Muted Grant tartan

Women often complain that men “just aren’t in to fabric”. If you guys have ever spent an hour in a fabric store “just looking” then you’ll know what I mean. (On the other hand, my wife has spent countless hours in tobacconists hither, thither and yon whilst I “foamed” over pipes so I guess that there is some justice in the world.) However, all that suddenly changes for men of Scots descent if the fabric just happens to be tartan. The lads can put the lasses to shame on that bit.

If you’ve got the slightest interest in the plaid stuff, here are three bits of information about The Scottish Register of Tartans which was established by act of the Scottish Parliament in 2008 to register new tartans and to preserve information about existing tartans:

  1. They have a website at
  2. They have a Facebook page at
  3. They may be followed on  Twitter via @TartanRegister

by Zoraida Cordova

Tristan Hart has a problem. Several problems, actually. Tristan is a relatively normal adolescent boy; Awkward at times, tongue-tied when he really needs to not be. His troubles include problems with girls in general, an ex-mermaid for a mother and the fact that his grandfather has decided that Tristan should inherit his throne as Sea King. There are more problems as the book progresses but this short list will do for starters.

This reviewer decided that The Vicious Deep would be a great “beach-read” and so ensconced himself on the sands of Virginia Beach a few feet away from the 36th Street lifeguard’s station where he would have a good view of the nubile young females walking up and down the beach trolling for guys. Their trolling was intended to snag lifeguards as well as the rest of the beach’s visible male population – visible, meaning guys their age or older who might have a hot car, a wad of cash, and no problems buying alcohol – but on this particular day, the 36th Street lifeguard was female so she didn’t count. Imagine then, this reviewer’s surprise when he opened The Vicious Deep to chapter one and saw the same scene being played out on New York’s Coney Island.

Zoraida Cordova’s story has a number of things going for it among which are:

  1. It is a really exciting story
  2. The central character is male.

Usually, mer-fiction deals with females who:

  • Are mermaids but don’t know it
  • Are mermaids who do know it
  • Want to become a mermaid but don’t know how
  • Etc., Etc.

In this story, Tristan – the central character – is the son of a former mermaid and just a few chapters away from becoming a merman himself. True to form, Tristan knows nothing about his mother’s history – other than she seems somewhat like a retired hippie. This is a sterling example of the peril that parents face when they don’t talk to their kids as they grow up, leaving vital information to be discussed “later”.

In mermaid stories, there is, of course, the old occult royalty bit where the central female character not only learns that she’s a mermaid but that she’s a princess as well, which has played – with varying degrees of success – in so many stories that it has become hackneyed to a significant degree. (Brenda Pandos – in her Mer Tales series – seems to be one of the few authors who can carry this off with aplomb and brilliance.) Because this story centres on a guy, the fact that Tristan is the grandson of the Sea King makes this facet seem fresh and exciting. Tristan is more a raw recruit than a guy with princely aspirations.

Next, there is the love interest. A common plot device is for the mermaid who is the central character to have feelings for one boy – human or merman – and then have her insides turn to something like porridge when a second boy enters the picture. In other words, a love triangle. (Queue up the schmaltzy song form the late 70’s. “Torn Between Two Lovers”.) Tristan already has at least one girl that he is keen on but his head is easily turned. Like a lot of teen-aged boys, Tristan is a little over-convinced that he is attractive to girls and as the story begins, he is suffering the consequences. Meanwhile, there is his childhood friend, Layla, whom he is beginning to see as more than just a “friend”. Layla cares about Tristan’s well-being and demonstrates this by turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Outside of his family, she is the only human who knows about the changes he’s recently been through.

Then finally, there is the action/adventure element to this story. There is a sea-witch who is gunning for Tristan and her attacks become more and more bold as the story progresses. If that was not enough, Tristan has to go on a scavenger hunt of epic proportions in order to take over the family business from his grandfather. There’s just one catch; Tristan has competition from older, more experienced mermen and his success starts to look like long shot.

And there you have it. Girl troubles, “cousins” from out-of-town, a sea-witch to battle and pieces of his grandfather’s trident to find. If that was not enough, Tristan also has to finish the last weeks of his Junior year in High School.

