Thursday, February 27, 2014

What ho, chappies!

I used to be called a picky eater. Now I'll eat almost anything. (But stick a bowl of spinach in front of me and you've lost me.)
I'm also a rather picky reader, unless the book has been written before the 1950's. Even then, oft times, I can only read a book if I'm 'in the mood' for it, unless it's for literature.
Speaking of books... I just finished My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. It's the "early stories," so to speak, of Jeeves and Wooser, the most diverting "foil" couple that I've had the pleasure of reading since discovering Holmes and Watson several years ago.
Bertie Wooster is a rich English chap, living in New York City (at least in this collection of short stories. I think he goes back to England later on). Jeeves is his man, you know. His man-servant. There's also a TV series from the 90's, adapting the short stories and novels on Jeeves and Wooster, starring Hugh Laurie (it's strange to see Mr. Palmer from Sense and Sensibility so... cheerful) and Stephen Fry (the master of Laketown!).
P.G. Wodehouse is considered one of the greatest comic writers of the 20th century. His books (or at least this one) certainly attest to that! It is one of the most hilarious things I have ever read. And not in a Garfield the Cat sort of way... In a "This is brilliant, go read this" sort of way.

And I've been writing... not as much, maybe, as I would like... But I am determined to get this book done by November, so I can type it up/rewrite it for NaNoWriMo (though technically going in with an already written novel is kind of against the rules... but the tracking-your-word-count method works so well).
Anyway, I don't want to talk about writing.
Let's go back to books.

I finished King's Warrior, which is a self-published book by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt.
Wow, what a great book! As I said, I'm a rather picky reader, made even pickier when the books are self-published because you really don't know what you're going to get. I was very happy with this book, however! It was wonderful! The beginning was a bit slow, maybe, but then I got into the story. And wow that ending! And wow the characters! They were wonderful.

And I re-reading Pride and Prejudice for literature. Oh my goodness Mr. Darcy! I really didn't like him very much the first time reading the book, and second time I liked him because I knew what he was. He's never been my favorite Jane Austen hero (and still isn't) but this time, I'm reading the book, taking careful note of everything Mr. Darcy says and does.
You know what I'm finding? Mr. Darcy is a perfect gentleman! Lizzy has totally judged him wrong and is the one being rude! She even says so later in the book. Anyway, it's really super fun to take notes on one particular character. It really shows who the character actually is, without getting caught up in what's going on around the character.

More on that later, when I do my review.

Toodle-pip!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Faerie Queene Book 1

Title: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Author: This book was translated by J.R.R. Tolkien

Brief synopsis: Sir Gawain, one of King Arthur's knights, accepts an exchange of strokes with a giant green man. He must find the man before the year is up, but is detained at a mysterious castle where the owner's wife tries to seduce him.

Full synopsis (spoilers): It's Christmastime in King Arthur's Court! The King and his Knights are having a jolly time eating, drinking, and listening to stories... when they are interrupted. A huge man, green from head to toe, comes into the hall and challenges one of the men to an "exchange of strokes." This means that whoever accepts the challenge will hit the Green Knight with an axe, and the green knight will return the stroke.
Sir Gawain, the young, inexperienced nephew of King Arthur accepts the challenge and swings the axe so hard that the head rolls from the other knight's shoulders! Everyone in court is surprised when the head continues to speak. It tells Sir Gawain that he needs to find the Green Knight within a year to finish the exchange. Then the knight picks up his head and rides off.
One and another thing happens and a whole year passes by. Round about Christmastime the next year, Gawain remembers his commitment and starts off on a journey through the cold and snow to find the Green Knight.
He's cold, hungry, and wet when he comes across a castle that seemingly appears out of no where in the woods. He decides to approach and see if they'll let him stay for a day or two to warm up, restock his supplies, and go to Mass.
They agree, and treat him like a prince. The master of the castle persuades him to stay many more days than he had intended, and to have a little exchange. Every day, the master will go out and hunt in the forest and give Sir Gawain everything he catches. In the same way, Gawain will give the prince everything he receives during the day.
The next morning, the master goes out and hunts. When Gawain wakes up, he finds the master's wife in his room. She tries to seduce him, but he steadily refuses and only allows her to give him a kiss on the cheek. Later, the master gives Gawain all the bucks he caught, and Gawain gives him a kiss on the cheek.
The next day, the same thing happens.
On the third day, the master's wife persuades Sir Gawain to take a sash that will make him unable to lose a fight. Gawain is interested because he doesn't want to lose the fight with the Green Knight. So he takes the sash and hides it, so he won't have to give it to the master.
The next day, Gawain returns to his quest and finds the Green Knight (who wasn't very far away). The Green Knight is about to whack Gawain with the axe, when Gawain flinches and the Green Knight rebukes him for cowardice. Gawain says to try it again, he won't flinch this time. So the Green Knight readies the axe, but once more stops mid-swing. "Good, you didn't flinch this time," he says. Gawain, getting frustrated, tells the knight to just strike him and get it over with. Gawain is convinced the Green Knight will kill him. The Green Knight finally strikes Gawain, but only hard enough to break the skin.
He tells Gawain that those three "strokes" were for the three days that Gawain spent with the master and his wife. The cut is because Gawain withheld the sash from the master... who turns out to be the Green Knight! He explains that Morgan le Fey put him under a spell to make him a green giant, so that he could go to King Arthur's court and hopefully scare Queen Guinevere to death.
Gawain is very embarrassed and angry that he took the sash and tries to give it back. The master just laughs - his wife was in on it the whole time. They were testing him. He makes Gawain keep the sash and Gawain returns home. He decides to always wear the sash on his head all the time so it will reminded him to be knightly. All the other knights, after hearing his story, decide to wear sashes on their heads as well, so he won't be the only one.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars (maybe one of those stars is simply because Tolkien wrote it...)

