A Book Tied To My Ancestry

Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices, by Dylan Thomas, was published, posthumously, in 1954. It was first performed on BBC radio on January 25, 1954.

The first sentence is: “To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeback, slow, black, crowback, fishingboat-bobbing sea.

Under Milk Wood

The story takes place during a single day in the Welsh town of Llareggub. It begins before dawn, with the residents asleep and dreaming.

Captain Cat, the retired blind seacaptain, dreams of drowned sailors, who all want to hear the latest goings on above the sea. “And who brings cocoanuts and shawls and parrots to my Gwen now?

Miss Myfanwy Price dreams of her lover. “Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast…” he says to her.

Mister Waldo, “rabbitcatcher, barber, herbalist, catdoctor, quack“, dreams of his dear mother.

The twice-widowed Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard dreams of her two husbands, who both assure her that they are taking care of their health, just as she always instructed them to. Both husbands, in Mrs. Ogmore-Prichard’s dreams, are happy to be henpecked beyond the grave.

Through their dreams, we are introduced to the residents of Llareggub: Organ Morgan, the organist; Willy Nilly, the postman; Butcher Banyon; Gossamer Banyon, daughter and schoolteacher; Reverend Eli Jenkins; Nogood Boyo, the fisherman, and so on.

Dawn arrives at Llareggub, signaled by Captain Cat ringing the townhall bell.

Up on Coronation Street and down on Donkey Street, Llareggub starts another day. Cherry Owen and Mrs. Cherry Owen have last night’s onions and spuds for breakfast, while bickering lovingly. Sinbad Sailors greets the day with a freshly drawn pint as he opens the Sailor’s Arms. Mr. Pugh fantasizes about poisoning Mrs. Pugh, while treating her well.

Children go to school. Fishermen go to sea.

I absolutely loved this book/screenplay. The story is touching and romantic and hilarious. It’s down-to-earth and magical. It’s beautiful.

I read Phillip the following passage, which made me laugh out loud: Bessie Bighead “…picks a posy of daisies in Sunday Meadow to put on the grave of Gomer Owen who kissed her once by the pig-sty when she wasn’t looking and never kissed her again although she was looking all the time.” Phillip said that passage reminded him of A Prairie Home Companion. I hadn’t seen that before, but I think that’s an apt comparison for this entire book. If you like one, I think you’ll like the other.

(By the way, there is no actual town named Llareggub. It’s bugger all spelled backwards.)

Why I chose this book:

Except for my father tracing his immediate family tree, ancestry was never an important topic in my family. I know that my father can trace his roots back to Germany. I’ve been told that, if you go back far enough, some of my mother’s family can be found in Wales. That was good enough for me.

Wales seems like a more interesting place than Germany, mainly because I don’t know much about Wales.

I did some internet searching for novels set in Wales. I found a few, but none that were in either of my local libraries. (Someday, maybe, I’ll finally remember the most obvious solution and ask a librarian.) Then I worked backwards and looked for Welsh authors, and, of course, found Dylan Thomas.

Life’s Mysteries

This past weekend, Phillip and I saw Incredibles 2 at the Regal Cinemas at Thornton Place. Before the movie began, I obsessed about my Regal Points. (You know, the points you earn whenever you buy tickets with your Regal account.)

Once, a while ago, I redeemed 1,500 points for a free upgrade from a medium soda to a large soda. As the guy behind the counter pointed out, I saved 50 cents. This past weekend, I noticed that I could redeem 800 points for a free small soda, which costs $5.99. It’s an interesting model: trade 1,500 points for 50 cents, or 800 points for six dollars. Surprisingly, my small soda was about the size of a regular soda served elsewhere.

This morning, on my way to work, I saw a guy, old enough to have gray hair, with a tiny gold chain sticking out of his open front, wide collar shirt. He was wearing glasses with aviator frames. I have nothing against anyone who wants to retain that 1970s disco look. I just wondered where he did his shopping.

This morning’s commute was unusually crowded. I kept glancing at my watch to make to confirm I was traveling at my normal time. This evening, traffic was unusually light. The driver of our 47 bus floored it up Pike Street, wisely slowing down for the overhead switches. I kept looking at my watch to make sure I hadn’t accidentally left work early.

A Book About A Villain Or Antihero

Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d’Ubervilles, by Kim Newman, was published in 2011.

The first sentence is: “Even during the global crisis which broke more famous financial institutions, the failure of Box Brothers was noisy.

Professor Moriarty

Founded in 1869, Box Brothers was one of the world’s greatest financial institutions, serving an exclusively criminal clientèle. They had two specialties: moving valuables to off-shore locations, and storing away valuables until the heat cools down. Box Brothers also made a tidy profit from Dame Philomela Box’s master key: Safety deposit boxes could be opened when clients disappeared, or whenever the Box family simply needed money.

That all ended around 2009, with the indictment of Box Brother’s CEO.