Zoraida Cordova has masterfully created a modern odyssey with some intriguing characters and a story that should interest male as well as female readers. The book is well written and a very clean read with hardly a typo or misused word to be found. These two points make the story even more attractive and a pleasure to dive into. The reader will be disappointed because the end of the book seems to come so quickly but they need not fret too much. The second book in this series, The Savage Blue, is due for release in (very) early January of 2013. Overall, I would recommend The Vicious Deep for older YA’s, say 16 and up.

My Rating:

Zoraida Cordova has a blog at

I will be blogging on the road today thru Sunday as I attend what is likely to be the last reunion of the 290th Combat Engineers in Albany, NY. This World War II Veterans group was founded – in part – by my late father and I can still remember the early planning and organisational meetings. These yearly gatherings have been taking place for over five decades and the ranks have thinned over time; alarmingly so in recent years.

So, before lights out, there will be this one last muster. My father traveled to the early reunions by train and it is only appropriate that I travel – in his place – to this one via Amtrak.

If your old soldier has faded away, why not consider doing something for the ones still in uniform. Become a Soldier’s Angel by visiting to learn more.

Last night, the ABC Family channel premiered the new series; Bunheads. In case you don’t recognise the term, it’s ballet slang for a female dancer. The girls usually keep their hair in a tight little bun on the back of their head in class and during a performance. By extension, a “Junior Bunhead” would be a female dancer twelve years old or younger.

I had come back from a late evening session at a client’s office & my wife decided to tune to the ABC Family Channel as there was nothing else on. In case you didn’t see it, the synopsis of the first episode is as follows:

  • A former ballet dancer tries a stint in Vegas as a show girl just for fun. She stays there longer than she had planned and suddenly she’s 30 and not even getting chances to audition because she doesn’t look 25.
  • This dancer has an admirer – an ordinary chap – who  comes through Vegas once a month. She blows him off each time with some excuse or other.
  • One of his visits coincides with the aftermath of the dancer’s humiliating non-audition. She gets soused and pours out her history and despair to the guy.
  • He asks her to marry him and she’s desperate to get out of Vegas so she says “yes”. They get married at a drive-though chapel and he takes her home to meet his mother.
  • Mother is an ex-dancer who – among other things – runs a small-town ballet school.
  • The usual “getting to know the in-laws” strife ensues and the dancer & mother wind up at least respecting each other.
  • Her new husband is killed in a road accident and she finds herself a widow in a small town.
  • If you know anything about dance movies, you can see where this is going. It would not be a dance movie – or series – without cliché’s and there is the promise of at least a few in the coming episodes.

All that is not why I’m writing this post.

I want to give the writers & director for this series high marks because in the opening scenes at the dance studio, there are way more than the obligatory two boys in the class. The girls are still in the majority but the boys are a significant percentage of the students. I can already tell that the series is going to revolve around the teen angst of four or five girls in the cast but I hope that the writers will give an occasional story line to the boys and not keep them around simply for window dressing.

Why am I excited about all this? Well so far, this series has shown that:

  1. Boys can dance
  2. Boys do dance

I studied ballet back in the mists of time and while I had absolutely no talent, I did come away with an appreciation of the art and the hope that more guys would give it a go.

Let us now praise famous men. Today it’s my brother’s turn as he turns 54 around Noon, EST. I’ve known Jim Tench Parsons all his life and I cannot speak greater praise of anyone than I do now for him. Jim Parsons is an avid ham radio operator – W4JTP – a walking encylopaedia when it comes to sports and/or beer, an amazing font of trivia, an amazing freelance writer, and a dyed-in-the wool fan of the Virginia Tech Hokies . He’s got three degrees from that fine institution and if you cut him, he will bleed burnt orange and Chicago maroon. Like his brother before him, he believes that The National Lampoon was the pinnacle of American literature and that the world ended – as we know it – when the Firesign  Theatre broke up.

But most of all, I want to tell of the great help and support he was during our late mother’s last months. No doubt he groaned inwardly whenever I asked “Do you have time for a chat?”, but he more or less cheerfully listened to my account of conditions at our mother’s house in Hopewell, gave advice, did research and was always ready to juggle his schedule so that we both had a respite from our familial duties. In short, I could not ask for better support from anyone.

I just wish that I was half the writer that he is.