What I liked/general comments: I can't resist a little good alliteration. This book is full of it. Each line has it's own "letter." For example...
After the season of summer with its soft breezes,
when Zephyr goes sighing through seeds and herbs,
right glad is the grass that grows in the open,
when the damp dewdrops are dripping from the leaves,
to greet a gay glance of the glistening sun.
pg. 35 (of my version), section 23.
The whole entire book is like that! It's really fun to read it out loud. Try it!
That's probably my number one reason that I enjoyed the book. The storyline was nice too, and the descriptions were beautiful.
And, of course, Tolkien translated it so that automatically makes this a good book. ;) The introduction says that he worked on this for a long while, trying out different translating techniques. He wanted it to be as close to the original manuscript as possible. He could never get it just right, and died before he was able to finish. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, along with two other poems that comes from the same collection, were published by Christopher Tolkien after his father's death. He finished the translations himself, in the way that he thought his father would have/the way Tolkien's notes indicated he wanted them to be finished.
It's been so long since I finished this book that I forget much else!

What I didn't like/things you should know: The plot is kind of patchy in parts... I feel like it's barely holding together. Why did Morgan le Fey want to kill Guinevere? Why did the Green Knight and his wife want to test Sir Gawain?
Also, just as a warning... the Green Knight's wife does try to seduce Sir Gawain. He steadily refuses her. It's really more of a flirtation than an actual seducement... nothing bad happens and it's totally PG, but I just thought I'd let you know.

Would I recommend this book? I would! I think fans of poetry, King Arthur, alliteration, and Tolkien will enjoy this book.



Title: The Faerie Queene Book 1

Author: Edmund Spenser

Brief synopsis: A knight escorts a princess to find her besieged parents. They are separated by the forces of evil and each must persevere so that they can reach their goal.
Full synopsis: The Redcrosse Knight is Princess Una's escort. He is taking her to her parents, who are besieged by a dragon. It is his quest to slay the dragon and free Una's people. Also travelling with them is a Dwarfe.
On the way, they come across a cave, where there is another dragon. The Redcrosse Knight kills it and it's babies eat the corpse, filling themselves until they explode (no, literally).
Then the Knight and Una come across an old man, who offers to let them stay the night in his abode. They agree. But little do they know that he's a sorcerer, bent on separating them. He does so, by making the Knight dream that Una is trying to seduce him. The Knight, who believed Una better and purer than that, deserts her in the morning.
He comes across a man and a woman travelling. Believing that the woman is a damsel in distress, he kills the man, whose name is Sansfoy. The woman, named Duessa, wasn't really in any danger. She was travelling with Sansfoy on purpose. But when the Knight rescues her, she decides to play the part of a woman in danger. They travel together and meet a talking tree, who says that he was in love with two women and when he chose one over the other, she tuned both him and his lover into trees. Unknown to the Redcrosse Knight, Duessa is the other woman. She's really an evil temptress who has disguised her oldness to look like a beautiful young woman.
Meanwhile, Una wakes up all alone and sets off to find the Redcrosse Knight. In the forest she runs into a lyon (lion) who becomes her companion and protector. When they shelter in a house, the lyon kills a man and they have to run away. They run into the Knight! Only it isn't the knight, it's the sorcerer, Archimago, in disguise! Una and the lyon travel with him until they are attacked by Sansfoy's brother Sansloy. Sansloy "kills" Archimego and the lyon, and takes Una.
Meanwhile, the Redcrosse Knight and Duessa visit the house of the seven deadly sins. There they find Sansfoy and Sansloy's other brother Sansjoy, who challenges the Knight to a duel for killing Sansfoy. They fight each other and are both grievously wounded. The Knight recuperates in the house of Pride, and Duessa mourns over his wounds. When he falls asleep, she goes to Sansjoy and takes him down to hell for the healing of his wounds.
When Duessa returns, she finds that the Redcrosse Knight has fled because the Dwarfe told him the fate of those who stay in Pride's house: death in the dungeon.
In the forest, Sansloy tries to seduce Una, but her cries bring Satyres out of the forest to her rescue. They take her away and make her their object of worship. She tells them that God is the one they should be worshipping.
Satyrane, who is half Satyre, half human, befriends Una and helps her to escape. They travel together until they meet Archimego - this time disguised as a pilgrim - who tells them that Sansloy is in a nearby wood. Satyrane goes to fight Sansloy and they get locked in a bloody battle. Una runs away and Archimego follows her.
The Knight, meanwhile, has found a fountain. He drinks of it and it makes him lose all his strength. Duessa finds him and just then they are attacked by a giant! The Knight isn't able to defend them, but Duessa dissuades the Gyaunt from killing them by suggesting she becomes his mistress. The Redcrosse Knight is thrown into the dungeon, and Duessa lives upstairs, dressed in rich clothes.
Una meets up with the Dwarfe and tells him her tale of woe. The Dwarfe tells Una that the Knight is in a nearby dungeon. On their way there, they run into Prince Arthur, who offers to help free the Knight.
Arthur kills the Giant, the Knight is found, and Duessa is stripped. They see that she's really only an old hag and they let her run away.
After Arthur tells them his history, he departs one way, and Una and the Knight another way. The Knight and Una come across a man fleeing from Despair. The Knight wants to meet this Despair and kill him so he doesn't cause anyone more harm. Instead, the Knight falls into despair himself and is rescued from suicide from Una, who then takes him to a house of healing where his wounds (both physical and spiritual) are healed. He learns about God and being virtuous. We also learn about his past... he was a changeling, raised by fairies.
The Knight and Una leave the house of healing, much refreshed, and continue on their journey. Finally they reach Una's besieged parents and the Knight and the Dragon begin to fight.
The Knight is able to hurt the dragon, but not enough. The dragon wounds him and pushes him into a fountain - which is really a fountain of healing. The Knight's wounds are healed and the next morning, he is able to fight again. The same thing happens - the Knight hurts the dragon, but the dragon mortally wounds the Knight in return. This time, the Knight is pushed into a healing salve from the Tree of Life. The next morning when he awakes, he is healed and able to fight again. He slays the dragon, and Una, who was watching from a nearby hill, comes to rejoice with him.
Una is reunited with her family and the king gives Una's hand to the Knight. They are going to be married when a messenger comes in claiming that the Knight is already engaged to his mistress! It turns out that the messenger is Archimego in disguise, and the woman is Duessa. Archimego and Duessa are found out and thrown into the dungeon. There is a big celebration before the Knight leaves to go and serve his Faerie Queene for six years as a knight.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars.

