Please Pray for Stratford Caldecott and His Family
52 Guitars: Week 28

Unusual Weather

(It seems a little crass to publish this somewhat frivolous post when someone I know, if only through his writings and through mutual acquaintance, is close to death. But that's the way of it, as both Frost ("Out, out--") and Auden ("Musee des Beaux Arts") have noted in their well-known poems: the rest of us go on. That does not mean that we're not thinking about Stratford Caldecott and his family, and continuing to pray for them.)


For six more days after the storm lessened we still had fairly rough weather; nor did the sun once show himself during all that time. For the season—it was now the middle of June—the storm was unusual; but being from southern California, I was accustomed to unusual weather. In fact, I have discovered that the world over, unusual weather prevails at all times of the year.

--Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land That Time Forgot

Or, as my grandfather used to say of the weather, "There's no such thing as a normal year." Either statement pretty well sums up my skepticism about the more extravagant claims about the effects of global warming.

I had never read anything by Edgar Rice Burroughs until one day last week when I went out for lunch and wanted something light to read, and this was handy. This short novel begins with a lengthy adventure involving the capture of a German submarine during World War I, then turns into a hiddne primeval continent story somewhat like Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World (which I have not read, but when I was twelve I saw the preview of the movie, so I know all about it). Dinosaurs, ape-men, Neanderthals, sabertooths, and mammoths all run around hunting each other in this pocket of non-standard evolution. That latter part was a bit of a letdown to me, not because it was badly done but because I just found it less interesting. Likewise, the whole Tarzan idea never interested me much outside of the comic books, nor does early sci-fi of the sort Burroughs presumably did in his Mars novels. The Land That Time Forgot is the first of a trilogy of short novels about that island, "Caspak," and I don't know that I'll read any more; I'd rather have more straight-up adventure, like the first half of this book. But I have to say the man can tell a story. I can see why he was so popular.

I also liked this bit:

I could have gone on my knees to her and begged her forgiveness—or at least I could have, had I not been Anglo-Saxon. 

There is, by the way, a certain amount of casual matter-of-fact racism in the book where the primitive peoples of Caspak are described--Africans viewed as lower on the evolutionary ladder than Europeans, etc. And quite a hot hatred of the Prussians against whom England and the U.S. were fighting at the time.



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"I could have gone..." That's hysterical.
It makes me think about the Scarlet Pimpernel kissing Marguerite's footprints. All-in-all I prefer the Anglo-Saxon. I would hate to walk in a room and find Bill kissing the ground--although I'm sure he's tempted to.

Have you ever read H. Rider Haggard? or John Buchan? Actually, I think both are better listened to on tape, especially Haggard. I love, love, love Buchan, but there is, of course, that racism--which, of course, is not why I love him.


Love Buchan too. Didn't notice racism.

Don't like Sci-Fi particularly. I can tolerate it in movies but not in books.

While I was in Europe I read John Masefield's Jim Davis

Highly recommended

I might check that book out, Grumpy.

Maclin, I have had some of the best times with my family and friends when someone was dying, and afterward. A little frivolity helps sometimes.

I had to write a paper once about Musee des Beaux Arts and the picture. I love the pictures.


Never read the Scarlet P, or Haggard, or Buchan. Have had the last on my list for a long time, and even have one of his books. I think I started it one sleepless night but then got onto something else.

I used to be very much the other way round with scifi books vs. movies. In the old days, up till 2001, the movies were just too badly done to compete with what the books caused me to imagine. Then after the movies caught up technically they so often added a horror element that I don't like.

I thought The Edge of Tomorrow was quite interesting as a movie. Did anyone see that?

I agree about the horror. Modern movies can leave me shaken for a couple of days. I still go, but I get shaken and stirred.

I haven't seen it.

I did finally see Mud, Grumpy, and I got about halfway through a post about it before mother broke her hip. When I get it written, I'd like your opinion about it.

There's a sci-fi movie called Another Earth that I really liked. No horror.


I'm sorry about your mother. 'I enjoyed the movie a lot' - I'm not much better at movie reviews than that. I saw it with a very French French Dominican, and he struggled a little with the accents, but we both thought it was a great movie.

Basically, I want to know if think what I'm saying is crazy.


Haven't seen either Edge of Tomorrow, though something (else) I read made it sound interesting, or Another Earth, or Mud, though the latter is high on my list.

I've gotten more inured to violence and gore, which is not necessarily a good thing. But I'm watching it on tv--still probably wouldn't handle it well on the big screen, with the big sound. In a sort of breakthrough on that front, I recently watched all of Aliens (no pun on "breakthrough" intended). I watched it in pieces, starting about a third of the way through, then coming back around like we used to in theaters (origin of the phrase "this is where I came in"). It was on a channel adjacent to TCM and some kind of morbid curiosity caused me to take a look. I watched enough to make me want to see how it turned out. Then that made me curious about the first film in the series--this is the second--so now Alien is on my Netflix queue. I must say there is a real if somewhat warped visual talent at work in the design of the environment and the aliens.

