Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


One of my more esoteric fascinations is with Toby mugs and jugs. These are mugs or pitchers or other vessels worked into the detailed likeness of a person, usually just the head if it's a mug, but featuring the entire body (usually seated and holding a pitcher or drinking vessel of their own) if it's a jug. The Wife doesn't get the appeal, but I think they're great. This falls in, of course, with my long-noted love of drinking vessels of all types, from mugs to glassware to ceramic flagons to waterskins to, well, you name it.

I first discovered the existence of Toby mugs in, of all places, a cookbook by Jeff Smith (aka, The Frugal Gourmet), which focused on cooking at Christmastime. There's a photo in that book of a table laden with Christmas fruitcakes and puddings, with a couple of Toby mugs off to one side. Presumably this is because Toby mugs originate in Victorian England, and according to Smith, heavy puddings and cakes such as are served at Christmastime (in properly Dickensian dinners, I suppose) are English in genesis. He notes in the caption that "Toby mugs traditionally held sauces for the table at Christmas." I have no idea if that's accurate or not; I just loved the visual of these head-shaped mugs on the table.

Longtime readers may remember that I bought this handsome guy some years ago, at a local antique place that has since gone out of business.

Toby mug V: I've had this guy for several years, but for completeness's sake, here he is! #antiquing

I love that guy! He makes a good place to display my pocket watch, too!

Flash-forward to the other day, when I traveled with my sister to an antique place near Rochester, NY, and there I found (among other cool things) these four mugs! In one trip, I quintupled my collection!

Robin Hood (note that the mug handle is his bow):

Toby mug II: Robin Hood. Note his drinking horn and that his bow is the mug handle! #antiquing

Don Quixote:

Toby mug I: Don Quixote. My wife makes fun of them, but I love these things. #antiquing

Then two which were not identified, both of which were marked "as is" and both of which sold for five bucks together. I don't know why; the only blemish I can find is a very small crack in the sad-looking fellow, and since I don't plan to use these as drinking or serving vessels, the crack doesn't do anything against the display qualities.

Tobh mug III: I don't know what he's supposed to be, but his handle is a key. Maybe some secretive cleric, protecting a secret? #antiquing

Toby mug IV: No idea who he is, either, but he was marked 'as is' and sold for two bucks. He has a tiny crack in his crown, but as I'm not using these for liquid distribution, I thought I'd give him a bookshelf to hang out on for two bucks. Something abou

Wow, that lower fellow is sad-looking indeed! I wonder what his story is. Anyway, it was fun to scratch that itch for a while. Will I get more? Maybe! But not for now.

(Wondering about this odd bit of drinking-vessel ephemera? Well, as further evidence that for any given thing there is a museum devoted to it somewhere, it turns out that there's an American Toby Jug Museum in Chicago! This just blows my mind.)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Symphony Saturday

Apologies for missing this feature last week! Last Saturday was a really hectic day that didn't afford me a real chance to sit down and go Whew! until rather late, at which point I was still facing my daily writing quota, so that's what happened. But let's get back into the swing, shall we? Last time I alluded to a major Russian waiting in the wings, and here's a major Russian, just not the one I was referring to. I'm talking to day about Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, of whose symphonies I wasn't even aware until just last week.

His first symphony is a student work of sorts, and in honesty, it rather feels like a student work. He makes use of Russian folk melodies throughout, but his orchestration is right out of the German tradition, and the composer even admitted heavily relying on Berlioz's Treatise on Orchestration (one of the classic texts on the subject, to this day) and the advice of his teacher, Mily Balakirev. Of course, Rimsky-Korsakov himself would mature into one of the greatest orchestral colorists of all time, but that was still in his future.

Here is the Symphony No. 1 in E minor, by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Something for Thursday

I don't remember if I've featured this before, but it's just such a perfect piece of music that it's worth revisiting now and again. Alexander Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia depicts the meeting of two trade caravans, on some road in the Asian wilderness. There is no war or conflict here, just two groups coming together -- depicted by two melodies of differing character -- greeting one another and parting. This wonderful piece is so full of warmth and human optimism that it simply glows.

Here is In the Steppes of Central Asia.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Nineteen years

On May 17, 1997, I married a beautiful young woman from Iowa. Nineteen years later, here we are!

19 years, married to this amazing woman! Huzzah!!

Here's hoping for another nineteen years...and another nineteen after that...and, well...second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bad Joke Friday

An Arthurian theme this week!

What was the name of the fattest Knight of the Round Table?

Sir Cumference!

Something From Thursday

Sorry, folks, yesterday was a bit preoccupying, what with a nice visit from my old friends, the Car Repair Gods*.

Here's something fun.

Pro tip: Looking for light, fun classical music to brighten your day? Listen to the overtures of Franz von Suppe. My favorites are this one, "Light Cavalry", "Poet and Peasant", "Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna", and "The Beautiful Galatea".

* They're not friends. They're jerks, and when they come by, well -- as Ned Flanders noted, I'm obliged to offer them a beer, but it's mostly head.

Monday, May 09, 2016

April Showers bring May...Apples?

So a few weeks ago I was hiking with The Dee-oh-gee (at Sprague Brook Park in Colden, NY) and I happened across this strange-looking plant:

All right who knows what this is? It's only about 3-inches tall. #mysteryplant #SpragueBrookPark #wny

Odd little thing, innit? I'd never seen anything like it, to my recollection.

A week or so later, I'm hiking with the Dee-oh-gee (at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, NY), and I happened across an entire crop of those little plants:

These odd little plants are all over Knox Farm. I wonder what they are. #knoxfarm #wny #EastAurora

And then yesterday, I'm hiking with the Dee-oh-gee (at Chestnut Ridge Park here in sunny Orchard Park), and I happened across another crop of those things, even bigger now.

I'll probably spend all summer documenting whatever these plants are. #ChestnutRidge #wny #OrchardPark

Well, a helpful Instagram user has come to my rescue! They are "May apples", or podophyllum, so named because the flower that generally blossoms from these plants in May that become fruits later on. May apples grow in large colonies, with the 'plants' actually sprouting from a single root that has spread beneath the ground. That's why I'm seeing large patches of these things, when I spot them in the WNY woods.

Wikipedia indicates that they are poisonous, but this article indicates that the fruit can be eaten, albeit with preparation and quantity in mind. I'm not sure if I'm quite that curious, but still, a bit of learning is useful -- especially when it's something that I've been observing on my own!