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Check out the adorable story that [personal profile] aldersprig  wrote based on my birthday prompt during her latest Giraffe Call!

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Yes, [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith  is once again again hosting her monthly Poetry Fishbowl and this month's theme is "anti-heroes and anti-villains", characters who put the grey in 'shades of grey'. Go check it out and leave a prompt!
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As a result, in part, of prompts I've given during [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith's most recent Poetry Fishbowl, Captain Mary takes to the skies on a quest for REVENGE! Join her on her adventure in the epic ballad, Salt from a Dead Woman's Table!
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 ... and we're going PUNK! (Steampunk, that is (and, punk of other eras, too)). Go check it out!
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[ profile] ysabetwordsmith is holding her monthly Poetry Fishbowl and this month's topic is humour & whimsy. I'm thinkin' we could all use a chuckle right about now, so go put a prompt in (and ignore the really bad "put another shrimp on the Barbie" joke I left there).
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Please take a gander at [ profile] aldersprig's "Cunning Linguist", inspired by one of my prompts. 
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Prior to the poem being funded and fully posted, I had emailed [ profile] ysabetwordsmith with some of my thoughts about the poem “‘Stained” from the ‘Path of the Paladins’ poetry series. The conversation, conducted through a number of emails and PMs, went something like this:

Me (near the beginning of August): You know, I could write an essay analyzing this poem. It's so rich in multiple levels of meaning and symbolism.

Her: I think you should flesh this out. We can always post it as an essay after the poem is fully sponsored. I'm scholar enough to admire your analysis, and really, there just is not enough good literary analysis of speculative poetry. More is good.

Her, again (about three weeks ago): "Stained" was fully sponsored this morning… If you're still willing to flesh out that lovely essay for public posting, that can be done at your convenience now.

How could I refuse?  :) 

I apologize for the lack of cuts, but the journal entry editor is being stupid today.

The Symbolism of "Stained"

The poem "Stained", by [ profile] ysabetwordsmith, presents a number of interesting symbols and parallels to further enrich the meaning of character and story elements found with the serial poetry series 'The Path of Paladins'. Key among them is the characters Ari and Johan, the Bright Temple and beams of sunlight in both material and metaphorical forms, conveying a powerful message of hope. 

In this poem, Ari is proving to play a greater role than that a typical sidekick for the primary protagonist to play off of. As has been established in an earlier poem, there are some important parallels between Ari and Gailah, the goddess of the principle character, Shahana. Both Ari and Gailah have survived a brutal attack and rape by male antagonists. Both, however, also show resilience and growing strength. In taking Ari under her wing, Shahana is not only rescuing the girl, but, in educating Ari in the ways of her faith, she is also in the act of rescuing the religion of Gailah. In this poem, Ari comes to represent divine presence, stepping beyond the parallels and seeming to act in the stead of the Goddess Gailah by displaying disapproval for Johan’s actions early in the poem and later reaching out to him in forgiveness. In particular, Ari consciously attempts to speak on Gailah’s behalf, upon Johan’s departure, when she whispers “Gailah knows,” planting the seed for Johan’s possible self-forgiveness in the future.

The topic of forgiveness is explored in an interesting fashion by the actions and statements of Johan. Outwardly, he claims no interest in rejoining the path of Gailah, claiming that She is weak. He even attempts to refuse Shanana’s much needed assistance in healing his injured arm. His actions, however, tell another story.  Shahana and Ari find him in a small roadside shrine dedicated to Gailah. The statue has been brushed clean by hand and a branch of blackberries has been laid in the offering. It may seem meager service, but it must have been dedicated and difficult effort for Johan, given the state that he was found in, with one arm crushed. Furthermore, the descriptions of him silently mouthing the prayers sung by Ari, and being found curled up beside Shahana in the morning, betray a desire to return to the fold. This contrast between his spoken and unspoken behaviour reveals an inner conflict. Between Ari’s thoughts on the situation, and Johan’s own admissions, it would appear that he feels unworthy of Gailah’s forgiveness, though this seems to something difficult for this previously proud man to deal with. His path to redemption, being further explored in the poem ‘Will Not’, will be interesting to follow.

