Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No donuts for YOU, Big Angry Beaver!

Big Angry Beaver is dead. Details are still coming in, but I have confirmed that Big Angry Beaver is now in that mountain meadow in the sky.

The day began like any other. Hrothgar, King of the Homeowner's Association, sent this note to the 436 subjects of the realm.

Hello Folks,

We have had a few requests wanting to know the date for our annual garage sale. Traditionally we have had our sale on the first Saturday after Mother's Day. This would be Saturday May 19, 2007 unless there is some kind a conflict with this date. My darling wife has volunteered to coordinate the event again this year. Her royal highness will be sending out details for the sale in a few weeks.

Please spread the word with your neighbors & encourage anyone not on our email list to get with the times. (longspeak for "I brought the Kool-Aid. Do I have to bring the cups too?)

Hugs & Kisses,


Pretty standard fare really. The next Homeowner's Association "One over the World" message carried the dread news . . .


You may already know this, but this afternoon we were at the north end of the lake and saw a large dead beaver by the side of the water. I don't know who takes care of removing this type of thing -- but it's pretty big.

A. Vassal

The renegade Beaver was dead. Not gone out like Johnny Dillinger, not like Jesse James, but like . . . Donald Rumsfeld. T.S. Eliot was right . . .

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Big Angry Beaver's was floating in the north end of the pond like a meat flavored lilly pad, a feast for the gulls. There was no last Hoorah, only silent bobbing at the shore. Big Angry Beaver had enemies that wasted no time confirming the facts, and worse . . . as the next message reports.

A. Vassal,

I also saw the beaver and raked it into the lake. Mother Nature (turtles) will take care of the carcass usually in short order. Nothing will go to waste.

Thanks for asking,

Hrothgar Triumphant
(f.y.i. from now on - Hrothgar the Victorious - will do nicely. Thank you very much.)

Like Antigone's King Creon, Hrothgar the Victorious' de facto decree that Big Angry Beaver is to be rendered into meat for the creatures of the pond and not to be buried: "touching this Beaver, it has been proclaimed to our people that none shall grace him with sepulture or lament, but leave him unburied, a corpse for turtles and dogs to eat, a ghastly sight of shame."

Good Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you - who is our Antigone? Who is our dear sister of Justice and Mercy? Who dares defy the order of Hrothgar the Arrogant? What did the next to last message of the day contain?


I think a dog or another critter may have pulled . . . (the bloated, stinking corpse of the Big Angry Beaver) . . . back out of the lake. I will go over this evening and bury him.

On another note I am preparing an informational flyer that we can email and print up to advertise the Trash-Off day on Saturday, April 14. I was wondering if there is any money in the Homeowner's Association budget to purchase a few dozen donuts and water for those who are wanting to help?


Amanda Huggenkiss

The nearly instanneous reply was ...

Ms. Huggenkiss,

You know what? NO DONUTS FOR YOU!


Sunday, March 11, 2007

My home town is in "A Place Called Baca"

"A Place Called Baca" is a self-published tribute to a windswept and dusty county in the southeastern corner of Colorado. Most people would call that place pretty much the middle of nowhere and they'd be right, but the 1,268 families (according to the 2000 census) that live there call the place where Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma touch -- "home". What Baca County, Colorado, does have is a Past, and Ike Osteen tells that story in a way that makes it personal, involving, and fun.

"A Place Called Baca" is also a tribute to its author, a man whose story telling sensibility was cut from the same cloth as Mark Twain and Will Rogers. Ike Osteen called Baca County, Colorado, "home" most of his long life. "A Place Called Baca" contains the laughs, joys and sorrows from that long life which unfortunately ended in February, 2007. He was a farmer, civil servant, writer, historian and friend to many.

The best parts of "A Place Called Baca" deal with growing up on the prairie in an earth-and-plank dugout with his widowed mother and eight brothers and sisters; surviving the Dust Bowl; and telling the stories of those who came and went along the way. The stories are fully developed vignettes with interesting maps of homesteads and windmills.

Ike Osteen's knowledge of Baca County is so rich and accessible that he was often sought out for interviews and talks. Ike was 90 when Timothy Egan called for interviews when Mr. Egan was writing "The Worst Hard Time", a brilliant work on the Dust Bowl era. Ike was contacted by the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper for local information about a serious border dispute between Colorado and New Mexico. The case eventually led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1925.

"A Place Called Baca" is a hardcover book that was published without a jacket. Ike told the Plainsman Herald newspaper of Springfield, Colorado, that he wrote the book to document the history and hard work the citizens poured into the county. He did that extremely well. He did something else with "A Place Called Baca" that both surprises and impresses. He leaves a person with the realization that this land is neither barren nor empty. It has a bright Future in front of it because it is full of life and people that you want to get to know because they are hard working, interesting and dynamic. By the end of the story, you may even want to count some of them as friends.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Rogue Angel: Forbidden City" by Alex Archer

"Rogue Angel: Forbidden City" is a brisk, no-nonsense adventure and mystery double play. It's got everything you expect from the Rogue Angel franchise and whole lot more.

The action in the first sixty pages is some of the best in the Rogue Angel series. It starts with a bump in ancient China and sweeps on to forested goldfields of California. There is a host of bad guys, dazzling chase sequences, and the flashing sword of Saint Joan of Arc, and that is just for starters. The rest of the story is a compelling turn toward adventure and mystery. With a strange heirloom belt plaque as a guide, Annja unravels a mystery that leads her beyond the Silk Road in search of a lost treasure city that was built by assassins and thieves ages ago.

"Forbidden City" explores a theme of possibility and the likelihood of change. China, with its thousands of years of tradition and current headlong plunge into modernity, is the perfect canvas for the story. When the clues don't make sense, the pitch of battle sharpens to a razors edge, and events turn their darkest, Annja is forced to grow as a character. This isn't a teaser, this is meaty and substantial. Then Annja allies with Kelly Swan, a trained assassin on a mission to even the score with those who murdered her father. Kelly is so richly drawn that she's a perfect counterweight to Annja. Kelly is a character fully deserving of a spin-off novel of her own.

For the first time since the beginning of the Rogue Angel franchise, we really dig into the inner workings of Roux and Garin Braden. The theme rings true even in the smallest details when Garin partners with the villain. While bowing only once to its own mythology, this story very cleverly does more than has ever been done before to deepen and broaden its principal characters. Alex Archer's commitment to plain prose drives this point home and makes this story a fast, fun read.

The greatest strength of this story is in its telling. The pacing is spot on. The author's expert use of action and language makes this a fun read for all readers. Highly recommended!

I have only one tiny, tiny thing to say about the book that is not absolutely, positively 100% "thumbs up". Yes, it is very, very tiny, but it is one of those things I feel compelled to say. The only question I have is this -- what were the Chinese characters on the cover of this book intended to mean? It doesn't translate into much beyond gibberish; the words become "English Life" to the best that I can make out. I know this doesn't mean much in the greater scheme of things, but seriously folks, this is one of those things for me. Have you ever seen those baseball caps with Chinese characters printed on them? I saw a young person at the mall recently with one of those caps on his head. He was very proud of the cap, but apparently had no idea that the character translated to "foot". How hard can it be to find an appropriate word or words to say in Chinese? Really now, one third of the world we live on can speak that language fairly well!