Mood, Ritual and Memory

Part of the reason I wrote what I did yesterday is that this last week has been difficult.  Look, all I have is a resurgent sinus infection.  It isn’t even anything particularly bad.  It makes me want to nap rather a lot and I’m a wee bit congested.

The effect on my mood is all out of proportion: I feel tired and rather hopeless about everything in general.  If I wrote about politics right now, it would be “witness to the apocalypse” stuff.  Of course, a lot of people are writing in that same mode.  I wonder how widespread sinus infections are right now.

I’m trying to finish short stories, because there’s deadlines on those, but lifting enough of a thought to make a coherent post seems way too much effort.  Go figure.

Right now it seems well nigh impossible that humanity even got this far, given its sheer inability to find it’s *ss with two hands, braile instructions and a seeing eye dog.

Never mind.  This too shall pass.  I’ve learned long ago that when I’m ill this sort of mood passes as I get better.  And actually, it is often towards the end of the illness that the mood gets worse.

Part of it is this sense of tiredness and weakness that makes any request, any effort an injury.  “How can you ask me to walk across the kitchen?  Can’t you tell what an imposition that is?”  It makes me think that if I make it to ninety I will be an evil-cranky-old-woman.  Which is fine.  Makes me think of the crazy old woman in the village and wonder if she was crazy or just had found out that keeping the elementary schoolers away from her house equaled peace and quiet.  She used to stand in front of the house shaking her walking stick and screaming: May you be sent to the congealed seas, where there crows neither chicken nor rooster, where there is no bread or cheese nor good red meat.

We were terrified of her, though I don’t think we ascribed her any superpowers or supernatural knowledge.  We were just afraid she’d get louder.

I think I just discovered my plan for old age.  (Nah.  Screaming scares the cats.)

So, I’m taking today off.  The sinus infection ate my homework, yadda yadda yadda.

Tomorrow morning (I’m posting this on the night of the 12th) and until mid afternoon, I will be unavoidably detained by obligations (yes, yes, I’ll be spending time with more important people, people who wear pants!) but I’ll be back to hang out after that.  Hang out somewhat, at least.  I do have writing to finish.

Oh, yeah, wildfires: we have friends in the affected zones, but none that seem to need us so far.  (Most of our friends are near, but not in the evacuation zones.)  And, unlike last year, the chances of the fire coming to us are REALLY low.  To get to us it would need to burn through most of Colorado Springs.  Let’s just say it would be a disaster of Biblical proportions.

So, unless another focus of fire starts, I’m safe.

Oh, yeah, I have it on reliable information (mom) that tomorrow is St. Anthony’s day.  The Portuguese summer is marked by St. Anthony, St. John and St. Peter in quick succession a week after the next.

The holidays are truly not even vaguely religious, at least not in a Christian sense.  I’m hazy on St. Anthony because it is celebrated mostly in Lisbon, but I presume it’s the same as St. John.  St. John – Sao Joao (with two tildas over the last two letters) was celebrated (at least when I was a kid) by going off downtown all night, roaming in vast groups singing folk songs of the “it was a morning in may” type, hitting people on the head with elephant garlic at the end of stalks and then later (as the holiday became more civilized) with giant plastic squeaky hammers.

Somehow, everyone made their way to the seaside by morning, often two by two.

In the village – people not of an age to go maying – St. John was celebrated by lighting an immense bonfire in the center plaza (everyone contributed.)  Young men jumped over it to show bravery and couples often jumped over it together.  I have it on good authority that early on this was considered a legal (or at least ritual) marriage.  Oh, yeah, people gave each other pots of basil.

If you stayed up till morning, and you were supposed to you had breakfast of café au lait and toast before going to bed.

The whole thing is such a mess of traditions accreted to what I believe was originally a Celtic mid-summer holiday that it’s almost hopeless to try to pull it apart.

To make things more completely insane, kids in my day built outdoor nativities: with plaster figures, much cheaper than the expensive (or in our case severely incomplete.  It’s a long story) nativities used at Christmas, but far, far more elaborate.  It was sort of “nativity meets model railroading.”  It wasn’t unusual for these to include all of Bethlehem with figures of people going about their lawful occupations.  Some of us —  okay, some of me, I think I was the only girl to get this involved – would actually put in rivers and fountains.  Anyway – again, to make things odder – by tradition kids under ten would run around with a figurine of St. John clutched in their fist hitting up every adult in sight for “a penny for the saint.”

I completely got Guy Fawkes when I first heard of it, and at the same time I wonder if both have a common substratum, or if it’s just that kids are shameless beggars and take every opportunity to monetize popular sentiment.

Let me point out that at least when I was young, Portuguese were so bad at publicizing this that tourists caught downtown at St. John’s often looked between excited and terrified, since they had clue zero what was going on.  They’d go bouncing along with the dancing groups, but their eyes would be going “Is this where they kill Americans?” (It was usually Americans.  There was a higher chance the Brits knew something like this.)  When I was between fourteen and sixteen I spent a lot of time explaining St. John in broken English to the visitors.

Anyway, St. John’s connection to bonfires seems grim in Colorado just now.  Robert told me that firefighters would probably take it badly if we run over to the fires and hit the firefighters on the head with squeaky hammers.  This led to a discussion of where the hammer might have come from: the hammer as both symbol/tool of artificer gods like Vulcan and Ptah and as a symbol of warrior power: Tor.  The discussion shed more heat than light.  It usually does.  But we had much, much fun with it.

