Random Thursday: Delusioned Optics, Painted Pentatonix, and Sky Tents

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Birthday Cake2


Don’t Stare

Or they’ll stop moving.

Optical Illusion1

My friend Siobhan used to love those 3-D Hidden Magic Picture illusions that were all the rage when we were in college.

I mean the rage part literally, because I could never see the dolphin or flying birds or whatever the heck was supposed to materialize in those patterns of random dots, and I still suspect it was a giant Emperor’s New Poster hoax.

Siobhan, because she’s evil, made it into a Thing, and has been shoving optical illusions at me ever since.

That’s a long dang time.

Last week, she sent me a link to the Mighty Optical Illusions website, which is full of static images that seem to move, presumably because the human brain hasn’t quite worked out how to communicate with its eyeballs, yet.

Or maybe vice versa.  I’m a librarian, not a neuro-opthamologist.

Moillusions.com would be my new favorite Time Suck, except I can’t stay there for longer than ten minutes without getting dizzy.

Okay, dizzier.

Oh, hush.


Captain Elsa

Artist Elsa Rhae bought a skin painting kit a little over a year ago and started experimenting.

She got good.

Check out her other creations on Facebook, because whoa.



Camoflauge IllusionSunny saw the elephant first, because I thought it was the back end of a baboon.

But I found the giraffe all by myself!


Tensile Strengths

I love camping, but I’m not built for sleeping on the ground.

At all.

My husband found a fix for that.

Tentsile(Click the image for more images)

Tensile tents are part hammock, part tent.
apparently comfortable and obviously cool.

If they’re as easy to install as advertised,
we’re thinking the kids could finally get that treehouse they’ve always wanted . . .
and maybe I can have my own office!


 Love Them Again

The last time I shared a video featuring the amazing a cappella group Pentatonix,
they were singing about numbers and cookies on Sesame Street.

Their original songs are a little different.

But they’re still having fun.


I love this video—
but can you imagine what they could do if they hired Elsa Rhae as their makeup artist/consultant for the next one?


 One More for the Road

Call me dizzy?

floating-star-optical-illusion-Kaia Nao

Right back at you.

Random Thursday: Do You Wanna Hear Some Music?

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

If music be the food of life . . . then the apples are earwormy.

Or something.

It’s been a really long week . . .


A Minor Anthem

No pun intended—I don’t know exactly which key or keys Chase Holfelder is using here,
and I’m too lazy to fiddle with the piano until I can figure it out.

But it’s very, very effective.

I think I may like this version better . . .

Is that wrong?


Do You Wanna Topple Hydra?

Do You Wanna Topple Hydra

(Via Watson, who knows how susceptible I am to both Disney earworms and little, baby Avenger memes.  Thanks a lot.)


Let Vivaldi’s Winter Go

I should probably apologize for this.

But I’m not gonna.


Lest I be Accused of Marvel bias**


Found this on Stjepan Sejic’s deviantArt page, along with fantastic art
which wasn’t inspired from the most insidious earworm on this planet.

So it should be safe to check it out.



Bartholomäus Traubeck has found a way to play the life of a tree like an LP.

The result, which has been converted into piano notes, has a certain gravitas that Mr. Tolkien might have appreciated.


*That, of course, is a lie.  The whole soundtrack has embedded itself in my cerebral cortex and cannot be removed without doing further damage.  I find myself singing things like this—no joke, this happened—to my children:

Do you want to pack an apple?
You can put it in your lunch.
It’s nice and red, will keep you fed,
And has a nice loud crunch!
You’re gonna contract scurvy
And then you’ll cry—
So what are you going to do?
Do you want to pack an apple?
It doesn’t have to be an apple . . .

‘Cause in the first time in forever,
We have a banana tree!
For the first time in forever,
No black spots can I see . . .

Give it to me straight, Doc.  Is it terminal?

**It’s TRUE.  It’s ALL TRUE.  >sob . . . <

Hold on to me as we go

I’m still operating under a moderate case of bookbrain, and so squandered my Blog Time™ on wasteful things like plot and character development and worldbuilding and an homage to Calvin & Hobbes that had me snerking so hard at my own cleverness, I should just delete the whole scene now and save myself the editing time.

So, in light of the the first instruction on How to be a Writer—and maybe the third one, too—I thought I’d give you the opportunity to mock my music taste share part of the soundtrack of this particular bookfrenzy.

Some writers hate writing to music, but I enjoy it—and not just because it drowns out the rest of the world.

Certain songs can get me in the right mood or help frame a character or set a scene—or just keep me going past the point where absorbing more caffeine wouldn’t be the sane choice.

Please note:  this list might seem a bit MPD eclectic, but I usually group them into mini-playlists, or just put one on repeat. Otherwise, I could risk getting the emotional bends.


