Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Conversion Of My Youngest Brother

Here is another in the Pagan Comic Series.

(One click makes a larger view; DOUBLE click on picture for LARGEST view)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Buying a Car: A Real-Life Experience

I sometimes like to draw cartoons...I made a series of Pagan cartoons in the '80s, and I thought I'd dig them up and post them. Here is the second in the series, called "This Is My Life."
As the following cartoon will show, car woes aren't new to me. The car I bought in this cartoon was the infamous Pontiac Le Mans - the new one. That's the plural form of the name; the singular is "LeMon." What a disaster and disappointment that car was. Also note how much car prices have changed!

(One click makes a larger view; DOUBLE click on picture for LARGEST view)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pagan Things To Say

I sometimes like to draw cartoons...I made a series of Pagan cartoons in the '80s, and I thought I'd dig them up and post them. One of them (this one, in fact) was actually published in a Pagan 'zine...a long time ago...
The series was called "This Is My Life."
(One click makes a larger view; DOUBLE click on picture for LARGEST view)

In case it's not legible enough, here's the text:

Don't Say: - Say:

*Holy Mother of Christ! What's going on in here? - Demeter, Persephone, and Hecate! What's going on in here?
*O Lord! I'm coming! - O Priapus! O Priapus! aaaaaah!
*Christ, this is hard! - By the Goddess, this is hard!
*Christ, that smarts! - Cernunnos! That smarts!
*JesusFuckingChrist! Not Again! - SamFuckingHain! Not Again!
*Liar! Goddamn you bitch to hell! - Liar! I hope the great ebony otter god rises up from the nether regions of his sacred river and DEVOURS YOU WHOLE!
*Go the Devil, Geraldo! - Go jump in the Styx, Geraldo!
*God bless you, Nathan! - Boreas bless you, Taliesin!
(later one)
*Holy Fuck! I've discovered the formula for transparent aluminum! - Great Rite! I've discovered toxic waste neutralizer!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Book Review: The Earth Moved

I'm going to do something different and post a book review I wrote. This is a book about worms. "WORMS?" you say! Yes, "worms," I reply.
What is there worth knowing about worms? What could possibly interest the general face-book addict about worms? Read this book review and find out.

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2004), 223 pages.

Tat Tvam Asi,” or “Thou Art That,” teach the Vedas. I had this drummed into me in school, as I minored in Religious Studies as an undergrad. That is a scary enough thought when you think of all the sad people in the world; but is downright disturbing when you are mincing an earthworm. I spent many sleepless nights thinking that, if time is an eternal spiral and not a continuum, my consciousness will experience every lifetime lived by everyone ever. So someday my consciousness will experience Paris Hilton’s life. And countless times my consciousness will endure the fate of the earthworm, brought on by salamander keepers everywhere, as I am sliced, diced, chopped, minced, severed, and hacked up into bite-sized pieces to feed to our precious salamanders and newts. Worms are nature's perfect newt food. Sweet Dreams.

What got me thinking in this vein? The Earth Moved, by Amy Stewart. Before I read this book, an earthworm was a spineless, senseless, inconsequential, puny…well…worm. Now, an earthworm is a mover and a shaker, a transformer of landscapes, forests, and even of civilizations. Why would I willingly read a book about earthworms? Because a friend of mine said, “I really enjoyed reading this book!” And now I have really enjoyed reading this book too. I was interested to read it because I wanted to try to grow the kind of worms I find in my backyard, the kind my own newts prefer, which seem to be neither nightcrawlers nor red wigglers. This is not a book about growing worms, but much much more.

Written in an accessible, but even better, an engaging and interesting style, I learned that Charles Darwin devoted the last years of his life to the study of worms. They are that interesting. If you go in your backyard and dig up worms, you will find several species. And they will probably all be invaders. Many common North American worms are not native, but were introduced by European settlers. They spread faster than they would have naturally, on their own. On their own, they travel only a few meters a year, taking approximately 100 years to travel a quarter mile. But with the spread of European plants and crops and farmers across the country, nurseries, fishermen dumping their unused live bait, and ATVers, they are in all parts of the US. Why is this significant? The introduction of earthworms into forests has changed the whole landscape of the forest--by eating the leaf layer. Forgive me for quoting at length, but it was so fascinating, and I think we should all learn about this. So here goes:

