Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Encomium of Loki: An Exercise in Sophistry

                By now many of you have seen all of the Marvel Movies and have been waiting with baited breath since the first Iron Man for the Avengers premier. It’s been fun waiting, and was definitely worth it. All those heroes mushed together on the screen was almost enough awesome to make the world explode. If, however, the movie had one detrimental effect it’s that it presents, as a villain, its greatest victim. That’s right. While everyone probably feels a little bad for Loki, not many people are probably questioning his villain status right now. And yes, while it is sad about all those security guards, the innocent masses in Manhattan, the wives and children of the techno-alien soldiers, and the countless number of Ice Giants that were undoubtedly destroyed, Loki is the Marvel movie franchises’ greatest victim.
            Loki’s troubles begin with the very moment of his birth. An outcast from infancy Loki is too small to be accepted by his Ice Giant parents and is left to die. He is rescued by Odin Allfather and is taken to and raised in Asgard, but is remarkably different from everyone there as well. As he grows up he is continually forced to live in his impulsive, arrogant, hot-headed, adoptive brother’s shadow and is continually forced to clean up Thor’s messes. And, all this time, he is being raised in ignorance of his true parentage and in an environment that is hostile to his race. He is a good son and friend (if not a bit manipulative) who loves his adopted home very much, and yet is still not fully accepted by its members. This serves as the historical background that drives Loki’s future actions.
           In the context of ‘Thor’ it is not evil or selfish intentions that drive Loki’s actions, but love. He loves Asgard and he only wants what’s best for the kingdom. He knows that Thor’s rule would undermine everything that their father worked for (and this is not an unfounded belief) so he tries to postpone Thor’s rule for as long as he can.
           In addition to this, Loki bears a great love toward his adoptive parents. When he discovers his true nature as an Ice Giant’s offspring (and not just that, but the son of their king) (the revelation is something akin to a Nazi concentration camp worker coming to realize that his parents were both Jews). This drives him to be a better and more worthy son, leading him to take extreme and irrational actions. His actions, although irrational and harmful are done in an effort to legitimize his position as a valuable member of both his family and his country.
          This carries through to ‘The Avengers’ as well. In this movie Loki is indeed more dark and twisted, yet this stems from the rejection that his actions received at the end of the ‘Thor’ movie. He was stopped from destroying Jotunheim which, while demented, was meant as a desperate expression of love. He then dropped off of the face of the known universe. When hey returns he is a broken and twisted man. He was denied (he perceives) love from his own family and seeks, now, to manufacture a sort of affection with other beings. His attempt to conquer the earth reflects a need to engage in some sort of meaningful relationship with other sentient beings. Loki sees his only means of attaining such an interaction through the hostile take-over and subjugation of a planet populated with a ‘lesser species’.
             It is clear that all of Loki’s actions stem from the need to love and be loved. His need for affirmation was denied to him from his father, his king, and metaphorically by his country. The security that he once felt as a member of his family was shaken by the revealed secret of his true parentage. His shaken sense of identity served to psychologically isolate Loki from everything and everyone that he loved and cared about, leading him to believe that dramatic measures were needed to win back their love. Later this need led him to try and manufacture a reason for his existence. His sad fate is clearly the consequence of the isolation he felt from being trapped in his brother’s shadow, but, perhaps more importantly is a consequence of the secrets kept from him by Odin.

                It is clear that Loki is a victim of the political manipulations of his father. One can hardly be called a villain when all of one’s actions are guided by a sense of love, no matter how twisted and broken. Yes, Loki did many deplorable things, but all the innocent blood falls directly onto the hands of those who were responsible for Loki’s sense of isolation and misplaced identity. It is Odin who bears the brunt of the responsibility for Loki’s crimes, committed both on Asgard and on earth. What Loki really needs is not a prison sentence but, in the words of Tom Hiddleston “Prozac and A LOT of therapy.”

