Tag Archives: November

Writer’s Dirge

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To create a thing,
to hold it,
to read it,
to see it,
and never to know it.
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The dread word stands in my way.
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“Impossible.”
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Only if I could forget it, forget myself, forget every pen-stroke, key-stroke, moment of inspiration and frustration; only then could I know this thing as itself.
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I have the misfortune to be inside, looking out; never outside, looking in.
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Perhaps readers envy the intimate knowledge writers have of their own work. When I was younger, I might even have been guilty of such misunderstanding.
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Now I know better.
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I am too close to the canvas to ever see the picture. No amount of earthly time can give me the distance I need because the picture itself is indelibly engraved in me.
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Never  will I walk up to a shelf, see a title or a cover that interests, lift this story up, and judge it as the thing it is.
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Knowing a thing too well can mean not being able to know it at all.
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The implications are overwhelming, ironic, and inescapable. I cannot know my own work save in brief glimpses through the eyes of others.
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That is how it is, and how it must be, and I must accept it and continue.
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The joys of writing and the chance of giving something precious (as many books have been to me) to someone else, are far greater than this little shard of horror. But there will always, I think, be a part of me that is sad that I cannot split myself in two and read, as only a person other than me can, my own work.
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It is not that I think my work great, or that I worry it is bad. I have spoken of that already. It is my simple desire to know it.
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I want to write a book, and read it too. But I have discovered a sad truth of writers.
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The stories we can never read, are our own.
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Internet Archive Fire

Hold on, let me put on my librarian glasses.

~O-O~

Ok. Whether on not you have noticed, I mentioned and linked different parts of the Internet Archive in past posts, and I keep a few links to it in my sidebar.

Normally, I would just set back and let you find your own way there. But that was before the fire.

Yeah, I said Fire. I don’t often think of internet things as being flammable, but they are, after all, housed in buildings in some form or another.

The good news is, no one was hurt. The bad news is, a building belonging to a not-for-profit that, in my opinion, is a great benefit to humanity, burned down, and some materials went up with it (but thankfully no data). You can read all about it here.

I am going to donate to help them recoup. I feel what they are doing is vitally important to preserving our history and I think they do an amazing job. I will tell you a little about what they do, and let you decide whether to visit their site, or even donate yourself.

I first stumbled across Internet Archive when I was in college. I was concerned about the ephemeral nature of websites. A remarkable amount of human history plays out online, now, and then a url changes, or a server goes down, and poof! A chunk of history is gone. There is little chance that someone has a second copy sitting in a trunk in the attic.

Then I discovered Internet Archive, and learned that they had been archiving websites since the 90’s.

Allow me to put this in context with a personal story.  I first put my writing up for public scrutiny on a site called Elfwood. Then, one day, Elfwood crashed and we lost months of data. We all thought it was gone beyond recall, and one of my friends had also suffered a computer-crash around the same time.

The result was that she lost a piece of writing.

A little while later, when I discovered Internet Archive, I thought “what if…” and I searched their database (amusingly called The Wayback Machine). After searching for a while, the files are hit and miss sometimes, I found my friend’s work and I shared the link with her.

So remember, when you return to that link you’ve saved, and find that it leads nowhere?  All might not be lost. Copy the url and take yourself over to the Wayback Machine.

Internet Archive has started collections of internet ephemera connected to big events as they happen. They also preserve a lot of the random bunny trails of humanity that historians of the future may find far more interesting than we do now.

But that isn’t all! My own library contracts with Internet Archive to preserve our State websites and online documents. It is the most efficient way to preserve and provide access to our state’s online history. Many other institutions contract with them as well.

Internet Archive is also a lot of fun. I suggest going to explore, because you will find things I haven’t, but I go there to watch old movies that are in the public domain, listen to music, enjoy audio-books (Librivox partners with Internet Archive to produce free public domain audio books!), books, podcasts and Old Time radio shows. They even have a software archive!

If you have ever heard of Open Library, that is them, too. In short, they have something for pretty much everyone, and unlike for-profit companies, they believe strongly in the freedom of information.

So wander off to Internet Archive and poke around for a bit. I hope you will be surprised and pleased by what you find.

Librarian out.


Voice Week Day 5

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Empty House, the Final Chapter! This is my fifth and last installment for Voice Week.  Again, thank you, BeKindReWrite for inventing and hosting this event!