"I would hate to walk in a room and find Bill kissing the ground--although I'm sure he's tempted to."

I'm surprised he can actually resist the temptation. :)

My favorite Gary Larrson cartoon.


Imo, Alien is a much better film that Aliens. The latter morphed into a kind of scifi-horror-action movie, while the former really is a horror movie set in space -- very Lovecraftian in some ways.

A good recent s/f movie is Moon, starring Sam Rockwell as an astronaut on a lunar station who starts to discover that things on the station aren't quite what they seem. It's a really good performance by him. Interestingly, the film was directed by David Bowie's son.

The Tom Cruise s/f movie 'Oblivion' actually was pretty decent too, surprisingly enough.

The first Tarzan book is really great, Mac. I've read it at least 6-7 times from the time I was a kid through being a young adult. Yes, Burroughs was not sensitive towards racial or gender equity. So it goes.

Oh yeah, I didn't even mention the gender "issues"--there's a whole subplot that would seriously freak out feminists.

6-7 times?!? Wow. I can't think of any book that I've read that many times. (I think I know who you are, btw, and am laughing.)

I'll make a note of these other sci-fi movies y'all are mentioning. I do like a good one, but so many aren't. And yes, Aliens is just an action film at heart, complete with numerous military stereotypes and cliches. I did find Ripley's care for Newt rather touching (as I was meant to).

I think my favorite Gary Larson cartoon had to do with dogs rolling in stuff. But then there are so many good ones.

I liked that Gary Larson cartoon, Janet. My favourite was all the chickens draped over the fences etc at the Boneless Chicken Farm.

That's funny. I don't even think about gender issues offending anybody.


I mean in the context of novels like that.
Of course, I'm sure they do.


Of course. I googled "edgar rice burroughs feminist criticism" and actually turned up less than I expected, but this was the first entry:

It's not too hostile to him, but it's indicative of the way they inspect books.

Did anyone read Asimov's The God's Themselves? There were three genders in that one. The three genders united by actually blending into each other. I won't tell you more because that would be a spoiler.

Yes, Robert, I thought that was a fascinating book, although it's been about 25 years since I read it. It's unusual for me to find anyone else who has.

I re-read some of his other books a few years ago--well, even that has been a while--and I didn't like them nearly as well as I had when I read them in my 20s.


I haven't read it. I enjoyed Asimov in my teens but the few times I've tried him in recent years (i.e. the past 25 or so) I thought he was pretty bad. A few years ago my wife, then-teenaged daughter, and I tried listening to a collection of his stories about robots and gave up fairly quickly because they were so bad.

Ursula LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness was a big hit in the '70s partly because it involved odd gender-related things. I read it but wasn't much taken with it. Now I can't remember much of anything about it.

That was my experience with the robot stories. I was excited about re-reading them and got them all out of the library to take on a trip. Too bad it was in my pre-Kindle days since it was all I had with me to read.

The God's Themselves might be better though. Now I'm curious.


The God's Themselves was probably his best. It was also one of his last. The Foundation Trilogy was the next best, although very secular-humanist/positivist. He was a very aggressive secularist. He even wrote a book about the Bible explaining it from a purely secular/historical-critical perspective.

Yeah, I remember that book.

I think that the trilogy holds up better than the robots, but when he joined the two together, it kind of went south.


I remember small-town skeptics talking about the Bible book as if it were the last word in scholarship. That didn't give me much confidence in it. I read the Foundation series in high school, and really liked that sense of future history spread over great times and distances. I'm pretty hazy as to what it was actually about, though.... I heard part of it on tape some years back and not surprisingly thought it was rather thinner stuff than I recalled. Which has been my experience when revisiting a lot of the sci-fi I liked as a teenager.

Lord of the Rings ruined sci-fi for me.

That's interesting, Robert. I never thought of it that way, but once I read Lewis and Tolkien, I never read much sci-fi.


Much classical sci-fi excludes depth, or the spiritual, or what Hopkins called "inscape." Asimov, Heinlein, Roddenberry. Bradbury was better. I haven't read much Clarke or Herbert, but I think they were, too.

Most fantasy I ever tried to read seemed relatively shallow as well. McCaffrey (She claims not to be a fantasy author), Donaldson, Brooks, Rowling. I think it is because it was pagan. (I'm not saying Harry Potter is pagan, but if it is Christian, I think Rowling integrates it poorly).

It is hard to do Christian fantasy well. MacDonald, Tolkien, and Lewis to a certain extent, pulled it off. I'll let others argue about Chesteron, whose fiction I find difficult to read.

I had already abandoned science fiction before I read Tolkien, and never really connected those two. However, having read Tolkien kept me from trying any of the others who appeared to be working in the same vein. Somehow I just knew it wouldn't be up to his standard.

