I saw this on George Takei’s Facebook page today and found it really funny for some reason. See if you agree:
I saw this on George Takei’s Facebook page today and found it really funny for some reason. See if you agree:
I find I am growing old and hope more than anything that I have made a difference in the lives of those with whom I have lived and loved.
I had a professor once who said, “When you choose to invest your life in others, it will screw up your life… but, at least your life will be interesting.”
I believe my life has been interesting.
Here is an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit (by Margery Williams), a wonderful children’s book about becoming real (long before Toy Story 1, 2, or 3). I like to think that as I’m getting older, I’m becoming real:
HERE was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.
There were other things in the stocking, nuts and oranges and a toy engine, and chocolate almonds and a clockwork mouse, but the Rabbit was quite the best of all. For at least two hours the Boy loved him, and then Aunts and Uncles came to dinner, and there was a great rustling of tissue paper and unwrapping of parcels, and in the excitement of looking at all the new presents the Velveteen Rabbit was forgotten.
For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn’t know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles. Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him…
I love random stuff like this.
Here’s a new superhero that you can read all about…
This image is from BedZine.
I love books and like lists. As we roll into a new year, I thought I’d mention a list I came across recently and the top 21 books that are placed there.
The list may be located on a website entitled The Greatest Books. Shane Sherman took 43 “best of” lists (such as Boston Public Library, New York Public Library, Great Books Foundation, Harvard Bookstore, National Book Foundation… you get the idea) and generated a website to track the lists and keep track of those read. Shane was kind enough to share the list with the rest of us. You can see the entire list and links to the “best of” lists at The Greatest Books.
I’ll list the top 21 to read as we enter 2011, but please go the The Greatest Books site to check it out for yourself. I won’t include brief descriptions or links, since the site is such a wonderful resource. Please check it out for yourself here: The Greatest Books.
It really is a remarkable work and runs 21 pages with 1005 books listed. I’m sure many people would argue with the placement of many novels on the list, but that is exactly what makes “best of” book lists fun (at least for me). There is also a search function on the site, but I was disappointed to discover that it simply displays the novel, not its placement on the list – just about my only disappointment with the site – it didn’t even bother me (too much… for too long) that my favorite novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany is only #616 on this list (not even in the top half… really?).
Here are the top 21:
#21 – Moby Dick by Herman Melville
#20 – The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#19 – Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
#18 – On the Road by Jack Kerouac
#17 – To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolfe
#16 – The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
#15 – Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#14 – The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
#13 – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
#12 – Middlemarch by George Eliot
#11 – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
#10 – Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#9 – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
#8 – In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
#7 – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
#6 – 1984 by George Orwell
#5 – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
#4 – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#2 – Ulysses by James Joyce
#1 – Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
I love books and I like lists. Here’s yet another entry of a list about books:
LuAnn Schindler complied a list of classic literature for middle school students for Life 123. As she says, “This list introduces new characters and alien worlds to the middle school set. Several of these books are commonly taught in middle school English classes, so adding them to a summer reading list can give your child an advantage when they come up during the school year.”
I’ve added some descriptions I’ve found from around the Internet. None of the descriptions are lengthy enough to do the novels justice, but will hopefully provide some bit of direction. Although this isn’t an exaustive list, it is a good start on reading for middleschoolers.
Does the English language sometimes drive you nuts? We have done some fascinating things with this language. You really must be almost a native speaker to understand all the nuances of the language. For example, I had a friend of mine from Chile who had trouble understanding the concept of “breaking wind.”
The examples below might be even more subtle that that. You can find the original here:
1. The bandage was wound around the wound.
2. The farm was used to produce produce.
3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10. I did not object to the object.
11. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
12. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
13. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
14. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
15. They were too close to the door to close it.
16. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
17. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
18. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
19. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
20. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
21. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
I found a wonderful article about Fantasy Literature (it’s been around for quite some time) and thought it good enough to share. It’s a bit long (for this blog), but you can either find it (here), or read it below:
There’s a feeling that I think it’s only possible to get when you’re a child and discover books. It’s a kind of fizz. You want to read everything that’s in print before it evaporates.
I had to draw my own map through this uncharted territory. The message from the management was that, yes, books were a good idea, but I don’t actually recall anyone advising me in any way. I was left to my own devices.
I’m now becoming perceived as a young people’s writer. Teachers and librarians say, “Your books are really popular among children who don’t read.” I think this is a compliment; I just wish they’d put it another way.
