Exploring where life and story meet!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A window on the world

For a world that is supposedly without borders, boundaries, or limits thanks to technology, I wonder if we are not the most myopic generation in the history of the world, assuming we know and understand things far away in time or space or both because we can google it in a heart beat, but in truth we know nothing, least of all ourselves.  But there is a cure: read.  Yes, that old fashioned, outdated, archaic activity is not reserved for spinsters of the Jane Austen period (you know, pre-1995), it does indeed have its uses.  We google things, glance through a short paragraph or a few words, and deem ourselves experts on any given topic, when our forebears (including our pre-google selves) used to pick up a book and actually get familiar with the topic, and through stories, we could actually live through the French Revolution or the travels of Odysseus.

But nowadays, our worldview is more narrow than ever.  We hem ourselves in with our favorite bands, songs, quotes, movies, TV shows, and talk to no one but those who agree with us in taste and opinion, even our media consumption is strictly that which makes us comfortable, calling everyone who disagrees even slightly an idiot or a bigot or a fiend of the worst sort.  We have this safe, fake cocoon to protect us from real understanding, empathy, kindness, and thought and we like it that way.   It isn't messy, uncomfortable, or challenging, it is safe, calm, and unexciting; it is beige.  Yes, beige, that offensively dull and ubiquitous color with no life or personality or meaning that goes with everything but nobody likes.  It is the color of suburban houses and apartment carpets and cubical walls.

Yet we all want authenticity, we want 'all natural,' we want 'free range,' we want adventure and love and romance, yet none of that is summed up in the color or lifestyle choice known as beige.  Beige does not exist in the natural world, at least in vast quantities, it may be a grain of sand here or a feather there, but I dare you to find an entire expanse of humdrum beige.  Find the brownest bird and look closely at his feathers, they are a riot of fawn, mahogany, sable, white, tan and a thousand hues not beige.  Or a sandy beach, look at the little grains, each a different color, no two alike in shape or texture or hue.  There is black or white or blue, but not beige.  How horrid a world that boasts a beige sky!  Ours is a wild, wondrous, shifting blue from deepest twilight to a pallid color that is almost but not quite white.

Open a book, preferably an old book, and go have an adventure.  Go raft down the Mississippi or rot in a French prison or dare the seas of yore.  Chase yourself a rich husband or slay a dragon.  Learn about people, places, and events strange to modern and politically correct sensibilities; peer through those strange casements upon 'fairy lands forlorn.'  Get off social media, turn off the tele, pocket your phone.  Adventure awaits, and even if the cover is tattered and sadly beige, there's many a long dead sage that has far more to say than anyone on Twitter!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Well said, take a peep at the article here.  I love it when people unwittingly write a thesis for this site.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Not your typical Jane Austen

While researching the recently released movie of Jane Austen's novella 'Lady Susan,' which is called 'Love and Friendship,' for some odd reason, I came across this article and had to chuckle, as the author apparently took the Chesterton quote out of context, thus making her very angry at the poor man when he is only stating the obvious in a roundabout and very amusing way.  Strangely, I think he would agree with the author that the movie is quite amusing (far more than the actual book) and very well done.  The offending quote was taken from the introduction Chesterton had written for the release of the actual 'Love and Friendship' manuscript, which is a vastly amusing romp satirizing the dramatic airs of romantic fiction of the time (if only someone would do that for werewolf and vampire romances today!) written when Miss Austen was quite a girl.  And I must agree with Chesterton, who was merely musing why such stuff as 'Lady Susan' made it into print while this hilariously fanciful tale was simply passed from relative to relative until it was finally published many decades later.  He is right, the original novella is very dull compared to its whimsical forebear, but the movie rectifies some of the evils of the novella, making it much more fun than the original source material, perhaps even elevating it to the level of the fantastical story written when Miss Austen was yet a teenager.

