RSS

Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Good, The Bad, and the Orc-ly

OK. I apologize for the above title. Really. It was the best I could come up with at the time. I needed to get your attention so you’d check out middle_earth_according_to_mordor-460x307this post. I mean, this is important. We’ve all been mislead.

It seems that Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” was nothing but Western propaganda. Did you know that Gandalf was actually a bad guy out to destroy technology and science? And that the elves were out to rule the world? Further, Mordor was a progressive center of science and rationality, the very essence of enlightenment as compared to the pie-in-the-sky West. That is evidently the premise of a book newly available in English. “The Last Ringbearer,” by Kirill Yeskof, was originally published in Russia back in 1999, but an English translation has just become available (via a FREE download, no less!). It tells the story of the War of the Ring through the eyes of Mordor.

I haven’t read it yet, but Laura Miller over at Salon.com has and I’m linking to her review here so you can check it out. Viewing things from the bad side’s perspective isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff, though it has become even more prevalent these days in books and in television. What strikes me about this book is that it seems to want not only to make the bad guys sympathetic, but to present the good guys as the ones who are evil. Is this taking things a step further?

I don’t know yet, but I’d be interested in  hearing your opinions on this. Whatever your view, it looks like a fascinating read.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Coming Soon to a Kindergarten Near You?

One of my weekly pleasures is reading the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. It’s an excellent paper and one of the few left in the country that has a conservative opinion section. (There, I’ve outed myself.) But while the Journal may be a conservative publication, it is most definitely a secular one as well. Witness Alison Gopnik’s Mind & Matter column from this past weekend.

It seems that some scientists think that evolution, particularly the natural selection component, is too difficult for young children to understand. I’ve provided a link to the article above so I won’t go into all their reasoning for this seemingly obvious insight, however the upshot is that they recommend that children should be exposed to picture books that help them understand natural selection. As early as kindergarten. They’re afraid that these young minds may actually come to think that our earth and the life on it was created somehow by, gasp!, some transcendent, intelligent being.

These proposed natural selection “story books” are characterized in the article as “powerful intellectual tools.” I think it’s just a blatant attempt at indoctrination dressed-up in lab coats, clip boards and plastic pocket protectors.

What do you think?

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A New Year’s Resolution For All of Us

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

English: Two New Year’s Resolutions postcards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy New Year to all of you! I hope everyone had a wonderful evening and are now safe at home enjoying family and friends.

I wanted to share a New Year’s resolution and invite everyone to consider joining me in following it. I don’t think it will require any major feats of willpower, just an increase in awareness.

Let’s all try to tell ourselves better stories in 2014. Whether these are in the form of traditional novels, graphic novels, movies, television programs, it doesn’t matter. Let’s all try to take in the stories that tell of nobler things, things like honor, truth, bravery, hope, faith and, of course, love. By love I don’t mean the superficially romantic, physical love thrown at us by today’s culture, but the real love that we as humans give to our family, friends and fellow human beings. These are the virtues that reflect our Creator and set us apart from being mere animals.

Let’s try to avoid, as best we can, the cheap, the vulgar or obscene, the irreverent, the dysfunctional, the crude, and the pornography of blood and death. These things also separate us from the animals. These things make us lower than the beasts of the field, the swimmers of the depths, or the sailors of the sky.

Let’s all feed our spirits with stories that display the truth that being human is a wondrous joy and a divine responsibility.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

Liebster Questions, My Answers

As I reported the other day, I was nominated for the Liebster Award by fellow blogger Jubilare. In order to receive this award I need to answer some simple questions. So here we go!

1. If you could walk into a book and make a home there, where would that home be, what would it be like, and what sort of people/creatures would you try to befriend? Specifics would be fun and you can give more than one answer if you like.

Holy cow! I can’t remember all the places books have taken me over the years. Now I have to pick one to live in? Oy! Well, at least at this point in my life, I’d have to say The Lord of the Rings and within that book I’d select someplace in the Shire, perhaps Hobbiton, though Pincup in the Green Hill Country looks good. Willowbottom sounds a bit enticing as well.

