Monday, 31 December 2012

The New Year, et novum traditionem

The New Year is literally right around the corner, and, just because, I have decided to traditionem novum facere, mainly quod placet mihi. 

In other words, I have decided to start or create a new tradition, simply because it pleases me. The tradition? I want to write about blessings God doles out so generously during the week. Two songs that came to mind were the old "Count Your Blessings" and the newer composition (by Matt Redman) "10000 Reasons," both of which cause me to think grateful thoughts.

It is all too often I find myself over-thinking any bad something that happens, like getting locked out of the house: It is not very pleasant (standing on the doorstep, looking for a key) when family is warm, up three flights of stairs, eating supper.  Instead of feeling sorry for my half-frozen self, I decided to kick self-pity, mostly because it is pretty selfish. (This post is posted on the last day of 2012, but I am going to attempt to publish these posts every Friday or Saturday.) So here is a post to kick off "Seven Reasons" posts that will display a little more of God's blessings he's given in seven days )even if there are more than seven paragraphs).

We were blessed too see long-time actors in a fun child's theatrical production. Most of the actors were ones we had worked with, and it was good to see dear friends we spent so much time with.

Family and Christmas Eve. Although my grandparents do not have a wood stove, and even though I missed more than half of the carolling because I was scrubbing coffee out of the lace table cloth, we gathered and shared our tradition of Christmas carols and such, voices accompanied with cello, trumpets, and violin.

God blessed us with quiet: It was lovely to have a quiet Christmas in the midst of a busy time.  

Last week, when company and families visiting, we went sledding in our pasture, and I also took the opportunity to shoot some sledding photos. I trudged back alone, to make cocoa from scratch.  It made my day when my three-year-old friend sat with his tiny cup at our long, maple, plank dining table and told me how good my cocoa smelled and tasted.

The day after Christmas, five of us cousins spent the night in our studio loft. The best part was that we stayed up until 3:00 am, talking about theology and soteriology.  I love the fact that God's blessed me with cousins with whom I can have utterly superfluous conversations at one point, but at another, delve into deep issues that we are concerned about.

Upwords. There are little ways you can show a person you care for them, and so I played Upwords. Little things add up, and the least I can do is participate and show my interest. After two rounds, I became quite competitive...

Time with grandparents: Cleaning their house for Christmas. God is so right, and it is indeed more blessed to give than receive, even if it means getting slightly sore from scrubbing floors.  God blesses by allowing me to do the everyday tasks with those close to me, and I will not take changing the light fixtures for my grandparents for granted.

Senior Photos. I did not want to do them, but realized I am only a High school senior once, and might as well.  I brought a friend, and it was so very pleasant, even though I had to shed my coat for the better part of the day.

It is better for our souls to dwell on and thank God for the little blessings, because those are often the most meaningful.  May God bless you and yours in the coming year, and even as it is ushered in.  Whatever New Year's resolutions you make (whether it be to read your Bible more or to make a habit of flossing your teeth...) pray over them, and let God bless them.

felix novus annus, meis amicus!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Saturday Shoot//Abstract Color Play

New Holland 


Tyvek, not "Ty vek"

Blue by any other name would be just as Bright

Cold, but Gold


May I Help You?

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Neutral Tones Analysis

A Doleful Outlook Though Nothing to Fear
     What is alive enough to have the strength to die? Thomas Hardy's poem “Neutral Tones” was written in 1867 but not published until 1898, and the four four-line stanzas picture a very dull one indeed, as every shade of color is no longer vibrant and every tone has become neutral (NAEL 1932). In “Neutral Tones,” the speaker mourns a lost love, and the unfortunate part is that all life ends up looking very bleak and worthless. In fact, many of Hardy's pieces focused solely on the outlook that all humans are ruled by a fate of a perverse nature and that events of disaster and irony are usually coincidental (1915). “Neutral Tones” exemplifies this in that Hardy (1840 – 1928) writes of how life is chance and love is a gamble. Even for the speaker, love was so alive it had the choice to die, and fate chose the latter (1914).
     When poems mention nature and compare it to something dead, in this case ashes, I cringe, because God created his world to glorify himself and bless his people. When I read that leaves had come from ash and were lying upon the starving sod, I was slightly upset. The seasons were fashioned for a reason, and Winter is simply part of his grand plans. Hardy may have been alluding to the fact that his love was not destined to be forever and therefore had started from ash and then fell (in a neutral tone of gray) upon the sod, which is not a lovely element to rest on. In essence, the piece irritated me because the theme overflows with selfishness. The fact that he lost a love should not be an excuse to think that the world is bleak and God has cursed the sun.
     Some say I over analyze situations, which could be true, but I love thinking, and after thinking about “Neutral Tones,” I thought about ones I have lost. When I remembered beloved grandparents and other family members I have lost, I gave the speaker more sympathy. Moreover, I thought about some friendships I lost, friendships over which I did not have any control whatsoever, and I understood what Hardy meant by “words played between us to and fro.” Confidences and stories exchanged between the two were right and good at the time, but now everything was meaningless because the relationship was disintegrated. He did not convince me that fate was perverse and that everything is a coincidence, but I could understand the feeling of not having control over a situation where a relationship between friends completely dissolves. I do admit to others that I have never lost a “lover,” which means I cannot imagine the hurt because I haven't experienced it. However, the piece reminded me of people being parted from one another in a drastic and painful way, and I could relate to the image of feeling like a gray leaf upon a dead piece of sod starved by the sun.
     Techniques used by Hardy were mainly vivid word pictures of neutral tones. The speaker, near a pond in the middle of the Winter, is mourning his fate and lost love. Hardy employs very visual language, and when he mentioned leaves, I was confused. Usually trees shed their leaves well before the middle of Winter, and the snow falls, covering the earth with a beautiful blanket to hide the arid ground underneath. Not here: At this specific pond, Winter is at its dullest state, and the neutral tones provide the perfect place to have a party of self-pity. The sod starves, and God has cursed the sun (NAEL 1932). What could be added to make a more bleak picture? For the speaker, it seems he is trapped in this tone and phase in life, and he certainly is not making any great effort to escape the pattern of thoughts he finds himself pondering.
     Losing a friend or love is aching, but that does not mean that the speaker is justified in thinking all the world is bleak because of it. It is true people need time to grieve when they lose one they love, but to go to such an extent as to compare the smiles spent on one another before the loss to dead, swept bitterness with a bad prophecy, it is as if to say that any friendship or relationship is dangerous because it might cause hurt or even be taken away by hurt. Though depressing, I have thought of this poem often. I do not have to worry or fret about fate or relationships, because I have a higher authority who is in control, and my Heavenly Father only wants the best for me. Even though I once lost many family members and friendships in a short period of time, I learned that when and if this happens in the future, I will most certainly recall this piece, if only to remind myself that I need not worry about losing someone and having to live life in a colorless way, because I am actually never alone.
     Hardy did have a point: It hurts to lose. From his poem, however, I had the feeling the speaker had been standing at the pond under the white sun for an extended period of time, longer than necessary, and though he had probably grieved enough, the narrator was simply prolonging his session of selfish sorrow. Hardy expressed that fate was perverse, and the speaker simply could not move away from the designated pond, a place of self-pity. To both Hardy and the speaker, love and fate were both alive enough to decide to disappear at any whim despite the pain he would feel, and when they did, the speaker was left numb and aching, and all the words and smiles exchanged before the casualty were considered worthless. I was annoyed at the doleful outlook on life the speaker assumed, but I could relate to it, and Hardy's colorful language to describe a colorless life and situation is vivid, and I can now look back and recall a poem about neutral tones that shows me how much I have to be grateful for, because no matter how bleak the Winter may seem or how starved the sod may be, my higher authority holds me in his hand. If God promises I will not be burned walking through the fire, I have nothing to fear from a Wintry crisis.

