Monday, January 19, 2015

Back to School

Tomorrow marks the first day of my last semester as a college student!!!! It's weird to look back over the last four years and think, at this point my senior year if high school I had never even heard of the university I ended up attending. And even after I applied, I didn't really want to go here. And here I am, about to start my last semester at an institution I have grown to love immensely, and that has shaped me in ways I couldn't have imagined four years ago. I'm so excited to have made it this far, and I'm super excited for all if the amazing opportunities I'm getting this upcoming semester!

First off, I'd just like to say I've worked so hard and have finally achieved my life's ambition: I'm getting to have a 12 hour semester!!!!!! Yes! You wouldn't think one class either way would make much of a difference, but it does. No more 18 hour course loads for me, thank you very much! Aaaaaand, two of my four classes are relatively easy: Classical Mythology (so fun), Advanced Grammar and Rhetoric (may be jumping the gun on this one)! My Independent Study and Medieval Lit classes won't be easy, but I love the professors who teach them, so I'm really execited! 

I'm also getting to do some amazing non-academic (still kind of academic things). I'm getting to do teaching observation at a private school in the area, I get to be the first ever TA at my university (and I even get to teach two classes!!!), i get to be literarure editor for the school paper, and I still get to do tutoring, which I love. 

In all there's a lot to look forward to in my last semester of undergrad. I've had a wonderful collegiate experience, and I'm grateful for all the people who helped make it that way. I can't wait to finish out this chapter in my life and start on the next one (which will hopefully involve employment and cats). 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Austin Day Two

Today for the first time I explored my very own state capital! I have to say, Austin is one of the most bizarre places I've ever been. Like, the people here really are as strange as the stereotype suggests. At the risk of being cliche, I've just gotta say: Austin is weird.

My friend and I are enjoying the last part of our break/ babysitting for her parents, so we took her little brothers downtown with us. First we stopped off at a Barnes and Noble since the little boys had gift cards. Although I usually don't buy things from B&N I just had to this time. There was an eight dollar collection of penny dreadfuls that includes the Sweeney Todd novel. So basically that book needed to join my library!!!! 
Isn't it glorious? 

Next we ate at a joint called Hut's Hamburgers, which did speciality hamburgers. Mine had sour cream in it, which wasn't dreadful, but I think I prefer ketchup and mustard! 

After that we wandered around the famous South Congress Boulevard. There were some interesting shops around there. There was a neat rare book shop. Sadly, nothing there caught my eye/ was affordable. Next we went to this giant odds and ends store ( I don't remember what it was called but it had a giant cowboy riding a rabbit on the sign. That was an experience. We hadn't even been there thirty seconds when I saved one of the little boys from accidentally picking up a set of very large, very adult, playing cards....... O.0 Thankfully the rest of the store had no objectionable knock knacks, and it was fun to poke around at all of the bizarre things.

Later today my friend and I stopped by the Disney store at the mall because we decides that we just couldn't live with out..... Tsum Tsums!!!!! That's right, I have the taste of an American five year old and also a Japanese school girl. But they're so cute!!!!!!!! I also found this super amazing Maleficent mug/goblet. Look at my prizes:
Look! I got pooh, Mickey, Donald. And Dumbo!!!!!!! And my mug even has the raven diablo on it!!!! 
I think the last of my Christmas money was well spent :)

Anyways, next the two of us are going to watch a Very Potter Sequel, and then, home tomorrow! See you then!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Day in Austin and Tsum Tsums

I'm in Austin right today(having tons of fun applying for jobs, hanging out, and playing board games), so I don't have much of a post, but I thought I'd do a shout/ product placement piece.

Have you guys seen Tsum Tsums? They are the super precious new Disney product that look like pillow pets but aren't.
These things are super adorable. They were kind of on my radar today, but my friend's mom went to Disney and sent us pictures of these things. They are so cute, I don't think you understand. 

I don't really have anything to say other than that. I'm going to downtown Austin tomorrow, so I'll probably post about that. Hope you're all enjoying your Friday!

I'm not obsessed. You're obsessed.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oxford Trip Pt. 2: Explorations and Revelations

     So, if you'll recall, the last time I left you in jolly old England I was literally dying. I had Jet Lag something fierce. The picture directly above comes from the ill fated first afternoon brunch restaurant, but I can tell you literally nothing about the place. I don't even remember what it was called. But, all that just to say, I did survive my first day in a foreign country (miserable though it was). The next day started with much of the same: obscene tiredness, vomiting, wishing I were anywhere else. But it got better.

Day two I was forced to do things like attend a lecture and a class discussion. I also can't remember much of those. I remember saying things when we were discussing That Hideous Strength, but I don;t remember what I said... it was probably brilliant. We also heard a professor named Michael Ward talk about Lewis, which apparently I thought was super interesting since I bought his book later that day (it's a really good book tbh). My memory starts to come back around lunch time. We went to the famous Eagle and Child pub, frequented by the Inklings! I still wasn't feeling up to much so I only ate a salad (which I still regret b/c pub food is delicious). But the atmosphere was great, and it was nice to be coming out of a jet lagged stupor. 