                Love is a person’s most basic human need. Denied that, there’s nothing grounding a person in reality and nothing to stop him from doing horrible things. A man denied love should not be punished for the atrocities that he commits, rather it should be the ones who denied him this most basic of human needs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beautiful People May 2012

Beautiful People: Villain Edition

Maude/ Gizzen – For the purposes of this post it will be referred to as Maude. Maude is one of the main antagonists in a book I’m attempting next month that, as of yet, has no title. It is a creature that lives in the lower spiritual dimension and serves the real main antagonist of the story. Notice I said ‘it’. That is because, strictly speaking, Maude has no gender, but has chosen to give itself the appearance of a little girl, because it can shape shift. Also because who would suspect a cute little girl of anything nefarious?

It works to create nightmares for humans on earth and, when it wants to be frightening, looks like this: 

 although it has no real permanent shape. It’s not a very nice creature at all and serves no real purpose but to make life more terrible for human beings

1. What is their motive?
If it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do there will be pain involved. The people it works for aren’t very nice.

2. What are they prepared to do to get what they want?
Anything you can think of. Whatever mean suit its ends are acceptable.

3. Are they evil to the core, or simply misunderstood?
It’s pretty evil to the core. It does, however, like to believe that it’s misunderstood, but that’s just self pity.

4. What was their past like? What about their childhood? Was there one defining moment that made them embrace their evil ways?
Well, Maude is supposed to be a sort of demonic creature, so its far away past was pretty wonderful. The defining moment for evil was when it picked the wrong side of a cosmic war… oops.

5. Now that they're evil, have they turned their back on everyone, or is there still someone in their life that they care for? (Brother? Daughter? Love interest? Mother? Someone who is just as evil as they are?)
Maude cares for itself, almost. Since it’s a completely fallen creature it’s not really capable of even self love, so no. It just exists in a sad, pathetic, demented state. It will do whatever it can to promote its own self interest (which is, of course a losing battle since it’s destined for eternal damnation) and betray and backstab any and everyone it thinks it can (think the Screwtape letters)

6. Do they like hugs?
Sure! Hugs are fun! Especially if you can take someone by surprise and stab them in the back (literally) when they’re most vulnerable!

7. Are they plagued by something? (Nightmares? Terrible thoughts?)
Guilt, self-pity, self-loathing, all of which are turned in a demented rage against humanity.

8. Who are they more similar to: Gollum or Maleficent?
Probably somewhere in the middle. Maude is Gollum like to those who are stronger than it, but is also cool and calculating. It’s not a sniveling incapable servant. It can sense weakness a mile away and has many clever and crafty methods for exploiting those.

9. If your villain could have their choice of transportation what would it be?
Please, Maude can travel through time and space with a thought. These primitive and animal human monstrosities hold no value for a capable and powerful creature such as it.

10. If you met your villain in the street, how afraid would you be? Are they evil enough to kill their creator? 
I’d be pretty freaked out. Maude probably couldn’t physically harm me, but I’m sure it would love the opportunity to deal out some serious psychological harm. It deals in nightmares so I’m sure it would have no scruples with acting out in the open, even in a materialistic society.

And now, for the most important question: Does the dark side really have cookies?
Of course we do! They're fresh out of the oven and your favorite kind! All we ask in return is your soul... Seems legit.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book #5: Kingdom Keepers: Disney in Shadow

Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow, By Ridley Pearson
                From one of the authors who brought you Peter and the Starcatchers (which were pretty great books btw) comes a series about the Disney theme parks themselves! Yes, this is the third installment in the Kingdom Keepers series, a series that follows the adventures of several middle schoolers as they try to save the Disney Theme Parks from Disney Villains that have come to life called the Overtakers. In this book these children must look for their lost commander, Wayne, whose being held in either Epcot of Hollywood studios, and it is these parks that take the spotlight this time around.
                Ok, so this Christmas, when we drove to Arizona, we listened to the first two of these books on tape. They were pretty fun so I’ve decided to finish the series this summer.

Sexual Content: 10/10
     Let’s go with zero. This is a book about middle schoolers, there isn’t even any kissing. In fact, I believe that the line "girls are gross" appears a few times in this book.

Spiritual Content: 10/10
     I don’t remember this being addressed at all in the books. #notthatdeep

Violence: 10/10
     There really isn’t any violence. Well, I take that back, Maleficent gets cut a few times with a sword, but, come on, she had it coming.

Plot: 5/10
     It was a cute story. Not one of the best ever. It was fairly engaging, although it did drag on a bit.

