24 Festive Tasks: Door 5 – Bon Om Touk: Task 3

First things first: shout-out to the resident Fierce and Friendly Dragon!

And speaking of firsts, the first dragon who inspired my awe was Fáfnir, the dragon slain by Siegfried in the Song of the Nibelungs.  Local lore has it that he lived under a mountain (well, hill / elevation) just south of Bonn called Drachenfels (“Dragon’s Rock”) that is part of the Seven Mountains range.  There is a castle halfway up the mountain called Drachenburg (“Dragon Castle”) which features an exhibition on the Nibelung legend, including a veritable dragon’s den … Fáfnir included.  We lived very nearby — and I just loved going there as a kid and riding on Fáfnir’s back.

Drachenfels, seen from the Rhine, with Drachenburg castle to the left;
and Fáfnir in his dragon’s den

Other dragons I’ve since come to love include:

* Lóng, the dragon(s) from Chinese mythology.  Hey, I’m a dragon in the Chinese zodiac, so …

* Y Ddraig Goch, the red Welsh dragon that defeats the white Saxon dragon according to the Mabinogion and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain

* Quetzalcoatl / Kukulkan, the feathered serpent of the Aztecs and Mayas

* Eragon‘s blue dragon Saphira: I haven’t even managed to get myself to finish the series yet (and perhaps I never will), but Saphira and her constant face-palming at Eragon are a serious breath of fresh air.  Also, it’s good to see a powerful female dragon (shown to be a female from the start) for once.

* Fuchur (Falkor), the luck dragon from The Neverending Story

* Norbert(a) and the (unnamed) dragon that helps Harry & friends to escape from Gringotts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

* Draco in Dragonheart — for Sean Connery’s voice acting alone.  (Forget the rest of the movie …)

Oddly, Smaug from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit isn’t a favorite — he’s way too easily tricked by Bilbo.  I don’t mind greedy and evil (those are pretty much standard fare, as dragons go, even if the above examples show that they’re not a total given), but I want some superior intelligence in my dragons.  They’re not supernatural creatures for nothing — and the way in which Bilbo outsmarts Smaug (and Bard later kills him) seriously has me wondering how Smaug managed to obtain a reputation to have been “the greatest of his generation” and to keep the people of Laketown and the Dale in such thrall for such a long time to begin with.  (And yes, I know Bilbo had the One Ring — but it feels almost like he hardly would have needed it; as in fact, nor did Bard.)

(Task: Dragons and dragon-like serpents (imugi) are important to Korean mythology (as they are to that of other Asian peoples).  So – which are your favorite literary dragons (fictional, mythological, whatever)?)

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 5 – Bon Om Touk: Task 4

Books on my shelf with antonym (polar opposite) words in the title:

War & Peace - Leo Tolstoy, Anthony BriggsEast, West: Stories - Salman RushdieEast Wind: West Wind - Pearl S. BuckNorth and South - Elizabeth GaskellNorth and South - John JakesLove and War - John JakesHeaven and Hell - John JakesHeaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) - Don FelderNight and Day - Virginia Woolf, Julia BriggsArabian Nights and Days - Naguib Mahfouz, Denys Johnson-DaviesDarkness at Noon - Arthur Koestler, Daphne Hardy To Have and Have Not - Ernest HemingwayMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John BerendtThe Agony and the Ecstasy - Irving StoneSongs of Innocence and of Experience - William Blake, Will JonsonAll Creatures Great and Small - James HerriotLittle House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth WilliamsThe Once and Future King - T.H. WhiteLittle Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys - Louisa May Alcott, Elaine ShowalterEat Drink Man Woman & The Wedding Banquet: Two Films by Ang Lee - Ang LeeWoman Defamed and Woman Defended: An Anthology of Medieval Texts - Augustine of Hippo, Ovid, Geoffrey Chaucer, Aristotle, Giovanni Boccaccio, Alcuin Blamires, Karen Pratt, C.W. Marx, Tertullian, John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, St. Jerome, Gratian, Gottfried von Strassburg, Marbod of Rennes, Walter Map, Andreas Capellanus, Gautier le LRich Man, Poor Man - Irwin ShawThe Earth and the Sky: Stories - Debbie Lee WesselmannNeither Here Nor There - Bill BrysonThe Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft - Claire TomalinLife and Death of Harriett Frean (20th Century Rediscoveries) - May SinclairThe Death and Life of Great American Cities - Jane JacobsThe Prince and the Pauper - Mark Twain, Everett EmersonThe Lives Of The Kings And Queens Of England - Antonia FraserKings and Queens of Denmark - Henning Dehn-NielsenThe Rise And Fall Of The House Of Medici - Christopher HibbertRise And Fall Of The Third Reich - William L. ShirerThe Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World - Stephen BrusatteBeen Down So Long it Looks Like Up to Me - Richard Fariña, Thomas PynchonWinter im Sommer - Frühling im Herbst: Erinnerungen - Joachim GauckOld-Time New England Cookbook - Duncan MacDonald, Robb SagendorphBlack And White Sands: A Bohemian Life In The Colonial Caribbean - Elma NapierWhite Witch, Black Curse - Kim HarrisonAngels & Demons - Dan Brown

