Robert, Lord Grantham & Rick Grimes

Come with me to a bygone era, where people dress for dinner, and have servants, or are servants, but in either case speak with accents and know Their Place, even while that Place changes under their feet. Where families, literal and extended, stick together through thick and thin, through death and disaster, around a common ideal—Downton Abbey.

Love the Crawleys, Lord & Lady Grantham, their daughters and their various loves, the servants and their various loves, all the drama, triumphs and tragedies. It’s great stuff!

One wouldn’t think one could juxtapose the British elegance of Downton Abbey with the, dare I say it, down-and-nasty noir of The Walking Dead, would one?

But since I got sucked in to a Walking Dead marathon recently, and Downton Abbey is on my dvr, I’ve had the you-could-call-it-pleasure-if-you-wanted-to of seeing most of TWD season 2 & 3, followed by the relaxation of the Crawley saga.

Are there parallels? Of course there are, my friends, and not just because I’m tired and my eyes are falling out of my head—uh, due to excessive TV, and not, you know, a zombie bite.

1. Male Lead Character: The patriarchal figure, struggling to make the best of a changing world, slightly less sure of his footing than he used to be, I give you Robert, Lord Grantham.

And then there’s TWD’s Deputy Rick Grimes—leader of the pack o’survivors, struggling to keep it together, and keep his ‘family group’ alive. And avoid, you know, zombies. Is there death, destruction, grossness? Yes. Do beloved characters die? **SPOILER ALERT** Yes. Well, not much of a spoiler, as one might expect lots of death in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. And reanimation, and death, again, given, you know, the zombie thing.

The Crawley Sisters2. Themes: The strong male lead, the strong females around him, the struggle to survive and thrive in the face of change. The Big Questions—not just life and death and avoidance of zombies, or modernism, depending on the show, but how do I protect my family? Some of whom don’t want to be protected. How do you do the right thing in a changing world? How do you know what the right thing is? How do you help the group and maintain some Standards, damn it!

And Rick, whose standards have seriously slipped in the face of … okay, now the **MAJOR SPOILERS**—if you haven’t watched either show or are not caught up, read no further. Really! I’m going to name names and deaths and major plot twists.




3. Death by…? : Downton AbbeyThe Walking Dead—the creative minds behind both these shows are not afraid to kill people off. Beloved characters! No small-time red-shirts here. We’re talking emotional, gut-wrenching—okay, in zombie land, there are usually some actual guts involved—game changing, life-altering deaths.

And, means of death they have in common—death by childbirth. AAAUUGGHH!!!

Downton Abbey: We Moderns take living through childbirth for granted—not so in Downton Abbey times. Lady Sybil! So bright and fun, rebelling against her class and family, loving ‘beneath’ her—and what happens? She gives birth, then dies. O M G! And that whole, doctor snobby v. doctor-who-knew-her-from-childbirth. And whose doctor-decision was it? Lord Grantham.

Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t go over too well with his wife, Lady Cora. The restrained grief! The blame, self-blameMatthewCrawley and guilt. It was awful, it was fabulous, it was tragic at every turn.

And, not satisfied with One Major Death, (and there were a few minors before this one) they end the season on Another. Matthew. AAAUUGGHH!!! Matthew, so handsome, so in love, so bringing out the best in Lady Mary, so happy to be a daddy. SMACK! I can’t even speak about that one. Plenty of emotional fodder for season 4, that’s for sure.

Shane WalshThe Walking Dead: As if there weren’t enough dead things around! Shane (and of course, many, many dead before him, but SHANE!) Best friend, in love with Rick’s wife, Lori. So maybe Lori isn’t quite sure who her baby daddy is, but she had a good reason to stray—she thought Rick got eaten in Atlanta. One has to Move On, and quickly, during a zombie apocalypse.

Shane was mostly a good guy. Dangerous, volatile. Sexy. The rules of civilization, no longer applicable, and for him, no point in pretending. You had to love that about Shane. Plus his great abs and… Ahem. A man of action, was Shane. Sometimes angry, loose-cannon action, but action none-the-less. In the face of some of Rick’s dithering, there was a purity to it. They balanced each other.

Too bad Shane tried to kill Rick.

What a down and dirty fight, I didn’t think Rick was going to pull it out, but a man fighting for his life and his wife and his baby and his boy—in the end, Rick wins. Boo hoo! Lose/lose all the way.

Shane-Rick-LaurieAnd then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we get death by childbirth.

Lori! O M G. Okay, Rick and Lori, not getting along so well, what with one thing and another, but still, they loved each other. But, as usual, disaster strikes, Rick is off somewhere, the zombies are at the door. Lori gives birth—well, it was more like, rip this child from me—and dies. Noooooo!

Needless to say, Rick’s been a tad off the deep end since. He’s been bringing ‘I see dead people’ to new heights. Hugs, Rick! You need them.

4. Humor: Along with death and heartache, both these shows have their humorous touches. Downton Abbey—British wit, Maggie Smith’s delivery—always spot on, as it were, Carson’s face in the face of, well, all the Stuff. Quite right!

