Tuesday, November 13, 2007
But, I seem to have been tagged. This seems to be some sort of viral game traveling the internet, eating up people's truths and spitting them out in a form that is much the same or rather, is, in fact, the same.
I post this on my blog, and then it will get imported to Facebook by the friendly Internet Faeries.
Link the person who tagged you.
Tell seven truths about yourself.
Tag seven new people. (Certain Facebookers will soon feel my wrath.)
Hmm, seven TRUTHS? Oh my... This could get dangerous. Watch for flying fallacies (they're green, and they look kind of like fish, except in tutus [I seem to be feeling very random tonight]).
1. I have nearly read through the complete works of Mark Twain. The only stragglers are A Tramp Abroad, which is a really thick travel book, Following the Equator, same description, and Joan of Arc, a really thick history book that Twain considered his greatest work. Also, I read his Autobiography kind of loopily: I've read the first quarter or so and the last several chapters several times, and the middle chapters all at least once, though none of this in the correct order.
2. Related to number 1, I think that the best way to get to know someone who writes frequently is through their writing. Through being such a nerd, I feel I have gotten to know Mr. Clemens rather well, insofar as one man is ever able to know another. This may be because he put so much of himself into his writing, and because I have sought out the posthumously published stuff that was often very personal and perhaps shouldn't have seen the light of day. There have been times, however, that I have looked at things and situations and thought I knew what Mr. Twain would say, if he were here. Also, I think I reveal more of myself in my stories than I ever do to most people.
3. As for the dating thing, I hardly ever get asked if I have a girlfriend. Except by my grandparents, who immediately jump to the conclusion that I am, ahem, beating the girls off with sticks. While I have some vague plans and hopes in this department, I am not concerned at all about my "single" status, and I consider the mass of people's obsession with dating rather disgusting. If I say much more on this, I will be on for hours, and will either end up in cynicism or sentimentalism, neither of which is a desirable result. So I'll end here.
4. Some people seem to consider me wise, or some such. I am not wise. I do, however, seem to be a good listener, and I have a policy that if my friends need someone to talk to, they can literally tell me anything. If it's wanted, I do try to offer my advice, for what it's worth. Usually it's "Go talk to somebody who knows more about [this subject] than me."
5. I know more about movies and movie stars and directors and even film genres from 60-80 years ago than I do about modern movies... and I love it that way.
6. I am completely unsatisfied with the current level of my writing. I'm talking fiction here, the stuff I really care about. I can see the level I'd like to write at, and I can sort of see how to get there, I'm just not there yet. And I know the only way to get there involves time and practice. It's a tad annoying.
7. Unlike my psych- er, brother, I actually like revealing things about myself. If you want to know something, ask.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Anyway, I have put some effort probably better spent elsewhere into improving the climax of this classic play.
Till Birnam Wood Come to Dunsinane... The climax of this play, in which MacDuff leads his army against MacBeth, is all about the fulfillment--and subversion-- of the two prophecies regarding MacBeth's downfall:
Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him.
Be bloody, bold, and resolute: laugh to scorn
The power of man, for none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth.
The way the first prophecy is fulfilled, if I recall correctly, is that MacDuff's army chops down trees from Birnam Wood, makes suit coats out of them, and uses the fact that they now look like a gay pride parade rather than an army to get close to MacBeth's castle. Riiight.
Now, how much cooler would it be if MacDuff had had his men, say, chop down trees in Birnam Wood, make arrows, battering rams, etc out of them, and simply use those to attack MacBeth's castle? Much cooler, in this scribbler's opinion.
The second prophecy is fulfilled/subverted by the fact that MacDuff was "From his mother's womb untimely ripped," a sort of nast C-section, apparently. Now, this is much less lame, and it did give rise to one of the oddest and coolest phrases English literature has perhaps ever seen. However, it doesn't quite work here.
Apparently this is supposed to make MacDuff "not of woman born"; however, he still comes from a woman (his mother), and he is still, in fact, born--however unnaturally.
This scribbler's idea may not be much better, but at least it's a better fit. Attack dogs. Or, trained hawks. Or something. Some form of vicious animal, trained to kill, could seize upon MacBeth and take him down.
"Ah, but Spot here was not of woman born! Ahahahaha!"
(Yes, when I rewrite Shakespeare, there is evil laughter involved.)
And I happen upon their Bibles. My eye immediately went to the one most obviously designed for someone in my demographic. This book was not called The Bible, or even The Holy Bible; oh no, this was "The Message: Remix." In fact, it was Version 2.0. Because apparently version 1.0 or even 1.5 wasn't quite up to snuff, Word-of-God wise.
I was giving voice to some of these thoughts (aimed in the direction of my brother), when a Wal-Mart employee with pink hair wandered past (though I'm sure she had a purpose). Apparently she overheard me, for she said, "Okay now, making fun of themed Bibles is just too easy."
We talked with her for a couple minutes, and she told us about a Bible they had once that was even worse. Apparently it was bright pink, and, in sequins, had the word PRINCESS emblazoned across the front.
If anybody sees Charles Finney, give him a good kick for me, ok?
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Doing some quick math, I've determined that at a thousand words a day (the rate Mr. Baradbury claims to have written since age 13), it would take around three and a half years to write a million; say I started in six days, at that rate I'd "know what I'm doing" by partway through senior year.
Of course, I'm no Bradbury, and (as proven by the bestseller status of The Da Vinci Code, Eragon, and James Patterson's novels) the general public in this country doesn't give a rip about writing quality these days.
Still, I figure I'm at somewhere over three hundred thousand words. It's something to think about.
Ok, enough bloody introspection. I need to carve up some literature.