But it makes it clear to me how insane it is to read too much into local rituals or mythologies because the layers come in and drift, and after a while it’s hard to tell what the pots of basil have to do with the cafe au lait and the toast.

It also makes me wonder how much we really know about civilizations that we know only by representations of events on pots, and by fragmental literature.  Perhaps if we could go back in time, we’d all be “Is this when they kill time travelers”?  (I now have a great wish to read The Fox In The Forest by Ray Bradbury.)

And it seems I wrote a post after all.  Disjointed and odd, but a post.  And I’m perhaps a little less depressed.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll buy some potted basil.  The cats will eat it, but that’s not the point.

So, behave yourselves till I get back.  Absolutely NO setting fire to the internets, and no bonfires on the blog.  And I’m CERTAINLY not giving you a penny for the saint, even if you say you’re under ten years of age at heart!

190 responses to “Mood, Ritual and Memory

  1. We don’t know much about those civilizations, but that doesn’t stop us from asserting that we know everything. And then ten years from now, when political fashions change, we shall look at the exact same evidence (because actual research and archaeology is HARD, ya know?) and assert that we know everything AGAIN, even though what we know then will completely contradict everything that we know now. Yet oddly enough, both times that we know everything, everything will exactly support the current political fashions.

    But that’s just a coincidence, of course.

    • Complete ignorance of the era gives you more freedom. Other people’s ignorance gives them weaker arguments, such as the structure you are proposing is unknown in any human culture, which you can sneer at.

    • There’s a certain glee reading old time travel works. Asserting that the English had completely displaced the Britons, for instance. (Best evidence now indicates that they were about as numerous in the population as the Normans were after a later invasion). Or how the Beaker people were displacing the worshipers of the Great Mother Goddess. (The change in found items that had been thought to indicate the advent of a new people through migration proved to be rather more gradual, pointing toward adopting new customs. As for the Great Mother Goddess, a cold-blooded inspection of the evidence pointed out that the evidence for her existence had never been good.)

      • Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, exploring the development of the Scientific Method and its application to understanding the physical world, is a delightful antidote to taking Scientific Pronouncement!!! overly seriously. Every new theory about the age of the Earth (and eventually, of the Universe) is rolled out with great fanfare and assurance. Every theory is eventually found flawed and replaced with A New Theory, now fortified with improved science!

        When you read about the early 20th Cent. fad for breakfast cereals containing radium (for added energy!) you can no longer deny that scientists are often in dire need of intellectual laxatives.

        Nobody gets published for being modest, and humility doesn’t bring about great invention nor discovery. But the rest of us need to add a few grains of salt to the Advance Of Science and hold off on drastic rewriting of the copybook headings.

        • I loved the era when they thought the earth a billion years older than the solar system, and the solar system a billion years older than the universe. . . .

          • Wayne Blackburn

            There was a mathematician who claimed that he was 3 billion years old, because between the time he was a child and the time he was making this statement, the Earth had gone from 2 billion years old to 5 billion years old…

            • Right. So now I’ve got to hunt down some old geology texts to find out how awesomely old I am.

              • Darn. It looks like I’m just barely too young to be billions of years old. Phooey!

                • Wayne Blackburn

                  Yeah, Wikipedia says Paul Erdős was born in 1913. I heard about this in 1983, so I knew he was probably talking about something a long time ago.

                  • Radioisotope dating was sufficiently researched and developed to result in acceptance of the approximately 4.4 billion year age of the Earth in 1953. The year I was born. Tch! If they’d just held off another year . . .

          • I think that’s more a misunderstanding of the discussion by laymen.

            Not all papers are about new discoveries. Some are basically a group of researchers asking the scientific community “Hey, we did experiment A and got results B, which are obviously wrong. We’ve checked x,y, and z and they’re not causing it, so we’re stumped. Any ideas where we went wrong?” The most recent example would be the neutrinos going “faster than light.”

            Of course there are also the flawed arguments. The ones I’m most familiar with are “scientists have shown that bumblebees cannot fly.” (what they’ve show is that bumblebees with rigid wings cannot fly), and Lord Kelvin arguing against evolution because the laws of thermodynamics say that the Earth would have cooled from the temperature of the sun to the current temperature in a few thousand years (he didn’t know about radioisotopes and the heat they generate in the Earth’s core).

            Science is an iterative process, not a bunch of received wisdom. As time progresses we get a better understanding of the world around us, but nothing is perfect. Einstein didn’t prove Newton wrong, he just showed that Newton’s equations won’t work in certain regimes. Everything we put into space uses Newton’s laws. The Voyager 2 probe arrived at Neptune a few feet and a few seconds away from its predicted point after a voyage of billions of miles. Not bad for F=ma and F=GMm/r^2. And yet, the GPS satellites needs to use Relativity to compensate for the fact that clocks slow down as they climb gravity wells.

  2. If you want weird goings on I only invite you to spend some time in or near New Orleans. Everyday is a holiday it seems and if it isn’t then there will be a carnival of I can only figure “why the hell not” All of it is based on some ritual some feast day or some tradition up to and including the tradition of for the hell and is mostly an excuse to drink and do nothing because it is too hot to do otherwise.

    • You say that like it’s a bad thing…

      • It wouldn’t be if that wasn’t the only thing that motivated them. I swear people here drown in hurricanes because they are too lazy to float or expect someone to come along and do it for them.