The Chestertonian introduction is in itself a joy to read, as is the satirical tale, and the movie makes 'Lady Susan' a viable treat as well, but I do not recommend the novella to anyone but hardcore Austen fans who will not be satisfied until they have devoured all of her extant works.  As for poor Mr. Chesterton and this grievous smudge upon his character?  I think he would laugh and say he had been accused of far worse.  But I do think it a great crime to accuse a man of Chesterton's humor and good sense of being lacking so sorely in literary taste.  Had he the opportunity to see the movie, he would be quite pleased, but as he only had the option of reading the novella, a book very much out of character to the rest of the Austen canon, he must certainly be forgiven for preferring the mad satirical romp; as most certainly do I.  Besides, he has written much that is as good or even more amusing than this new movie, perhaps the offended author should read some of it, have a good laugh, and forego punching the poor man in the nose!

As for the movie itself, it was more 'The Importance of Being Earnest' than anything you've ever seen attributed to Jane Austen.  If you can get over the shock of an evil heroine in a Jane Austen movie, then you'll quite enjoy it.  The music, acting, scenery, and costumes are wonderful.  The dialogue is witty, snarkish, and moves right along.  Just don't go in hoping for 'Pride and Prejudice' and you'll do well.  If you can't get your hands on the movie, you can always pick up anything written by either Chesterton or Austen and have an equally good time, save perhaps 'Lady Susan!'

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A most serious topic

Tired of the vanity and insipidness of modern culture, of pretending to be happy when you'd rather cry?  Is there really a point or meaning to this vale of tears?  Find out in this excellent article.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Here, at the end of all things...

"...but what will you do when the end comes?"

Those words really make you pause and think.  What will you do?

I finally watched the new Star Wars movie (consider yourself warned for spoilers, but as I am the last person on earth to watch it I doubt any one will be devastated).  It finally made it to the theater in our lovely Podunk town.  When I was a teenager and reading Hamlet, I was rather saddened when everyone died, not understanding the whole concept of a tragedy but later reconciling myself to the fact and learning to love the great one liners and wonderful morbidness of the tale.  I went in assuming this one was Hamlet in a galaxy far far away and was not disappointed.  I actually liked it better than episode VII, maybe because my head wasn't spinning, wondering what had happened in the galaxy since the last movie; I felt very much as if I had walked into a parallel universe (thanks Star Trek!) with plot holes big enough to fly a Star Destroyer through, but that is entirely another matter.  You had to assume everyone pretty much gets annihilated since they aren't in the next movie, but even so, I really liked the characters and watching the destructive capabilities of the Death Star from the ground level is rather chilling (and this is only the low setting?!).  A 'disturbance' in the Force, really?  Talk about understatement!

Anywho, there are not many movies where you actually get to see the answer to the question above.  Most movies you are either so overwhelmed with action/destruction that you are left chilled, cold, and dead inside or they end happily ever after.  Very few actually let you contemplate what happens in that irredeemable moment when all is lost.  And this movie did it well.  Very well.  In our society of the quest for immortal youth we are completely oblivious to death and the end of the world (save as a plot for an action movie).  But what happens when it comes and you aren't ready?  What happens when you are sitting there and suddenly realize it is over and your only accomplishment in life is breaking your own record at Angry Birds?  In this movie, the characters were ready, they pretty much assumed it was over the moment they volunteered for the mission and died doing something vital for the survival of freedom and justice in the galaxy though they wouldn't live to see it.  But then there was the guy who built the thing and it destroyed him, tragic and ironic and horrible.  Strange that we can find peace with one death but are astonished and appalled by another in the same circumstances.

The opening quotation comes from the very end of Chapter 5 of the Book of Jeremiah, the whole chapter tells of the injustice and evil of God's chosen people and the prophesied disaster that will soon overwhelm them.  Before those chilling words, it tells of how things are as they like it and they will not be thwarted in their desires, little believing God will fulfill His word.  I cannot help but think that they felt very much like the designer of the Death Star when his own creation annihilated him.  What of each of us?  It may not be the end of the world in our case, but death certainly will one day have its due.  Can we be easy and at peace when that fell specter comes for us?  Or will we watch in wide eyed horror as everything we once thought to be so vital and important turns to ash and nothing about us, finally realizing what it is we should have done with out lives?

And what is this vital thing?  What can keep us from despair at the end of all things, as Sam Gamgee might say?:  

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."   

What will you do when the end comes?