What I liked/general comments: At first I was planning on giving this book a rating of six or seven stars because it was difficult to get through, but then we had our book discussion and WOW! I decided to raise my rating because there is SO much more behind the story than you would originally imagine. It's a huge allegory!
At first glance, The Faerie Queene (book 1) is a story of gallantry, adventure, and love. It's also epic poetry, and therefore (for me), difficult to get through, especially because it's written all in Old English (though that was kind of fun... it was kind of like a game: decode the Old English to find out what happens next!). But if you dig deeper, you find that everyone in this story is a representation of a real someone, or of something that was happening at the time of Edmund Spenser.
Spenser lived in the later half of the sixteenth century (1550ish-1599) during a time of spiritual upheaval in England. There was a lot of tension between the Church of England and the Catholic church (but since I don't know too much about it, I'm going to stop there so I don't say something false) and that makes it's way into the book.
Here is some of the allegory throughout the book:
The Redcrosse Knight represents holiness, and Una represents truth.
Archimago (whom my mother calls "Archie-Magoo") represents hypocrisy, and Duessa represents falsehood. Throughout the whole book, Hypocrisy and Falsehood try and separate Holiness and Truth.
The three 'sans brothers... Sansfoy is faithlessness, Sansloy is lawlessness, and Sansjoy is joylessness. (Sans: without. Joy/foy/loy: joy, faith, law. They are basically exactly as their names state!)
The first dragon that the Redcrosse Knight meets with in canto one represents the devil, but also one side of the church. The dragon is vomiting up books, with represent decrees that the church has made (and I believe it's the Church of England, but I'm not sure). When the dragon dies, her babies, which represent lies, eat her up, and then explode.
Prince Arthur, as in many versions of his story, represents a sort of Christ-like figure; perfect, chivalrous, magnificent, without fault.
When the Redcrosse Knight and Duessa come across the seven deadly sins, they are each represented by a person who is sitting on a fitting animal... for example, Gluttony is riding on a pig.
There are a thousand more (and, by the way, I didn't figure all these out. They were in the annotated notes that were suggested by the textbook) including allusions to New Jerusalem, the story of Christ, Satan, the restoration of being saved by Christ.
My favorite allegorical connection is the Dwarfe. He's mentioned at the beginning, and then disappears from the story for awhile. Then he all of a sudden shows up again when the Redcrosse Knight is in the House of Pride. After he tells the Knight of the danger that he's in, and the Knight leaves, the Dwarfe disappears again, only to show up a little later with Una.
He represents common sense, and only shows up in the story when common sense is needed.
Isn't that the coolest thing ever?
All of the allegory is amazing and has so much more meaning when reading the story. The Faerie Queene, who is only briefly mentioned a few times, is supposed to represent the Queen, who Spenser really liked.
The Faerie Queene was supposed to be twelve books, depicting twelve different virtues in twelve different knights, but only the first six books were published, and then Spenser died.
Anyway, the allegory isn't the only thing I liked about this book. It also has a fantastic atmosphere to it. It's almost fantasy... but not quite. It definitely has the mythical creatures (satyres and a giant). And I love the knights and the chivalry and the quest and the dragons. There are so many characters, and different adventures. It's really a lovely book. It's one of the influences for the new fantasy story I'm working on. I just love the - well, atmosphere is really the only word I can use to describe it. The book just has a certain feeling to it. I think that the allegory definitely lends to it... but also just the chivalry, and the realness of the Redcrosse Knight. He's not the perfect hero. He falls into temptation when he starts travelling with Duessa, and is later redeemed when he goes to the houses of healing and learns about Jesus and right. And through it all, Una loves him and is able to forgive him.

