Frogmore & Twain

From a tour of the wonderful Frogmore Plantation (the original plantation name) now owned by the Tanner family, several miles west from Natchez in the Louisiana flatlands. It’s both a large, operational cotton plantation and regional cotton gin (an entire modern factory that processes cotton from the picked boll thru carding, cleaning, grading, and bundling into 500-pound bails) and a nicely preserved museum of historic cotton cultivation and processing practices from the late 19th and early 20th century.


PS — I will be inviting many of the addressees of this note to join the email group, in order to save typing (and too often, forgetting to type your email address every time I think you’d be interested). Just accept the invite — it’s a 15 year old group that has existed on two major platforms — it won’t bite.

Bruce Potter443-454-9044 (Text, Voice, no Voicemail)

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Swift Copy 78906 euro


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ISISA Washington Post, Oct. 9, 2022. Book Review of “Try Not to Be Strange”

Fantastic – must read it!

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Washington Post, Oct. 9, 2022. Book Review of “Try Not to Be Strange”

The island of Redonda in the Caribbean is the setting of the myth of the “Kingdom of Redonda.”

This giant rock is actually a literary Neverland, complete with a king Redonda, as Michael Hingston explains in his new book, ‘Try Not to Be Strange,’ has inspired a whimsical kingdom of writers and other royal wannabes.

Review by Michael Dirda
October 6, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

Since the death in September of King Xavier I — more widely known as Javier Marías, the leading Spanish novelist of his generation — considerable speculation has arisen about who might be his successor to the throne of Redonda. Whether King Xavier had anyone in mind seems as yet unknown. But, doubtless, sometime in the coming months, a new king will be proclaimed, almost certainly followed by the appearance of rival claimants and various pretenders. This is, in fact, a recurrent phenomenon in the modern history of Redonda, that fabled Caribbean island nation.

Just what, you may wonder, am I talking about? The answer can be found in Michael Hingston’s “Try Not to Be Strange: The Curious History of the Kingdom of Redonda.” It’s a wonderfully entertaining book, an account of how its Canadian author grew fascinated with a literary jape, a kind of role-playing game or shared-world fantasy involving some of the most eccentric and some of the most famous writers of modern times.

Located in the Lesser Antilles, not far from Montserrat, Redonda is an actual place, geographically speaking. Essentially a really big rock, one mile long and a third of a mile wide, it was named by Christopher Columbus and, for centuries, was mainly viewed as an obstacle to sail around, being largely uninhabitable. In the 19th century, however, the island’s superabundance of guano and phosphate led to the establishment of a small mining operation. One day in 1880, a citizen of Montserrat traveled to the island to celebrate the 15th birthday of his son Matthew Phipps Shiell. As a special surprise, he crowned the boy Felipe I, king of Redonda. No one much noticed or cared.

A few years later, the island’s youthful “monarch” traveled to England — his father’s parting words were “Try not to be strange” — intending to make his fortune as a writer. In 1895, M.P. Shiel (spelled with only one “l”) brought out his first book, “Prince Zaleski,” whose eponymous protagonist resembles an ultra-decadent Sherlock Holmes (and is, after Holmes himself, my favorite Victorian amateur detective). In retelling three exceptionally eerie mysteries solved by Zaleski, Shiel employed a mannered, bejeweled prose that would grow even more over-the-top in the almost surreal, supernatural short stories assembled in “Shapes in the Fire” (1896). Of these stories, especially “Vaila,” later rewritten as “The House of Sounds,” H.P. Lovecraft once wrote, “Shiel has done so much better than my best that I am left breathless and inarticulate.”

Shiel’s literary career would peak in 1901 with his baroque science fiction masterpiece, “The Purple Cloud,” in which a character named Adam Jeffson finds himself the last man alive on Earth. That novel cemented my own fascination with this unusual writer, and I began to collect Shiel’s books and learn more about the man himself.
Fantasy author M.P. Shiel was crowned king of Redonda by his father, Matthew Dowdy Shiell. From “Try Not to Be Strange,” by Michael Hingston. (Courtesy of author’s collection)

As Hingston notes, Shiel’s personal life wasn’t just bohemian and maritally irresponsible: He served time in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing a young stepdaughter, a charge he denied. In his later years, though, he made one truly devoted disciple, an up-and-coming man of letters named Terence Ian Fytton Armstrong, who wrote poetry and edited anthologies as John Gawsworth. Just before Shiel died in 1947, he named Gawsworth as his successor to the joke throne of Redonda.

Perhaps surprisingly, King Juan I took up his royal duties with resolute, if tongue-in-cheek seriousness. He quickly came to see Redonda, to quote Hingston, as “an exotic symbol. . . of wonder and wish-fulfillment” and “an intricate fantasy realm that was insulated from the multiple harshnesses of reality.” Before long, the island’s new sovereign began to issue proclamations, investing his favorite bookmen and women with titles and high offices in the Redondan court. Hingston’s appendix reproduces some of these documents: Arthur Machen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Lawrence Durrell, Alfred Knopf and Dylan Thomas are among those listed under the rubric “Duchies of the Realm.”

