bunrab: (me)
We are visiting fairs this summer - it's a project. The first couple of fairs were in July - quite early as ag fairs go.

Week of July 26: the Cecil County fair, up in Elkton. Admission to this one is only $2 for seniors, and that's 60+ so that we both count as seniors, so we didn't bother aiming for Senior Day, though if we had, according to the schedule, there would have been several hours of senior-specific things going on. We went on Wednesday. This fair opens to the public at 9, but several of the shows aren't until afternoon, so we aimed for getting there at noon, as with last week. This is our longest drive, 75 miles to get there, and thanks to roadwork and random traffic, it took us nearly 2 hours, so we actually got there at 12:30. This was instantly, obviously, a better-run fair than Washington County; they had guys directing parking, and marked handicapped spaces, and an actual front gate with cheery young people staffing the admissions kiosks. We asked about food, and the young lady pointed us toward it. The midway wasn't open at this one either - according to the website http://www.cecilcountyfair.org/ it opens at 5. So no fair food here, either - the Lions Club has their own little permanent building and they were serving lunch, a limited menu but the fair special of "Chicken Fingers and Freedom Fries" was quite reasonably priced and lots of food, and despite the silly name, the french fries were good. They have a picnic table area in the shade.  The food area has wi-fi - of /course/ it does; there were several people with their laptops, who appeared to be exhibitors (you can sort of tell them - the uniform of shorts and well-worn tall boots tells you who's mucking out stalls.)

After lunch we started walking around - this is still a small fairgrounds, compared to some, but they have enough permanent buildings to put on a good show. We went through the commercial building first, which was pretty dead in the water except for a Tupperware lady and a Bible Association; all the other booths were unstaffed. There was an additional tent with more vendors out back of that, nothing I wanted to buy, and 2 whole booths taken up by a Baptist church - even though we didn't meet anybody's eye, they still started calling out to us. Anyway - Home Arts, small but larger than Washington County. Several quilts, some crocheted items, lots of sewing, and lots of canning - three multi-shelved stands full of jams and pickled veggies and corn relish and so on, very attractive. Lots of kids' art. Decent array of baked goods, though since the building isn't air conditioned some things were sagging. Lots of fans - the temperature was comfortable enough in the shade, and they did not stint on the fans anywhere. Next building over rabbits and pigs. A very few pigs - not a great swine turnout. There were probably as many rabbits as at Washington, but they were poorly caged and poorly labeled; I felt quite sorry for the poor buns; they didn't have enough space or enough ventilation, and a lot of them weren't even labelled by breed. Then on to Poultry, of which there was a decent assortment, a few turkeys and quite a few varieties of chickens. Not as wide a variety as Montgomery County (more later on that) but still a decent variety for a small show, including some of the really silly ones where it's difficult to tell that it's a bird, let alone what species of bird it might be. Onward: goats, and more goats. A few sheep, lots of goats. In fact, the goats took over one of the horse barns as well. Goats like Larry; we always have goats trying to stick their faces up into Larry's face. A couple of cow barns.

By then it was getting warmish; we didn't slog all the way over to the other horse barn, the big one, because it was set off from the
rest, and besides, it was almost time for the afternoon entertainment to start. That's right, real scheduled entertainment, during the day! (The night-time entertainment Wednesday night would be a rodeo; we weren't going to stay for it, but it's apparently a big deal there, and people come specifically for that.) First up, Skybound Canine Entertainment - trained dogs catching discs and jumping through hoops - well, sort of trained: these are all rescue dogs, and part of the point of the show is to show how much you can do in the way of training and playing with even an older dog. The fanciest part of the show was the dock-diving: they had several dogs doing dives into a large pool, and a mini-Australian-Shepherd name of Ray-Ray did a 21 foot dive into the pool. Ray-Ray truly loves his job. A few seconds watching the chainsaw-wood-carving guy (the carvings weren't for sale during the day, but were being auctioned and raffled off at night.) Then over to the Kachunga Alligator Show. Yes, real alligators. No, one can't teach an alligator to do tricks. It's mostly an educational thing; the guy sits on an 8-foot alligator and opens its mouth and explains the teeth, and the alligator's various water adaptations (did you know that alligators can hold their breath for up to an hour?) and then after dragging the alligator around by the tail, he let it go back in its shaded cubby, and brought out 2 baby alligators, and invited all the kids in the audience to come have their pictures taken holding a real live alligator. I found it educational; Larry hadn't though it would be real alligators, so he was surprised. Then, after a few minutes' break, a magic show - nice enough, though the fancy showgirls painted on the sidings were in reality one young man assistant dressed in black. The neatest trick, to me, was turning a white dove into a much larger white rabbit into a full-size white standard poodle. The magician did have each of them wave to us before turning them into something else. He asked for a child volunteer from the audience to help on one trick, but the 2-year-old who volunteered wasn't quite up to the task. Part of the problem was that we were all sitting in the upper bleachers in the shade, rather than the bleachers closer to the stage but out in the direct sunlight. That made it difficult to talk people into things. And it /was/ getting hotter. So, at that point the Young Farmers had opened up their ice cream booth, and we went over and had ice cream, and then headed home, having spent almost 3 and a half hours there.

