Gud Jól
Happy Holidaze!

Be merry and dance — it’s a New Year.

♩ ♫ ♩ ♫ ♩ ♫ ♩

                            Larry and Janis

2023 Highlights

My most thrilling moment of 2023 came on Dec. 8, when I won the Name That Tune competition featured on the final episode of the Big Fiddle Show, a joyful production of Patt & Possum.

It came down to the wire as contestants vied for the prestigious title — I held a nail-biting edge of a single star (point) over my closest competitors, with four more rounds to go. The clincher I recognized straight off: Snowshoes (NOT Spotted Pony). P&P awarded me an amazing trophy — without having to play a single lick.

Bob T. Parrot became quite annoying (as usual), squawking in my ear: Rats in the Rafters! Possum Up a Gump Stump! Fiddling Infidelities! Pandemic Blues!

Another big event this year involved eye surgery. You no doubt suspect cataract, which would be correct, but the double-whammy surgery also involved a “vitrectomy” in the right eye: the removal of an epiretinal membrane — which clouds and distorts vision — from the surface of the retina. (I will spare you the gory details.)

On the bright side (excuse the pun), the procedure — with the aid of new spectacles — enabled me to pass the vision test to renew my driver’s license. Yay! I had previously restricted my driving by staying close to home and not getting behind the wheel after dark — those super-bright headlights on the new vehicles blinded me.

•   Bird World

Globe-trotting Janis, on a recent trip to Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest, crossed the 4500 mark, edging closer to her goal of 5000 species worldwide — and, apparently, ten times the birder I am. More trips on her itinerary this coming year.
Right: Janis posing with the group’s driver, Montanha, who doubled as her personal assistant — he is definitely a mountain of a man; Number 4500: the Yellow-browed Woodpecker.

I, in the meantime, picked up more “lifers,” carrying me beyond the 400 mark for San Diego County, including a Yellow-billed Loon (below left), and I picked up a Snowy Owl (a.k.a. Ook Pik) on New Year’s Day (in L.A. County), both birds being well south of their normal habitat in the frigid north.


The loon breeds in the high Arctic tundra of Alaska and Canada, but somehow defied its instincts for a warmer winter clime (or simply got lost), and touched down in San Diego’s Mission Bay, much to the delight of the local — some might say loco — birders, who flocked to the shore to see and photograph this rarity.

•   Music

Not fiddling as much as I would like, although I get together most Fridays with Jerry Schrieber, Charlie VanTassel, Steve Green, and Christine Ouang. Tendonitis in my hands and the beginnings of arthritis play a role, and the aging process takes its inevitable toll. I can’t whine too loudly, however, as there are plenty of others far worse off than I.

Janis and I plan to attend the old-time musical festival in Mountain View, Arkansas, in April and do some fiddling on the porch of the old hotel, accompanied by guitar-picker extraordinaire Richard Chance.

•   Reading

Thanks to the recommendation of a former student of mine, I have acquired a great fondness for the Brontë sisters, the brilliance of Charlotte Brontë in particular. You recall Jane Eyre, yes? But what about her second, the historical novel Shirley, set during the economically depressed times of the Napoleonic Wars and the so-called Luddite rebellion. Never heard of it? Neither had I. But I now rank it as one of the best books ever, right up there with Huckleberry Finn and the works of F. Scott and Ernest. (Please, for Charlotte's sake, do not confuse her with Jane Austen, or Charlie D. . . . Incubus!)

Charlotte and her sisters, Emily (Wuthering Heights) and Anne (Agnes Grey), defied the stuffy conventions of the Victorian Era with their attitudes toward religion and the clergy, class structure, and the emancipation of women. (They published their books under male pseudonyms: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.) Yes, they ranked among the feminists of their day as they sought to reveal the Truth: The common male thinking being that “everything but sewing and cooking [are] above women’s comprehension and out of their line.” They also published a book of poetry, in which Emily truly shines.

The shy daughter of a poor parish priest, Charlotte became a best-selling author and gained an unanticipated (and unwelcomed) notoriety, as well as celebrity, before her premature death.

In addition to Charlotte’s masterful deployment of the English language — keep a dictionary handy — she presents us with such idiomatic gems as “tomahawk tongues” and “petticoat government.” You will garner her esteem and approbation should you deign to direct your steps across the bleak Yorkshire moors at her guiding hand.

Moreover, Shirley offers insight into how “Shirley” became a popular name for girls. When you learn of it, you may think, “Surely, you jest!” But, Dear Reader, I jest not.

You can read Shirley online at Project Gutenberg.

•   Book / Writing News:

    Still editing books. Those published this year include:

  • Blood of the Father — An A.J. Hawke Legal Thriller
    Donald E. McInnis
    In this third book of the series, the young lawyer must sift through the lies to learn who killed a U.S. senator, and why — which leaves him with a seemingly unsolvable legal and moral dilemma. Don’s fourth book in the series, Code Blue, is slated for release next year.
    More info at: DonaldMcInnis.com

  • Codename Parsifal — A WWII Thriller
    Martin Roy Hill
    The Spear of Destiny. The Roman Legionnaire's lance that pierced Christ's body as he hung on the cross. Legend claims whomever possesses it will become a great conqueror. But if they lose it, they will lose everything — including their lives. In the dying embers of Europe's largest conflagration, three teams are on a collision course that will lead them to one of the evilest places on earth — the ideological heart of the Nazi SS. Inspired by historical events. Named Best Military Thriller of 2023 by BestThrillers.

  • Chariot Canyon — A Rent Beacham Mystery
    From my own pen, I have returned to working on unfinished works, with the novel Chariot Canyon due out next year.

    As investigative journalist Rent Beachem digs deeper into allegations of EBT fraud in the San Diego area, he suspects an international criminal enterprise lies behind the fraudulent activity. When hikers discover the body of an adolescent girl at an abandoned gold mine in the remote, semi-lawless Chariot Canyon, the murder investigation increases the complexity — and danger — of his attempt to uncover the truth.

    In the pipeline: the historical novel Ramsey’s Run, set during the heydays of the Rocky Mountain fur trade, and the present-day murder mystery On a Platter.

Related Links

•   Winter Solstice — Shortest Day of the Year (northern hemisphere)
•   Winter Solstice Traditions: Rituals for a Simple Celebration
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