        • Jess, I have a friend that used to live in New Orleans, but now teaches as SMU. He would have agreed with you. There are exceptions, but they’re few and far between. Most of it’s hoopla put on for the tourists, but then a lot of it’s not. I don’t claim anything south of Alexandria as civilized.

          • I think any sense common or otherwise falls off once you pass about on I-20. Past I-10 you are in toon town I just do not see… as many cartoon rabbits. Being a My Little Pony fan I speculated you could unleash an entire herd of pastel cartoon ponies on this city and nobody would notice much less care. I have seen stranger.

    • And if you really want weird, I suggest you watch DC. But don’t go there. Innocence dies and is replaced by cynicism and expediency.
      Kinda the opposite or N’awleans.

      • All I can say is that Cthulu would be pleased ….

      • In DC they practice human sacrifice.

        In more ways than one can count.

      • I’ve lived in both. The heat and humidity is the same in the summertime. DC has more museums, but three times the idjits. I personally wouldn’t like to live in either one of them ever again. If I could confirm they had broadband Internet access and a decent grocery store closer than Carbondale, I’d move to Marble tomorrow.

        • But you can’t get decent jambalaya or gumbo in DC

        • In only two cities I have seen the rain fall and then watched it rise again. The first was New Orleans in September, the second was Charlestown in August.

          Never have seen that in Washington, D.C..

  3. masgramondou

    Hitting people over the head with elephant garlic is pretty weird. I’m not sure that it isn’t stranger than the squeaky hammer replacement.

    In England we celebrate mid summer with Wimbledon so that means it usally rains heavily and thus tends to put a damper on festivities…

    • When they switched to a squeaky hammer they stopped risking damage to perfectly good edibles.

      • Arwen Riddle

        Everything is better with chocolate or garlic but not both.

        • I’m shocked this hasn’t been contradicted yet.

          • Nobody took up that gauntlet because we are trying to avoid feeding the trolls.

            • I was nicknamed “Troll” once… but that was before the term got big on the net, and by the Marines I was tutoring…..

          • A local Mexican restaurant does chicken with unsweetened cacao, and it probably has garlic too. I’ve just never tasted it, so I can’t opine.

            • I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s my aunt’s favorite dish.

              That said, I didn’t REMEMBER that until you mentioned it, and was thinking more along the lines of the Garlic Festivals that are TRYING to inject garlic everywhere.

              • Gilroy. There is a film about their festival titled Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers.

                Roasted Garlic dipped in dark bittersweet chocolate has gone over rather well. Garlic and Chocolate can also be found in Mole Sauce, a classic Mexican preparation.

        • Cursed am I: regularly eating garlic makes me break out in hives. 😦

          • uh oh. We eat a lot of garlic. It’s part of vampire prevention program. It’s working. So far no vampire bites.

            • I don’t like direct sunlight either. When I went to school in Seattle, I liked the weather. Don’t much care for temps above 70.

              Suddenly I’m wondering about my ancestry…I want meat well done, so whatever’s lurking in my genes should be pretty dilute…

            • I try timing things so as to stop garlic just before a full eruption of hives becomes irreversible. Three weeks or so to detox, then it’s safe to resume. Sometimes, unfortunately, I cut it too fine.

              Well, there are worse things than being allergic to a favorite nonessential food.

            • Garlic helps me keep the infections down. TRUE

        • Rob Crawford

          There are some recipes for Cincinnati chili that have both chocolate and garlic — and cinnamon.

          • Arwen Riddle

            Hmm. Interesting. Part of me would curious to try that and I usually don’t like chili.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Yes, Cincinnati chili is different from other forms of chili, which is understandable, since it was created by Greek immigrants, rather than coming from the Southwest.

              If you look up a recipe, and try making some, you may not like it particularly well by itself, but when used as a topping for either hot dogs or pasta, it takes on a whole different dimension.

              • Is there a way to make chili w/o tomatoes? I am finding that I have a problem with them… *sigh… I really like them too.

                • Wayne Blackburn

                  Do you know whether it’s the acid or something else? If it’s the acid, you can neutralize it with some baking soda. You CAN just leave it out, but it won’t taste the same.

                  • Well it is the acid– sorta– but not– It causes my hemorrhoids to get worse. I now can’t eat tomatoes, oranges, or other citrus fruits (I would get acid reflux from oranges in my 20s… so I haven’t eaten them in a long time). I have to be careful with potatoes for the same reason. I actually started to feel better when I quit eating tomatoes– or at least less. No catsup, check the bbq sauce, and not eat spaghetti. (I miss spaghetti). I still make some variant of it for the hubby. So each year I find other things I can’t eat– i.e. dairy. (but I am still okay on goat’s cheese— it is specifically a problem with cow dairy).

                    • Well, not with spaghetti sauce. There are other ways to eat it.

                    • I can’t eat it raw either– tried– a big mistake. *sigh. It would be like someone telling a chocoholic that they can’t eat any form of chocolate from now on.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Sautee onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms in some butter or olive oil, drain if there’s too much oil, then throw in some Italian dressing, sliced olives, and your spaghetti. Stir it around and serve. Add some sausage if you like, and capers add a nice salty finishing flavor.

                    • Well some people eat spaghetti with butter instead of sauce, personally I think the tomatoes and noodles are just filler around the meat, so I haven’t tried it without sauce. 😉

                    • Well, my body had to find the hardest things to have problems eating. *sigh Americans have cheese and tomatoes on everything. I also can’t eat celery (due to kidneys). I may as well quit eating out.