What I didn't like/things you should know: Some scenes are a little strange... like when Duessa takes one of the 'sans brothers down to hell for healing. That was a little weird. I'm pretty sure there were a few other scenes that I was a little worried would go a way that I wouldn't want to read... but then didn't, so it was all alright.
The only other thing is that, despite it's attractions, this book is written in Old English, and is an epic poem, and is hard to get through for someone who isn't used to reading books like that. There were times, oh, many times, when I wished that I could just go and read the sparknotes (most of the time I had to read them after reading each canto anyway, to make sure I understood what happened) instead of the actual book. Some descriptions went on and on (especially the house of healing part) and I just wished it would be over. But then something exciting would happen, and it would alright for awhile again. It is a feat to get through this book, but worth it, I think.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would - but only to those really interested in it. I think that a person who isn't interested in epic poetry or beautiful, complicated, difficult to read language, who is used to modern books, probably would end up hating The Faerie Queene. Even people who are interested in those things, might quite possibly get bored with it.
Someday when I have more time (like, a super duper lot of time) I'd like to go back and really study the Faerie Queene - and read the other books too. I think it'd be super fun to take an in-depth course on it, because I really think it's a fantastic example of a great story.
So why'd I do Sir Gawain and The Faerie Queene together in one review? Well, we had to study them together in the same unit for literature... though I don't know why, because The Faerie Queene deserved it's own unit. (I think they were put together because both of them were, roughly speaking, "Arthurian legend.")
But that's not why I put them together! I put them together because, surprisingly, they have similar parallels between their stories.
King Arthur is definitely one of them. But the biggest parallel is the chivalry.
Both of the knights (Gawain and Redcrosse) face temptation in the books. Both of them stumble and fall, but both get back up again, and decide to redeem. As a result, they become better, more virtuous, people. I really like that. I think that boys in today's world should go and read Arthurian legends, because if nothing else, they'll learn about the code of chivalry that the knights followed.


So there are two of my long overdue literature reviews! I've been trying to write this post for months!
Now I'm off to write by own epic adventure.


Live long and prosper.


P.S. Sorry about the huge spaces between paragraphs sometimes... Blogger has decided it doesn't like me using Google, and therefore I'm having problems with paragraphing and uploading pictures (unless I go to another browser).

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy Sunday to you

A storm is rolling in and I have a front row seat... I love looking out my bedroom window when I'm writing, or out the front windows when I'm doing Hanon exercises on the piano. There is a mini-mountain just over the peak of my neighbors house and I love watching the trees. Often they're not doing much; sometimes they're shrouded in fog.
Today they're outlined against a pale gray sky.
The evergreens one street over wave gently in the wind. I'm waiting for the wind to pick up so the tress dance a jig. The rain will start to pour soon too, pelting against the windows, and the wind will whistle through the fireplace.
Am I crazy for thinking it adventurous and fun living under evergreens during storms?
Anyway, I have my new story with me to work on.
Can you believe it, I filled one whole notebook already! Well, 2/3rds of a notebook, at least. The first third was filled with other stories. But then I started writing this new story... and now Notebook #1 is filled, and Pencil #1 is all but spent. I've moved on to a
new, Beatles notebook, and a longer pencil.
I've got my Grieg (Peer Gynt Suites) playing (perfect for fantasy writing) and the trees are now starting to bend back and forth... time to start writing!


~a minute later~


I'm about to set pencil to paper when I casually glance down at my pant leg.
"GARHHHHH! SPIDER!"
Notebook goes flying across the room, pencil goes flying across the room... I go flying across the room.
Now the question is... where did it go? Several shivers and "ughs!" later, my dad is searching and I've shed my jeans (and one sock) for pajama pants. My dad shakes out my pants and sock... nothing there... Under the couch? There's the culprit! Get it! Kill it! Burn it!
Good. That spider is dead.
Forget about writing in the front room with a good view of the mountain... back to the kitchen where it's safe! Only now my leg keeps tingling and I keep imagining a spider crawling up it... bleh.
I glance suspiciously around.
I don't see any more spiders...
...time to write?


Several hours later, I did get a few pages written! Yay!


Live long and prosper.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day



 Character Encounters: Surprise Date.

 

   A Disney-Pixar movie was in the DVD player, I was snuggled under a blanket in comfy clothes, my computer was nearby… and I was all ready to celebrate Valentine’s Day Han’s way, Solo. 


   And then the doorbell rang. My face looked something akin to Bilbo’s when the Sackville-Bagginses would come visiting. 