Of trying to stand still
I've learned to let the wind
Blow me where it will
To throw myself into the will of the wave
How can we ever be brave until we're free
Though I doubt there is anyone who's had any contact with me over the past couple months who doesn't know this, I'll be going to Bethany Lutheran College this fall. And by this fall, I mean starting in six days. Yikes.
I'll be an English major. I've made no secret of my desire to become a sucessful fiction writer; and I have no delusions as to what that will entail. As to life immediately after college (assuming that bestseller doesn't hit while in school), I really have no idea. Oh, I'm not scared of not making money, of not working. I just don't know what form that work will take. There are a couple jobs abroad I may go for; I'd like to get out and see the world somewhat, before getting too tied down.
I have evangelical friends who like to remind you to "factor God in" to your plans, as if He's a girlfriend or something and you want to make sure not to move too far away from Him. One must make sure one is honoring God in all one does. This last part is Biblical, of course, but the phrasing is deceptive.
I personally find it rather arrogant to be "facoring God in", implying that if we don't remember the Creator of the Universe then, well, He can't do anything with us. It seems rather pointless for me, a fallen, sinful being, to try and determine the will of God, at least on a personal level where he has not inspired a Biblical passage about it (ie, "Where thou shalt go to school" as opposed to "Thou shalt not murder").
Rather, I have faith that despite my blindness, God will lead me down the path He has set forth for me. Even though in my sinful nature I fight him, he has already cleansed me of that nature. Nothing I can do, no "factoring in," can either help or harm this. I simply have faith that He will lead me down the path and, in the end, lead me home.
I do have a few thoughts, though (and all the people run away screaming). One is that, unlike many of the various sorts of youth gatherings I went to in my younger days *cough*, HT conferences aren't designed to be "mountaintop experiences." They're designed to be a great time, of course, and there's all sorts of euphoria that goes along with that. But you will NEVER see, for example, an emotional call to repentance delivered by a pastor who is nearly crying himself, backgrounded by soft praise music that suddenly gets louder as said pastor declares an Altar Call.
There were several moments that brought tears to my eyes, but they were tears at the sheer beauty contained in our faith, rather than those coerced by provocative preaching and mood music. One example, perhaps, is in order.
The closing service was glorious, as always at HT conferences. We took Communion while 1000 people sang At The Lamb's High Feast--now if you want beauty, there you go. I'd been hearing teaching about Communion (among other things) all week, and as I went back up into the balcony after taking the body and blood of our Lord, thoughts that had troubled me were laid to rest. I had looked down on someone, but (I suddenly realized) Christ died for that sin. I had resented someone, and He died for that sin too. I had unthinkingly snubbed someone, and he died for that too. A whole host of sins, some of which I'd forgotten, some of which I hadn't let myself think about, came rushing back to me--and they were all laid to rest, defeated, by the body and blood of our Lord, given and shed for me--and for you.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
So despite an overabundance of obnoxious yuppies (mostly from Illinois) and a slightly smaller but still overabundant crop of obnoxious pizzles (most of these, sadly, from Wisconsin), it was a good time. There weren't many experiences to report: went to every bookstore in sight, (as well as every antique store, that one being my mom's fault), went go-karting just after it rained, barely keeping the kart under control and having loads of fun almost-crashing; saw Ratatouille and Pirates at the Drive-In Theatre. There seemed to be fewer pretty girls there than in other years; I have no idea why. I managed to read three books and write most of a short story while there.
I'm thinking of working at Wilson's next summer.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Monday, July 02, 2007
I already had the rather vague goal of catching up on my sci-fi/fantasy reading before school started. But I have more specifics, now: finish the Harry Potter series; finish The Company series (the last book of which also comes out in late July); read up on "old" (pre-Tolkien) fantasy; and Other.
As for HP, I am currently reading the Blue Brick and will probably be done with the Dark Green Brick by July 21st. I will soon start the fifth Company book (including the last one, there will be 8). (And btw, it's too long a sysnopsis to put here, but the Company novels are awesome. That's with emphasis.)
In case anyone was wondering, the reason I'm doing the old fantasy stuff is because I've noticed the best fantasy writers are extremely well-versed in the formative works of fantasy literature. That is, not just Tolkien, but Dunsany and ER Eddison and Robert Howard and other really great authors who somehow nobody's heard of. I think I have a lot of my bases covered here; the only glaring omission so far is that I've yet to read any Lovecraft.
Other is just, well, other stuff I've been meaning to read. Battle Royale, the second Abarat book, Galilee (another Clive Barker), Altered Carbon, Mistborn--the road, er, list goes ever on and on and on...
Friday, May 18, 2007
Whales On Stilts
("What, Captain? Reviewing juvenile fiction? Is something wrong with you?"
Shut UP! So I have eclectic tastes. So sue me.)
I respectfully submit to you that the fairly recent children's book Whales on Stilts has one of the best opening lines in the past 18.5 years of fiction:
On Career Day Lily visited her dad's work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the earth through destruction and desolation.
This bit of bombast is followed by a tongue-in-cheek description of Lily's small town, and then gets down to describing Lily herself:
... She watched things a lot, and thought about them a lot, but she didn't say much, except to her closest friends. She hid behind her bangs. When she needed to see something important, she blew on her bangs diagonally upward, either from the left or the right side of her mouth. Her bangs parted like a curtain showing a nose-and-chin matinee.
The first thing that comes to mind is that Lily seems to be a classic introvert. The second is that here the tone has subtly changed--this is real character description, relying on an eye for distinguishing features, rather than broad humor relying on preconcieved knowledge of mad-scientist-cliches.
To be honest, the first thing that attracted me to this book was its cover. It looked old-fashioned and pulpy, in the best possible way. The lines, I thought, had some twenties art-deco to them, but the images of the whales on stilts gunning down things with their laser eyes were very fifties-ish, while the kids looked like Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and a Boxcar Child, putting them somehwere in the thirties-forties. I showed it to my mom, who is supposed to be good with this kind of stuff, and she conclued, "Twenties-thirties-forties-fifties, somewhere in there." So much for inquiry.