Style: 3/10
     I have many complaints that fall into this category. Pearson, it seems to me, has trouble keeping the points of his stories straight. There are several things that don’t match up across the books in the series, which makes it confusing to read at times. Also, in the book itself there are several contradictory parts. There are instances when character names are mistakenly interchanged. It’s kind of like he never edited the story, and I’m like ‘really?’ It’s a bit frustrating at times. I wish there were more consistency across the books and within the story. As it is, it feels incredibly arbitrary from chapter to chapter.

Character: 4/10
     The characters are archetypes. It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t remind me of one of those shows from the 90’s where every race was represented and everyone had their own specific talent and could do nothing outside of that, and everyone celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.
Also, this is a book about DISNEYWORLD but none of the Disney people are really characters. This frustrates me. I mean, there’s always maleficent, but he’s changed her so much she’s like nothing from the movie. The characters leave me feeling empty and disappointed inside. Also, some of the kids have stupid talents – tenacity…. what is this? Twilight?

Theme: 0/0
     Was there even a theme??????????? Working hard as a team will help you win the day?

Overall Conclusion: 4/10
     This isn’t nearly the worst thing I’ve ever read. It’s a cute story that’s clean and safe for all ages. It’s just not that well written and not that deep. I really did like the first book in this series, I’m just getting more and more disappointed with where this book is (not) going (anywhere exciting). I wish that real Disney characters could play a bigger role. As it is all the good characters seem kind of dumb and the evil characters… pointlessly nefarious.

Next Book: Father Brown Stories. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book # 4: Scaramouche

Scaramouche, by Rafael Sabatini

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Will you do the

Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me!
Galileo, Galileo
Galileo, Galileo
Galileo, Figaro - magnifico 
-- Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Sorry, I couldn’t resist! Number four complete for the summer challenge! Also, I’d never heard of this book until recently, so now it’s two that I have read, and two that I hadn’t!

     This is the story of a man named Andre-Louis Moreau. He is not a man of action, but a man of passive thinking, who believes the world to be quite mad. And, of course, he is correct in thinking this as France plummets into its infamous revolution. A pseudo member of the French Aristocracy Andre-Louis finds his position in society hanging precariously, as he is neither accepted by the French Aristocracy, and can't quite base himself enough to become a member of the lower classes. Of course, these things don't bother him nearly as much as the brutal murder of his best (and only friend) by a fiendish aristocracy, and Andre-Louis soon finds himself on the run from just about everyone become within the space of a few years a lawyer, and master fencer, a revolutionary, and, always, the indomitable Scaramouche in his long and invariably side-tracked quest for vengeance.

If you find yourself wondering just what exactly a Scaramouche is, please follow this link:

Sexual Content: 7/10
     Andre-Louis is the product of an illegitimate unioun between two individuals (this is part of the mystery of the book so I won't tell you who). This is condemned, even by Andre-Louis himself. Several characters engage in extra-marital affairs, but this is presented as a deplorable things to do and it ruins several relationships. The main (good) characters never condone or engage in such behavior.

Spiritual Content: 6/10
     This book is steeped in the French Rationalism that dominated during the French Revolution. God is considered unnecessary, and the belief that man, and inherently good creature is capable of creating a utopia here on earth is pretty prevalent in the novel. I could spend a long time refuting this ideology, but it pretty much refuted itself in the outcome of the French Revolution, so, that's all I have to say about it. Still, it's not a huge part of the book, this isn't a revolutionary manifesto. It was written by an Italian in England long after the French Revolution, so there.

Violence: 6/10
     Alright, so, for being a book set in the midst of the French Revolution it's remarkably bloodless. So, you may ask, why the relatively low score? Allow me the privilege to briefly mount my soapbox and to speak to you on the silliness of duels. There are many duels in this book, and I find them to be rather silly. They solve nothing, and they're excuses to kill people for injuring your pride. Really? I called you a name and now you're going to kill me? Really? It's like these men never stopped being five years old. It's incredibly pathetic. Ok, so someone insults you, that doesn't mean you get to stab them with your sword. That's just silly. Thank you for your indulgence.