   Oh well, no need for me to get the door. My dad got up and, accompanied by the barking Rosey, went to answer the door. But, being the busybody that I am, I silently slipped from under the quilt (more like noisily fell off the couch, entangled in the blanket) and tip-toed Legolas-like to the sliding door, separating the kitchen/TV room from the rest of the house. I peeked around the door, but couldn’t see much. But I could use my other senses – namely my sense of hearing.
   The man at the door was enquiring for… me! The voice wasn’t familiar. Who could be asking for me on Valentine’s day? A creepy creeper! And my sword was in the other side of the house! The one time I really need it, of course it’s going to be in the other room.
   My dad was trying to dissuade the man from coming in to speak with me when suddenly I felt the strange need to go to the door. I walked forward and next thing I knew, I was standing face to face with a familiar being, though I’d never met him before.
   “It’s okay, Daddy,” I whispered. “It’s Character Encounter time again.”
   He nodded knowingly and sat down on the couch. He was on his phone watching a hockey game, but I could tell he was very alert to what was happening at the front door.
   “You are Abbey,” the man at my door stated, rather than asked.
   “Yes,” I replied. “Am I right in assuming you are King John?”
   “Yes.” He looked perplexed. “I received this note telling me to come to this address and ask ‘Abbey’ out to dinner, as it is a celebration of love in your country.”
   I nodded. “Yeah, it’s Valentine’s Day. It means that couples all over the world go out on dates together – out to dinner, maybe catch a movie… you don’t know what a movie is. Just believe me when I say they’re pretty cool.”
   “Right.” King John nodded, but didn’t look convinced. “I will take your word for it. Will you attend dinner? I have here the name of an inn.” He showed me the slip of paper.
   “McDonalds, pretty fancy,” I said with a nod. Though I desperately wanted to stay home and watch the movie, maybe if I went out to dinner with King John he’d tell me why he was such an evil overlord. “Well,” I said, “if we’re going out to dinner, we need to dress in fancy clothes.”
   “I am dressed in fancy clothes,” King John replied.
   “Yes, well, that’s not what we call fancy in this country. My dad can lend you some of his clothes; you’re about the same size.”
   Since my date would be dressed in dress pants and a button-up shirt, I decided to pull on the only dress I owned. Brown, slightly World War Twoish. Since it was freezing outside, I pulled on brown leggings to match the dress, and red high heels.
   “I’m ready!” I called. “Whenever you are!”
   A few minutes later, King John came out, dressed handsomely. He looked like a business executive. I took his arm and we went outside.
   “I brought my carriage,” King John said, opening the door for me.
   Though a carriage in the McDonalds parking lot would look strange, I would never pass up the opportunity to ride in one, so I climbed in.
   Shortly, we reached the restaurant.
   “Whoa! Cool ride, bro!” several teens said as we walked into McDonalds.
   “Wow, you are one lucky girl,” said a woman (thought I noticed that, as we turned away, she eyed us strangely… what was one so young doing out with one so old?)
   King John scanned the menu. “Hmmm… what are these ‘Big Macs’?”
   “Why don’t you let me order for you,” I suggested.
   “I am King and I am fully able to order for myself,” King John replied, holding himself just a little loftier. “Give me one Big Mac,” he told the woman at the cash register.
   “One Big Mac. Would you like fries and a drink with that?”
   “Yes.”
   “Alright. Anything else for you?”
   “No.”
   “That’ll be six-fifty.”
   “Six-fifty what? I am King! I do not pay for mea-“
   “Um, ahahaha… My date here is just joking!” I interrupted. “If we wanted royal treatment we’d be at Burger King. No, that’s a bad joke. Sorry. Anyway, I’ll be paying. You can add a cheeseburger with ketchup only (along with the meat, cheese, and bun, of course, haha) and another order of fries and a chocolate shake to the order. Thank you!”
   I paid quickly and ushered King John to a table in the corner. I sat him by the window so he wouldn’t see all the attention his carriage was attracting. People were stopping on the road to stare… little kids were being posed next to it while mommy took a picture… His carriage-driver was shooing people away like they were ants.
   “You stay here while I get our food,” I told King John. He seemed willing enough to wait. After all, he had been waited on his whole life.
   I juggled our two trays and somehow managed to pour us each root beer without dumping everything on the ground. The trip back to the table was trickier; the fries fell to the floor. After much embarrassment and apology on my side, the cashier gave me another bag of fries.
   Stupid heels… I thought.
   For the next few moments, King John and I ate in silence.
   “This is good,” he remarked, nodding to the burger in his hands. “I must instruct my cook to make this back at the castle. And what do you call this drink?”
   “Umm, it’s root beer,” I said.
   “It is the best beer I have tasted! You say it is made from roots?”
   “Not really… I’m not really sure what it’s made of,” I replied. “Let’s talk about something else. Why are you so villainous?”
   “Villainous? Me?” King John’s eyes grew wide. “Not I, surely.”
   “Well… you treat your peasants poorly and cheat them of the necessities of life. You manipulate people into thinking you’re this great guy when all you really want is power power power… I know all of the facts, what I want to know is why. Why do you manipulate and cheat people?”
   “Well,” said King John, “you said it. I want power.”
   “But why? What’s so great about power?”
   “My father and I have always strived for power.”
   “Your father, now he’s an interesting man. Why did he want power?”
   King John shrugged. “My grandparents had six sons in quick succession. The first five died before reaching one year of age. My father, the youngest, was the only one to survive. Because of this, and because he was prince, he received everything he wanted. This included the best education, which sharpened his already keen mind and made him the smartest man in First Country. He came up with brilliant strategies during the Goblin Wars and he became a hero. It is no wonder then, that he thought he could rule the all five Countries better than their own rulers.
   “The only thing he didn’t count on was having an equally brilliant son. He underestimated me my whole life; he treated me like a na├»ve child from the moment I learned to speak. It was my older brother he favored, but my older brother was a fool, gaining his brains from my mother’s side of the family. No amount of learning could make him smart. But my father didn’t see that. When my brother died mysteriously, my father hated me all the more. He thought that I was the stupid son, and for awhile, I bought into his lies, until I realized my worth – realized that I was stronger than him, smarter than him; it was easy to slay him on the battle ground. Now I am King of First Country, and soon, the whole realm.”
   “Interesting…” I said. “So, you’re father always treated you like dirt, made you think that you were worth nothing… and because of that, you got your revenge, and now are trying to make everyone think you are the best by ruling over them all. Thank you, this has been a very productive date! Now please take me home. I want to watch my movie.”
   King John stared at me. “Very well. Come.”
   I threw our garbage away and we went back out to the carriage. We were gone no more than thirty minutes, but I learned much. It was indeed a very productive date. 


