Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lucy Maud Montgomery re-read post 1

Dear Friend,
I have decided to re-read all of L. M. Montgomery's novels in the order they were published. I have previously read each of her novels, and a few short story collections, and am a big fan of her writing. I was aware that the "Anne" books were published in a different order than most box sets you'll find today put them in, and became curious to know what it was like to read the books the way the earliest fans of Maud would have read them. In the end, I decided not only to read all of the "Anne" books in order, but to read all of the books that way. So, after a quick search on the internet I had my reading plan.
I have now read first three books Maud published, and wanted to write out my thoughts so far.

Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908. It was the first L.M.Montgomery book I ever read, like many others. Anne Shirley, the adolescent orphan adopted by brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, is a well known character with many fans. Most people are already familiar with the story and the character, so I don't have much to say about this particular book. I still find it charming and enjoyable to read. Anne Shirley feels like a friend in the way that most protagonists of novels I read in my youth do. This book has held up in countless reads through my life, and it still does.

Anne of Avonlea was published the year after AoGG, 1909. It continues the story of the first book, with Anne now working as the teacher at the Avonlea school. The returning characters are just ass charming as they were in the previous book and the progression of their characters feels natural. The book's main problem is a pair of new characters. Perhaps Maud thought that since her first story of a surprise adoption had been successful then the surprise adoption of a pair of twins would be twice as successful! Davey and  Dora Keith come to live at Green Gables with Anne and Marilla after a relative of Marilla's dies and leaves the twins alone in the world. I don't feel that I am exaggerating if I say that Davey Keith is a sociopath. On the other hand, Dora Keith is so lacking in personality, traits, or impact on the story that she could have been replaced by a plank of wood and achieved the same results. The goal with the character of Davey, I think, was to show an immature boy who was naturally selfish and hadn't yet learned to consider either the feelings of others or the consequences of his actions. He's meant to to seem thoughtless but innocent. However, he winds up seeming like someone who would kill something (or even someone) just because he wants to see what it would be like, and then not understand why such an action would upset another person. The main problem with this characterization is that Anne and Marilla repeatedly make it clear that they prefer Davey to Dora. There are multiple conversations between the two admitting that though they feel guilty about it they prefer the terror twin over the one who is obedient, clean and completely uninteresting. Yeah, Dora is boring, like I said, she may as well be a plank of wood, but at least you don't have to worry about her causing permanent damage like you do with Davey.
Two other new characters is this book are Paul Irving, a student in the school, and Lavender Lewis, a quirky and beautiful old maid that Anne and her best friend Diana happen to find living out of the way near Avonlea. Both of these characters are fun to read about and charming. Paul is very similar to Anne, being dreamy and imaginative, while being raised by an older lady instead of a parent. Lavender's story intersects with Paul's in a very sweet way.
Despite the twins, AoA is an enjoyable read, and a great continuation of beloved characters.

Kilmeny of the Orchard, published in 1910, is not like the two previous books. I haven't confirmed this, but I read that this book was written before the two Anne books, and was published after their success. I can believe that, since the book seems immature in comparison. There was a chapter in AoGG in which Anne and her friends start a story writing club. The stories the girls write are melodramatic pieces of purple prose which no one but their young authors would take seriously. KotO could easily have been written by on e of the girls in the club. The story is about a handsome and rich young man helping a sick friend of his by becoming a substitute teacher in a small town. He finds a beautiful girl in a hidden orchard and discovers that she is mute and has been hidden away from society due to the shame of her mother who died long ago. They fall in love, because they are the two most beautiful people in the book, pretty  much, but they can't be together because...various stupid reasons. There is also an Italian character who likes Kilmeny, but he's evil. Why is he evil? The only reason I could decipher was that he was Italian, therefore foreign, and of course evil, so there's that.
This book has the purplest of prose, and I resorted to skipping entire paragraphs just to get to some action or dialogue. Maud always had a tendency toward over-description, but it is uncontrolled in this book. All of the conflict was magically resold and Kilmeny was automaticallyt accepted by everyone who met her because she was simply that beautiful. The book was only 134 pages long and it took me over a month to read simply because I didn't care about it.

The next book on the list will be The Story Girl, which I remember as one of my favorites, so my suffering through KotO was almost worth it.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dear friend,
If Adam Young and I were close, personal friends, I would feel compelled to take him out for coffee one afternoon and ask him if everything was all right. Why would I want to do this, you ask? Well, it's his recent songs.

Today, Owl City released an EP called Ultraviolet. Being the ever so loyal fan that I am, I downloaded that EP today. This entry won't be so much a review of the music, as simply a few observations that I made upon listening to it.

