Giant Tree Family Album, pt 2 of 2

Hyperion "World's Tallest Tree" as a sprout

















The redwood tree known as Hyperion is “The World’s Tallest Tree.” In this family portrait, this mighty tree is just a sprout in Redwood National Park.  Like its famous cousin, “General Sherman,” Hyperion would take dozens of decades to become the tallest tree in the world.  This tree measures 379.3 ft (115.61 m) in height. At some point in its development, the mighty tree is said to have met its nemesis, a woodpecker, which damaged the tree near its top, and may have stunted the tree’s growth.

Buy a copy of this postcard here, in the SHUSH Museum gift shop!

A Time for Reflection and Vampire Slayers

Torreance High School, or, Sunnydale High School, home of the Hellmouth.
A long time ago, in a galaxy that remarkably looks like this one, there was a high school kid who liked exactly one television show. She thought that television in general was a colossal waste of time, and was sure that anyone who proclaimed their love of television was simply a victim of those aliens that dine on mushy brains.

She went to college, and in those days, she got an idea that she wanted to write for that show, and even had managed to get an internship with one of the writers on that show in L.A., and had to turn it down, for various mundane reasons relating to money, and logistics, and no she’s not really bitter about that, except when she thinks about it, and she entertains notions that she would’ve been working in the industry in time for the television show that completely changed her mind about the brain rotting power of the medium.

That television show premiered 20 years ago Friday.

At about this point, you probably have figured out that this “she” is me, right? I knew I couldn’t fool you all.

For those that are not me, and don’t remember the dates that TV shows premiered, that show is called Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I know.

Ridiculous name. Made from a movie that I had, to my great surprise, liked. In my snooty “television is worthless drivel” mindset, I deemed the entire premise incapable of sustaining a series. I didn’t bother with it when it first premiered, but, eventually, I learned my mistake, and took back all the things I had said about it. I know. I am deeply ashamed. I was very wrong.

I didn’t get all confessional about the origins of my marginally unhealthy relationship with television to convince anyone that the show with the silly name is worth watching.  Instead, I am celebrating the series that turned me into an unrepentant champion of television worth watching.  And, in so doing, I’m revealing to you all another of my deeply geeky traits.

Besides, it’s Lent. Having a moment of reflection is part of the formula. I should assess my relationship to scripted fiction, and think about the horrible things I used to do before I fell under the thrall of television.

More than that, I am sorry for all the insults I once heaped upon those lovers of TV. The things I said were cruel, and might’ve implied that loyal viewers had rotten brains, no standards for quality entertainment and smelled of unfortunate hygiene habits.  I hope you forgive me.

If it’s any consolation, I’m doing my best to offer penance.  There’s this little confession and apology, and, I hope that one day, all this thinking about the larger metaphors of being a superhero and saving the world will make me a better person.  It’s the least I can do.

Giant Tree Family Album, pt 1 of 2. General Sherman’s Baby Picture

General Sherman (tree)

General Sherman is a giant sequoia tree located in Sequoia National Park in California. By volume, it is the largest known living single stem tree on Earth. This rare picture of the tree, taken when it was a sapling, is part of a collection of pictures known as the “Giant Tree Family Album.” The album includes pictures of both Sequoias and Redwoods.

In this picture, the tree that would one day become known as General Sherman is shown as an awkward youth. It would ba many dozens of decades before the tree would reach its full stature and the fame as the world’s largest tree.

Buy a postcard of this exhibit here!

Lost Treasure Painting

Framed painting in purple hues with a golden frame and matching floral inset device





















In 1820, Peru was campaigning for its independance from Spain, and the situation in the city of Lima became desperate, and the city was evacuated.The city’s leadership decided to protect the city’s treasures and send them to Mexico for safekeeping. Priceless stones and art valued at millions of dollars was packaged and secured on a ship under the command of Captain William Thompson.

The riches were far too tempting to the crew, and they decided to steal the bounty. They killed all the passengers accompanying the treasure to its safe hiding spot, and the pirates took the treasure to an island off the coast of Costa Rica, where they buried it, planning to return at a later date.

The crew was captured by the Spanish, where all but two of the crew, were convicted of piracy and hanged. The two remaining sailors, Captain Thompson and his first mate, agreed to lead the Spanish to the stolen treasure in exchange for their lives.

When they arrived at the island, the two men managed to escape, and were never seen again.The treasure was never found.

In 1870, a man claiming to be the son of Captain Thompson brought this painting to the SHUSH Museum. He claimed that the painting and the inset item were the keys to decoding a very complicated puzzle that would lead to the location of the treasure. On the back of the painting is a cypher which has never been decrypted, It is thought that the building in the picture represents an important landmark on the island, or perhaps the true key in question is the inset floral decoration inset below the image, Numerous expeditions have been undertaken by the members of SHUSH, but, to date, nothing has been discovered.

Buy a postcard of the Lost Treasure Painting in the gift shop! Save 15% by using the code STPADDYPARTY.