As for the book itself: Lily uncovers her dad's boss's maniacal plot to take over the world with his secret weapon, whales on stilts with laser eyes. She enlists the help of her two best friends to thwart this evil plot: Jasper Dash, the boy technonaut, who spends his time inventing things that are really advanced for about 1912; and Katie Mulligan, who lives just off Route 666 and spends her time fighting off zombies, were-goats, and so forth. Both have childrens' book series written about them. Together, the three have to save the world.
I found this book hilarious, though not everyone would. But for someone like me, who's read at least a third of the 150 Boxcar children books, dozens of Hardy Boys, a few Nancy Drew (because girls made him, ahem,), and even a few Tom Swift--well, it's perfect.
In closing, I would also like to note that this book contains one of my favorite chase scenes ever:
... The guards ran after them.
Oh, I don't know about you, but I really hate chase scenes. It's all just chase, chase, chase, up the staircase, down the staircase, bang, bang, bang,"Over this way," "No--that way," under the desk, over the chair, and you know that either they're going to get caught, or they're not. So why prolong the agony?
I'll just flat out tell you.
They made it to an old laundry chute.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The subtitle of this book is A Novel in Words and Pictures. After a short introductory couple of paragraphs, you open to "Part 1." The first page contains a picture of the sun starting to rise. The second contains one of the sun higher, the thir page of the sun higher still, etc. There's a shot overlooking Paris, then we zoom in to a train station, then on the face of a boy. We follow the boy into the hidden passages of the train station, and watch as he spies out through a clock on an old man and a little girl in a toy booth.
Turn the page then, and there are several paragraphs of prose, narrated as though the previous series of pictures were also prose. After several pages, there are pictures again, then prose, and so forth.
The story itself is set in Paris in the Thirties, and is kind of hard to describe. Hugo lives alone in the train station, tending the clocks. He is an orphan, and his past and his father's are strangely linked with that of the little girl and the old man. The first third or so is somber and a bit dull, but the novelty of the book's format carries you through. It ends up being an interesting little story, obviously influenced by early (even pre-Hollywood) movies. Parts of it reminded me of Truffaut's 400 Blows, and the Charlie Chaplin silent The Kid.
And the series of pictures used to tell the story are somewhat like watching a silent film-they're a visual medium, and you can even get a sense of movement, but you have to interpret the story by watching it, not reading or hearing it.
A final note on the style. Less is required of the prose in this than in most books; we already have physical descriptions, a sense of setting and an atmospheric feel. The prose is firstly concerned with the interior lives of the characters, mainly Hugo (though it's told omnisciently, switching from character to character). It also has much to do with the telling-Hugo's past, for example, things that need something of a summary, or scenes that need to move fast.
The book is five hundred pages long, and because of the thickness of the pages, looks much longer. However, the prose amounts to 26,000 words or so, less than half the length of a short novel, so this is a fairly quick read.
Not in this scribbler's opinion. Of course, there are books whose intention is just to be funny. Some of them even suceed. But really good books are not one-note, just-funny (or chase-escape-here's-your-happy-ending, or whatever). A good book is like... Like being in love. It makes you happy, sure, but it's also thrilling, exhilerating, maddening, moving, terrifying, bittersweet, uncomfortable. It makes you vulnerable. But in the end, no matter the outcome, there's almost always a reward to be had. Whether one can grasp said reward is a different matter.
I will leave with a quote by Franz Kafka, which, though perhaps a little extreme, suits my purposes well enough in closing:
I think we should only read books which bite and sting. If the book that we read doesn't wake us like a blow to the skill, why do we read the book? To make us happy...? My God, we could be happy even if we had no books, and if really necessary we could write books to make us happy ourselves. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster that hurts us greatly, like the death of someone we love more dearly than ourselves, as if we were driven out into forests, far away from any human beings, like a suicide, a book must be the axe for the frozen sea within. That is what I believe.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
"We are children of light," said the old man. "And as such, the darkness clusters all around us. We speak of high-minded things, of good versus evil, of slaying dragons within and without. But we forget, sometimes, that our doppelgangers DO exist; we forget that there is truly evil in the world. And when it comes roaring out of the shadows, fangs bared, and tears us and scars us with unspeakable horror, sometimes we lose sight of the good that, in the end, is really the victor.
"And sometimes, lost in Misery, in the dark wood of Despair, there is nothing to do but sing, a song of light in the darkness, and wait for others to answer our call. And soon, oh soon, that song will be ended, and its yearning--fulfilled."
Sunday, April 15, 2007
2. One book you've read more than once: I don't read many books more than once. I'll say Beroul's The Romance of Tristan.
3. One book you'd want on a desert island: I've heard Dubliners is such a book, since it can be read so many different ways. Unfortunately, all the ways it can be read are depressing. I'll say a copy of the Bible bound with The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. ;-)
4. One book that made you laugh: The Innocents Abroad (Mark Twain).
5. One book that made you cry: No comment. No comment at all about Ecclesiastes in the Old King James.
6. One book that you wish had been written: The end of The Last Tycoon.
7. One book that you wish had never been written: I'm going to say it. It's Eragon. If for no other reason than that it provided a bunch of middle-aged parents otherwise ignorant of fantasy (and other ignorant people) with a view of fantasy as cliche-ridden, childish, and imbecilic.
8. One book you're currently reading: Magic for Beginners (by Kelly Link). Best fantasy short stories I've read since.... Lord Dunsany. And besides that, some of the best speculative fiction I've read period.