In the poem, Ari brings up the topic of the Bright Temple, which served as home for the paladins of Gailah. Shahana mentions that the Temple is always open should Johan choose to return to it, to which he replies, “The bright temple was destroyed.” From here, Shahana brings up the point that only the physical temple was destroyed. This brings up the theme of where the heart of a faith lies. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, once wrote “One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train.” For both Ueshiba and Shahana, the most important ‘temple’ that any religion possesses, is the one built within the spirit of its practitioners. Johan may currently see Gailah’s religion as being as being in ruins as the Bright Temple, but Shahana reiterates that, so long as there are those who hold true to the faith, the religion can always rebuild. The true temple is, in essence, one’s own faith.

Rebuilding is touched on in many other ways throughout the poem. There are mentions of tangible reconstruction, such as Shahana’s statement that the Bright Temple will be rebuilt one day, and the healing of Johan’s arm. Interestingly, these are both events that would be, or are, enacted through the power of faith, be it the resolve of more numerous future worshippers or divine intervention via the faith of Shahana. However, there is more subtle discussion of rebuilding through faith that is brought forth in this poem and others in the series. In this poem, Johan begins his journey in rebuilding his spirit, a process that will require him to renew his faith in Gailah and, perhaps more importantly, himself. This is suggested in the dialogue between Ari and Shahana towards the end of the poem where Ari states that whatever Johan is holding against himself will eventually be resolved by the knowledge that Gailah knows his struggle and understands. However, both Shahana and Ari, in their discussions with Johan, point out that nothing can be rebuilt as it was, something that Johan seems to be fixated upon as one reason not to move forward. Ari’s analogy of silk being dyed to match a stain is an eloquent description of this concept.

At the end of the poem, all of these themes and ideas are tied together with a single act. As Ari states that being aware of Gailah’s understanding of Johan’s inner conflict will eventually be enough for him to forgive himself (and, thus, rebuild his spirit), she smiles in a fashion described as being as “sudden as a sunbeam through clouds.” This gives a suggestion of the Bright Temple, which is earlier described as being “like yellow fire in the morning light.” Also, given how Gailah often reveals herself through beams of sun and moonlight, as well as other natural phenomena, throughout other poems in the series, this act also shows Ari as a surrogate for Gailah with another parallel. Finally, in being described as a beam of sunlight through clouds, this act becomes symbolic of hope; though things may be currently gloomy, a brighter future is in store. 

It is this message of hope, shown through the expression of faith, forgiveness, reconstruction, and divine presence, that seems to drive this poem and lends it power. As the characters from this poetry series battle against darkness and fight ever closer to a brighter tomorrow, we can not only see our own struggles within theirs, but also that beam of golden sunlight piercing through the clouds to shine upon our own world.

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[ profile] aldersprig is currently holding a call for story prompts based on the theme of 'lost, abandoned, left behind'. Go check it out!  :)
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As some of you may know, [ profile] haikujaguar , an author and artist adored by many in LJ land, especially given how much of her work she has freely shared with us (including stories, anecdotes, card readings and advice on writing and producing art), has run into quite a big spot of trouble requiring extensive house repairs. To help out with some of those expenses (and fill my Crackberry with enjoyable reading), I've just purchased quite a number of her e-book publications from Smashbooks. On her Smashbooks site, she has a number of free short stories to download, so you can get a taste of her writing before deciding to purchase any of the other very reasonably priced works. If you like good sci-fi, furry fiction, stories dealing with alien cultures, and/or explorations of gender roles and issues, I'd highly recommend taking a look. My favourite, thus far, is Alysha's Downfall, which contains some very edgy writing.
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Fallen Angel, by Robbie Robertson (with Peter Gabriel)

This is a hauntingly beautiful and emotional song that has captured my attention for quite some time.