The Walking Dead—a tad darker, yet who can forget dangling Glen over the well as biter-bait, as in how many living does it take to get a walker out of a well?, and when they finally get that bloated corpse out—lol, if you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a (gross) treat.

For what is life without a bit of humorous leavening?

5. In Sum: Plenty of angst in the air, both in the post-Edwardian past and the hope-it-never-happens zombie-apocalypse future. How to explain their parallel appeal? Well, they’re good, of course, the characters, the drama, the emotion. Plus we live in times that are filled with dangers, and change, and uncertainty, and both of these shows speak to those elements. In their own unique way.

6. Last parallel:  Robert, Lord Grantham. Rick Grimes.

R. G.

Just saying.

******Have any obsessions that seem like they couldn’t possibly go together? Love the Dead, hate the Dead, bored of the Dead? Downton Abbey fan? Mad about how killing off major characters seems to be such a big fat trend? Is it drama or melodrama? Or just plain annoying?******

The Great Detective—Sherlock Holmes.

 “You see but you do not observe.” Holmes to Watson, “A Scandal in Bohemia”

I have had a long-standing love affair-du-Coeur with Sherlock Holmes. I read a bunch of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the Great Detective when I was younger, and a few of them really stuck with me. I’m sure everyone has their favorites.

Well, for some reason or other, maybe it was the recent and latest iteration of Holmes and Watson by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, I felt inspired to go back into Victorian England and delve into the World of Sherlock Holmes once more.

Four novels and fifty-six short stories later, I feel as impressed as ever with Holmes and Watson, and all the crime-solving, mystery-unraveling, clue gathering, disguises, adventures, and explanations. Great stuff!

There is a reason or six why Sherlock Holmes has gripped the imagination of readers, writers and fans since his first appearance on the scene in 1887.

1. The Great Detective Himself

Let’s face it, Holmes is pretty darn fabulous. He’s gifted with intelligence, heightened powers of observation and inference, a scientific and logical mind, the ability to see connections that others don’t see. He’s a master of disguise, chemistry, martial arts and boxing, he’s daring, and he keeps true to his own sense of justice. He does not always win, he does not always find the answer, but if it’s possible, you can be sure he’ll figure out the truth.

Though brilliant, Holmes was not perfect. People have speculated he was manic-depressive, or perhaps had Asperger’s Syndrome. He was high on intellect, and low on emotion—although you could argue it. He was passionate about his crime-solving art—and he had a dry, sarcastic wit which could seriously cut a lesser opponent to shreds. And (nearly) everyone was lesser. He did spend a bit of time addicted to cocaine (when he was bored), which Watson weaned him off of. His chemical experiments, as well as a propensity for shooting off firearms indoors, did not endear him to his landlady Mrs. Hudson. Though she never kicked him out. Hmm, maybe there was something there…? Well, that’s the romance writer in me. Probably been done already, ey?

2. The Crimes—

Watching Holmes unravel the crimes and mysteries is so much fun. The stories cover a wide spectrum. Murder, theft, kidnapping, betrayal, revenge, stolen plans, secrets, espionage, mistaken identity, secret identity, blackmail, fraud—and a few cases which were more mysteries than crime-solving. It’s all about the method! Observation, clues, deductions, inferences, and lots of footwork. He put forensics into action in detective work, sometimes running circles around Scotland Yard, other times working with them at their request, sometimes holding back evidence or explanations if Holmes felt justice was better served that way. The wealth and variety of mystery plots is fantastic.

 3. The Friendship—

Dr. John H. Watson, narrator for most of the stories, chronicler of the tales, is our window into the world of Sherlock Holmes. He is adventurous, brave, loyal, moral, maybe a little stodgy, but a reliable friend—not up to Holmes’ speed, but few would be. Yet they form a strong bond that lasts decades. I don’t know when Watson actually got to practice medicine since he was so ready to drop what he was doing in order to solve crimes, though he did doctor from time to time. He was injured in the Afghan War (odd from today’s standpoint, right? The Watson in the BBC modernization of Sherlock is wounded in the current Afghan war.) Watson does fall in love—something Holmes professes has never happened to him—and marries Mary Morstan from The Sign of the Four. Watson (maybe) even got married again after she (maybe) died—though this woman is never named. No kids—that we know of. Anyway, it’s Watson’s friendship with Holmes, his admiration for his friend’s powers, and his participation in the adventures that invite us into that same bond with the Great Detective. It’s one of the great friendships of literature. Plus Watson is the quintessential sidekick—a prototype for many that came after him.