1. Beautiful Times
This track has been out for quite a while. (I don't remember the day it was released, I just know it has been long enough for me to have played it 30 times before today.) If you listen to the lyrics of Beautiful Times, it seems, on the surface, to be a hopeful song. I suppose he means it to be hopeful, but the melancholy over all of it pulls some of that hope down, in my opinion.
When did the sky turn black?
And when will the light come back?
These lines are repeated throughout the song.
 I fought all through the night
Oh, oh, but I made it alive
The sun's starting to rise
Oh, oh, these are beautiful times
The chorus is about struggle leading to the morning, when, supposedly the difficulty is over. But still, the focus is on the struggle. Still, it is an attempt at saying life is still worth the effort.

2.Up All Night
This song seems to be about losing support, support that might not even have been there at all.
I fell in love with a ghost
Out under the moonlight
You took my hand, held me close
For once I was all right
 This opening seems fine, but it changes as you listen on.
Held down like an angel with no wings
I wanna fly again
I just can't get you off my mind
Now I'm gonna be up all night
I swear I could feel you in my arms
But there was no one there at all
The strangest thing about this song to me is how similar the themes are to his old songs. He sings about angels, flying and waterfalls and it seems like vague references to the songs he wrote on the All Things Bright and Beautiful album. My overall feeling while listening to ATBAB was one of hope, true, joyful hope. So far, any hopeful feeling these songs are giving me is begrudging.

3. This Isn't the End
Before I even start talking about the lyrics of this song, I'd like to talk about my initial reaction. I felt depressed the instant this song started. It is just such a helpless, sad beginning. I nearly hit skip by the end of his first sentence. I was truly dreading listening to it again, in order to write a review of it.
Then, I listened again, in order to make my opinion, and I felt much better about the subject matter. It's a sad story, but it is a story, and could possibly be, and probably is, a true one.
The subject of this song is a girl whose father commits suicide. It's a sad song.
She tried to look happy in front of her friends
But knew that she'd never feel normal again
She fought back the tears as she filled her eyes
And wanted him back
Just to tell him goodbye.
This is the sort of song you listen to when you need a good cry. It may not match whatever situation or loss you're feeling exactly, but it matches the feeling.
And over the years though the pain was real
She finally forgave him and started to heal
But that right there is why, though I think this is the saddest song on the album, I also think it may be the best and most important, lyrically. Forgiveness is necessary to healing from the hurts that others cause you. Forgiveness isn't for the person who was wrong. It is for you, letting go, giving it to God, and moving on is how you recover.
It's all too astounding to comprehend
It's just the beginning
This isn't the end

4. Wolf Bite
If I were to play any of these songs as background music throughout my day, just some noise as I do chores or run errands, it would be Wolf Bite. But that doesn't mean that the lyrics don't matter. For all of my favorite songs, the lyrics matter. These, though perhaps less noticeably than the previous three, seem depressed and a little doubtful to me.
I wanna get my life right
Will you show me the way?
The overall theme seems to be repeated worry. Another nightmare, another wolf bite, familiar territory that isn't comfortable despite it's familiarity.
In the darkest night
When I need your light
Will you show me the way?
I wonder, slightly, if I would have this issue with the song's lyrics if I didn't know Adam is a professing Christian. He's recorded worship music, he's quoted scripture, he's made no secret of his faith. But in these lyrics, he doesn't seem faithful. Let me be clear, I am not questioning his belief, I am not saying Christians never experience doubt. I am saying, that asking if your source of light will show up when you need them isn't a very faith-filled question.
It's another nightmare
I swear there's something out there
So save me 'cause I'm so scared
Will you show me the way
This repeated question is just full of doubt that the person he relies on will care for him.
It's another werewolf
All dressed up in sheep's wool
And changing when the moon is full
Will you show me the way?
These lines grabbed me. There are so many influences in life that can seem to be right, to be what you're supposed to do, supposed to listen to, and it is a real concern that in the end it will turn out to be wrong. It won't be right, it won't be what you were supposed to listen to.
I might have liked the song lyrics more if in the final chorus he had changed slightly to faith that his support, his way, his light, would be there for him. It wouldn't take much to switch the words "Will you" around, so that instead of a question, it is a statement of belief. But, hey, I didn't write the song. (I may choose to sing it that way to myself, when I sing along, though.)

So, yes, this wasn't a review. Maybe these songs will grow on me. Maybe I'll see the underlying hopeful message more clearly in time. Hopefully, if he needs it, someone will sit down for a cup of coffee with Adam, and he'll get to talking things out.
If I need something more cheerful, I'll listen to some older Owl City. I don't regret buying the EP, and I'm pleased to say the music behind the lyrics is a bit of a return to the sound I liked so much in ATBAB and Ocean Eyes. Things change. People grow up. But we shouldn't lose our hope.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dear Friend,
Oh, dear. I had every intention in the world of writing up a "real" post tonight, and I was considering the topic of either a specific pet peeve of recent fiction, but I didn't plan well enough to feel that I can write it tonight.
So, we'll have that to look forward to later, won't we?
But, I still want to talk about something, just to get back into blogging, so let's see what comes to mind as I type, shall we?