If you love heroic fantasy a la George R.R. Martin, you’ll love ‘The Last Viking’

In short order, there was also a Redondan national anthem and the first of the island’s several different flags. Sometimes King Juan — who kept King Felipe’s cremated remains in a tea caddie — would sprinkle a few royal ashes into a special guest’s food. A short film, made near the end of Gawsworth’s life, features a scene in which Durrell meets his old friend with the salutation, “Hail, O king!”
A “coronation” on Redonda. (Frances Howorth)

By that time, however, Gawsworth had descended into poverty, homelessness and severe alcoholism. The once proud monarch began to award Redondan titles to anyone who would lend him money or buy him a drink. He also named different people as his chosen heir to the throne. Consequently, after Gawsworth’s death in 1970, nearly a dozen people — including his bartender, as well as a self-proclaimed King Guillermo I who lived in Skagway, Alaska — declared themselves to be the new and rightful ruler of the fantasy realm. Still, a writer and vegetarian activist named Jon Wynne-Tyson emerged as the most widely recognized claimant, partly because he had actually traveled to Redonda to be crowned.

Book World began on Watergate’s heels: A look back at the early days

In his later years, King Juan II grew tired of the burdens of power and resolved to abdicate after reading Javier Marías’s novel, “All Souls,” in which the autobiographical protagonist collects Gawsworth’s poetry. After some negotiation, in 1997, Marías accepted the crown as King Xavier, promising to keep alive the work of Shiel and Gawsworth as well as maintain Redonda’s literary culture. The novelist A.S. Byatt, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and cultural scholar Marina Warner soon appeared on the kingdom’s honors list. For a long time, I quietly — but alas vainly — hoped that my enthusiastic review of one of Marías’s books would lead to seeing my own name among the latest Knights Grand Commander in the Order of the Star of Redonda. Even now, I stand ready to pledge my fealty to King Xavier’s successor, whoever it may turn out to be.
Author Michael Hingston (Kate Gutteridge)

In “Try Not to Be Strange,” Hingston relates all this whimsy, with abundant anecdotes, in the manner of A.J.A. Symons’s 1934 classic, “The Quest for Corvo,” which transformed writing a biography into an intensely personal adventure. Thus, Hingston recounts how he learned of Redonda from Marías’s novels, slowly began to collect books relating to the kingdom, then grew increasingly obsessed until one exciting day he bid “more money that I’d ever spent on anything that I couldn’t drive or live inside” to acquire, at auction, a trove of Gawsworth’s papers. Afterward, he started to communicate with living Redondan notables and to research the micro-nation’s various rival monarchs, including a raffish ship’s captain known as King Bob the Bald.

Hingston’s quest reaches its inevitable climax when he travels to the actual Redonda on a mini-expedition that devolves into frivolity, confusion, exhaustion and near-disaster. How could it be otherwise? What really matters isn’t the island itself, but the idea of this literary Neverland, this magic kingdom of the imagination.

Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for Book World and the author of the memoir “An Open Book,” the Edgar Award-winning “On Conan Doyle” and five collections of essays: “Readings,” “Bound to Please,” “Book by Book,” “Classics for Pleasure” and “Browsings.”

Try Not to Be Strange
The Curious History of the Kingdom of Redonda
By Michael Hingston
Biblioasis. 302 pp. Paperback, $18.95

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Wash Post, 10 October — “Parental Tech Support”

Finally re-found this:

Tech in Your Life
Parental Tech Support:
Everything you should fix on a senior’s phone
Clean up and optimize your parent’s smartphone
with 20 minutes and this checklist.

[I find that “20 minutes” to be wildly optimistic, but you have to start somewhere . . . ]

By Heather Kelly
October 10, 2022 at 7:00 a.m. EDT

Adult children who do family tech support know the drill. Your parents call about a problem with their smartphone, maybe spam texts or something wrong with Facebook. You try to talk them through fixing it remotely with mixed results and mutual frustration.

Next time you see your parents in person (and really, you should visit more often) do everyone a favor. Take 30 minutes (see! the time needed has already gone up 50%) to borrow their phone and clean house. A little maintenance now can prevent future problems with security, scams, confusion or misinformation. You are going to clear out old junk, fix any small problems and customize it so everything is a little easier for them to see and understand.

This is advice for adult children whose parents or other older relatives use a smartphone, but anyone can attempt these maintenance tasks on their own devices.

Update everything

“The first thing I do is check for what I call check engine lights,” says Abbie Richie, the founder and CEO of tech-support company Senior Savvy. “I look for red notification badges, especially in the Settings app.”

Apple and Google release regular small updates and annual big updates to their smartphone operating systems, iOS and Android. Don’t avoid them, even if you’re worried about adding confusing new features. They often include key security patches and bug fixes. If you do a major operating system update, set aside time to walk them through the new look and options.

Set the phone to run software updates automatically in the future.