4. The Nemesis—

Nothing puts the good guys through their paces like a really awesome bad guy. The evil and brilliant Professor Moriarty only figures in a few Holmes’ stories (2 directly), and we hear Holmes mention his struggles against the ‘Napoleon of crime’ in bits and pieces. Quite frankly, Conan Doyle invented Moriarty as a way to send Holmes out in a blaze of Glory. Now Moriarty might have gone over that cliff at Reichenbach Falls, while Holmes (readers find out a decade later, three years in the story world) actually didn’t. Despite his spectacular demise, and like Holmes himself, Moriarty has taken on a life of his own, looming large in the human imagination. Holmes has had many opponents, some worthy of his greatness, others less so, but there is nothing more satisfying than seeing these villains get their comeuppance.

5. The Game—

Well, it has been played by some notable folks, including Dorothy L. Sayers and Christopher Morley. The object is to treat the Holmes ‘canon’ – the 56 short stories and 4 novels – as true. As in, Holmes and Watson really lived, Watson had his stories published through his ‘agent’ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the events, places and people are based on real events, places and people. Reams of writing and terabytes of internet space have been devoted to this—it’s like a smart person’s fan club, yet somewhat crazy. I mean, people in Conan Doyle’s day used to think Holmes was real—somewhat annoying to his creator, who wanted to write Other Things. (Which he did, such as The Lost World and a lot of non-fiction work.) That said, people have had fun with dating the stories, figuring out who the historical characters Watson referred to with slight changes and different names might be, how many wives Watson had, where in Sussex Holmes’ bee farm might be, etc.

6. The Interpretations

Holmes was too large to stay chained to the page, and has had a wide and varied series of incarnations on stage, screen, and, well, in other people’s books. He has inspired interpretations of his character, psychology, romances-or-lack-there-of, parody, comedy, and plenty of etc. If I say Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, you get the picture. As opposed to ‘cannon’ story, the ‘Adventure of the Sussex Vampire’, an actual penned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story. In movies alone, Sherlock Holmes has inspired portrayals by over 70 actors in over 200 films. Whoa!

  There is plenty of fodder in the originals to expand on. We know little of Holmes’ background and family, though we do meet smarter (though indolent) brother Mycroft. People have made up all sorts of interesting theories of his upbringing. Watson gives us tantalizing glimpses of cases he never expands into stories (The Giant Rat of Sumatra—come on, Watson, we need to know!) We get our picture of Holmes mostly through Watson’s first person eyes—though there are 2 stories narrated by Holmes, and 2 in third person. So writers and storytellers can find a twist outside Watson’s viewpoint and have fun with it. Thus we have Young Sherlock Holmes a movie about Holmes and Watson as a school boys, Nicholas Meyer’s Seven-Percent Solution (referencing Holmes addiction to cocaine and Freud’s talking cure of same), the TV show House contains many moments of homage to Sherlock Holmes, Basil of Baker Street is a children’s book, and a Disney movie (The Great Mouse Detective) featuring Basil the mouse and his adventures, with nemesis Ratigan (Vincent Price voices, quite fabulous), the Mary Russell books starting with The Beekeepers Apprentice, where in a 15-yr-old American woman meets Holmes in retirement and they have many adventures together. And eventually, a romance.

Just a small sampling of the many, many Holmes-related and re-imagined works out there.

Below are some of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories.

A Scandal In Bohemia, The Red-headed League, The Speckled Band, The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Copper Beeches, The Norwood Builder, Silver Blaze, The Musgrave Ritual, The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Abbey Grange, The Second Stain, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

If you want a list of Sherlock Holmes stories, try a visit to the Diogenes club. http://www.diogenes-club.com/hoysummary.htm , Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes . And your local library or bookstore—there’s always a classic edition around. Amazon & BN have everything as well.

A fun article on the real-or-not biz.  http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2088/did-sherlock-holmes-really-exist 

http://www.schoolandholmes.com/index.html a list of Holmes related books, not by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

http://pbpl.physics.ucla.edu/~yoder/mystery/doywork.html short, short summaries of the short stories

Enjoy! The Game’s Afoot

So, do you have a favorite Sherlock Holmes tale? Love or loathe the Great Detective? Enjoy any particular re-imagination of Holmes & Watson? Who is your favorite Holmes? Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, or Robert Downey Jr., or…? Do tell!

Horses are amazing creatures. They represent power and speed, usefulness, companionship, and a wild freedom that appeals to humans even today.

Our relationship with Horse goes back to pre-history.

Yes, we used to hunt them for food. But eventually we caught on, hey, these big, strong creatures sure do know how to run. Hmm. How to make that work for us? In exchange for protection, grass, shelter, a good brushing, some oats and the occasional carrot, Horse has been a good friend.

HORSE HISTORY—The Short Version

Horse has figured in human spirituality and mythology for millennia. Featured in many prehistoric cave paintings in France, were they regarded as Spiritual guides? A link to the Other world? A plea for good hunting?

The majority of Horse species developed in North America, and spread to other continents over time. Ironically, horses disappeared from the Americas around 10,000 years ago—and only survived in Eurasia and Africa. Which meant they were reintroduced to our side of the Atlantic by the Europeans.

All domesticated horse species are thought to be bred from the tarpan, or European Wild Horse, extinct since 1919 (and isn’t that a shame.)

