Thursday, 28 October 2021

Category » Time Capsules

Thank You, Kind Friends

Robert writes:

I haven’t mentioned it on the blog until now, but apparently word got out through other channels that my father died on January 26. Much to my surprise — well, no; very little that MuseBloggers do surprises me anymore. But I was touched and moved to receive by email a sympathy card that several of you jointly designed and created.

I’ll tell you more about my father soon and will try to post Time Capsules of some of his proto-proto-Muserly boyhood papers. Although Dad probably never saw MuseBlog (he developed dementia and stopped using computers about the time I started experimenting with WordPress), he contributed to it in important ways, both by helping to make me the person I am and by inventing some of the cornerstones of MB culture. For example, the useful gender-neutral pronoun “en” was his idea, and he would have been delighted to see how it has taken root and flourished on our threads.

I’ll paste in the card itself after the jump. Spoiler alert: it involves space squids. For a naval captain who loved science-fiction, I can think of no more fitting totem animal to guide him on his final voyage.

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Robert’s Time Capsule: Adventures in Space

Robert writes:

Last week, astronomers discovered a planet orbiting the star closest to Earth, Alpha Centauri. With an orbital period of three days, it’s much too hot to support life, but astronomers plan to take a closer look at the star in hope of finding a planet in its habitable zone.

In fact, I happen to know that there is such a planet. Not only does it support life, but it is home to an advanced civilization.

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Robert’s Time Capsule: Improving Rodin

This time capsule was inspired by Choklit Orange’s recent encounter with sculptures by the French artist Auguste Rodin, which she said she would like to pie. As it happens, Robert also had a Rodin experience once upon a time — one that involved a different kind of food. Over to him:

It was when I was in my 20s and sharing a house with some high-school buddies near Washington, D.C. My friend J. J. Martindale, whose name some of the older MBers will recognize, was working in New York and came down for a weekend to sleep on our couch and see some sights. She was feeling mischievous, as usual, and I was delighted when she and my housemate John agreed to try something I’d been pondering for a while.

It involved “The Burghers of Calais,” a bronze sculpture by Rodin, one cast of which stands in the sculpture garden of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. The sculpture, a larger-than-life representation of half a dozen mournful-looking men with ropes around their necks, commemorates something that happened in France during the Hundred Years War. When the city of Calais surrendered after a long and miserable siege, the victorious English army demanded that six prominent citizens come out in their underwear, with nooses, to be executed. The English changed their minds at the last minute and spared them, but it was a close call.

J. J. and John and I went to an upholstery store and bought some large cylinders and thin sheets of foam rubber, which we took home and carved into the shapes of oversized buns, meat patties, and leaves of lettuce. We glued them together to look like hamburgers, stuck some watermelon seeds on top to approximate scaled-up sesame seeds, and spray-painted the foam murky green and black to resemble weathered bronze. Once the hamburgers were dry, we stuffed them into knapsacks and drove to the Hirshhorn.

J. J., who hailed from Surrey, England, by way of Cambridge, distracted the guard by pretending to be a confused tourist. (“Excuse me, could you tell me whether that large building over there is the White House? Oh, it’s not? Are you sure? The Capitol, you say? What do they do there?”) Once we were in the clear, John and I unzipped our own foam mini-sculptures and slotted them into place. Voilà:

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Robert’s Time Capsule: The Avengers et al.

Avengers 4 cover

Robert recalls:

Throughout primary school, I read superhero comic books with an obsession verging on addiction. I was fiercely loyal: Marvel was my brand, first, last, and (I vowed and believed) forever.

I started buying them in second grade, in the PX of the long-since-dismantled Hunter’s Point naval shipyard in San Francisco, where my family spent a year living in a quonset hut while my father’s ship was in drydock. My first comic book was the Avengers; their colorful costumes caught my eye, and the confusion of characters inside posed a puzzle I had to solve.