                    • butter and garlic. Also, I don’t know if you can try this with goat cheese, but cheese, walnuts, olive oil and basil go yummy on pasta.

                    • All ground together.

                    • Alternatives to tomato sauce on pasta include pesto (fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, Romano or Parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and black pepper is one basic variant), aglio olio (garlic, olive oil, parsley, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) and alfredo (Cream, butter, garlic, parsley and Parmesan cheese) sauces.

                      You can also try such variants as Chinese lo mein* recipes or Pad Thai.

                      Put any of those bold-faced names in your favorite search engine and you will get hundreds of variants.

                      *A simple version consists of: shredded cabbage and sliced onion, sauteed and tossed with curry powder to taste, add cooked, shredded chicken, pork and/or shrimp (or any other protein), toss with spaghetti and season to taste (salt, pepper, garlic, soy sauce, whatever.)

                    • You can always just order steak and eggs 😉

                  • Even if I neutralize it with soda– I still have problems with tomatoes on the other end… *sigh

                • Dorothy Grant

                  Look up recipes for white chili. (In other words, yes.)

            • The flavors are milder than many, but rich and full bodied from the spicing. It is served in a number of versions, from One Way (straight up) to Five Way (on spaghetti, topped with beans, chopped onions, and cheese).

  4. I got firestarter and garlic, but I’m old-fashioned, the only way to make a squeaking sound with any of my hammers is to hit something that squeaks when you hit it.

    • Paging Marvin Suggs, Paging Marvin Suggs!

      Squeaky hammering, as requested.

      • Encore, Encore!

        For fine theatre, every day, and for our Lady of Pain. (I wonder what search terms would find Muppet flying fish?)

        • Not flying, but almighty fishy.

          I think I know where I caught the pun virus.

          • You need to be severely chastised. Severely.

            • I wanted Lew Zealand and His Boomerang Fish act, but the clips for that performance are too intermingled with other show elements* to extract.

              *The Marissa Berensen show, featuring a fine performance of Shel Silverstein’s “You’re Always Welcome At Our House” and culminating in a Miss Piggy arranged “Wedding Sketch” for Kermie. You could look it up.**

              **Obviously, I did. It struck me as a shame that the show has run its course, as one can readily imagine contemporary shows featuring Alton Brown and many another guest performer.

              • It struck me as a shame that the show has run its course, as one can readily imagine contemporary shows featuring Alton Brown and many another guest performer.

                It really shoulda been converted to a “late show with X” format.

            • Chastised my foot, he needs to be on the receiving end of the Great Pumpkin Cannon of Punkin Center, Colorado (yes, there IS such a place). At least four or five rounds (providing the compressor holds out).

              • Oh, I know. I am a off the beaten road guide and the like type junkie. 😉 I think it may be one of the reasons The Spouse refused to travel when we could still afford it. He will tell you it is his back, his sleep apnea, his chronic sinusitis, a profound attachment to his own bed and that working for years in a hotel while going to school taught him that if he spent a night he should be paid, not paying. But I know better. He fears the weird places to which I might haul him.

  5. Hitting people over the head with garlic or squeaky hammers does not puzzle me. I mean, you go to church on Palm Sunday and get blessed palms, and the kids have to be restrained from hitting people over the head with the palms or playing swords with them. Here you are, it’s practically midsummer, you’re on the street instead of in church, there’s things growing which aren’t blessed sacramentals, and of course people are going to get hit over the head.

    This is right up there with explaining why so many summer holy days and feastdays traditionally have had water dumping, splashing, and spraying attached to them. Yes, it’s great to remind each other of our Baptism, but yes, it’s also fun to have street and yard water fights licensed on a large scale. There are a vast number of traditional Christian feastday activities and games which are basically designed to let people let off steam after Mass is done, or to use up the free day time, or to get kids or men away from the house and out of the mom’s hair. 🙂

    If there’s a natural or logical time for people to take a few days off, and if there’s certain natural decorations available at a time of year, people will use that time and decoration across denominations or even faiths, unless there’s some powerful reason not to. OTOH, the meanings attached can be very different or very similar, depending on the locals.

    • That was John the Baptist Day in Palo, Leyte, Philippines. Basically an excuse for a town-wide water fight.

      And being a tall Americano in the Philippines, guess who was a popular target? They weren’t good shots, though. As the guy who was my current companion found out.

    • I am thinking of having a t-shirt made up with the legend, “Asperges Me, Domine” on it. Not only is it a sound Christian sentiment, but an excellent autistic joke. Yes, I’m pretty sure I am one.

      I was quite chuffed when the Canon showed up at the church one time with a bucket of holy water and a branchlet off of a juniper bush and Aspergated all of us. What a treat for an Aspie!

    • Water fun isn’t limited to the Christian traditions, either. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, the celebration of Buddhist New Year in mid-April (the middle of the hot season) is really something to see. The tradition started out with sprinkling water on people to symbolise… something-or-other connected with blessing or purification (I’m really not an expert on Buddhist symbolism). But it has now morphed into a three day long, city-wide waterfight. People drive around slowly in pickup trucks with about a dozen people and a 100-gallon water tub in the bed of the truck, and throw buckets of water on passers-by, other pickup truck beds filled with people…

      And did I mention that the main feature of downtown Chiang Mai is the old moat*, a square one mile on a side, which is still kept filled with water? If you’re going to go downtown during Buddhist New Year, expect to come back soaked from head to toe. If you must take money, a cell phone, etc., with you, put them in a well-sealed zip-lock bag (nested inside another zip-lock bag) first.