9. One book you've been meaning to read: Elantris (Brandon Sanderson). I meant to start it, but I seem to have misplaced my copy. Grr.
10. Scariest book you've ever read: The Mysterious Stranger, by Mark Twain, was pretty creepy, but it's more of a novella. I'll think of something scary that's actually a book later.
I will tag Aaron, since he needs to post. :P Anyone else who wishes to be tagged, you may run in front of my oustretched hand and consider yourself so.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
(This used to be two posts, but I combined them into one long one.)
Friday at The Feast was bittersweet. Of course, it was wonderful to see all the MH people one last time, but it was that one last time bit that was the killer. Aaron had to leave in the morning, which sucked, but I caught up with him (or his alter ego) before breakfast, and he (or his alter ego) gave me a post card, which was cool. Nathan sat next to me for half of the confessional service, so before he left I was able to give him my priceless piece of Modern Art, and he proved to be surprisingly reliable in passing it on. ;)
Pastor Bender's conclusion was awesome, of course. Pastor Preus's conclusion was actually similar to Pastor Borghardt's, in that the former was talking about vocation, the latter's about what to do with the rest of your life, which is largely tied in with vocation.
At lunch, Heidi and I concluded that, Herr Luther's objections aside, we need to build a monastery for all the MHers to move into. It will have to be out in the country somewhere, or our music and noise will bother the neighbors.
The closing service was beautiful. There was moisture in my eyes, which may or may not have been due to the fact that it was hot in the church. Afterward everyone was running around saying goodbye. I hate saying goodbye and am no good at it, and I hated this as much as anything. But at the same time it was great to know you had all these friends and that they felt the same way you did.
People scattered to vans and cars and buses, and I hoped I hadn't said anything stupid in my haze of exhaustion and undersleep and trying to keep my eyes dry. Paul and Andrew and I walked back to our dorm to get our stuff. Not being them, I don't know how they were feeling, but I was sad. We saw Heidi and Tarja across a lawn and waved at them, and they waved back, which made me cheer up, for no reason I can explain simply.
I think of that as the official end of The Feast. It wasn't the end of the trip, however. The group who had chartered the bus we went on was staying an extra day and night to go river rafting. We had opted to save the money and stay in the city. One of the kids from the group who had broken his wrist and could not raft stayed with us.
We cleared out of our rooms and waited in the Worner Center for the rental car to supposedly be dropped off. We discovered that our Feast-issued passwords still worked in the computer center, so I signed on to the HT Forums and wrote to my parents (something I was supposed to do days earlier), and read the blogs of people I already missed. I left my lightsaber up with Mrs. Gehlbach and whatever kids were there gaurding the luggage, and I could hear it starting and turning off and hitting things, even though I was across the building and down a set of stairs. :D
After we had waited for over an hour, one of the women from HT who helping clean up drove Mrs. Gehlbach down to the rental car place. The brakes on said car squealed terribly, and since we planned to go up Pike's Peak next day, Mrs. Gehlbach went back and exchanged it. We spent the evening walking about the streets of Colorado City, looking in some very interesting shops and shop windows. Apparently before it was Evangelical Capital of the World, it was a hang-out for hippie types, which accounted for some of the weird shops.
We went to our somewhat small, but nice and clean hotel room, and played Apples to Apples, and then went to bed.
We checked out next morning. I can't remember the chronology of events exactly, so I'll put things in a firm order which may be completely wrong. We went up Pike's Peak, and I would like to mention that we prove the posted sign wrong--it recommended half a tank of gas, and we got up and down again on less than a quarter. :D We went to a grocery store then, and bought a lunch to eat at Garden of the Gods. It was fun to create out-of-place items to show to Paul, who would out of habit put them back in place. (I stopped just barely before he hit me.)
We had lunch at Garden of the Gods, and hiked around there for a while. After that we met the bus in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Then we started out for home. I found it much easier to sleep on the bus this time than coming down. Got in Gehlbachs' car there, who brought me back to their house, and from there my dad brought me home.
For postscript, I can come up with nothing better than what I wrote in a haze of sleeplessness that very night. (Now slightly revised and with good spelling! :D)
And, for future reference (and for anybody who cares) I will put links to the rest of the Feast posts below.
The Feast 1
The Feast 2
The Feast 3
The Feast 4
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Yes, it's that time of year again, when you can put food coloring in your beer (if you're older than I am) and where all divides of race and creed are put aside, and everyone claims to be Irish. (As the full-blooded Irish lady who volunteers at the library when I work says, "If you have even a drop you're all right.)
In honor of the day, I donned my brilliant POG MO THOIN shirt, saw part of a local Celtic band's show, and wrote a short play about leprechauns for a magazine which never responded to my e-mail. Sigh. Well, I think I shall post the lyrics to one of my favorite Irish songs. Young men take note.
In a neat little town they call Belfast
Apprenticed to trade I was bound
And many an hour's sweet happiness
I spent in that neat little town.
Till bad misfortune came o'er me
That caused me to stray from the land
Far away from my friends and relations
To follow the black velvet band.
Her eyes they shone like the diamonds
You'd think she was queen of the land
And her hair hung over her shoulder
Tied up with a black velvet band.
Well, I was out strolling one evening
Not meaning to go very far
When I met with a pretty young damsel
Who was selling her trade in the bar.
When I watched, she took from a customer
And slipped it right into my hand
Then the Watch came and put me in prison
Bad luck to the black velvet band.
Next morning before judge and jury
For a trial I had to appear
And the judge, he said, "You young fellows...
The case against you is quite clear
And seven long years is your sentence
You're going to Van Dieman's Land
Far away from your friends and relations
To follow the black velvet band."
So come all you jolly young fellows
I'd have you take warning by me
Whenever you're out on the liquor, me lads,
Beware of the pretty colleen.
