Tag Archives: books

To an old lady

In highschool, I won the poetry competition. I recited a poem called “To an old lady asleep at a poetry reading”, by James Kirkup. I remember that I said the whole poem to an increasingly embarassed woman in the front row.

Snore on in your front row seat
Let not my voice disturb the wordless heaven your eyes have found
Here in the hard hall,
With its naked lights,
The nightmare setting of all sleepless nights
In which my words and spirit are bound.

When I was speaking with one of the judges after the competition, he discovered that I was an American, and was, I believe, quite horrified. I had laid on the British accent thick, and he didn’t realize that it wasn’t genuine. And it used to come very naturally to me.

Well, at my Christmas Carol reading on Saturday, I had to work really hard at it, and, even then, there were several times when I realized that I had almost entirely let it slip. And while I expect that most of my audience didn’t notice any but the most eggregious times, I guess it just shows that when you don’t speak a language for a while, you lose it.

Let not that tiresome vulture – your wakeful neighbour
Disturb you with her nudging gloom
She is one of those restless seekers-after-culture
Who, at question time, will shout for it
While I desire only the chilly sanctuary of the Chairman’s guest room

Ah, poor dear, she’s wakened you
You stare, perplexed a moment,
From under your hat’s provincial flowers

You must not mind, dear
As shame comes hunting your
Yes, dear, this is Hell, and this is me confronting you.

I should probably get a copy of Patrick Stewart’s reading of A Christmas Carol before the next time I attempt to do this. I watched his movie rendition on Sunday. I probably should have watched that before, too. His interpretation of things seems to be very true to the spirit of the book.

Apologies to Mr Kirkup. I’m probably remembering wrong, but I can’t find a copy of the poem anywhere. Anyone who knows what volume I can find the poem in, I’d be much obliged if you could provide that information.

Bah, Humbug!

As promised, here’s a short summary of the events of last night.

Due to some folks arriving fairly late, we didn’t actually get started until after 8. There were 16 in attendance. We had Smoking Bishop, hot cider, coffee, and lots of pie. 5 pies, to be exact.

Stave One took almost an hour, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought it would take about a half hour. Thanks to my special effects department, the bells ringing in Scrooge’s house was quite effective.

I think that the glossary was very well received, with people reading up on the upcoming stave in each of the breaks, and then seeming to get the various jokes that were explained in there, as well as getting some of the other statements that tend to just confuse people. I was planning to put the glossary here for download, but, upon more thought, I’ve decided not to. It contains several blatant copyright violations, and so was probably appropriate for a small gathering, but not for general distribution. Sorry.

The other staves ended up taking longer than expected, too, and so we got done around 11:30, which was almost an hour later than my longest estimate.

I also took with me my entire Christmas Carol collection, including my 1916 printing, which is the oldest copy I have. The cover is in terrible condition, so I very seldom so much as take it out if its plastic bag. Perhaps some day I’ll manage to find an older copy, in better condition, which I can afford.

There were 2 pies left at the end of the evening, but almost all the Smoking Bishop was gone, and all of the cider was gone. So that was good.

Thanks to everyone who came. Maybe we can do this again next year.

Please have some pie

Well, it‘s done. There was lots of pie left, and my throat is sore. I really enjoyed myself, and most folks said nice things about it on their way out, although a number of people had a really hard time staying awake. It ran until 11:30, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I guess I’ll know next time, if there is a next time. Perhaps I’ll write more later. I’m really tired.

Marley was dead …

In just a few days, I’ll be doing something that I’ve been wanting to do for several years now.

Every year, at our Christmas party, I read a little bit of ‘A Christmas Carol’, by Charles Dickens. As the years have gone by, and the kids have gotten more numerous, and louder, these readings have grown shorter, harder to hear, and more sparsely populated, as many of the parents have gone home by then.

I’ve wanted to do a more complete reading, and, gradually, the idea began to grow of an adults-only, complete, unabridged reading. When Mr. Dickens himself did readings of this book, he did an abridged version, for the sake of time. But in abridging it, he left out what I think are some of the better parts. Certainly the funnier and funner parts.

