oberon zell-ravenheart

OZ Cancer Report 5/29/09

Dear Friends,

Sorry not to have written sooner, but I’ve been incredibly busy (as usual) since my last blog entry. So now I’ll try and catch you all up on my progress. I’ll start with an update on my cancer stuff:

My last Chemotherapy treatment was April 10, so I’ve been working on recovering ever since. I finally can taste food again, and I no longer have a continual runny bloody nose, but my fingers and toes are still numb with neuropathy, and of course my hair will take a long time to grow back. But otherwise, I’m feeling great! On June 2 I’ll be meeting with Dr. Bozdech again for a 5-week evaluation. Hopefully I’ll check out as good as I feel.
So, what have I been doing since my last report? Well, mostly, I’ve been working like mad on the current book project—an autobiography of Morning Glory and I, supplemented with numerous interviews with friends and family over the years if our lives. This must all be completed and sent in to Llewellyn by July 30, so I’m working on it every day. The working title is “The Witch and the Wizard OZ.”

May 1-3 was our Beltane at Annwfn, but the weather was so cold and rainy that MG and I simply could not go up. The following Saturday (May 9) was Pagan Pride in Berkeley, and the weather was lovely. So Julie, Arek, and I went down and set up our booth for Mythic Images. Morning Glory joined us later in the afternoon, and afterwards we all went out to dinner at a nearby Hindu restaurant.

On May 17, Morning Glory made a presentation at the Sonoma County Pagan Network (SCPN) meeting, bringing a number of statues from her enormous (nearly 300 pieces!) collection of Goddess figurines. The theme was “Springtime Maidens,” and this was an introduction to a series of four weekend Goddess Retreats that she’s offering at our home over the next few months.

I continue to do several radio interviews a month, where I get to talk about my books, the Grey School, Unicorns, and anything else that comes up. I always enjoy these, as they help me reach larger audiences as well as provide practice in public speaking and thinking on my feet.

Last weekend, May 21-25, Julie and I were off in Kansas City for ConQuest 40, the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society’s 40th annual convention, where I was Guest Artist of Honor. I had provided cover art and interior illos for the program book, and my black-and-white cover design was also made into a full-color T-shirt. The theme was “Shore Leave,” so Julie came up with a great idea—a sci-fi version of that famous 1945 photo of the serviceman kissing the nurse. Only I replaced the serviceman with the Metaluna Mutant from the movie This Island Earth, and did a futuristic city background. Everybody loved it, but the synchronicities that coalesced around it were downright eerie! First, the same scene appeared in the brilliant movie The Watchmen, which we saw just before we left. Then my old CAW High Priestess from St Louis, Carolyn Clark, showed up at the con and informed me that the serviceman in that photo had been her Uncle Bill! And finally, a few nights ago, MG and I went to see the new Night at the Museum movie, in which that photo plays a prominent part! That’s three! I can’t help but feel that This Means Something.

As Guest Artist of Honor, I was kept incredibly busy at the con, while Julie had to spend most of her time manning (womanning?) our table. I had to be at the opening and closing ceremonies, was on four panels, and had a special Guest of Honor speech to make. Since I was in my Wizardly regalia, I also got recruited into LARP (Live-Action-Role-Playing) games. And Julie and I entered the Masquerade Contest with the Mother Gaia and Rising Phoenix costumes we’d created for our CAW Pantheacon ritual. We won “Best of Competition,” and got a nifty certificate—with, however, the word “Phoenix” misspelled as “Phoneix.”

Yesterday was Morning Glory’s 51st birthday, so we spent it down in The City with our 2_-year-old granddaughter, Alessa. We spent the afternoon at the recently-remodeled Academy of Sciences, which we hadn’t seen before. Although I missed the unique and amazing “Fish Roundabout,” what they’ve done with the Steinhart Aquarium part was mostly pretty nice—adding a whole rain forest tower and major subterranean tanks (such as a huge “coral reef” that didn’t have any actual hard corals at all).

But MG and I were deeply traumatized by what they’d done to the natural history museum, which we used to love so much. The place has been gutted, and all of our favorite exhibits are completely gone. Of the two battling dinosaur skeletons that used to dominate the entry hall, only the poor lonely T-rex remains, relegated to a back corner off behind the rain forest, where he guards the entrance to the cafeteria (which closes at 4:00, as we discovered to our disappointment).

All that remains of the rest of the old natural history museum are a handful of taxidermied African animal dioramas—“the dead zoo,” as young Aidan used to call it. But the large and beautiful open African waterhole scene, with the light changing to show the speeded-up passage of day and night, and the songs of savannah birds, is all gone, to be replaced with a live penguin enclosure that’s much smaller and less interesting than the old one. The sea lion aquarium is also gone, as are the taxidermy dioramas of North American animals (as well as those of other continents), and all the stuffed birds. The remainder of the so-called “museum” is just a single large echoing room with a few free-standing photo and video displays on the evolutionary diversity of Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands—along with a section of video floor where little kids can try and stomp on computer-generated animated bugs. Alessa loved it, but then, she’s only 2_. If you’re older than that, it’s pretty lame.