(Task: The South Korean flag features images of ying / yang (the blue and red circle in the center) and four sets of three black lines each representing heaven, sun, moon and earth and, in turn, the virtues humanity, justice, intelligence and courtesy.  Compile a list or stack – 4 books minimum – composed of books that either have opposing words in their titles (e.g., war / peace; asleep / awake – not necessarily both words in the same title), or that feature the words “heaven,” “sun,” “moon,” “earth,” “humanity,” “justice,” intelligence,” and / or “courtesy.”)

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 5 – Bon Om Touk: Task 1

Task: List / tell us about your favorite rainy day reads.

Any- and everything that — with or without a mug of hot tea and some chocolate or other snacks — makes me feel all warm and comfortable (while still engaging my brain cells, at least on occasion):

* Golden Age mysteries, particularly my favorites by Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ngaio Marsh (as well as, more recently, Patricia Wentworth, Josephine Tey, John Dickson Carr — and on the other side of the Pond, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series).

* P.D. James’s Inspector Dalgliesh and Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series.

* Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael series, C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake books, and other historical fiction favorites.

* Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

* J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

* Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

* Jane Austen’s novels, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford and North and South, E.M. Forster’s Howards End, and Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women.

* Even some grittier stuff, as long as it mentally takes me to a place that — literarily or in real life — I consider “home” (looking at you, Inspector Rebus and Harry Bosch).

* And this time of the year, of course, most of the books on my Christmas Reading list!

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 5 – Bon Om Touk: Book

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie, Dan Stevens And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

Can’t think of a better choice for this holiday than to revisit this one, within days of its 80th publication anniversary.  Particularly with as much water on the cover as on the wonderful audio featuring Dan Stevens and my stand-alone print edition …

(Task: Read a book by a Korean author or set in Korea, that takes place at sea or on a river, where the plot involves a festival, where the moon or rain plays a pivotal role in the plot, or with rain, water or the moon on the cover.)

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 5 – Bon Om Touk

3 - Melbourne Cup Day
1 - dia de los Muertos
5 - Bon Om Touk
2 - Japanese Culture Day
4 - Guy Fawkes Night
Bon Om Touk
Door 5:  Bon Om Touk

Task 1: List / tell us about your favorite rainy day reads.
Task 2: String up some fairy lights around your books / bookcase / kindle and share a picture of the results.
Task 3: Dragons and dragon-like serpents (imugi) are important to Korean mythology (as they are to that of other Asian peoples). So – which are your favorite literary dragons (fictional, mythological, whatever)?
Task 4:The South Korean flag features images of ying / yang (the blue and red circle in the center) and four sets of three black lines each representing heaven, sun, moon and earth and, in turn, the virtues humanity, justice, intelligence and courtesy. Compile a list or stack – 4 books minimum – composed of books that either have opposing words in their titles (e.g., war / peace; asleep / awake – not necessarily both words in the same title), or that feature the words “heaven,” “sun,” “moon,” “earth,” “humanity,” “justice,” intelligence,” and / or “courtesy.”
Book: Read a book by a Korean author or set in Korea, that takes place at sea or on a river, where the plot involves a festival, where the moon or rain plays a pivotal role in the plot, or with rain, water or the moon on the cover.

NEW: Once you’ve completed a task or tasks, please use the handy form, located in the spoiler tags (to keep things tidy) to let us know. This will make tracking points MUCH easier for the 24 Tasks Team.