I definitely want my own Hobbit hole, snug into the side of a nice green hill. Great insulation you know. A good size larder would be nice, as well as a fairly spacious study and library. I think it would be fine as far as size goes. I mean, if Gandalf can fit in Bilbo’s home, I’m sure I can be comfortable too. Oh yeah, and a sizeable dining hall with a large fireplace would be necessary for entertaining guests and for gaming night.

Whichever village I pick will need to have a local pub with an Olde Pub name like “The Board and Bone” or something similar. Oh, and it needs to be within crawling distance of my new abode. For convenience, you understand. I really like pubs.

As for who (or what) I’d try to befriend, probably just the locals from the pub. We’d more than likely have much in common. Good food, stout ale, some aromatic pipe weed, lots of books and interesting conversation; what more can a man ask for in the golden years? If I should see any tall, gray-bearded types with staffs wandering through, I’ll head to my cellar to check on the wines and brandies. If I can’t hear them knocking, oh well.

2. Name a food you have read about, but never eaten, that you have since wanted to try. It doesn’t have to actually exist. What, in the reading, piqued your interest?

Most of the books I read don’t have food in them, although George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series described plenty of meals. Of course I don’t remember a thing about them. I will say that I’ve always been curious about ancient cuisines. What did the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians or Huns eat?

But then, maybe I don’t really want to know.

3. Do you have a favorite plant? If so, what is it and why do you like it so much?

I never thought about this much. I guess if I had to pick a plant, I’d pick ivy. I love the shape of the leaves and seeing it growing and covering walls and fences reminds me of libraries and books and warm, cozy houses with fireplaces and reading chairs. So yeah. Ivy.

4. What fictional character is your favorite hero (male or female), and what villain really scares you and why?

My favorite hero in fiction would have to be John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee. MacDonald was one of the best pop fiction writers in America in the 1950s and 60s and he wrote a lot more than just the Travis McGee series, but the Florida beach bum was sort of his trademark. McGee lived on a house boat called The Busted Flush, so you can guess how he acquired it. He was in the “recovery” business, which meant that if someone screwed you out a great deal of money or other property, he would get it back for you for a percentage of the recovered item(s). You just didn’t ask him about his methods. He was also something of a keen observer and critic of  modern America. A public philosopher, if you will. Treat yourself to a Travis McGee novel sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

As for what villain really scares me, I’m going with the incomparable Preston Maddoc from Dean Koontz’ “One Door Away From Heaven.” Maddoc is a PhD in philosophy and claims to be a utilitarian bioethicist, but what he really likes to do is dispatch people he deems not worth living, like his nine-year-old crippled step daughter, Leilani Klonk (hey, it’s a Koontz novel). Koontz has distilled and concentrated the essence of the secular-humanist-utilitarian mindset into this one character and what makes him so frightening is that there really are people out there who see the world this way and are trying to spread their ideas. Ever hear of Peter Singer?

A close second would be Koontz’ new, improved Victor Frankenstein from his five novel series based on the Frankenstein story. I really do believe in mad scientists.

5. There is a crossroad at your feet. Behind you lies the path back to home and hearth (wherever that might be). The road directly ahead leads to a city, blue in the distance, settled among hills and on the edge of a bright inland sea. To your right lies a steep climb into old, low mountains clothed in forest and fern. To your left is rolling farmland that eventually flattens out into broad plains dappled by the clouds overhead. You can go as far as you like on any of the roads (even farther than you can see), including back home. There’s no wrong answer, only the where and why.

Ah, yes! The Happy Wanderer game. Let’s see. I’ve never been a big city-type of person, and farmland is useful but doesn’t have a lot of variety in the vistas department. Now, the mountains with the forest and ferns sounds really nice but at my age the steep-climb-thingy is a deal breaker. Heck, that may have been a deal breaker in my younger days, too! So that leaves the home and hearth option, which, if I were to have my very own Hobbit hole, would be just peachy by me.

