Archive for the ‘Yarns’ Category

Gatehouse moonlit

When you read his work, there is always some poetry and magic in his writing. And then you come across a passage that hits you in the heart and the head at the same time, evoking feelings and images as none other can.

From Banshee (1984)-

”She had a face of snow, cut from that same white cool marble that makes the finest Irish women; a long swan neck, a generous if quivering mouth, and eyes a soft and luminous green. So beautiful were those eyes and her profile against the blown tree branches, that something in me turned, agonized, and died. I felt that killing wrench men feel when beauty passes and will not pass again. You want to cry out: Stay, I love you. But you do not speak. And the summer walks away in her flesh, never to return”

“I tried to look through her eyes and thought: my God, has it always been this way, forever some man in that house, forty, eighty, a hundred years ago! Not the same man, no, but all dark twins, and this girl lost on the road, with snow in her arms for love, and frost in her heart for comfort, and nothing to do but whisper and croon and mourn and sob until the sound of her weeping stilled at sunrise but to start again with the rising of the moon.”

From The Toynbee Convector (1988)-

“Stiles touched another button and the machine lit up like a cavern of spider webs. It breathed in years and whispered forth remembrance. Ghosts were in its crystal veins. A great god spider had woven its tapestries in a single night. It was haunted and it was alive. Unseen tides came and went in its machinery. Suns burned and moons hid their seasons in it. Here, an autumn blew away in tatters; there, winters arrived in snows that drifted in spring blossoms to fall on summer fields.”

One of these stories shows how a lie can be salvation itself.


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45 Joke

Many people have probably heard this one before. I was told this at an oceanography seminar by a senior professor. Just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you can’t have low sense of humour. Just think of chemists and practical jokes that either stink or go bang.

One Two Three cat (English) raced Un Deux Trois cat (French) across the Channel.

Who won and why?

The English cat because Un Deux Trois cat sank.

I’m pretty sure most parents of French Immersion children have heard this one. Maybe it’s an argument to make French Immersion kids with a bad sense of humour cinq?

An annoyed Parisian cat who just dried himself off.
Bloody Paparazzi (sigh)

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Yesterday I bought a copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. It has been a while since I read anything by him, but some of my favourites include Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and of course The Martian Chronicles. His stories are always well plotted, his understanding of, and empathy with, his characters are exemplary, and his imagination is spectacular. I don’t know the exact word to describe how he structures his stories; there are elements of fables, legends, and allegories in his stories.

But the thing that is really special is how he can craft a sentence to produce an image in your head, and how he can evoke moods and feelings with one of the most deft touches in this or any time. Here are a few random images.

“Sometimes you see a kite so high, so wise it almost knows the wind. It travels, then chooses to land in one spot and no other, and no matter how you yank, run this way or that,it will simply break its cord, seek its resting place and bring you, blood-mouthed, running.”

“Yet, this train’s whistle!

The wails of a lifetime were gathered in it from other nights in other slumbering years; the howl of moon-dreamed dogs, the seep of river-cold winds though January porch screens which stopped the blood, a thousand fire sirens weeping, or worse! the outgone shreds of breath, the protests of a billion people dead or dying, not wanting to be dead, their groans, their sighs, burst over the earth!”

This describes circus tents in the wind. “At last there was the clear-water sound of vast flags blowing.

Muffled away in the prairie lands, the chuffing of an engine, the slow-following dragon-glide of a train.

This describes a calliope on a train. “Going away, away, the calliope pipes shimmered with star explosions, but no one sat at the high keyboard. The wind, sluicing ice-water air in the pipes, made the music.”

Finally, two boys running. ” Along the street below fled two shadows, two boys above them matching stride for stride. They softly printed the night air with treads.”

Ostensibly what Bradbury writes is prose, but I would argue that his imagery is clearly more poetry than prose. I’m enjoying the new book, and will let you know how I liked it.

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In 1963 something strange happened off the coast of Iceland. Smoke and steam started rising above the waters, followed by rapidly solidifying lava. This grew into the island of Surtsey. It was pretty interesting to scientists to see a new volcanic island rise out of the abyss, and the biologists had a field day. First birds landed on it, dropping twigs and seeds. It was amazing how quickly plants took root, and a small ecology developed within weeks and months of Surtsey rising above the waves.

This summer a yacht near the Tonga Archipelago in the Southwest Pacific found new volcanic island, rising out of the ocean, after sailing though an area of ocean covered with a raft of pumice (a volcanic rock which floats fairly well). They documented it in their Web log and the sighting was also confirmed by a fishing boat. There has been no official confirmation by the Tongan government as yet. The pictures are something special.