"Earthworms…can--and do—consume the entire leaf fall of a forest in a single season. Small plants and tree seedlings flourish in the damp, slowly decaying layer of forest floor. This layer, the duff, is built up over many years. It contains leaves and other organic matter in all stages of decay. Many of the native plants that once flourished in the forest produce seeds that have intricate germination strategies. A seed might take two or three years to germinate, going through a complicated cycle that depends on this spongy duff layer. Now that the forest floor is bare, most small plants have simply disappeared. 'We’ve seen a loss of eighty to ninety percent of all understory plants in some areas,' [said a researcher from the university of Minnesota]. 'That’s where we find the most earthworms. They just expand their population to fit the available food source. They multiply until there are enough of them to eat all the leaf litter on the soil’s surface. And the ten or twenty percent of plants that do survive? The deer get those (p. 100-101)."

It doesn’t just affect the trees and plants, either:

"As worms come into the forest, we see a shift from voles and shrews to mice. There are all kinds of frogs and other amphibians that live in that duff layer. And there’s even a ground warbler that nests in the forest floor.... It’s hard to believe that a creature as small as an earthworm could push…birds and animals out of a forest, but this is exactly what they think is happening. That’s not all: insects that live in the duff layer—including microscopic creatures such as springtails---may be disappearing before they have even been identified and described. The change in soil texture could lead to erosion, especially in the summer when water runs across hard, bare ground in sheets. Even the composition of the soil can change; the presence of earthworms can lead to an increase in bacteria and a decrease in fungi populations, which could in turn affect which plant types proliferate and which struggle or fail entirely. I looked up at the bare branches high above me. How could an earthworm push something as enormous as a tree out of the forest?…I thought about the logging protests in the redwood forests back home [Eureka, CA], and the tree sitters living high in the canopy. The fight to save those forests happens aboveground. It is a battle for the part of the forest that we can see: branches, leaves, tree trunks. But the fate of this forest in Minnesota lies entirely with the part of the forest we can’t see: the dark underground (pp. 106-107)."

Despite this plague on the forests, worms are invaluable to farming and creating fertile soil. The potential for earthworms has barely been explored. Some types of worms promote the growth of certain plants, by producing beneficial bacteria or inhibiting certain plant diseases. Worm castings (poop) greatly improve crop yield. Earthworms aerate and transform the soil. It has been claimed that the fertile soil created by earthworms is responsible for the development of great civilizations—if people are well fed, society is freed up to develop math, science, language, and even build pyramids.
Worms are as beneficial as they are destructive. Earthworms are even one way of studying continental drift. Why did Pangaea break up? Because earthworms bit the continents apart.

OK, I made that last bit up, but earthworm distribution records the movements of the continents in a way that above-ground animals cannot. And even I couldn't have made that up. They are also important in waste management, and their workings can facilitate detoxification of polluted soils. They can also process raw sewage into acceptable fertilizer. Furthermore, earthworms are a useful biomonitor, telling us what pollutants are in the soil in the first place. People who raise newts are familiar with the concept of limb regeneration (a lost arm or leg will GROW BACK!!), but newts can't hold a candle to the regenerative power of earthworms. They have a lot to teach us. Although, as I said, it is not really a book about growing earthworms, I learned what I needed to know about raising and keeping the type of earthworm in my backyard that I want. Different types of earthworms eat different things and live in different ways, and I think I’m well on my way to being able to supply yard worms to my salamanders next winter.

While I was reading this book, I was greatly troubled to learn that worms apparently enjoy being stroked, that it makes them relax. In my turmoil, I emailed the friend who told me about the book. “What, then, separates them from, say, ferrets, except that I will use scissors to mince worms, and I wouldn't do that to my ferrets? How can I continue to chop them up? Do you have this trouble?” Would my guilty conscience force me to give up keeping newts?

No. Thank you, Jen, for talking me off of that bridge. She sent me a link which explained that, according to studies, it is just a stimulus-response reaction, and not an emotional one.
The power of worms can’t be underestimated, and this book is the perfect place to learn about them. It was more than educational, it was inspiring. Here is a sentence that I never thought that I would write: earthworms are awesome!

