Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Element Encyclopedia Series: A Shoutout

I enjoy many things of which the average Joe has no knowledge. Music by Medwyn Goodall or by Herb Moore, art by Brian Froud, and much obscure literature from thrift stores or annual library blowout sales. Exotic dishes, studies of foreign martial arts. Pagan religions, both in practice and as an educational or historical discipline. Forgotten sciences.

Some of the best books, both for reading and for aethetically inspiring paintings, are often found in Barnes & Noble's bargain rack. While I'm glad for their relatively cheap prices, I cannot help wondering why they ended up on sale, or in some cases, out of print. Myth and Magic by John Howe was among these when I purchased it.

Also waiting on the cheap shelves are any number of the Element Encyclopedia series. They're so vastly informative that I can thumb through one all day and still not know all that there is to know about a particular topic. These include the psychic world, magical creatures, vampires, spells, magical herbs and roots, secret societies, the significances of birthdays, Celts, Native Americans, ghosts and hauntings, and the interpretation of dreams. All of the entries I have read have been fascinating, and many subjects are still largely unknown in the world.

For instance, who knows of the jidra? the guivre? cherufes, lampaluguas, the Lambton worm? (All of these are mythical or mystical organisms, by the way.) Has anyone heard of the Bell Witch, aeromancy, oneiromancy? I believe I might be capable of the last one: dream divination.

Occasionally something will make its way into mainstream culture, such as a black shuck (A.K.A. the Churchyard Grim, a massive shaggy dog used in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). I was pleased to read about a malevolent spirit from Native American mythology known as the Wendigo, which was used as an antagonist in Stephen King's novel and screenplay Pet Sematary.

John and Caitlin Matthews wrote some of these encyclopedias, and Theresa Cheung did other ones. I believe there are other contributors, but I really do wish to give a shoutout to anyone who reads this blog: these books are amazing. Were they to disappear from print, I would consider it a great loss.

A word of caution, though: the big, heavy versions tend to be poorly bound, and pages detach quite easily from the spines. The smaller, more compact paperback ones are the way to go...although the fragile ones are more likely to contain indexes.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Revived Post from 28 Apr. 2013: "Rain"

Right about now it is sprinkling a bit outside. Not a storm, mind, but the wood of the deck is being peppered with water droplets, becoming dappled like a cheetah's pelt. Many use the phrase "rainy day" as if such denotes something negative; why do they say that sort of thing? I, for one, love wet weather. Warm, cold, or otherwise (depending on my mood), I enjoy dimness and shade. I sometimes even relish the plain-out dark. Perhaps the northern part of England would suit me well, or perhaps Canada's Rain Coast.

Or perhaps a warmer region would be interesting, at least to visit? I have often wondered what a tropical rainforest is like, apart from the vampiric insects. There are many such areas on Earth, but my eyes are currently set on South and Central Americas. The other humid forests of the world would be nice too, but I would likely have to research which areas are safer than others.

That is not to say that nature's showers here are not lovely. I enjoy walking and dancing in the rain; watching it from the kitchen, with or without a window as a barrier; and opening my bedroom window and just lying there on my bed or floor, listening to the wet patter of falling orbs of wet.

Rain also makes me feel creatively inspired. It is great for drawing, writing, and playing musical instruments. Without precipitation, where would we be? Even apart from the matter of plant life, drinking water, and mushroom growth, life would definitely be less interesting. Though I would make the best of it. I would not even know what I was missing, come to think of it...yet rain is a beautiful thing, as it were. Whether anticipated or spontaneous, I relish the damp. And once I am away from a "traditional" neighborhood, I intend to purchase a bit of land to start an organic, self-sustaining farm. I like my neighbors, so my love of solitude is not a personal matter. The simple truth is that I am an introvert. How I look forward to practicing swordplay or archery in a quiet, secluded field, the greatest sound being the drops striking the grass-blades and packed dirt! Or perhaps sheltering with my chickens and goats, or tending to horses while the heavens pour? In any case, it will be beautiful.

Urban areas, of course, can also be pretty to observe as the streets gleam with reflected cafe lights and the slick street-lamps illuminating falling raindrops, and the bookshop windows slick from a deluge. It all sounds lovely, but I would prefer rural, given the choice.

The trees in the forest, with moisture-darkened trunks and lichen, are where I feel I belong. It's only a matter of time, I suppose.

