompts for November, and finding none, I decided to go to NaWriPoMo 2015 webpage and work my way backwards down last April's prompts. The very last prompt (my first prompt) is/was to write an old poem backwards. (I'm not sure if it improves them any...)

 Here's the prompt:
Start with the last line and work your way up the page to the beginning. Another way to go about this might be to take a poem you’ve already written, and flip the order of the lines and from there, edit it so the poem now works with its new order.

CATCH & RELEASE

Something about the measuring of days
brings me closer to poetry.
I feel the lines surge through me, 
as I wind my way along backroads
to my cousin's house in Nicasio,
and I let every one of them go.

11/18/2015
MEASURING THE DAYS (original poem)
23 Sept 1995


(UNTITLED)

Your hard mouth on my body
Sweet breath on my lips
Tell me, how would you play me
If I were a harmonica?

10/11/2015AURAL FIXATION  (original poem)
12/23/1994


(UNTITLED)

With the coinage of fish
the river is silvered
and dreams crackle
under the burden of the sky.
Who sobs for untold fortunes
with silver borrowed from the dead?
Who will pay the gypsies fortune
to line the dark side of the moon?

10/11/2015
FRAGMENTS OF THE MOON (original poem)
1986


MOONDUST

When the price is up,
never plant potatoes,
someone's father said.
All those eyes watching
underground.

Did the astronaut's feet
sink deep into the moondust
and did they lose their way
walking on the moon's face like that?

10/11/2015
BANTU RHYTHMS: MOONDUST  (original poem)
8/13/1985 


GOLDFISH
—from Matisse's Goldfish
—for Roger Kent

Against the barely discernible rise
and fall of sheets, small dark pebbles
reflect a fiery sky along a dark shore.
Oxygen tanks hiss, and fish lazily fan dance
delicate fins, gape open-mouthed,
where a jungle of philodendron vines
climb skyward to a lofty ceiling.

Roger is going down for his afternoon nap.
The small dogs keep a slow 4/4 time
as he shuffles off to the bedroom
and his emphysemic breathing
is like the wheezing lift that belches
decay from the basement

into the black & white tiled hall
of the old colonial mansion,
filled with stories and long blue shadows.
& we stir baskets of dried maile leaves,
mementos of island weddings.

Near the weary rattan chair,
a luminous fog hovers
and settles on pale rocks.
Four bored tangerine-colored fish
in the glass globe, mouth their food
and spit it out again, as they rise
to the surface like birds
and gasp for air.

Philodendron, and red hibiscus,
explode in a tropical sunset
against the coral wall.
The oxygen tanks rhythmically hiss
like waves pounding on the far shore.

10/11/2015
DARK SHORE  (original poem)
6/85

AGAINST FORGETTING

On La Avenida de Reforma,
tall hotels swayed and sloughed
off their balconies, like beaded dresses
and from those hanging gardens
an abundance of flowers danced 
and jilted to the buckled streets—
terremoto shimmied into
Teotihuacan's quaking bed.

10/11/2015
SE ME CAYO   (original poem)
Sept 19, 1985



(UNTITLED)

Mt. Rainier floats, sublime, at dawn.
Yesterday the face of the glacier 
gave way and 11 people were gone.
Evening sky, the color of salmonberries.
House finches nesting in the eaves
rearrange themselves and chatter.
Volkswagen engine valves clatter.
People make long-distance calls.
Slot machines collect change 
at the end of the line.
the Straits blend into fog,
the horizon, indistinct as this morning.
I awaken in a glass house.

11/18/2015
Short haiku of sorts  (original poem)
July? 1981



DARK PROCESSES

Hunting under cover of darkness
for prehistoric prey in a literate world,
will my eyes reflect phosphor tubes,
or will I pass for a feral night animal?
If I work in total darkness 
with only a limited memory,
Is there total enlightenment 
at the end of the screen
or is the dark worse than the byte?

11/18/2015
RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY  (original poem)
4/80


IN THE BREATH, CONTAINED HISTORY

To far horizons, distant shores
her eyes wander, dark
shadows drawing her in,
but he interfered with space and time.
Our history lies with God, he said.
But her eyes wander anyway.
When the breath dies, she said,
it leaves a fingerprint on the soul
like a potter's mark in clay.
Don't draw on the windows
he said, it leaves ugly smears.
In this fogged breath, she said,
breathing on the window,
& drawing two hearts entwined,
this whole history is contained.

10/11/2015
HISTORY CONTAINED IN THE BREATH  (original poem)
6/30/79?


STORM GATHERING 

Tonight there's a thin promise
of rain in the air. More of a veiled threat 
of clouds hovering over parched earth, 
teasing the horizon into submission.
But her eyes gather in the storm.
As he turns to go, her image ripples
in all the ponds of the world, leaving him 
stranded behind those lichen eyes. 
By the green pond, she stands,
impenetrable as the surface, 
& conversation drifts and snags 
amid the reeds. She's still waiting for him
to make a move. One way or another.
But a storm gathers in the direction of her eyes,
& I awoke holding onto this small fragment
like a raft. 

10/11/2015
GATHERING STORM  (original poem)
June 29, 1979


(UNTITLED)

a breath of sunshine
liked a snake tasting
a slipstream of thought
carries me to where I wander
and I learn from breathing in.
What is there to conclude
if logic is deduction,
and deduction, logic?
I take my breathing slow
and wake to the dawn.

10/11/2015
3 Poems from Michael Dow workshop (original poem)
11/28/1979