Verdict? A bit of a long drive for us, but the cheap price of admission, plus the vast improvement in most things over the Washington County fair, made us feel that we did get our money's worth at the Cecil County fair. And if it wasn't so hot and Larry didn't have to work Thursday, staying for the rodeo (included in the price of admission!) might well have been fun.
bunrab: (alien reading)
I have this whole bunch of graphic/comic stuff I'm returning to the library, and I thought I'd tweet each of them, while we were in the car on the way. But it turns out I have more than 140 characters to say about each. So here I am, sitting at one of the library's computers, before returning the books.

Let"s see. The first two, Locke & Key and Johnny Bunko, have some tweets that"ll show up, so I don't need to say too much more about those. L&K is a good fantasy, lots of content, nice spooky premise. I actually look forward to the next volume of this one. JB is confused about who its audience might be - it claims to be a book of serious career advice, that happens to be done manga style, but it seems as though people reading manga want story, not advice. Luckily, the story is pretty funny - magic take-out chopsticks!

Para by Stuart Moore - I wanted to like this one, because it's got lots of text - some pages are illustrated text, rather than cartoons with words. And the starting premise is good - an alternate history where the Supercollider in TX turns into a big radioactive pit... and it's some 20 years later and researchers want to find out exactly what happened. The FBI is hampering their efforts. Unfortunately, for my tastes, it turns into paranormal bullshit, woo-woo pseudo-science. Despite that, though, I have to say I actually liked the UFO guy as a character - he has a nice sense of humor about his own endeavors. And the nasty FBI agent turns out to have her good spots. Drawing style: realistic tending toward dark, lots of grey-blue; aliens are stupid-looking. And the frogs never do get explained.

WE3 by Grant Morrison - reminded me a lot of Dean Koontz's Watchers. Three weaponized animals - a dog, cat, and rabbit - escape the termination of their project. I love how they have bits of speech; I was sad that the bunny was the one that died; I liked the ending. Style: colorful (the shell armor looks like a cross between pastel easter eggs and water lotuses, crossed with pillbugs).

The Book of Lost Souls by Straczynski and Doran. Fantasy, dark; not always sure who the good guys are. The episode with the battered woman- interesting. And the hired killer, who finally gets his - good. Still, though, sorta woo-woo in here about tortured savior and how people are "saved." But I like the Road.

Also read: Aya of Yop - couldn't get into it; teenage angst is teenage angst even if it's in Cote d'Ivoire - just as pointless as Ghost World, to me. Not enough story. And Megillat Esther, which I had seen reviews of - sort of a must-do, if one is of Jewish background. It does a nice job of pointing out some of the ridiculousness and some of the repetition-but-with-contradictions that occurs in many bible stories.

OK, now to take these over to the return desk.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Bunch more library books to return, so here you go:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House by Charles Osgood - a collection of campaign humor, or, as the subtitle puts it, "Humor, blunders, and other oddities from the presidential campaign trail," from the 1948 elections (Truman v Dewey) through the 2004 elections. Some of it is indeed more odd than funny. And some of it sadly reminds me that Richard Nixon, crook and bigot though he was, was at least more intelligent than Shrub. Easy to read bits of at a time - this was my bathroom reading for a couple weeks.
Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black - sorta disappointing, as Black turns out to be one of those "oh, organized religion is nonsense but I still believe in God" types, afraid to cross the line to atheism. Parts of it are funny, some are sorta blah; his accounts of his "spiritual" experiences with hallucinogenic drugs are both religious copouts and sad. But there are funny bits as well as stuff that would never have been printed if it wasn't Lewis Black saying it.
A Song For You by Betsy Thornton - a murder mystery grabbed randomly off the shelves in an effort to try more authors I haven't read before; verdict: it's OK. Features the daughter of a past-her-prime hippie mother who was a singer in a band, and the remaining members of the band, all old and worn out. And a murder from the old days, as well as a current one. A decent resolution, adequate writing, not super-exciting but I would try more books by her if I happened to run across them.
The Good Neighbors, Book 1: Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh - fantasy graphic novel, mainly YA, as that is what Black writes when she writes regular books. Coming-of-age and our protagonist suddenly discovers that she can see people others can't, who turn out to be faeries, or "good neighbors." I like the artwork, and there's a good mix of panels where something is happening with the apparently mandatory panels where nothing happens except that some feature of someone's face or clothes gets enlarged. I like our heroine's group of goofy friends. Ends in mid-plot, sort of cliff-hanger, as the title might indicate. Things Are Not What They Seem!