Plot: 6/10
     It was a decent story. It had all of the appropriate ups and downs of a good adventure novel. It was, however, incredibly predictable. I called all of the major twists in the story within the first half of the book. I enjoyed the story, I just wished I could have been kept in the dark for a little bit longer.

Style: 8/10
     The style was nice. It was always mildly humorous and I liked the narrator's voice. The text wasn't very obscure or hard to understand, the words were pretty straightforward. He did tell you a lot about stuff that happened historically with the Revolution which, while irritating to me, wasn't that distracting from the story. It was also cool how he tied Andre-Louis to an anonymous historical Revolutionary figure. The writing, overall, was clever and neat.

Character: 10/10
     And this is where the book wins the prize! I would give this an 11/10 stars if that were even remotely possible. This book serves more as a character drama than as anything else. The plot is predictable, but that's really ok, because it's like you're watching Andre-Louis grow up. It creates a really nice sense of Dramatic Irony. You spend the whole time like "When is he going to figure it out???!!??!?!??!?" and then, you're really happy when he does. I really loved Andre-Louis. He's one of those characters that gets stuck in your head and never leaves. The story is told mostly from his perspective, but what's really awesome is how the author tries to eliminate any character bias. Whenever you're tempted to just see the world from Andre-Louis' perspective and judge everyone the way that he does Sabatini throws in a sentence that makes you go "woah, Andre is actually acting like a brat right now" or "Oh, I guess that guy wasn't as bad as I thought," "Or, nooooooooo what are you doingggggggg? They're terrible people!!!!!!!!!!!!11!!!!!!!!!!!" This maybe belongs in Style, but I'm putting it here, because I think it fits with Andre-Louis being an awesome character. The reader is solidly in the audience which allows them to understand Andre in ways that you don't get to understand most other characters, and it's just really cool. The character development is about as near to perfect as I've ever seen anyone come.

Theme: 7/10
     Scaramouche deals mostly with the idea that humanity as a whole is a really crazy group of beings. I honestly haven't thought that much on this subject, but I can see how it's appropriate for the time in which the story is set. Humans in France during this time were a pretty unstable lot. What I do like is how, even though Andre-Louis sees all humans as being, at bottom, mad, he can forgive them for this. He really understands the people around him, and doesn't (for the most part) hold their faults against them. He's able to forgive most anyone just about anything once he understands why they acted in the way that they did. I'm not sure I agree with it philosophically, but it's certainly a commendable notion.

Overall Conclusion: 9/10
     Ok, this may seem a bit arbitrary, so sue me. While some aspects of this book may have been lacking in quality (and not really lacking that much) it is, 100% worth reading. It's a good story, that's worth reading solely for the characters in it. There aren't many books that can stand on there characters alone, and this is one that could (even though it doesn't have to). It has, honestly, become one of my favorite books and I give it my hearty recommendation!

Next Book: The Kingdom Keepers: Disney in Shadow (taking it down a level!)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book #3: The Black Arrow

So, I've been watching old T.V. shows all day, and thought I'd do something productive in between episodes of Mork & Mindy.

The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson 

Finally! A book that I haven’t read before, and number three of my summer challenge! I am now, officially, 10% of the way to meeting my goal!

The Black Arrow is a bit of a Robin Hoodesque tale. It takes places, however, not during the Crusades, but during the War of Roses. The story follows a boy named Richard (Dick) Shelton as he makes the shift from orphaned squire to outlawed renegade, to Sir Richard, Knight. It also follows his growth from impetuous boy to star-crossed lover. It is filled with mystery, intrigue, revenge, war, and, ultimately, heroism.

Sexual Content: 10/10
This story was very clean. There are a few kisses bartered, but that’s about all.

Spiritual Content: 10/10
This is set during the War of Roses and the European world was bursting at the seams with religion. It was as much a part of life as was air. Religion isn’t, by any means, a focus of this book, but it is treated very respectfully. Since, of course, the War of Roses took place before the Protestant Reformation the dominant form of Christianity was Catholicism. All religious references made within the book are understood within this context.

Violence: 9/10
This is a book about knights during a time of civil war. There is violence, but nothing that I found too disturbing. Several people are hung, many are stabbed or shot with arrows, but nothing is described in graphic detail.

