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Friday, July 31, 2009

Obama Takes Knights Lead!

It seems that President Obama has taken the Knights lead and decided to start holding "Beer Summits" to solve the world's problems (see yesterday's post). Good for him. What better way to clear the air and have some thoughtful conversation (though I don't know how merry the White House Suds Summit was, it's a start). And if happy hour at the White House is what's needed to create solutions -- i.e. health care bill doodled out on a bar napkin -- then all power to the President.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Yesterday, President Obama knocked back some cold beer in the Rose Garden with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and police Sgt. James Crowley of Cambridge, Mass., the two men at the heart last week of a heated debate over race in America.

For some odd reason, Vice President Biden (a teatotaler) also joined them.

"I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart," Obama said. "I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode."

And what exactly did they talk about? I have no idea. Of course, what's really paramount is: What beer they chose to drink!

So, this morning I put on my investigative Sherlock Holmes Deerslayer Hat and started making phone calls to high level officials (okay, I just googled it).

On this great day in history, a waiter delivered mugs of beer -- along with peanuts and pretzels, of course -- to the men, who sat at a small table in the Rose Garden.

Crowley sipped a Blue Moon, brewed by beer giant MillerCoors, an offshoot of two foreign companies.

Gates drank a Boston beer, Sam Adams Light (from back home).

Vice President Joe Biden, a surprise addition to the gathering, requested Buckler, a non-alcoholic beer (and a Dutch import, no less).

President Obama wielded a Bud Light, straight out of St. Louis by way of a Belgian-run behemoth. (that choice, by the way, has upset many beer enthusiasts).

I say: Don't judge the "Suds Summit" or the beer choices -- Unity Through Diversity!

Sir Bowie "hoping to have a Knights Counsil at the Rose Garden" of Greenbriar

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The English Councils

That's right...The English Councils...not to be confused with the English Channel, which by the way, we did not cross on this trip.

Yeah Baby! The House of Warrick & Greenbriar captured by Sir Dayvd at Carnaby Street in London...where the swinging 60's a la Austin Powers was happening!

Not only did we eat, drink, think and be merry on our way through England (and did we was like Sherman marching through Atlanta on his way to the sea!)...we also took the rare opportunity to have some face to face...mano y mano...brainstorming Founding Father's time with me...Sir Hook of Warrick, Sir Bowie of Greenbriar and Sir Dayvd of Oxfordshire. The results were three Councils...and here's the highlights:

Sir Hook & Sir Bowie share a Dungeon KMSA Toast at the Carpenter's Arms in Windsor

The Council of Hyde Park - It was decided that we need to have more of our fellow Knights and Ladies join the blog as writers. Not only are the Founding Father's brains being taxed beyond measure in coming up with new and interesting posts daily...but in the Spirit of Unity through Diversity...we feel that some fresh perspectives would enhance our merry clan. We have begun to invite members to write, of which many have already accepted and a few have participated. If you are an avid reader of our blog and wish to share your thoughts and ideas, please give us your email address by commenting to this blog and we will add you to our author list. Remember one of our most important tenants...we are free to create without judgement!

The Founding Father's at the Black Lion on Bayswater in London

The Council of Oxfordshire - Realizing the great wealth of ideas and writings in our archives...and the need to spread the message of was decided that each Founding Father will compile a list of at least 10 of their best blogs. After compilation, we will review them and begin the process of writing and editing a book for publishing. What better place to have such a discussion than in the place where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote?

The new Inklings at the Eagle and Child in Oxford

Philosophers of Morality at one of the Colleges in Oxford

Harriet at the King's Arms in Oxford

The Council of Somerset - It was here that we where challenged and lived up to our motto of Unity through Diversity, Freedom of Judgement and to Endeavor to Engage. This became very clear with our experience in Frome. During this Council we decided that the British side of our Society needs to expand its membership and participation with their brothers across the pond. We also decided to revive interest in simple Pub games back in the States, with the potential to market KMSA brand Pub Games.

The now famous photo at the Lamb & Fountain in Frome, Somerset

James at the Woolpack, KMSA Central in Beckington, Somerset

So there you have it...once true Knights...we have raised the bar and challenged ourselves to live to our fullest potential. Will you join us?

Sir Hook, Sir Dayvd & Sir Bowie saying their farewells on the last night in London

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Post Script to: "Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?"