The prologue begins in 2009, when Professor Christina Temple, of Birkbeck College, is called by Dame Philomela to examine some historical documents left in a safety deposit box. Without taking the documents back to her office (which Dame Philomela won’t allow), Professor Temple can’t authenticate the documents, but she concludes that, if they are forgeries, they are very old forgeries. The documents appear to be the genuine memoir of Colonel Sebastian Moran.

The rest of the book contains the text of Colonel Sebastian “Basher” Moran’s (alleged) memoir.

It’s 1880, in England. Basher Moran has survived several fights, knife wounds, and gunshots. After the especially difficult killing of Kali’s Kitten, Basher returns to London, without funds, and without a place to stay.

An acquaintance puts Basher Moran in touch with a man named Professor James Moriarty. After a brief interview, of sorts, Basher is hired into the professor’s organization “The Firm” as Chief Executive Director of Homicide.

Professor Moriarty is a man of science, with a sharp mind and keen observation skills. He is a criminal mastermind with a wide influence. Colonel Moran sees him as the embodiment of evil. “If I’d had my Webley on my hip, I might have shot the Professor in the heart on instinct – though it’s my guess bullets wouldn’t dare enter him. He had a queer unhealthy light about him. Not unhealthy in himself, but for everybody else.

Although Basher is no stranger to killing, both in the military and in civilian life, Professor Moriarty instructs him in the art and philosophy of murder-for-hire.

Basher’s first assignment is an American gunslinger named Jim Lassiter, newly arrived in London. It doesn’t go as planned, at least at first.

Professor Moriarty (or, rather, Colonel Moran’s memoir) is presented like a set of short stories, with a central theme – not unlike a collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, with Moran recording Moriarty’s exploits in much the same way as Watson recorded Holmes’ adventures.

The first chapter is named “A Volume in Vermilion“. It covers Basher’s first meeting with Professor Moriarty and his encounter with Jim Lassiter.

The second chapter is named “A Shambles in Belgravia“. It’s the story of an elaborate con involving the far-off kingdom of Ruritania and the American Nightingale, Miss Irene Adler, a woman Processor Moriarty will always refer to as that bitch.

The third chapter is named “The Red Planet League“. Professor James Moriarty, mathematician-astronomer, author of the ridiculed The Dynamics of an Asteroid, plots against his arch-rival, Sir Nevil Airey Stent, the Astronomer Royal.

The fourth chapter is named “The Hound of the d’Urbervilles“. Professor Moriarty has picked up a craze for deductions. Colonel Moran doesn’t know, or care, where he got it. Those deduction skills are put to use when Mr. Jasper Stoke, an American originally from Wessex, with familial ties to the Stoke-d’Urberville country estate, seeks Moriarty’s help to have a dog killed. It’s no ordinary dog, of course. It’s the curse of the d’Urbervilles.

Professor Moriarty was fun to read, full of 19th century language and slang, with enough of a 21st century twist to keep it funny. It’s chock full of literary references to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.G. Wells. It’s a clever book. However, it was too much of a good thing. The eBook version I read on my phone was over 1,000 ePages long. (The physical book is nearly 600 pages.) The rich, complex chapter-stories, with multiple character introductions, back stories, and sub-plots, read like novellas. This book could have been a fine trilogy, with two or three stories each. When I started the fourth chapter, I was only a third of the way through, and I was losing interest.

Maybe this review is too long.

The fifth chapter is named “The Adventure of the Six Maledictions“. A man calling himself Mad Carew seeks Professor Moriarty’s help. He presents Moriarty with an emerald “the size of a tangerine”. Mad Carew stole the gem from a (now) one-eyed idol to the north of Kathmandu. Carew is being hunted down by “little brown men” who want him dead. At first, Mad Carew wants Moriarty to take the gem off his hands. Then, on second thought, he wants Moriarty to help him get away with it. Professor Moriarty accepts both jobs.

The sixth chapter is named “The Greek Invertebrate“. Colonel Moran meets Professor James Moriarty’s brother, Colonel James Moriarty. There’s a third Moriarty brother, who works as a stationmaster at Fal Vale Junction, in Cornwall, also named James. (“It was fortunate there were no sisters,” Basher Moran writes.) One evening, after he returns from Colonel Moriarty’s club, Professor Moriarty finds a telegram from Stationmaster Moriarty: A “giant worm” is terrorizing Fal Vale. Stationmaster Moriarty asks Professor Moriarty to come to Cornwall. Colonel Moriarty orders him not to go. Which brother should he obey? It’s an equation Professor Moriarty can’t quite work out.

The seventh and final chapter is named “The Problem of the Final Adventure“. Doctor John Watson has one version of what happened between Professor Moriarty and the Thin Man of Baker Street, that day at the Reichenbach Falls. Colonel Sebastian Moran has another version.

(The final sentence of that final chapter is amazing.)

I think I read this book in the wrong way. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be borrowed from the library and read in a three-week sitting. Maybe it was meant to be bought and placed on a bookshelf, so the story-chapters could be read one at a time, with breathing room between adventures. Maybe I should have read a story-chapter or two, returned it to the library, and then borrowed it later to read more.