Plot: 9/10
This was a great story. It had something in it for everyone: Romance, mystery, betrayal, intrigue, revenge, historical references, outlaws in green livery, etc. It was an east story to follow and the ending was immensely satisfying.

Style: 8/10
There was nothing truly remarkable about the style of this book, other than the fact that it didn’t bog you down with unnecessary details. That, in of itself, is enough to warrant a high score from me. Stevenson assumed that his readers would be familiar with the period in which he wrote, and that, if they were not, they could easily familiarize themselves with it (which, now, is not so unjust an expectation). I love it when authors just tell you the story. I don’t care about every flower in the meadow or about the deep history of a particular rock in a field. I bought the book to read the particular story in it, I don’t need you to tell me a dozen others!, Stevenson always does really well in that regard.

Character: 6/10
I enjoyed the characters. I really did! They just weren’t the best characters ever. They were nice, but somewhat lacking in personality compared, say with the infamous Richard of Glouscher. Dick was nice, but seemed to be confused. At times he was hot headed and impetuous, and at others he was really cool and mature. I also thought that he fell in love way too fast, given the circumstances… Joan also, was lacking something (I’m not sure what). I did, however, very much like Jack Matcham. They were all good characters, they just weren’t great.

Theme: 8/10
The themes of this book were pretty fun. It explored the nature of heroism as it related to questions of loyalty and honor. Dick, of course, is the hero, but he doesn’t have all of the answers at first. In fact, no one around him really has the answers either. He has to discover true heroism for himself. It’s nice that the concept of honor is completely separated from revenge. The true hero, we are taught, deals in mercy, and not in bitter ‘justice’. It was very well done.

Overall Conclusion: 8.5/10
This was a great story. I must admit, I find myself lucky lately in picking very good ones. We’ll see how that holds during the rest of the summer. I really couldn’t put this book down, and I kept remarking to my family about how good it was. I do wish, however, that the characters had been developed a bit more fully. I would still, however, recommend this book to everyone.
Next Book: Scaramouch

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book # 2: The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera; by Gaston Leroux 

     The second completed book for my summer challenge! I have also read this one before, but, in my defense, it was an abridged version, and it was a long time ago. Still, for the sake of fairness, I won’t do my retro-active reviews (because what purpose do they really serve, other than to tell me the things that I wished I had known about a book before I read it?). Instead, I shall babble as before – only much shorter.

     I really enjoy French authors. I’m not a huge Francophile, but they do write excellent literature! Gaston Leroux wrote a great book. It was cleverly told, as if it were a historical discovery, and mixed in rael people and events with the fictitious account of the disfigured phantom and the little soprano Christine Daae. The book, admittedly, was a bit creepy in some parts, but that was balanced out by the humor really well. The managers of the theater were most amusing! I also really enjoyed the way that Leroux would tell one part of the story, and would then double back to tell it again from a completely different point of view, and would thus fill in holes in the narrative!

     The Persian was my favorite character, by far. I wish that he had been included in the movie. I wasn’t a huge Raoul fan. He was just really whiney and he cried all the time! Just take the girl away from the opera house!!!!!!!!!!! No one can hurt you in the day time!!!!!!!!!!!!! But anyways, the whole Christine and Raoul romance wasn’t that exciting. I kind of wish that the whole book had been about the phantom before he came to Paris. His life sounded pretty exciting back then…

     Anyways, it was an excellent book. I couldn’t put it down. This post seems a bit abrupt and I must confess that I do feel the need to supplement it with something, so here’s a video of Antonio Banderas singing the Phantom of the Opera: 

Next Book: The Black Arrow

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book #1: Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones

     Ok, the first book that I’ve successfully completed for this year’s summer challenge is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I’ll freely admit, this is not the first time that I’ve read this book (but that was never a part of the rules :P), or even the second, or even the third. In all honesty the number of times that I’ve read this book borders more on the side of twenty than it does ten. It is, in fact, my most favorite book. ever. in the world. period. I could try and review it, but it would be horribly biased, because I think that it’s wonderful. So, instead, I’ll just chat about what I like about it, and fill this with random quotes and pictures from the movie. 

