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Phil's Rambling Rants

May 3rd, 2008

May 3rd, 2008
12:03 pm


Book review: Puck of Pook's Hill
Today's book review is Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling.

This story is a series of episodes about legendary ancient Britain, loosely stitched together with a little bit of "present day" (that is, Victorian era) stuff, plus poems interspersed between the chapters.  Several of the poems are familiar, since they've been set to music, and they do relate to the legends being recounted.  Several of the legends do fit together into a larger story which is actually told in the poem "The Runes on Weland's Sword" -- though before I'd read the book, the poem never made any sense, so I don't think that's much of a spoiler.  It's easy to read; the choice of words doesn't feel quite like 21st Century American writing, but it doesn't have any of the headache-inducing stuffiness that I still subconsciously expect any time I see the word "classic" printed on a book cover because of high school literature classes.  Since I know little of either real British ancient history or the traditional legendary treatment of those times, it's fairly fresh ground for me, and enjoyable, though I didn't feel that it was all that heavily infused with deep significance.

There's some material which may be objectionable to Jews.  I don't want to go into the issues much, but I feel that I should mention that as I was reading it I had the feeling that I was reading stuff that would make some people upset.

I don't think it was truly great, but it was fun and interesting enough that I think it deserves to be remembered a century after it was written.  8 out of 10.

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09:34 pm


Fighting the bleahs by looking at birds
I had the bleahs today and the fact that it was cold, grey, and looked like the threatened scattered showers were likely to start up as soon as I stuck my head out of the house kept me inside longer than I should have been, but I eventually got out.  It was late enough that I wasn't sure I'd have enough daylight to make it all the way around Lake Mingo, so I went to the marshes instead.  It didn't rain, and it was pleasant as I went along the trail through the woods, but I was just kind of drifting until I got back to the marshes and spent about 20 minutes slowly making my way between the two marshes where the beaver dam is.  I went slowly because I was so enchanted by the kingbirds who were willing to tolerate my being pretty close to them and especially the swallows.  There were at least 4 kingbirds and maybe as many as 6, and they seemed almost to be acting like a flock rather than pairing off.  And there were a bunch of swallows.  A couple of tree, one barn, and the rest plain brown which a look in the birdbook tells me must be rough-wings.  Amazing acrobatic flying; I would have enjoyed lingering longer, but I was starting to need to pee, so I went back to the car.

At this point, I considered that I still had more than an hour of daylight (and the clouds were breaking up, and I was feeling better), so I drove to another bit of the park that I thought I hadn't been to before, the Raccoon Run Trail.  When I got there I realized I had in fact been there before but it was still a pleasant area.  I spent a few minutes watching a fish in the little dammed up ravine there called Adrian's Pond.  I don't know anything about identifying fish, but this one was unusual for casual just-looking-in-the-water fishing in that he was, I'd say, just over a foot long, actually big enough to be legal to catch.  I also had a red-headed woodpecker on that bit of trail.  It happened to bubble up in my memory that in the silly kid's game Careers, there's a square you can land on that says "spot Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, 4 Happiness" -- but the red-head is the species that gives me the most happiness points.

I returned to my car and decided I still had enough daylight left that instead of going home I would go to Heron Park.  The sun had actually come out enough that I needed sunglasses.  There, in addition to a couple of herons and many redwings, I spotted a chimney swift, a coot, 4 goslings, and a little rail.  Rails being a type of bird that one doesn't actually see even though they may be around, I have no experience identifying them.  It seemed more grey than brown.  Looking at the bird book, I think it was more likely a sora than a Virginia.  I also heard a strange call that I'm sure would clearly identify the caller.

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