There IS another direction I wouldn’t mind going: up. I’ve always thought that if a race of advanced aliens (friendly, of course) were to stop by and ask if I’d like to come for a ride I would probably answer yes. To see our planet and solar system retreating from the ship as we head out into deep space would be amazing! Maybe even see a new world or two.

I guess one could also include the option of going down. Think I’ll pass on that one, too.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Liebster!

Friend and fellow blogger Jubilare has nominated me for the Liebster Award!

Liebster-Award-Badge

Liebster-Award-Badge (Photo credit: Adrienne Third)

Don’t worry, I have no clue either. But it’s an award! YAY! What’s really cool about this award is that, as far as I can tell, if you’re nominated, you win. How the heck can I argue with that?

But it DOES require some effort on my part. Evidently I have to answer five questions the lady has put forth, dealing with such matters as walking into a book and eating strange food with your favorite character and his plant. Or something like that.

I think I’m also supposed to nominate some other bloggers for this award, but I really don’t follow that many and the ones I like have already been nominated, so . . . Not this time.

Anyway, it’s going to take me a bit to get my thoughts in order to answer said questions. Not too long I hope, though at my age I never promise. But I intend it to be soon. Really.

So, thank you, Jubilare! I’m truly flattered you like my posts enough to nominate me. That you trust me after reading what I did with Bilbo and Beorn in my review of “Queer Lodgings” from the Hobbit is a real confidence-builder. I’ll try not to let you down.

I do, however, have one question of my own. Just what in the Sam Peckinpah is a Liebster?!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Ruminating on Russian Writers

I picked up a nice Reader’s Digest edition of Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago” at the local library book sale today. I had seen the movie with Omar Sharif many years ago and thought it was great, so I figured it was time to read the book.

Russian novels can be a bit overwhelming. I found that out by reading “The Brothers Karamazov” a few years back. They are also some of the most spiritual novels on the planet. The London Times once wrote of Pasternak’s masterpiece: “If one word could be used to describe this remarkable novel as a whole, it would be ‘religious.’ ” The same could be said of many works by Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.

Interesting that a country noted for the brutal treatment of its people could produce such writers.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on July 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

We Need An American Canon

Philadelphians celebrating Independence Day. 1819.

Philadelphians celebrating Independence Day. 1819. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again Independence Day (or “The Fourth  of July” as many still call it) is upon us. It’s that most American of national holidays, a time for picnics, parades, fireworks and patriotic songs. We go camping, take in a movie, take advantage of the special sales at the malls, get together with friends and family, and make sure we eat such “American” food as hamburgers, hot dogs and apple pie. And maybe, just maybe, we give a thought to what it all means while we watch the fireworks dancing in the night sky. Something to do with the birth of our nation, right?

This year there is a heavier feel to this usually festive holiday. There is a division among the people of this Union. A very deep one. On a day that is supposed to remind us of our identity as a nation, the weight of political ideologies and cultural differences rend that identity like an old flag. Can anything be done?

Perhaps.

Being the Old Book Junkie, I was going through some of my books on American folklore this morning. One that I particularly like, “American Folklore and Legend,” (The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1978), has an introductory article by Horace Beck, who was Professor of American Literature at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. In his remarks, I think, we can find both a partial reason for the divide and a path to lead our nation back onto a common road again:

Americans, more than most other people, have always sought a sense of identity. Among nations whose origins go back thousands of years, the search for identity is not difficult, but to us it is, for we are a society composed of many national; backgrounds, many languages, many customs. . . Yet we all wish to be recognized as “Americans.”

In most countries tradition, based to a very large extent in folklore, history, and geography, has grown up over the centuries. Unfortunately, the U.S. is too young a country, and its inhabitants too diverse in character and too much on the move, for a folk tradition of the Old World type to have grown up.

Perhaps it’s time we started to re-tell America’s unique folktales and legends, both to ourselves and our children. Even more, maybe it’s time for our schools to require their students to read more of classic American writers such as Mark Twain, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry W. Longfellow, Carl Sandburg, and Edgar Allen Poe, to name but a few.