I've been reminded that I have a weakness for odd characters who solve mysteries. If this odd character has a more normal sidekick, even better. It all started with Due South. DS was my first "grown up" show. I'd watched shows that weren't targeted toward children before, of course, but Due South was the first that I loved. Benton Fraser, the Canadian Mountie in Chicago, was a delightful character that I loved to watch.
It all sort of grew from there for me. Whether I'm watching Psych, any variation of Sherlock Holmes (BBC's Sherlock, CBS's Elementary, Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Brett, or even the old Ronald Howard television show!) or playing Professor Layton video games, or reading Albert Campion books, I just love weird people figuring out what really went on.

I've pretty much been trying to write a similar character to all of those for the past four years that I've done National Novel Writing Month. I'm not sure I've accomplished it, but it's been fun to try to write them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dear friend,
Wow, it's weird to write those words again. It's been, what? a year and a half? Well, it looks as though I might be back.

In the time I've been gone, I've acquired and lost a "job," found and left a church, learned a new hobby, become obsessed with an old one, written two books and countless other little things. But I don't feel like dwelling on the past. I would like to look toward the bright, shiny future.

This is just an announcement that I haven't abandoned this place. I just took a break. Regular programming will resume in a tick. I hope the wait was worth it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I didn't expect that when I woke up this morning

Dear friend,
You could hardly expect me to let this particular date go by without any sort of post, now could you? Yes, once again, it's my birthday. So, once again, I'm posting a birthday post.
I did my usual sort of celebration, lunch with my dear mum, shopping and new Breyer horse model. There was, however, an unexpected event added to my day.
I live, pretty much, in the country and many of the people around here own either horses or cows. These aren't farms or ranches, just that the homeowners live on enough land that they can keep a few animals around. I'm very used to driving past a certain house on our street and seeing about half a dozen cows in a fenced in area. Just like normal today, we drove past this house and saw the cows. One thing was out of the ordinary, however, a calf was on the wrong side of the fence.
The rest of the cows, still safely standing inside the fence, were looking with what I could only assume was a mixture of concern and curiosity at this little creature who seemed to have no idea how to get back in to "mommy."
Since they were so close to the road, and it would be a terrible thing if the poor little calf got hit by a car, we pulled into the driveway, hoping to alert the owner of these cows that their calf had escaped. The little black thing walked slowly in front of the car, eventually moving over to the side of the driveway to let us past him.
No one was home.
This was a problem. I have no idea how to deal with cows. My mother has no idea how to deal with cows. We couldn't figure out how to get back down the driveway without "pushing" the calf back toward the road.
The cows still inside the fence walked up and down, following the calf for every step he took.
Mom decided to pray, and that seemed to push the little calf closer to the fence, and away from the road.
Just then, we noticed the very large hole in the fence that the calf must have gone through to make his escape. I decided to get out of the car and see if I could coax the calf back through the hole.
Standing outside the car, a few feet from the adorable, and obviously nervous, little calf I realized how very large his mother was.
I suddenly worried that this huge animal might think I was some sort of threat to her baby. The fence was already damaged, and this cow was staring at me, just a few feet away.
I decided to just go for it anyway, and moved a little closer to the calf. My mom had gotten out of the car now, and the calf had two choices, either walk closer to either of these two strange women, or jump through the hole in the fence.
Praise God, he chose the fence.
He immediately walked back to his mother, and the whole group of cows (I suppose they're called a herd?) walked away from the fence, surrounding the calf.
So, for my birthday, I saved a calf's life. How was your day?
It was a fun birthday. I must remember to call the neighbors and urge them to fix the fence...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Where have I been all this time?

Dear Friend,
It seems to have been quite a long time since I last used this blog of mine. I haven't been particularly busy, I'm sad to say, so it isn't that I haven't had time to write. I have simply lacked either motivation or inclination.
I had truly intended to make 2011 a year of writing, writing and more writing. I started off pretty well at the beginning of the year. It seems, though, that much like what happens to my other self-improvement projects, my enthusiasm tapered off. I still love writing, I still have thoughts I like to explore through putting my views down on paper, or in a word processor, as it may be, but I seem to have been in a different phase lately. 
I'm not making promises. I won't say, "Next year I'll write at least once a week." I just know that if I were to do that I'd disappoint myself, not to mention any readers this blog might still manage to get.
For now, I'd like to wish my readers a Merry Christmas, a Blessed New Year, and God's Grace to their lives. I'll figure out what I'm doing with this soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

So that's what I'm supposed to do!