This is me looking like a vampire, a pale sickly vampire. Also some boys in the pub.

     After lunch we were free to pretty much do what we wanted, and I wasn't keen to shut myself back in my room when I was finally feeling a bit better, so I went exploring with a couple of friends. Let me just say, Oxford is beautiful city. There are so many amazing shops, and the bookstores. Oh my word the bookstores. Let me live and die in a college town. We stopped in at Waterstones (basically British Barnes and Noble) and I was super impressed. They had a cafe where I ordered a quiche. They made me a quiche! Also, the bottled water there comes in a glass bottle. Glass bottles, I tell you. So fancy! I finally ate food, and we explored the books. We found this winner:

It was just as horrific as it looked :p I also picked up a copy of Michael Ward's book Planet Narnia which purports to show that Lewis wrote each Narnia book with a different planet in mind. After wandering the streets of Oxford we found a really pretty spot on a river and we sat there for a bit. We even ran into some cure ducklings! 


So cute :)
   Later on we took an official tour of the city. The architecture is stunning. It's interesting how many layers there are to this place. Centuries are piled on top of one another in ways they aren't here. 

Look at those gates we weren't allowed to walk trough.

     Look at the flowers on these doors. I literally have dozens of pictures of the sides of walls and things, but I won't just dump them here on everyone :p The next day was a museum day. Oxford has a bunch of really neat museums. First we went to the Ashmolean. There was tons f interesting things there. We also went to the Museum of Natural Science, which had a bunch of cool skeletons and minerals, but was super duper hot. It had a glass rood, see, so it was basically like a greenhouse. My friends and I ended up taking refuge in the Pitts River Museum which is underground and attached. It's filled with, like, shrunken heads and stuff.  Somehow we lost one of our friends in there, which is hard to do because both museums are tiny. So we spent like an hour looking for her until we were just like 'eh. whatever.' and left her to fend for herself (she was fine). 

     All of that was fun, but the best parts were really just wandering around. A large group of us found a really eat ice cream shop that had some amazing flavors (they had butterbeer flavored ice cream guys, butterbeer), then we all wandered and ate it outside of a scenic graveyard (where my friend cut her foot and neglected to disinfect the cut, but more on that later). Oxford is an amazing place to be, with some really interesting things to do. It's an amazing experience to be able to go somewhere and live there (however briefly) and then maintain a weird sort of connection to that place. I saw a photo-set recently of pictures of Oxford streets, and it was amazing to be able to say 'Hey, I know where that is! I've been there! I ate there! Oh my gosh, I've lived a part of my life in this place!' And that's really the thing that stuck out to me most these first few days there. 

The Ashmolean

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Post

As a self proclaimed bibliophile, I've realized that I haven't actually made that many book posts on this blog. I've done things like book reviews, but I haven't made very many book appreciation posts. Also as a self proclaimed bibliophile I've decided that this cannot continue. I present now to you a masterwork I call crapy iPhone pictures of my books. Enjoy!
Here you can see my Tolkien shelf, which I find to be a perfectly lovely bookshelf. It is filled with rainbow colored paperbacks, and my super fancy editions of his main works. You can also see a tea cup I could find a place for, and an old knife (?) thing from world war 1 that is clearly Sting. 
These are the shelves that hold my classics. They are mostly paper backs, because as if right now that's all I can afford. But I think they're pretty. They're kept company by the Cinderella cross stitch I did, housed in the most ostentatious frame I could find, and my Batman shrine upon which I sacrifice small insects daily.
  Here is a rare view of the top of my desk and the books that (don't really) adorn it. Aren't thy lovely. Oh, what is that? Is that an example of what it looks like when I mark my books with the beautiful ex libris stamp I got for my birthday?
Yes. Yes it is. Isn't it beautiful? It has my name, and a knight, and a lady in a pretty dress, and trees. I love it, and now if anyone borrows my books ever again they will know whose book they stole when they inevitably don't return it. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fantastic News

I don't know how many of you have read Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn or seen the Rankin Bass movie, but if you haven't done either I highly recommend them. The Last Unicorn tells the story of a unicorn who may or may not be the last one. She goes on a journey to discover the whereabouts of the rest of her kind, befriends a failed magician, a tired renegade, becomes and human and falls in love with a prince. The novel is funny and engaging, and the film is absolutely beautiful.

 I really cannot tell you how beautiful this movie is. And it's even a good movie, unlike some things I've reviewed on here

The great new is, this movie is coming, with the author of the book, to Houston!!! The Last Unicorn has a screening tour! I'm so excited. I have no idea when tickets are going on sale, but you can bet I'll be one of the first in line for them. I adored this book, and I'm super excited to see the movie in an actual theater! Ah! April can't come fast enough! :) Yay!!!!