Another excellent blog by Sir Bowie. Please make sure to read it below for this Post Script to make sense. I'm not adding any thoughts, just a few more pictures to enhance the visuals of these great writers. It was a truly humble experience to "walk their walk, talk their talk, and drink in the atmosphere, literally and figuratively, that made their minds tick!

The Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford, where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien would gather to share a pint, a laugh and their latest ideas and writing.

C.S. Lewis' home at the end of Lewis Close in Oxfordshire

Narnia, the land behind C.S. Lewis' house. This is the bench on which he wrote outside and also told his story to family, friends and neighborhood children.

A view of the lake from the Bench in Narnia.

One of the many wooded paths around the lake in Narnia. You can feel the characters come to life while you take the hike!

Shakespeare's house in Stratford Upon Avon in Warwickshire

Sir Hook the Bard of Warrick
(P.S. Again, make sure to read Sir Bowie's Blog below!)

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Some riddles don’t have a single correct answer.

For example: Where is the best place for a Knight to write?

On our recent excursion to England, our merry band of Knights of Moleskine, Spirit, and Ale was introduced to such writers as Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare,

(Above: Shakespeare's Garden)

Churchill, Arthur Conan Doyle- Sherlock Holmes, Henry VIII, Jane Austen, Chaucer, Sir Dayvd of Oxford, J. R. R. Tolkien, The Beatles, Lord Alfred Tennyson (just to name a few).

We saw where many were born, lived, and are buried (except the live ones).

(Above: Churchill's grave)

We also saw where they loved to write. Imagine Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) on the banks of the peaceful Thames, C.S. Lewis on a bench overlooking the enchanting Narnia Pond (Below: Lady Suzanne and Sir Dayvd at Narnia Pond)

Shakespeare in a boisterous Stratford pub, Churchill in bed with his favorite beverage by his side…

In the “unity through diversity” spirit, I have to ask: Where is the best place for a Knight to write?

Of course, like the Carroll’s Mad Hatter’s riddle, there is no one correct answer -- just something to think about and comment on.

So, why is a raven like a writing desk?

Carroll wrote his own answer in 1896 for a revised preface to his book:

"Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!" This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle as originally invented, had no answer at all."

Note the spelling of never as “nevar” (raven backwards). Unfortunately, as I understand it, the joke was missed by most because proofreaders thought it to be a mistake and “corrected” it before printing.

Today’s challenge (and a challenge for a lifetime): Create the perfect “Best Places for Creative Writing” list. Impossible? One can’t believe in impossible things, you think:

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Sir Bowie “who may finally read Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass” of Greenbriar

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Part 2 of Don't Judge: An Excellent Day in Frome, Somerset

Sir Bowie shared an excellent post two days ago, of which I promised to add a little more to the story. As I stated in the comments, I actually didn't meet my relatives until the Lamb and Fountain, while everyone else had already left the building and I had no camera to document the historic meeting. I guess it will have to be like an Elvis really did happen for me!

As stated in the earlier post, we began my ancestral search after spending the day in the village of Wells, in the hills and back streets of Frome, far off the beaten pilgrim path and into the heart of local country. It was there that we found the two haunting grounds of the Wells Clan. First the Crown and Scepter! Our as some locals who are too scared to visit and not diversified enough to not judge...the Crown and Sceptic.

We were told by Paul of Beckington at the Woolpack Inn, that this is the favorite haunt of the Wells Clan. My travel companions it appears did not share the same enthusiasm as I did upon entering.

Besides, when you walk in and see distorted portraits of the patrons hung all over the bad a place can it be! Being secure in my surname, my drinking and survival skills and my warrior way...I quickly announced that I was a Wells who has come to drink on my ancestral grounds!

One of the other reasons for the visit was to find the Holy Grail of Scrumpy Somerset Cider..."Cheddar Valley"! We were warned about this "knock out punch" by Jane, the owner of the laundromat in Stratford Upon Avon. She said it almost nearly ruined her last holiday after only 2 pints!

The Crown and Scepter was the only Pub we visited in Somerset who had this "Witches of Wooky Hole" Brew on tap. I was not disappointed. Besides...after a couple of pints we began to look like everyone else in the Pub!

As evidenced by this photo taken by Lady Allwinky of me and Sir Dayvd inside these hallowed halls!

It was on up the hill to the Lamb and Fountain, which Sir Bowie so eloquently wrote about. It appears that the locals in these parts, and particularly the Wells', like to go up and down the hill between these two Pubs until they can't walk anymore!

