Category Archives: Writing

2014 in review

Thank you all for stopping by.  Happy New Year!  Hope to see you in 2015! The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Filed under Internet, Writing

Robert Louis Stevenson “Talks Like a Pirate”

A portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by John Singer Sargent.

A portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by John Singer Sargent.

Yes, it’s that time of year again — Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming soon.  Brush up on your sailor slang, pirate patois and buccaneer bravado.

My first thought when I saw the 1950 movie “Treasure Island” wasn’t “Hey, me hearties, I love how those pirates talk.”  I had a school girl crush on one of the actors — Bobby Driscoll, the boy who plays Jim Hawkins, and I swooned over his more upper crust accent. (By the way, I’m not that old. The 1950 movie was many years old when I saw it.)  I became smitten with the fantasy of finding treasure, of treasure maps, of being a stole-away.

I have Robert Louis Stevenson to thank for my adventure fantasies. Stevenson published “Treasure Island” in 1883. Since then, more than fifty movies and television shows have been made adapted from the book. No wonder there’s a “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” which is September 19. (See the link at the bottom to my post on “Avast, Me Hearty! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!”) A National Geographic story throws cold seawater on the concept of pirate speech, claiming that most of what we think of pirate speech came from the 1950 movie, as spoken by the Long John Silver actor who spoke in his native dialect from southwestern England, which is where Silver came from. So it’s not a stretch to think pirates, many from southwestern England, did speak that way. I’ve linked the NatGeo spoilsport article at the very bottom of this post. Argggh!

Sailboats anchor in Frank Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The dark sailboat looks a little like the fictional pirate sailboats that sailed the Caribbean Sea waters in the movies. Caribbean pirates are said to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”

I didn’t make a plan to follow Stevenson’s literary footsteps, but I have stumbled onto a few “Treasure Island” locations. On a trip to Savannah, Georgia, my husband and I visited “The Pirates House,” now a restaurant. This charming old building is reported to be where some of the characters of “Treasure Island” got together to plan and plot, and where Captain Flint is claimed to have spent his last days.  Legend says that Captain Flint’s ghost haunts the property.  We didn’t see old Captain Flint, but we got out of the building before nightfall!

Pirates from long ago have achieved a romantic patina, but they were ruthless murderers and thieves.  We identify with the adventure and the hunt for treasure rather than the pirates themselves.

“The effect of Treasure Island on our perception of pirates cannot be overestimated,” wrote David Cordingly in his book Under a Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates: “Robert Louis Stevenson “linked pirates forever with maps, black schooners, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders.  The treasure map with an X marking the location of the buried treasure is one of the most familiar pirate props.”  Stevenson popularized the nautical slang “Shiver My Timbers,” an oath that Stevenson’s archetypal pirate Long John Silver exclaimed.  Characters in other works, such as Popeye, changed the phrase to “Shiver me timbers.”

Robert Louis Stevenson visited northern California, the Hawaiian Islands and died in Samoa, but I haven’t found any evidence he visited Catalina Island. A 1918 “Treasure Island” movie was filmed on Catalina Island, which has its own history of a treasure map and hidden gold.

At a theater production I attended of “Treasure Island,” the playbill noted that “Shiver My Timbers” and other such oaths were child-friendly substitutions for more salty language.   Child-friendly or not, “Shiver My Timbers” was an actual nautical exclamation, describing the shivering or splintering of the ship’s boards, either from storms or battle.

On a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, I found a history of Treasure Island in one of the tourist brochures, which led me to the story of Owen Lloyd. Treasure Island — The Untold Story Other areas have claimed to have inspired Stevenson, included Napa, California, where he honeymooned with Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, after their wedding in San Francisco.  A park there is named after him, which I’ll be visiting soon.

Stevenson was the son and grandson of lighthouse engineers, but he preferred to leave the safety of shore behind him when he became an adult.  He was a frail person, who spent much of his youth in the “land of the counterpane (bedspread)”  Despite his poor health, he traveled widely, spending a lot of time on sailing ships, saying “I wish to die in my boots…..”  He got his wish, dying too young at age 44 in Samoa where he had made his home.  Stevenson is ranked the 25th most translated author in the world, ahead of fellow Victorians Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe.

Savannah, Georgia, is mentioned several times in Robert Louis Stevenson’s book, “Treasure Island.” Some of the book’s action was said to take place in “The Pirates House,” one of Georgia’s most historic buildings. The building is now a restaurant, where meals are served in a multitude of charmingly ramshackle rooms, and tales of ghosts and pirates add to the atmosphere. My husband and I ate lunch there on a cheerful sunny autumn afternoon, so it took a little more imagination to conjure up menacing pirate spirits.