In other news, I also get to spend the last few days of break in Austin with a friend, so that will be fun! The last time I was in Austin it was on a class field trip to see the capital, which was fun, I guess, But it will be better this time. I'll get to explore downtown with a native. See, sometimes real life can be exciting. Not as exciting as a movie screening and book signing in April, but still :)

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Labyrinth Review

This is a pseudo-review for the 1986 movie The Labyrinth. I cannot do an unbiased review of this movie, so just keep that in mind :)

    Sarah is spoiled, bratty, imaginative girl stuck in a fairy tale world. She is cursed with a step-mother who loves her, and is cruelly forced to care for her baby half-brother for a few hours once a week (if it doesn't interfere with her plans). With such an unfair life, it's no surprise that that Sarah fantasizes about the Goblin King, who is horribly in love with her, taking her brother away forever. One night, after her brother has stopped crying, she can take it no longer! She cries out that she wishes the Goblin King would take little Toby away.... and he does! Sarah finds this immensely surprising, but, filled with regret, she is allowed to enter the Goblin King's Labyrinth, and is given thirteen hours to get to the castle in the center and save her brother. She embarks on a fairy tale adventure filled with confusing twists and turns, glitter, David Bowie songs, and tons of Jim Henson puppets. 

Spiritual Content: n/a
     There really isn't any. This is actually one of the only real fairy tale movies I've ever seen outside of Disney. There are goblins, and fairy tale magic, and tons of glitter. That's about it. 

Violence: n/a
    Again, not much here. There's a sort of battle, but it's a muppet battle. This is ostensibly a children's movie.

Sexual Content: lolz
Well, there isn't anything explicit. There isn't even any kissing. Although David Bowie does wear some very... ahem... tight pants. 

Plot: 4/10
Ok, this is my great effort to be unbiased. Is it a good story? Eeh... Not exactly? No, not really. Ok, I said it, but can I just also say ohmygoshIlovethismoviesomuch! One, it's a real fairy tale. I didn't have a two. But it is a real fairy tale. There's faerie magic that isn't exactly good or bad, but that's really tricky. The film actually has so incredibly clever moments! Morally it can be a bit heavy handed at times, but the story is rather simple and straightforward, even if it's a bit stupid at times. I love it. I realize that was not a great defense of the story. I'm moving on now. 

Character: 7/10
I love these characters so much. Sarah is the biggest whiny baby in the world. She really is. Her catchphrase is, and I quote, "It's not fair." Which is not really true, in the real world anyways. She has a point when she's in the Goblin city, but that's kind of the moral lesson of the film. Sarah goes through a pretty good transformation. She transforms from a childish spoiled brat, to a nicer, friendlier girl who learns that life isn't fair, and to get over it.

But best of all, is the Goblin King himself (A.K.A. Jareth, A.K.A. David Bowie). He is just a great, glittery, musical force within the film. I can't even explain how majestic he is. He's supposed to be in love with Sarah (I guess?), but he mostly just irritates the crap out of her, calls her out for being a spoiled brat, and generally has fun ruining everything for everyone. He's fantastic. 

There are other characters, played primarily by puppets, which are great, but they're hard to explain. You have to watch the film to get a good sense of character like Hoggle and Ludo, and the rest of the crazy muppet creations that inhabit this Alice in Wonderland kind of world. The puppets themselves, (just on aesthetic note) are fabulous. 

Theme: 3/10
Life isn't fair, but that's just the way it is. BOOM. Theme right there (and that is a direct quote). 

Overall Conclusion: 9.5/10
"What?" You ask, "How can this movie get an almost perfect overall score given the scores--"
This movie is almost perfect. It is. It is probably carried solely on the grounds that it is beautiful. 
Look at how beautiful that is. Look. I swear, there is glitter literally everywhere in this movie. It covers tree stumps, rocks, the ground, David Bowie, everything. I wouldn't be surprised if that's where, like 90% of their budget went, glitter, and those crystal balls that David Bowie flooshed around with his hands. Jim Henson captured the sort of dark glamour fairy tale aesthetic perfectly. And, I mean, capturing and aesthetic can be a big deal. If you combine that with some good characters, I don't care how crappy your plot is, you will have a movie people will love. And people do. This is a great cult classic movie. If you choose to watch it, don't expect it to be a fabulous movie, because it isn't. But if you are content to let yourself be swept away by an 80's glam rock fairy tale, then this is the movie for you.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Literary Magic: Mythology

One of the more controversial uses of literary magic is the magic found in myths. It's more than just faeries and monsters, myths have gods and demons and supernatural powers. Surely reading and studying myths could stray very quickly into the realm to the idolatrous and blasphemous. And, while I suppose any unhealthy obsession cavorts into the realm of the idolatrous I would argue that reading, studying, and enjoying myths is not a bad thing. 

