Diggery Bottoms - Taking Down

I don't THINK anyone was following it anyway, but just in case, FYI, I'm taking down Diggery Bottoms this evening. I don't have the skill, passion, or time to start a literary revolution :/. Cue Nova Scotia lights, Amanda. ;)

Read More......


Book Trivia (Weekly Geek 2009-24)

Though I'm really not very good at it, I love trivia. Put books and trivia together and you've got a perfect match. So I thought it would be a fun Weekly Geek activity for us to come up with some book trivia questions to ask each other. So take a moment, don't stress about it all, and write down five to ten questions that pop into your mind. You could center all your questions around a particular theme or genre, maybe something in which you specialize. Or ask questions about one certain book. Or teach us about your favorite author through your questions.
Alright. I enjoy trivia but have never been good at writing questions, so we'll see how this goes...
  1. What do the characters in the Hitchhiker's series discover to be the question to which '42' is the answer?
  2. Which author owned each of the following dogs:
    • Keeper, a mastiff
    • Carlo, a newfoundland
    • Flush, a spaniel
    • Charley, a poodle
    • Toby-Chien, a bulldog
  3. What is the only subject in which William Blake received formal training?
  4. What is the origin of the name "Fiver" in Watership Down? For extra credit, what is his name in the original Lapine tongue?
  5. What animal swallows Gepetto in the book Pinocchio?

Read More......


Why do we remember Michael Jackson and J.M. Barrie differently?

It's been a decidedly unpleasant day. A big contrast, indeed, between last night, when @amandapalmer tweeted an impromptu vigil and a tribute song to the death of Michael Jackson, and today at work, where I heard any number of truly embarrassing jokes at Mr. Jackson's expense.
I don't write this post to be an apology for Jackson's life - if nothing else, I don't KNOW enough about Michael Jackson to judge the man, thank God. But, as I considered this today, it suddenly reminded me of another figure: J.M. Barrie.
For those unfamiliar with J.M. Barrie (yes, I'm afraid Finding Neverland was not fully acquainted with fact, I'm led to understand), he was, much like Jackson, a very strange man. In ways that at times were endearing, and others were disturbing (Finding Neverland - which was, by the way, a beautiful movie - glosses past this in the scene during the cricket match). The Telegraph published an interesting article on him, here. But, much like Jackson, the facts are murky, and have been quietly covered over the years.
Again, whether or not we ought to indict Barrie or excuse Jackson is, honestly, outside the realm of my question here. Taking out personal judgement, I am more curious as to what the societal difference is - why can society accept Barrie as a child's hero, and not Jackson? After all, can you imagine a film of Finding Neverland Ranch?
I can think of four basic reasons for the difference:

1) There are substantive differences in the two cases. Again, I'm not a historian. Perhaps the fact in Jackson's molestation cases are clearer than the Barrie history. In this case, perhaps it's excusable to assume the best of Barrie. However, as the Guardian article points out - there are some awfully strange things we know about Barrie. Frankly, it's difficult for me to imagine someone writing some of the lines quoted in the article, today, and being encouraged to hang out with small children in bookstores and libraries.
2) The difference is simply that child sex crimes have become more important in our psyche over the last 100 years. I frequently here about how when our parents were children they didn't think about stuff like child molesters. Fair enough. However, the Edwardian period was famously prudish, and far more sexually aware than me now remember it to be. This was the period of yellow journalism, when reporters were not loath to make up sensationalist tales to sell papers. If Pulitzer felt like he had a story about a famous British children's author being a pedophile, it's difficult to imagine he wouldn't throw it into the paper to sell more copies. Think of, for instance, the coverage of the Oscar Wilde trial, who was at least having sex with boys who were of age.
3) Our national character has changed. We like to make monsters in our popular imagination, and Jackson was an easy target. Fair enough, but in what way have we changed? And why?
4) It's just been a longer time since Barrie. OK, but... the Ormond Street Hospital seemed pretty glad to get the rights to Peter Pan, right when he died, and the government got together and made special provision that the copyright on Peter Pan would never expire.. I'm not sure it would be the same story today...
So, there's the question: Why do you think the popular narrative of Jackson and Barrie are so different?

