Thursday, July 10, 2014

Eleven More Days 'Til Oxford!


This maybe isn't as exciting as ten more days, or one more day, but I'm finding it hard to be patient. Yes my friends, I have eleven more days before I leave the country of my birth for the first time ever in my whole life! So basically I'm just super excited.

    I mean, the leaving will be exciting, guys, I have been ready to pack my bags for the past month and a half. The leading up to leaving and bag packing, however, has been the opposite of fun. Let me tell y'all, if you ever want to leave the country and have a wonderful time, maybe don't do it as a two week Summer class. Because my professor assigned nine books for us to read - nine. Ok, that's fine, I've had all summer to read them. And also we have to have several discussions questions per book before classes start - great, I don't mind. Oh, and also eight five page essays, the rough drafts of which are also due before class starts - wait what? Didn't get the prompts until halfway through last week, so I've been frantically trying to balance work, getting last minute travel things taken care of, and all of these essays. Eep! It's been a nightmare. I have three done, and four more days to knock out the rest of them.

     But, on the bright side this trip, and its fourteen hour plane ride, is an excuse for me to start a new cross stitching project! It's one of an Old World Map, you know, the kind with sea monsters and pictures of exotic native and all that (except instead of sea monsters there are dolphins and turtles, but hey, you can't have everything).  Kind of like this:
But with cross stitch. So I'm pretty excited to do that. And once we get there I'm determined to have a good time (which, I imagine, will not be very difficult). We got our official itinerary and I'm super excited. I'm especially excited to see Julius Caesar at the Globe theater. I've heard that when Shakespeare put it on, the actor who played Caesar would have a pigs bladder filled with fake blood, and when he was stabbed he would spray it on the audience. I'm pretty much counting on that still happening today. We also get to go to the British Museum, and I was looking at their website and I had no idea all of the amazing things they had there! I knew about the Elgin Marbles, so of course I'll go see those, but they also have an amazing astrolabe, Easter Island heads, and, oh yeah, the freaking Rosetta Stone! Whaaa??? Super excited. 

     We also get to go and do super British things like take high tea with English nobility (I forget who, probably the Queen). I'll get a chance to put all my hard work to use. I never used to like tea before, but as soon as I heard about this trip I made myself develop a taste for it. I have mastered the art of black English tea. Bwahahaha. Now I too can be incredibly sophisticated. And I'll get to eat English food - which I'm not actually that thrilled about, because they eat some freakish things - but I do like Shepard's pie, so there's that. 

This my friends is an English delicacy called stargazy pie. They also eat eels they fish from the Thames.

     Anyways, all that just to say, I still have more than a week until I leave, but I'm getting pretty darn impatient. I guess I'll write those miserable essays to while the time away. Three down, five more to go.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beautiful People - July 2014

So, for this month's Beautiful People I thought I'd do one that holds a special place in my heart - Adhara. Adhara is a twenty-six year old philologist, child prodigy, and over-all unpleasant human being. I love her. She also happens to be the host on whom Marfik, from June's edition, attaches himself. She is an INTJ and a sort of cold, brash intellectual. Her Enneagram Type is 5 and she probably fluctuates between a level 6 and 7. And yeah, on to the questions!

1) What’s their favourite food? (Bonus: favourite flavor of chocolate!) 

Adhara’s favorite food is sweet buns, like they sell at festivals. They’re easy to munch on while you walk around and look at all the interesting merchant stalls and exhibitions. Plus, they taste awesome. As for chocolate, they don’t have that where she lives – but if they did I’m pretty sure she’d be a dark chocolate kind of girl.

2) What do they absolutely hate? 

She hates getting wet (She’s not one to go and play out in the rain). She also hates overly emotional people and sentimentality. And having the endings of books spoiled for her.

3) What do they enjoy learning about? 

She really, really, really loves myth and history. She doesn’t really see them as being that different and will often confuse the two, speaking authoritatively on how the real power behind the Sa’d al Bahri dynasty was a menacing water spirit, or casually mentioning the morning routines of demi-gods in academic conversations.

However, she loves learning about languages the best. She loves seeing the way words come together, and the different ways people say things allow them to think differently as well. She’s rather adept at learning languages, and prefers to master the dead one (for purely pretentious reasons). She’s currently the youngest expert in ancient tongues and curses at the relatively inexperienced age of twenty-six.

4) Who is the most influential person in their life? 

The most influential person in her life was her first tutor (Who does not have a name at this time). He was the language expert at the Scholar’s Guild where she was raised, and he taught her to love philology. He was also just generally a nice person who would put up with her arrogant attitude without encouraging it (Hey, it’s not easy being a child prodigy).

5) What is their childhood fear? 

She was (and still is to a certain, and more metaphysical extent) afraid of  the dark.

6) What is something they have always secretly dreamed of doing, but thought impossible? 

She would love to illuminate a manuscript. She (secretly) thinks that the artists who bring manuscripts to life are just the coolest people ever. She works so hard translating things she’d love to illustrate them too. Alas, she realizes that she is terrible at drawing and that she would ruin anything she tried to take a hand to. She’s not even allowed to write the manuscripts, just translate them, and someone else, with better handwriting, will write them down.