I have two reasons for thinking that mythology is not particularly dangerous for the modern Christian. The first is relatively simple. Just as modern people tend to scoff at the idea that any one really believed in faeries, so too we tend to scoff at the idea that anyone really believed in gods like Zeus and Thor. It's hard to be trapped or deceived by what was undoubtedly a false religion when you've become culturally convinced that, not only are these stories not true, they're utterly fantastic and impossible.

My second reason for believing that myths are not particularly harmful, and in fact should be read and enjoyd by Christians is a little more complex. I think its important to first establish what a myth is. Myths are widely misunderstood today as being synonymous with a falsehood. in reality a myth is best defined as a spiritual/ significant history of a people. The story of Paul Bunyan is not a myth, but it could be argued that the story of America's founding has become something of a myth (and let me reiterate that the concept of a myth as a falsehood is a very 18th century concept). The story of Rapunzel is not a myth, but the story of Virgil's Aeneid or Homer's Odyssey are.

A myth functions to give a people a spiritual and culturally significant identity. The magic and the monsters within myths are reflections of man's spiritual longings. As Christians do  we believe that the mythologies of other cultures reflect reality as such? No, but I believe that they do reflect an important aspect of man as the image of God. It is ingrained in us as humans to seek spiritual explanations for why things are the way they are. Why are we here? Where did we come from? Where did everything come from? Why do bad things happen? What does it mean to be human? Myths are the creative ways people groups have expressed answers to these questions. They were the pagans way of attempting to articulate answers to spiritual questions. 

C.S. Lewis held that mythologies were the 'good dreams' of the pagans, something akin to general revelation. Any in depth study of a culture's myths should reveal at least a few similarities between the pagan stories and a Christian understanding of the world. Lewis noticed it between the dying and resurrecting gods (Balder and Dionysus) and Christ. In fact, the similarities between some mythic figures and Christ actually made him doubt the validity of Christianity. Wasn't Christianity just another myth? Wasn't Christ just another dying god? Tolkien gave him what I consider to be a brilliant answer: yes and no. Yes, the story of Christ, the gospel itself is a myth (a god who loves man lives among men, dies for them, and rises again), but no, it is not just another myth. It is THE myth, the myth that became fact, the myth that entered history. The spiritual longing that was expressed in pagan myth, the truths that they found and waited for, were fulfilled in Christ (which is, I think, an appropriate thing to remember in the Epiphany season). Pagan myths expressed (in a fallen way) a spiritual longing that God fulfilled.

There is no reason for Christians to not read myth, in fact I think (beyond the literary merit they possess) it is an act of charity and compassion for Christians to read and study both ancient myths (to appreciate the spiritual search of those who came before us) and the myths of those modern people groups who have not yet received the gospel. I am of the opinion 1. That this is given precedent in the Bible itself (Paul obviously knew Greek and Roman mythologies well enough to use them in his gospel presentation in Athens) , and 2. It is one of the best ways to get to know a people group. A culture's myths tell you what they value, what they believe, who they think they are, and where they think they come from. It can allow a person to truly understand and appreciate a person who is culturally foreign, and to find a way to present the gospel that affirms what a culture already knows to be true, affirms what is already good within that culture, and offers answers that the members of a particular culture are actually searching for. 

That turned in to a bit if a sermon, but I think that's important when it comes to myths. Do myths contain depictions of false gods and magic and morals that Christsins find problematic? Naturally. But they are also inherently valuable. They are a sort of mystical summation of a culture's spiritual journey, metaphysics in story. And our God is a God of myth, a God of story, so should we really expect anything less from creatures made in His image?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Beautiful People January 2015

Beautiful People is back again, this time with an author edition! Feel free to read my responses to discover how woeful I am at the craft of writing :)

  1. How many years have you been writing? When did you officially consider yourself a ‘writer’?
I don’t really know. I probably started doing it more in middle school/ freshman year of high school, but I’ve always been writing. Well, actually, I’ve always been world building because it was fun. I went through a poetry phase my Freshman year, and I’m pretty sure that’s when I started actually writing things. I’m not sure I consider myself a ‘writer’ even now. I love writing stories, but it’s more of a hobby than a career path. I’m content to play with stories in my head, maybe write a few of them down and keep them to myself. I have plans for larger works, but I haven’t seriously started on any of them. I prefer planning novels to starting them :p

  1. How/why did you start writing?
I like to build worlds, so it’s fun to make up stories to go with them. I started writing poetry in high school for reasons I have never been able to fathom. I don’t know. I just like to write sometimes.

  1. What’s your favorite part of writing? 
If it isn’t already obvious, it’s the planning/ world building phase. I swear I’ve spent more paper on that stuff than on actually writing the stories themselves. I especially love world building, creating cultures and landscapes and philosophies, etc.  

  1. What’s your biggest writing struggle?
The actual act of writing. I get bored with story lines way too easily. Or I run into complications, and I have to find where they started, which is usually back in the beginning, and by that point I have a billion other ideas that are twenty times more interesting. I do finish some things though, and I’ve recently discovered micro fiction which is super fun to do.