She'll fill you with whiskey and porter
Until you're not able to stand
And the very next thing that you'll know, me lads,
You're landed in Van Dieman's Land.
-"Black Velvet Band," Irish Traditional
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I suppose part of the problem was I didn't entirely understand the book. I have started many books, especially when I was a little younger, where I knew I wouldn't "get" everything. But to get back to whatever point might be gleaned here, I didn't know how to defend the book because I didn't quite know what it was all about. At the time, I suppose I would have said it contains excellent writing, and powerful scenes (some of which are in my head even now), and what do you think is great literature, James Patterson?
So the other day I got an e-mail from a site that sends out a poem each day. It was John Donne's "No Man is an Island." I'll paste it below, because it will help illustrate what I'm talking about, and because, well, it's John Donne:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
In For Whom the Bell Tolls, the last two lines are quoted near the end of the novel. The source is not given; I believe it's referred to as an "old poem." But, reading the poem, and thinking about the theme of the poem in the context of the novel, it all makes sense. The scenes I remember vividly make complete sense in this light.
I suppose I should make some vague generalizing conclusion here, but I have to think about it a bit more. I may or may not return to this subject in greater detail later. Ta.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
(I hope you people don't expect real insight from me. You should know better than that by now. :P)
I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately, for various reasons. Partially about how things never really change: The sixteenth century had their courtship rituals, as did America in the 40s, as we do now.
Professor Peter Saccio, in his lecture series, released by Recorded Books, Shakespeare: The Word and the Action*, speaks of the courtship rituals of the Sixteenth Century. Young men and women exchanged love notes and tokens of affection through third parties, met and women flirted in public and at parties, and (this is my favorite part) every young man of good character was expected to write a sonnet to the girl he was courting! These sonnets praised the girl's features, compared her to Greek goddesses, and so forth. I don't know enough to give any in-depth detail about this, but any well-annotated version of the comedies, as well as the above-mentioned lecture series, has lots of info.
Professor Saccio goes on to say: "5o years ago, a middle-class young American, falling in love, courting a young woman, might go to her house. He might take to her a bouquet of flowers... or a book of poetry--nothing big, nothing expensive, you don't want to suggest you're trying to buy the girl. And the code of behavior was you would sit on the front porch and carefully make conversation about the rising moon, or something innocent like that. And inside in the front room her mother or her aunt would be discreetly chaperoning the encounter. This seems ridiculous to us now...
"My students, courting each other, think that they behave a lot more freely than their parents or their grandparents. But in fact we just have a different set of conventions. I look at my students at Dartmouth courting, what do they do? They go down to the campus cafe or some other local eatery, and they order diet Coke and tacos, and they sit across the table from each other, and they gaze into each other's eyes, and they proceed to discuss the psychological ramifications of what they call Our Relationship. The... Diet Coke and tacos, that's not obligatory, it could be pizza and beer. But the psychobabble IS obligatory. That's the language we have for love."
[He uses this to segue into talking about Elizabethan courting conventions. I will less gracefully segue into something else.]
Today's film genre of "romantic comedy" is directly comparable to Shakespeare's romantic-comedic writing (Much Ado About Nothing, Love's Labour's Lost, As You Like It, etc.). The first example that comes to mind is the not-quite-outdated Hitch. All right, let's compare Hitch and As You Like It. Both stories are, ultimately, about love. Both have some gimmick(s): the former is about a man who can help you win any girl; the second is about a group of lovers who get lost in the woods. Both have a central love story, and a couple sub-plots that are also basically love stories. And both present an idealized, stylized version of their culture's basic 'love story', or courtship ritual.
To make a rather gross generalization, Shakespeare's love stories tended to go something like: boy falls in love with girl, boy woos girl with poetry and gifts, then boy proposes. Of course, it's never that simple: the girl is resistant to being wooed, girl's father wants her to marry someone else, boy and girl's families are in a generations-long fued that can, under no circumstances, be ended, etc.
To make another rather gross generalication, today's standard movie 'love story' goes something like: boy meets girl, boy asks girl out on date. If first date goes well, boy asks girl out on second date. If second date goes well, boy asks girl out on third date. And so forth. Eventually, boy and girl move in together. And, maybe, they get married. Or not. And either way is fine, because we can't judge people. Ahem.
Of course, in all of the above-mentioned cultures (16th Century England, '40s America, and ours), there is a way of dealing with that touchy side of the love story, known very unromantically as the physical aspect. Indeed, the '40s one seems primarily concerned with it, or in preventing it, though of course it was never spoken of directly. Shakespeare's characters, too, often seem very conflicted, as they have been strongly taught that physical indulgences were to be saved for marriage, and at the same time the temptation is very strong. See Romeo and Juliet.
This temptation is dealt with in the American pop culture romance as well: It is simply given in to. After a few dates, or even after the first if it goes really well, hey, why not go to bed together? You really should try sex before commiting anyway, to see if you like it. (Sorry. Dropped into mild sarcasm for a moment there. It won't happen again.)
Of course, this "process" is even more objected to, or at least ignored, than the courtship ritual of Shakespeare's day. And SOME studies seem to indicate that at least the sexual behavior commonly portrayed in the media is actually in the minority. But it is what is portrayed in the stage plays of our time (ie, TV and the movies). And, like it or not, even those who go directly against it are, ultimately, defined by it.
