Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Review: Outer Banks Tales to Remember

Outer Banks Tales to Remember
by Charles Harry Whedbee

This fun little folk lore book has a dozen or so stories from the Outer Banks (the island chain on North Carolina's Atlantic coast). The tales include merchants and pirates, hunters and lovers, native Americans and new settlers to the Outer Banks. Some stories involve ghosts or witches or haunted swamps and trees. Most are from over a hundred years ago and have been passed down as oral tradition. In the foreword, author Charles Harry Whedbee says "Efforts have been made to substantiate these tales, where possible, by research and documentation. However, the unverified stories, too, are entitled to respect, told as they are by sincere and honest people. Whether you believe any or all of them, a tale should be, like beauty, its own excuse for being." The book is very entertaining and a nice light read. It will provide tales I'll contribute to Forgotten Classics in the future.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mount Grace Priory

We took a Saturday morning to visit Mount Grace Priory, the remains of the youngest Carthusian monastery in England (founded in 1398). It wasn't a very far drive from our home. We did stop off in Thirsk to slake our thirst. The town square was bustling with activity. Market day held no sway over us as we headed to the White Rose Books and Coffee Bar for a snack. Jacob was totally amazed that it was a book store AND a restaurant all in the same building. He did check out the potty which was upstairs. He called down to us from the upper level balcony. Lucy and I waved back. We had a nice cup of tea and scones and soon were back on our way to the priory.

The priory is of interest for many reasons. First, it is the most accessible and best preserved of the Carthusian priories in England. Second, since it was built so late, they had a rather sophisticated plumbing system providing fresh drinking water as well as sanitation and latrine service. Third, they've reconstructed Cell 8 so that visitors may see the standard living quarters for the monks from the 16th century.

The first thing we saw on arriving was a field of snowdrops blooming in late February. This flower is quite common and is a happy herald of the coming Spring. Jacob also discovered part of the water works--a small channel of water running down from the priory. Water was definitely his favorite part of the priory.

Field of Hibernation Dreams

Snowdrops close up

Yay for running water!

From there, we could see the manor house, which originally was the guest house of the priory. After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530s, the guest house was converted to a manor house by the seventeenth century owner. The house was expanded again in 1900-1901. It now has several late 19th/early 20th century rooms and some exhibits on the history of the priory, as well as the ticket office and shop.

The guest house/manor house

Interior fireplace

Jacob has a future as a flue inspector!

Long time resident of the house

The upstairs exhibit explained the history of the priory, the life of the monks, the water system, and other interesting bits. The most interesting thing to the children was their ability to go through the exhibit and walk down the hall to the exhibit's entrance, making a nice loop. At one point, Jacob wanted to show me something and we made a full circuit as I tried to catch up to him (or maybe he was trying to catch up to me). Here are the highlights:

Artifacts and manuscripts from the priory

The cycle of prayer at the priory

Model of the Monk's Cell

Interior of Monk's Cell

The cycle of water at the priory

The priory in its glory

After exploring upstairs we were ready to explore the priory grounds.

The church on the grounds is rather small (and in ruins). The Carthusians said most of their prayers individually in their cells, only coming together for Matins (morning prayer), Mass, and Vespers (evening prayer). The church holds the central spot on the priory grounds and divides the monks' cloister in the eastern part of the priory from the lay brothers, who served the monks in various capacities and lived in the western part. The ruins were fun to explore and Jacob found more running water.

Jacob and Lucy near the church

View from the western wall entrance

Family in church!

View up the tower--alas, no spiral staircase!

Jacob finds another waterway!

From there, we crossed the cloister and explored the restored Cell 8 to see what life was like for the monks 500 years ago. Each cell had a door and a small access window or hatch where food could be dropped off without disturbing the monks.

Typical cell entrance with hatch on the right

Jacob and Lucy went in first

Jacob in the hatch

Inside we found a living room with two smaller rooms to the side. One was the bedroom. The other was a study.

Living room

Bed room


Studying in the living room

Lucy in the bed room--guests were not allowed!

Up a staircase was the workroom where the monk would practice a trade. This monk made cloth.

Going up!

Spinning wheel and loom

Hard at work or hardly working

Out back of the cell is the enclosed garden and a covered passage which leads to the latrine that had water running underneath back in the day.

Cell garden

They collected rainwater too!

Jacob did not ask to use this potty, lucky for us!

The cell was not far from the church though it looks far in the view from the front door.

View from the cell

Us outside the cell

From here we went back past the church to the Lesser Cloister where the lay brothers lived and the Inner Court, where the stables and kiln for the priory were located.