When did Horse go from food to friend? Anthropologists think domestication might have first happened in the Asian steppes around 3500 BC. Possibly people kept herds of horses, most likely at first for food & milk. Around 2000 to 1500 BC humans began using Horse for pulling things, carrying things, then for riding.

We have used them in War (until WWI), for Work, as Status, for Trade & Transport, and in Sports. World horse population is estimated to be around 58 million. Today, most horses are kept for recreational purposes. And while there are populations of horses running wild, they are not true ‘wild horses’, they are descended from horses that were domesticated. More feral horse than wild horse.


Horses are beauty and strength in motion.  Horse shaped much of our history, and naturally, Horse has figured strongly in our stories, legends and mythology. There is enough horse lore to fill shelves and shelves of books, but I find this Horse myth particularly poetic.

ArabiansAccording to Bedouin legend, Allah created the horse from the four winds. He endowed the animal with SPIRIT from the North, STRENGTH from the South, SPEED from the East, and INTELLIGENCE from the West.

Real horses are pretty outstanding, of course. Below is a (short) list of some Famous Horses:

  • Comanche was General George Custer’s Horse and the sole survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876
  • Alexander the Great’s horse named Bucephalus. The story goes the king (dad) got the horse as a gift, but no one could ride or even handle him. But boy prince Alex tamed the horse and rode him to fame and conquest.
  • Man O'WarFamed race horses: Man O’War, War Admiral, Secretariat, Citation, Dan Patch, Seattle Slew, Sea Biscuit, Affirmed last horse to win the U.S. Triple Crown (1978)
  • Famous TV horses: Trigger was a Golden Palamino stallion and co-star with Roy Rogers in many of his movies and TV show. Silver (Lone Ranger) Mr Ed the talking horse.
  • Traveler was the name of the horse that Mel Gibson rode in “Braveheart”. Also the name of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s horse.
  •  BABIECA: Spanish name meaning “a simpleton; stupid” The white Andalusian  belonging to El Cid. According to legend, Babieca was frail and wild and when El Cid chose her, his godfather named her “Babieca!”  But Babieca grew into a  great warhorse, much beloved by El Cid.

HORSE in Fiction

ShadowfaxSAragorn, Legolas & Gandalf a-horsehort, short list—Horses have been the subject of books, the main characters in books, figured prominently in books, and been allegorical subjects.

Famed Fictional Horses:

  • Black Beauty
  • the Black Stallion
  • Misty of Chincoteague
  • My Friend Flicka
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy has some mighty fine horses, including Bill the pony who found his way home, and ShaWraith Horsedowfax, chief of the Mearas, whom only Gandalf could ride. Of course, there were some mighty bad horses in LOTR—the ringwraith mounts. Ugh! Scary beasts.


Famous Scary Horses: The four horses of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Shivers.

Horses in Legends and Mythology:

Arthurian: Gringolet is Sir Gawain’s horse; possible King Arthur Horses: Llamrei, Hengroen, later French sources call his horse Passelande; Sir Caradoc’s horse: Luagor.

 Medieval Romance:  Bayard: a magic horse from the legends of the chansons de geste (“Songs of Heroic Deeds”). It belonged to the four sons of Aymon, and had the ability to grow larger or smaller as one or more riders mounted it.

EponaEpona is Gallic-Roman goddess of the horse & fertility

The HIPPOI ATHANATOI were the immortal horses of the gods. The majority of these divine steeds were offspring of the four Wind-Gods who themselves were said to draw the chariot of Zeus in the shape of horses.

 Horses have been combined with many other creatures, mythologically speaking—hippalectryon (horse-rooster), hippogriff (horse-griffin, itself a mythological creature), centaur (man-horse)

PegasusPegasus  & other Winged Horses Tianma (Chinese Winged Horse) Tulpar (Central Asian Mythology)

Sea Horses (hippocampi)–Poseidon has a few drawing his charriot

Xanthus and Balios—immortal horses given to Achilles, featured in the Illiad

Horses of Doom: Cheval Mallet—a black horse that would lure the unwary to their doom (French) or Gytrash (England) the Kelpie (Irish, with a watery twist), the Night Mare

Sleipnir, Odin’s eight legged horse (Norse mythology)

Mares of Diomedes—flesh eating horses, one of Hercules’s Labors was to capture them.

Liath Macha  and Dub Sainglend are the two chariot-horses of the hero Cúchulainn in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology.

Enbarr or Embarr (meaning “imagination”) in Irish mythology is Niamh’s horse. He can run across sea and land without touching the ground or water.

UnicornThe Unicorn—legendary one-horned creature, symbol of purity and grace, white, horse-like with a single horn and a goat’s beard, sometimes with a lion’s tale and goat’s cloven hoof. Supposedly has powers of healing, and can only be captured by a virgin.

 Swift WindSwift Wind combo pegasi and unicorn from She-Ra: Princess of Power(1985). Hey, why not?