On the surface, it appears to be a conversation between the angels Gabriel and Lucifer, after the Fall. In it, both sides seem to express regret and desire to restore a lost friendship. On that level alone, it is achingly eloquent. However, it is apparent that it also speaks of those, separated on differing sides of  conflict, who desire reconciliation. I present the lyrics on the left and my thoughts on the right.

Are you out there
Can you hear me
Can you see me in the dark

I don't believe it's all for nothing
It's not just written in the sand
Sometimes i thought you felt too much
And you crossed into the shadowland

And the river was overflowing
And the sky was fiery red
You gotta play the hand that's dealt ya
That's what the old man always said

Fallen angel
Casts a shadow up against the sun
If my eyes could see
The spirit of the chosen one

In my dream the pipes were playing
In my dream i lost a friend
Come down gabriel and blow your horn
'cause some day we will meet again

Fallen angel
Casts a shadow up against the sun
If my eyes could see
The spirit of the chosen one

All the tears
All the rage
All the blues in the night
If my eyes could see
You kneeling in the silver light

Fallin', fallin', fallin' down
Fallin', fallin' down
Fallin', fallin', fallin' down
Fallin', fallin' down

Fallen angel
Casts a shadow up against the sun
If my eyes could see
The spirit of the chosen one

All the tears
All the rage
All the blues in the night
If my eyes could see
You kneeling in the silver light

If you're out there can you touch me
Can you see me i don't know
If you're out there can you reach me
Lay a flower in the snow
Lucifer seems to be calling out to Gabriel. This stanza paints a picture of loneliness.

Gabriel seems to rail against the notion that conflict is meaningless, and that the loss of Lucifer must have some greater purpose. He shows some sympathy for the fallen angel.

The horrors of conflict are illustrated here, but this is something that must be accepted as inescapable.

The chorus illustrates the contrast of a single defiant spirit against an overwhelming, oppressive force. (Compare the Chinese demonstrator vs. the tank at Tiananmen Square.)

Here, Lucifer expresses his regret over the loss of Gabriel's friendship, but introduces an element of hope with the certainty that they will be reunited.

The chorus also speaks of Lucifer as a necessary, if painful, sacrifice for the greater good. In a way, this symbolizes lives lost to preserve an ideal.

Here, the author reiterates the cost of conflict in sorrow and rage, but also shows that the only way a major conflict can end is if one side abandons pride (Lucifer) and yields (kneeling) to the other. The use of Lucifer illustrates the limited likelihood of such things occurring.

This gentle stanza actually suggests that the Fall is still happening, repeated through our own actions.

Another great example of a necessary sacrifice explored in a Biblical theme is the exploration of Judas in the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.

The song ends as it begins, with Lucifer railing against his loneliness and abandonment. But here, he asks the other side to show a measure of compassion and reach out ot him. However, in asking for a miracle, he demonstrates the limited likelihood of a superior foe to show such. Thus the song shows criticism and sympathy for both sides of this, and every conflict.

Of course, this is just my interpretation. What are your thoughts?
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[Error: unknown template qotd]"NOOOO!!!!!" screamed the horrified NASA scientists.
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Yep, now that we have good weather again, I'm back to watching Blue and Red haul off loads of dirt. Oh yay. As the excavator is carefully digging the ditches, it's taking them a long time to load the trucks. This is the second day of it. I'm so really, really glad I have access to a computer during all this. 

Granted, being forced to stay in one place has given me LOTS of time to do sit down things. With it, I have:

  • Done a lot of work transferring my favourite journals from PDC to here
  • Tagged a number of postings from my memories
  • Tweaked my resumes some more
  • Applied to a few more jobs online
  • Started getting involved in an e-mail RPG
  • Gotten more deeply involved in Scarybirds - a dark fantasy fiction collaboration site
  • Started a short story at said site
  • Engaged in a lot of correspondence
  • Finished off Knife of Dreams, by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time series rocks!)
  • Played far too much Zuma for my own good
  • Recorded a little work on my didge and a try out for a bit of voice acting

Yep, lots done! (Oh, there goes Blue.)