Jim took more than his share of grief as a kid from his older brother and has yet to put arsenic in the bottle of single-malt that he bestows on me every Christmas. One or two of those bottles do look a bit dodgy, though. Nonetheless, he persevered though it all and I am – mostly – sorry for these, my misdoings.

I’m both glad and proud to be his brother and I wish him a very happy birthday and the prospect of many more to follow. His life partner, Bob the Cat, will no doubt agree and gift Jim a hair-ball or two in commemoration of this day.

Happy Birthday, JT!

I keep an eye on the stats for this blog-site because:

  1. I want to know what my readers are interested in
  2. I have nothing better to do.

That being said, the post I did a while back – Mens Fashion: Mantyhose – has been a big time hit. Nearly every day, I see “Mantyhose” (What a wretched name!) or tights come up in the list of search terms. Moreover, these queries are coming from all over the world.

Since this is my day for follow-ups, you may be interested to learn that the women’s legwear blog-site mentioned in my first article on this subject has released a second post on Mantyhose – the term was coined by Women’s Wear Daily – containing quotes about this growing trend from retailers, manufacturers, fashion editors, et al.

I am going to let the post on the Fashion My Legs blog-site do the talking for me.

This has got to be the worse name for any product . . . Ever!  Any company that uses this moniker must have a death-wish for their product. To be fair, I’ve never been crazy about the term “Pantyhose” either. Instead, I prefer the more dignified & gender neutral British term for this garment: Tights.

In the interest of full disclosure, I studied ballet in my long-lost youth so the concept of tights on men is no big deal for me.

What is different now is that instead of being a matter of male attire for dance, theater or winter warmth, they are starting to become – at least in Europe – a fashion accessory. A UK-based blog devoted to legwear recently posted about this trend-in-the-making and there are a number of forums scattered here and there around the web devoted to men and tights. There are women as well who join in on the discussions.

There are a number of reasons why men are turning to tights and they include medical ones:

  • Relief for muscle problems
  • Relief for circulatory problems
  • Relief for Sciatica
as well as others. Some guys find them less bulky than thermal underwear beneath their trousers Some who are on their feet all day appreciate the relief tights give for tired/aching legs. And then, there are some guys who just plain like them. Now, there appears to be another reason – fashion – as well.
On the distaff side of the aisle, there is a whole range of reactions. On one end, there are the “haters”; women who believe that tights are the work of the devil and cannot fathom why males would be interested. There is a segment of females who believe that a guy wearing tights – for whatever reason – is on his way out of the closet as well as another group who believe that hosiery for men is OK but not on their husband/boyfriend. Finally, there are those women who believe that tights are good for what ails you and think that it’s about time that men caught on to this.
It should be noted here that tights – and leotards – were originally designed and made by men for men and are just another item that ladies borrowed from the male closet and never returned. Of course, a great percentage of men are totally insecure about their masculinity and anything with even the slightest taint of femininity is an anathema to them.
However, things – and men – do change. Years ago, guys wearing earrings were a great oddity and only the bravest of the brave would dare to wear them. Today, men with earrings are so common that few of us comment on or even notice them.
Where this nascent trend will go is anyone’s guess.



The final segment on the CBS “This Morning” so featured a story by Mo Rocca on the nascent tradition of engagement rings for men. Although Mo is openly gay, this has nothing to do w/ gay marriage, etc. The story spotlighted real, heterosexual, couples where either the girl has asked the guy to marry her or, having been the recipient of a more traditional proposal, the girl asks the guy if he would wear an engagement ring as well.

As always, the trend is much bigger outwith this backwards country. Don’t think for a second that this involves the guy wearing a one or two carat rock on his finger. The rings are plainer – read more “manly” – than the ones for the ladies and may  have a small diamond or other precious stone embedded in them. Since single guys will often wear a  ring of some sort on their left ring-finger, they may be hard to distinguish from the run of the mill man’s ring.

What is important here is the concept. Whether he is the proposer or the proposee, the guy is – or should be – of some small value to his future mate and her asking him to wear this small token declaring that he’s off the market is rather touching. The traditional engagement ring has become a large financial investment for the guy; one that is expected if  not required by the girl. Since women, more often than not, are earning their own way through life, doesn’t her husband-to-be deserve a little something?

The “Man-gagement” ring. Hate the name. Love the concept.

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