19 February 2013

As the Stars Grew Dim

This is what the covers of "my" Lord of the Rings looked like.  Put together they made a mural.  Fantastical and only an inspired notion - nothing to mar my own imaginings when I read the stories.  These books were as exciting and all-absorbing for me and my high school mates (and later college mates) as Ms. Rowling's Harry Potter books have been for more recent generations. 

But before I read the books, I learned of them under a brilliant star-filled sky.  Every summer when we were kids we visited my grandparents at the summer cabin in Northern Wisconsin.  Set in the midst of the Nicolet National Forest, The Cottage, as we called it, was within walking distance of two lakes: Seven Mile Lake and Lone Stone Lake; the latter named for the single massive boulder left by the glaciers as they retreated from the land.

Deep in the night we left our sleeping bags and went to the shores of Seven Mile Lake.  Huddled together, we looked up at the sky, long past the sunset shown below, but this was our view.

Seven Mile Lake - Wisconsin

My older sister Cee, she who loved and still loves the stars, brought out a high-intensity, narrow-beam flashlight.  Using it like a pointer, she showed us how to find the North Star.

And then outlined the constellations, showing how the two dippers were actually great and small bears.

And then began to tell us the tale of Hobbits, dragons, long journeys, and the great rings of power.  Beneath those stars all stories and all myth were possible.  So vivid were the stories that when I finally read them for myself, some ten years later, I felt I knew the place. With all due respect, Peter Jackson's beautifully rendered movies never matched the awe-filled imagery of those starry nights.

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

 “Stars, everywhere. So many stars that I could not for the life me understand how the sky could contain them all yet be so black.”
― Peter Watts, Blindsight

“He lost himself in the words and images conjured in his mind and for a while forgot ... He found himself flying among stars and planets ...”
― Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n, The Prince of Mist

“I can think of nothing but the stars. It is like a piece of my soul had been lost, empty, and it is now filled with the light of a million stars. They are all that I have ever dreamed of; they are nothing that I ever expected... I will never, never be the same. I have seen stars. Real stars.”
― Beth Revis, Across the Universe 

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

I live in the city - not a very large city - but one whose lights have made all but the very brightest constellations invisible.  I read once, after the great California earthquake a decade or so ago, that as night descended, there was fear in the hearts of many.  What was that thing hovering above them in the sky?  It was the great arm of our Milky Way galaxy.  Whole generations had grown up beneath city lights and never knew of the grander lights that lay above.

The older I get, the more often I try to drive away from the lights and see the stars I have long missed.

“Underground, the stars are legend.”
― Catherine Fisher,


Want to see the stars again?  See the info at Global Explorers & Night Skies.


12 February 2013

Real Post Packages for Imaginary Wizards: Third of Four

Last Spring, a coterie of makers from the 2011 summer wizarding event got together for a movie night.  We dressed up too! And because no gathering of wizardy folk is complete without an Owl Post delivery, letters and packages were had.  

Our Headmaster is quite the tinkering sort.  Not too long before movie night he'd come into the possession of two old and monstrously huge typewriters. (His thought was that he might restore them to order and put them in his Headmasterly Office for students to examine.)

 These machines were discussed in more detail here.

Tentative plans are being made for a second wizarding event.  One idea is to have an array of old (but working) typewriters on the Headmaster's side desk for the students to tinker with.


So he was delighted to receive this package 
from the ACME Wizard Word Typewriter Company - Melbourne!

And this letter.

The letter itself came on some gorgeously, wizardly Typospherian letterhead. (I showed how this was made at this post and this one.)


Professor - - - - - -
The North American School -- - - - - - - - - - -  
Upper Middle Region
North America, Western Hemisphere
Earth - Planetary System of Sol
Milky Way Galaxy

ACME Wizard Word Typewriter Company
P.O. Box 7.930z
90-121 Swanston Street
Melbourne, VIC 3002

4 March 2012

Dear Headmaster - - -,

Per your invoiced order of 17 February 2012, we are sending you (under separate cover) the Wizard Word Service Manual and Guide, Deluxe Hardcover Edition.

As with all of our publications, you complete satisfaction is guaranteed and assured. We at ACME are proud of our 155 year tradition of providing only the best researched and most accurately rendered guides in the field of Mechanical Printing Technology.