Alfred Nobel’s Postbox

Alfred Nobel's Postbox The inventor of dynamite and the founder of the Nobel prizes, Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was the holder of over 300 patents. During his lifetime, he wrote hundreds of letters to friends and associates. Through letters with friends, he came to the decision to include a peace prize among those prizes provided in his will. Most of his letters are held within the Nobel Institute in Stockholm, however, his postbox was left in the care of the SHUSH Museum.

As is typical of postboxes from Sweden, there’s the Germanic posthorn, as well as the royal emblem of the Swedish crown.

Thursdays are Hard

Thursday. Again.

I had many plans to have plenty of time to write. I even had this afternoon off, and thought I’d get it done in leisurely fashion.

Plans don’t often go the way I think they will.

I took the day off to help my sister clean out her car, which got totalled. (Accident when she wasn’t even in the car.) She is currently sick, but, it had to be done soon. Also, I am listed on the title because I was the co-signer on her loan, so, I had to also sign the title over to the insurance.  Our “leisurely” afternoon consisted of a visit to the clinic for blood work, going to the auto body place to clear out the 14 years of crap in her vehicle, packing that into mom’s car, going to the insurance office, taking the check to the bank, and running to get antibiotics. Then, a stop at the grocery store and preparing and eating dinner. As the silverware clattered to the empty dinner plates, I looked at the clock and it’s time to go to bed. Already.

That’s when I said, ” *expletive.* It’s Thursday.” I thought about ignoring it, and I even was about to go to bed, when I managed to get myself into the chair by promising I would make it a brief post.

In other news, my mom’s company went out of business, so, she who hasn’t gone back to work from her hip surgery is unemployed. The uncertainty is not my favorite bedtime cocktail, but, right now, that’s what is being served. And, I am tired.

Celebrating Generosity Day

Antique (Public Domain old) Valentine. Caption reads "To My Valentine"

I am well-known to be averse to VD. I’m sure you are too. In my case, I mean both the health issue and the holiday. If you had missed that quirk of my personality and didn’t click on the link, then this sentence will have to suffice as background for the next few paragraphs.

I had been proud of that piece of poisonous prose, and while I patted myself on the back for my wit and use of indelible imagery, I passed it along to many who were not regular subscribers to this column, thinking that they would be unable to resist signing up for it the minute they read that spectacularly awesome indictment of the holiday of 50 Shades of Red.

I was wrong.

Of the 15-20 people I had shared it with, *ZERO* signed up. More telling to me was that one of them had the courage to tell me her thoughts. She is not one to mince words. She simply said: “It was not worthy of you.”

Inside my head, InsecureFraud38 shouted “See? Everything you write is worthless! You are a fool to try and pretend you are talented enough to impose your barely literate ramblings on an unsuspecting public!

OffendedArtist12 jumped into the onslaught of self-doubt with its twist: How dare she say that horrible things about me and my art! She cannot comprehend the brilliance of my tortured soul!

About this point, InsecureFrauds 1-38 ganged up on OffendedArtist12, and the results were spectacularly horrific. Suffice it to say, there are only 11 these days.

I managed to say something, I probably even thanked her for crushing my soul and unleashing the specters of self-doubt and loathing, but then BrutallyHonest numbers 1-20 told me that she was right. I had taken the easy way out, and relied on the Crutches of Snark and Sarcasm. I could do better. I put in a request that the nicer parts of my psyche go visit with the brutally honest parts, and maybe teach them to be a bit more gentle in their delivery. Then I realized I didn’t really want any more sugar coating, because I really should cut down on my sugar intake.

About that time, I learned about “Generosity Day.” It was a way to reclaim the day of commercialized love with all its superficiality and fill it authenticity and kindness. Something not confined to couples, and lacking the burden of obligation.

Perhaps, just by sharing this idea with you, I’m losing my “street cred,” but, BrutallyHonest4 tells me I never really had any in the first place. Maybe, I’m simply getting weak in my advancing age. Or perhaps I’m just remembering the gift of honesty from a friend that I got last Generosity Day.

Spoons from the Last Supper

Spoons from the Last Supper. 13 spoons, hanging on a wall

The story of The Last Supper is well-known. As Jesus entered the Jerusalem, he sent his disciples to find a man carrying a jar of water, and that man would take them to a house where they would spend the Passover. When they arrived at the house, all was prepared at the table for the meal.

This would include the utensils for the soup served as the first course. While most of the meal would be eaten with the hands alone, soup is more challenging to consume with hands alone. After the dinner, the group went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus would be arrested.

The spoons were collected by the house servants, and upon hearing that the teacher that had been their guest of honor the previous evening had been arrested, the spoons were separated from the normal household goods. Within a few days, after the guest of honor had been convicted of crimes and executed, members of the house reported that those who held one of the spoons were filled with a sense of great peace and well-being.

As the notoriety of the teacher spread, stories emerged that the man had been raised from the dead, and that he had been seen by hundreds of people, who were telling the story of this miracle. And people would come to the place where this man had taken his Last Supper, and they would hold the spoons, and experience that miracle.

The legend of the Miracle of the Spoons persisted over the decades, and eventually the set was passed down within the family of those that hosted the Passover meal. Centuries passed, and the family’s descendants, no longer believing in the legend, and needing cash, sold the set to a member of SHUSH.