     The story centers around one, Sophie Hatter, from the small town of Market Chipping, in the magical land of Ingary. Sophie is the unfortunate eldest of three (for as anyone can tell you, an eldest of three will never do anything exciting, and will never make her fortune) and is resigned to her fate of taking over her family’s hat shop while grooming her two younger sisters to set out and seek their fortunes. As luck would have it, Sophie has a nasty run-in with the witch of the waste and comes off the worse, having been cursed. Now, instead of the youthful, if not a bit dull, girl that Sophie was, she’s now an old woman! As a result of her curse Sophie sees no other course than to strike off on her own and try and remove it, and, as luck would grant her further, she runs into none other than the Horrible Wizard Howl, known to be just as bad as the witch of the waste! Hilarity ensues as Sophie now tries to break, not only her own curse, but Howl’s as well. :D

Sophie Hatter
     I really liked Sophie. She starts out kind of dull and uninteresting, but becomes a feisty sort of person. I also see a little bit of myself in her, which is always enjoyable.

Quotes from/about Sophie:

“Yes, you are nosey. You’re a dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman.
 Control yourself. You're victimizing us all."    -- Howl

“I make that four horses and ten men just to get rid of one old woman... 

What did you do to the King?” -- Howl

“It is quite a risk to spank a wizard for getting hysterical about his hair.”-- Sophie

             “By now it was clear that Howl was in a mood to produce green slime any second. 

Sophie hurriedly put her sewing away. "I'll make some hot buttered toast," she said. 

"Is that all you can do in the face of tragedy?" Howl asked. "Make toast?” 

The castle is really cool too. It looks huge, and also like it's going to fall apart as it rumbles around (but of course it won't). The neat thing is that it's really in four different places at once! In one place it's roaming around the hills near Sophie's town, it's also a disused stable in the capital of Inagry, and it's a little house in a place called Porthaven. The fourth place is secret ;) The inside of the castle is very small, having only four rooms, which, of course, makes it much easier for Sophie to clean!

The Castle around Market Chipping

The Street in Kingsbury

The door that opens to different places depending on what color is turned up! 

And then, there was Howl!

Howl is my favorite part of the books. I don't think I could describe him as well as the author, so here's Sophie's description as found in another book, Castle in the Air: 

“Tell me about this Wizard Howl of yours."

"He's the best wizard in Ingary, or anywhere else. If he'd only had time he would have defeated that djinn. And he's sly and selfish and vain as a peacock and cowardly, and you can't pin him down to anything."

"Indeed? Strange that you should speak so proudly such a list of vices, most loving of ladies."

"What do you mean vices? I was just describing Howl. He comes from another world entirely, you know, called Wales."

And there you have, that's Howl, in all of his beautiful, childish vain-glory!

Howl before and after his hair gets dyed.
Quotes from.about Howl:

“For a plain man with mud-colored hair, he’s terribly vain about his looks.” – Calicifer

                “Look. Survey. Inspect. My hair is ruined! I look like a pan of bacon and eggs!”

            “I see no point in living if I can’t be beautiful!”

            “You must admit, I have the right to live in a pigsty if I want.”

            “I’m dying of boredom… or maybe just dying”

            “I feel ill," [Howl] announced. "I'm going to bed, where I may die.” 

             “I''m delirious. Spots are crawling before my eyes."
            "Those are spiders.”

Another great thing about the book, beside the humor, is the way it folded in things from this world into the fantasy land.
GO and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root,
Tell me where all past years are,
Or who cleft the devil's foot,
Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
Or to keep off envy's stinging,
            And find
            What wind
Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,
Things invisible to see,
Ride ten thousand days and nights,
Till age snow white hairs on thee,
Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,
All strange wonders that befell thee,
            And swear,
            No where
Lives a woman true and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,
Such a pilgrimage were sweet;
Yet do not, I would not go,
Though at next door we might meet,
Though she were true, when you met her,
And last, till you write your letter,
            Yet she
            Will be
False, ere I come, to two, or three.
-- John Donne
This poem was the curse that the Witch of the Waste placed on Howl. As each of the impossible things was fulfilled she could come closer and closer to putting her hand on him. This also, happens to be my favorite poem, written by my favorite poet!
There were also several Tolkien and Shakespeare references, and a reference to the illustrious Welsh drinking/Rugby song sosban fach. 