Read More......


Sonnet on Isaiah 6:1-8

Before to God Isaiah can aspire -
    The Angel's tong selects a flaming coal -
Astringent fire - the funereal pyre
    For all the grosser substance of his soul.
A good man to be sure - but man is dross
    In such a place. A mortal soul is naught
But fair ore trapped beneath a foul crust
    Of sin - and yet the great refiner sought
The silver to be wrought.
                                                The altar laid
    Isaiah, with no lamb to lay thereon
Lay trembling neath the sacrificial blade
    His blood to mingle with the Sacred Son -
The fire burns the mantle of the years -
    A mere man dies, a Godly man appears.

(Verses in Isaiah, here)

This poem I originally wrote about two years ago, sort of as a last farewell to the Mormon faith of my youth. I don't believe in the LDS church anymore, but I can respect it, deeply. As I expressed it to a friend of Amanda's: the Mormon church teaches you to be a hero, because it demands that you live for something that you would die for. Of course, most of us aren't meant to be heroes, and there is the question of whether you are dying for the right things. But to live a life without something you would die for is to never really live...

(Image: "The End" by Gabriela Camerotti)

Read More......


Reading Challenges (Weekly Geek 2009-23)

Well, I'm trying to be more social, and I love some of the challenges I've read about from the Weekly Geek. I need more excuses to write... :). So, I'll try doing these for a while, and we'll see what happens! So this week's challenge:

"Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you've failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I've picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?"
Hrm... okay. Well, let me start off, by saying, I really don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. I think challenges are really a great idea, and it's obvious that people put a lot of work into them. It's also clear to me that they do so many people such a deal of good. I think that's wonderful. That being said, I don't like them very much - for me, is all I mean. I guess, more accurately, I don't like me when I do them very much. I am not like, say, Amanda or Nymeth, who post blogs that... you know. People read. I'm first of all much lazier than they are, and second of all, I think I would get sick to my stomach knowing that many people were reading me all the time. It's not stagefright, per se - god knows I've a skill for being loud and obnoxious when called for. And when not called for. And when called against. It's more like... I write more because I am trying to figure things out, but I know when I read other people's blogs, I read them because I like their ideas in a fully-formed kind of way. My ideas are often pretty messy and unattractive even when I get them as far as I can tease them. When I'm just plopping them down, god forbid anyone should take them seriously. There's a great and terrible responsibility in writing, because you speak to people at their most vulnerable. I'm not up to responsibility. I'm not the responsibility type, I guess. So what does this have to do with reading challenges? Well... there's three ways that you can realistically blog on a long term basis, it seems to me. The first is to polemicize information. The second is to share information. The third is to analyze information. I'm not organized enoguh in my little mind to do any of these. So, when I post, I do blogging type number four - poking at information (or, at times, less than information). This is the way I write, precisely because this is the way I read, learn, work, play, and think. Information is great and marvelous, and shiny, and I look at it, and stroke it, and think of how much wonderful good I could do with it, then get distracted by something else. I'm being a LITTLE facetious of course. I do learn things. I'm not completely unlearned - if I was ignorant, I could make mistakes with impunity :P. But, my learning, my thinking, is far more intuitive than analytical, I'm not a very good analyst (ask poor Amanda about the way I edit creative writing some time, for instance). But I love thoughts, I love to look at them, at the shape of them, to drift in and out of them. This little weakness of mine makes some thoughts very dangerous to me. I have so little individual self aside such grand and great things that I tend to swallow myself up in other people, other places, other thoughts. I read the Jungle recently, for instance, and for days felt a sort of nervous intensity, like the feeling of being hunted that is so omnipresent in that book. I didn't feel this just while I was reading. I felt it while writing code. While working on Diggery Bottoms. While brushing my teeth. On the other side of my character, I'm a terrible romantic. I don't mean that in the adorable way you look for in a mate. I mean it in the awful, obnoxious way that teenagers are sometimes portrayed on TV (notably, not the way they are in real life), where everything seems much bigger and grander than it is. I suffer from a grand case of perspective blindness. This is far more crippling than it seems at first glance. When we had a poetry unit in middle school, for instance, I felt this thrill of excitement, because we were to write several poems, to collect in a poetry book. This. Was. My. Moment! I knew it! I loved poems, and I could write something, something grand, something tragic and perfect, some little scrap, and put it in my book, and someone would read it, and they would come to me, the tears still damp on their face, and they would ask me where I had found this, and I would stammer out an explanation of what I was thinking, and they would wrap their arms around me and weep deeply... and so, here's the thing. To write such a poem, one must, of course, be in the 'right place' (also known as, one must have practiced a great deal, and work even when they don't feel like it. Neither of these being great strengths of mine). So, I never wrote it. I almost failed 7th grade English, because I didn't turn this book in, and had to scrape something together after it was due, just to get a D. Something that included, literally, a poem that ended with the shameful, seriously painful to remember rhyme "I was a poet, And I didn't know it!" Oh how the might have fallen! Or, oh how the think-they-are-mighty stay fallen... Anyways, now combine these two traits - a poor sense of perspective, and a weak, easily influenced personality - with a reading challenge. Lets say... oh... a challenge to read three fairy tales in the next three months. Doesn't that sound wonderful? I love fairy tales! I wanted to major in studying fairy folklore in college (yes, note the influence of trait #2 on my choice of major)! And... this will be wonderful! All the dreams, all the seriousness I put into fairy tales in the past, this is where it can mean something again! I'll have to read Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, of course, because it's been sitting on my shelf for how long. And then Andrew Lang's... hrm... which one of his books? I mean, how do you choose one? And they're such easy books... I'll just do the whole series! And one more, one more... hrm... let's do... something very personally meaningful like this book that Nymeth reviewed. Yes that's right, I just committed to read several thousand pages in three months. So, I start reading. Now, option one, and the most likely option, is I fall flat on my face. I have done that frequently, so at least it's familiar. Option two, is I actually read SOMETHING and finish a few of the Lang books, and the Faerie Queene (which is a hard goal, anyway...) and the time is running short, and I compromise, and say that'll do. I mean, it's technically three books. So, at least I can pretend I didn't fail. Now, let's try the third option, because that's the REAL doozy. Let's say, by hook and crook, I do read it all. I make it through the Faerie Queene, and infuse my mind with a deep sense of the great breadth of heroic experience, in a way that I think the faerie queene conveys (I've read the beginning. Twice. On two failed attempts at challenges or what-not). Then, I work through Lang's fairy tales, slow but sure, in the process filling my mind with an endless menagerie of vivid, powerful characters, all of different emotions. I've done this before, it leaves me in this intense, enrgized state, where everything in the world is moving at a sickening, exhilerating speed. Then, I finish off, with my emotions keened to a fine edge, by reading a book that actually relates ideas that mean something to me personally. God forbid this last book be emotionally powerful, because afterwards I'm completely demolished. I've done this before too, and there's something deeply frustating about having to tell people that you're sorry you've been weepy and grouchy, but Holly Golightly went out of the taxi to find Cat, and it's really been hard for you to deal with. So, as it is, I've taken three challenges, so far, at all. First of all the Fill in the Gaps project - my list there is classic Jason foolishness (see http://fillinthegaps100.blogspot.com/2009/04/jasons-list.html) - huge, overly ambitious, etc. The second is my wife's GLBT challenge. It's... better. At least some of these books will be easier, and it's a good long challenge. I had the distinct advantage, here, of having my wife's good advice while choosing books. Finally there is the Name Challenge. Again, overly ambitious, but at least it's pretty uch a subset of my 100 list (btw, for bonus points, can you tell I was reading the poetry of Emily Bronte while writing the entry for that challenge? YEah, see what I mean about bad habits?). As I final note, being only a small, shy little book blogger who's only just begun to live, I've never finished a book challenge. So my opinions terribly unfounded. And again, I think book challenges are great for most people. An apparently I'm not so against them that I'm not joining them. I guess I'm just nervous...

Read More......