About Robert Louis Stevenson.   About “Treasure Island.”

The history of “The Pirates House” in Savannah, Georgia.  Shiver My Timbers.

Here’s a card I designed in honor of “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” I made a stab at a little Pirate Talk in the inside text.

Robert Louis Stevenson — Napa Valley’s First Tourist
A post I wrote in 2008: “Avast, Me Hearty! It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!”

“Talk Like a Pirate Day” Busted: Not Even Pirates Spoke Pirate

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Filed under Authors, Literature, Novels, Travel, Writing

Scarlet, Feline Princess

Scarlet awaits visitors in her beautifully decorated room at Wayside Waifs. As beautiful as the "hug" room is at the shelter, she wants a forever home.

By Michelle C. 

Hello, my name is Scarlet and let me stop you before you make any jokes about Gone with the Wind, or asking me if I did it in the library with the candlestick! Been there, heard that!

Okay, now about moi. Check out my photo. Are those not the most soulful eyes you’ve ever seen. (See photo below) I’m quite the lovey and a favorite of the staff and volunteers here. If they had Miss Congeniality here, I think I’d win, I really do. I’m also quite the fashionista. I’m wearing a lovely and soft brown, tan and white outfit. These neutral shades will go with everything including your drapes, couch and bedspread. They’re classics and never go out of style. I have a short, smooth coat, erect ears and a long tail. Stunning!

I have made one fashion faux paw, however. My footwear doesn’t match. One front paw is grey and the other is tan. I could really use someone with your fashion sense to help make sure I don’t have another embarrassing wardrobe malfunction like that again. When I strut my stuff through our home, I always want to look my best. After all, there might be a camera somewhere.

I’ll watch you while you get dressed to go to work and make sure your lipstick goes with your blouse or that your tie goes with your sport coat. I’ll meet you at the door when you get home to see what kind of day you had and will tell you all about mine. I’ll have spent time napping and eating, of course; watching the birds and squirrels outside, and supervising the front door to make sure those annoying junk ads weren’t left on our door. Luckily for me, there won’t be another cat living with us, so I can have all your attention when you get home.

A perfect pink decor for a little princess. Scarlet even has her own monogrammed pillow.

I’ll show you how much I appreciate you earning our living by rubbing up against your legs and letting you pet me. When I’ve had enough for a while, I’ll swish my tail a bit to say “enough already, save some for later”. I’m quiet and shy and I’m a bit hesitant to meet new people, so you’d have to give me a little time to adjust. I have to be cautious. I started to fall for a very nice woman and found out she wore white after Labor Day. No-no!

I like to play and hope you would too. My favorite toy is a green fleece spider they gave me here. The color doesn’t really work with my outfit, but these people here are so nice and have worked so hard to make me comfy and find a good home, I didn’t have the heart to say anything, especially since they gave me my own special bed. (Nobody else here has one like that, so you know I must be pretty special, huh?)

Princess Scarlet relaxes in her bed, waiting for someone to take her home.

I also have my own room now and if I do say so myself, it’s quite something. I am definitely the Princess of Pink: pink rug, pink stuffed animals, pink cat bed etc. Check out my photo of me in my special cat bed. That goes home with me too. Only the best for me – that’s why I’m picking you for my family. I can just tell by the way you’re reading my bio that we’re perfect for each other. Come get me and take me home to your castle now!

Fashionably yours
Princess Scarlet

As told to Michelle C. at Wayside Waifs by Scarlet.  Michelle writes many of the biographies of the cats at Wayside Waifs, a no-kill animal shelter for cats, dogs and small animals in Kansas City, Missouri.

I didn’t write Scarlet’s romantic biography above, but I did take her portrait, seen below.  I wrote this limerick in honor of the wonderful kitties in need of homes at Wayside Waifs.  If you think I’ve turned into a crazy cat lady, you’re right!

There once was a kitty from Wayside

Who groomed her fur with great pride.

When visitors came to call

Kitty knew how to enthrall

Soon finding a forever home in which to abide.

The last line is a little awkward.  Any suggestions?  I’d love to read any limericks or poems you might want to add in the comments. If you want to adopt a dog or cat from Wayside Waifs, click on Wayside Waifs.

Tabby Princess Postcard postcard

Princess Scarlet.

Scarlet relaxes in her Hug Room.

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Filed under Cats, Life, Literature, Pets, Writing

It’s a Chelsea Morning

Hotel Chelsea, New York City, Print print 

I was in third grade when I decided to be a novelist.  It sounded so glamorous and important.  You and your books are studied in school.  People discuss what you were thinking, what you meant when you wrote “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”  They pay money for your thoughts!  There’s a catch, though.  To be a novelist you have to finish and preferably publish a novel.

