Strange Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

Kage Baker always said that the world was a lot weirder than most people ever noticed. She noticed – she trained herself to do it, because it’s the weird news and observations that provide grist for the writer’s mill.

I noticed because I was along for the drive – I was usually driving.

Also, that stuff is just out there, you know? In plain view, the interesting cracks in the mundane world that really make life so much more fascinating. Many of you Dear Readers are clearly of the ilk that watches for the amusing oddities – you send them on to me, for which I am most especially grateful. That eel in the waste water plant story came from my good girl Kelly, presently off in the wilds of Florida on assignment for State Farm but obviously on the alert – and several of you sent me links to a frankly wonderful story earlier in the week about what appears to have been an ancient cephalopod that made art with the bones of its prey …

Great stuff. Stuff one just needs to know to colour in the world in all the proper shades. The world is just much more fascinating if you learn that some Triassic cephalopod arranged the bones of its dismembered fishy prey into representations of its own multi-suckered arms. It’s especially neat when you realize it used the victims’ vertebrae; which are, of course,  the main symbolic differences between fish and molluscs … that’s positively sardonic.

Today I’ve found a cute little story from St.Ives, Wales. Well, it’s cute because it has a happy ending: some fecal pore stuffed 7 kittens into a bag and abandoned them. Those familiar with their nursery rhymes will see the significance there. The bag – a hideous purple vinyl purse – was very nearly airtight, and the kittens almost suffocated. Luckily, an alert passerby checked the bag and got them all to a shelter, where they are recovering nicely. Six black kitties with blue eyes and one yellow-eyed ginger tabby, rescued from the dark side of Mother Goose.

Also from the UK – although admittedly via the bureaucratic asininity of the EU – is a report that official documents will no longer be using the words “father” and “mother”. They will instead be referred to as “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”. There’s no indication of which will be which, so there is no way to tell if there is any underlying sexism being demonstrated here – automatically assigning “Parent 1” to the father would be blatant paternalism – but I do think the estate of Theodore Geisel might consider a plagiarism suit.

This is evidently based on the efforts of the EU to establish statutes that eliminate identification by gender in its official paperwork. Of course, gender is one of the most obvious ways to identify people at all, but they seem to feel the law is better off confused than socially fascist. Britain is not only leaping on the bandwagon but into the absurdist abyss.

Kage noted this kind of thing happening a lot in Britain. It worried her no end. Some readers asked if she had a grudge of some sort against the Brits – Kage always assured them that, no, she was an avowed Anglophile. She brought up these kind of crap because she was concerned about what the Brits were doing to their own society. Periodically, as Kage and I have both observed, they do seem to deliberately throw all their civil rights away over there, and it usually takes a considerable fracas to eventually restore them and make Christmas legal again.

I  take a certain  amount of gleeful interest in this all the time, and especially in October: the month of mysteries, monsters and inexplicable lights.  For instance, doesn’t it seem that there is a sudden increase in Cthulhu-references cropping up in nature lately? What was misbehaving under my front lawn? Is there some ritual content underlining the septuple cat abandonment in old St. Ives?

One can come up with plots woven out of anything: it’s particularly fun this time of year. Ghost stories are a staple of the last, darkest quarter of the year, even if the only one most folks now recall is a sanitized version of A Christmas Carol. But there was more even to that favourite tale than jolly Christmas Present and adorable little Tiny Tim …

Since earliest childhood – literally, I remember Kimberly in her crib above me as I crept along the bedroom floor, investigating the noises outside the windows – I’ve been most intrigued by the things abroad in these long nights. We lived in the hills, after all, and near the concrete canyon of the L.A. River. Now I watch the news more for the glints of oddity than I do the streets outside my window – but believe me, Dear Readers, there is just no end to the fascinating weirdness out there!

I well remember peering out my bedroom window one autumn night, while my siblings all slept, and seeing beautiful people in evening clothes out there. A lovely lady in a sparkling gown picked up my kitten off the dark lawn, and tucked it into her fur stole. Then she and it climbed into a dove-grey sedan and I never saw either one of them again …

Strange scenes indeed. It’s just that time of year.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Strange Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

  1. I think the St ives in the rhyme is the one in Cornwall, however the irony is not lost.


    • Kate says:

      I think you’re right, Maggie, but it still struck me. What is the strange connection between St. Iveses and sevenses of cat?



  2. Tom says:

    With a connection both to ghostly weirdness and to plumbing:


    • Kate says:

      Neat link, Tom! Seasonal and fun and informative, too.

      BTW, the reference to Chatham House was especially interesting – the ghost there is Hanging Judge George Jeffreys, infamous for his grimly enthusiastic role in the Bloody Assizes. AND one of Kage’s ancestors! On the maternal side … Kage always said of him, “The old bugger was loyal to his King.”

      Actually Chatham House is one of several places Judge Jeffeys is said to haunt. Most of the rest of them are taverns, though. Which we always thought was appropriate.

      Hey Neassa – aren’t there Chathams in your family?



      • Neassa says:

        Yep! Mom’s maiden name was Chatham. We haven’t been able to trace that family back farther than 1819 in Delaware though.


  3. Kate says:

    Well, there’s a town of Chatham in England – on the coast of Kent, along Watling Street (the A2 in these degenerate days), a Royal Shipyard since the reign of Elizabeth I, God save the Queen. It’s a Royal Navy base! Have you thought of making any inquiries there? English names being what they are, I bet there is a connection.
    I just hope old George Jeffreys didn’t hang any of your ancestors … however would I explain it to your Mom?


  4. David says:

    Sadly, the gender/parent thing is not restricted to good ol’ England–and here, it *is* blatantly sexist. At the beginning of this school year, I filled out paperwork for one of my son’s classes that listed “Parent 1 (Mother)” and “Parent 2 (Father)”. Now, I am not one who usually takes offense at such things. (There are far, far too many other things to get annoyed at, and one simply doesn’t have enough energy to go around, does one?) However, I am–and have been, for years–the *only* parent filling out paperwork like this, so the assumption that the mother would be the primary contact really just set me off. I don’t know what the solution is, frankly, to the whole P1/P2 thing, but this clearly is not it. What if I was in a same sex relationship, and there was no mother? What if the child’s guardians were his grandparents, or some other relative? Why did it have to change from “Parent/Guardian” on two lines–which is how it used to be? Was that not clear enough?

    What it really comes down to, I fear, is that someone’s Job needed to be justified. And that is a horror of a whole other level. Ugh.


    • Kate says:

      Oh, lord, I had no idea this had spread to the US! I really think this is an insidious rot, and we should all bring it to loud attention when we find it. Not only is it blatantly sexist, it’s an example, as you say, of someone’s justifying their job – and wasting time and money while denigrating other people. Aaaargh!


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