Works Cited  
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. Vol. F. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Neutral Tones: Thomas Hardy

We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod;
         – They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles of years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
         On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
         Like an ominous bird a-wing….

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God curst sun, and a tree,
         And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

I wrote an analysis on this, more or less, hopefully up in a week or so. Or less.  The poem frustrated me (as did many from this era) because people were so woebegone. Do not get me wrong: I like woebegone, but not when God is blamed for a world and life without color. 

Works Cited
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. Print.  

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Sinterklaas Poem

St. Nick and Claus are different;
All who think otherwise
Think within an inference.

“Sint zat te denken,
wat hij jou zou gaan schenken.”
(Was that a sneeze?) Bless you.

The saint was thinking,
The thought, it was sinking.
What should he give to you?

They'd worked hard all year
Not a “Santa baby, Santa dear”;
Not even one pleading cry.

So two by two,
They set out their shoes.
And bid their parents “Goodnight!”

On that good night Zwarte Piet,
With fancy robes and slipper-ed feet,
Set out with Sinterklaas.

This party of four
Had no musical score
To accompany their task at hand;
But the surprises they
(Sinterklaas and Piet)
Placed in the shoes two by two,
Created smiles so grand.

Friday, 30 November 2012

A Determined Sluggard

Not wanting to do something is a vice.  It is hard to force something to do something it simply does not want to do.  Lately, all that’s wanted to get done is writing, but one can’t just spend life writing, unfortunately.  While thinking of all that’s yet to be done, or even what is yet ahead of me, I was reminded of Proverbs 6:6; “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.”

I do not think many think of themselves as “You sluggard!”, but I found it is actually a good motivator, especially when there is so much to do and even more to be started.  (I am not advising you to start calling yourself a sluggard).  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, ignoring that feeling, and then writing what I want to feel productive, I have to die to flesh and those ‘feelings’ and put the energy God has given me into what I should really be doing.  I should not be doing this now, actually, except that when I finish something, my reward is to write.  One still can’t spend life writing, though, unfortunately. 

Two weeks: Two weeks until we are free.  School seems a fetter when it drags out and does not say goodbye when the courses are over. Then again, if it were not as tedious, winter break would not be embraced as readily, and it would probably not be enjoyed to the fullest.  In a sense, the mindset that the break has to be worked for to such an extent makes it even more worth the efforts of being a gracious host to the assignments that need extreme attendance before the dinner is over. 

So what? I call myself a sluggard when I start to lag.  You can do better than that.  God’s the one behind you. You do not have to give in to tiredness.  I do not want to ‘fall asleep’ with a little folding of the hands (Proverbs 6:10). (How eery!) Thinking of me as a sluggard is not so I may mourn the fact while the courses draw out their leave, rather, I think “sluggard” because there is always room for improvement, and there are always bad habits to break. Especially for these two weeks, even though all the ants are under and hiding from the cold, I will go to the ant and consider her ways, for she is wise: Even if there is something in her way, she finds a way around it, and nothing smashes her determination. 

Thank goodness for Proverbs; thank God for determination.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Literary Analysis: Watership Down

This piece is one I truly enjoyed working on because of the exquisite flavors in Richard Adam's novel.  Rabbits and regimes, warrens and wires, and yes, bucks and battles, join creating a wonderful story. I won't give an abstract...