Shortly after we arrived we were quickly followed by a couple of guys from the former Pub. Here I am endeavoring to engage with "Mick", Michael Patrick Caventor, who began to tell me the history of the Pubs, the finer points of Scrumpy Cider and who wanted to show us the Pub games on the other side of the bar.

Here is my shot at the Table Skittles. Mick showed me how to play after defeating Sir Bowie. I then played Sir Bowie, who beat me.

I can never tire of the view from the back of the Pub out of the huge picture window of the beautiful village of Frome and the Somerset hills!

We felt quite at home, lovely I dare say! I also enjoyed the little postings on the wall like the one of course I carried on!

This was the last shot taken inside the Lamb and Fountain of the Founding Father's with Sir Mick. Just a few seconds later John Wells came into the room and we shook hands as brothers across the pond! The perfect ending to a perfect Pub Crawl in Frome!

Sir Hook the Scrumpy Somerset Son of Warrick

P.S. Welcome Lamb and Fountain and Crown and Scepter to our list of "Sacred Watering Holes"!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back from the Northwoods or Our Little Minnesota Vacation

This is my attempt at posting my own little blog in the Knights' and Ladies' World

W (my wife Wendy) and I have been home a week (and two days) now from our trip to upper Minnesota. We had an enjoyable time. It was our first sort of real summer vacation in a long time. Vegas in June was just bleh with flying and staying in motel rooms, not knowing people, etc. This was more of the vacation of my childhood, where my father would drive for hours and days and we ended up at a relative's home because that's what we could afford. In this case, W's parents' cabin by Tom Lake.

There were places along the road on this trip at which I would have liked to have stopped, but do to mental limitations on my part, we were unable. We did geocache on our way up and got a few and one on the way down. It added about an extra hour to our trip the first day. I understand that Sir Davyd now knows the joys of geocaching, courtesy of Sir Bowie.

This has been our third trip up there. We did do some things we hadn't done before. Geocached and letterboxed for one, which put us on trails and things we hadn't been on before. I actually like hiking along theses trails. There is one that is about two miles to the Canadian border (Superior Border Trail). W and I probably would have walked it all the way, but her parents were waiting for us in the car.

The weather, like here, has been cooler than normal for July. But their cooler had some highs in the 50's. However, we dressed for it, and W's parents had a wood burning stove in the "cabin" (which is more like a river camp house to me) so I never really felt that cold. Sometimes it was warmer. They only have an outhouse and one of the times in the middle of the night when I had to pee, I went out only in my boxers and it didn't feel that bad. That was the night W and I were both up and one of the few nights the sky was clear. Those are the nights when one can see thousands of stars, satellites streaking across the sky and really feel awed by the universe and how wild this country once was. It was overcast and a little rainy often and the wind was strong much of the time. We were only able to go out on the lake once and fish. With our expensive fishing license I ended up catching one decent sized walleye which we threw back. While on the lake I was able to take some photos of a bald eagle in it's nest (very difficult to see), some turkey buzzards (I think) and of course some loons (who had no babies, presumably because of the aforementioned eagles). The strong winds did help to keep some of the mosquitoes down. They are still much worse than most places I have been in my life (land of 10,000 lakes).

I took my pre 1840's clothing up there and my flintlock, so that W could take photos of me and they could soak up some actual wilderness. During one shot I was standing on a large rock (Minnesota should be the land of a billion rocks) and after the shot, slipped and fell on my backside, but I held on to the flintlock. Another time, when I was wearing my hiking boots, we were walking around small, twin waterfalls while I was carrying my camera. At one point I was walking and the next I was looking up at the sky in pain, but still hanging on to my camera. I may have actually hairline fractured my arm, but at least I didn't hit my head or break my camera. My arm feels okay now. Sometime when I sit, my tailbone still hurts a little. Could also be the reason my back went out last night.

The area reminds me a lot of Seattle except that it's not protected in the winter and gets extremely cold and lots of snow. Parts of Lake Superior freeze.

I suppose there was a lot more to tell, but these are some of the highlights.

I posted a link to my Facebook gallery of other images. We'll see if that takes as well. Click on the blog title to follow the link.

And thus ends my first actual Knights blog posting. Let's see if it takes.

