Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier

Photo by Trevor Kay on Unsplash

Alternate post title: How War and Peace introduced me to Corb Lund.

Corb Lund is a Western and Country singer-songwriter who’s been around awhile, but also someone I’d never heard of until a couple of weeks ago. His song “Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier” is a catchy yarn that encapsulates some epic battles throughout history, specifically ones where soldiers fought on horseback.

Just see the opening lines to the song:

“I’m a hussar, I’m a Hun, I’m a wretched Englishman
Routing Bonaparte at Waterloo
I’m a dragoon on a dun, I’m a Cossack on the run
I’m a horse soldier, timeless, through and through”

And here’s a YouTube link to the whole song, it’s worth a listen: “Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier

So how does this relate to my reading of War and Peace? Keeping in mind that the story is chock full of hussars, Cossacks and Napoleon, there is much to correlate. As it happens, I came across a reference to this song when I was looking up a definition of “uhlan.” (Uhlans were Polish-Lithuanian cavalry armed with lances.) An entry for “uhlan alles uber” caught my eye. I discovered “uhlan alles uber” is from the lyrics of “Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier:”

“With a crack flanking maneuver, I’m an uhlan alles uber
Striking terror into regiment of foot”

That bit of the lyrics also led me to a really great article by Jim Mundorf on Lonesome Lands. (Click this link to check it out.) Mundorf gives the details on all the references in the lyrics, so you don’t have to research them yourself. Thanks! Though I disagree with him on “alles uber” being turned around just to make it sound right. I think the term “uber alles” is just so fraught that maybe Corb Lund turned it around to make it less so.

Anyway, so that’s the story of how War and Peace introduced me to Corb Lund and a really cool song.

 

‘tit Rəx

Keeping with upside-down things (the Schwa), I watched the parade on St. Roch Avenue, and this is how the picture of the street sign showed up on my phone. Coincidentally, St. Roch is where my Dad grew up.

I watched the ‘tit Rəx Mardi Gras parade this past Sunday. I like this parade’s contrarian aspect; while most of Mardi Gras is about doing things in a big way, this parade celebrates small things.

It’s even in the name — “tit” is pronounced “tee” — the shortened form of the French word “petit.” By way of example, former quarterback Bobby Hebert, a.k.a. the “Cajun Cannon,” has a son who’s known around these parts as T-Bob Hebert. So think “T,” or little, in place of junior.

And I always think of a dusty memory from French class, many, many, years ago: I was told that certain French speakers would sing The Beatles song “Let it Be” as “les petites billes” (sounds like lə p’tee bee), which means “the little marbles.”

Anyway, just another example of how the French word for “little” winds up becoming / sounding like “T.”

More contrarian things I like: how the name sounds just like the king of the dinosaurs, T-Rex, yet there’s nothing big about this parade. Also the schwa, or upside-down “e.” It was instituted as part of the name several years after the parade was founded, to circumvent a claimed copyright infringement from a behemoth of a carnival krewe.

As an aside, I spent way too much time trying to figure out how to type a schwa, until I just wound up copying and pasting one. Why do I insist on making things harder than they need to be?

That last question is probably the subject of many blog posts, or perhaps an epic novel. But in the interest of keeping things small, I’ll conclude with a few pictures from the ‘tit Rəx parade.

The parade theme was “That’s a Little Much.”
The lead float was a memorial to Nancy Parker, a local journalist who died in a plane crash last August.

The tail-end of the parade.
The ‘tit Rəx micro-comic (my watch for scale).

Chewbacchus 2020

Lightsaber Drill

Saturday was the 10th annual roll of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus! Chewbacchus is a science fiction-themed Mardi Gras parade; this was my 6th year taking part as a Leijorette. (The Leijorettes dress up as Princess Leia from Star Wars and wear boots — originally conceived as Majorette boots — thus, Leia-jorettes.)

Here are some links to Chewbacchus-related posts from prior years, if you’re curious: 2016, 2017, 2019

For the first time since I began marching in this parade, it concluded in the French Quarter, which was pretty awesome. It was a clear, cool, night, and passing by Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral was quite an impressive sight. (It happened too quickly for me to get a picture.)