 The world is full of smells and, if you pay attention, your nose will tell you more than your eyes and ears combined. If you have a nose like mine, it will tell you practically everything, but you will never enjoy pepper again.
Anyway, when I came up to the cabin, I knew it was empty. No need to fear a crossbow that night. I climbed the porch and pulled myself up to look in the window. If anything, it looked too orderly and neat. There was no fresh blood, nor trace of fear. This was a mystery, but probably not of the gruesome-murder sort.
~

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3


Voice Week Day 4

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Voice Week Day IV! The Empty House Comes for You!

Or not. In all honesty, it probably just sits there. Go read what the others are writing as well. Shoo!

A slip, a trip on leaves and I was down. A bad fall. Panic, freezing me one moment, had me on my feet the next. No stopping!

Skirt, wet, wrapped around my legs. Too slow, no hope. But then I saw a house! I tried to shout, but a sob came. Better shot for a trespasser than hunted in the dark. I ran to the porch, hammered the door.

I would cry! Beg! Let me in! But the door fell open. One deep breath had me inside.

Nobody home, but what did that matter? I turned and barred the door.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 5


Voice Week Day 3

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The Empty House rides again! Or somesuch nonsense sequel name. My third installment for Voice Week! If you are enjoying this, you can read more if you click the above link, or even participate in it yourself!

Not even a dog came t’ answer my shout. Takin a chance, I walked on to the porch. Nobody s’much as looked out the winder. My knock weren’t answered, neither, so I made the cust’mary shout, again, then went on to talkin.

“Sir? Ma’m? I been sent up here t’ check on you. Seems you ain’t been to town in a while.”

Nothin. I knocked again, then pushed, and the door ground open. Not good. I raised my lantern. Inside looked for all the world like they’d tidied up after supper, then turned to smoke.  Nothin missin but the folks and a fire in the grate.

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Fireworks Day

“Remember, remember! The fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and plot; I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot!”

The quirkiness of the history and celebration of this holiday fascinate me. Melpomene has some thoughts to share, as well as the whole rhyme, which I have never heard!

Egotist's Club

Also known as Guy Fawkes Day, and the Fifth of November. (As in, “Remember, remember . . . “)

Guy Fawkes is most know for being the one person caught in reference to the “Gunpowder Plot”, which was meant to blow up the British Parliament and thus restore a Catholic Monarch to the throne. Fawkes was tortured into describing the plot, and then carted off to execution.  However, before he could be hung, drawn and quartered he committed suicide by jumping from the gallows.

In defense of Catholic theology and reason, I must emphasize the point that Fakes was raised as in the Church of England. All of which clearly left poor Guy confused about right and wrong and intent versus consequence. Neither suicide nor murder have ever been condoned by us Papists. Or Anglicans, as far as I know. However, Guy, being as loopy as he must have been…

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Voice Week Day 2

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And it is time for another installment of the Empty House saga for Voice Week! All mystery and no answers! Don’t forget to check out the other participants!

So, I tossed a meatbone by the porch and waited. Nothing happened, so I snuck up-side the place and checked a window. It was so damned dark that I couldn’t case the inside, but it had an empty feeling, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, since no dog came for the bone or my ankles, I went round and checked the chimney. It was dead cold, and I just knew my luck was in.

I was right, too. The door wasn’t even locked, which did worry me a little, but it was worth risking. I opened up my lantern and  set to work.

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Voice Week Day 1

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This year, I am participating in Voice Week, a writing contest invented by BeKindReWrite. This contest involves writing about the same situation from the perspectives of five different characters (or narrators/perspectives) and posting one a day from November 4th to November 8th. Each piece can only be around 100 words long, and in that space I am supposed to establish a unique voice that tells you something about the character. I have a hard time adapting my vocabulary to voices, so this ought to be a good stretch for me.  Also, you can go to the main page linked above to read and comment on the work of others who are also participating.

The scene or situation which I took on was an empty house. I hope you find it entertaining!

They give me assignments no one wants, and this seemed no different. I shouted at the edge of the yard, according to local custom, and no one shot me, but no one answered, either.

Cautiously, I mounted the porch and shouted again, identifying myself. There was no answer. By this time, I was actually curious. I knocked, and then slowly opened the door.

Once out of the moonlight, my eyes adjusted to their native dark and I saw an empty, but orderly room. I thought that finally there might be something interesting going on. They gave me the assignment, they were not going to take it from me.