Purchase Postcards of this item.

A few more baby steps…

I started working on the YA time travel series this week.

This doesn’t sound so very earth shattering, but, it’s probably been on my mind for more than a decade, and I decided to stop waiting for the characters to drop into life, or plot to magically plant itself in my head, no, I would actually *work* on it. Actively.

I wrote a few pages, and then decided on a radical “venue” change, and re-wrote them.  It has sparked a few other things into motion, and I think that maybe it’s a sign that this is what I should be working on? I don’t know. What most people don’t know is that there is actually a connection between this series and the SHUSH Museum, which probably sounds absurd, and in a way, it is. I’m not going to say more about that right now. It’s part of how I’m building them all to come together, and I mostly feel like as cool as I think it will be, the amount of work it will take to pull off will not translate into any sort of return on the investment, and no one will give a flying frack about it.

There is part of me that is looking at the amount of work involved to make the whole plan I envision for this thing, and know that I have very often poured tons of effort into things that didn’t do me any good. In fact, most of the things I’ve poured tons of effort into have done me no good.  And, while there is a decent chunk of my hesitation that is wrapped up in the normal fears of creative sorts that work very hard to keep us locked in our heads and not creating, there’s also the fact that none of the things I have managed to create have been particularly successful in finding an audience. It doesn’t help me fight off those fears if they’ve been RIGHT at every step. Maybe it’s just insanity to continue to pour effort into things that really ARE doomed to fail? Why do I keep doing this? Because, I will tell you, writing is hard. Marketing is harder. I don’t really like doing any of these things.

This is when I’m supposed to wax poetic about the urge to create, and how that is supposed to sustain us through these periods of doubt. Except, I’m not entirely sure I am feeling that urge. I feel like I’m doing the only thing I know how to do, to keep trying to do what exactly? To somehow turn these things into a product? To actually, FINALLY make consistent money on the crap that comes out of my head? Am I completely delusional? Who would pay for these things? *I* would not pay for these things. I am not even convinced that the small audience I do have would bother to plunk their money down for products. That is, while they’re loyal and engaged and the best and I love them, would they actually feel the content was worth spending money on? Even more so, I’m not sure that the content I am planning on building for sale actually matches the audience I am building. In other words, the people who read this are the people who would be interested in what I have to sell, as it’s different from the content they know. Am I wasting my time building the “wrong” audience for the stuff I hope to sell?

But, I’m trying to not think about the money part of this equation, even though, it’s taking a bigger and bigger part of my attention as I can’t seem to improve my income by the usual routes. I have tried. More than once. And after trying dozens of the usual routes multiple times? I’m feeling fairly confident in my assessment that an increase in my income is not coming from those routes.

I am exhausted by the limits of thin margins. How much longer will things hold together? I don’t know. The only thing that seems to make sense is to keep going forward, even if it doesn’t really feel like a meaningful direction.  So I will celebrate a few pages of a start, and hope more pages follow.

Meeting the Demands of the Super Bowl

After weeks of anticipation and painstaking preparation, the most holy day of the US calendar is finally upon us.  Countless avocados have been mashed to a cheery green pulp, numerous buffalo have sacrificed their wings, and scores of bowls have been filled with highly salted carbohydrates.

The faithful take their places on comfy couches and squashy armchairs, arranged around the warm glow of the television to watch grown men crash into each other and fall down.  The less faithful anticipate the stream of talking babies, horses with large feet, and shiny automobile antics.

For those whose sole reason for watching the Bowl known as Super is the advertising, disappointment has become the regular feature. How can the gift of a clever advertisement be enjoyed if it’s been previewed on the morning news media weeks before the big day? This is like opening your Christmas presents on Thanksgiving. By the time you get to Christmas, all the paint has dulled under thousands of greasy fingerprints, and the initial delight has been replaced by a “seen-it-all cynicism.” There’s no longer anything special about it at all.

It’s sad that companies have lost the true meaning of the holiday. The one day when people watch a show live and don’t fast-forward through the commercials, and they take it all away from us. Why should we bother paying attention on the breaks if they’re only going to be running commercials we’ve all seen before? There’s simply no respect for the audience.

And despite the increasing disdain for their viewers, they still expect us to eat the required allotment of junk food. I have learned that the USDA has proclaimed that their normal dietary guidelines are suspended for this day*, and in their place, there is a strict, enforceable, snack food intake requirement. This is to insure that the purveyors of all things crunchy and of dubious nutritional value sell enough to put the industry into the black for the year.

Each person must eat a minimum of three servings from the fried food group, two from the salty group, five from the heavily seasoned, bite-sized meat group, three from the sugary and sticky group, four from the fermented and carbonated beverage group, and six from the dip group. I’ve had to pay expensive fines for not complying with the requirements, and this year I’m taking no chances. Now, not only am I going to be feeling exceptionally queasy on game day, I’m going to be eating leftover chips for months.

*This is not actually true, even if all the components of common party recipes mysteriously go on sale the week before the game, as do sugary beverages and macrobrew beers. The nation’s strategic snack reserve is perilously low around the first weeks of February, and, I’m certain it puts us in considerable danger on the world snack stage.