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 As an English teacher in a secondary school, I wind up going through a LOT of Shakespeare, especially for SAT and coursework preparation. In doing so, I find all sorts of interesting little side thoughts that I just really have to express.

I'll start with Romeo from Romeo and Juliet. I know most of you realize that Shakespeare deliberately made Romeo's early feelings for Juliet questionable, in that it seems he was purely attracted by her beauty at the Capulet Ball (driving out any thought of Rosalyn, whom he believed he loved for the same reason). However, there are a few choice bits of Act 1 Scene 1 which really show Romeo to be truly shallow. Most of these show up in the conversation where Benvolio has a talk with Romeo in order to find out why the latter has shut himself away in misery. It is revealed that Romeo is pining for Rosalyn, the most beautiful woman he has seen. Romeo has this to say about his attempts at courting her:

Well, in that hit you miss. She'll not be hit
With Cupid's arrow. She hath Dian's wit.
And, in strong proof of chastity well armed
From love's weak childish bow, she lives uncharmed.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide th' encounter of assailing eyes,
Nor ope her lap to saint-seducing gold.

Am I alone in thinking that Romeo is whining because he can't even PAY to get into Rosalyn's pants? 

When Romeo first sees Juliet at the Capulet's Ball, he becomes immediately enamored, forgetting completely about Rosalyn. His first comments about Juliet are entirely about her beauty and how it outshines any he has ever witnessed.

When they first begin to speak, things get a little interesting. Their dialogue takes the form of a sonnet. Many would argue that, as the sonnet was the ultimate romantic thing to do, that this signifies the beginning of "true love" between Romeo and Juliet, as an Elizabethan audience would recognize it as such. However, I would argue that Shakespeare used it for the opposite effect. Afterall, everyone in his audience would have known that it was the thing for a gentleman to write to show deepest admiration. In otherwords, it was a fancy pickup line. This idea is further heightened by the skill with which Romeo lays it on to win a kiss from Juliet. Ultimately, she comments "You kiss by the book," indicating that, not only is Romeo skillful with his lines, but he's a pro at kissing. In otherwords, Romeo is a Shakespearan "playah". (Sorry, I couldn't resist that pun...)

It becomes very clear that Romeo feels very strongly for Juliet as the end of the play approaches. However, is it love? If it is, what is he really in love with? Many mentions are made of Juliet's beauty, but what else? Yes, Romeo proves that he is devoted, but is he still as shallow as he was at the beginning of the play? I wager he is.

Anybody else have an opinion on this?

 PS: The title for this post appeared in my TA's notes. *chuckle*


Mar. 8th, 2008 10:37 pm
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 Sometime last week, I picked up a Stephen King novel, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. It just happened to be in a Co-op store I was shopping in for fairly cheap. As I still hadn't made it to a proper bookstore to get something to read to my Sweetie, I thought, "Why not?" Afterall, it was advertised as having something of the same flavour as the story The Body, upon which the film Stand by Me is based.  

Well, about Monday, as I was literally lying around with nothing to do (damn back), I started in on it. Later that day, I was finished. 

This showed me two things. First, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading and, second, my reading speed, despite doing very much heavy reading in a long time, seems to have actually increased. I attribute that to marking all that English work; if I'm getting speedier at reading through garbled, mispelled grammatical nightmares, it only stands to reason that I would blaze through well written work.

During the week, I received a few other books, as well. I voraciously devoured Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, which was both highly imaginative and quite amusing and I've started into a novel I just got yesterday, Freedom Writers, which is a compilation of journals by underpriviledged American highschool pupils and the English teacher that helped to make a difference in their lives. I saw the film based on that book and decided that I MUST read the book. I was not wrong. 