      * Which you can see clearly (zoom in on that square in the middle of town, and you’ll see that that square road is actually two roads, one on either side of the moat) in this map:,98.990593&spn=0.133432,0.138874&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=56.375007,71.103516&oq=chiang+&hnear=Chiang+Mai,+Thailand&t=m&z=13

      • It sounds as if shapely young women wandering downtown in white linen are just begging for trouble.

        Except for the randomness of the targeting, this seems to have an American parallel in that stalwart feature of county fairs and church fundraisers, the dunking tank. The primary difference is that the dunkee is usually a local authority figure or celebrity and dunking them entails some modicum of skill.

  6. I spent a year in Greenland (courtesy of the USAF) and and on the longest day of the the year, the Danes had a huge party out at the Row Club on Lake Ferguson/ There they had a huge bonfire and with a great deal of drunken ceremony, they burnt a straw figure in it – they called it ‘Burning the Witch’. I am certain that this was the ghost of some kind of primitive annual sacrifice.

    • One has to be wary of those ghosts of ancient ritual theories. Many Victorian folklorist projected practices back into the pagan past, and thereby “deduced” that modern practices are pagan survivals. And the notions are still floating around even when they have been thoroughly debunked, such as showing that the practice wasn’t even medieval, or that it originated in Germany and therefore can’t be Irish.

      • Like Xmas trees…

        • The Winter Solstice, ‘specially in Northern climes, has always been a good excuse for a party.

          • In Northern climes, there seem to be a lot of parties with bonfires that (unlike the fantasy/neopagan version) use them for burning brush and household trash as well as logs. Maybe this is just because Scandinavians are mystical neatniks….

            Anyway, it makes you wonder what the Norse housewives smuggled onto Viking flaming ship burials. “This? It’s kindling. Because I say so.”

            • The bonfires in Portugal too. We had to convince people not to put aerosol cans in — that was the battle when I was a kid. All other “burnables” went in: Broken furniture, destroyed books, old newspaper, boxes…

            • Winter fires are SCARY. Makes sense that folks would want to control when they happen.

              So, if you’re going to organize one time when everybody is hauling all the junk they want to burn out– nevermind that folks probably pick through their neighbors’ stuff before it’s lit– then why not have a big party around it?

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Modern gun control the is ghost of the ancient Democrat ritual of lynching freed slaves for political advantage.

        Grins, Ducks, and Runs Away.

  7. Hmph. I guess we know how we rate, guys.
    –>people with pants

    I’ve always been intrigued by the number of cross-cultural holidays that fall near the winter solstice, otherwise known as “Dear Ghu, it’s cold/dark/depressing, will it ever end, hey lets have a party with lights and presents so we don’t give up and collapse on an ice floe.” So far there is Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali (Hindu-ish, featuring little oil lamps and new clothes)–anybody know of others?

    • Saturnalia. Yule.

      Sol Invicitus, but that’s not a good example, because it’s on Christmas Day, and the first reference to it is after the first reference to Christmas on Dec. 25, so it may merely be the Kwanzaa of its day.

      • Oh, yes, St. Lucy. A combination of the name and the day being the longest day of the year after calender creep helps explain why she’s so popular in Scandinavia.

        • Santa Lucia — we celebrated THAT in Swedish class…

          • My favorite saints are Barbara and Thomas, for obvious reasons. I’ll give a nod to Dymphna, too. I used to have a medal of hers. She is the patroness of people who are, shall we say, somewhat weird in the head.

            • All writers of the Catholic persuasion should have an exorcism medal of St. Benedict. Those who AREN’T Catholic might want it under “pants and skirt” or belt and suspenders… or something.

              • It won’t burn my skin?

              • Yup, and bombing his monastery to rubble was just about the rudest thing the United States Army Air Force ever did. Yes, I am including fire raids and nukes on the Nips in my calculation of rudeness. I speak as one who is proud of his Dad, the War Criminal, who worked for Curtis LeMay on Saipan.

              • A quick search doesn’t reveal anything, so I’ll excuse my laziness as being a public service request:
                Eh? Exorcism emblem of St B? Why for?

              • Side note:
                Patron: … against witchcraft;
                this is REALLY funny in connection with the (FALSE!!!!) claim that he said Harry Potter was satanic….

              • ;-). I just finished a mystery where a critical piece of evidence, which had been transferred to a digital chip, was hidden inside a St. Christopher medal.

                • Wayne Blackburn

                  Weird… that sounds really familiar, but I can’t think of what I might have read like that.

                  • This may seem a non sequitur, so please don’t get heated up, but Castle and Rook are two names for the same chess piece.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Oh, that’s not something I would get heated up over, I just don’t understand the implication of the statement.

                      I think I was remembering something different, anyway. I was recently reading a David Baldacci book, and one of the characters had had a St. Christopher medal since he was a child.

    • In Japan there are the Bon Festival (featuring fires) and the Japanese Lantern Floating Festival.
      At night colored lights are used on the sculptures during the Lake Shikotsu Ice Festival and the Lake Towada Snow Festival has fireworks — as do many of the Matsuri.