An Insightful Message: Rabbits and a 20th Century Preoccupation with History and Politics

          “All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, Prince with swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed” (Adams 29).  The story of a group of rabbits (led by one named Hazel) that leaves their Sandleford warren to embark on a journey to found their own, new, warren is none other than Richard Adams' Watership Down.  This is no tale of The Velveteen Rabbit: These rabbits had their share of enemies, and though the author claimed it to be only a child's story written about the British countryside that he loves, his novel displays certain weighty subjects of importance (Adams “My Brit”). The people of the Prince with a Thousand Enemies were rabbits in the center of southern England within a real world to illustrate the importance of running, fighting, and overcoming evil.  Placed in the world and not a fictional other-world, the rabbits possess their own vernacular as well as stories and tales passed down as proverbs.  Richard Adams' tale of lapine comrades was written and published in 1972, after the world recovered from World War Two, a recovery during which the world experienced another explosion: One of popular culture amidst the modernist movements in art, music, and literature, forms people use to express their individuality (Spielvogel 628).  During this time, authors explored new themes and ways to emphasize their messages, and one trend was to write free-form poetry (such as T.S. Eliot's “Prufrock”) or novels from either a futuristic mindset or nature's point of view while being “mediators of insight” in order to display themes of political conflicts (Tarka).  An example of modern literature with a futuristic mindset is George Orwell's 1984, while one with animals basking in the spotlight is Animal Farm, also written by Orwell, who skillfully combined political messages in a future context or in the context of a group of animals.  With Watership Down, however, although Adams’ 20th century novel may appear to be simply an imaginative tale about rabbits in order to elevate environmentalism, it clearly demonstrates the preoccupation 20th century literature possessed in relation to history and politics by using epigraphs, parallels to Greek literature, and themes of political and socialistic regimes.
          The novel may lend the impression that it supports every aspect of ecological care and consideration because the main character is taken by visions of trouble, prophesying that the warren will be destroyed because man has visited and doom of the warrens' destruction by man impends (Adams Watership 9).  To be certain, the description of the extermination of those who remained at the Sandleford Warren, which Captain Holly relates to Hazel's troupe, is not for the faint of heart, as big men with white sticks (cigarettes) in their mouths gas the rabbit runs, resulting in screaming, hallucinating rabbits (154). These devastating effects, written in such detail and expressed by the story teller so horrifically, seem to elicit the inspiration to protect the environment. However, it is not the cry to protect all rabbits; rather, it is a part of the story Adams employed to endear his characters to his readers.