Sailing to Vulcan’s Forge

Island in Flames

Wake through the rocky ocean of pumice 

Rocky Sea

There are no reliable sightings of a great city rising from the waves with great and ancient buildings with strange and impossible angles and shapes. There is absolutely no evidence of a gate that should never be opened, and the architecture is definitely NOT “loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours.” The is absolutely positively no sign saying the R’lyeh Arms.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Map showing how horrendously far great R’lyeh is from either of these islands

Map of Surtsey

Map of Tonga

Map of Tonga chain

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Once again with the tide she slips her lines
Turns her head and comes awake
Where she lay so still there at Privateer’s Wharf
Now she quickly gathers way
She will range far south from the harbour mouth
And rejoice with every wave
Who will know the Bluenose in the sun?
-Stan Rogers, Bluenose

My favourite schooner, and possibly my favourite sailing ship of all time, is the Grand Banks schooner Bluenose. Sometimes I feel guilty about this because I’m from Newfoundland, and so should have picked a locally built ship, but the lines of the Bluenose are pure poetry. Ever since I was a kid I was told that the schooner on the 10 cent coin was that very ship.

Apparently there was some controversy about this. Emmanuel Hahn came up with the design, which was chosen by the Finance Department in September of 1936 for distribution in 1937. The royal proclamation describing the 10-cent coin says simply “a fishing schooner under sail.” Many references argued that the Bluenose was either the sole model for the design, or one of a few schooners which included the Bluenose.

The Royal Canadian Mint and the Bluenose II Preservation Trust conducted extensive research. Finally, in 2002, the Mint acknowledged that the schooner on the dime was based on the Bluenose. I understand why Nova Scotians care so much about this issue, but at that scale most salt-bankers look pretty similar, and similarly pretty.

Anyway, here are a few images of her namesake, the Bluenose II. She is an accurate reconstruction dating from 1963, and actually had some shipbuilders working on her who had worked on the original. I’ve only been on her once, but she sails like a dream, and the rigging sings when the breeze picks up. I dream of going out on her again, in a real wind, where she heels over until the lee railing kisses the water, and the bow lifts to the rolling swell.

Finally, my favourite song about the Bluenose is the one by Stan Rogers.



Mainsail and Mizzen

Mains’l and Mizzen.

Heeling 15 degrees in 10 knot breeze

Stays’l, Jib, Mains’l, and Mizzen. “She is always best under full press
Hard over as she’ll lay”-from Bluenose by Stan Rogers.
Red Right Returning
Red Right Returning. This saying refers to the fact that you keep channel buoys on your right when entering a harbour or inland channel.
On your marks, get, set, ...
A shutterbug looking for a good vantage to shoot the Bluenose II. His yellow camera case is obvious.

Toplit Schooner
“Where she lay so still there at Privateer’s Wharf…” Bluenose docked near Sackville Landing. She spends most of her time at her hometown of Lunenburg.
Bluenose windvane

You see the Bluenose everywhere; on t-shirts, art, old photographs, models, statues, etc. It may be the biggest marketing icon in Nova Scotia.

White on Blue
White on Blue.

“Who has seen the Bluenose in the Sun?” Lyrics by Stan Rogers. Foggy night at Bluenose’s berth in Halifax.

Now her namesake remains to show what she has been
What every schoolboy remembers and will not come again
To think she’s the last of the Grand Banks Schooners
That fed so many men
And who will know the Bluenose in the sun?

So does she not take wing like a living thing
Child of the moving tide
See her pass with grace on the water’s face
With clean and quiet pride
Our own tall ship of great renown still lifts unto the sky
Who will know the Bluenose in the sun?
-Stan Rogers, Bluenose

a quickr pickr post

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Traditional Crow Augury/Counting Rhyme.



One for sorrow,

Alone at the Regatta

Two for mirth,

The Personal Touch

Three for a wedding,


Four for a birth,

Mother and Child

Five for silver,

Eye in the sky

Six for gold,

Morning Light on the Magazine

Seven for a secret not to be told.


Eight for heaven,


Nine for hell,

And ten for the devil’s own sel’.

Invoking Vulcan

The End.




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From September 23-30 is Banned Book Week. I’m going to read either a Banned or Challenged book this week, and I invite you to join in. This type of censorship has annoyed and aggravated me since I was twelve, and anything to fight this movement is a step towards enlightenment.

Here are some of my favourite selections from this genre. Let’s start with the 2005 American Library Association’s List of Banned Books. From the top ten, the only one I have read is J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. In my own defense many of the others are children’s books from after my time. From those off the list this year but perennially listed I own and have read Of Mice and Men and Huckleberry Finn. The latter is my favourite anti-slavery, anti-racism, and anti-prejudice book of all time; Twain is brilliant, insightful, feeling, and supremely sarcastic.

The American Booksellers for free Expression (ABFFE) have put out a list. From this list I recommend:

  • I know Why the Caged Bird Sang by Maya Angelou
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (they banned THIS?!)
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • The Color Purple
  • Jean Aul’s Earth Series: I found it okay but not great, but I don’t think it should have been banned.
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; another great favourite of mine. I found it to be one of the most inclusive, non-sectarian, and non-threatening expression of faith and hope I have ever read. So some groups banned it for not expressing their exclusive and rigid beliefs. You can’t win, but L’Engle’s book is an affirmation of why we keep trying.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Growl!)
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Why?)
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Sometimes I think the banned list gives a good idea of books you should choose. Given the important classics above, I can almost justify this statement.

If you choose to partake in a good banned book this week, enjoy!


I found my book. It is Beloved by Toni Morrison. She is a Nobel Prize winner for Literature, and the book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Of course it would be banned!

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