August 17th, 2008


We're down a goat.

First, we had goats. Later, we had goat. Right now? No goat. We've got a mystery maybe.

One wandered near Mom and Dad's daylight basement, baaah-ing in apparently searching terms: Where are my goat friends? He then got stubborn and wouldn't leave. I then went out and tried leading him; he seemed fine with following me. (I was humming Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" of all things. The "do-de-do-de-do" part.) We went along the fence line on the back end of the property; no sign of a way through back to where the goats usually graze.

Dad drove over to the house where the goats' owners live, found they weren't home, and left a note. In the meantime-in-between-time, Mom and I sat outside and watched the goat. Strangely Zen moment. We went back in when Dad got back to let us know he hadn't found the owners yet. By the time the owners returned and called us, hatching a plan to retrieve the goat, we looked back outside. No goat. Too late to search for it, too, as it was getting dark. Still no goat-sign this morning when I went out to get the paper.

Don't know if he found a way back through the fence, or if he's been wandering around the neighborhood since last night.

They make sad children's books out of dilemmas like this, don't they?
Good Omens

Met your maker. Made The Stand.

I met a goal of mine: finish reading the first-published version of The Stand by Stephen King before I left on my Pi-Con trip. I reached the climax last night; I read the rest this morning, on a Dundee deck chair watching the morning get brighter.

It reminds me that something King is very good at conveying is exhaustion. There's hard road in that story after its climax, just as there's hard road (literally and figuratively) in much of his work, like The Long Walk, my favorite of his Bachman books. He understands being tired, and portrays it well. King's characters aren't superhuman, even when fighting superhuman forces like Randall Flagg (or the creatures in The Mist that took John Lee), and he likes to show the toll that takes. I imagine Cujo really conveys that wearing-down feeling, though I'm a little hesitant to read that novel to be sure.

I hadn't known until reading this version (a 1988 paperback, published before King decided to expand and update the book so it takes place in 1989) that King had originally set the story in 1985, and now I kind of wish he'd stuck closer to the late '70s, maybe setting it in 1980 at most. I was aware enough of life in the '70s to be able to see (as greygirlbeast points out) the Seventies-ness of the book, coming as it did out of the twin energy crises we'd had that decade. A lot changed between 1979 and 1985; I was slightly amused to see (say) disco mentioned early on in the book. That didn't have the staying power that people may have feared thought it would have. (Much later edit (on Aug. 22nd, 2009, in fact): I was wrong. The first-published 1978 version was set in 1980; in 1980 King slightly revised the book, and changed the dates to 1985 then. That was the version reprinted in the 1988 paperback I was reading. Two years later he published the expanded/revised version, and made the dates still later.)

One of the best aspects of the book is the emotion of it, its feeling. I got emotional at many moments during the reading, especially post-climax. (I also had this reaction more than once during the book: I'm glad I don't live in Harold Lauder's mind. I wonder what it was like for King to write that character.) It helps to sell the novel's somewhat low-key climax, a climax that I think even surprised King to a certain extent. He tells the story in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft of the writer's block that stalled him for weeks, where he thought The Stand would end with a war but he couldn't think of how he'd get from the manuscript's current point to a war...until on one of his patented long walks he suddenly realized No, HERE'S how it really ends, take notes so you don't forget. And it was important for King to write those notes and figure out plot ahead of time, something he tries not to do, because he didn't want to lose the book. He had an emotional investment in his characters, and that motivated him. And he passed along that investment to his readers.

So I succeeded in reading the book, often hearing W.G. Snuffy Walden's score for the 1994 miniseries, one of the best parts of that miniseries, in my head. I'm glad I found it.

And now I wonder when I'm going to re-read the expanded version. At some point, I probably will, all 1,100-plus pages of it.
Me 1

Good goat news!

chris_walsh: Your source for Dundee goat news.

Last night's errant goat made it back to his side of the fence just fine. We found him and his goat friends again this afternoon, some of them on our side of the fence. Dad went all shoo-ing and "Go on" at them, and they went through a weak spot in the wire-mesh fence back on their side, so Dad knows another weak spot he can reinforce.

Dad added that he wouldn't mind the goats coming over occasionally for weed control. He's talking with the owners about putting in a gate so that the goats can be herded (key difference to them just sneaking through the fence) over there for special eating, while we watch and make sure they don't eat the landscaping...or, for that matter, the fence. They have stomachs like sharks, I tell you.

I'm back home in Portland now. If I run into goats here, I'll be mighty surprised.
Blow My Mind

The word for the day is "Spavined"

Among the reasons I'm a fan of Harlan Ellison -- beyond his ferocious writing style, his almost pathological honesty, and his being good friends with several friends and acquaintances of mine (he's "done solids" for many people I'm fond of) -- is his vast, nay, voluminous vocabulary.

Today the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is spavined. I'd only seen the word once before, in Harlan's 1985 short story "Paladin of the Lost Hour":
This was an old man. Not an incredibly old man, obsolete, spavined; not as worn as the swayback stone steps ascending the Pyramid of the Sun to an ancient temple; not yet a relic. But even so, a very old man, this old man...*
You know the meaning from the context, but to be thorough, here's how Merriam-Webster defines it:
\SPAV-ind\, adjective; Meaning 1: affected with spavin [bony enlargements on a horse's hocks], 2: old and decrepit : over-the-hill. Example Sentence: There is no point in expecting the spavined Arts Council to do more than sponsor the same stale events and shopworn fund-raisers.
Merriam-Webster could've used Harlan's line.
* Quoted not from the text, but from the CD of Harlan's reading of it. So I don't know if I got the punctuation quite right...