 “Demons” from Imagine Dragons, because  it fits my somewhat-conflicted main character.  Maybe his brother, too:

After listening to this song for a couple days, I finally watched the video—turns out one of the other characters has a cameo.  Who knew?

The Monster” by Eminem and Rhianna fits several of the other characters, too.

“Home” by Phillip Phillips, because it’s what most of my characters need, and it’s also what a particular character is offering, bless him.

 “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry—it’s been played to death and beyond on the radio, so I won’t bother embedding it, but it still works for a specific scene.  The video is weird, by the way, but the visuals are excellent.

Meet Me Halfway” by the Black Eyed Peas is my go-to for relationships that are going to be a LOT of work, but so worth it.  Eventually.

The “Thunderstruck” cover by 2cellos is clearly a mood piece . . .

I also have their cover of “Supermassive.” Please note that it’s important to wear headphones when playing it, so you don’t hear your family begging you to stop trying to sing along.

Scream & Shout. Because it’s will.i.am and I don’t need another reason.

And finally, Martin Garrix’s “Animals”, which is NOT “What Does the Fox Say.”

Not even close:

Do you write to music?

What’s on YOUR soundtrack?


Remember the Writing Process bloghop?  This week highlights the amazing Jalisa Blackman, who is incidentally responsible for introducing me to a lot of music I otherwise wouldn’t have heard, though she is in no way to blame for my taste.

Go see how a woman of twice my imagination is doing what she does.

Poetry Wednesday: In the Heart of a Tolkien, there lived a Poet

Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates-
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!
Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!Broken cup
Pour the milk on the pantry floor!
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat!
Splash the wine on every door!
Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl;
Pound them up with a thumping pole;
And when you’ve finished, if any are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
So carefully! carefully with the plates!

—“The Washing Song”,  J.R.R.Tolkien

I refuse to believe that I have to explain to anyone who J.R.R. Tolkien is or what he wrote, so I won’t.*

But while most people know that he was an author and a linguist and very British and created characters whose names and species have entered our cultural lexicons . . . what is often overlooked, taken for granted, or glossed over  is that he was a fine poet as well.**

This is, I think, because his writing style is lyrical to begin with and also because Tolkien was a World Building Master.  He wove backstories like Gandalf weaves machinations and planted cultural histories  like Hobbits burrow themselves into smials.

And he understood that three things that all established cultures have, each in their own distinctive way, are stories, music, and poetry.

So Tolkein gave his immortal Elves elegant poems based on ancient personal memories of things long gone but never forgotten:

Namarie, or Galadriel’s Lament
(J.R.R. Tolkien)

Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind, long years
numberless as the wings of trees! The long years
have passed like swift draughts of the sweet mead
in lofty halls beyond the West, beneath the blue
vaults of Varda wherein the stars tremble in theStar
song of her voice, holy and queenly.

Who now shall refill the cup for me?

For now the Kindler, Varda, the Queen of Stars,
from Mount Everwhite has uplifted her hands like
clouds, and all paths are drowned deep in shadow;
and out of a grey country darkness lies on the
foaming waves between us, and mist covers the
jewels of Calacirya for ever. Now lost, lost for
those from the East is Valimar!

Farewell! Maybe thou shalt find Valimar. Maybe
even thou shalt find it. Farewell!

Poem which, I might add, are beautiful in whichever language they are recited.

The poetry of Tolkien’s Dwarrow Clans—Dwarves to those of us who aren’t of a linguistic bent—is based on family lore, pride, and grudges, which make up the basis for a rich, ritualistic oral history that, in my subjective opinion, is incredibly effective when chanted by baritones used to the rhythms of a mine or a forge.

Durin’s Song
(J.R.R. Tolkien)

The world was young, the mountains green,
No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
No words were laid on stream or stone,
When Durin woke and walked alone.
He named the nameless hills and dells;
He drank from yet untasted wells;
He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,
And saw a crown of stars appear,
As gems upon a silver thread,El Gordo - The Fat Galaxy
Above the shadow of his head.

The world was fair, the mountains tall,
In Elder Days before the fall
Of mighty Kings in Nargothrond
And Gondolin, who now beyond
The Western Seas have passed away:
The world was fair in Durin’s Day.

A king he was on carven throne
In many-pillared halls of stone
With golden roof and silver floor,
And runes of power upon the door.
The light of sun and star and moon
In shining lamps of crystal hewn
Undimmed by cloud or shade of night
There shown forever far and bright.

There hammer on the anvil smote,Anvil
There chisel clove, and graver wrote;
There forged was bladed and bound was hilt;
The delver mined the mason built.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale
And metel wrought like fishes’ mail,
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
And shining spears were laid in horde.