Awesome websites to explore:





http://www.giladorigami.com/PG_Horses.html some extremely cool origami horses

http://www.artema.com.au/Boyd/ancient_antecedents/bayard.html Bayard legend



Any favorite Horse Tales to share? Have a My Little Pony collection? Horrified by pink and purple horses? Always wanted Swift Wind as a friend? Love to ride, love Horse from afar?


A Hauntingly Good Story

I love the Halloween Season!

I don’t like roller coasters, slasher movies, or walking home alone in the dark, but give me pumpkins, witches, and skeletons, evil laughs, Frankenstein, Dracula or Mummy movies, a Milky Way, and I’m a happy camper.

In my younger days, I had my goth costume moments, and I did dress up as a vampiress to my husband’s priest,and for a cozy what-if scare I will watch Ghost Hunters with my daughter (she sure does know how to scare herself).

But Halloween is pure fun.

I used to make my kids’ costumes. They were so adorable! My son was a devil (red pj’s, glued on devil horns, a pitchfork—watch out dog!—and once he figured out why the heck I was dragging him around in this outfit, he’d run up to people’s doors chanting ‘candy’! He was 2 ½ ), Zorro, Batman (yes, I made that one despite all the readily available costume shop ones), a pirate, a ninja, and the Prince of Thieves. My daughters have been Sailor Moon (reused several times, a fabulous costume if I do say so myself), princesses (from old bridesmaids gowns, got a lot of mileage there), and then I went to buying costumes, because, well, because, so we had cheerleaders, vampires, and mermaids. Did we do a black widow or ghost bride? Oh, maybe that was me.

Then we went to Zombie soccer players, and minimalist outfits (ie, sweats) and make-up, bloody scars, out with the friends and see ya, mom! Sigh.

So now, only my youngest goes out trick or treating, with friends, and my house must be a little spooky, because I get very few little goblins knocking on my door. I do put on the light. The dog is loud, maybe?

Anyway, I could go on and on about Halloween fun and the joy of a good scare, but I’ll leave it at this.

The spirit world is the closest to ours on the Eve of Hallowmas, or Samhain, depending who and where you are. Roast some pumpkin seeds, light a candle for the dead, ring some bells, and definitely go for the Treat over the Trick.

And I hope you don’t get egged!

Good Halloween Movies

Really old, really creepy. I mean, really. If it’s late and you’re alone, and you watch this thing, you WILL be scared! NOSFERATU—1922, b&w, silent. It’s in the public domain. Creep Factor=HIGH! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcyzubFvBsA

THE MUMMY—with Boris Karloff—ooh, that close-up of him! Kissing dead things. That vat of embalming fluid. This is both a love story and a creep-fest. Creep Factor=MED

THE MUMMY—Brendan Fraser—I adore #1 and #2. Creep Factor=LOW Although those scarab beetles, ugh! Some good gross-out moments, too. Fun Factor=HIGH

DRACULA—oh, pick any of the dozens of movies out there! Children of the Night, indeed. Creep Factor= SOME CREEPIER THAN OTHERS, SOME STUPIDER, TOO

Frankenstein, Wolfman—hey, I’m a traditionalist! And for a laugh—it still holds up, ABBOT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. They meet a lot of other fun characters, too. And who can forget YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, the Mel Brooks comedy with Gene Wilder and many other fabulous people. Oh, Sweet Mystery of Life!

And for a good black and white ghost story, and I probably mentioned it before, try THE UNIVITED (1944) with Ray Milland.

A lot of people tend to ignore movies made in black and white, but if you’re up for something different, I say give it a try! There is nothing like a spooky black and white movie at this (or any) time of year.

And for a fun Halloween TV treat, if you didn’t catch the Halloween episode of The Office, give it a whirl. It was funny, and good. If you missed it, check out HULU http://www.hulu.com/watch/292804/the-office-spooked James Spader’s Scary Story was Excellent.

Nothin’ to fear but fear itself!

Any Halloween tips to share, a favorite costume, or favorite scary movie? Love this holiday or hate it?

Mythic Creatures—the Snake

How alien do you find that slithery creature, the snake?

Those lidless eyes, staring, staring at you, the way they curl, coil and undulate, the speed of their strike, the forked tongue, the fangs. It’s so, so, ssssso inhuman! Mammals, even the oh-so-dangerous tiger, at least have a cuddle factor (when they’re small).

Snakes have…scales. Venom. Their own agenda.

Found on every continent except Antarctica (and conspicuously absent from Ireland, Iceland, & New Zealand, and some other islands), the Snake figures prominently in mythologies around the world and throughout human history. In the West, we’re a little prejudiced against them, but in other places and times, the snake has symbolized fertility, rebirth, protection, wisdom, healing, cunning and flat out god power.

Back to those lidless eyes and that unblinking stare. Anything that can stare us down, well it has to know something we don’t, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s just the way it’s made, and yes, it’s probably thinking more about dinner than the secrets of the universe, but you can see it, right? It just looks smart.

In Western lore, Snake has a bad rap as the Garden of Eden dweller who lured Eve into disobedience.  Snake = Evil = Satan to many Westerners.