Available on Amazon starting at $6.66--cheaper new than used!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In A Pagan World

In a Pagan World, I envision:
Holly King Yule stamps; a National incense; Imbolc Bank savings clubs; everyone thinks "indoor church" is an oxymoron; Green Man beer in green bottles; a Beltane fireworks gala, nationally televised; Samhain* as a National Holiday, as well as an Annual Macy's Samhain Parade; pencil stubs recycled into Tarot card boxes; familiar custody battles; Lammas decorations going on sale the day after Midsummer; solar calendars an archaic oddity; Satyr brand condoms; a new national anthem that makes no mention of war; Ian Anderson elected to sainthood; astrological vitamins; moon-lodges as popular as bars; all-drum radio stations; 1-800 gathering hotlines; your children begging for harp lessons; lots of drumming; everyone reading Dion Fortune's novels in high school; children clamoring to hear the John Barleycorn story at bedtime, Jonny Appleseed is the American hero; "Metaphysical Journeys" -- a daily talk show hosted by Selena Fox; instead of Xmas pageants, children act out Sabbat** myths eight times per year; 24-hour ritual needs convenience stores; International Animal Spirit Day; High Priestess Barbie and full Gathering accessories Pagan Ken; community ritual space in inner cities; really cool coloring books readily available; no litter in National Parks--or anywhere, anymore; daily neighborhood "Greet the Sun" rituals; early morning chanting in grades K-12 for those who wish to participate; and THE MOST INTERESTING NEW DESIGNS IN CORELLE DISHWARE!!
So mote it be!

*Halloween, for the uninitiated.

**Pagan Holy-days.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Here's a blog entry that's not one big joke. So if you only want humor, you'll have to come back another day. This entry is about local architecture. Another of my many hobbies is appreciating architecture. The Hudson Valley has a lot of mansions that a person can visit. It's no Newport RI, but there are still a lot of treasures here. One of them is a local Victorian Mansion called "Wilderstein."

The basic structure was built by Thomas Suckley around 1852 as a two- story Italianate villa. It was renovated around 1888 by his son, Robert Bowne Suckley, who made extensive changes, turning it into the Queen Anne mansion we recognize today.

detail of the mansion

The history is involved, because all of these historical mansions were owned by rich people who married among each other's families , split up land, and gained and lost fortunes. Such locally significant names as Livingston (Clermont), Beekman, Montgomery, and Roosevelt are involved in this story.

Gate Lodge: this is where SERVANTS lived!

Robert Bowne Suckley died in 1921. The house evenually fell to his eldest daughter, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley.
She was a close friend of her distant cousin, FDR, and some say they had an affair. She gave him the famous dog Fala.
In 1983 she dedicated the house to the Wilderstein Preservation group and l ived there until her death at age 99 in 1991. Because the house never fell out of the family, we have extensive family records, photos, memorabilia, and furnishings. However, the house was expensive to maintain, and the Suckley fortune dwindled.

Extensive repairs have been carried out to the main house.

The carriage house still awaits restoration.

poor carriage house.

detail from carriage house

The story of the family is engaging. I recommend Wilderstein and the Suckleys: A Hudson River Legacy, by Cynthia Owen Philip (2001).

Inside, the parlor:

Hey, when I began the tour, I asked if I could take pictures. The volunteer directing the way through the parlor said yes.
It wasn't until I took a picture of the dinner table that I got the lecture about light, photographs, and preservation.

The dinner table was set as if the family had gone for a walk, and left the window open. There were (stuffed) wild animals here and there taking advantage, in a sort of reverse Goldilocks story.

The porch and the way it framed the views was most impressive.

Each section is a masterpiece in itself.

I hate winter, but with a view like this, I could learn to love it.

See how the scene above is framed below:

Finally, a small detail on the property that I liked so much:

I had to copy it in my own yard.

And isn't this where all good adventures end, at home.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One Last Halloween Creep-Out

Isn't this amazing? Do you think it's possible? I have a baby snake. How would I train it to do this? And would I really want to?

What if he has to sneeze?
What if he has to blow his nose?
I wonder if the average Ears-Nose-and-Throat doctor has ever dealt with complications from this.
I can't decide if I am jealous of this man's ability or not.