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Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5


Khazâd Part I: Aulë

And now I will begin to explain my take on J. R. R. Tolkien’s Dwarves, or the Khazâd, as they call themselves. It has taken me this long to gather my thoughts, dig up my evidence and organize my reasoning. I assume that most of my readers are familiar with Middle Earth and its inhabitants. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section, or check out the Tolkien Gateway and its handy search engine.

I begin with what is, for the Dwarves, the beginning.

As far as I know, the Dwarves are the only race of Arda to be created by a single Ainu. The others arose from the Music of the Ainur, or from the corrupting influence of Melkor on existing races.  There are other races closely associated with specific Ainu (like the Ents and Yavanna, or the Eagles and Manwë),  but only the Dwarves were the work of a single mind. Therefore understanding them must begin with understanding something of their maker, Aulë the Smith.

In the Valaquenta Silmarillion, Aulë is said to be the third-mightiest of the Lords of the Valar, and the most similar in talents to the Enemy of the Valar, Melkor.  He is shown to be a smith and the shaper of the “substances of which Arda is made.”

He is … a master of all crafts, and he delights in works of skill, however small, as much as in the mighty building of old. His are the gems that lie deep in the Earth and the gold that is fair in the hand, no less than the walls of the mountains and the basins of the sea. … Melkor was jealous of him, for Aulë was most like himself in thought and powers; and there was long strife between them, in which Melkor ever marred or undid the works of Aulë, and Aulë grew weary in repairing the tumults and disorders of Melkor. Both, also, desired to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others, and delighted in the praise of their skill. But Aulë remained faithful to Eru and submitted all that he did to his will; and he did not envy the works of others, but sought and gave counsel. Whereas Melkor spent his spirit in envy and hate, until at last he could make nothing save in mockery of the thought of others, and all their works he destroyed if he could.” Valaquenta, Silmarillion

And there you have it. Aulë contained the fire and will to create and this made him great, but also led him into trouble. From what Tolkien writes, the desire to create is both wonderful and perilous. Many of his most destructive characters are either akin to Aulë  or else were his disciples. Fëanor, so talented and so catastrophic, and even Sauron, himself, learned craft from the Smith. It would be easy to assume that Tolkien considered craftsmanship a road to evil. He certainly represents the dangers of creativity in materialism and delusions of godhood. A closer look, though, reveals a very different message. Tolkien’s take seems to be that the paramount wonder and power of creation is balanced by great risk.

But for all the dangers of this creative drive, Aulë is represented as a good being. He is patient (save in one instance that I will discuss shortly), even-tempered, generous, strong, hard-working and artistic. Of the Lords of the Valar, he and Oromë are my favorites, but the Smith wins by a nose. I guess I identify with smiths. No surprise there.

I also identify with being patient in some regards and impatient in others. Of Aulë’s impatience, the Quenta Silmarillion, chapter 2, has this to say:

…so greatly did Aulë desire the coming of the Children, to have learners to whom he could teach his lore and his crafts, that he was unwilling to await the fulfillment of the designs of Ilúvatar. And Aulë made the Dwarves even as they still are…

Aulë, however, had his limits. He could make only puppets, for he was unable to give his creations souls of their own. Ilúvatar, Aulë’s creator, confronts him with this, and asks if Aulë wishes to be lord over things that do not have the power of movement or speech unless his thoughts are on them. Aulë replies:

“I did not desire such lordship. I desired things other than I am, to love and to teach them, so that they too might perceive the beauty of Eä, which thou hast caused to be. For it seemed to me that there is great room in Arda for many things that might rejoice in it, yet it is for the most part empty, still, and dumb. And in my impatience I have fallen into folly. Yet the making of things is in my heart from my own making by thee; and the child of little understanding that makes a play of the deeds of his father may do so without thought of mockery, but because he is the son of his father. But what shall I do now, so that thou be not angry with me for ever? As a child to his father, I offer to thee these things, the work of the hands which thou hast made. Do with them what thou wilt. But should I not rather destroy the work of my presumption?” Quenta Silmarillion, chapter 2

I find that a compelling speech. My desire to create things, not in mockery but in celebration of what is, puts me in keen sympathy with Aulë.  Recognizing that his actions were selfish, Aulë moves to destroy his creations, but Ilúvatar has already given them souls and they shrink from Aulë in fear. Ilúvatar tells Aulë that he will adopt the Dwarves, but he makes this caveat: “when the time comes I will awaken them, and they shall be to thee as children; and often strife shall arise between thine and mine, the children of my adoption and the children of my choice.” Quenta Silmarillion, chapter 2