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Robert’s Time Capsule: Multivariable Calculus

Page from Robert's multivariable calculus homework

Robert’s annotation:

As late as freshman year in college, I was still doodling in math class — though less productively than Vi Hart. Apparently I was also having trouble finishing my homework on time. This was my first problem set; I tightened up my operations (mostly) later on.


Robert’s Time Capsule: Comic Books

Robert writes:

While sorting through my storage room, I’ve come across a box containing my old comic books — including my beloved X-Men. KaiYves and Keiffer in particular might get a kick out of a few of the early panels.
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Robert’s Time Capsule: Prussianian Art and More!

Success! Combing through his archives, Robert has unexpectedly uncovered several yellowing manuscripts from his own proto-Muser days, including a veritable trove of peasant art from the mysterious floating island of Prussiania. Read on…
 
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Attention, Prussiania Fans!

Robert’s ultra-rare Prussianian doodles have been re-scanned and are once again visible on the second Prussiania time-capsule thread.


Robert’s Time Capsule: Chronicles of Prussiania, cont.

Prussiania was an imaginary country that Robert and some of his friends concocted when they were Muser age (decades before Muse, alas). You can read more about it on the previous Time Capsule thread.

Now, rarity of rarities, Prussianian records are starting to come to light. Here are a couple that Robert found in one of his old school notebooks:
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Robert’s Time Capsule: Imaginary Country


Robert, age 13 (yearbook photo)

Long before Museica and the PeacefulPieceful Pie Planet — before NationStates and World of Warcraft — even before Dungeons and Dragons had been invented, then-Muser-aged Robert (see photo, above) and about half a dozen of his friends invented an imaginary country of their own and used it as a setting for role-playing and storytelling. Unfortunately, any original maps and manuscripts that still exist remain buried in the Coontz archives. Robert will scan and post them as they come to light. Meanwhile, this description will have to suffice for any MBers curious about their GAPA’s disreputable history. Read on… Read more »


Robert’s Time Capsule: Children’s Theater

When GAPA Robert Coontz was Muser-age, he acted in a couple of plays with the Children's Theater of Arlington (next door to his home town of Alexandria, Virginia) and worked as a stage hand for various children's and adult shows. He's still in touch with some of his fellow actors, including the mother and aunt of new MuseBlogger Ham. Pictures after the jump.

When GAPA Robert Coontz was Muser-age, he acted in a couple of plays with the Children’s Theater of Arlington (next door to his home town of Alexandria, Virginia) and worked as a stage hand for various children’s and adult shows. He’s still in touch with some of his fellow actors, including the mother and aunt of new MuseBlogger Ham.

A few photos from that era:

Robert (second from left) played the Tortoise in “The Great Cross-Country Race,” a retelling of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. Ham’s mother (second from right) is practically invisible in this photo in her role as an all-black bird, a rook. Ham’s Aunt Diana worked on the costume crew and made the Tortoise’s shell, which was even more uncomfortable than it looks.

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Ham’s mother, center, looking pert in “Rumpelstiltskin.”

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Ham’s Aunt Caroline, kneeling at center, in “The Prince and the Pauper.” Caroline excelled in emotional roles and got to plead and cry a lot.

GAPAs’ Time Capsule: On Stage

No, we’re not taking Muse on the road like the Wiggles. But some of the Administrators have acted in plays from time to time, including a few when we were Muser-age. Pictures below.
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From Robert’s Time Capsule, Part 1

While cleaning out some old boxes, Robert stumbled across folders of things he wrote when he was in middle school and high school. He's decided to post them here a few at a time so that MBers can laugh their heads off better understand the psychology of a proto-Muser.


Robert, age 13 (yearbook photo)

One thing the papers emphatically show is what a Lord of the Rings fanatic I was–far, far worse than any Muser. I read The Hobbit in fifth grade and the trilogy every summer before six through eighth grades. (The Silmarillion and other books of Middle-earth lore didn’t start to come out until I was in college.) A couple of my friends were immersed in the books, too. We learned to write Tengwar and Angerthas, drew white hands and red eyes on our homework assignments, came within a hair’s breadth of inventing Dungeons and Dragons, and did all the other geeky things Musers would rediscover decades later. I also wrote a LOTR musical.