The aforesaid school librarians tell me that what the children read for fun, what they’ll actually spend their money on, are fantasy, science fiction and horror and, while they offer up a prayer of thanks that the kids are reading anything in this electronic age, this worries them.
Not long ago I talked to a teacher who, having invited me to talk at her school, was having a bit of trouble with the head teacher who thought that fantasy was morally suspect, irrelevant to the world of the nineties, and escapist.
Morally suspect? Shorn of its trappings, most fantasy would find approval in a Victorian household. The morality of fantasy and horror is, by and large, the strict morality of the fairy tale. The vampire is slain, the alien is blown out of the airlock, the evil Dark Lord is vanquished and, perhaps at some loss, the Good triumph — not because they are better armed, but because Providence is on their side. Let there be goblin hordes, let there be terrible environmental threats, let there be giant mutated slugs if you really must, but let there also be Hope. It may be a grim, thin hope, an Arthurian sword at sunset, but let us know that we do not live in vain.
Classical written fantasy might introduce children to the occult, but in a healthier way than might otherwise be the case in our strange society. If you’re told about vampires, it’s a good thing to be told about stakes at the same time.
As for escapism, I’m quite happy about the word. There’s nothing wrong with escapism. The key points of consideration, though, are what you’re escaping from, and where you’re escaping to.
As a suddenly thirsting reader I escaped first of all to what was then called Outer Space. I read a lot of SF, which as I have said is only a 20th century subset of fantasy. And a lot of it was, in strict literary terms, rubbish. But the human mind has a healthy natural tendency to winnow out the good stuff from the rubbish. As far as I am concerned, escapist literature let me escape to the real world.
Irrelevant? I first came across any mention of Ancient Greek civilisation in a fantasy book. But in the fifties most schools taught history like this: there were the Romans who had a lot of baths and built some roads and left. Then there was a lot of undignified pushing and shoving until the Normans arrived, and history officially began.
We did science — in a way. Yuri Gagarin was spinning around above our heads. I don’t recall anyone at school ever mentioning the fact. I don’t even remember anyone telling us that science was not, as we might have been led to believe, all that messing around with chemicals and magnets, but rather a way of looking at the Universe.
SF looked at the Universe all the time. I make no apology for having enjoyed it. We live in an SF world. Two miles down there you’d fry and two miles up there you’d gasp for breath, and there’s a small but, given the consequences to us, significant chance that in the next thousand years a large comet of asteroid will smack into the planet. I’m not making it up. I don’t lose sleep worrying about it. But finding this out when you’re 13 or so is a bit of an eye opener. It puts acne in its place, for a start.
Them other worlds out there in space got me interested in this one down here. It is a small mental step from time-travel to paleontology, from sword ‘n’ sorcery fantasy to mythology and ancient history. Truth is stranger than fiction; nothing in fantasy enthralled me as much as reading of the evolution of humankind from proto-blob to newt, reptile, tree shrew, Oxbridge arts graduate, and eventually to tool-using mammal. I first came across words like ‘ecologist’ and ‘overpopulation’ in SF books in the late fifities and early sixties, long before they’d become fashionable.
I also came across the word ‘neoteny’, which means ‘remaining young’. It’s something which we as humans have developed into a survival trait. Other animals, when they are young, have a curiosity about the World, a flexibility of response, and an ability to play which they lose as they grow up. As a species we have retained these. As a species, we are forever sticking our fingers into the electric socket of the Universe to see what’ll happen next. It’s a trait that’ll either save us or kill us, but by god it’s what makes us human beings. I’d rather be in the company of people who look at Mars than people who contemplate humanity’s navel — other worlds are better than fluff.
So let’s not get frightened when the children read fantasy. It’s the compost for a healthy mind. It stimulates the inquisitive nodes, and there is some evidence that a rich internal fantasy life is as good and necessary for a child as healthy soil is for a plant, for much the same reasons.
Here’s to fantasy as the proper diet for the growing soul. All human life is there — a moral code, a sense of order and, sometimes, great big green things with teeth. There are other books to read and I hope children who start with fantasy go on to read them. I did. But everyone has to start somewhere.
One of the great popular novelists of the early part of this century was G.K. Chesterton. Writing at a time when fairy tales were under attack for pretty much the same reason as books can now be covertly banned in some schools because they have the word ‘witch’ in the title, he said: “The objection to fairy stories is that they tell children there are dragons. But children have always known there are dragons. Fairy stories tell children that dragons can be killed.”