I recommend Professor Moriarty, but I recommend it in small doses.

Why I chose this book:

I saw it on a list of books about villains. I liked the cover.

Shampoo Bar Review

There were no instructions with the Lush shampoo bar I bought. It was a paradigm shift for me, washing my hair this morning with shampoo that wasn’t in a bottle.

First off, where do I store it so it won’t get washed away with the cheap soap in the shower? I placed it, inside its Zoots tin, on top of the cabinet just outside of the shower. That seems to work just fine. I took the bar, without the tin, into the shower with me and placed it in the soap dish, on top of the soap. That seems to work fine, as well.

Now, how do I use it? Do I rub the bar against my head, or rub it in my hands? It turned out, neither. Just a little bit of water on the bar, held in the palm of my hand, produced a nice lather. With my other hand, I transferred the lather to my hair. I have long hair, and it didn’t take much shampoo to wash it – just a couple of applications. I set the bar down and washed my hair. I can see how this bar will last a long time, even though I wash my hair daily.

The shampoo doesn’t have much of a scent. It smells like lemon, more than anything else, and I have to stick my nose right up against the bar to smell it. It might be good for scent-free workplaces.

I have oily hair. The Jumping Juniper bar left my hair clean and soft, without any residue.

A friend asked if this shampoo bar would be good for a world traveler. I’d say yes, definitely, absolutely. It’s compact, lightweight, and won’t risk spilling into a backpack.

Lush sent me an offer for a subscription. I could automatically get sent a bar of shampoo on a regular schedule. Since I don’t know how long this bar is going to last me, that doesn’t seem like a good idea right now.

The only negative I have is the shipping. This little bar of shampoo came in a too-large box filled with compostable packing peanuts. I had to dig around to find my purchase.

The bar cost me $10.99, plus tax and $6.00 shipping – around $18, in total. That’s not bad for three bottles of shampoo.

My review of my Lush shampoo bar, after one use, is very positive. I highly recommend it.

A Splurge And A Treat

Recently, I decided to splurge on myself (something I rarely do, especially when it comes to grooming products). Then, right after the splurge, I found something to treat myself with that I couldn’t resist (although the treat does come with a practical side).

Both the treat and the splurge arrived in the mail today.

Splurge and Treat

This is the treat. It’s a shampoo bar from Lush. The idea is that I can wash my hair without having any leftover plastic bottles to recycle. Lush says that this roughly 2.5 inch diameter bar is the equivalent of three bottles of shampoo. I’ll see how it goes.

Jumping Juniper

The bar I bought is called “Jumping Juniper”. It’s a blend of lavender, rosemary, lemon, and lime. Lush says it’s all natural and not tested on animals.

Lush also sells metal tins to keep the shampoo bar protected between uses. Unfortunately, the tins were sold out. Fortunately, we discovered that a leftover metal tin from Zoots edibles is the perfect size. (Now I’m glad that Lush’s tins were sold out, so we could reuse the Zoots tin.)

The splurge is from Harry’s. I found it on their website, when was I checking on my next shipment of blades. It’s a splurge, because I didn’t need it, but it looked cool. It came in this box that reminds me of a box of doughnuts, somehow.

Doughnut Box

Inside the doughnut box is a limited edition, extra-shiny, rainbow-colored metal shaver that will replace my perfectly good orange plastic shaver. (Like I said, I don’t need a new shaver, but I think it’s cool.)

Inside the Box

I couldn’t successfully photograph it, but my shiny new shaver is monogrammed with my initials.

Another Unusual Commute

Several minutes after Phillip left to catch a bus to work, he sent me a text message. He’d found an unconscious man, who’d apparently fallen from his wheelchair. Phillip was waiting for the aid truck to arrive and, depending on how long it took, he may have to come back home and drive to work.

I was a few minutes away from leaving. I had my shoes on and was just waiting for the minutes to count down. I grabbed my jacket, hat, and bag, and immediately left to find Phillip. For some reason, I assumed he’d found the man on Broadway.

As I approached the library, I saw flashing lights ahead. There, outside of the library, was an aid truck, a man on the sidewalk, a wheelchair, and two paramedics, but no Phillip. I took my phone out of my pocket. Phillip had sent me a message: They’re here. I replied: So am I.

I kept walking toward Broadway. Phillip replied with a question mark.

I had intended to walk to Capitol Hill Station, but as I reached the bus stop at Broadway & Republican, a 60 was at the corner, waiting for the light. It had started raining. Down the block, a 49 was picking up passengers including, I assumed, Phillip.

I rode the 60 to Capitol Hill Station and made my way down to the platform. The next train was 3 minutes away. I took a seat and replied to Phillip’s question mark, explaining that I’d left early to find him, and that I was at the light rail station. Phillip replied that he was on the bus.

The train arrived, and I went to work.