This is my main problem with Fundegelical (Fundementalist/Evangelical) dating books-- that is, apart from the usual self-righteous tone, the look-at-me-I'm-so-cool-and-relevant style, and the fact that most of them are written by evangelicals: they are largely defined by the "accepted" dating scheme. I haven't read nearly all of the "revolutionary" "methods" coming from Evangelical publishing houses, but quite a few have passed through my hands, mainly from working at the library. And they seem to fall into one of two categories: The ones that mock the "secular" version of dating--you can do all the things the other kids get to do, except for these "few things." (The "few things" differ, but mainly center around intimicay. Of any kind.) The other version, by which I mean I Kissed Dating Goodbye, is basically taking "dating" and doing the exact opposite. Notice that you are still defined by the culture here, only in an opposite fashion (just as a "nonconformist" is still defined by the culture around him, but negatively).Many dating books, and even much of the dating advice I've seen, falls under what I call the Harris Fallacy: One Size Fits All dating advice. Based on much observation I have grown very skeptical of generalizations on the topic of dating, even when given by well-intentioned, well-taught Christians. Obviously there are certain generalizations to stick to as Christians: Don't date for sex. Dating, as all things, should be done for the glory of God, and should be founded on a basis of love. And so forth. But when you get too far into specifics, things tend to get hairy.
To be less vague, I'll give the example of long-distance dating (thank you, HT Forums :D). Now, one might have the idea that internet dating is bad, that in no case can it "work." One might construct an airtight case to conclude that it is, in fact, a bad idea, and that nothing good could come of it. One might point to people they know who it hasn't worked for, and conclude that it will not work for anyone. I don't specifically know of any such case; I do know, however, of several cases where long-distance dating has worked, has even resulted in marriage. In contradicting this mysterious person known as One, I might point to such cases. In this case, both One and I would be commiting the Harris Fallacy; One concluding that because it didn't work in his examples, it must not ever work, and I concluding the exact opposite. The truth is, that each realtionship is different, just like each person is different, and things that will work in one relationship might not in the next one.**
So what can a "good" Lutheran conclude on this topic? Many different things, apparently. But if you asked me, I'd say to have fun, don't be afraid to try and fail. Stick to your basic principles, and do things to honor God. Failing that, confess your sins and recieve God's forgiveness. There is (necesarily, I think) a lot of Law involved in this territory, especially for teenagers who date; but let us never lose sight of the Gospel of Jesus, who died to forgive us all our sins. My final piece of advice: seek the wisdom of parents and pastors, and other people who know more than me.
*I'm not sure how you properly credit a college lecture series released by a book-on-tape company, so this was my attempt.
**For the sake of clarity, I obviously don't recomend carrying out an entire relationship online or over the phone. Despite the comic possibilities, proposing to someone over AIM isn't going to work out real well. And anyway, that's not what long-distance dating is. ***
***If Nat can use footnotes, so can I. :P
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
And yet, there's a weight that comes with turning 18. Of course, there's all the "baggage"-- the voting eligibility, the 'adult' status, the possibility of being drafted if there was one, the ability to buy cigarettes (not something I would ever do, but it's really fun to mention just to scare people :P). And of course, there's a sense of a section of life passing away. The only comparison I can make is to finishing the first book in a trilogy (or a quartet, or series, whatever you like): There's a big chunk of life to look back on, a volume filled with begginings and foreshadowings but no conclusions. And looking ahead, there are several more volumes, and while you have some educated guesses as to what they might hold, you ultimately don't know that much for sure. Even people unlike me, who have not only college majors but careers-- whole story arcs, one might say--planned out, really know very little of what life will or even might hold. And, surprisingly, that's ok.
I remember, when I was much younger, thinking that 18-year-olds were so mature. I mean, there were adults, and of course they're mature, but people who were 18 were almost like me, in that the older crowd referred to them as kids, but they were big and tall and could drive and stuff. They were like gods (small 'g'). Even in, say, early high school, I still thought similarly. I suspect now that that's because I knew very few 18-years-olds at that point. As to the maturity thing, well, people refer to ME as one of the most mature people they know (*waits for the laughter to die down*), which is a very scary thought, mainly because I, um, know me. Ah well.
In our 'Answers' folder I recalled coming across an envelope adressed 'To Ethan, to Be Opened on Your Eighteenth Birthday.' My parents had forgotten about it until I got it out. What was inside dissapointed my expectations (was an inheritence to be gained by defeating my long lost twin brother in armed combat, then slaying his hideous two-headed creature from the pits of Hell so much to ask?), but it was interesting nevertheless. It was a letter I had written to my 18-year-old self on my ninth birthday. Even after seeing it, I have only a very vague memory of doing so, but I'm sure it was at the behest ofmy mom.
My heroes at the time were Brett Favre and Reggie White, whic was unsurprising. I lied reading about old "Amiricin" wars. And so on. And so forth. In my vague, dredged-up memories, I think I was annoyed and resistant to writing that letter, and the other day I had to keep from making remarks about corniness and so forth. But upon further reflection, it seems kind of neat, and I may relucantly feel a tad grateful to my mom for making me do that. Is that maturity? Or maybe I'm just going soft.
Oh yeah. According to that letter, my favorite subject in school was math.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
It comes down, or it came down, but the present tense sounded more poetic. But the snow is a white blanket over the neighborhood. It's not as deep as I would have liked, but it's deep enough to be fun.
My brother and I went and froliced, if you define frolic as "Wrestling and throwing about in a manner that hurts considerably less on snow than on mere cold hard ground." Snowballs have been exchanged, and I would like to think that I have been coming out ahead in the conflicts, though my brother would beg to differ. However, he also thinks that The Phantom Menace is a good movie, so we'll let that rest where it is.
We went out and did the Obligatory Shoveling of the Driveway and Front Walk, and I even liked that, because it was out in the snow and also something of a work-out (especially when you factor in the Obligatory Abandoning of Shoveling to Run About and Put Snow Down People's Necks). One of the neighbors had a little pine tree in their yard, and the white Christmas lights were still up, and it looked really... neat. (Note studious avoidance of the phrase 'pretty.') At another time I might have thought they were overdue for taking the Christmas lights down, but tonight I just thought that THIS was the setting where those lights belonged, not on 40-degree nights with grass still green and a season that jumps up and down and says in a squeaky voice, "Look at me! I really AM Winter! Be frozen! Be cold... Please be cold?" And then it pouts, as if that will help its cause.