      The Daughter was fortunate enough to catch the festival with the major firework held in Tokyo every summer. 🙂

    • Oh, c’mon, BCR! I betcha you wear pants all the time, yerself. Sometimes a skirt is more convenient for both sexes, it’s just that if you’re a guy, you have to call it a kilt. Pants are definitely better in cold weather, or if one is, say, sliding down a scree slope on his backside.

      • Oh, and I think the Romans used to reproach our ancestors for being “trousered barbarians.”

        Now, what really winds me up is the divinely condemned neckties. How the Croatians got every man in the world to wear their silly neck scarves is a mystery to me. Hell, George Patton even insisted that his men wear neckties in combat!

        • For the love of heaven, don’t say that near older son. He wears ties every day except … no. everyday. If he could he’d wear them to sleep in. he draws ties on his lab coats.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            As long as he remembers that actually wearing a tie with a lab coat is a bad idea. 🙂

      • (sniffs haughtily) It’s the principle of the thing! Besides, if you recall the cartoon version of BCR it was either a pink candy robot shell or a lab coat that served as the outer husk. And welcome to the Hoyt’s Horde, JTG–or have you been lurking?

        • I just found it a few days ago, thanks to Vox. I don’t claim to be one of the Dread Ilk, but I do like to sit at their feet and learn. That’s what I love most about the net, that I get to communicate with people who are smarter than I am, and know more than I do.

          Unfortunately, there are lots of people on the net who aren’t very smart and don’t know jack. Dunning-Krueger, anyone?

        • Oh, and where the hell is Our Bill, anyway? Susan has been snooping around in foreign parts, and not even she has been able to find the old reprobate. I can’t believe that anybody of lesser puissance than that of Almighty God is capable of killing Bill.

    • Pants are overrated.

      • Mine are, I know. ‘Cause, you know, you can never be too sure of your upper operating pressures when running above specs. That’s why they are called “overalls”.

  8. St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), me being me, I looked him up. One site said he is sometimes called the marriage saint, because he spent time working to reconcile troubled marriages. The following is today’s Saint of the Day at 😉 I think it makes clear why it might be a biggish thing in Lisbon:

    The gospel call to leave everything and follow Christ was the rule of Anthony’s life. Over and over again God called him to something new in his plan. Every time Anthony responded with renewed zeal and self-sacrificing to serve his Lord Jesus more completely.

    His journey as the servant of God began as a very young man when he decided to join the Augustinians in Lisbon, giving up a future of wealth and power to be a servant of God. Later, when the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs went through the Portuguese city where he was stationed, he was again filled with an intense longing to be one of those closest to Jesus himself: those who die for the Good News.

    So Anthony entered the Franciscan Order and set out to preach to the Moors. But an illness prevented him from achieving that goal. He went to Italy and was stationed in a small hermitage where he spent most of his time praying, reading the Scriptures and doing menial tasks.

    The call of God came again at an ordination where no one was prepared to speak. The humble and obedient Anthony hesitantly accepted the task. The years of searching for Jesus in prayer, of reading sacred Scripture and of serving him in poverty, chastity and obedience had prepared Anthony to allow the Spirit to use his talents. Anthony’s sermon was astounding to those who expected an unprepared speech and knew not the Spirit’s power to give people words.

    Recognized as a great man of prayer and a great Scripture and theology scholar, Anthony became the first friar to teach theology to the other friars. Soon he was called from that post to preach to the Albigensians in France, using his profound knowledge of Scripture and theology to convert and reassure those who had been misled by their denial of Christ’s divinity and of the sacraments..

    After he led the friars in northern Italy for three years, he made his headquarters in the city of Padua. He resumed his preaching and began writing sermon notes to help other preachers.


    Anthony should be the patron of those who find their lives completely uprooted and set in a new and unexpected direction. Like all saints, he is a perfect example of turning one’s life completely over to Christ. God did with Anthony as God pleased—and what God pleased was a life of spiritual power and brilliance that still attracts admiration today. He whom popular devotion has nominated as finder of lost objects found himself by losing himself totally to the providence of God.


    In his sermon notes, Anthony writes: “The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ.”

    Patron Saint of:

    Lost items

    • For many Americans, he’s the beloved saint of “Tony, Tony, turn around/Something’s lost and must be found.” (Yeah, my generation is mostly too uptight to pray for intercession that way.)

      In Portugal, my understanding is that he’s traditionally sort of like St. Jude, St. Valentine, and anything that needs being found, including jobs. It’s being a hometown boy, I expect.

      Also, he followed in Francis’ footsteps on the preaching front, and if he couldn’t get an audience when he went through town, he was known to preach to birds and fish.

    • St. Anthony of Padua, also called Saint Anthony of Lisbon (for his birth place.) Of his body only his tongue was preserved, because of his preaching.

  9. I’ll be spending time with more important people, people who wear pants!

    Are you saying we’re not wearing pants?

    No, Fire Lord Ozai. YOU’RE not wearing pants!

  10. local rituals or mythologies

    ‘sall jus’ a game o generational telephone, enit? Somebody ‘ad so much fun one summer party as a lad ‘e thot ‘e’d have a go at doin’ it agin, ‘n when he could’t recollect aller details ‘e jus’ med stuff up ter fill in ther gaps.

    The young’ns disn’t pay ‘im ‘alf a mind but had great fun, so they did it agin wif a new set o’ explan’tions, takin’ wot they sorta ‘membered of the pervous years stories and bright’n ’em up when the kids got sleepy or restless.

    Rinse ‘n repeat fer thirty, forty gen’rations and you got yourself a myfology, you does.