Well, not exactly a musical. There was no script–just a series of songs set to tunes that my friends knew and could sing along with. The songs were deliberately silly. As for the quality, judge for yourselves:

1. Elrond’s Song to the Council in Rivendell, Explaining What’s Going On
(To the tune of “Now I Am the Ruler of the Queen’s Na-vee” from H.M.S. Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan)

In days of old of which we sing
Sauron decided to make a ring.
He studied ancient books of lore
And he melted down the handle on the big front door.
(All: He melted down the handle on the big front door!)
He melted down the handle, and such was fate
That it turned into a mighty ring of power great.
(All: He melted down the handle and such was fate / That it turned into a mighty ring of power great!)

Eons later on the ca-len-dar,
The ring passed on to Is-il-dur.
Isildur battled for his life,
And he cut the ring off Sauron with a putty knife. (All: He cut, etc.)
Isildur took the ring in such an hour
That he thought that he would be endowed with endless power. (All: Isildur took the ring, etc.)

There were a few more verses, but I think that will do. Let’s see, what else have we got here… Oh, I’d forgotten all about this one:

2. Treebeard Meets Merry and Pippin and Tries to Figure Out What They Are
(To the tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music)

First come the Eldar, the fairest of races;
Dwarves, metal-workers, with hair on their faces.
Animals of the air, water, and ground–
But “hobbits” is not a fa-mil-i-ar sound.

Are you a badger, or maybe a carrot?
Animal, veg’table, mineral, spirit?
Horse? No. Or pig? No. Or maybe a cow?
This I must find out, so come with me now!

(Chorus) To the Entmoot… I must take you.
Please do not ask why.
Hop up on my shoulder and hold yourself tight,
For if you fall off… you die!

O.K., what next? “Denethor’s Song” — more Gilbert and Sullivan, not very interesting. “We Are Pursuin’ an Orodruin” (to the tune of “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover”) — didn’t get very far with that one, must have sensed it was a bad idea. Oh, this one’s fun:

3. Ringwraiths’ Song to Frodo and Sam Hiking to Mordor
(To the tune of “Parsely, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme” “Scarborough Fair” as sung by Simon and Garfunkel)

Are you going to Orodruin?
Orcs and trolls infest these hills.
Remember me to old Sau-ro-on.
He’s the master of our wills.

When he has you, you will squeal.
Orcs and trolls infest these hills.
He’ll feed you to Shelob for her next meal
Or be the master of your wills.

The orcs had the best numbers, though. For example:

4. The Uruk-hai Marching Song
(to the tune of the Marine Corps Hymn“The Caissons Go Rolling Along”)

Here we come, now you die,
We’re the fighting Uruk-hai
And our soldiers are marching along!
Rip and tear, maul and crush,
Slice our en-e-mies to mush
As our soldiers go marching along!
So it’s KILL! KILL! KILL!
It gives us such a thrill.
Our numbers, you know, are thousands strong.
And we just can’t wait
To maim and desecrate
As our soldiers come marching along!

Finally, there’s a big company number for orcs and Ringwraiths, to the tune of “Camptown Races” by Stephen Foster:

Ringwraiths: Minas Morgul, here we come.
Orcs: DOO DAH! DOO DAH!
Ringwraiths Mithrandir is just a bum.
Orcs: OH, DOO DAH DAY!
Ringwraiths: Sauron has a big red eye.
Orcs: DOO DAH! DOO DAH!
Ringwraiths He is screaming DIE DIE DIE.
Orcs: OH, DOO DAH DAY!
All: Gonna laugh and dance,
Gonna kill and sing.
I’ll bet my money on the Uruk-hai,
Somebody bet on the ring.

I know, I know: the Uruk-hai were Saruman’s troops, not Sauron’s. I just liked them.

That’s all the LOTR stuff. I’ve got tons of other material in the box, though, and plan to release it little by little whenever the blog gets slow. (Does that sound like a threat? Take it any way you like.)

Namárië for now,

–Robert