  1. Do you write best at night or day?
Day. I write really horribly at night. I’m a morning person, so I’m best when I have all of my mental powers at my disposal.

  1. What does your writing space look like? (Feel free to show us pictures!)
I write literally anywhere. Actually (and this might sound kind of bad) I do some of my best writing in church or in classes. It’s not that I’m not listening, it’s just that the professor of my pastor probably said something that inspired a story! I also write curled up on my couch, on the floor, in my bed, leaning against my desk, leaning on my bookshelves. Never actually at my desk though. What’s with that?

  1. How long does it typically take you to write a complete draft?
What is this ‘completion’ of which you speak? No, but seriously, when I was in my fiction class I could knock out a third draft of a 15ish page short story in about 12 hours. I did like five drafts of a micro fiction piece in about two hours. I wrote a 72 page (handwritten) story in maybe 12 hours. I’m a pretty fast writer.  

  1. How many projects do you work on at once?
A billion. I have so many beginnings of things that I haven’t given up on yet. It’s ridiculous.

  1. Do you prefer writing happy endings, sad ones, or somewhere in between?
I like happy endings. A professor of mine once said it takes more courage and more skill to write a meaningful comedy than a tragedy, and I agree with that.

  1. List a few authors who’ve influenced your writing journey.
Well, I like fantasy, so I would be lying if I didn’t say Tolkien. But I also admire Diana Wynn Jones, Richard Burton’s story telling style, and the form of Gothic Horror (so writers like Stoker, and le Fanu) and folk/fairy tales (so Anderson, the Grimm Brothers).

  1. Do you let people read your writing? Why or why not?
It depends. I had to let people read the stuff for my fiction class. I also write a Christmas Story for my family every year, so that gets read. Other than that, I’d have to finish something.

  1. What’s your ultimate writing goal or dream?
I’d like to finish a novel. But a really good one. I’d also just like to work on perfecting the things I already like doing, so short stories, to share with my close friends and family. Oh! I have a novella that is a completed first handwritten draft. My goal is to one day put it on the computer!

  1. If you didn’t write, what would you want to do?
I like to do a lot of things. I like to read, and draw, and paint, and watch Netflix. Oh, you meant as a career. I’m trying to find myself a teaching position at the moment. I have no aspirations to be a professional writer. Except maybe essays and research papers, since I am primarily an academic.

  1. Do you have a book you'd like to write one day but don’t feel you’re ready to attempt it yet? 
All of them? Yeah. I have a journal with five pages of one line story ideas. Some of them are stupid, but some look interesting still. I have a fantasy I want to try my hand at, but I’m still in the world building/ planning stage. I have parts of a world, and I have some characters, and I have some vague ideas for a plot, but I’m not nearly prepared enough to actually begin.

  1. Which story has your heart and won't let go?

It’s not a story so much as a character. The settings change, the stories change, her name changes, but she remains. She’s like the lynch pin of my whole literary ambition. Even if she isn’t the protagonist, she’s always there, and I always love her the most. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Computer Game Spotlight

Now, to be perfectly frank, I'm not a huge gamer. I'm not really good at computer or video games, and I'm not really a good sport about things I'm not good at (hey, we all have things we need to work on). However, I learned something pretty exciting today! We all had computer games we loved as kids, games that we can no longer play because they are literally too old. Well, don't fret!

If you were a kid in the 80s/90s I have some great news for you! Internet Archive (the one that does a lot of the books) has released over 2,400 MS-DOS games for you to play for free on your modern browser! So, go ahead. stop whatever you were doing today and delve back in to the pixelated graphics of The Oregon Trail or (my personal favorite) Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego.  Get excited internet friends. Now if only people would take the time to recreate games from the early 2000's!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Trashy Victorian Poetry


     I love Victorian poetry. It's not, however, an incredibly popular era in the modern critic's mind. Outside of the true Romantics (Byron, Keats, Shelley, and co.) and Tennyson, much of the neo-Arthurian, pre-Raphelite, new chivalric poetry (what? That's totally a thing) of the era is dismissed as being moralizing and ostentatious. And it really is, I can't deny that, but I don't want to, because it is my crack. Give me a thinly veiled allegory starring knights and monsters and I will be a happy camper. Basically I'm a grown up Sarah from The Labyrinth (and I'm ok with that).  All that just to say 'trashy' Victorian poetry has a special place in my heart, and the fact that much of it has been forgotten is a travesty. 

     On that note I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite poets from that era: Adelaide Anne Procter. I do not know why she's largely been ignored in modern evaluations of that poetic era, because in her day she was one of the most popular poets in England, second only to Alfred Lord Tennyson. She was Queen Victoria's favorite poet, and Dickens was a huge fan of her work as well. Procter was an amazing person as well as an amazing poet.A Roman Catholic convert, she was incredibly involved in philanthropic and charity work. She worked with poor, destitute, and 'fallen' women, helping them to get back on their feet, find food and shelter, etc.  She was also involved in movements that sought to improve conditions for women generally in England. She died in 1864 of Tuberculosis, contracted (according to Dickens) from overexerting herself in her charitable efforts.