* Required

Blog Name: *

Festive Task Door Completed: *
Día de los Muertos
Japanese Culture Day
Melbourne Cup Day
Guy Fawkes Night
Bon Om Touk (Korean Water & Moon Festival)
Winter Solstice (Yule / Yaldā Night / Dongzhi / Soyal)
New Year’s Eve / St. Sylvester’s Day
Twelfth Night / Epiphany

I’ve completed the following task for this holiday: *

Have you completed some of the tasks for this holiday already? *

If you have completed tasks previously, which ones? * (Required if answered yes to the previous question.)
(Optional) Link to your blog post:

Previous door’s tasks are “beneath the fold”


Previous Doors’ Tasks and Books


Dia de los Muertos
Door 1:  Dia de Los Muertos
Task 1: Compose a limerick or short poem in honor of a favorite book character.
Task 2:  If you like Mexican food, treat yourself to a favorite dish – and / or make yourself a margarita – and share a photo.
Task 3: Write an epitaph for the book you most disliked this year.
Task 4: Do you have any traditions or mementos of happy memories of a loved one that you feel like sharing?
Book: Reread a favorite book by a deceased author or from a finished series, or read a book set in Mexico or a book that either has a primarily black and white cover or all the colors (ROYGBIV) on the cover, or a book featuring zombies.


Japanese Culture Day
Door 2:  Japanese Culture Day
Task 1: Tell us about a cultural festival or event in the area where you live.
Task 2: Try a flavor of Kit Kat other than chocolate and report back if you liked it.
Task 3: Try your hand at folding a paper crane. Instructions: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-a-Paper-Crane-1/
Task 4: If you like Japanese food, treat yourself to a favorite dish.
Book: Read a graphic novel or a book set in a school or academic setting.


Melbourne Cup Day
Door 3:  Melbourne Cup Day
Task 1: Pick your ponies.*
Task 2: Roses are the official flower of Flemington Race Track; write your own “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue” poem for one of your favorite or most hated books of all time.
Task 3: Aussies shorten everything, so Melbourne Cup Day is just called “Cup Day” – post a picture of your favorite cup or mug for your daily fix of coffee, tea or chocolate.
Task 4: Prepare your favorite dessert – in a cup! Post a photo of it for us to enjoy vicariously.
Book: Read a book about horses, with a horse or with roses on the cover, about gardening, or set in Australia, or written by an Australian author.
* Ponies (horses) running the race will be posted here by Darth Pedant, guest hosting for MurderByDeath, as soon as they’re announced, or thereabouts. The official field is published on November 3rd.


Guy Fawkes Night
Door 4:  Guy Fawkes Night
Task 1: Make a list of the top 3 treasonous crimes against books that an author can commit.
Task 2: Start a revolution: What one thing would you change about the book reading world? (Be it publishing, distribution, editing, cover art, bookstores – anything having to do with books.)
Task 3: Make a little straw (or wood / cloth / wool / fabric) effigy of the book character you like least.
Task 4:

How do you order the books on your shelves?
Book: Read a book set in the UK, a political thriller, a book involving any monarchy or revolution, a book about arson or related to fires and burning, a book whose plot involves costumes / fancy dress, or that has masks on the cover, or that is self-published.


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Members of the Detection Club: The Sinking Admiral

24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 – Bon Om Touk, Book

In 1931, “certain members” of the Detection Club — in fact, none other than its leading lights Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, G.D.H. and Margaret Cole, Victor L. Whitechurch, Freeman Wills Crofts, Henry Wade, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Edgar Jepson, Ronald A. Knox and Clemence Dane — published the club’s first round robin crime novel, The Floating Admiral.

To mark the 85th anniversary of The Floating Admiral‘s publication, “certain members” of the Detection Club in its current incarnation, instigated by its president (until 2015), Simon Brett, published a round robin of their own, paying tribute to the original novel not only in its title, The Sinking Admiral, but also by the fact that all the suspects and the two policemen in their collaborative concoction are named for one of the authors of the original book — and The Sinking Admiral‘s other characters (most prominently the two amateur sleuths) are named for first generation Detection Club members as well.

However, whereas the original book was named for a person (the eponymous admiral, or rather, his corpse, floating downriver in a small boat), the tribute is named both for a person and the pub run by him, both of whom are “sinking” metaphorically as a result of the fact that the pub is in dire financial straits.  (Though, yes, the Admiral is still the person whose murder sets the book’s investigation in motion.)  Moreover, whereas the original group of authors all wrote their respective chapters without revealing their own solutions to the group beforehand — even such a solution was required to have been worked out by each contributor by the time their chapter was written — the writers of the tribute book hashed out a plan for the entire book beforehand, and then distributed the chapters among themselves according to their respective specialization.  I confess I liked the second approach better: it simply made for a more coherent book.  The 1931 group probably had tons of fun keeping each other guessing as much as the reader, but the result is a bit of a hodge-podge, which at some point simply gets in the way of enjoyment.  Then again, in order to add another level of mystery, the new group did not unveil the identity of the respective authors of their book’s individual chapters — but I frankly couldn’t be bothered to try and work this one out, though based on subject matter familiarity alone there can hardly be any doubt as to the author of at least one of them, and anyone inclined to dig deeper would probably be able to attribute the authorship of most or even all of the chapters to one particular contributor.