Live long and prosper!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Math rant

Would somebody please give me a reasonable explanation of why I am doing these:





in math?
Will I ever use them? (A clue, no)
So why do I need to do them?
No doubt someone out there is thinking the logical answer: "To get through highschool, of course."
That's not reasonable enough for me.
If I am never going to use simplifying square roots, if I am never going to use a(2a+b), if I am NEVER going to become a mathematician, why in the universe do I need to waste my time on this stuff??
Why do I need to know stuff that I really don't need to know just to get through school so that I can go to college, get a well-paying job, save money, retire, and then do the things that I enjoy?
That isn't and has never been my ambition! It's my ambition to work in the church, write and read books, and have a big brood of kids if that's God's plan.
Why should I spend my time trying to understand things that I will never use in life just to pass the judgement of the secular norm with good results? Wouldn't it be much better if I learned to hone and use my God-given talents which will eventually become my career/life? Shouldn't I love learning instead of loathe it?
Imagine how much more kids would love learning if we let them learn what they loved. Kids are surprisingly smart if you let them be.
Look at Mozart! He didn't go to school. He picked up his father's violin when he was four and never needed any lessons. He went on tour when he was six and wrote his first opera when he was 11. Admittedly, he died young and poor, but now he's one of the most celebrated and most listened to composers in the whole world!
Abraham Lincoln. He grew up in a log cabin. His family were very, very poor and he didn't go to school. Instead he read and read and read by firelight at night. Sure his lawyer firm failed, but then he became one of America's most influential and most recognized presidents!


I don't understand math. I never will. That equation up there about simplifying roots... that doesn't make any sense to me. I have NO idea why it works. But I memorize the formula so that I can get the right answer.



I'm getting a solid A- in math right now (or a B+, I'm not sure). That's good. Amazing actually, because I'm as stupid as a fish trying to climb a tree when it comes to anything more complicated than addition/subtraction/multiplication/division.
But is it worth it? Lately I have been getting so frustrated and angry during math that I scare myself. I always end up snapping at my mom who patiently helps me through math, and I hurt her feelings. I don't want to do it, but the anger just boils inside of me. I don't like hurting my mom's feelings. Because that just makes me all the more angry and sad. But I don't know how to control the anger... either it comes out in hurtful tones of voice or... I don't know. I've never let that side come out. But let me tell you, it feels something akin to this:


It makes me want to turn into a big green rage monster and go punch a hole through the wall. Or tear my hair out... or bite my fingers... or hurt myself or the house in some other way.

After my math lesson today I've been listening to this to calm myself down (because if my life was a piece of music after math, it would probably be this... or Tchaikovsky's Slavonic March or the Queen of the Night Aria from the Magic Flute):


Also, tears are usually involved during math time because I can't understand something, or even though I got the answer right I got the answer wrong, therefore making my answer wrong... and me having to do the incredibly long complex hard problem over again.
And don't even get my started on word problems...



One thing I love about homeschooling is the freedom to do things at your own speed. I don't understand something, we can spend more time on it, or come back to it later. We did this with addition and subtraction. I did not understand it. At all. I couldn't grasp the concepts. So we waited a few months. When we started it up again, I understood it and was able to get through it.
If I was in school, I would have been forced to continue doing it without understanding, and probably would have gotten horrible grades (and there would have been many, many more tears... and I would have probably ended up hating learning as a result).
Some homeschoolers abuse this privilege and use it as an excuse to forgo doing schoolwork (aka being lazy. I don't condone laziness). I think that's what people (in the real world) would assume if I told them what grade of math I'm in.
Since this isn't the real world, I have no problem shouting to everyone:

I AM SEVENTEEN AND A HALF YEARS OLD AND STILL IN ALGEBRA ONE AND PROUD OF IT! I'M NOT LAZY! I'M JUST WASN'T CUT FROM THE SAME COOKIE CUTTER! YOU WEREN'T EITHER, BUT SOCIETY TELLS YOU TO BE THE SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE!