Revived Post from 2 Jan. 2013: "A Post Before School"

I was terribly ill last night, but at least it has granted me an extra day of relative freedom. I was in Chicago and other bits of northern Illinois and some of Wisconsin for about a week, which was nice at parts. My paternal grandparents live in what one might call a pigsty; most of the dishes are filthy, people drink directly from milk cartons, and so forth. They are also generally clueless about the concept of privacy: almost none of the doors are fully capable of staying shut, but they don't bother to fix it. They'll just waltz on in without knocking, or in some cases, they'll knock and then barge through without waiting for a reply. But my maternal grandmother is a lot more sensible when it comes to these things. Her husband died when I was three or so, so I only have her as a maternal grandparent, but she's pretty great for the most part. This post is not meant to say I don't love my paternal family. I just don't like staying with them, which I am forced to do year after year after year - sometimes twice a year - by my father, who seems to know something's wrong but appears to be unwilling to admit it. Which brings me to another point:

I sometimes get loads of reading and writing done over the winter, but this time (although it was partly my own negligence), my dad had us do stuff pretty much every day in order to "enjoy" ourselves. I will admit that the Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry both had some interesting stuff...but there was never much time to relax. And in the past he's had a tendency to verbally put down anyone who doesn't want to run all over the place with him. Perhaps it was nice to get some air away from that filthy household, but to me holidays are, at least in part, a chance to rest a bit, which is hard with people barging in every three seconds and dragging you around the big loud city. I appreciate what the guy tried to do, but I don't think that enjoyment ought to be forced. Kind of sucks the whole purpose out of it, just like education.

On another note, I'm reading a really amazing novel by Rachel Neumeier, titled The City in the Lake. The prose is just beautiful and the story fascinates me. I'd recommend it to friends, definitely.

Revived Post from 21 Nov. 2012: "The Last of the Rhinos"

Today, as a follow-up to our San Diego Zoo visit, we experienced the zoo's Safari Park. It focused primarily upon African wildlife. Among the animals we saw were many antelopes - gazelles, gerenuks, impalas, Nile lechwes, blesboks, wildebeests, and bongos, to name but a few - and several African elephants. There was at least one tiger, but we could not spot it (or them). We rode a tram through the African-based deserts and grasslands and saw Rothschild's giraffes and greater flamingos. About halfway through the tour, my heart was broken as I heard about the predicament of the Northern white rhinoceros. There are only eight of them left in captivity and they are believed to be extinct in the wild. Eight.

And this is not due to natural selection or drought: poachers are responsible. This makes me want to weep. Are there horns really that valuable? Rhinos are such beautiful animals in my opinion, and to harm one would be unthinkable. And to murder one simply for its horn! Such a waste, like cutting off the top fin of a blue shark and throwing the fish back.

I dearly hope this sort of tragedy does not happen again, but I doubt that that will be the case.

Revived Post from 18 Oct. 2012: "An Evening in Denmark"

Tonight I was in Denmark, but not really: my school put on a production of the playRosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (a spin-off of Hamlet), and while it was a bit hard to follow at times, I very much enjoyed it. Had I been more efficient earlier on, I would have auditioned for the part of Claudius; however, the fellow who executed the role did so much more beautifully than I imagine I could have done. In any case, I shall soon play the role of William in As You Like It, to which I am looking forward a great deal.

What I wonder now is, What is modern-day Denmark like? Having never been, I am rather curious, for while I do not consider myself to be a tourist in the sense of pointless sightseeing, I may go to Europe someday. There will most likely need to be a reason, but I feel a sort of claustrophobia, having been in the States for such a long time. Said reason will give me an excuse for foreign fresh air. Truth be told, I went to an uncle's wedding in Ireland when I was four years old. There was a stop at some airport in London prior to the Irish landing, but I shall now repeat the phrase: I was four years old. I remember some, but not much, of the journey. It is as if I am bound to this nation, but my bonds weaken as I mature. Soon they will be broken! Soon I will be on the move! Perhaps an acting troupe would be a good idea. Plans are formulating now, but have not been entirely made yet. Acting and traveling are both marvelously fun, so why not?

What I Read During the Debut V: "Four Lines of the End (working title)"

They will rise with wings unfurled;
All of us will be destroyed.
This fate will befall the world
If we dare unlock the void.

What I Read During the Debut IV: "The Prisoner"

We are not equal, you and I.
You took away your own freedom.
You are locked away, confined;
You are my prisoner.
You are on a leash, unbroken
By your mad attempts to flee.
Guilt is the strongest chain,
And bound by it, you’ll not escape.
And I shall never release you:
Even as your mind rusts,
The chains of guilt harden,
Stronger than ever, restraining life.
I need not guard you: the chains will
Hold regardless of my presence
Or absence: more than my captive,
You are bound by your own foul deeds.