Delete and reorganize apps

Go through page by page and ask your parent what they use and what they don’t use — you’ll be surprised how many of us have apps installed we don’t remember. Delete anything that looks suspect, scammy or confusing.

Move the apps they use most to the first screen on their device. Richie recommends putting their four most used apps in the dock at the bottom of the screen and putting any other biggies in the top left or right corner. Move any apps they don’t use often but that are useful to have into clearly labeled folders, then store those folders on the last page of the home screen.

Ask them if there’s anything they want to do on their phone but can’t, like online banking. Install new apps if they need them, but keep it simple and walk them through setting up anything that needs a log-in. Write down any new passwords!

Make the screen easier to see

Our eyesight deteriorates as we age and even the largest phone can be tricky to read. Smartphones are packed with accessibility settings that you can dive into, but to start let’s just make everything a little bigger and brighter.

In Settings, bump up the text size and make it bold. You can turn on a setting like iOS’s Display Zoom, which makes everything a bit larger across the board. Finally, turn the brightness all the way up and show them how to control it themselves. Experiment with toggling between light and dark modes and see if one is easier for them to see.

Richie also suggests giving your parents more time before their phones lock. Instead of 30 seconds or one minute, bump the auto-lock up between 3 and 5 minutes.

Turn on emergency and health settings

Add any medical conditions and allergies to the phone’s built-in emergency settings. On an iPhone, go to Medical ID in the Health settings. On an Android device, you can go to the Safety & Emergency settings. Add emergency contacts, including people who live close as well as immediate relatives. Make it so this information can be viewed in an emergency, even if the phone is locked.

Many smartphones have health monitoring options built in. On the iPhone for example, you can turn on notification for walking steadiness, which might come in handy to avoid future falls. If they want you or someone else to be more involved with their health, you can set up sharing for health information.

Cut down on misinformation

If you’re worried about your parents falling for disinformation or being radicalized online, you can make a few minor changes to make things better. Pick a reputable news outlet or app and move it to a prominent place on their home screen. Apple News and Google News both do a decent job of including a wide range of trustworthy news sites. Put a shortcut to a fact-checking site like Snopes on their home screen so they can quickly gut check any stories or social media posts they come across. Walk through their social media accounts with them, if they’ll let you. Ask if you can unfollow any pages or influencers who traffic in disinformation or propaganda.

Minimize scamming attempts

Seniors are a popular target for scammers. You can tweak a few settings to cut down on attempts. We walk you through all of them here, but start with sending unknown calls directly to voice mail (Settings → Phone → Silence Unknown Callers on an iPhone), filtering texts from unknown senders and turning on any spam filters or detection offered by their phone or cell carrier.

Go through their friend lists on Facebook and Instagram and weed out any fake seeming accounts, including people they don’t know and accounts imitating other people. You can find more settings to change on their smartphone and messaging apps here.

Check their subscriptions

Make sure they’re not paying for anything by accident, like an app they subscribed to or a scammy “tech support” service. Go through their Android or iOS subscriptions first, then ask if they want to review their recent bank account statement.

Set up cloud backups

Turn on automated backups, especially for photos. If they have a full phone, you can set it to delete photos or videos from the device to clear up space. If their device is ever lost, stolen or broken, they’ll still have all their data and memories ready to go. You can find more storage instructions for Google Drive here and Apple’s iCloud here.

Introduce them to Siri

Navigating around a smartphone screen can be more difficult as people lose dexterity and their eyesight worsens. Android and iPhones have a great built-in shortcuts that can help seniors: voice assistants. Walk them through how to activate Siri or Google Assistant, writing down a list of starter commands for them to get used to, like dictating a text.

Let your parents show you what they need

“I always ask my clients, ‘show me what you mean,’ ” says Richie. Something that may be hard to explain to you over the phone could be clearer by having them walk you through the process. For example, Richie had one client who struggled to send text messages. It turned out they were holding a finger on the send arrow too long, accidentally bringing up the special effects option in Messages.

Use parental controls

If your parent is dealing with any type of cognitive decline, you can discuss using stronger controls on their devices so you can access or block things remotely. You can also ask them to share log-ins and passwords, or store them somewhere easy to access. This should be done with their consent and full understanding of what you’ll be able to access.

Keep checking in

Write down everything new you’re telling your parents so they have something to reference. If you live too far away to give constant tech support, find a trusted local computer shop that does house calls or deputize another tech savvy relative. Richie says to be ready for more phone calls and questions, and that’s okay.

“Be completely prepared that they may need you to show them how to do this again and again and again, with love.”

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Couple of WaPo posts RE Ian in SW Florida

October Group — please note the flesh eating bacteria are not just in your Chesapeake Bay swimming areas.

Bruce Potter443-454-9044 (Text, Voice, no Voicemail)

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Yeah, Pickleball!!


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Right There in The Name

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Upper Mississippi, especially north of Davenport

Trees, trains and grain elevators seem to characterize the Upper Mississippi, but above Davenport there are larger limestone bluffs that provide vertical interest.

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Big Fish too

. . . at the Gutenberg locks on the Mississippi, about 40 miles north of Dubuque

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