So, world, stop judging me for something I'm not.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

*whistles*

I dooon't... have anything to saaaay...


It's cold like Minnesota here... 20 degrees, what? Snow on Saturday! Huzzah!

Today at Costco we found Doctor Who. For $12.99. Okay, half a season for $12.99. BUT STILL. So we came home with seasons six and seven. Which makes me happy. Even happier because the last time we were at Costco, they were selling an individual season of Doctor Who for $60, and we got the same individual season for $26.
If you wait long enough, Costco will eventually have AMAZING prices on Doctor Who. Last spring we found seasons 1-4 for $20 each.




The Seahawks won the Superbowl. That's exciting. I didn't watch the game... but after it was over, I went outside and people were setting off fireworks one street over. Our neighbors were cheering loudly. People one street over were yelling "WOOOOOOOOOO SEAHAWKS! GOOOO! YEEAAAAAHHH!!! WOOOO!" at the top of their lungs.
While part of me says, "Man, it's just football," the other part of me is enjoying watching how crazy everyone is over this. Over 700,000 people packed into Seattle today for a special Seahawks parade and rally. It's hard to imagine what 700,000 people looks like... but you know what? Everyone was peaceful! Isn't that amazing? 700,000 people and there was no major damage done!





Did you know that this guy:

from The Hobbit is actually called Lindir?


Elladan and Elrohir are missed. (Elrohir is such a cool name too!)
Lindir is also this guy from the Lord of the Rings, who interrupted Arwen's vision-thing of her son with Aragorn. "You never told me there was a son!"




He's ALSO the guy who wrote this song for the latest Muppet movie:


Am I a man or a Muppet?
At least Lindir doesn't have freaky elf-eyes like the Royal Elves.

 
 Yup, can you say creepy? Thranduil's worse, though.






I've been reading lots of fantasy lately. I think it's because my new story is fantasyish.


I spy Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Alice in Wonderland. Also, Eclipse from the Twilight saga, but who cares about that?

Anyway, it's about time for me to go to bed and I've run out of things to ramble about so goodnight!



Monday, February 3, 2014

Sherlock: His Last Vow

WARNING: SPOILERS!





A quick word on The Sign of Three... I really enjoyed that episode. It was cute and I loved seeing the Watson's wedding. Sherlock's best man speech was great... and long... and I like how everything fit together in the end.
It just goes to prove that my favorite episodes from Sherlock continue to be the middle episode of each series.


Now onto his Last Vow...
What I liked: I loved seeing more of the Holmes-family dynamic. I think it was brilliant to cast Benedict Cumberbatch's parents as Sherlock and Mycroft's parents. And I loved seeing the dynamic between the brothers.
Another thing that I really enjoyed, was when Sherlock got shot. That sounds morbid... but I thought it was super cool how we saw his thought-process. We got to see how certain information was personified by certain important people in Sherlock's life. I loved how they showed us how he got from point A to point B. In real life, it only took a couple seconds, but showing all the different steps was super cool. It reminds me a bit of the McGee and Me (an old Christian show) episode where McGee takes us through a day in Nick's mind, and shows what goes into Nick's decisions.
Of course, Sherlock did it without the cartoons, the costumes, and the fun music.
Also, they introduced Wiggins!! In the books, Wiggins is one of the Baker Street Irregulars. In Sherlock, the Irregulars are replaced by Sherlock's homeless network. Wiggins becomes one of the network when he's picked up by the Watsons and brought to the hospital with them at the beginning of the episode. He shows a knack for deduction and is later brought to Christmas dinner with the Holmes'. Am I the only one who can see a possible Bill Wiggins/Molly Hooper relationship panning out? After all, her engagement is off... and Sherlock will never have any feelings for her... and Wiggins is such a good deductionest... I've never been a fan of Lestrolly (Lestrade/Molly) or Sherlolly (Sherlock/Molly), but Molly/Wiggins (Molliggins?) I can see working.
Also, way to go Molly for slapping Sherlock for what's wrong. "How dare you? How dare you throw away the beautiful gifts you were born with? Say you're sorry."
There was a Biblical reference in the show... The east wind, in the Bible, is often a symbol of God's judgment. (For example, a strong east wind blew back the sea so Moses and the Israelites could pass through on dry ground, and then later, the east wind blew all of the Egyptians into the ocean, killing them.)
And how about that ending!! Wow! Shocker. I now have a little bit of hope that they will, indeed, tell us how Sherlock survived. After all, they can't keep from us how both Sherlock AND Moriarty survived. They have to explain one or the other, preferably both. (I can imagine a scene where the two of them are having tea and apples, "So, how did you survive?" *glare of penetration* "Oh, you know, blah blah blah..."). That ending is what's going to keep me watching the show because...