I’ll conclude this post with some pictures I did manage to capture…

 

Themed drinks were prevalent.
An impressive tauntaun costume.
Steampunk Yoda by day…
…and by night (photo courtesy of Niece Nicole)
Niece Nicole participated as a Red Shirt (parade escort) this year!
This year’s crop of parade throws (giveaways) from Sister Elizabeth. The Baby Yodas were all claimed well before parade day.

Spring Festival

Sunrise on January 25, 2020, New Orleans City Park

This past Saturday marked the start of a new year. We ushered in the Year of the Rat by the Lunar, or Chinese, New Year. A few observations regarding this new year, from the past week or so:

  • I’ve been told the Chinese word for rat and mouse is the same — it does not differentiate the rodent the way our English words do. I’ve also been told that Disney, sensing a huge marketing opportunity, is going all in with “Year of the Mouse.” I’m headed to Disney World in April, so I’ll let you know how this manifests in the park.
  • This from the website Daily Om: the Year of the Rat “brings with it the promise of prosperity.” Also, “Since the rat sign is the first in the Chinese zodiac calendar, we may feel the energy of a cycle beginning. We may also feel a pioneering spirit that helps us to forge ahead with a completely new endeavor.” The “energy of a cycle beginning” ties in nicely with the start of this decade, and also coalesces with a certain hopeful vibe I’ve been feeling since the start of 2020. (Yes, I pay attention to vibes. This is a trait which I’ve found it’s useless to try to ignore. It also has a significant influence on my writing.)
  • Tying into hopeful vibes, the New Year’s holiday is celebrated as a week-long “Spring Festival” in China. (The company I work for has an office in China, and our global calendar has January 24-30 blocked out as Spring Festival for that location.)
  • I like the idea of heralding spring. We’re still about two months out from the official start, but we know it’s coming, sure as the Earth continues its annual loop around our star. And even though winter in New Orleans probably feels like spring to most of the rest of the country, we can still get wintry days, and things don’t grow like they do in spring and summer. I’m looking forward to seeing what blossoms this hopeful vibe the Year of the Rat (Mouse) produces.

War and Peace: 19%

Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

So, I started reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace on January 1, via Serial Reader. My goal is to finish it by the end of April.

And I’ll be honest: so far, I’m not loving it. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and most of them are pretty unsympathetic. It doesn’t help that a preponderance of them are referred to as princes and princesses. Also, in many instances, facial expressions are described with “as ifs,” something I find highly annoying:

“Prince Vasili’s two valets were busy dressing him, and he looked round with much animation and cheerfully nodded to his son as the latter entered, as if to say: ‘Yes, that’s how I want you to look.'”

I guess the “as ifs” were the simplest way to translate the Russian to English, at the time the version I’m reading was translated. But I really don’t care enough about the story or the characters to get a better understanding. I’m satisfied with just the suspicion that there must be some nuance to the Russian language that is lost to me.

And speaking of unsympathetic characters — one of the main ones, Pierre, ties a policeman to a bear early on in the story. Yes, a bear: the big, shaggy, omnivorous, plantigrade mammal. I’m not even sure how this is done, because it’s only referenced in the past tense, as the event that gets Pierre thrown out of Saint Petersburg. I’m having a hard time getting that vision out of my head.

But, the reading experience is not without some benefits:

  • I’ve been much more engaged and enlightened by the war scenes (over the peace scenes, which mostly take place in society parlors and the like). I’ve learned that a unicorn was a type of Russian cannon from the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve never read any Russian literature before. I’m all for expanding my frame of reference, even if the experience is not 100% pleasurable. There’s some sort of lesson in the discomfort, but I’m not sure what it is yet.
  • The settings are like a fantasy to me. I’ve never been to the parts of the world where the book has taken me (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, parts of Austria), nor have I ever lived in a snowy place. There’s a scene where old man Bolkonsky (Prince Bolkonsky) has snow shoveled back onto the road to discourage the above-referenced Prince Vasili’s visit. It was kind of funny, and it’s what I was thinking about when I chose the image featured above.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about War and Peace in future posts. That’s it for now!