     If you too have a special place in your heart for this sort of thing, I highly recommend you give her a try :) 

A Knight Errant
By Adelaide Anne Proctor 

Though he lived and died among us,
Yet his name may be enrolled
With the knights whose deeds of daring
Ancient chronicles have told.

Still a stripling, he encountered
Poverty, and struggled long,
Gathering force from every effort,
Till he knew his arm was strong.

Then his heart and life he offered
To his radiant mistress--Truth;
Never thought, or dream, or faltering,
Marred the promise of his youth.

So he rode forth to defend her,
And her peerless worth proclaim;
Challenging each recreant doubter
Who aspersed her spotless name.

First upon his path stood Ignorance,
Hideous in his brutal might;
Hard the blows and long the battle
Ere the monster took to flight.

Then, with light and fearless spirit,
Prejudice he dared to brave;
Hunting back the lying craven
To her black sulphureous cave.

Followed by his servile minions,
Custom, the old Giant, rose;
Yet he, too, at last was conquered
By the good Knight's weighty blows.

Then he turned, and, flushed with victory
Struck upon the brazen shield
Of the world's great king, Opinion
And defied him to the field.

Once again he rose a conqueror,
And, though wounded in the fight,
With a dying smile of triumph
Saw that Truth had gained her right.

On his failing ear re-echoing
Came the shouting round her throne;
Little cared he that no future
With her name would link his own.

Spent with many a hard-fought battle,
Slowly ebbed his life away,
And the crowd that flocked to greet her
Trampled on him where he lay.

Gathering all his strength, he saw her
Crowned and reigning in her pride!
Looked his last upon her beauty,
Raised his eyes to God, and died.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Literary Magic: Fairy Tales

     Now that I have time, I figured I'd come back and finish up this series. You wouldn't think it, but these posts are incredibly difficult to write. You could probably write a book on this subject, or at the very least an essay, which several people have done (and by several I mean 2).

     What on earth, then, should Christians do with the magic they find in literature? What should we do with stories like fairy tales and myths? It's a fair question, in my opinion. The way we understand the nature of magic and the way it relates to our faith also determines what we do and do not find acceptable in our literature. We see a lot of magic in literature and on film these days from Harry Potter to The Chronicles of Narnia. From Game of Thrones to Lord of the Rings. From Star Wars to Frozen. Is literary magic something Christians are allowed to enjoy? Do we have to feel a little bit guilty when we pop in Sleeping Beauty or are we actually allowed to enjoy these things? I thought I'd start off this discussion by looking at a common magical culprit: the fairy tale.

     Just, before I even start on this, just know a couple people have already tackled this topic. I've included some of their essays at the end of this post. If you want, just read those, because I can say nothing about Fairy Tales that wasn't said a billion times better by Tolkien. But I do think I have more of an apologetic perspective on the matter than Tolkien. I'm not sure it ever occurred to him that fairy tale magic might prove controversial in Christian circles. He certainly thought (and I agree) that you couldn't even have a fairy tale without magic, and I think that's what makes the genre relevant here. I hope to show that there is no biblical reason that Christians should be banned from fairy tales.

     A fairy tale is a story that deals with a completely different set of issues than other fantastical tales like legends or myths. Fairy tales do not seek to ask the 'big questions' nor do they seek to give any 'big answers' to those questions. Rather, fairy tales and the magic in them are more in line with the idea of natural and fairy magic I discussed in previous posts (in which (I hope) I demonstrated that these kinds of magic are not necessarily forbidden or condemned by the Bible). Fairy tales take the idea that there are creatures and powers in this world that we cannot see and explores what that means.  

     Fairy tales take the reality of magic and magical creatures for granted. These things aren't supernatural by any means, fairies and the magic of plants and animals are more natural, in some ways, than we are. The purpose of a fairy tale is in some sense moral and in another sense practical. Fairy tales are meant to teach the hidden nature of the world around us. Always be polite to strangers because you can never be completely sure who you're talking to. Don't cross certain boundaries. Don't take things that don't belong to you. Fairy tales are meant to demonstrate physically the hidden rules and realities of the world around us.

       So, what should Christians make of fairy tale magic in books and film (visual literature)? As always we should be discerning. Is what is being depicted the kind of magic prohibited by the Bible? If the magic being portrayed is of the natural or fairy ilk is that really so bad? I would argue no.   The kind of magic you find in fairy tales or Disney movies isn't really a problem, because it isn't really magic in the way we define the term. Instead it's an extension of the natural world. The earth has certain properties that, if properly understood can be used by a character, or if incorrectly understood can harm a character. The earth is home to more creatures than just us, and we shouldn't really interact with them, but what should we do if they decide to interact with us? How should we treat these creatures?