...unfortunately, to me, there was more to not like in this episode, than there was to like.
Mostly this had to do with Magnussem and certain decisions and portrayals of characters.
Magnussem is the most despicable villain I have ever come across, and it wasn't because of his evilness. It was because of his vulgarity. Even the Sherriff of Nottingham from BBC's Robin Hood isn't as vulgar as Magnussem.
He is a master blackmailer, with a file for everyone in his brain. He has stuff on people that could get them sent to jail, killed, saved. But they have to work with him, let him do whatever he wants. For instance, Magnussem licks a woman's face with the tip of his tongue to taste her perfume, and later he flicks Watson's face repeatedly, and laughs. If Watson didn't comply, Magnussem would reveal to the world that Mary was actually an assassin, and she would be sent to jail.
That's not villainess. That's bullying. Bullies scare people, and often hurt people, but also, they usually get their just deserts.
It was as if Magnussem was a child, who promised to throw a temper tantrum if he didn't get his way. The parents (the people he was blackmailing) didn't want to stand up to their child, because they didn't want to deal with the screaming and tantrums.
Spare the rod, spoil the child.
While I don't agree with physical punishment, a little discipline, and some boundaries never hurt anyone.

My biggest problem with this episode, other than despicable Magnussen, is the blurred moral lines.
The Sherlock series has never really been huge on moral principles... Seriously, out of the nine episodes, two of them end with the villains going to jail, two of them don't have conclusions for the bad guys, and five episodes end with the villains being murdered.
In this episode, John, who is a doctor, sprains a man's arm to get information out of him. He is supposed to be a "good guy."
Sherlock, who is the "hero" of the show (no matter what he says at the end of the episode), is found by Watson in a drug-den, high on something presumably illegal. Also, instead of letting his smarter brother who probably had a plan, deal with Magnussem at the end, Sherlock decides to shoot the villain dead.
Mary Watson, a nurse, a pregnant-woman, John's wife, and an all-around cool character, is found out to have been an assassin who not only "disappeared" by taking a new name to avoid jail, but also shoots Sherlock. She has lied to her husband, and everyone else, and wants to keep on lying, but Sherlock tricks her into explaining things to John, who then gets angry at her.
Even Mycroft. Instead of sending Sherlock to jail for killing a man in cold blood in front of multiple witnesses, he sends Sherlock off on a fatal undercover mission. That's all good and fine... but then Moriarty shows up again, and Sherlock is called back after only four minutes. My idea is that they'll bring him back, Sherlock will best Moriarty in some way, and then for his heroic act of saving all of London, he'll be pardoned. For murder. ("Murder most foul!")

Isn't there anything anymore that has the bad guys being bad, and the good guys being good? Instead, movies, TV, and books appeal to our "fangirl" feelings and make us love and root for those who are sinning.
A good example of this is Patrick Jane from the show The Mentalist. He's a very charming character, handsome, with a tragic past, a great brain, and a cool name. His wife and daughter were killed years ago, and the show is all about how he is trying to track down the murderer so he can have his revenge.
In a recent episode, he found his wife and child's murderer, and he strangled the man to death in a park. Then he went to a foreign country and "disappeared" so he wouldn't have to face judgment for his crimes.
"Revenge is mine," says the Lord.
Another example is the book Heist Society by Ally Carter. In this book, a group of teenagers steal paintings in order to appease a blackmailer. They break into buildings, steal things, and lie. I forget exactly what happens, but in the end, they are not punished for their actions. They are free to go - and even the main characters father (also a thief) is released from prison to just go on stealing things...

What about the characters in shows that have affairs, or sex outside of marriage, or look at women inappropriately? In Sherlock, Lestrade checks Molly out, even though he's already married. He's a policeman. The Bible says that even if you look at a woman lustfully, you are committing adultery with her in your mind.

And we're supposed to root for these people? These are our current heroes? These are the people we're supposed to look up to and say "I wanna be like that."


As television shows and books and movies become more and more ungodly, and as sin becomes more and more just a part of life, Christians start to get tolerant.
Our society today is all about tolerance.
Love the sinner - love the murderer, the homosexual, the prostitute, that one guy who swears all the time. But by no means tolerate the sin. By NO means, tolerate the sin. Intolerance is not judgment. Judgment is God's. But if we, as Christians, watch something like Sherlock, like the Mentalist, like Star Trek, and just brush aside and shrug off the unbiblical messages that are being sent out, then shame on us. Shame on us. Sin is serious. We are all going to be judged for our acts when we die.
The message that current entertainment is sending out is evasion. Evade judgment. Evade accountability. Do what you want. Just do it. Who cares who it hurts, just so long as you're happy, just so long as you're getting what you want.
In this latest Sherlock episode, Sherlock gets a "girlfriend." On her side, it's a serious relationship, but on his side, he's just using her to get at Magnussem. When she finds out, she sells her story to the tabloids and makes a lot of money (just a side note... that cottage she bought in Sussex downs with the beehives? In the book, Sherlock Holmes retires to Sussex downs to raise bees. I don't think we've seen the last of her).
Sherlock even goes so far as to propose to her. This makes me angry. Us girls have enough emotional problems without getting them further mixed and messed up by men.


But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Sound familiar? *cough cough* the present *cough cough*
The short of the matter is, we will be judged eventually. We can't avoid it.
So, would you rather live for this tiny blip of 80-odd years that you will be on earth, or would you rather live for eternity - eternity with the Creator of the Universe, the Almighty and gracious God?