Great Expectations: 100%

The collapsed Hard Rock hotel in New Orleans, January 11, 2020.

So, I finished Great Expectations at the very end of 2019. And I’m overdue in offering my appraisal of this book. So here goes:

Great Expectations has earned a pretty high spot amongst the ranks of my favorites, especially within the “classics.” Most likely because of Pip. He is such an identifiable character — everything from his fear when he first encounters Abel Magwitch as a child, to his shame and repulsion when he encounters him as a young adult, to his desire to become a gentleman all for the love of the unattainable Estella.

I figure Dickens was in his late forties when he wrote it, and I’m glad I first read it as a middle-ager. If I had read it as a younger woman, I’m sure I would have still identified with Pip, but I imagine I might have been sorely disappointed (spoiler alert) that Pip doesn’t wind up with Estella. Reading it when I did gave me more opportunity to identify with the storyteller, and the choices he made.

Because, let me tell ya, Dickens is no slouch when it comes to writing. I remember when I was reading Count of Monte Cristo, it gave me a yen to see the south of France. I didn’t get the same feeling with Great Expectations — because I felt like I was there, in the marshes of Kent, and then later in London. Dickens depicted those settings in such a way that I’ll never be able to see in real life, because time and place were so intricately linked in his descriptions. Unless time travel becomes feasible in my lifetime, I’ll never be able to see the Kent and London of the mid-19th century.

I’ll finish this up by tying in my choice to use the Hard Rock hotel as the image for this post. I saw it close-up for the first time this past weekend. There’s the obvious connection of great expectations dashed (and by no means am I trivializing the lives lost in this horrible accident, God rest their souls). But seeing it for the first time in real life, it reminded me of a Dali painting, especially the melty clocks in “The Persistence of Memory.” And with Great Expectations so fresh in my memory, it wasn’t too far a stretch to think of the stopped clocks in Miss Havisham’s house, and the ruined and rotted wedding cake in her dining room. Young Pip summed it up best, as he described Miss Havisham’s house:

“What could I become with these surroundings? How could my character fail to be influenced by them? Is it to be wondered at if my thoughts were dazed, as my eyes were, when I came out into the natural light from the misty yellow rooms?”

That’s it for now.

Checking in: Sci Fi

Sister Julie, a cosplayer as Cara Dune, and me. Do you see The Child?

I’ve had a wealth of sci fi experiences — both viewing experiences, and “live” ones — in the past month or so, and yet I haven’t posted about a one of them. So herewith, in no particular order, is a brief assessment of the standouts:

  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order — Don’t think I’ve ever written about video games, because I don’t play them. But I will watch when my husband gets into a new game, because I like the narrative / storytelling aspect. Thus, I’m familiar with the storylines of Assassin’s Creed, and Red Dead Redemption. Jedi: Fallen Order is my hands-down favorite, most likely because I’m already very well-versed in the story milieu. But who can argue details when the m.c.’s droid is as cute as BD-1!
  • Speaking of cute — yes, I’ve watched The Mandalorian, and I’ve seen “the child” (aka Baby Yoda). It took me a little while to warm up to the show, but I feel like I was pretty into it by episode 6. (It didn’t hurt that Clancy Brown, one of my favorite actors, had a role in that one). And I was satisfied with how season 1 wrapped up.
  • Speaking of satisfactory conclusions — I thought Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker stuck the landing. (One of the first reviews I heard, before I’d even seen the movie, used that phrase to describe the movie — “it sticks the landing.” Upon seeing it, I found it apt.) I didn’t love it, but I thought it was enjoyable, and I thought it made better use of its wonderful actors than the previous two movies. But the story wasn’t awe-inspiring. I’ve heard some awe-inspiring theories, one being that “Skywalker” isn’t just a family name. It’s a new brand of force-wielder, the yin-yang duality of Jedi and Sith together, embodied in the character of Rey. It would have been a great movie if I’d walked away with that conclusion proven by the story itself, rather than having a fan explain it to me the next day.
  • Someone who didn’t need to explain himself: Cary Elwes at Wizard World New Orleans, our annual comic con. I saw him in an on-stage interview, and he was a delightful story-teller. Most of his stories were from the set of The Princess Bride, but he’s had a long career, and he had some other gems to tell — from the first time he met Mel Brooks, to a prank the Duffer Brothers played on him on the set of Stranger Things. He was warm, authentic, and able to playfully engage with fans of all stripes. My admiration for this actor has definitely gone up a notch.