I agree about Rowling. It seems a stretch to me to take the Potter series as Christian in the same fundamental way that Tolkien is.

Also agree about Chesterton's fiction. Most of it doesn't seem like real fiction to me. Not sure exactly what I mean by that.

Well, I agree with both of y'all. I really like the Potter series, and Rowling did include a lot of Christian elements and said explicitly that is WAS Christian, but she just didn't have the depth of Christian experience to draw on that Lewis, MacDonald, and Tolkien had. Well, they didn't really even have to actively draw on it. It was just so much a part of them that it was there in what they did. They didn't have to add it, and they probably would not have been able to subtract it. Thinking about their work, especially that of Tolkien, makes me sad in a way because I can't imagine ever reading anything else that wonderful.

I was also thinking this morning about how the Narnia Chronicles and LotR are a great illustration of the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism.
Narnia (also the Space Trilogy) is so great and so full of Truth, and those recognizable moments-- "Yes, yes! That is exactly what x is like!" --and yet it doesn't come close the depth and richness and mystery of LotR.

I thought about writing a blog post about this instead of saying it here, but I know just won't have time any time soon. I'm having enough trouble with Mud.


I was never much of a s/f reader, but I read a lot of "heroic" fantasy in the 80s and early 90s. The only ones that I remember really enjoying, other than as so-so pasttimes, were Richard Adams' Shardik and Guy Gavriel Kay's "Fionavar" trilogy. I didn't follow up with Kay because he moved into a different sort of fantasy writing (alternate history?) but I vaguely remember that he had a Tolkien connection of some sort (which is probably why I gave him a go in the first place.) Those are about the only non-Tolkien fantasy books I've ever considered re-reading. Haven't done so yet, however.

Which reminds me -- I probably should read Watership Down again sometime.

Never read Watership, and I have to admit it's mainly because of prejudice. It just never sounded interesting to me.

I agree completely about Tolkien and Lewis, Janet.

My thoughts on Tolkien and Lewis.

Robert, It tells me that page doesn't exist.


Well here, finally, is Mud.


Here is the link copied from the post (found by going to the main page and looking at the Tolkien topic). It looks just like what Robert posted..? unless one of the zeroes is an O or something...let's see if this works.

Seems to...odd...

Robert, I didn't realize you were maintaining your blog. I thought you had abandoned it some time ago.

I keep trying to revive it, but am too little self-disciplined.

Janet -- couldn't figure out how to post a comment on your site about 'Mud' so I figured I do it here!

I hadn't noticed the Biblical motifs you mentioned on my first viewing but I will pay more attention when I rewatch it. If I remember correctly director Jeff Nichols has some sort of church upbringing, and his first two films before 'Mud,' 'Shotgun Stories' and 'Take Shelter' both have strong moral resonance as well. In addition they both feature very fine lead performances by the excellent Michael Shannon. How he missed an Oscar nom for T.S. I'll never know.

I really want to watch the other two films now. It might be a while before I can find time, though.


For some reason, Blogger is rejecting comments. It rejects mine! Pretty irritating. I usually have to post them 3 times.


I tried probably 6 times without success!

Shoot, as few comments as I get I sure don't want to miss them.


I thought Take Shelter was excellent. I remember seeing it on the plane back to England in May 2012, going for my mother's funeral. Its hard to tell in situations like that if one is emotionally resonating with things because one's in an emotional state or because they are actually resonant.

So I'll just say here what I was going to say in reply to your question there: Mud is actually high on my list, because it's available for instant viewing. Different list, not nearly as long as the dvd one. From which, btw, things have been disappearing, as Netflix stops carrying things. Very annoying.

Oh, everything on my list disappeared.


My comments disappear, my Netflix queue disappears--what next.


Literally everything? Most of mine is still there, but there were some classics that I definitely wanted to see but was not in any big rush for, such as some early Bergman, that are now gone. This is distressing--I've been thinking of Netflix as having almost everything, and everything just being a matter of time.

There were a few left but most diisappeared. Have you looked at Amazon prime?

Yes, at least at the online-viewable stuff. I think Endeavour is on there, actually. Do they rent dvds, too? I haven't even looked. It's my dvd queue that's distressing me.

Sometimes they stream the stuff that Netflix has on DVDs-or had. Sometimes you have to pay,though.


Well, we just watched Take Shelter. I thought it was great. Bill didn't like it. I mean, he thought it was really well done, but he didn't like the story. I think it's going to be one of those movies that I don't feel like I've finished watching for at least a week.


I meant to mention that I watched Mud last weekend. I liked it. Maybe not quite as much as you and Rob did, but I thought it was very good. And I just re-read your blog post about it (here if anybody else wants to). I wouldn't have noticed most of those Biblical motifs, either.

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