All in all, it's a fantastic book, and I love it a lot. (for more conservative people wishing to read things, this book MAY not be for you. It is a children's book, but it is magical. There are witches and wizards in Ingary, and there are demons that serve some of them. It may be noted, however, that demons, and devils are differentiated. Demons are actually falling stars that are just called demons by people who don't know any better. 'Devils', so-called, are not really commented upon. Be ye warned, though, just in case.). It's my favorite, and I would most heartily suggest it to all the people of the world!!!!!! 

** All pictures are from the Hayo Miazaki film of the same name. It is also an excellent film, but is only VERY loosely associated with the plot of the book. 

Next Book: The Phantom of the Opera

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Summer Challenge

Summer. A time resplendent with endless possibilities and many empty days, just waiting to be filled. So, what better way to fill them than with reading? College makes it hard to read for pleasure and my list of books that I ought to read in my life has grown quite long. So, the challenge: I want to read as many books as I possibly can this summer! I'm setting my goal at thirty. This seems reasonable and I have every hope that I should exceed it. I'll record my progress here, and blog about each book that I read. In order to manage this I'll need to finish a little more than two books a week. Here goes nothing!

Book Number One: Howl's Moving Castle Diana Wynne Jones

Friday, May 11, 2012

Geeking Out

So, I can hardly convey to the reader through the cold hard words of this internet post the depth of my excitement right now. Here's random picture that I found to express my feelings.

I just found out today that my FREAKING HERO is coming to work at the university that I attend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111!!!1!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I CAN"T BELIEVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nancy Pearcey, the woman whose writing got me through some incredibly rough patches in both my childhood and my life is coming to work at my school and I'LL FINALLY GET TO MEET HER!!!!!!!!!!! It was her book, Total Truth that first got me interested in Philosophy and Worldview Apologetics and I can never repay her for that. I have no idea what I would be right now if I had never read that book! It answered so many important questions that I had about my faith, and taught me that God does not want us to keep our faith and reason separate. I literally started crying when I found out :D

Her works are excellent. If you haven't heard of her I highly encourage you to look her up. No, seriously. Her coming here is about the equivalent to C.S. Lewis or Tolkien coming. MOMENTOUS! I CAN"T EVEN WRITE COHERENTLY ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Come children and celebrate with me!!!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Beautiful People - Joulrai

I saw this on a friend's blog, and I though I'd take a break from studying to try it out. I figure that it's a fun way to flesh out some characters that I have floating around in my head. I'd like to introduce everyone to my character Joulrai of Legendary Fame (because obviously if a person becomes legendary a lot of people will name their children after him, and a few more famous people will inevitably share his name). Joulrai becomes the second king of a united Kelmair (the mythical world that I have created. I'll probably post some on that at a later date) and is famous for the adventures that he went on with the first great king - Alekshua - during his five year exile. I don't really have a picture of him, because he's mostly not human. I could draw one I suppose, but not right now. To the questions then!

1. What is their favorite type of shoe?
Joul is incredibly vain. He, of course, being a man, wants his shoes to be practical, but they also better look better than everyone else's. He likes gold filigree designs and boots that go higher on the leg. They protect his legs from harm and they look fantastic.
2. Do they journal?
He doesn't need to, he has other people writing down everything he's ever done. It's one of the perks of being a king. He's not big in to feelings, though. He would certainly never write down his feelings. That's not manly at all!
3. What's their favorite animal?
I haven't really created animals yet. I'm sure that Joul has some kind of red panda/lemur looking thing that sits on his shoulder and does funny things.
4. What does their average day look like?
There is no average day in the life of a king, but mostly they involve paperwork, meetings, and traveling to different parts of the kingdom. Also no adventure. Thrilling :<
5. Night owl, or morning person? (Optional: What time do they normally wake up, and go to bed?)
Night Owl. If he had his way he would wake up in the late afternoon and go to sleep in the early morning. Since he does not have his way he is forced to wake up at abominable hours and is not allowed to sleep until late.
6. Do they have a sweet tooth?
Not really, at all.
7. What colors are their bedroom?
The walls don't really have any color (paint doesn't really exist to be put on people's walls), but it is filled with incredibly ornate tapestries and bed hangings. Blue is everywhere and silver and gold.
8. Can they cook?
Surprisingly, yes. Spending fives years on the road in exile will teach one an incredible range of skills. He cannot cook very well, however, and is mostly limited to skinning and roasting small game on a spit, unseasoned. Whatever works.
9. What is their favorite household chore?
Chores? What are those? We have people for those. (It may be said that he does groom his own horse, but that's not a chore. his horse is his friend).
10. Favorite kind of tea?
Tea doesn't exist here, but booze still does. He enjoys hard liquor when he can get it. People in court care way too much about their monarch's image, but he happens to believe that he in incredibly charming when intoxicated.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hard Times Review