It seems obvious to us today that fairies don't exist, that the earth doesn't have any magical properties, so can fairy tales really still have any value at all?  I would argue yes, again. Fairy tales are not centered around a moral (that kind of story is a fable, or a parable), they are not allegorical, rather morals and lessons subtly infuse the story. Fairy tales were designed to delight primarily, but also to teach. Christians believe that there are moral laws, laid down by God, that infuse the world we live in, Natural laws (natural law is not the same as laws of nature, which are physical. Rather, they are moral laws, the knowledge of which is available to all thinking creatures. They are universally binding like the laws of nature, but rational creatures can choose to disobey them, unlike laws of nature). Fairy tales, through their use of Faerie, of natural magic help shed light on the nature and character of Natural law, what it is, how you should apply it to your life, and the consequences of breaking or keeping it. Fairies and their magic belong solely to nature, they act as a manifestation of the abstract world we live in, and it seems to me that this is the sort of thing that Christians should really appreciate.

Magic is an incredibly useful tool in literature. It raises the moral stakes of a story. You can tell more easily in a fairy tale what is good and what is evil because of the magic that is used. Magic makes the villains more villainous and the heroes more heroic. It's a necessary aspect of the fairy tale because its a story that describes what happens when our world intersects with another, what happens when the rules that are binding on both worlds are challenged. And that's a beautiful and worthy thing in my opinion.


     I'm not alone in my acceptance of fairy tales. I can bring to their defense two of the best Christian authors of the twentieth century: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I won't take the time here to fully lay out their position of the matter. Those interested can read what they have to say for themselves (and I highly recommend reading these works if you are working in the fairy tale genre). You can find some of their works on the topic here: [X]  [X] [X] [X

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sherlock Holmes' Birthday

It almost escaped my attention that, in addition to being Epiphany, it is also the illustrious Mr. Holmes' birthday! Hamlette at The Edge of the Precipice is doing a blogging party to celebrate so I thought I'd join in! 

The Good Old Index of Questions

1.  When and how did you first encounter Sherlock Holmes?

When I was younger I had a book of stories that included the Sherlock Holmes story 'The Speckled Band' which I loved. As I got older I read more and more Sherlock Holmes stories. The complete works was one of the first books I purchased with my own meager monies :) 

2.  Please share a fact or two about yourself related to Holmes.  (You've read the whole canon, you've been to Baker Street, you're an official BSI member, etc.)

I have not been to Baker Street, even though I was in London and I am super depressed about this fact. My professor wouldn't let me, and I may never recover. :(  

3.  What are three of your favorite Holmes adventures?

The Speckled Band will always have a special place in my heart since it was the first. Probably my actual favorite is The Adventure of the Yellow Face because I loved the human elements that popped up in that story. I think it actually made me tear up. Another favorite of mine is The Hound of the Baskervilles which is a bit cliche I guess, but there's a reason it's so popular. It's just so good!

4.  What draws you to the Sherlock Holmes stories?

I really love the mysteries. They're fun to try and figure out. I also like The Sherlock/John dynamic. I'm pretty sure John is as interested in Sherlock as the fans are! 

5.  If you were going to give Sherlock Holmes a birthday present, what would it be?

A MURDER! No, but I can't think of anything that would really interest him. Maybe samples of soot from different spots in London. 

6.  If you could climb into a Holmes story and replace any one character for a day, who would you like to be?

Is 'no one' an acceptable answer? I love the stories, but I don't think I'd like to actually be involved in one! If I have to pick, I'd pick Mary Morstan in The Sign of Four, because that's a fun story. 

7.  Please share some of your favorite Holmes-related quotes!

I'm thinking about the Adventure of the Yellow Face now, so those are the quotes that are sticking in my mind:

"...where he failed it happened too often that no one else succeeded... Now and again, however, it chanced that even when he erred the truth was still discovered."

"...when [Munro's] answer came it was one of which I love to think. He lifted the little child, kissed her, and then, still carrying her, he held his other hand out to his wife and turned towards the door." <<<Ok, this actually made me cry

Happy Epiphany!

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son
to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by
faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to
face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

I hope everyone had a great Christmastide and has a wonderful Epiphany as we celebrate "that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." (Ephesians 3:6).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Oxford 2014 Part 1: Mirror Dimensions and Jet Lag


     Ok, so I guess it's time for me to do an actual post series about my trip to Oxford. The reason it's taken me pretty much six months to get a post up about this is mostly because its taken me to this point to put pictures from the trip on my computer... like the lazy bum I am.

     I'm 90% certain that I have no photos from the airport or from the plane ride, mostly because my goal was survival at that point (yep, I checked, nothing from airport through day one). 9.5 hour plane rides are not fun, but I can use my words to describe the start of the trip!