I think it’s time for an American Canon of national literature. We need stories that can bring us together as a people rather than ideological narratives that divide us. Putting such a canon together could be a national project that itself might get us communicating and working together. Our country has a treasury of stories, poetry and essays hidden in libraries and schools, barely noticed or mentioned for years. It’s past time for them to see the light of our classrooms once more.

Horace Beck, in concluding his introduction, writes about “uncovering the foundation of our shared sense of national unity.” It’s 35 years since he wrote those words and we’re rapidly running out of time to find it.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Education, History, Ideas, Uncategorized, Worries

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I Think I’ve Found “Soma” the Problem

Huxley autograph of 1942 book "The Art of Seeing."

Huxley autograph of 1942 book “The Art of Seeing.”

OK. That was bad. Really bad. I apologize sincerely for that. Now back to my post.

The other day I was surfing around and I saw a picture of a young lady staring dreamily into her IPhone/ Android/ whatever. It was an ad for a social media site touting its portability. You, too, can flat-line your mind anywhere you go. And then it occurred to me: this is our society’s version of “Soma.” Huxley wasn’t too far off!

I’m sure some of you have read “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Without recounting the whole novel, Soma is an hallucinogenic drug that the future World State gives to its citizens so they can take hangover-free “vacations” to relieve stress and distract them from the oppressive, totalitarian world they live in. After reading BNW, I wondered when, if ever, our society would start to do something like that. When I saw the photo of the girl and her tech device, I said to myself, “It’s already here!”

Think about it. Our culture is very chemical/drug averse, for any number of reasons going back hundreds of years. But video and internet content, delivered via electronic IVs which we take with us anywhere, is the perfect solution. Using this technology people can watch television programs, movies or music videos. They can communicate with friends, play games, read books, magazines or newspapers, anywhere they go and at anytime they want. And it can be highly addictive. What better way to distract people from what’s going on in their world?

George Orwell wasn’t the only one who knew what he was writing about.

__________

By the way, that Aldous Huxley autograph you see above is from one of my books. I found it in a thrift store in Anaheim, CA maybe 20 years ago or so. I paid 50 cents for it. Unfortunately, the book isn’t “Brave New World,” but it is a first edition, in perfect condition, of Huxley’s “The Art of Seeing” signed and dated by the author.

I like it.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Ideas, Old Books, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rob:

For my old gamer friends and fantasy lovers. Even if you’re not a writer, take this test!

Originally posted on jubilare:

Mere Inkling has an entertaining post on The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam and the heroic and tragic death of Boromir son of Denethor son of Ecthelion from Lord of the Rings.

More than likely, no one will be interested in this, but I am and therefore I shall post it. Also, my promised posts on Dwarves are not ready yet, so this will have to do.

I took the exam twice. Once for the first “high fantasy” story I ever started (at the age of 12 and still ongoing for my own enjoyment) and my current work in progress which, if I can finish, I will try to publish some day. The first set of answers are in red, and the second in blue. There are places where I can tell I have progressed. Overall, though, I do not see a huge difference in the answers.

I can tell a difference…

View original 2,304 more words

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Rob:

Further into The Hobbit with jubilare. Beautiful Mirkwood!

Originally posted on jubilare:

My first contribution to The Hobbit Read-a-long!

Ah, Mirkwood.  Stop for a moment to bask in the deep shadows and fill your lungs with that heavy, still air.

Mmmm. It has been too long. There are some places I reach through books to which I return again and again out of sheer love and awe. Mirkwood is one of my favorites. I wonder how many of you who read this, if any, feel the same.

Even in this book, brimming with some of the best fairy-tale elements, this chapter stands out.  We have:

  • Dark enchanted forest
  • Instructions not to stray from the path
  • Water that puts one into an enchanted sleep
  • Enchanted dreams
  • Fey lights in the darkness, luring travelers off the safe path
  • Elven hunt and white deer
  • Eerie voices and laughter echoing in the woods
  • Vanishing faerie banquets
  • Giant spiders

The makings of a fantastic folktale!…

View original 542 more words

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94 other followers