April 21st, 2007


For all you word lovers out there

The website World Wide Words (http://www.worldwidewords.org/index.htm) is one of my regular reads. It updates each Friday. This weekend's choice gem in the SIC department goes,
"In an article in the Bangkok Post recently about the local real estate market, particularly for condominiums,” e-mailed Gordon Robinson, “the author constructed, or should it be erected, this splendid sentence: ‘Also, not all live in condoms, with single-owner apartment buildings and serviced apartments putting up stiff competition.’"

Book review, of sorts

Well, I finally got around to reading The Children of Hurin. It is, indeed, one of the Great Tales as Tolkien envisaged it. It is a sad tale, of course, and I knew all the parts before reading this coherent start-to-finish narrative. Anyway, I quite enjoyed it.

I first began reading The Lord of the Rings forty years ago this summer. It took hold of me in a powerful way. I read, and re-read, and then re-re-read it, many times. I could not at first find The Hobbit for sale in our little town, but there was a copy at our local library: an old, hardbound copy with Tolkien's original text in it (with the very different Riddle Game between Bilbo and Gollum).

Those who know LOTR only through the movies -- or worse, in a reflection produced by the mirror of later fantasy lit and role-playing games -- may love this work, but they often don't understand it. To understand Tolkien, you have to understand a lot about his linguistic passion. When he said the sources of inspiration for his work were "fundamentally linguistic" he wasn't kidding. Tolkien's stories grew out of everything he knew and loved in Old English and Middle English literature.

This is why I have not ever actually watched the movies and why I avoid most of the commentary -- not because I am a purist, or cannot bear to see this treated uncanonically (shoot, Tolkien himself often could not settle on a canonical version of some of his stuff) -- but because I see so many people greedily grabbing at what they barely understand to make something else out of it. It's like the bozos who made a new version of Messiah -- to make it more "accessible" to modern musical taste. Ugh. To "correct" or "improve" or even "update" an artist requires one to be an artist of almost the same caliber -- and certainly, it depends not only upon one's skill as an artist, but upon one correctly understanding the intent of the original artist.

The pot calling the kettle, well, you know

There are plenty of people getting on Alec Baldwin's case about his angry voice message to his 11-year-old daughter. Stories are now appearing about other displays of anger which have caused people to avoid Baldwin. He is rapidly becoming a pariah.

But we've seen all this before. Back during Clinton's impeachment, this same man said hysterical and violent things about Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and one of the House Managers in Clinton's trial in the Senate. And he said them on national TV, on somebody's talk show. It was obvious then that he had what we now call "anger management issues." But nobody said anything -- largely because many of the same people who are now pillorying him for chewing out his daughter also hated Henry Hyde.

A poem for Eastertide

Two Easter Stanzas


The Hope of the Resurrection

Though I have watched so many mourners weep
O'er the real dead, in dull earth laid asleep --
Those dead seemed but the shadows of my days
That passed and left me in the sun's bright rays.
Now though you go on smiling in the sun
Our love is slain, and love and you were one.
You are the first, you I have known so long,
Whose death was deadly, a tremendous wrong.
Therefore I seek the faith that sets it right
Amid the lilies and the candle-light.
I think on Heaven, for in that air so clear
We two may meet, confused and parted here.
Ah, when man's dearest dies, 'tis then he goes
To that old balm that heals the centuries' woes.
Then Christ's wild cry in all the streets is rife: --
"I am the Resurrection and the Life."


We meet at the Judgment and I fear it Not

Though better men may fear that trumpet's warning,
I meet you, lady, on the Judgment morning,
With golden hope my spirit still adorning.

Our God who made you all so fair and sweet
Is three times gentle, and before his feet
Rejoicing I shall say: -- "The girl you gave
Was my first Heaven, an angel bent to save.
Oh, God, her maker, if my ingrate breath
Is worth this rescue from the Second Death,
Perhaps her dear proud eyes grow gentler too
That scorned my graceless years and trophies few.
Gone are those years, and gone ill-deeds that turned
Her sacred beauty from my songs that burned.
We now as comrades through the stars may take
The rich and arduous quests I did forsake.
Grant me a seraph-guide to thread the throng
And quickly find that woman-soul so strong.
I dream that in her deeply-hidden heart
Hurt love lived on, though we were far apart,
A brooding secret mercy like your own
That blooms to-day to vindicate your throne.
-- Vachel Lindsay