Summary: The small, industrial town of Coketown revolves around facts. School children are taught nothing but facts. The Hands who work in the factories are faced only with reality. Those who live in the town are not allowed to care for anything imaginative, fanciful, or wonderful (they aren't even allowed to wonder at all!). Day after day the residents of Coketown are faced with nothing but, hard cold, brute fact. Thomas Gradgrind, the schoolmaster of the town is especially fond of facts and, in his good natured way, applied his fact centered philosophy to the children of Coketown and to his own children. Hard Times follows the lives of the Gradgrinds as they live their lives in a world without any notion of fantasy, wonder, love, or hope.

Spiritual Content: 9/10
As you might expect from a town concerned only with facts, spiritual matters are sorely neglected. This, however, is not praised as one might expect with a lot of Victorian literature, but the residents of Coketown are presented as being tragically deficient in one of the most important areas of life. In other news, a character is referred to as an angel and there are several churches mentioned. Christianity, however, plays no overt role, but it's clear that Dickens is playing with Christian ideas and philosophy in the work. 

Sexual Content: 9/10
There's really nothing to terrible here. There is one character who attempts to convince another to engage in an extra-marital affair with him, but the woman refuses. Another man, though married, is in love with another woman, but cannot afford a divorce. he does not act upon his feelings, but maintains a close friendship with the woman whom he loves (it may also be noted that the woman he is married to is a drunken prostitueish type person)

Plot: 8/10
This was a good story. The beginning was hard to get in to (which I think may have been the point), but it picked up near the middle, and by the end was hard to put down (I finished in one day). It also had an immensely satisfying ending.

Style: 7/10
Overall the style was good, but some important parts were difficult to understand. A few characters has poor country accents which were hard to read at first, but got easier as the book went on. Another important character has a lisp and a cockney accent. Those parts were nearly impossible to read. I had to do it out loud and substitute th's for s's. Even then, I'm not sure I got everything that he was trying to say. Also, the last several paragraphs of the book were written in a strange rhetorical style that made it difficult to understand what was going on. Most of the book was just fine, though.

Character: 9/10
The characters were excellent. They were thoroughly unlikable at the beginning (with several exceptions) and by the end the main subjects of the book - Louisa and Mr. Gradgrind - had grown and matured wonderfully. The bad characters remained unlikable, of course. I really enjoyed watching the characters grow and discover what was making their lives miserable and have to mature and face the problems that they had created for themselves.

Theme: 10/10
Hard Times explored one of my favorite themes in literature - the necessity of a balanced existence. You can't just feed the mind and starve the soul and you can't just feed the soul and starve the mind. In order to be a whole person you have to feed both. This is one of the most important lessons for Christians. Our God made us physical and spiritual beings. He calls us both the reason with Him, and to fill ourselves with living water. The message of this book can be paralleled with the Christian faith quite nicely. The Gradgrinds were in a fallen spiritual state. They chose to feed their minds and rationality, but to starve their souls and imaginations. This destroyed them completely. It was only through a recognition of their desperate need for spiritual things that they began to heal and become whole persons! Loves it.

Overall Conclusion: 8.5/10
This was a really good book. Sometimes Dickens can get a little tedious, and there were some parts of this book that made me want to set myself on fire, but overall it was excellent. Well worth the hard parts. I also liked that it wasn't really a social issues book (like I thought it would be), as it was a picture of what humanity ought to look like. I would definitely read this book again, and I encourage others to read it as well.