Watership Down, England

          The chapter in which Captain Holly explains the events of the annihilation of the Sandleford rabbits begins with an epigraph from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.  The function of an epigraph is a form of literary strategy in which the author selects passages, quotations, or colloquialisms to set a stage or mood for the section following the epigraph.  The epigraph Adams used for this particular passage appeals to a reader’s sense of emotional sensitivity, for when a Russian states that man should love the animals and not cause them unnecessary harm for the sole reason that they are gifts from God, it is an impressive imperative that causes the reader to discover how and in what way the epigraph will tie into the following events in the story.
          Epigraphs were common during the Romantic era (of poetry especially), and employed most often. In 1798, Samuel Taylor Coleridge used a Latin passage to preface “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and even years later, T. S. Eliot used an epigraph from Dante's Inferno to further his point in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (Greenblatt 443, 2524).  When Adams inserted epigraphs for his novel, he did so not only to set a stage for the readers' imagination, but also to tie the context of his modern tale in with those of the literature preceding his novel, illustrating how 20th century literature was occupied with somehow combining a political or historical theme into a work.  Adams did both, and, in a sense, this act (incorporating epigraphs) is also a symbol of appreciation for pieces written before his novel, as he is giving them honor and recognition.
          The multiple ways the world has developed owes much to the Greek leaders, historians, and philosophers, and again, Adams gives honor to the preceding (or ancient) literature in that he employs parallels between his characters and those in Virgil's Aeneid, in which a young man, Aeneas, returns from the Trojan War and is determined to found the city of Rome.  Like Aeneas (the main character in the Aeneid) the rabbits break away from what they have been used to for years in order to create a new warren and are constantly met with numerous obstacles, some of which (such as Cowslip's warren and the lotus eaters) mirror the obstacles encountered in the Aeneid.  In doing this, Richard Adams creates a story that is looked upon as a great epic because it possesses the themes of this famous Greek poem (Anderson).
          Themes of the Aeneid include those of fighting for freedom and founding a new city, avoiding obstructions or obstacles that deter from the goal, and lastly, enduring anything that came across the traveler's path whether it was a challenge or the loss of a friend.  Aeneas, like the rabbits in Watership Down, had to fight to found and maintain Rome.  A similar obstruction the rabbits and Aeneas encounter are seemingly seductive areas, that is, places that have allure but are actually full of danger and death, such as the lotus eaters and Cowslip's warren (Anderson).
          Enduring hardships and bearing grief is also a theme in both tales: In the Aeneid, when Aeneas relates the horrors of the Trojan war, he is heartbroken as he tells of the woeful events of the war while Bluebell and Captain Holly (two rabbits who had remained at Sandleford) speak of the dreadful events of the extermination and utter destruction of the Sandleford warren.  While Aeneas moaned that none could retell the woes to give them justice, Captain Holly “looked sad and dark” after he related that his tale would “strike frost into the heart of every rabbit that hears it” (Adams 148).  The “death agony” Aeneas recalls the women mourning over in courthouses synchronizes with the instance in which the men gassed the Sandleford warren runs and the does screamed in agony over their death and the death of their kittens (Adams 154, Anderson).   Another parallel to the Aeneid that Adams adopted is that of the prophetic rabbit, Fiver, and the Aeneid’s Princess Cassandra, a young priestess who foretold the unfortunate fortune of Troy if the Trojans were to accept the horse left by the Greeks.  Like Cassandra, Fiver has physical fits and is captured in an other-worldly trance when he foresees the destruction of Sandleford after observing the signpost (Adams 7).
          Though the signpost set in Sandleford's warren signified the coming of men and the destruction of the warren, each warren in the novel signifies three political regimes.  When the rabbits followed Hazel and stopped at an eery warren (seemingly managed by a distant, detached, character named Cowslip) on their journey, the Sandleford escapees sensed a danger that persisted even when all seemed safe. True, Cowslip's community possessed the same vernacular, as well as poetry, proverbs and tales, but it was eery.  Fiver felt the entire aura of the place unnatural, as if death was hanging over the warren like a mist. When a native rabbit finished reciting a poem, Fiver absorbed it with absolute horror, and, stricken with fear, he came to his senses and realized what the mist was (Adams 103).  The oppressive mist Fiver sensed was the fact that Cowslip's warren was not free, it was run by fear of death.  The apparent leader, Cowslip, treated everyone as equal, and because he did not view himself as a spokesperson or even true leader, the warren suffered because of its socialistic regime. Adams' lapine characters knew that socialism was not what they had left Sandleford for, but by inserting the element of a regime that the rabbits fled from in order to establish their own, Adams suggests countries should flee socialism and found governments that encourage independence.
          When the independent rabbits continued their journey, they found a beautiful down to claim as their own, but there was one problem: There were no does, and no does meant no continuation of the new warren.  When this problem was addressed, the second political regime entered the stage.  Several rabbits from Hazel's warren made a trek to Efrafa, a militaristic, suppressed, not to mention depressed community of rabbits.  Efrafa is the supreme dictatorship. The leader, General Woundwort, is bent on system, control, schedules, obedience from his Council, and that every rabbit coming in to Efrafa “will find [them] perfectly friendly and helpful to rabbits who understand what's expected of them” (Adams 238).  Citizens are given no free choice of when to silflay (eat) or even when to pass hraka, because man may come and inflict harm or cause disease: “You can't call your life your own, and in return you have safety” (233).  In this dictatorship, the Efrafan council police “demonstrated the power to ferret out and punish every individual...engaged in or...suspected of political opposition” (Hallagan).  Adams’ colorful picture of a disgusting way of life in which citizens were limited in so many areas of life is a powerful one that makes readers appreciate freedom, because freedom to be able to live, eat, sleep breath, mate, and love is the most important of all.  In the end, the dictatorship crumbled for many reasons, but Adams' intention was not to allow this warren to prosper because it was a dictatorship that did not allow citizens to truly live.
          Adams' novel ends with a solid, peaceful, and well established order of rabbits who not only have room to breath, but room to live.  With Hazel, Fiver, and the singular character of Bigwig, the rabbits were able to be represented.  Watership Down and the rabbits therein were content; they had escaped certain death more than once and were now upon a down with leaders they could not be more grateful for, leaders who had led them through the dark mist, away from predators, and out of reach of the Efrafan clutches.  By ending on the note of a warren in the hands of a healthy democracy, Adams gives a subliminal message that democracy leads to peace and a secure, satisfactory homeland.
          Creating a phenomenal conglomeration of themes, morals, and characters, Adams chose rabbits with a peculiar vernacular, history, and mythology of their own to write a story that warns against the evils of supreme control.  The 20th century novel certainly displays the era's slight engrossment with history and politics, but Richard Adams wrote a story with insight.  More than an environmental promoter, the novel's epigraphs set and influence moods.  Profound comparisons and parallels to the Aeneid, Virgil's epic, give the book a flavor that is not reproducible, and the examination of political and socialistic regimes proves this book to be more than a tale of fluffy rabbits. These rabbits had to fight for their freedom, even when seductive warrens, predators, and other obstacles stubbornly stood in their way.    All the world was promised to be their enemy, and whenever they were caught, they were promised to be killed. “But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, Prince with swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed” (Adams 29).  While the novel, like others during the 20th century, is most definitely preoccupied with history, politics, and other interesting themes, Adams' insightful message to remain free from political and relational evils rings true:  Because of their bravery and endurance, the people of the Prince of a Thousand Enemies consistently came out as the victors no matter how dark the tunnel or how suffocating the run.

 Works Cited:
Adams, Richard. "My Bit of Britain." In Britain 4.1 (1994): 53. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 19    Nov. 2012.
---.Watership Down. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print.
Anderson, Celia Catlett. "Troy, Carthage, and Watership Down." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 8.1 (1983): 12-13. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. Print.                                                                                                           
Hallagan, William. "Corruption in Dictatorships." Economics of Governance 11.1 (2010): 27-49. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.
Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization: A Brief History. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2011.        Print.
"Tarka the Otter, Ring of Bright Water, Watership Down." World Literature Today 82.6 (2008): 4. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Late Musings: Gladdening Pieces of Doom

I should not be up at the moment, but after triumphantly finishing analyzing twelve pieces of modern  poetry, I needed, or perhaps wanted, a reward. So I write.

All the pieces (save George Orwell's amazing essay entitled Politics and the English Language) were adamantly proclaiming that life has no meaning because it is cyclical: We are born, we live, and guess what? We die!

Frustrated after analyzing these pieces, I asked a very wise person what he thought.

"Well," said my Dad, "that's only true if you're an animal."

I smiled.  He always puts things so simply, like Corrie ten Boom's father, carrying the heavy watch case.  I am not an animal, and neither are any other human beings.  Death is inevitable, but babies being born are not just another baby, despite any of Phillip Larkin's ideas.

I did laugh, however, when Larkin did and could not understand why people still believe in God. In "Church Going," he writes about how church does not satisfy any of his needs (of course it won't; one needs the personal relationship with Christ Himself.)  A few lines later, Larkin imagines what would happen if going to church went "out of style," but he is dismayed when he realizes people going to church will never be out of style because humans have an innate need to worship something above them, whether it be literally above them or above them in authority.