Sir James of feels like the first time Taylor

Don't judge a pub (or its patrons) by its cover

Above: A couple of portraits of past Lamb and Fountain patrons who have passed on to pubs beyond our realm -- a great tradition.

I have to give some serious cheers to Sir Hook and Sir Davyd for the bang-up job they did planning our recent once-in-a-lifetime voyage around England. Having said that, I also have to give them and the ladies credit for taking advantage of some spontaneous “off-the-beaten-cobblestones” adventures.

For example, while at our mid-trip home base pub -- The Woolpack Inn, Beckington -- Sir Hook(Wells) of Warrick engaged in a conversation with some of the locals. They informed Sir Hook that some of his ancestors hang out at a certain pub a few mile away in Frome. We were soon off and running.

Frome, as it turns out, is all uphill (at least that’s the way it seemed after a couple of pints of hard cider). We soon found ourselves huffing and puffing up a steep grade away from the main road and the mainstream. Out of breath (speaking only for myself), we announced ourselves at the Crown & Sceptre on Trinity Street.

A rather small crowd immediately gave us what seemed to me like the “evil eye.” It’s not that we felt too uncomfortable, but one drink and we were out the door. Fortunately, Sir Hook did meet one of his clan and, to Sir Dayvd's surprise, the fine chap didn't sport six fingers or webbed toes (not that we saw).

Stumbling down the street, we happened on The Lamb and Fountain on Castle Street. Having never met a pub we didn't love (and needing another respite) we stopped. The Lamb is truly an original “public house.” The bar divides two separated rooms – one in the front with lots of messages from “mom” (the owner) and the back room with a fantastic view of the town and countryside.

While enjoying yet another pint, in comes a rather intimidating (at least to me), rough and weathered local we had seen at the Sceptre. Like the American TV show “Cheers,” everybody knows his name: Mick (he introduced himself to us at Michael, but he’s known as Mick) didn't hesitate to engage us.

Mick turned out to one of the nicest guys we met on our trip. He told us that his grandfather first took him to the The Lamb and Fountain over 50 years ago and he’s been a regular ever since. Mick enthusiastically showed us a couple of his favorite traditional English pub games:
Table Skittles (yes, he beat me) And he re-introduced Sir Dayvd to Shove ha'penny.
Mick treated the ancient slate with an awe inspiring reverence. It has, he tells us, been in the same spot for decades.

There is a lot to be said for old traditional pub games that require no AC, monitors, flashing lights, and sound effects. Sometimes, nay, most of the time, it’s just more enjoyable to share a time-honored low-tech game and a good pint with old and new friends.

So, the next time your in Somerset make sure you make an unscheduled stop off the beaten cobblestones of the main tourist street of Frome and ascend to the Crown & Sceptre or The Lamb and Fountain. Oh, and please tell Mick that we’ll never forget his wonderful hospitality – and that he created one of the most enjoyable times we had in any pub in England.

Sir Bowie “challenging Mick to a rematch at table skittles” of Greenbriar

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ants in My Pints

Sir John Lubbock, 30 April 1834 – 28 May 1913

Back any KMSA Knight into a pub corner and get him to empty out his pockets, and odds are you will find, amongst the bottle tops and beer coasters, a few pieces of torn out newspaper
(knights are inveterate readers of newsprint ) where he has spotted an odd fact or news item, and torn it out of the publication, to use to his advantage at a later date.

And so it was that Hooky, over a foaming London Pub brew (actually it was his hotel bedroom, but we'll draw a veil over that) dug around in his pants pocket and handed me a warm scrap of newsprint, that when uncrumpled was titled;

'Weird fact of the Day'

Sir John Lubbock experimented on ants by getting them drunk. The 19th century biologist discovered sober ants would carry their drunken ant comrades back to the nest, if they were from the same colony - but they would throw drunk strangers into the ditch.

This sort of thing is like catnip to a KMSA Knight, dealing as it does with; Drink, Curiosity, Eccentricity, and generally the notion that there is nothing better or more important in life than to just get a bunch of ants drunk in the name of science.

My requested quest then was to find out more of this John Lubbock.

Well for a start it turns out he is an English Aristocrat; the 1st Baron Avebury, no less, and a real Sir as well, which puts our own self titled knighthoods to shame for a kickoff.

He also looks a great deal like a young Sir Bowie.