I did pursue a writing career as a journalist, but nearly all of those hundreds of thousands of words have crumbled into dust, barely remembered the day after they were read. I never achieved that third-grade hope of writing some soul-stirring, enduring piece of work, like that of Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen.

My novels still reside in my head and on scraps of paper and in numerous files on my computer.  I’m sure there are millions just like me. My son recently forwarded me a link on how to publish a book on Kindle.  Now, I have no excuse for not finishing the work that everyone has been breathlessly waiting for! No publisher or agent stands in my way.  I am my only obstacle. (Which so far has been a HUGE obstacle.)

One good thing is that I no longer have delusions of grandeur.  The New York Times Bestseller List?  Who needs it!  The Nobel Prize for Literature? A farce!  A Pulitzer Prize?  Don’t make me laugh! I just want to finish something readable and absorbing. My goal is to have a novel finished and on Kindle by the end of 2011. You heard it here first. Hold me to it! If you want to write a novel, join me in this goal. We can download one another’s books. We can have our own book club. (Kindle link at the bottom.)

I was looking through my zillions of photographs and came upon the above photograph, which I took from the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel, a mecca for creative people. I’m going to tack up the photo as an inspiration to write.

I took the photo in 1989, when I visited my friends Jan and Richard in their apartment at the Chelsea Hotel.  Jan and Richard are both extremely talented and creative people, so it was fitting that they should live in a building that had been a home to so many writers, artists and musicians. Among the writers who have lived there are Mark Twain, O. Henry, Dylan Thomas (who died there of alcohol poisoning), Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there), William S. Burroughs (who later moved to my college town of Lawrence, Kansas), Leonard Cohen, Arthur Miller, Quentin Crisp, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (who wrote On the Road there), Robert Hunter, Brendan Behan, Simone De Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Wolfe, Charles Bukowski.  Among musicians who lived there were Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Patti Smith. The Grateful Dead stayed there.

The Chelsea is at 222 West 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea.  The 250-unit hotel was designated a New York City landmark in 1966, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

About the Hotel Chelsea.

How to publish your book on Kindle.

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Filed under Journalism, Life, Literature, Photography, Writing

2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 88,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 4 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 42 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 200 posts. There were 132 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 128mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 1st with 2,049 views. The most popular post that day was Wayside Waifs.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were wordpress.com, search.aol.com, facebook.com, WordPress Dashboard, and shoutsfromtheabyss.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for hummingbirds, skin cancer, hunter s thompson, robert plant, and robert plant children.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Wayside Waifs July 2010
95 comments and 27 Likes on WordPress.com

2

Generation Tattoo September 2008
12 comments

3

Skin Cancer February 2010
8 comments

4

Robert Plant receives Commander of the British Empire Honor July 2009
6 comments

5

A Flock of Hummingbirds August 2008
9 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

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Filed under Internet, Life, Writing

Relax!

Hammock on the Veranda Postcard postcard

Here’s a photograph I took on a recent visit to South Carolina. Can’t you just imagine yourself relaxing in this hammock with a cool drink and a book? I didn’t try it myself, because I probably would have spilled my drink on my book. But it’s a lovely fantasy.

When bloggers start posting just a photo or two or a YouTube video once or twice a month, you know they are on the downhill slide to quitting. It’s true that I’m blogging less and less often. But I’m not giving up, I swear.

Soon after I started blogging here in the Spring of 2008, I read that the average blogger lasts about two years. I don’t know where those statistics came from, but that seems about right. When I make the rounds of my fellow bloggers, I find they are posting less, too. Sadly, some of my favorite bloggers have stopped posting, apparently forever or so rarely that their infrequent posts are merely the sputters of a dying blog. Blogs take time and commitment. They sure as heck don’t make any money.

I know the world isn’t begging for my thoughts, but I do like to post about interesting subjects I find, usually about nature, travel, music and history topics. Lately, though, I’ve been enjoying a rest in my “mental” hammock. What I really want to write about is politics, but I’ve sworn not to. Wouldn’t be polite.

One fellow blogger, Shouts from the Abyss, has kept up the good fight by blogging EVERY day (sometimes twice) for more than a year!

Planetjan has slowed, too. She has a very full schedule, but she’s also dedicated to posting. She’s hilarious, so I’m always happy to read one of her posts. Her latest is Hands On Learning.

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Filed under Communication, Friendship, Internet, Life, Personal, Writing

Dude, Your Bus is Rad!

California Surfer License Plate postcard

The ’68 VW bus has arrived in Kansas City.  How will this surfer-mobile fare in the Midwest, far from any toasty waves? 

The saga is detailed on The Thing About Life Is.

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Filed under Automobiles, Cars, Family, Kansas City, Life, Travel, Writing