But I ramble on. Anyway, snow-- I like it. :-D
Friday, January 12, 2007
Long-time viewers of the show wrinkle their nose at this, but it makes sense if you think about it. Observe:
Raymond: Raymond is Sloth. Obviously. His character might be summed up as someone who wants to get home from work, sit on the couch, and watch TV. (Leaving his wife, of course, to care for the children, cook the meals, do the laundry, etc.) Entire shows are predicated on the idea that Ray not only does not help with ANYTHING at home, but hinders his wife's work as well. And even in shows where this is not the main focus, it's at least a running joke.
Debora: Debora is Wrath. She is the other side of the running joke about Raymond's Sloth-- it is that Sloth which incites her to wrath. She is not exaggerated to the point of being the type of character who flies into a rage at the drop of a hat, but she does have a quick temper. In one episode, a group of old women who don't know them THAT well conclude, "If I were Debora, I would be nicer to Raymond."
Robert: Robert, Raymond's older brother, who lives with his parents for about half the seasons on the show, then lives by himself, then lives with his wife, and in the final episode moves with his wife back in with his parents, represents Envy. One of the other characters, in mockingly summing him up, says that while others are talking about lawns, Robert's comment would be, "I don't even have a lawn, Raymond has a lawn." Raymond also has a house, a high-paying jobs, kids, and (at least in Robert's eyes) a perfect wife, which Robert wishes he had. A large part of his character is self-pity, but he often has the idea that "If I had what Raymond has, then I'd be happy," which qualifies him for Envy.
Frank: Robert and Raymond's father is the hardest to pin down, but I will call his character Gluttony. He is fond of eating, and he is fond of doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. Fifty years ago he might have been called a boor. He could qualify for Greed, as these two are somewhat similar sins, and he could even qualify for a sort of near-harmless, old man sort of lust, but Gluttony seems chief among them.
Marie: The matriarch of the family, Marie represents Pride. Her obnoxious behaviour and narcissism are the base of the conflict for probably a majority of the episodes. She is very arrogant and vain, also, but the closest thing I could find on our list was pride.
Now, when watching the show, you don't think of these people in such harsh theological terms. These are not evil people; they are what we would probably call decent. Yet they are sinners, as is evinced in every single episode of the show. I seem to be building up to some sort of conclusion here, but I lost it; I suppose I just wanted to point out that these characters, at least, have a strong set of moral values, even if it is sometimes an unclear set, and that (morally, at least) puts them far above much of what's on TV these days.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Tristan + Isolde is a movie released in 2005, based on the legend that bears the same or similar names. The story is a great one, long one of the most powerful in western literature. The movie is another matter.
The movie, from a purely aesthetic point of view, is so-so. The set design is beautiful, though gloomy; Sophia Myles is wonderful as Isolde; and the fights scenes are well done. However, the other actors range from mediocre to bad. The script is terrible, and historical accuracy seems to have been fed to the dogs. My brother and I came up with a drinking game based on it: you take a shot every time there's a historical inaccuracy. The problem is, you'd be blind drunk in the first half hour.
In fact, the movie was so bad, that it caused me to want look for the story that inspired it (the logic works if you don't think about it too hard).
The first thing I discovered was that there are many versions of the story, from nearly every nationality in Europe, with as many variations on it. J. Bedier, a lifelong scholar of this legend, determined that there must have been a common source for it, an original tale, now lost.
The basic themes and events of every version of the story, however, are very similar. Tristan's mother dies in childbirth, and gives him a name which literally means 'child of sorrow.' He is sent from his home to be raised in the court of his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, where he grows into a great knight. He defeats an Irish knight, come to challenge the king, but is fearfully wounded in doing so. He is sent on a raft over the sea, and washes up on the shore of Ireland, where Isolde, sister of the knight he killed, heals him, without knowing who he is. In some versions they develop great affection for each other at this point; some versions are silent on this matter.
Tristan returns to Cornwall, but is shortly sent back to Ireland to bring Isolde home, to be Mark's queen and forge peace between the lands. (In some versions, this is the result of negotiations; in some, Tristan slays a dragon to win her, or wins a tournament.) Isolde's mother, apparently a great sorceress, sends a love potion with the girl's maid, a potion that will bind whoever drinks it in undying love. It is intended to be slipped into Mark and Isolde's drinks. Tristan and Isolde are mistakenly given it to drink. Guess what happens.
There is much variation in the next part of the story. To give the gist, Tristan and Isolde carry out their affair, trying to keep it a secret, but of course this is impossible. They are found out. Sometimes the king banishes them, or sentences the to be killed and they escape. At any rate, because he loves both Tristan and Isolde, there is a plethora of second chances, of returning of trust, which is always violated by the pair's adultery. Tristan is finally banished, and dies. Usually he dies because a bitter woman who loved him but whom he did not love tells him that Isolde does not love him, and he dies with her at the gate of the castle he rests in.
The legend probably began life as an oral tale, and was commonly told by bards in the Middle Ages. Many of the earliest extant versions were copied down by monks in Ireland, England, or France. The story found a niche in the expansive King Arthur mythos. After Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, it lay dormant until the 19th Century, when there was a revival in Arthurian mythology. Its best-known incarnation was in Wagner's19th-Century opera, Tristan und Isoud.
What has made this legend so fascinating to so many people over so many centuries?