All the doom-sayings each piece shouted actually made me glad. It made me glad because it helps me be even more thankful for the fact that even though I will die someday, I am owned by a higher authority I worship and have a wonderful relationship with.

Instead of becoming depressed late at night by reading modern poetry chanting that all things are meaningless because they are cyclical, I was made joyful. Just because life is cyclical does not mean I have to mourn its cyclical character.  I am not an animal with a depressing fate of complete non-existence after death but a human with the purpose of worshiping and glorifying my higher authority.

God is our higher authority, and the modernistic pieces and ugly things in life should sober us (gladdening pieces of doom), but most of all make us more grateful for the love Christ has for his children.

The end.

Works Cited
Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. Print.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Saturday Shoot//ambulans in nix

A walk in the snow, 
Not below zero,
Rather just above.

A frosted thistle
Bedecked with crystals
Brittle to beauty.

A driveway and grass,
The fun times that passed
And those yet to come. 

Grass out of season 
Lost all its reason
When weather moved in.

Though lacking a lens
 I shot geese in tens...
They soon dissapeared 

Thorns and red berries
(Nothing like cherries) 
Bring Snow Queen to mind 'til

A cold blast of pine
Shows that it's alive,
And I don't mind the tales anymore.

Over and out, done for the day,
A locust leaf in the road lay.
Such an oddity, glad I'd spotted it, 
And with that I was glad I had abulans in nix.

In Watership Down, one of the characters stated that "many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it" (Adams 464).  I am not completely sure that statement is all true, but in a sense it is.  We feel proof against the cold sitting by our fire, but having a warm fire is completing and makes for a wonderful place to read together.  

Adams, Richard. Watership Down. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Word So Freely Given: Count It

After attending the needy element assigned the name of school, I am finally out of the tunnel and running the home stretch. Running is quite exhilarating.

Although I do not get a break, did not fly out of state immediately after my British Literature class, and must continue through the week as if there was nothing to celebrate, I realized that even the thought of a holiday spent with family for Thanksgiving made me feel at ease.

Perhaps it's because my analysis is finished, or perhaps it is because I actually did well on a music history test. Who knows.  In short, I welcome the thought of Thanksgiving. How often is it that we actually count our blessings and name them one by one?  Some of the basic elements to be thankful for are parents, siblings (yes, even if they drive you crazy at times) the life lessons God is always teaching, and the word he so freely has given us.

Just think:  If a friend wrote a book or letter to you as large or lengthy as the Bible, that would show some serious dedication.  I have written letters, but none that match that length.  God is all about dedication, and we can show him our dedication to him by thanking him for all the blessings he has given us, especially His word.

Count your blessings. If you can't name them one by one, make an effort to do so, for it is all too often those blessings will be far too numerous for any numerical system.

Happy Thanksgiving!
(Literary analysis will be posted within the next week.) 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Snowflakes and Study Breaks

To commemorate the first official snow fall (for snow that falls and melts once it lands the upon the ground should never count; it was faint-hearted) the swing was given honors.

As the snow blustered about the trees and fell on my hair, it stood out on my red wool jacket, and I was reminded of how individual the snowflakes are. No two are alike, yet thousands fall; they fall alone or land in clumps to congregate where the wind chooses.  Appreciating God's creation for just moment is an excellent way to break a study rampage, for sometimes, sitting too long with one thing can be counter productive.

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The beginning of this poem (The Tables Turned) by William Wordsworth is carefree and appealing, but the rest of it states that one should not have to learn from books simply because Nature (...with a capital N, mind you) has all the answers.  Nature does not have all the answers to life, and it is not going to ever answer the question of why students must learn Math, as it is a created entity.  God is in control of created entities, and he did not create nature as a teacher.  It is a part of his creativity and glory, which is seen even in the tiniest, most delicate of snowflakes observed on a study break.

The Tables Turned

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Windows that Expose the Soul

Through the windows of your soul
The world is looking in to know
If love is is your eyes
Because love can't hide!

Through the weary world of lies
The world is looking in your eyes
If love can't be denied
Oh love, don't hide! 

Doesn't matter what you do, 
Your windows will expose you.
Love shines through the pure, love can cure!
Hearts to love and lights to feed,
The world is crying out in need,
For love to be in your eyes; with love, I cry, stay true.

People think I listen to weird music, but that really depends on what their definitions of "weird" are.
It is true that the word love is mentioned a bit much in Annie Herring's song "Stay True," (while I am actually listening to the amazing Rimsy-Korsakov's exciting "Festival at Bagdad") but the song's message is much more than a rant about staying true to love.

The eyes of a person never look or grow old. Granted, they may wear out or become blind, but eyes hold something important: Windows into souls. Eyes are the small physical element God gave us that does not, in a sense, age with a person.  Of course eyes decompose when a person leaves this earth, but this vital pair of organs remains expressive, twinkling, sharp, soft, mesmerizing.

God's love for others should show through our actions as well as our eyes, for we are called to feed His sheep and tend His flock.  No wonder eye contact is so important.

If you truly love Christ, that "stay true" love will not be able to hide: Your windows will expose you, your soul.  The world is starved for God's love; let it be communicated through your eyes.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Running on Three Cylinders

"There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all."

Well, thank you so much, Mr. Wilde, but what defines something well writ?

Someone gushed to me once that the Hunger Games were "so good!!"  Sorry, but was I the only one who was bothered by the awkward present, first person tense?

Is a book simply "good" when it is capable of holding and capturing attention long enough for someone to finish it? Today, attention spans are so short it is almost embarrassing to humanity.  Exercising the brain makes one feel so invigorated, like reading philosophy and then practicing piano while thinking and criticizing Socrates because he was bullying Euthyphro. That's an extreme example, I will admit, but it works.