If we can be of further assistance, please contact our Customer Service Department at FLOO: ACMEPUBLICATIONS.AUSSIE.

Very Cordially Yours,


Arthur James Cadoggen
Director of International Ordering

The publication in question was somewhat unassuming . . .

 . . .  perhaps befitting its straightforward contents.

Those of you sharp-of-eye may notice the business stamp at the lower right.  It is that of Mr. Ernie Jorgenson, proprietor of Office Machine Americana Included in his sales catalog are service and user manuals for mechanical typewriters.  I tracked down this particular manual for our Headmaster so he might be able to repair the grand, though somewhat well-used Remington Rand 17 I'd found for him.

And keeping with our Sustainable Wizard Ideal to reuse materials in all our creative makings, the binding was a used springback binder once used to house some of my graduate school papers.  (Happily for those who appreciate their solid design, they are still being made. Here is one site that sells them.)  I stamped the ACME label on the booklet cover and then again, with embossing added, on the binder cover.

Whether and how soon wizardly missives shall be typed on this machine remains to be seen.  Fortunately for wizardly folk, Typospherian non-magicals continue to treasure, repair, and use these mechanical wonders.  Long may they continue to do so!


Real Post Packages for Imaginary Wizards: First of Five Four
Real Post Packages for Imaginary Wizards: Second of Four

The posts describing all the imaginary postal packages from the wizarding event can be found grouped here under the tag faux package.  



05 February 2013

The Mouse Imitates


This post would have been much enhanced by an image of the Oscar statuette given to the winners of the Academy Awards.  However, as I learned from The Wikipedia when looking for one online,
"There are no free equivalents of this image since all depictions of an Oscar statuette are subject to the copyright regulations of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No image showing an Oscar can claim to be free, regardless of the license under which it may be released on Wikipedia (see below). All of the Oscar-related images on Wikimedia Commons are either Oscar icons created by Wikipedia users, or photos of giant look-alike Oscar statues. Therefore, they do not accurately depict an actual Oscar statuette."


About a year ago I posted about one of my favorite authors, William Joyce. Quoting myself, "His imagery and wit are sublime and sublimely charming.  I first learned of him via a book titled Dinosaur Bob and his Adventures with the Family Lazardo. Note: There seems to be a revised edition which changes the story somewhat.  I prefer the earlier version."

In 2011, Mr. Joyce teamed up with Moonbot Studios for a work -- a digital book --  titled The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  Interestingly, the animated short came before the print version of the book.*

The movie is no longer available online.  You can see a preview of it at its website, MorrisLessmore.com (click on the FILM tab).  And here's the blurb from the studio:
[from the Moonbot Studio Vimeo description]  "Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

 “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is one of five animated short films that will be considered for outstanding film achievements of 2011 in the 84th Academy Awards ®."

Clearly someone at Disney had been watching. Their Oscar entry -- Paperman -- in the 2012 Best Animated Short category 'borrows' much from Moonbot Studio's animated version of the book: pre-OZ black and white coloring, the whirl of books around the protagonist (here office papers), the 19th-century brick building background; the whimsical soundtrack, and the ambiance of historical setting (here mid-20th century). This being Disney, the woman's eye's are as enormous as her waist is tiny. And this being Disney, where happy endings are de rigueur, boy gets girl. (In Joyce's tale, girl saves boy saves girl and who knows whom she will save.**)

Still, though I grouse, Paperman has its charms.


* Update (12 Feb 2013):  I have finally received my copy of the book.  It has turned out to be something of a disappointment.  The ink on many pages is too dark, the text is pedantic, and the storytelling ponderous.  Lost is the whimsy of the tale; indeed, much of the tale is lost altogether.  So apologies to Mr. Joyce, whose work I love, but in this instance the movie IS much better than the book.

**  Perhaps the Disney folks read some of the reviews at Amazon.  Those who posted the lowest score of 1 for Joyce's book were rather bent out of shape, e.g. "This is a book about a man who gets old and dies."  The inability to see the beauty in the story and in the man's life - in all our lives -- was outweighed in their eyes by reality.  As if poetry and art cannot exist with the real.

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