Dividing line between Lesser Cloister and Inner Court

Gatehouse that was the main entrance back in the day

With that, our visit was done. We returned to the shop to look for some gifts. The shop lady said we could sample the Chartreuse, which is a liqueur made by Carthusian monks in France since 1605. It is green in color (chartreuse the color gets its name from the liqueur) and is made from over 130 herbs and flowers. I will write another blog post about this since we bought a bottle and I have begun experimenting with it. It is quite potent (55% alcohol or 110 proof) and strikingly flavorful.

After our purchases we headed back home. Driving out of the parking lot, we saw some geese by the driveway that were noisy and unafraid of cars.

"Come back," they seemed to say, or maybe "Feed us!"

We had a wonderful time at Mount Grace Priory and definitely recommend it to others for an interesting visit.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Zombie Summer Camp

Not sure what the caption refers to...
No, alas, it's not a place for zombies to congregate and have a fun time chowing down on whatever youngsters are accidentally sent to camp by inattentive parents. These camps are all about surviving the coming zombie apocalypse. You have three choices:

Going to the one for kids: Summer CampZ. Your child can learn archery, wilderness survival, stealth, and invisibility. What more could you want? At least they won't teach your child to turn you into a zombie like my wife and me.

Going to the one for adults: Zombie First Responder, though you have to hurry, because it runs March 10-11, 2012. Learn basic survival skills and ninja stealth skills, as well as killing zombies with Nerf arrows!

Going without: If you don't attend, you may not last long when the end comes. You might just wind up as one of the zombies! Join us!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Moive Trailer: The FP

Apocalypse Apocalypse Revolution! Check out this crazy trailer that sort of seems like a post-apocalyptic future where the stakes are high and the ultimate human physical competition will decide the fate of the everyone involved. Now, you might think I am describing the highly anticipated The Hunger Games, but this movie is oh, so much more than The Hunger Games ever will be. Just watch the trailer.

Forget about some one-versus-all combat in a dystopic future society to decide who gets to eat the last Twinkie. Isn't that what The Hunger Games is about? Maybe I've confused it with Zombieland. The Hunger Games has to be about food, right? I guess it would help if I read the books. But I digress.

What could be more exciting than a to-the-death DDR competition to save your town or take control of your town or get a cool pair of boots (at least I assume they are cool--maybe I'm out of touch about that too). Why hasn't anyone thought of blending sports movies, post-apocalyptic/dystopic movies, and video gaming before? All they need are some zombies!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Royal Subjects

I have a lot of random photos I've intended to post but just haven't got around to it or they were only one or two photos and didn't seem to make a whole entry (though sometimes it was just laziness). So here's a completely made up and often arbitrary narrative...

Once upon a time at the library, Jacob and Lucy made crowns. These weren't just any crowns. They were magical crowns that turned them into a prince and a princess. Their reign over our hearts might even last longer than Queen Elizabeth II's reign!

Off to Narnia to rule benevolently

Jacob unfortunately fell into hard times without his crown. He wound up being a villain, or at least having a mustache like one.

Okay, maybe he doesn't look so evil here

A wicked laugh and darker complexion show how he's changed

Ultimately, he turned back to truth, justice, and the American way. If only others would do the same.

Ready to defend what's right

Sticking to truth, justice, and the American way

Meanwhile, Lucy patiently awaits her turn in the spotlight.

But for how long..and why does she have the same shirt?

She takes matters into her own hands and forms them into goodness and light. With help from Auntie Gayle, it's the goodness and light of cookies!

Who is the student and who the master?
We don't care, because we have cookies!

Like Slumdog Millionaire and The Artist, let's end with a happy dance!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Walking Dead Episode 209, "Triggerfinger"

The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 9: Triggerfinger

TV Rating


ZPAA rating

Late teen and up

Gore level

8.5 out of 10--Zombie forcing his head through a window peals back a lot of his skin and looks pretty nasty; bloody aftermath of a gunfight; a human getting eaten by zombies as we watch; impaled limb (which is later un-impaled on screen); zombies shot and bashed; attempted emergency field leg-ectomy (or is it leg-otomy?); trophy ear hanging in the dark.

Other offensive content

Lying for the supposed greater good; bad attitudes displayed by most of the characters (what is this, Downton Abbey?); Lori changes her shirt with her back to the camera; mild swearing and near swearing; abandoning friends/allies; Glenn is a knucklehead.

How much zombie mythology/content

Hershel seems to have fully accepted that zombies are zombies and not sick humans who can be cured.

How much fun

Little bits of humor are found here and there; mostly this is a character drama.