St. Patrick drove them out of Ireland, St. Columba banned them from the island of Iona (he also reportedly had a bit of a talk with the Loch Ness Monster and forbade the creature from eating humans—Nessie’s been scarce ever since, probably sulking), and statues of Mary Queen of Heaven have her bare foot firmly on the neck of the Serpent.

Now, there are those who say, in St. Patrick’s case, the banished snakes in question symbolize the Pagan Druids he conquered through the spread of Christianity. And St. Columba, descended incidentally from Irish Kings, had a more practical aim in mind—protecting the livelihood of his flock (the people as well as the cows) from pesky snakes. And the symbolism of the snake in Mary’s case is the triumph of Christianity over Adam and Eve’s original sin.

And you’ve probably seen this on TV, because, heck, it’s fairly weird and wild, there are Christian sects that practice snake handling as a part of their worship. Yes, with venomous snakes.

But snakes have had their place in myth and legend well before the Christian era.

Quetzalcoatl in Mesoamerica: the feathered serpent, a god of learning and knowledge, possibly fertility, possibly involved in the creation of mankind. Does anyone REALLY know? No. But there are lots of depictions of the feathered snake god, so we know he was important. Today you can find lots of New Age Quetzalcoatl lore. Was he an Ancient Alien come to earth? Or maybe as some Mormons are said to believe he was JC visiting the Americas after His resurrection? We know just enough about the Big Q to intrigue and not enough to be definitive. This makes him a tantalizing mythological creature.

Vulture on L, Cobra on R, Symbolizing Unification of Upper & Lower Egypt

Wadjetthe Cobra Goddess: The Cobra in Ancient Egypt was an important symbol of strength and power associated with the pharaohs. The Pharaoh wore a hooded cobra on his crown—which would spit fire at his enemies. Not too shabby! You want that serpent on your side. And of course we all know the story of Cleopatra and the Asp.

Moses—since we’re in Egypt, or leaving it—had a staff that could turn into a serpent. And God gave him the power to cure the Hebrews of snakebite. Very useful on a desert trek.

 Nagas, or snake deities in Hindu mythology— represent death and rebirth, fertility, wisdom, and knowledge. Shesha, king of the Nagas, is said to hold all the planets on his hoods. He floats in the cosmic ocean, his massive, many headed body forming the bed where Vishnu rests. Manasa is the queen of the snakes. Nāg Panchamī is a snake-worshiping festival still celebrated in parts of India.

Greek Mythology—you’ve got Medusa & her sisters, whose writhing snake locks gave new meaning to the term ‘bad hair’ day. The Hydra with its many snake heads, Apollo’s fight with the god PythonApollo won, a snake guarded the Golden Fleece, the Minoan Snake Goddess held a snake in either hand probably symbolizing knowledge and wisdom, Asclepius, son of Apollo, is the god of medicine and his snake-wrapped rod is used as a symbol of the healing arts to this day. Hermes’ Caduceus with its wings and entwined snakes is a symbol for commerce and negotiation (the two staffs are often confused).

  Ouroborosthe snake eating its tail—this symbol dates back to the ancients. Many creation myths feature a snake encircling the world. It symbolizes eternity, eternal renewal, immortality, and can be found in alchemy, Masonic seals, West African religions, and has been adapted by modern people around the world. For a surprisingly long list, read the wiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouroboros#Modern

I think I have a broach of him somewhere.

JörmungandrNorse Mythology— is the World Serpent who encircles the earth and can grasp his own tail. When he lets go of his tail, the world will end. His arch enemy is Thor. When those two go at it at Ragnarök, watch out! Well, that’s not going to be a good day for anyone.

The Hopi of North America perform a Snake Dance to influence the weather.  After the ceremony, the snakes are released so they can carry the prayers of the priests to the underworld where the rain gods live. Rain ensues.

Garter Snake--very common, non-venomous

Those are just a few of the many, many snake tales.

So, how did the snake come to mean so much and so many different things to us?

“Red to Yellow, Kill a Fellow; Red to Black, Venom Lack” Coral Snake, venomous, L, Milk Snake, non-venomous R. Only ‘good’ in North America! When in doubt, walk away and call a professional.

This reptile has traits that lend themselves to our anthropomorphizing. The way they move, curl-up and coil is so different from our own methods of locomotion-exotic and fascinating, maybe even frightening. Their scales come in all different colors and patterns.  They are good at camouflage, like to hide in rocks and underbrush. Some climb and live in trees. Some swim—including the venomous sea snake (warm waters of the Indian Ocean among other locations).

They are carnivores, they do NOT like milk (not even milk snakes). Non-venomous snakes are great at keeping down rodent populations. Venomous snakes are as well, but you don’t want them hanging around your house or barn.

Snakes molt their skin as they grow (Eternal Renewal). They do not have teeth that can chew, only grab and hold. Most snakes are not venomous. If they possess venom, they will stun their prey with it before digesting them. They can NOT hypnotize their prey. They will strike an enemy in self-defense. Some will even play dead until you go away.