7) What is something he is impractically afraid of? 

Well, I mean, most fears are, on some level, irrational. But I would probably go with public speaking. She’s an incredibly blunt person who’s not afraid to speak her mind in academic arguments and debates, but if you put her up in front of a whole bunch of people, she just can’t do it (well, she can, but she doesn’t want to).

8) Are they a night owl or morning person? 

She’s a night owl. She stays up until ungodly hours working and sleeps well past any decent hour.

9) Do they say everything that pops into their head, or leave a lot unsaid? 

She leaves most things unsaid. She’s not a particularly kind person, but she’s also smart enough to know that people don’t respond well to her unfiltered opinions. She tends to put up a false front – her people face – when dealing with strangers and acquaintances. However, with the very (very) few people she feels comfortable with, she’ll usually speak her mind (which is probably not for the best).

10) What are their nervous habits?

She chews her thumb nail and furrows her brow and things like that. She’ll also chew the inside of her lip – so chewing things. She’ll also become even more unpleasant and snap at most people around her.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth

Happy Independence Day, Y'all!

Enjoy your freedom my friends.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Recommendation: The Book of Three

     I'm a huge fan of fantasy - I always have been. I'm also a huge fan of Disney, and there's nothing better than finding out that a Disney movie you enjoy (The Black Cauldron) is also based on a fantasy classic (Well, actually two, it's loosely based on The Book of Three and the second book in the series The Black Cauldron). So I scuttled over to the nearest library and checked out the audio book (because dang it, I'm taking a summer class and I have NINE books I'm supposed to read for that, but I'll listen to whatever I please when I'm driving to and from work). Again, my luck with audio-books holds (not counting my brief encounter with Doctor Zhivago). 

     The Book of Three is the first of a five book series by Lloyd Alexander called The Chronicles of Prydain. Please enjoy a brief summary of its contents (lifted directly from the back cover): "Taran is bored with his Assistant Pig-Keeper duties, even though his charge is none other than Hen-Wen, Prydain's only oracular pig. He's rather be doing something more heroic, like making swords and learning to use them. When Hen-Wen escapes and Taran goes after her, he finds himself farther from home than he's ever been. Soon he begins to realize that heroism is no easy task. With the dreaded Horned King of he loose and King Arawn gathering the forces of evil, Taran must look past his own dreams to warn the population of Prydain - before it's too late."

     It's a generally accepted fact that all fantasy written after 1955 must inevitably be compared to The Lord of the Rings, so let's just get that comparison out of the way. Is it as good as LOTR? No. Do some parts kind of feel like LOTR? yes. However, this books was published in '64, when Tolkien's influence wasn't quite so pervasive, so any similarities largely stem from the fact that Tolkien and Alexander were both influenced (to varying extents) by Welsh mythology. Lloyd Alexander's books stand on their own in terms of quality. The Book of Three doesn't have the sort of epic scope that Tolkien achieves, on the other hand it's not trying to. What it's trying to be is just a good High Fantasy novel, and it is.

     So, if you are a fan of fantasy, and/or good books, this is a great one to read. The characters were what really sold this story for me. The plot kind of rambles a bit, but the characters are just so well-drawn that you are perfectly content to ramble about with them. Taran is a fantastic hero. He's very young in this book (I think about thirteen or fourteen), and Lloyd Alexander manages to capture really well what it would be like for a fourteen-year old kid to suddenly find himself on an adventure of this sort. He makes mistakes, comes to realize that being a hero is a lot harder and less glamorous than it sounds, and has to wholly rely on the help of his friends. The ending does have kind of a LOTR feel to it (in more of a thematic sense than an event sense), which I really enjoyed. The cast of supporting characters were what really did it for me though. Princess Elonwy is hilarious. She's exactly what I've always wanted from a female character. She's feminine, but also really well developed. She's feisty but also kind, and has a very peculiar way of speaking that I thought was great. She's practical, but also 14 herself (I'm making that up, I have no idea how old they are exactly) and not that great at everything she tries her hand at. And also, Doli the dwarf, and Fflewddur Flam, and Gurgi are all my favorites. I would go on about them, but it would take pages, and you should just read and experience them for yourself. 

     I'm so glad I found this series, and each book is better than the last. It's been a long time since I found books that were so captivating. I actually want to drive places now so I can find out what happens next (which if you know me is a big deal). It's well written, with engaging characters, and a rich mythology of its own. On another note, I know that the book is always better than the movie, but after reading these, and going back to watch the Disney film I couldn't help but feel a little sad. I just couldn't enjoy it anymore, the book was just 8 million and ten times better. Do yourself a favor and get a hold of this seriously underrated fantasy series.

***Note*** I know some people are a bit hesitant when it comes to fantasy books because of magic. For a fantasy series I can honestly say this doesn't have much magic, and what magic it does have is the kind you would find in Arthurian legend. There's a pig who can see the future, a minor character is a sort of Merlin-esque figure. There are evil enchantresses (who never actually do any magic funnily enough), and things like that (and monsters called the cauldron born who are basically warrior zombies, but we don't like them, and they're unequivocally evil). If you're ok with King Arthur, then these books shouldn't be a problem.