Synopsis & Review

After Rick pulled the classic Star Wars move (you know, back when Han shot first), he is holed up with Glenn and Hershel at the bar. The friends of the nasty guys Rick gunned down show up in town and conflict begins. Rick tries to talk his way out but shots are soon exchanged. How will they get out of this mess and how soon will zombies show up?

Meanwhile, Lori is in her car wreck and wakes up when a zombie tries to eat through the window. She manages to break free but how will she get back to the farm, or will show go on to town to find Rick?

Meanwhile, back at the farm everybody finally notices Lori's absence when she doesn't show up for dinner. Shane decides to go after her because he wants to keep everyone safe no matter what it takes, including lying and killing. If only he would start using someone else's definition of "safe". Daryl is off on his own reverting to redneck loner status even though Carol is trying to bring him out of it. Hershel's daughter is still in her coma, providing the other characters something to be angsty over.

This episode sees a lot of people drawing up sides and some choosing to sit and sulk instead (I'm looking at you, Daryl and Glenn). It will be interesting to see if Hershel and Rick can maintain their newly formed bond and if Shane can keep anyone on his side. And what is going to happen with or to the newcomer to the group? More next week!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review: Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis

This book has a refreshing honesty and candor. Lewis immediately states that this writing is not scholarly, definitive, or all-encompassing. He writes as one simple Christian to another, seeking a better understanding by pondering problems he has discovered and sharing insights he has gained while reading the Psalms.

Lewis writes about a variety of topics in the Psalms that strike him as significant. First, he notes the difference in the Psalms's presentation of divine judgment and the Christian's understanding of it. Christians usually think of the dies irae judgment when God separates the sheep from the goats or the wheat from the weeds at the end of time, an act full of fear and awe. The Psalms look at judgment as winning a civil lawsuit--the unjustly persecuted or deprived has their day in court and their recompense. The Psalms either praise this when it happens or implore God to make it happen. The contrast of views does not mean one is right and one is wrong; rather, a greater richness can be discovered in both views.

Other topics he looks at are death in the Psalms (which don't seem to embody the fully developed Christian notion of an afterlife), the sometimes shocking, sometimes juvenile cursing of enemies/desire for revenge on persecutors (even Psalm 23 wants God to set up a festive table in front of enemies, as if to rub their noses in it), the love for God as embodied in nature and in temple worship, the love of the law as something truly to embrace as joyful and not to fear as punishing, and several other ideas or themes.

The book is delightfully accessible. Lewis uses very down-to-earth language and explanations. It's as if he was talking with you rather than lecturing at you. He fosters a personal relationship through his writing. Isn't that what we as Christians look for in reading the Bible, to find a more personal relationship with God Himself? The book helps the reader be a better Christian by better knowing God through the Psalms.

Here's a sample where Lewis discusses the different interpretations of why certain Pagan myths are similar to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
And what are we to say of those gods in various Pagan mythologies who are killed and rise again and who thereby renew or transform the life of their worshippers [sic] or of nature? The odd thing is that here those anthropologists who are most hostile to our faith would agree with many Christians in saying "The resemblance is not accidental". Of course the two parties would say this for different reasons. The anthropologists would mean: "All these superstitions have a common source in the mind and experience, especially the agricultural experience, of early man. Your myth of Christ is like the myth of Balder because it has the same origin. The likeness is a family likeness." The Christians would fall into two schools of thought. The early Fathers (or some of them), who believed that Paganism was nothing but the direct work of the Devil, would say: "The Devil has from the beginning tried to mislead humanity with lies. As all accomplished liars do, he makes his lies as like the truth as he can; provided they lead man astray on the main issue, the more closely they imitate truth the more effective they will be. That is why we call him God's Ape; he is always imitating God. The resemblance of Adonis to Christ is therefore not at all accidental; it is the resemblance we expect to find between a counterfeit and the original, between imitation pearls and pearls." Other Christians who think, as I do, that in mythology divine and diabolical and human elements (the desire for a good story), all play a part, would say: "It is not accidental. In the sequence of night and day, in the annual death and rebirth of crops, in the myths which these processes gave rise to, in the strong, if half-articulate, feeling (embodied in many Pagan 'Mysteries') that man himself must undergo some sort of death if he would truly live, there is already a likeness permitted by God to that truth on which all depends. The resemblance between these myths and the Christian truth is no more accidental than the resemblance between the sun and the sun's reflection in a pond, or that between a historical fact and the somewhat garbled version of it which lives in popular report, or between the trees and hills of the real world and the trees and hills in our dreams." Thus all three views alike would regard the "Pagan Christs" and the true Christ as things really related and would find the resemblance significant. [pp. 105-107]