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Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Robert W. Service

By: dakine01 Saturday July 26, 2014 4:05 am

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
There was none could place the stranger’s face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.

Portage Glacier, Alaska, August 1997

My father had three authors that for him, stood above all others; Rudyard Kipling, Zane Grey, and Robert W. Service. I pretty much always shared his love for Kipling. I was not a big fan of Zane Grey since I wasn’t that much of a fan of westerns. As far as Service was concerned, I didn’t really know anything at all about him other than that his poem, The Shooting of Dangerous Dan McGrew was one of Dad’s all time favorites. It was only when I spent a couple of months in Anchorage one summer on a project that I came to learn a bit more about Service and his career. From his wiki intro:

Robert William Service (January 16, 1874 – September 11, 1958) was a British-Canadian poet and writer who has often been called “the Bard of the Yukon”.[1][2] He is best known for his poems “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, from his first book, Songs of a Sourdough (1907; also published as The Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses). His vivid descriptions of the Yukon and its people made it seem that he was a veteran of the Klondike gold rush, instead of the late-arriving bank clerk he actually was. “These humorous tales in verse were considered doggerel by the literary set, yet remain extremely popular to this day.”[3]

Service did not write blockbuster, New York Times best sellers. He wrote verses about a time and place just a few years in the past. The Klondike Gold Rush had run from 1896 to 1899. Service arrived in the Yukon in 1904 and published his book of poems Songs of the Sourdough in 1907. The Shooting of Dangerous Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee were both in this book and are probably Service’s best known poems. The only other poem of his that I am somewhat familiar with is The Men Who Don’t Fit In.

Service’s poems may have been considered “doggerel” and his words downplayed by critics of his day, yet he still was able to capture the allure and the fantasy of a time and place no longer around but still strong in some folks’ memories. His wiki lists 15 books of poems plus another nine collections of his work; six novels; three non-fiction, and seven pieces of music. Goodreads.com has two pages of books for him.

His IMDB page lists 19 writing credits with ten of these for movies from 1915 to 1928 and seven of these ten from his poems. There have been eight short films/animations from Service poems with voice work from actors such as Walter Brennan and Bea Benaderet.

Service died in Lancieux, France, at the age of 84 on September 11, 1958.

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Robert Silverberg

By: dakine01 Saturday July 19, 2014 4:05 am
A fannish jiant

Robert Silverberg

As is often the case, I’m not sure which of Robert Silverberg’s books I first read. In fact, it may well have been an anthology of some sort where he was both a contributor of a story or two as well as the editor. Here’s his Goodreads.com bio:

Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction’s most beloved writers, and the author of such contemporary classics as Dying Inside, Downward to the Earth and Lord Valentine’s Castle, as well as At Winter’s End, also available in a Bison Books edition. He is a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the winner of five Nebula Awards and five Hugo Awards. In 2004 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America presented him with the Grand Master Award. Silverberg is one of twenty-nine writers to have received that distinction.

I’ve long known that Silverberg was and is a prolific writer but when I took a look at his wiki, I was a bit stunned. By my count he has 78 mostly science fiction books, 30 collections of short stories, 30 more anthology collections he has edited, and 77 non-fiction books. Needless to say, I have not come remotely close to reading all of his books.

I think I am most impressed by his non-fiction, even though I don’t think I have read any of it (looking through the titles and his pseudonyms none of them look familiar). Yet, the titles cover a lot of periods of history and biographical figures that I have found fascinating. Seventy-six of his 77 non-fiction works were written from 1960 – 1974, a period when the sci-fi field was in a lull but even during this period, he still was writing one or two award winning sci-fi books each year.

As I say, I’m not real sure which of Silverberg’s books I first read. I know I have read and enjoyed Lord Valentine’s Castle, the first of his Majipoor series. I have also read Majipoor Chronicles and Valentine Pontifex, the second and third Majipoor books. Another of his novels I know I have read and enjoyed is Gilgamesh the King, set in 2500 BCE. Gilgamesh the King is based upon the Epic of Gilgamesh derived from cuneiform tablets dating to 2100 BCE. There is a second Silverberg Gilgamesh book that takes him into the after life.

I’ve probably read more of the short story anthologies that Silverberg has edited and contributed to over the years. I had a period of probably ten to fifteen years where I read more short stories than novels. during this time, I know I read Legends I and Legends II (both more short novel collections than short stories), Worlds of Wonder, Nebula Awards Showcase, 2001, Voyagers in Time, and Tomorrow’s Worlds.

One surprising thing about Silverberg is how little of his writing has been used for TV or movies either one. His IMDB page shows only five writing credits. The most well known film is Bicentennial Man starring Robin Williams and based on an Asimov short story of the same name and an Asimov/Silverberg collaboration titled Positronic Man. Otherwise, there are a couple of TV movies, one short movie and an episode of the re-make of The Twilight Zone.

Sunday Food: Ham

By: dakine01 Sunday July 13, 2014 4:05 am

When I was a child, I learned very early that there were two types of hams, “city” hams and “country” hams. My grandfather had cured country hams, serving the ham in my grandparents restaurant. Then my uncle took over the ham business and grew it a bit larger. In last week’s Sunday Food post on Lard, I mentioned the “hog killin’” when I was ten. The primary reason for the hog killin’ was to get the hams that Uncle Howard cured and sold although I think that year may have been the last year he raised and killed his own hogs, later turning to Kahn’s Meats in Cincinnati for the hams.

country ham

fried Country Ham slice

Country hams are, or at least were, a big business in Kentucky. My uncle showed his hams at the Kentucky State Fair each year and in I think it was 1974, won the Grand Champion. There is a Country Ham Breakfast each year at the Fair where that year’s Grand Champion ham is auctioned for charity. If I remember correctly, the year Uncle Howard won it, his ham set a then record by selling for $10K. Last year’s Grand Champion sold for $350K. The current record looks to be $600K (2011).

Smithfield Ham is probably the most widely known of country hams. I have ordered from Broadbent Hams and Meacham Hams as they are both Kentucky based and online.

City hams were all the other, non-country hams – at least as far as my father was concerned. While country hams usually have a sharp, salty taste, the city hams (“deli hams” as a variant) are the cold cut, lunch counter hams. Or the canned hams. They are nowhere near as salty as the country hams.

Which is best? Well, the country ham is generally much more expensive but for folks who love the country ham, it is well worth the price. A one pound package of “Danish ham” at the grocery may run $3 to $4 depending on the brand.

This is a Google search for cooking country ham that covers from individual slices to the whole ham. This Google search covers cooking all types of hams.

As with every other food item, your choice of hams is dependent on your own taste and experience. I will admit that as a child, I was not all that fond of country ham, preferring instead, slices of “city” ham on crackers. Nowadays, as an adult, I do like country ham sandwiches (especially on salt risen toast) or the traditional southern breakfast of fried country ham, grits, eggs, and red-eye gravy. If I do not have any country ham available, I am perfectly fine eating a slice or two of pan broiled ham at breakfast or dinner either one. Most grocery stores have cooked and uncooked hams as well as individual slices of varying thickness and as always, it is all a matter of your individual taste.