The rest of his resume, reads pretty much like you'd want your average KMSA knight to be; Banker, Politician, Biologist, Archaeologist and alround thinker and drinker. (okay so I put the last one in ),_1st_Baron_Avebury

And so it was as an amateur biologist of some distinction, writing books on hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, and Wasps. A Record of Observations on the Habits of the Social Hymenoptera. in 1884.), on insect sense organs and development, on the intelligence of animals, and on other natural history topics, that Hooky's scrap of paper was drawn.

But it was to a little footnote to his life that I was drawn, as in its simplicity it summed up one of the main tenets of KMSA life, that of the Library or now-a-days the Internet, when he was cited as having written the quotation, "We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the earth". This variation appears in his book The Pleasures of Life: "Not only does a library contain "infinite riches in a little room," but we may sit at home and yet be in all quarters of the earth."

Quite So Sir John.

Sir Dayvd (the travelling Cyber-knight) of Old Oxford Town.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Past Haunting the Now: The Melancholy Journey of a Midwestern Troubadour

As I traveled yesterday through the River valleys of Southern Indiana, Northwestern Kentucky and Southern Ohio I was reminded of the similarities of the landscape to Somerset in England. Listening to the CD that Sir Dayvd gave me of the Oxford band, Red Ox, I was thrown back into a melancholy journey through time. The past is haunting the now, as I view my world through a new set of lenses.

I had no trouble remembering to drive on the "Right" side of the road; however, I did catch myself reaching for the Diesel pump as I stopped to fill up my car. Leaving the gas "petrol" station I once again directed my metal steed towards the north lands of central Ohio. As the rolling hills gave way to the flatter fields I became aware of how much bigger things are here than in England. Bigger roads, bigger homes, bigger rivers...but are our hearts and minds bigger?

Taking a back road into Delaware, Ohio for a meeting I missed the narrow lanes through stone clad villages...that feeling of history touching your very soul in the now. Sterile clap board farm houses now speckled the road I travel...telling their own story of a new land tamed by man.

Last night I would normally go to the "Pub" in Polaris; however, I could not bare to experience the American version of England...preferring to remain in my Melancholy state, where art and living create! I headed for a smaller neighborhood bar called the Rusty Bucket Corner Tavern, where I engaged in local conversation, good beer and food. I felt at home and satisfied!

I woke up this morning in a Hilton, and for a brief moment I thought I was back in London. The truth is, I am. I am waiting for my spirit to catch up to my body. I'm living in a separate reality, listening to the Smith's, watching the gentle rain falling on a perfect English morning in Ohio.

Sir Hook the Melancholy Troubadour of Warrick (Who is Learning How to "Kill Your Speed")

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mind the language gap

In preparation for our trip across the pond, Lady Suzanne and I watched a couple of travel DVDs. We just had to laugh at the overuse of the word “quintessential” in describing British landmarks, traditions, and customs. It turns out that the laugh was on us! Upon arriving in England, it didn't take us long before we caught ourselves using the word to describe what we were seeing and hearing.

Three quintessentially quintessential phrases used more than a brolly (a.k.a. umbrella) on a typical day in England – and now enduringly recorded in my American mind – are:

“Mind the gap”


“No worries”

“Mind the gap” is a direction we heard innumerable times in the tube (subway). Basically, it means to watch your step and not fall down the crack between the platform and the train. Though I've always said “watch your step,” I believe the word "mind" is more, well, mindful. I mean, it's one thing to watch and see, it's quite another to be mindful and do.

Most everything in England is “lovely.” Lovely means everything thing from very an enjoyable or pleasant event (as in “Oh, what a lovely war.”), sensory quality of something, thank you, or even something that you're completely annoyed about (as in “Lovely, the tube is flooded and I'll have to walk 52 blocks to the hotel!”).

All and all, I believe that I will mind my language and use “lovely” more often. Above is a photo or the first KMSA coaster being displayed in an English pub (our first stop in London). Lovely!

Finally, “No worries” (is Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman British?).

This phrase seems to be used for saying that you will be able to do something easily or also as a response to a seeming unpleasant event (as in “I'm sorry I accidentally jabbed my brolly into your groin.” “No worries!”)

I love the phrase “No worries” and will bloody well try to use it more often.

“Bloody well”? (I'll have to defer to Sir Dayvd on the use of “bloody” in his language).

Bloddy hell, look what time it is. Time to get off my arse and sally forth with my day!
I hope you found this little blog to be lovely. If not, no worries.

Sir Bowie “off to mind the gap” of Greenbriar