As for Wilde, he distorted something very important. Everyone has a worldview, and it usually seeps into an author's, artists, or creators work.  Wilde could just say that an immoral book could be written well, or a good book could be written badly (but then it would not really be a good book).

That is sometimes is true, but to state an absolute that is debatable is so very egotistical it suppresses even the natural inclination to discuss: The 'that is all' ending to Wilde's phrase simply crushes any want to dissect the phrase.

Wilde states it does not matter if a book is moral or immoral, it only matters if it was written well or poorly. That's like saying something (or worse, someone) immoral could be good if crafted well, like Iras in Ben-Hur. True, she was captivating, maybe too much so, but she was not consistent on the inside.

In doing school and reading assignments with a glazed, sleep deprived look, it's good to catch these things, especially if you're only "running on three cylinders."

Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
"Running on three cylinders" is in reference to James Herriot's book, All Creatures Great and Small

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Monstrous Door: An Irreversible Hurt

A tall, amorous couple walked hand in hand, quite unaware of their surroundings. They were leaving church, and it is a wonder they did not fall over, for they were not looking where they were going, but into the others' eyes. Slowly, so slowly, did the tall two walk until they reached the door by the nurseries. Little children with happy voices greeted parents, but the tall two were unconscious. He pushed the exit door open for his young wife, but, as both were infatuated, they failed to notice a young and very small girl underfoot. He crossed the threshold, let go, and the monstrous door fell, violently knocking her to the ground.

Even though it may not specifically be letting a door crash on a little girl, this scenario happens constantly.

The couple, evidently married as well as oblivious to their environment, made one mistake. This one mistake occurs every day, and, within certain friendships, it causes rifts and irreversible hurts. With different people and their respective circles of friends, some forget about the small ones, or the people who seem to be ever in the background. These people are forgot, and others do not realize how much of an impact small, seemingly trivial, deeds have upon these others.

Christ should be the center of every relationship, and it is curious that this couple was leaving church. One would think they would employ care while exiting near all the nurseries, but no, they stormed out after taking their time. A godly relationship is in no way bad in itself, but when two are so centered on one another that relatives, close friends, and even a little girl are knocked down physically, mentally, or emotionally, it is time to take a step back and realize where Christ is missing.

In the church, couples are charged and supposed to live as good examples for the body of the church in multiple ways for the young and old. It is true that many are, but this couple was looked at as immature and completely inconsiderate. When the watery-blue eyes of the young girl looked up at her mother, they were shocked (both the eyes of the girl and the mother).  One should never be eager to display or showcase immaturity, and couples in the church should never mindlessly shock, much less hurt, young children. Period.

If the people in this incident were to meet on friendly terms sometime in the near future, the girl would probably think about this incident, and forever associate them with her being knocked down. This is a possibility (though not the only one). In essence, what happened was irreversible. The young man can never go through that situation in time again, and his wife will never be able to relive that brief scene. He was not being the man that he could be, and she was not being the woman of grace she is called to be.

Heavy doors slam and crush: It is simply logical. When people are unconscious as to how what they do impacts others, it shows third parties how immature they (those unconscious and unaware peoples) really are. The tall two probably would not have knocked her down on purpose, but are others simply supposed to forgive them, for they know not what they do?

Inconsiderate people are found everywhere, but inconsiderate Christians? Of course we have all sinned and fallen short of God's glory. Though not as cankerous a problem now, I was often guilty of leaving siblings or friends out at times. However, as Christians we need to let Christ help us rise above this baseness, this other nature, because without Him, we will be as Edward Hyde and never stop knocking down little girls.

Do not be oblivious, rather “exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” When we are oblivious, it is all to easy to cause another an irreversible hurt with the assistance of a monstrous door. Instead of non cogitans, or not thinking, take advantage of today and be considerate to those who have been knocked down.

The Holy Bible. (Hebrews 3:13)

Monday, 22 October 2012

Letters and a Dart-Extinguishing Shield

As a writer, my favorite passages of scripture tend to be Paul's letters, as they are so very matter of fact, alive, and weighty.  I adore “weighty” passages; those that must be mulled over and slowly digested are some most excellent challenges, which I may write of another time.  Lately, I've been finding it hard to persevere in many parts of life.  However; this is not about me, it's about letters and perseverance to convictions.

I find it humorous how tales of old, such as Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe or even Marmion romanticize those shiny fighters;  those ruthless knights.  How ridiculous.  Others turn and dress up the Romans from days when the Empire was at its zenith.  So why do I embrace Paul's analogy to armor in Ephesians and almost skeptically scoff at the strong knight?

First, knights were only strong because of their will, their insistence, and their power.  Christians, however, are to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (vs. 10).  True, we could perhaps craft ourselves brittle coverings like crabs or lobsters, but they serve only to protect our sinful skin, whilst God's armor not only protects us but advances His name while showing others His glory.

Every single time I read this passage, I am enamored by the word whole  in verse 11.  Paul says to put on the entire armor.  He never said "You'll be fine; all you'll need is your sword."  No, we need it all.  This is, in fact, quite humbling.  Verse 14 states to "stand", which only makes sense, a hoplite, knight, or soldier cannot put their gear on while sitting (save for shoes; but otherwise it is unheard of). We need salvation, but even after being saved, we need God's righteousness, peace, and truth.  It is an interrelated web of blessings quite interdependent on one another.

I may scoff at knights because none of them ever impress me: Ever. Yesterday or today. Realistically of figuratively.  It is too bad for them; although they could probably have cared less.  (They probably are not impressed by me...)  Regardless, none of the Romans impressed me (the bigots) but the soldiers of faith do.  Soldiers of faith accepted the entire armor, and, unlike the knights and Romans, who took great delight in causing more than enough trouble, they faithfully wore the shoes of readiness of peace.  (This is quite convicting; how often do I run to make a situation peaceful?) 