This quote dissatisfies me. It is as if Ilúvatar has no warmth of love for the Dwarves and takes them on reluctantly. It is something I would like to ask Tolkien about. Is it a shade of his own heart, reluctant to love the Dwarves? Or did he intend it to be part of the Elven slant of the Silmarillion? But knowing a little of Tolkien’s background and faith, there is another possibility. Perhaps he intended the quote to echo another adoption: that of the gentiles in the Bible.

Being a gentile, this may explain some of my sympathy with the Dwarves. Ilúvatar is the father of the souls of the Dwarves, and in giving them souls adopts them as his children. It is interesting, to me, that Tolkien drew some of his ideas of the Dwarven culture (and their language) from Jewish cultures. For, to me, they seem like the Gentiles of Middle-earth. This possibility raises a myriad of questions, none of which I would dare to answer, but I find it intriguing.

To sum up: Aulë created the Dwarves from stone and he intended them to share his creative spirit with its inherent wonders and dangers, to endure and resist the destruction and corruption of Melkor and to love and enjoy the world.  Ilúvatar adopted Aulë’s creations and gave them souls, making them independent of their original maker, free agents in the world. Ilúvatar put them to sleep until the other Children should wake, and perhaps from the inherent difference between communal creations and singular creations, Ilúvatar said that there would be strife between the Dwarves and the other races.  That is the background of the Dwarves.

Next, I will explore the environment that shaped them after their waking.

For the rest of the series, look here:
Of the Free Peoples of Arda
Contrariwise
Khazâd Part II: The Deep Places of the World
Khazâd Part III: Creation
Khazâd Part IV: The Road Goes On


Happy Hobbit Thanksgiving!

Lets face it, Thanksgiving is a very Hobbitish holiday. Food, family, thankfulness, and more food.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to have one of our chapters from The Hobbit Read-along fall on this day. Here we are, at the next to last chapter, “The Return Journey”.

We have been in the midst of a chaotic battle, but the dust has settled and dear Bilbo, invisible, wakes from unconsciousness, cold, and alone. He wakes to find victory, but not a joyful one. “Well it seems a very gloomy business,” he says. Yes, Bilbo, it is a very gloomy business.

Last chapter, the Dwarves  showed some real character. Now, so near the end, we get more. We see Thorin, faced with death, gaining perspective. Forgiveness and friendship finally outweigh material things to him. This death, and the deaths of Fili and Kili (I am so sad for their parents, if they still live!) bring home to Bilbo the painful reality that adventure and tragedy are closely related.

They buried Thorin deep beneath the mountain, and Bard laid the Arkenstone upon his breast.

“There let it lie till the Mountain falls!” he said. “May it bring good fortune to all his folk that dwell here after!”

Upon his tomb the Elvenking then laid Orcrist, the elvish sword that had been taken from Thorin in captivity. It is said in songs that it gleamed ever in the dark if foes approached, and the fortress of the dwarves could not be taken by surprise.

There are some interesting details in this chapter, and, in my opinion, some of the best quotes in the book.

In the “interesting” category, I place the fact that Gandalf has his arm in a sling. Gandalf, who will one day fight a Balrog! I know he can be injured, but I really want to know how it happened.

Also interesting is Tolkien’s more relaxed use of language. Just look at his description of Beorn’s roars:

The roar of his voice was like drums and guns.

No shying from modern lingo here!

Now I will conclude with some of my favorite quotes from the chapter.

“How I should have got all that treasure home without war and murder all along the way, I don’t know. And I don’t know what I should have done with it when I got home.”

Bilbo has become a much wiser hobbit over the course of his adventure. And much more generous, too:

“If ever you are passing my way,”  said Bilbo, “don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome to come at any time!”

Could there be a more hobbitish farewell?

There is some nice, probably unintentional foreshadowing:

“Farewell! O Gandalf!” said the king. “May you ever appear where you are most needed and least expected!”

Tolkien taunts us with:

“He had many hardships and adventures before he got back.”

And yet he tells us so little! Why, Tolkien, why?!

And finally we have this:

“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending!”

Have a happy Thanksgiving day!


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