They have jaws, skin and a flexible rib cage that can all spread wide enough to accommodate prey much larger than their resting diameter. Yes, they can swallow prey whole, alive. Pit vipers—rattlesnakes, copperhead, cottonmouth—have heat sensors on the sides of their faces which help them locate prey at night.

Snakes are NOT slimy, they are in fact dry to the touch. Their forked tongues, which they constantly flick, test the air for smells.

Snakes can be enormous (like the anaconda and the reticulated python—30+ feet long, and hundreds of pounds). The smallest is the size of a worm, and is often mistaken for one. The python, the anaconda, and the boa are constrictors, wrapping their considerable selves around prey until they suffocate and can be swallowed. Of course whole.

The gentle rosy boa is one of the most popular snake pets in the US.

GENERALLY humans are not snake prey (we are much more dangerous to them then they to us), but hey, they are opportunists. You wouldn’t have to worry about a three foot long snake, but a thirty foot one, yes. Fortunately, they don’t live in the suburbs (unless someone is keeping one as a pet.)

A snake would rather run than fight, but some are more aggressive than others and will go at you if disturbed.

Most snake bites happen by accident (or stupidity). You want to watch where you put your foot or hand in snake country—most likely reason to be bit: you step on/near one you didn’t see.

Place you are most likely to get bitten by a venomous snake: India. They have a lot of snakes in general, and many species are venomous, like the cobra, krait, and viper. An estimated 250,000 people a year are bit by venomous snakes in India—and of that, an estimated 10,000 die each year. Compare that to under 20 in the USA.


You Snake! (a sneak, deceptive, sly, devious, untrustworthy), Snake in the Grass (traitor, betrayer), Nursing a Viper at Your Breast (being good to someone who turns around and harms you), Speaking with a Forked-Tongue (liar), Lower than a Snake’s Belly (how low can you go?), A Snake-Oil Salesman (selling a cure-all that doesn’t work), Snaking Through (go through a twisted course), Snake Charmer (a person who has a way with dangerous things, or a charming facade hiding a dangerous person).

For more pictures of snakes: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/photos/snakes/

And videos from Animal Planet: http://animal.discovery.com/search/results.html?focus=site&query=snakes&search=+

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child!” Shakespeare, King Lear

SOME FAMOUS SNAKES (can you tell I have kids?)

Kaa (L) from the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Mowgli’s mentor in RK book, not so much in Disney movie)

Jafar(R) from Aladdin, the Disney Movie (turns himself into a giant cobra during the final battle)

Viper, character in Kung Fu Panda movie

Nagini from the Harry Potter books and movies

Snake Plissken—Kurt Russell played the one-eyed ex-special forces agent in Escape From New York

The Gadsen Flag, one of the flags of the American Revolution

COOL CARSwhat the heck?

Dodge Viper (L) & Shelby Cobra (R)

♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦♦ 

So, do you have a snake-opinion? Love them, hate them, fascinated by them?  Feel they are much-maligned? Get the heebie-jeebies when you see one? Have a snake story to share?

Freebie Friday Part 2

My love of internet freebies may be known to you (see previous Freebie Friday post https://lizjakes.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/freebie-friday/ ) So here are a few more FREE programs I use a lot, and have found to be very handy. Perhaps they might be of use to you as well.

In the Computer Protection Zone

AVG—AVG has a free as well as a for-pay antivirus program. AVG FREE is pretty darn good. Of course, it’s up to every individual to find their comfort zone in the anti-virus department. It’s a hot zone out there!

You can read PC Mag’s take here, where the reviewer gave AVG FREE a pretty glowing review: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2391931,00.asp#fbid=bXMUMp2P9Or

Nothing is perfect, but I’ve found AVG to be fairly reliable. I recently went through a big hassle with a virus/malware that I needed help with (thank you and God Bless, Roger M! ) , and ugh!, it sucks. After a few starts and stops in safe mode, a run or 6 of Malwarebytes, AVG finally caught the two nasty bugs and stuck them in the vault.

So, as with anything, make sure you’re up to date, make sure you run the thing every day, and make sure you back up all your important files.

Every day.



To read more: reviews & download


http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage  They also have their pay one, which has a free trial, so watch which one you click. Freebie to the LEFT.

Watch out for the toolbar they want you to install! I hate those things—unclick unless you want it!


http://www.malwarebytes.org/products/malwarebytes_free Also on the People Are Nasty front, we have the inventors and proliferators of malware. ‘Malware’ is a smush-up word for Malicious Software. That’s the adware, Trojans, worms, spyware, etc. that evildoers try to get onto your computer for their evil-doing pleasure. Grr.

Malware Bytes searches out and gets rid of such nasty things, yeah!

The Free version works fine with the caveat that you have to manually update it and instruct it to run. Easy to forget on a day-to-day. If that’s a little too hands-on, go ahead and spring for the more automated Pay version. It’s $24.95—and, hey, that’s almost free!