Sadly, experiments to try and record myself reading for my dear have gone a bit awry, as it appears that my camera, which has superior video functions to my webcam, will only record for three minutes at a stretch. Yerg! I'll have to resort to my webcam, but not tonight. 

Whilst reading Freedom Writers, I noticed another thing. For kids that the school system had written off as underachievers who would likely drop out, these guys are damn articulate! Even compensating for the fact that their work was likely edited for publishing, they are very expressive and aware. And then it hit me: I'm reading the work of thirteen year olds that could vastly outwrite my most able sixteen year olds.  

Okay, actually, I've seen examples of work by eight year olds that outstrips most of my senior pupils. Bloody hell, no wonder I have such difficulty trying to match the curriculum I'm supposed to be teaching them to their actual ability level; they're simply not able to do it. Seriously, how am I supposed to teach Shakespeare (required for SATS and GCSE coursework) to kids who have difficulty remembering that full sentences need to start with a capital and end with a fullstop, exclamation mark, or question mark? 

I used to envy these teachers they write novels and make films about who could really inspire kids everyone else gives up on and changes their lives. I never could seem to do that, no matter my efforts. Now, though, it at least seems a little clearer why. The teacher in Freedom Writers helped them, in large part, by having them express themselves through journals. How can my kids write journals if they have problems dealing with full sentences? *sigh* 

At some point, I'm gonna have to do a full entry on the many ways that society, in particular the education authorities, have really let these kids down. 

For my part, the struggle will be over soon. Just a few more weeks and I'm out. THAT cannot come soon enough, all abused ideals set aside.

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It's been a little less than a week that I've spent in Toronto. So far I have:

1) Taken a long walk down Queen Street West

2) Taken a even longer hike down Queen Street East, from downtown Toronto to the Eastern Beaches (a little over 7 kilometers, I figure; I went to bed with my legs mildly aching from exertion for the first time in a lonnnggg while)

3) Snapped a number of photos of landmarks and architecture (I'm so glad I have a camera this time!)

4) Scored a decent burrito, some jerk chicken, and even some crispy ginger fried beef (though it wasn't as good as Lin Heung's)

5) Discovered that the teaching job scene for Canada has gotten worse since the last time I looked

6) Wrote a bunch of lesson plans and dug up material on mythological tricksters (Raven, Anansi, and Loki) for my year 7s

7) Struggled to avoid being overfed by my host's mother

8) Found out that a little snag in the work permit process has cost a bit of time and has likely marooned me here for an extra week

9) Found out that said snag was rectified by the school taking me on to the payroll (as they have to be directly employing me for work permit purposes)

10) Had a lovely lunch with a friend I haven't seen in a long while

11) Read through Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (a great novel, though not as captivating as American Gods)

12) Started rereading Frank Herbert's Dune (which, after about twenty years and the development of a strong understanding of religious, social, political, and cultural matters, reads like a brand new novel)

13) Did an amazing amount of window shopping (including a lot of kewl curio shops and even a few "naughty" stores)

14) Caught up on a lot of rest

15) Engaged in plenty of conversation with my host and the other residents of the household (including a plethora of house-pets)

16) Picked up a pressie for a dear friend back in the UK

All in all, a week reasonably spent, methinks.

The weekend holds the promise of a trip to Ward's Island, which I've been looking forward to since my return. This time, I'll have camera in hand so I can show everyone just how amazing it is.
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Courtesy o' [ profile] dancingwriter...

The Vampire Novel
Hmm, very interesting! You scored 147!
People are addicted to you, as you make such entertaining and sexy reading material. You get people’s imaginations flowing and make for the type of book people want to read more than once. Cults have been inspired by the likes of you.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 79% on bookpoints
Link: The What Kind Of Book Are You Test written by saucygirl on OkCupid Online Dating


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