The part I thought the best was the amazing shield of faith.  No knight had ever thought of this kind of protection.  This shield is actually what helps one endure hardship.  Think of the most high-tech weapon in the world. This defies them all! Nothing can penetrate it: All opposition does not bounce off it, but is rather absorbed by it.  The shield of faith does not only ward off the evil, it extinguishes all the flaming darts of the evil one.  Not just a certain evil thought or specific action; but all those darts.  No weapon could be more useful.  

The verse I had in mind while writing is verse 18, where perseverance is mentioned.  Lately, I am barely holding onto my sanity. I may be exaggerating: I probably am, but life is hard, and though I hate to admit it, I am, sometimes, tired of giving my all, which is when I slip. I have convictions that, because I am so very stubborn about them, will not dissipate. The bad part is that I feel stupid for them when they are sound judgments God has given me. He cares, and I know I am supposed to follow what he’s laid out.  Perseverance, however, is not mentioned without prayer.  In all things it is imperative that we remain alert in prayer and supplication. I was fighting being upset at students the other day; people do not think, and sometimes it frustrates me. No one ever really knows, but it's true.  I am not going to become a knight or soldier that feasts day in and day out, losing track of time and slowly drifting into unconsciousness, which is exactly why I continue serving, questing, helping, writing, reading, standing.

Fellow Christian, as Relient K so glibly puts it, it’s completely up to us to maintain consciousness; which is exactly why standing while putting on the whole armor of God is just as important as alertness in prayer and supplication.  You can't sit down and apply this weight.

Stand up while readying, lest you lose this alertness in prayer.

The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2007. Print.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

A Graced Presence

     On September 17, 2012, the Minnesota Orchestra graced the Lake Harriet band shell for the first time since 2007. Their purpose? To thank the people of Minneapolis for supporting the arts (before going on strike, that is). In the end, hundreds of bikers, young families, couples young and old, as well as those strolling around Lake Harriet stopped their adventures to listen to music on a beautiful evening. The pieces played had great variety, and aside from the classic opening of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, the program included Fanfare, Solitude, Finlandia, Dance of the Tumblers, Russian Sailors, Carnival Overture, and even the Star Wars theme. What's not to enjoy?
     When we arrived, Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony was filling the summer air. This piece opened the hour long concert majestically, and the audience responded very positively to the familiarity. Born in 1770, Beethoven is one of the most celebrated composers of the Baroque era, and he is also considered a composer who “foreshadowed” the coming of the Romantic era (Wright, 210). Each and every violinist was completely drawn into what he or she was playing, and, as a core of dancers communicate with the lead, they followed the conductor to make the most they could out of the notated dynamics. Beethoven's 5th is unique because of the minor and major themes work together and later become resolved. It makes for a wonderful, exciting listening adventure that provokes interesting responses and thoughts.
     Fanfare for Prairie Skies, composed by Stephen Heitzeg, a local from St. Paul, reminded me of Aaron Copland's Rodeo and Appalachian Spring. The trumpets, french horns, and punctuating percussion added to the feel of being out under the skies and the sun, out in the open, on a beautiful day. It was an interesting piece; as a fanfare, it is not extensive, but short. If it were longer, many listeners would have grown tired of the blaring and the pounding. However, because it varied, had a rondo theme, and was short and sweet, it was sincerely accepted.
     Solitude on the Mountain which followed, was composed by Ole Bull, a Norwegian violinist, during the late Classical to early Romantic eras. The piece employs the use of the double bass, cello, viola, and violins exclusively. The piece is soothing, relaxing, and it was interesting to watch how it affected the audience; wild children stopped rampaging, the elderly couple next to me reached out and held hands, the blue, four month old pit-bull puppy stopped carousing with her playmate. It is a very peaceful composition, and when it ended, the humming of the violins faded out. The audience seemed to hold their breath as the end came slowly, and it made one feel content.
     Next was Sibelius' Finlandia, one of my favorite Sibelius pieces. The Finlandia Hymn is literally a musical outline of Finland's history. The beginning with the ominous brass and bass symbolizes the overbearing of Russia, but then the melody turns to a passionate theme that stands for freedom (Siren). Three quarters into the piece, flutes dominate the melody change to what is recognized as the hymn “Be Still My Soul” the violins are added subtly while the swells, cymbals, trumpets, and violins added character to a piece with a taste of folk themes. This piece impressed everyone, as it had a triumphant, majestic conclusion.
     Rapid violins followed by the brass announced something exciting, perhaps Spring? Or maybe a dance in the Spring? Dance of the Tumblers composed by Rimsy Korsakov. My favorite musicians to watch in this piece were the violins, but also the cellos. They are so full of strength as well as a certain passionate sense. The oboe had a solo with an air of mystery before the violins and brass began the ending. It is certainly an exciting piece, and being a dancer myself, I felt the urge to do a Mazurka. I noticed many young children actually ran and danced around, choreographing their own patterns and making circles around the picnic blankets. Korsakov made this piece full of energy and excitement, and no less.
     A minor piece full of tumultuous themes, its duple timing also drives one to dance. It brought memoties of Tchaikovsky's “Chardaz” dance from Swan Lake. I was able to appreciate the way Brimer added such character to the music in Russian Sailor's Dance; I imagined quite a few different sailors, each with varied build and attributes to their name. However; in this piece, they were all drunk, and they were also all dancing around in a carousing manner. I found it interesting how each musician was able to display different emotions during the variant pieces, as music has such an effect on our moods. This was a fast paced, intense expression with a flair of Russia. Do not run into one of their sailors: Cymbals will crash, and violins will wail in tune with the wind on the high seas. In essence, this wonderful piece is quite exciting.
     The second to last piece, composed by Antonin Dvorak, was the Carnival Overture. This overture started suddenly and moved quickly. The beginning does not waste time in employing almost every instrument in the orchestra, and throughout Carnival Overture, a few instruments are able to have brief chorus solos (that is, of their instrument as a group) of the theme including the flutes, an oboe, the two cellos. The texture thickened as each instrument piled on the top of another, but before it became overwhelming, everything was swept together again. People were so glad to be outside listening, so close to the orchestra; the swift changes from quiet major themes to the boisterous minor themes did not startle anyone, but rather made the audience listen for more. It was distracting, although disturbingly appropriate to the piece's name (Carnival Overture) when a man protested animal cruelty by walking around in a bright yellow chicken suit.  Nevertheless, when the trumpets sounded their arpeggio signaling that the end was about to begin, everyone listened with rapt attention while the entire orchestra blared “The End!” triumphantly.
     The last piece, I assume, was tacked on simply to close the evening in a fun way. The Star Wars theme written for the films (by the same name) by John Williams. It starts with a thrilling fanfare that lasts for the first twenty-five seconds, and then fades into the violins, who carry the theme. When the fanfare returns, more percussion is added until it slows and grows quieter with a short minor flute solo. Of course, it gives the theme for each character, the good, the bad, and the ugly, but watching it performed live was rather interesting. Though not a fan of Star Wars, I noticed I actually liked the piece and could respect it, if only for the fact that it is a forever famous composition that symbolizes each character and science fiction.
Lake Harriet and the Minnesota Orchestra should spend more time with one another, as it is not simply the bikers who enjoyed the music. People of all ages were present; because music is a great invention. The variety of the concert and the selection of the pieces played was excellent. The Minnesota Orchestra began with triumph and finished with the same. However, something had happened that had not in five years: People were able to be outside, listen to classical music, and truly appreciate it.