For CNET review and another avenue to download, see here: http://download.cnet.com/Malwarebytes-Anti-Malware/3000-8022_4-10804572.html

Useful On Your Computer


Portable Document Format gets around the fact that different people have different operating systems and use different word processing software. PDFs can be read (and printed) by (almost) all operating systems. You can read a lot of technical stuff about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Document_Format

Of course, you need a PDF reader to view a PDF file. Guess what? That part is free! You probably already have it installed on your computer—Adobe Acrobat Reader. If not, you can get if, for free, here. http://www.adobe.com/products/reader.html Make sure to UNCHECK any sneaky software they may ask you to install along with it. You don’t really want it, I promise.

The PDF was created by Adobe, and has become more and more widespread and useful. And kindly and wisely, they allow the world to use it royalty-free so that now we have a worldwide document standard. Pretty cool, right?

And in the spirit of continuing along FREE…

CUTE PDF—Windows Only, Sorry!

If you find the Portable Document Format useful, as I have, you can create PDFs of your documents, or graphics, without buying the ADOBE product. ADOBE ACROBAT Standard=$300 — CUTE=Free. This is a very basic creator. Create your document in MS Word or whatever you use, make it error free, and save it in .pdf (well, not exactly, but read on).

You can’t do the fancy things you can do with a full program, which it looks like you can buy from CUTE for $50. If you need to make changes, you’d have to go back to the original document and fix, then re-PDF.

You will need a PS2PDF converter to make CUTE work—but you can get that for free as well. It’s called GHOSTSCRIPT which is a POSTSCRIPT (which I guess is the PS in the PS2PDF above). Both are linked on the website.

Review: http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file/fid,25938-order,1-page,1/description.html

Download: http://www.cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/Writer.asp I would suggest you install the converter first, then the CUTE.

After wards, your CUTE PDF creator will be a function of your printer menu.

When you’re ready to create your PDF, select the PRINT button on your computer, then select CutePDF in the drop-down menu of the printer select button. A new “save as” box comes up. Save it where you like. Easy peezy, lemon-squeezy.


Image that came up when I searched for Coffee Cup Software.

This is not for everyone—but if you are interested in doing your own website, or if you’re like me and have fallen into maintaining your RWA chapter’s website, and you have time, patience and a geeky streak, read on!

You can learn how to create your own website, for free, from the people who maintain the standards. The World Wide Web Consortium. http://www.w3.org/ Very cool group! http://www.w3.org/wiki/HTML/Training

Me, I learned from library books (ULTIMATE FREE PARADISE:  The Library), and pitiful experiments that shocked me by actually producing visual images in my web browser. Can you say, hooked? Or crazy, one of those. The Library has an OVERWHELMING number of books on the subject. My 2 favorites are:

1.  a kid’s book “Dave’s Quick n’ Easy Web Pages” by Dave Lindsay. Dave was 11 when he wrote this. I aspire. Clear, concise, and results-oriented. You might be able to find this in your local library, or used from Amazon.

2. And then, if you get hooked, you can read “Sams Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML and CSS in One Hour a Day” (6th Edition) by Laura LeMay. This is a bible-esque tome. But accessible for all its size and weight.

And when you’re ready to create or update:


Coffee Cup software, and doesn’t the name sound so friendly and inviting? I can almost smell the gently-wafting java. Sigh.

Anyway, it isn’t real expensive to begin with. The full version of the HTML editor is $50. You can buy a suite of software for $99 to $150+, which is a good deal for 4 or 5 programs bundled up. But if you want to stay in the Free Zone, the Free HTML editor is perfectly fine.

Better for you if you know HTML (HyperText Markup Language—the way websites are created and read over the internet) going in—and btw if you want to get super basic and bare bones, you can design and edit a website in HTML with Notepad or even Word in a pinch.

But this is better because it’s organized well, has lots of code you can add with a mere double click (and it fills in for you, too) and if you have a lot of pages, it’s much easier to organize yourself because of the left hand side tabs.

Paying for it, you get the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) visual editor component, but the FREE version has a tab for code editing and a tab for previewing your work. Very convenient! You can also do some browser testing, copy and paste easily, PLUS you can upload directly to the web from inside the program.

IMO, well worth the hard drive space!

Check it out here: http://www.coffeecup.com/free-editor/

Coffee Cup also has a free FTP program. FTP=File Transfer Protocol, which is the way you get files from your computer to your web server, and vice verse. While the HTML editor above has an internal FTP, sometimes the separate program comes in handy. http://www.coffeecup.com/free-ftp

Good Stuff!

There are a lot of initials in website design and internet use, aren’t there? And it acts like magic if you ask me. How do a bunch of tag commands in angle brackets become a beautiful website? Heck knows! I mean, even after I read about it and even after I use it, it’s still mysterious.

But lots of fun.

Stay free, my friends!

Anybody have other freebies they love? Cool and useful programs they adore? I’d love to hear about them.