Friday, April 26, 2013

On Words, Big and Li'l, All Those I do not Know.

In my last two posts, here and here, I reflected on how being thrown out of a story can sometimes be the mark of greatness in that tale. These musings were spurred by a post from Claudia about her love of big words.

I knew reading that post, that I wanted to write a post about my most unique reading experience.

Cloud and Ashes. Three Winter's Tales. By Greer Gilman

I felt in reading this collection of three interrelated stories that I was only understanding a smidgen's worth of the whole. There are many words, both big and small, whose meaning I did not know. Some still elude me, being unable to find them in any dictionary. Here's a sampling, taken from just a couple of pages:


But my aren't they pretty words?

Often, even when I knew the words, I didn't fully get the meaning of the sentences.

"And he was leaves. Brown leaves of oak, the lightfall of a thousand hallows. He was galls and tassels, traceries of veining; he was shards of acorns, shales of light. His lady's cups."

I could see that the story was referencing folk tales and Shakespeare and, and, and...., but mostly those references escaped me. Sometimes whole paragraphs escaped me. Pages. And yet...

The girl glanced at Kit. "I see thou's done already what thou can't undo." He felt her eflshot eyes. Her breasts were April, but the eyes were January, haily, and the tongue a cold and clashy March. Scathed, he felt himself, dishevelled in his raffish coat, with moss and toadstools in his hair. Leaves everywhere. And ramping after Thea, like a woodwose in a mumming. Mad for love.

Oddly enough, I love this novel. Because in reading this thing that I could not understand very well, I still felt it. There is a beauty and a melencholy that runs throughout and it was as though with the reading of each word, I was a bell that that word rang. A bell whose call would tear at your heart, sounding out low over the moor. A bell that weeped for things what cannot be undone.

It was curious, this not understanding/understanding. And I was so mesmerized by the language of the words, phrases, sentences I didn't mind not being able know. For me it was a book that wasn't at all about the head, it was about the gut. And it was my gut that kept me reading.

I'll end with a final selection. As you read it see if you can stop reading halfway through. I know I can't. Write me a comment and let me know. See if you can figure out why it wraps you up and won't let go. I think one reason is obvious, but I don't want to give it away.

The whitehaired child had slipped his lead; he whirled and jangled as he ran. His hair was flakes of light. He whirled unheeding on the moor. And childlike fell away from him, like clouds before the moon, the moon a hare, the hare a child. He lowped and whirled and ranted. Whin caught him; he was light, and turning in her blood to sun. He bore it. By its light, she saw the beggar's shadow, like a raven on the rimy earth, that hopped and jerked a shining in its neb, a glass. A thief! the raven cried. Whin stood, as if the cry had caught her, in the whirring of the light like wings, a storm of wings; held fast. The child was burning in her hands, becoming and becoming fire. And she herself was changing. She was stone; within her, seed on seed of crystal rimed, refracted. She was nightfall, with a keel of moon, and branching into stars. She was wood and rooted; from her branches sprang the light, the misselchild. In that shining she was eyes of leaves, and saw her old love's blood, like holly on the snow.

This is a novel for life. To be kept at my bedside and pondered over for all the years to come.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dinosaurs vs. Humans

Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? I know I do. My first toys were dime store plastic versions of triceratops, dimetrodon, T-rex and brotonsaurus*—all the known species at that point in time (now there are hundreds of known species). These plastic toys fit in well with my cowboys and Indians, and when they fought, the dinosaurs always won. Always.


Because dinosaurs are cool! They have teeth, spikes, claws, horns, clubbed tails, and they were as big as busses, homes.

The concept of mixing people and dinosaurs is a popular one—even though people and dinosaurs are separated by approximately sixty-five million years. I think this is because dinosaurs seem so wild, foreign, and dangerous that it’s fun to wonder about what it would be like to see a dinosaur in person or interact with them, especially considering a dinosaur’s capacity for inspiring awe, fear and perhaps, joy.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for you (human) to spend some quality time mixing with dinosaurs and their kin:

10.   Visit your local natural history museum. Mostly what remains of the dinosaurs today are fossilized bones—but that’s enough to make for a fun and interesting afternoon.

My son at the Black Hills Institute in South Dakota.
It’s small but packed full of dino-goodness.

9.     Dive with the Coelacanths. OK. The coelacanth is not really a dinosaur; it’s a prehistoric fish—one that was not smart enough to die out with its dinosaur buddies. Thought to be extinct for millions of years they’ve been spotted by divers off South Africa.

8.     Hang out with a Tuatara. Again, not a dinosaur, but the last of a species of reptile that was around when dinosaurs walked the earth. They also live to be over 100 years old.

7.     Read Ray Bradbury’s book, Dinosaur Tales. It contains classics like, “The Fog Horn” and “The Sound of Thunder.”

6.       Watch “One Million Years B.C.”
Raquel Welch in this famous swimsuit—

--running from Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion dinosaurs.

5.     Find an elementary school student and read, “The Enormous Egg.” What would happen if you raised a pet dinosaur from an egg?

4)     Curl up in front of your TV and DVD player and watch Nigel Marvin’s “Chased by Dinosaurs” series. You’ll believe dinosaurs are real as Nigel runs for his life from them. Fabulous stuff! (My wife got to meet him once briefly and apparently he is a nice guy—the dinosaurs had no ill effect on him.)

Side note: The scariest thing I ever saw him do was handle a king cobra live on Conan O’Brien’s show – it got loose for a moment and seemed to be heading for the audience.

3)    Visit your local comic book store and pick up a back issue of “Turok, Son of Stone.” Dinosaurs vs. Indians at it’s best. 

2)     Check out another Ray Harryhausen classic, “Valley of the Gwangi.” Dinosaurs vs. Cowboys.  Allosaurus vs. Elephant, FYI.

1)     Go see Jurassic Park in 3D (It’s playing in IMAX, now). Or better yet, find the Michael Crichton book that inspired it. My fav moment in the movie.

Human/Dinosaur Honorable mentions:
Johnny Quest cartoon, “Turu” episode.
Land of the Lost TV show (terrible effects)
The comic and short lived TV cartoon, Cadillac’s and Dinosaurs
Jurassic Park II & III movies
The Lost World by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle
The Lost World by Michael Crichton
(I could go on and on and on)

So apparently we’re obsessed with dinosaurs and humans, and for plenty of reasons. First and foremost dinosaurs make great entertainment. But in addition, I believe that those who fail to remember (pre)history are doomed to repeat it.

The dinosaurs and I thank you for reading~


 (*yeah, that’s what we called them, then. None of this Apatosaurus crap.)

Note: All images in this post were added through inline linking to the original sites--check them out! This was done to honor those great people and their appreciation for all things human/dinosaur.