  11. Dorothy Grant

    People with pants? Fine, I’m going to get up off my yoga ball/ chair, and ditch this bathrobe for a skirt and blouse today, just to spite you. Hah! No pants!

    …or maybe I’ll cross-dress, and wear a kilt. That’ll show you! …show you what, I have no idea, but that’ll show you!

    As for celebrations, Alaska has the IronDog/Iditarod, with Anchorage throwing Fur Rondy in the middle of those two… not at the darkest point of the year, but at the point when the light is coming back good and strong, but the ground is still covered deep in snow and everybody’s going a little stir-crazy with winter. It’s a week-long citywide party, complete with a duct tape ball and a race by teams hauling outhouses, just because.

  12. Re: Them with pants — best wishes.

  13. Not to put any further pressure on you, or anything, speaking of short stories what is happening with At The George which you teased us with the middle of last October?

    • It got slammed due to lack of energy, due to being sick. I still want to put it together but I’m going to time it with Baen’s release of the omnibus of the first two. (Which I’ve been informed is going on schedule!)

  14. Google for images of juhannuskokko and you shall see some rather alarming bonfire pictures from Finland.

    St. John’s eve means holidays, bonfires, going to the beach to look at them (if there is a beach, otherwise it may be somebody’s cow pasture, pretty much everybody who can will head to the countryside, including people who’d normally faint at the idea, cities can seem almost deserted on some midsummers), trying to make that bonfire bigger than what you see on the next beach or pasture or heard the neighboring village/town/city/club/any other rival group is going to build, drinking (beer will do, but harder liquors are better) and eating sausages which have probably burned more or less black when they were cooked on the remnants of that fire on a stick (also hide the sausage is popular, lots of getting together that time of the year).

    Some adults are supposed to stay sober so they can get the kids away before the going starts getting x-rated. It tends to, especially if the weather is good.

    Considering the bonfire enthusiasm combined with the drinking if this country was not so wet we’d probably burn the whole place down at least every second or third midsummer.

    • masgramondou

      eating sausages which have probably burned more or less black when they were cooked on the remnants of that fire on a stick

      Somewhere I have the Tapiola Poetry Society publication which includes that gem
      “Oh Makkara, O Makkara,
      So white, so pure
      what you are made of
      we’re not really sure”
      (it continues a while but I’ve forgotten the rest)

      by the well known poet Erkki Paskalainen

  15. “Robert told me that firefighters would probably take it badly if we run over to the fires and hit the firefighters on the head with squeaky hammers.” – OTOH, if they get the fire down to where you can jump over it, as singles or couples, they’ll probably be very happy…

  16. As the spouse of a volunteer firefighter (no, his department has not been called to Colorado, at least not yet), rather than hitting them on the head, may I recommend, if you are over eighteen that you call them up and ask to volunteer. They will probably hug you before they give you gear and training.
    If you are too young, or too disabled, or not in a volunteer district but in one of those mythical places where people get paid, call and ask what you can do anyway. There is something. Opening Power-Aid boxes if nothing else.

    • I understand it’s too dangerous just now. We can volunteer for other stuff, and we totally would if the kid were not on disabled list and needing help right now.

  17. rawlenyanzi

    Watching objects burn up in fires is rather interesting.

    • Nah, that’s for kids. Grown-ups use explosives. Remember what I wrote about Saint Barbara.

      • rawlenyanzi

        It’s better when you see something turn into brittle, blackened ash. Explosives are too instantaneous; you can’t really savor it.

      • Which in Portugal during thunderstorms was always paired with St. Geronimo. So you get “Saint Geronimo, St. Barbara, the Virgin” muttered by everyone when a thunderclap comes close to a public function….

        • rawlenyanzi

          Thunderclaps as public function; I’ve never heard of this.

        • St. Jerome!?! Dude! Oh, how could I not have known that he dealt with thunderstorms! It’s professional courtesy! Mwahahaha!

          It’s a really good thing he wasn’t born in the Internet age, because he was given to staying up all night to write small books against things that really annoyed him. Also, it’s always fun to see people translating his more entertaining remarks into equally entertaining English.

          Have you heard Dion’s song “The Thunderer,” based off the old Phyllis McGinley poem? Fun stuff! Now I know why McGinley used that precise term, too!

    • Not when it’s up close and personal. Believe me on this one… been there, done that, more than once. Haven’t lost anything myself, but a neighbor I grew up with lost his house just five or six years ago to a forest fire. One of my friends here in Co. Springs doesn’t know if his house has survived or not. They were in Lincoln, NE, when the fire started.

    • That reminds me of a really revolting war story I read on the ‘net a few years back. It seems, during the advance in France in 1944, that an M4 Sherman took a hit which caused it to catch fire. All of its gasoline went up, along with all of its ammo. Even after the fires went out, the thing glowed brightly enough to read by.

      After it cooled, some people went into it. All they could find of the crew was little splatters of silver on the floor from the coins in their pockets and the fillings in their teeth. This is why it’s easy being a pallbearer at a tanker’s funeral; there’s not much in the box.

      • rawlenyanzi

        Morbid, but interesting.

      • The British nickname for the Sherman tank was “Ronson” because the Ronson lighter’s ad motto was “Lights every time!”

        • Didn’t they call them “Tommy Cookers” in N. Africa too? from the way they torched off like the petrol stoves the troops carried?

          • That was the German sobriquet for the tracked charcoal-briquet. (German vehicles were usually diesel-powered; they did not catch fire as easily.)