Gone too is our very favorite exhibit, the wonderful Hall of Evolution, with its “Life Through Time” pathway, in which you could walk through a full-size diorama of a Carboniferous swamp (with bulldog-sized tarantulas and an 11-foot giant centipede); encounter a pack of attacking Deinonycus (human-sized velociraptors of the kind seen in the Jurassic Park movies); come face-to-face with a ferocious Diatryma (an 8-foot-tall “Terror Bird”) defending its nest of chicks against a pair of Oxyaenas (leopard-like predators); look up to see a Quetzalcoatlus (a pterosaur with a 40-foot wingspan) soaring overhead; and walk through an undersea gallery with life-size Ichthyosaurs, Plesiosaurs, and Mosasaurs hunting giant coiled Nautiloids in the Niobrara Sea.

Gone is the preserved Coelocanth (the 5-foot-long prehistoric lobe-finned fish discovered still living in the depths off the coast of Africa) that used to be at the entrance to the gallery, with a live modern lungfish in an aquarium for comparison. Gone is the great floor-to-ceiling bas relief of the evolutionary Tree of Life which inspired the design of the hair on the back of my Millennial Gaia statue. Gone are all the fossils and skeletons (with the exception of the aforementioned T-rex and the skeleton of a Blue Whale hanging from the ceiling above him). For Morning Glory and I, dinophiles that we are, the loss of all this was emotionally devastating.

Gone too was the entire gallery on the NorCalifia Coast, with the life-size dioramas of native critters in their natural environments—including a free-standing central rocky outcropping with a family of enormous Elephant Seals. One of my favorite parts of that hall had been the greatly-magnified mess of sea wrack, with sand fleas as big as cats. And the actual preserved specimen of a small giant squid (Architeuthis) that had been found washed up on a beach.

In the old museum, there had been a really nice Gem & Mineral Hall, a section on Earthquakes, and a hilarious Gary Larson cartoon exhibit, with a collection of “Cabinet of Curiosity” oddities. There was also an entire “Hall of Man,” with life-size dioramas depicting various native peoples with their homes, clothing, tools and other artifacts. And a special section on human evolution, with casts of key specimens. There had been a large section devoted to rotating special exhibits—such as the amazing collection of animal skulls we’d seen on our last visit before the museum had been closed for these renovations. All this was gone, except for a lonely cast of Lucy’s remains (but no reconstruction of what she’d looked like, or explanation).

Also gone was all the cool stuff in the Astronomy and Earth Sciences wing—including large models of the planets hanging from the ceiling that actually revolved around the central sun, and an enormous rotating relief globe of the Earth, which must have been over 10-feet tall. Of all this, only a much-reduced Foucault Pendulum remains, swinging back and forth with no explanation, as if hoping for a pit to give it some meaning.
When I went up to the information desk in shock to complain about all the missing exhibits, and inquire as to where they’d gone, another woman came up beside me asking the same questions, and saying that her uncle had sculpted the gorgeous fountain with a pair of leaping Humpback Whales that had formerly graced the central courtyard. It too was gone. What had become of it? she asked. She was told that it had been shipped off to some university. Now the central court was just a vast empty space with nothing in it but ugly metal tables and chairs. According to the guy at the information desk, all the wonderful exhibits that we used to come back time and time again to see had been crated and dispersed, or placed into storage.

And then there was the architecture. The beautiful San Francisco Gold Rush Victorian-style Exposition Architecture, with all its exquisite carvings and elaborations, had been replaced with some of the ugliest walls of grey concrete, glass, and steel I have ever seen. All that’s left is a bit of the seahorse railing around the pathetic remnants of the alligator pit—with one bored white alligator sunning himself on a rock a full story below the viewing area, and a few snapping turtles. The live reptile collection is also gone, with only a lone anaconda in the “Amazonian flooded rainforest” and a few geckos in a terrarium (fortunately, they didn’t try to sell me car insurance). Mostly the whole interior looks like scaffolding waiting to have an actual building erected within it. There are no murals, sculptures, or other art on the walls; no maps, charts, or diagrams; and nothing hangs from the 50-foot-high ceilings. What’s not ugly grey prison walls are vast expanses of glass—as if we come to a museum just to look at the world outside, rather than all the cool stuff inside. However, since all the cool stuff had been taken out, I suppose that the view out was better than the view inside.

Even the once-extensive museum store, which used to be the only place I could find the latest dinosaur figurines for my ever-growing collection, now has only tourist gee-gaws and gimcrackery, hardly any books, and no dino figures at all.

I have no intention of ever going back. But what was particularly eerie about the entire experience was that just the night before, MG and I had gone to see the new Night at the Museum movie, which is entirely based on the premise that the Director of New York’s Museum of Natural History has crated up and shipped away to storage (at the Smithsonian) all the really cool exhibits seen in the first movie, to replace them with holograms or other lame stuff. Since, in fact, the original movie gave the NY Museum a terrific boost, and they now have special “Night at the Museum” tours and campouts (with cots set up in the Ocean Life Gallery under the full-size Blue Whale), we figgered, “That could never happen!” But it did—and to our own beloved Museum, which is no more. If I wanna show Alessa a real museum someday, I’ll have to take her to Chicago or New York. But I mourn this loss.

After the Academy of Sciences closed at 5:00, we went over to Haight-Ashbury and checked out a few toy stores, where Alessa had a good time playing with things. Then we met Jessica (who shares the same birthday with MG), her parents, and some of our Pyrate friends for a fancy birthday dinner at the Park Chalet. The restaurant is upstairs, and the downstairs walls are all painted with superb examples of the old WPA murals from the late 1930s—with explanations and little cases of period artifacts, etc.

Bright Blessings,

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