What I Read During the Debut III: "The Attack"

You may feel strong
Because you have strength
Of body, not mind
But you are weak
You are not strong
You’re pathetic
You worm-fodder
Cowardly piece of lying hiding scum
You felt tough
On top of the jolly fucking world
On top of me
Because you have a degree
A quarter of a century’s groveling
Wasted on a shiny paper
Tackling youth for a living
Because you have allies
Number is quantity
Not quality
Quality is in your words
Your actions
And they certainly have it
But not a high sort
Beating up adolescents
Does not make you
A strong person
If anything
It makes you the weakest one
But here dwell I
Stewing in frustration
Of the lies you told
And my own blood-kin’s eager belief
Because you’re nothing
Insignificant worm
Waste of life
Lying filth
Horrid child-beating scum
Whose very breath is a crime
Against nature
We’re all better off
Without you
I know I am.

What I Read During the Debut II: "Rainbows and Spectra"

How convenient these labels must be
For you utilize them
Whenever you disagree.
“It’s not you,” you say, “it’s the autism.
“The bipolar.
“The OCD.
“The age.”
You know I need pills
When I am not subservient.
Why else would I dare
To challenge your words?
Only the ill speak out.
Disorders are an ideal excuse
To opt out of facing
The raw, merciless truth.
You’re right:
It is a phase.
I’m only confused.
Gender is permanently determined at birth.
I’m not poly, I’m just promiscuous.
And, of course, there is no way in Hell
I am a pagan--
I simply wish to offend
The real religions.
Keep telling yourself these things,
Because you alone
Seem content to believe them.

What I Read During the Debut I: "L'Ombre du Chevalier (The Knight's Shadow)"

The knight, strong and gallant,
Strides up to the gloomy fortress,
Not knowing that this time
He will find no glory.

The princess has been locked away
For over three decades,
But is said to still possess
Strength and beauty.

The dragon, horned and winged
And wearing cold, stony scales,
Awaits her next meal,
Who has come of his own free will.

The knight sneaks into the tower
Of the ominous fortress,
Sure to find his heart’s desire.

He locates her before long.

Her eyes open,
Yellow discs slitted with black,
And she spews flame upon her rescuer,
For whom all escapes are dashed;
The captive is the captor,
Waiting for yet another meal.

Silver armor melts around flaking flesh;
The stench of his own frying blood
Drives him mad, and he dies in the inferno.

The she-dragon needs never hunt,
For her meals are all foolish enough
To seek her out on their own.

QRB: The Debut

Barely an hour ago concluded a highlight and milestone in my life as well as my career as a writer and performer.
The Quail Ridge Books & Music Teen Writers Collective, of which I am a senior member, has been for many years a haven for young poets, novelists, scriptwriters, essayists, and nearly every other kind of writer imaginable. Within the past year or so, however, it's become more than that: now, it is a home away from home, and we are a closely-knit family bound by a love of the written word and for one another.
Until this past evening, we had been a private (albeit open) group, reading things to one another. This time, we read a selection of our works to a more-or-less public audience. We may even have gained some future members, given that three people from the audience opted to perform. Also among the watchers was a man representing a publishing house. Good news, eh?
I performed five poems, titled "L'Ombre du Chevalier (The Knight's Shadow)," "Rainbows and Spectra," "The Attack," "The Prisoner," and "Four Lines of the End" (the last of which sorely needs a better title). I'll post them all later, after a few post-show edits: performing something is a great way to realize what doesn't sound as good, or what can be improved upon. That's the beauty of writing and performing.
Now, my hope is that we can integrate this sort of event into our schedule in the future: not too often, but maybe two to four times a year. It seems a worthy goal.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Meeting Orson Scott Card

Last night (Tuesday, June 10, 2014), I finally met Mr. Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender's Game, among various other works. 
For the sake of focus and for that of tranquility, this will not be a post about homophobia or any other such allegations; if I am to address those issues, it shall be later, in a relevant context, after having done my research.
Scott was a very nice, charming man. Before his speech and question-and-answer session with the general reading public, he had agreed to meet some members of my library's young-adult book club in the back room of a local indie bookstore. I was delighted to shake Scott's hand as well as that of Aaron Johnston, his coauthor in Earth Awakens. One interesting fact about Aaron is that he is not merely a novelist: he also writes comic-book scripts, illustrates comics, and (according to Scott) is a very talented comedic improv actor. Also, Scott apparently directs plays.
All of this is quite encouraging, as I am interested in multiple forms of art. I had worried that I could not do all of the ones which interested me the most, but I think one can master at least a few things and still be decent at a number of others without becoming the proverbial jack of all trades.
Another thing Card said was not to befriend other writers. Oops. For me, this has been done far too often already, but I took this my own way: Do not befriend other writers exclusively, for doing so would present a rather narrow view of humanity. Fortunately for me, I have many friends, acquaintances, and other such connections in a vast array of fields and professions.
He said that being a full-time writer differs from writing on the side while having a separate day job, which I'd imagine are indeed quite different.
I know which one I prefer, but not which one I'll end up doing.