Here are a few more pictures from Wizard World, to wrap this up. Bye-bye, have fun storming the castle!

Niece Cece was Kayley from Quest for Camelot, and Niece Nicole was an absolutely brilliant Twister.

 

Happy 2020

The last sunrise of 2019, in New Orleans City Park.

It seems we all have a pre-programmed tendency to take stock of things, this time of year. Add to it the impending start of a brand new decade, and “taking stock” gets turbocharged.

I have just two personal reflections I’d like to share: one on the past decade, the other on the past year.

Regarding the decade: it will be forever inked in my memory as the decade I became a writer. And I mean that in the sense of finding my vocation. When I first put pen to paper, on March 27, 2010, little did I suspect the transformation that awaited me. There is something about giving my imagination a form, a shape into words, that has wholly changed me. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how I’ve changed, since there are multiple factors at work, and the cumulative effect of 10 years of living. The best way I can describe it is that I believe writing has made me both more of myself, and a better-defined version of myself.

And regarding 2019: it’s the year that reading finally resumed its rightful place in my life. I began Moby Dick on January 1, 2019, and actually finished it! (Sometime in March.) That experience, and the Serial Reader app, reawakened my appetite for reading. I read The Count of Monte Cristo, Great Expectations, the first two and a half volumes of the Wool series, and several shorter works, all digitally; and Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend as an old-fashioned book. This is pretty significant for me, since I’ve always been a slow, meditative-type reader. I plan to say more about Great Expectations and The Friend in future posts; I’ll just say here that they were my two favorite reads of this past year.

I’ll conclude with this: I feel well-positioned for the next decade. In the early days of my writing, something always nagged at me. I knew if I didn’t read more, my writing would never develop in the way that I want it to, the way I want it to improve. Some of that “not reading enough” was just not being able to make the time, and some of that was a fledging writer’s concern of being unduly influenced by another’s style. I feel like I might have finally arrived at a balance.

Happy 2020, y’all.

Merry Christmas

City Park’s Celebration in the Oaks, December 23, 2019

For the 4+ years I’ve been at this blog, this is the first time Christmas has fallen on a Wednesday. And since Wednesday is my posting day, I thought I would take this opportunity to say “thank you.”

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read these musings.

Thank you for your generosity with likes and follows.

Thank you for coming back to this space, time and again.

I wish I could tell you that there are big plans ahead; that this blog will finally settle on a theme; that you’ll be amazed at the content you’ll see in 2020. But I can’t tell you that. There are plans, but they are small. The theme will continue to meander. Perhaps you’ll find some upcoming content amazing, but I firmly believe amazement is in the eye of the beholder. So I’m not comfortable making such a blanket statement.

Instead, I’ll just reiterate my gratitude, and wish everyone very happy and peaceful holidays.

City Park’s Celebration in the Oaks, December 23, 2019

The Holidays in New Orleans

For this week’s post, I’ll be light on narrative. Thought I’d share some pictures of a few uniquely-New Orleans holiday things. Not featured: the renowned Celebration in the Oaks in City Park. I won’t make my trip there until next Monday. Though I did post at least one picture last year, if you’re interested: Click here

Most of the pictures here are from “Lights on the Lake,” a boat parade on Lake Pontchartrain. Held this past Saturday, it was my first time attending. It got a bit chilly after the sun went down, but other than that, it was a lovely time.

Captions explain the non-lake pictures. Happy Holidays, everyone!

This is Mr. Bingle. He’s been a part of New Orleans holidays since 1947. He started as a holiday mascot for the department store Maison Blanche, with whom he shares his initials. Maison Blanche is long gone, but Mr. Bingle lives on!
Just seeing if you’re paying attention. This is not New Orleans, but New York. Got this picture 2 weeks ago, and I liked the wreath on Grand Central’s window.