Siren, Vesa. "Finlandia." Sibelius. Sibelius Family, 2000. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. 
Wright, Craig M. Listening to Music. Australia: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2011. Print.
Photo Credits
 A little reflection paper I wrote after a really great evening outdoors!  The weather was beautiful, and even though we stood for the entire concert, I scratched notes hurriedly whilst simply enjoying how fun it was to be outdoors listening to a live orchestra!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

cogitens in motus pictura I

    Over-Dramatized?  Use Imagination Instead!

     Peter and the Wolf: A story of a boy with an interesting sense of adventure and courage. When Prokofiev composed this piece in Russia in 1936, the country was still known as the USSR. Despite the label of the country, Prokofiev was able to compose music for the express purpose of telling a story.
     In 1995, Affirm Films decided to produce a short motion picture with animation to go along with Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, with the music performed by the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra (conducted by James Daugherty). The film differs minutely from the actual story, although the main point of the film was to put animation of a story with Prokofiev's music.
     The story takes place in Russia, where a young boy named Peter plays out in the meadow on a beautiful spring morning. He is joined by a duck, a bird, and his cat, but the fun is stopped all too soon, as his grandfather comes out and scolds him; for if a wolf should come out of the forest, Peter would be in great danger. Peter follows him back to the house, but sneaks out later when the Grandfather falls asleep again. Then what should appear out of the forest except the big, gray, wolf? After seeing the wolf terrorize the cat, snap at the bird, and swallow the duck whole, Peter asks the bird to distract the wolf, who, after being teased, becomes quite tired and falls asleep. Peter then takes a rope and slips it around the wolf's tail, in order to capture him. The wolf wakes up, and after a struggle, hunters come out of the forest. Grandfather comes out, scolds Peter, but realizes his grandson is a brave boy. Every character begins a procession, and the wolf is taken to the Zoo.                                             
     The beginning of the film is best, because it was simply the scenes of nature; the mountains, springs, meadows, hills, and flowers in the breeze. Peter's theme, which employs the strings of the orchestra, was used in a variation that introduced the beauty and beckoning of Spring and the meadow.  The acting, however, as it was slightly over-dramatic. It was indeed a small production, as the three actors also supplied all the voicing for the film, which also added an interesting collective flow. However, it differed in some details. In the original story by Prokofiev, the bird is a male, and the duck is a female who does not survive being swallowed by the monstrous wolf. In the film, the bird is a female with a nest of young ones, and the duck is an odd male who escapes from the wolf's stomach, dancing ridiculously while making ballet look hideous.  Apart from these differences, the animation was rough for 1995, (after comparing it to Pixar's Toy Story 1 or even Aladdin, which was released in 1992) perhaps because Affirm Films did not have commendable staff such as Steve Jobs or Disney behind the animation. 
     Although the film should not be placed in a person's category of favorites, attentions should be paid to this piece. The music impacted the film in many ways: First and foremost, each character had a theme from the orchestra. Peter is represented by all the strings in a carefree, joyful, major theme; the flute is for the bird, who flits and flies across the meadow, around the pond, and up into the tree; the duck is easily recognized by the oboe; the cat by the clarinet; and the seemingly grumpy grandfather by the bassoon. The terrible wolf's character is enhanced by three french horns, while the hunters are represented by the kettle and bass drums. In essence, because the story was written and the music performed to fit the plot, each theme flows with the main story, creating an interesting tale to introduce one to the orchestra, and no character was the worse off for having a theme for their personality. Even though the film watered down the death of the duck, changed the bird from a male to a female, and over-dramatized some of the actors and actresses lines, the music rings true, it can defend itself. Peter and the Wolf really does not need visuals to perform the story. All that is necessary is an appropriate voice for a narrator, and the themes and music of Peter and the Wolf can play on the greatest stage of all: Your own imagination.

A film review written a bit ago. I do, however, digress from this to simply say there is one version that seems it could enhance the musical story.  I dare to dream.
The 2006 British/Polish/Norwegian co-produced film