     Ok, so a week prior to leaving the group that was going to Oxford met up to have these discussion class things. We s had to read eight books prior to the classes and write rough drafts of papers for each book. I repeat rough draft essays for each book. Needless to say I turned in maybe a page for each one. I liked most of the things we read (That Hideous Strength, Brideshead Revisited, The Wasteland, Ballad of the White Horse, The Four Quartets, Idea of a University, Julius Caesar, Silmarillion, and The Great Divorce, so 9, actually), so that was ok. Then we spent, like, eight hours for several days (and by several I mean 2) talking about the books before we left. I cross stitched most of the time, so that wasn't as bad as it could have been. 

     After our class meetings we had to go home and pack things. It is amazing how much you can fit into a carry-on if you try hard enough. Of course I ended up bringing way more than I needed and I thought I was packing light! 

     Bla bla bla we made it to the airport, and then got on the plane, and we were off! I don't mind flying that much, but I just have so much trouble sleeping on flights. Luckily they had in-flight entertainment, so I was at least mildly entertained when I didn't sleep. I say mildly because the movies I picked were far from fantastic. Rio 2? Not that cute. I think I also read some, but honestly it's a blur. I was so tired and the food was so gross, and I was so tired, but we made it eventually.

     Touch down in England was fairly uneventful. We took a bus from the London airport to Oxford. You can get pretty much anywhere by bus. It's amazing. The drive was a surreal experience, mostly because I hadn't slept in more than twenty four hours. I was really struck by how normal England looked. I really don't know what I was expecting it to look like. It's really hard to remember this first day, because, if there's one thing you need to know about me it's this: I need to sleep, I need to sleep a lot. When I don't sleep horrible things happen. But I was looking at the trees like 'we have those in America. Trees. What kind of a place is this? Grass, you're not so special are you? It's the same. Their highways are backwards American highways with loopy loops. What kind of a sick mirror dimension is this?' I'm pretty sure I said some of these things out loud because people kept giving me weird looks.

      The next thing I remember is that we got to Oxford late in the morning and went to a restaurant to get brunch, and honestly everything went downhill from there. I got eggs benedict (which you should never do when you first arrive in a foreign country, never, when you are already exhausted, get a dairy product). After that I thought I was dying. I have never had jet lag before, but it was the most miserable experience I've ever had. I was so tired I felt like throwing up (and I did... several times). My whole first day in England was spent in and out of consciousness in the semi-darkness of my room thinking things like 'I wish I were dead. Why did I ever come here? I'm going to die and they'll have to ship my body home and what a waste of 4,000 dollars. I wish I wasn't here. Blech.'  I'm not really sure what everyone else did that day. Explore I guess. Oh well. It was a great beginning to my England adventure.

     Anyways, that's the story of how it all started. Tired, sick, and miserable. Don't worry though, it gets better. I'll return soon with part two of my globe trotting adventures, this time with more pictures!  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas recap

     I don't normally do things like 'Christmas recaps' but this year my sister and I did something really fun and I just had to share :)

     Ok, so I've discovered that my sister doesn't really go in for things as gifts, she's more the kind of person who values experiences. Doing things with other people and making memories. Que Thanksgiving with our two year old cousin who had just gone to build a bear workshop. My sister and I both lamented the fact that our incredibly cruel parents had denied us this clearly magical childhood experience. And then I thought,'huh, why don't I just gift her the build a bear experience we always dreamed of?' So I did.

     We went the day after Christmas to that consumeristic wonderland we here in America call 'The Mall.' But there were a bunch of people in the store of our childish dreams, so we went to Barnes and Noble first for coffee (because, please, I'm not paying sixteen bucks for a lousy paper back. That is a racket, and I will have none of it. But I will pay five bucks for a cup of ice and coffee because it tastes like peppermint, and you're not my mom). And then we went to a calendar and board game store because last year it was in the mall and then it disappeared and no one believed me that it existed, and they all thought I was crazy, and my mom said it was probably the calendar kiosk I remembered, but she was wrong, they were all wrong. It was a store in the mall, it just moved to an outside building sometime between last December 26th and this one. Also I bought a calendar. It's Alphonse Mucha and it glitters. I also bought a D&D starter set because it was ten bucks and awesome. I will now only respond to my character name... I had a story, but I lost it... Oh, there it goes.

     Ok, so, anyways, my sister and I eventually made our way into build a bear and were proudly the oldest builders there by a margin of about eight years. But we did get some very helpful advice from a seven year old with a red panda. So basically it was the magical experience I always suspected it would be. My sister chose a giraffe and I chose a bunny rabbit and we took them and had their little empty bodies filled with fluff, shoved little hearts into their backs, had them all sewn up and made them birth certificates. My sister took home the giraffe Petunia, and I am now the proud owner of Tattycorum the bunny rabbit.

     All that just to say, I think the moral of the story is something like, creative excursions as gifts can be fun, or don't deny your children the glorious experience of creating their own friend, or I wasn't crazy and that store totally exists. Something like that. I hope you all are having very happy Christmases, New Years, and eventual Epiphanies!