For a round robin — especially one written by a group of authors all specializing in different types of mysteries — The Sinking Admiral is remarkably coherent in style and tone, and most of the Detection Club in jokes it contains come off fairly well.  In that respect, it works very well as a tribute.  However, it occasionally tries to be too many things at the same time: maybe one topical specialization or two should have been sacrificed; even if this would almost certainly have meant jettisoning the contribution of one of my favorite writers; but there’s a historical deviation in the whole thing that simply feels forced, out of place and just general “de trop” (and the odd other arabesque or two could probably have been cut out as well).  Similarly, the extent to which the two cops — or, well, the senior cop at least — are your proverbial country bumpkins who are just screaming to be bested by the two intrepid amateur sleuths just beggars belief.  In that respect, the book feels more like a parody of a well-known Golden Age mystery trope than a tribute.  But by and large, this is quite an enjoyable exponent of crime fiction tribute writing, and it certainly reads like its creators had a ball concocting it.

Since upon closer inspection the blue stuff on the book cover is supposed to be water, I’ll be using this book as my read for the Bon Om Touk square (a book with water on the cover).


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24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 – Bon Om Touk, Task 2 (Boat Procession: Rhein in Flammen / The Rhine on Fire)

I’ve posted about this before: “Rhein in Flammen” (“The Rhine on Fire”, or “The Rhine up in Flames”) is an annual event linking the towns along the Rhine, all the way from Koblenz to Bonn, by a pleasure boat corso and a chain of fireworks.   The whole thing gets kicked off in Koblenz as soon as night has fallen, and finishes in Bonn with the hugest firework of all at some point after 11:00pm.  I haven’t taken photos of this in ages, but here are some photos of this year’s event taken by other people:

Sources and more photos (also of the festival [BBQ + carnival + rock concert] atmosphere on shore) HERE, HERE and HERE.

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 – Bon Om Touk, Task 1 (Paper Boat … and Cats. Because there can’t ever be too many cat pictures in the world.)

I confess I needed the instructions — when I was a kid I could have done this in my sleep, but that was a long time ago and I haven’t made one of these in decades.  It looked reasonably seaworthy at first sight; upon closer inspection, though …

“Mom?  This is boring …

… can I have some belly rubs instead, please?”

Second opinion:
There also seem to be tail, um, action issues …
… though on the whole it would have seemed battleworthy enough — if it hadn’t capsized under friendly fire!

Also, just FYI:

This narrative is officially cat-approved.

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 – Bon Om Touk, Task 4 (Moonlighting Book Characters)

The Complete Sherlock Holmes -  Arthur Conan Doyle Nights At The Circus - Sarah Waters, Angela Carter The Colour of Magic  - Terry Pratchett

Three moonlighting characters:

1. Dr. John Watson:  The good doctor actually has a full-time practice as an MD — which doesn’t stop him from routinely going sleuthing with London’s self-declared “only consulting detectivie”, however.


Since “moonlighting” is built into the character profile of pretty much every amateur detective (and if not into theirs, at the very least into that of their sidekicks), I could probably just go on listing cozy mysteries … but just to keep it varied, I’ll add instead:


2. Jack Walser: Journalist by trade, who joins Sophie Fevvers’s circus and moonlights there as a clown in order to be able to finish Sophie’s biography (and just generally be close to her) in Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus.


3. Rincewind: Discworld’s most hapless wizard, who is pressed into moonlighting as Twoflower’s (and his luggage’s) tourist guide in Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic.


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24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 – Bon Om Touk, Task 3 (Rainy Day Books)

Any book that gives me warm and fuzzy feelings will be a rainy day book to me — most likely, a Golden Age mystery (from either side of the Pond), but not necessarily these alone.  To get comfortable, I like to curl up on my sofa with my books and my favorite blanket …

… and with a mug of tea — well, actually, I have a mug of tea (preferably the supersized one depicted below) sitting next to me pretty much all day every day, so obviously there has to be tea with my reading, too.

Cat on my lap optional, but as of two weeks ago (again) a virtual certainty!

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