Dear Friend,
I read the most recent blog entry by Adam Young, entitled How To Get Over It. At the end of the entry he says, "If you need me, I’ll be in my fuzzy turtleneck with a bowl of cereal staring out the kitchen window. I like the way the rain sounds against these old bay windows." It reminded me of the Relient K song "Jefferson Aero Plane" and got me wondering. 
Apparently, friend, eating cereal and staring out of windows is a legitimate way of dealing with emotional problems.  If this is true, why haven't I done so? I can't remember ever grabbing a bowl of cereal and staring out of the window, rainy day or not.
Usually, if I'm having cereal I will occupy myself by reading the box, either the back where they advertise whatever other product they wish to sell me or sing the praises of the product I'm already consuming, or I read the nutritional information.
Apparently, for all these years, I've been doing it all wrong.  I need to eat cereal in a melancholy and introspective fashion, preferably in the cold, if all this talk of fuzzy sweaters and open windows is any indication. 
Thank you, Owl City and Relient K, for showing me the error of my ways, and presenting me with a new way to handle my emotional dilemmas.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Late night music and thoughts

Dear Friend,
Did you know that the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Disney's Pinocchio was Cliff Edwards aka Ukelele Ike? (It hurt me to spell Ukulele like that, just so you know.) I didn't find that out until a few days ago.  That video is of his song "Night Owl" played over a clip of His Girl Friday, one of my favorite movies.  I didn't realize that he was in His Girl Friday, either... I'm learning a lot lately.  (Like Cliff was friends with Buster Keaton, who also played uke, useful facts like that.)

I play ukulele now.  My skills are... not great, but every day I practice, and it's fun.  The instrument is so happy and sunny that playing it can't ever be anything but fun.  It's far easier than guitar (though I'm still trying with the guitar) and less strict than piano (or at least my way of learning piano).

My main problem with this lovely little instrument is my voice.  I'm not comfortable singing, even without an audience.  I've tried and tried to sing while playing, but my voice drops so low I can barely hear it.  That's quite a feat, singing so that you can't hear your own voice.  I don't think that I can't sing, I know that no one will be offering me a recording contract if they heard me, but stray cats won't howl at the sound of my voice, either.  I can carry a tune, I just need to convince myself that, since I'm just having fun with it, I don't need to be astounding to sing.  I can just be adequate.

So, enjoy some music folks, it's too fun not to. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Quit

Dear Friend,
I quit the Camp NaNoWriMo.  Sorry, but the motivation just wasn't there.  I still love the character I was writing about, and may someday try again to tell her early story.  Or I might just leave it in flashbacks or my own head as I write other stories with her.  Who knows, but there's still plenty of possibilities. 

This experience has left me thinking about quitting, and when it's OK or not OK to give up.  I don't like to quit.  I guess hearing the phrase "Winners never quit and quitters never win" so many times in my life actually set the idea firmly in my brain.  Even when I hate doing something I keep at it.  Most of the time, anyway. 

The biggest thing I ever quit was piano.  I started piano lessons around age eight, and continued steadily until almost eighteen.  I had a large range of teachers, from great to horrible.  The worst of my teachers would change the fingering of pieces, making them harder to play, so that my fingers would look pretty.  Even when she was telling me that I knew she was full of garbage, and I wasn't one of those kids who questioned my teachers. 
My last teacher was a great teacher, and I learned a great deal from her.  Most likely, if I hadn't moved while she was my teacher I would have kept learning from her for a long time.  However, I did move, and when I thought about looking for a new teacher, even working on an audition piece, I was less than enthusiastic.  I had learned a good deal from this teacher, but I hadn't had a lot of fun.  She entered me into a lot of competitions, so a good deal of my practice time was preparing for those, and I never actually liked the compositions she chose for me to compete with. 
That was when I realized, I had been playing songs I either didn't care about or outright didn't like for ten years!  I loved that I knew how to play piano.  I loved the sound of the instrument, I loved classical music.  I didn't love playing only classical music.  By the time I could play a song well I had analyzed and memorized and gone over the music so much that it didn't sound like music anymore.  It sounded like an exercise. Music wasn't fun.

So I quit. 

I've tried a few times in the ten years since to get back into piano, and am on a pretty good run right now.  I can play and enjoy it.  I've missed a lot of really important years of practice, and I've forgotten a lot of things that I should remember, but I like doing it now. 
Don't get me wrong, it's still work, hard work, but I'm able to go at the pace I want, and play what I like.  I'm considering going back to a teacher, but for now I'll enjoy making music.  Not perfect music, just music. 

Friday, July 01, 2011

Camp NaNo novel, chapter One

Dear Friend,
I've decided to share with you my (unedited and just written, right now) first chapter of the novel I'm writing this summer.