The most obvious reason is the basic fascination this type of story holds; the theme of forbidden love, of star-crossed lovers, seems to strike a deep chord with people. One thinks of the obvious example of Romeo and Juliet. But this particular story goes beyond simply a pair of lovers who cannot be together. For the third player, King Mark, is usually portrayed sympathetically: he is Tristan's beloved uncle, a good man, and a wise king. This is the most heart-wrenching part of the tale; for neither Tristan nor Isolde wishes to betray the king, yet neither seems either willing or able to cease loving one another, thus betraying the king anyway.
To its credit, the movie portrays this aspect very well. However, it leaves out another point of interest entirely.
"The mystery which is the cause of all this suffering, the love potion," says Prof. Alan Fedrick, in his introduction to Beroul's The Romance of Tristan, "Is undeniably an essential part of the legend's fascination.... The theme of the love potion is probably the best known distinguishing feature of the Tristan legend, and it is in their attitude to this theme that later authors differ most widely."
This is not to say that one must blame the potion for the adultery that follows; the potion might function, as in Shakespeare's plays, as a symbol for the unreasoning nature of love. A Midsummer Night's Dream is not about the love potion, despite the fact that it seems to make the lovers in that play act in ways they would not normally; for all four lovers in that play, from an objective viewpoint, are equally suited to one another: all are good looking, young, prospersous. But the vagaries of Love seem to elevate one particular person above the rest.
Similarly with Tristan, Isolde and Mark: Both men are equally suitable husbands; and for Isolde, loving Mark would cause no problems such as bringing kingdoms to their knees. But Isolde, love potion or no love potion, loves Tristan.
So how does the movie deal with the love potion? Quite simply, it doesn't. It throws it out entirely. In an interview, writer Dean Georgaris said he took out the love potion "Because I thought it would be nice if they fell in love simply because they fell in love." Well that's nice, but you've just thrown out a thousand years of literary tradition. He elaborates, "So our version of the story is a stripped-down, more realistic version."
This is the key to the movie's failure. There has been a trend recently of stripping down old legends, trying to make them more "realistic". This was the watch word of the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced King Arthur (2004). The idea was to set King Arthur in just barely post-Roman Britain, where his legend probably began, and eliminate all the extraneous characters. However, this would have meant eliminating Guinevere (whose character was a Medieval French invention), Lancelot (also a later French addendum), and Merlin. And without these three, there's really no legend to tell.
So they were kept, and given rationalizations for being there. But really all the record there is of this old Roman Arthur is of some battles he fought. So the movie had to fill up an hour and a half of screen time based on events that might have happened, based on what we know of the cultural conditions of the time. Basically, it was creating its own myth.
This is what happens when you strip myths of their mythology: you are left with a jumble of characters, a realistic setting, and some basic themes that you have far less tools to use to work into a story. You end up reinventing the wheel, trying to create a new myth that is not the old myth and yet is the old myth.
This is partly where the movie fails: without the love potion, and without the trappings of chivalry, Tristan and Isolde simply appear as two adulterers, for there is now no way to show that intagible thing, love. The potion worked as a symbol for it; that is gone. The accounts of Tristan's rescuing Isolde from death have been eliminated. Gone too, is the scene where the pair meet a hermit, who challenges them morally; and with this goes any hint of the ambiguous morality the pair is engaged in. They go from a pair holding their love against their duty, and trying and failing to reconcile the two, to a pair engaging in their affair because the laws and customs that keep them apart are wrong anyway. They become moral judges, rather than sinners.
A further aspect of the movie is its gloominess. The sets are dark, and when they are not, the story is dark, the dialogue depressive, the directing apparently set up to accentuate misery. The poem of Beroul, and most of the rest of the legends incarnations, have at least some hint of irony. There is the irony of God seeming to engineer things to protect the lovers; the irony of Isolde's ambiguous oaths. Sometiems the whole story, the idea of two adulterers as heroes, is treated as ironic. And, in the best retellings, real humor can be elicited from these situations, while not betraying the tragic mode.
The legend of Tristan and Isolde has a long history of reinterpretation and derivation.However, its central themes, those of love, sacrifice, passion, irony, and moral ambiguity, have always remained the same. And it is in betraying these themes, more than the shoddy production, that the movie ultimately fails.
I recommend a translation of Beroul's The Romance of Tristan if you're interested in the story. It's one of the best.
Anyone who even read THIS far deserves congratulations. Below is just some extras; take them or leave them. ;-)
(The original opening line, which I liked so much I wanted to save.)
Recently (okay, it was a while ago, but recently sounds better) I watched the movie Tristan + Isolde. I will skip the typical sarcastic typographical posturing and simply say, it was a horrible movie.
Here is a list of variations JUST IN BLOODY SPELLING I found:
Tristan, Tristam, Tristram, Trystan
Isolde, Isold, Iseult, Isolt, Yseut, Isoud, Ysoud, George Foreman.
An extended opinion on the best part of the movie:
Sophia Myles plays Isolde with as much intensity and passion as the character calls for. She seems able to deliver the hokiest lines and make them, at least, ALMOST palatable. Too bad her co-star, Jamie Franco, had all the intensity of a slug.
And for anyone who read all THAT I have a gold-plated award of some kind.
Monday, January 01, 2007
As for last night, well, it was just the family at home. But it was a great way to begin the year. Why? I'll tell you: We beat the bloody Bears! 26-7! I mean, come on, the Bears are supposed to go to the Super Bowl. It won't get us into the playoffs or anything, but it feels great to be able to say that even when they had their best team in twenty years and we had... well, not our best team, certainly, we still beat them on their own bloody field. hehe.
(My apologies to any Bears fans reading this. Sort of. Not really. :P)
Well, If I was smart, I'd have something deep to say in this spot. But all I can think of right now is what our pastor said last night, "Give thanks for 2007, another year of Grace." May it be a blessed one for all of you.