Unwearied then were Durin’s folk;
Beneath the mountains music woke:
The harpers harped, the minstrels sang,
And at the gates the trumpets rang.

The world is grey, the mountains old,
The forge’s fire is ashen-cold;
No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
The darkness dwells in Durin’s halls;
The shadow lies upon his tomb
In Moria, in Khazad-dûm.
But still the sunken stars appear
In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep.

That doesn’t mean that drinking and stirring up trouble don’t make it into verse (see “The Washing Song” above), because even Dwarves need a break from the brooding now and again.

As for Hobbits—or at least one of them—Tolkien provided several thoughtful poems (and a few drinking songs as well) on behalf of a people who measure their lives in decades, not centuries, and for whom going there and back again is a recent, personal memory that time may not allow them to repeat.

Though one can always hope.

Bilbo’s Song
(J.R.R. Tolkien)

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamerTrees
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood and every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

And all of these fit seamlessly into Tolkien ‘s narrative, helping to create these separate peoples and anchor his imaginary world into our own literary culture—so much so that it hardly registers as poetry at all.

It just is, and was, and always will be.

Well done, sir.


*If you sincerely don’t know, go to a library and find copies of The Hobbit and the first volume of The Lord of the Rings  in book form and read them.  If you don’t care enough to read the rest of LOTR, I can’t help you.  On hte other hand, if you go on to tackle the Silmarillion, I applaud you, but I won’t be able to help you much at all, because whew!

**We will not be mentioning Tom Bombadil’s poetry in this post.  Tom Bombadil is a classic Nature’s Fool, with bits of wisdom hidden in his ridiculous rhymes, and he probably deserves his own post, but he irritates the crap out of me in several different ways, his poems go ever on and on and on, and this is my blog. If you wish to write your own post about the obvious literary significance of each syllable spoken by this powerful, tree-living citizen of Middle Earth and the ignorance of some people about his significance, please feel free to send me a link.  But I’m old and I get tired and this guy drives me up the nearest Ent.

Poetry Wednesday: The Excuse

This is the week for excuses and barely enough time to offer them, so today I’m going to share one of my ready-made favorites, in fine Irish style.

Some of you might recognize this as a song, and I would normally forestall any arguments about lyrics not being poetry by pointing out that anyone who claims poetry shouldn’t be sung is a pretentious snob; that there are many cultural traditions pairing poems with music; that poem have rhythms and rhythms are music, therefore poetry contains music; and Leonard Cohen.  

But I don’t have time, so I’ll just say that I read this years before I heard it performed and it’s brilliant and funny, and just the metaphor for my week*:

The Excuse, or Why Paddy’s not at Work Today
(Pat Cooksey)

Dear Sir, I write this note to tell you of my plight,
And at the time of writing, I am not a pretty sight.
My body is all black and blue, my face a deathly gray.
And I write this note to say why Paddy’s not at work today.

While working on the fourteenth floor, some bricks I had to clear.
And to throw them down from such a height seemed not a good idea.
The foreman wasn’t very pleased, he being an awful sod
He said I’d have to take them down the ladder in me hod.

Now, clearing all those bricks by hand, it was so very slow
So I hoisted up a barrel and secured the rope below.
But in my haste to do the job, I was too blind to see
That a barrel full of building bricks is heavier than me.

So when I untied the knot, the barrel fell like leadbrick
And clinging tightly to the rope, I started up instead—
I shot off like a rocket ’til to my dismay I found
That halfway up, I met the bloody barrel coming down.

Well, the barrel broke me shoulder as to the ground it sped,
And when I reached the top, I banged the pulley with me head.
I clung on tight, though numb with shock from this almighty blow
And the barrel spilled out half its bricks. fourteen floors below.

Now, when those building bricks fell from the barrel to the floor,
I then outweighed the barrel and so started down once more,
Still clinging tightly to the rope as I sped towards the ground
And I landed on the broken bricks that were scattered all around.

I lay there groaning on the ground and thought I’d passed the worst,
When the barrel hit the pulley wheel, and then the bottom burst.
A shower of bricks rained down on me, I knew I had no hope:
As I lay there moaning on the ground . . . I let go of the bloody rope.

The barrel then being heavier, it started down once more
And landed right across me as I lay upon the floor.
It broke three ribs and my left arm, and I can only say,
That I hope you’ll understand why Paddy’s not at work today.

 Honestly, though, it’s even better out loud,** so here’s one of my favorite versions, not only because I love Sean Cannon, but because there’s something about hearing an Irishman explain this song to a German audience that just tickles me:


*And also a fairly good explanation of the laws of Newton and also Murphy, who was, after all an Irishman.

**Most slam poetry does.  Get it?  Slam?  Poetry? See, he slammed the—oh, never mind.I see what you did there