            My personal favorite is Japan’s Mitsubishi G4M bomber (Allied reporting name “Betty”); it was known to its crews as “hamaki” (“cigar”), officially because of the fuselage shape, *UN*officially because it lacked self-sealing fuel tanks or fire extinguishers…. >:)

      • Most of those hulks were towed to the rear, cleaned out, repaired, and put back in service. How’s THAT for a way to spend the war?

      • My dad was in the Battle of the Ardennes in 1944. He was a tank driver. He was the ONLY SURVIVOR of three Sherman tank crews IN ONE DAY. After that, he asked to be reassigned. They made him a gunlayer in a 155MM howitzer battery sent to Bastogne to support the 101st Airborne. They arrived with their weapons four days before the Battle of the Bulge.

  18. A joke I copied from my Google+ stream:

    Why is George R. R. Martin’s twitter account defunct?

    Wait for it…..

    He killed all 140 characters.

  19. I hate to admit I didn’t read the whole thing. You caught my attention with feelings of the Apocalypse and sinus problems. I’m feeling the same way, the country has gone to hell in a hand basket and the Apocalypse is either here or just around the next bend. So maybe I’m not really depressed, just ailing. Thanks, I needed that.

  20. ” It makes me think that if I make it to ninety I will be an evil-cranky-old-woman.

    … You’ll be my mom on a bad day?
    (note: not a diss on mom; her mom was the same, I expect to be the same, we’re just very prickly when hurt)

    • My grandparents were nice people all the way up to their deaths. Now my GREAT-Grandmother on my mom’s side of the family… She was crabby. She was the one that drank a water glass of whiskey and smoked a cigar before bed every day. I’ve been getting conflicting information on her age – she was either 102 or 106 when she died. Maybe being cranky has some positive side effects – at least for the cranky one.

  21. Oh, yeah, I have it on reliable information (mom) that tomorrow is St. Anthony’s day. The Portuguese summer is marked by St. Anthony, St. John and St. Peter in quick succession a week after the next.

    *looks at freebie calender*
    Today is his Memorial; tomorrow is Flag Day…oh, crud, and Sunday is Father’s Day.

    • yeah, Sunday is Father’s day and for various reasons it’s going to be hard to actually get out of this house this year. (The main reason being we’re all trying to die of some crud, and I’m afraid younger boy has walking pneumonia. Haven’t managed to make him go to doctor, yet.)

      • When it rains it pours.

        Only it isn’t raining where you are, and that is part of the problem. 😦

      • Start shoving antibiotics down him (I think amoxicillin for pneumonia, but a quick search would probably tell for sure) insist he either take them or go to the doctor.

      • Dorothy Grant

        If you’re downwind of the fire, take heart that half the symptoms may only be from smoke. (Forest fire season used to give me the worst sinus aches and feeling of a chest cold, that would clear up about a day after the wind shifted.)

        Then again, that might be only me. So here’s hoping y’all feel better soon.

  22. I’m hazy on St. Anthony because

    you lost the memory? *silly*

  23. I completely got Guy Fawkes when I first heard of it, and at the same time I wonder if both have a common substratum, or if it’s just that kids are shameless beggars and take every opportunity to monetize popular sentiment.

    Based on nothing but knowledge of the UK, and that through a first-generation-American grandma, I’m going to say it was displacement.
    That kids LOVE an excuse to hit adults up for a freebie is secondary.

  24. Robert told me that firefighters would probably take it badly if we run over to the fires and hit the firefighters on the head with squeaky hammers.

    My cousin-in-law would probably look at you like you were crazy; on the other hand, I know that because he’s survived MY family, so he’s good at keeping his folks from going nuclear until he knows what’s going on… on the other hand, when he goes nuclear, he was some sort of Army special forces. A five-foot-four of him.

    • *all five-foot-four

      • One of my students was special forces. Portuguese ancestry (he didn’t know it until I commented on his name) and shorter than my five five. I think they might pick them that way?

        • A lot of the selection tests involve moving your body weight around. It would tend to select toward people with less mass.

          • Dorothy Grant

            That, and the big guys not only stand out, but they tend toward power in bursts instead of endurance. Small wiry men tend to have more endurance than the massive moving wall of meat kind of men. (Note to the pedantic – “tend to” is used for a reason. Yes, there are exceptions; there always are. But there are averages, mean and median, too.) The recces selected for endurance, and tended to get small wiry men, too.

        • I think there’s just a subset of the population that I’m going to call “Logan Clones.” The most wonderfully freaky Marine I knew was a Marine scout who was my size. (ie, same as Wolverine, classically.)

          • Ah, yes. I remember, during the Toys for Tots season a few years ago, seeing a very scary Marine walk into the Publix here, before me. Now, I’m pretty scrawny, and have never gone more than 140 lbs soaking wet. This guy was skinnier, and 1/3 my age at most. He had three stripes, a diamond and two rockers on his sleeve, and the scariest Death Stare you’ve ever seen. People sort of just magically got out of his way when he approached. He had a whole bunch of colored ribbons on his chest, too.

            • Two rockers… that’s a gunny….

              And yes, for once I think Hollywood got it right: treat him as you would The Gunny of Mail Call.

          • I knew a guy who was a Green Beret, 6’4″, 220; he used to tell me that he was a foot taller and 80#’s heavier than any of his teammates. He said they used to tease him that whenever they had to take cover, everybody would just jump behind him.