More later - gotta get to band rehearsal early to hand out some more music.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Marvel 1602. Neil Gaiman as lead author. Very amusing alternate history. I am not the comix fan some people are, so there are probably a few references I missed (and am too lazy to google), such as who is Virginia Dare supposed to be, and why does she look like an elf? And [livejournal.com profile] bikergeek, there's a quick passing reference to the very problem of the "fen vs. mundane" mindset you were mentioning. In some ways, that's part of the theme of the whole book - in the end, it's the characters who are human, rather than superheroes, who fix the problem - Nick Fury and Captain America. Maybe not "average" human, but not superpowers, either. So being a superhero doesn't mean one is any "better" than a plain ol' human.

Other quick reads:
The Guild of Xenolinguists by Sheila Finch - loosely related short stories, all of which seem a poor imitation of Suzette Haden Elgin's linguists. The stories run to excessive reliance on emotion, and rather obvious moral messages.
Snake Oil Science by R. Barker Bausell - although subtitled "The truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine" what this book is is an extended tutorial on how to conduct a properly double-blinded clinical trial; there's very, very little about the CAM "therapies" other than pointing out how poorly they've been tested.
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs - in which he proves that NO ONE, not the most dedicated fundamentalist, is actually following the literal word of the bible, and furthermore, no one *can* - partly because the language in it is so ambiguous; partly because many people are self-deluding as to how subjective their readings are. Very funny book.
Leisureville: Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias by Andrew Blechman - certainly reinforces my determination to never live in an "over-55" community; Blechman talks to many people who are happy in those communities, but the constant emphasis on golf and on sameness is depressing, and, he points out, this kind of age-segregated community violates a social contract, wherein older people recognize that their remaining future depends in part on providing education for the young.
bunrab: (alien reading)
A certain amount of time being spent here waiting for the electrician to show up (yes, Waiting For the Electrician or Someone Like Him), waiting for the people giving an estimate on landscaping to show up, etc.

The Zookeeper's Menagerie by Joanne Duncalf. Ew, Christian allegory even less subtle than Narnia, which is to say, hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-brick unsubtle. That said, the little family of hedgehogs is cute (even if they were intended to demonstrate the superiority of the nuclear family with lots of children over gay couples adopting a child).

Ten Tortured Words by Stephen Mansfield. Ugh, another religious conservative - I have got to start applying a better filter to the "New Books" shelves at the library than "hmmm, interesting title." In this case, Mansfield claims to know what the founding fathers were thinking much better than what Thomas Jefferson *said* he was thinking. Everson v. Board of Ed evil! Lyndon Johnson evil! PFAW and FFRF evil! Thomas Jefferson's opinions on the first amendment are derided because his famous letter was written fourteen years after the first amendment was written, yet the opinions (about what the first amendment means) of one Joseph Story (Supreme Court 1811-1845) in his book published in 1851 are perfectly valid because he was appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison. Also, the index is sloppy - invalid page numbers for some references, absence of citations of things that do appear in the book, ridiculous assorted spellings of "Mohammedanism." Yes indeedy, gotta refine that new book filter.

Planet Cat by Sandra Choron, Harry Choron and Arden Moore. Lots of cat trivia. Every cat joke that has appeared in email for years. Lots of illustrations, from old woodcuts to 20th-century ads using cats. Some of my favorite things: detail of a 1647 woodcut showing two seated witches as they name their familiars - which include not only a cat named Pyewacket, but a rabbit named Sacke & Spice. "The Cat's Tale" by Geoffrey Chaucer's Cat, which features a fairly nice pun. Cat cartoons (Executive at desk: "I'm leaving early today to have my cat neutered. While I'm gone, select 9 people to be Employee of The Month and award each of them with a kitten.")

Peeping Tom's Cabin - comic verse by X.J.Kennedy. I took this one out in April, for National Poetry Month. Nothing in it was particularly worth quoting. Some of the verse is amusing, some of it just pointless, and some crude. Poor imitator of Ogden Nash.

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde. Very funny; as convoluted as the previous books in the series. If Pride and Prejudice appears on TV as a reality show called "The Bennets" and various daughters get voted out of the family, it's time to panic.

Damsels in Distress by Joan Hess. Latest in her Claire Molloy series of cozy mysteries. Makes fun of the SCA through a fictional clone called ARSE.

Head Cases: Stories of brain injury and its aftermath by Michael Paul Mason. A few hopeful notes, but mostly depressing, both about the overall state of our knowledge of how to treat patients with Traumatic Brain Injury and the state of our health care system as totally inadequate to deal with the number of patients. Don't expect miracles.

There, that's enough for now.


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