I’ve been somewhat reluctant to mention this on here, because I had to pick a smallish guest list, and there were other people who I didn’t invite, and wish that I could have. So I suppose I wanted to keep it a secret so that those folks would not feel like they were excluded. I’m sorry I couldn’t invite more of you.

But as the event approaches, I’m getting pretty pumped up about it. It’s going to run somewhere between 2 and 3 hours, I expect, although I’m not really sure. I’ll be serving Smoking Bishop, as well as a few other snacks that I’ve whipped up for the occasion. I was going to try to do dishes from the book, but time, ability, and budget conspired against me, and I’m just making pumpkin pies and apple pies. And maybe some cookies – I haven’t decided yet. I wanted to make a figgy pudding, but then I looked at the recipe. You start with about 8 pounds of stuff, including figs and sugar and brandy and … lots of other stuff. It was a bit intimidating. Maybe next year.

I’ve been working on this since about February, during which time I’ve read the book probably 6 or 8 times. I was working on a glossary, so that my listeners don’t interrupt me to ask why the boy calls Scrooge “Walker” when asked to go get the turkey, or why Scrooge’s name is “good upon ‘Change.” That ended up being about 35 pages. Oy.

If you’ve only experienced the book through the various movies out there, even the best ones (probably either Patrick Stewart or George C Scott, IMHO) leave out very important parts. This is, probably, because they tend to follow the abridged version that Mr. Dickens read from, rather than the full unabridged version.

Anyways, I’ll let you know how it goes. There’s been a threat to videotape it, but I’m not particularly thrilled about that. We’ll see.

God bless us, every one

It appears I have an addiction.

This morning, I ordered another copy of “A Christmas Carol” from Amazon.com.


Ok. Actually, two.

Yes, I have a problem, and I’m considering seeking professional help.

But, to be honest, I think I can quit any time.

This morning I opened a copy of The Annotated Christmas Carol while I drank my coffee. An hour later, I realized that I really should leave for work. However, I briefly considered calling in sick. Just briefly.

It’s amazing how many motives can be attributed to an author, when one really puts one’s mind to it. While I doubt that Mr. Dickens actually had all those thoughts and motives when he wrote it, I suppose those influences did indeed exist somewhere in his subconscious. But to read the annotations, you’d think that each sentence took him a week to research.

Stand By Me

With the prospect of meeting Wil Wheaton in just a few days at ApacheCon, I decided I should see Stand By Me. It was really, really good. I read the book a long, long time ago, and it has in it one of my favorite Steven King quotes.

The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When a secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.

Like so many books that I greatly enjoyed, I avoided the movie because I was pretty sure that it would not be able to be as good as the book was. But it did a really good job of dealing with the best parts of the book. And I found myself very impressed with how well those boys acted their characters. There were a few times when you could tell that they were just boys trying to act. But most of the time, they really were the scared kids in the woods.

I also realized that this is only the third thing I’ve seen with River Phoenix in it. Sneakers and Last Crusade being the other two. And tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of his tragic passing. He was a very talented young man, and it is criminal that nobody stopped him before things went too far.

Home again, Home again

I’m a little grumbly here, because I was almost done writing this posting when Firefox crashed. Bah.

Anyways, as I was saying …

I am pleased to announce, after extensive testing, the results of my survey. Nobody in the world makes coffee as good as I can make it right here at home. Except, just maybe, my dad. I’m not sure what’s so hard about grinding up a few beans and pouring water over them, but every time I travel, I’m better off just foregoing the coffee, since everything I get served is swill fit only for watering the daisys. Poor daisys.

It is really good to be home.

I still enjoy travelling. (Ok, I have come to hate the actual travelling part. Thanks, TSA.) I like being other places and seeing new things. But, increasingly, I just want to get back home, after a few days away. I suppose I’m just getting old and settled, and, I think, that’s probably OK with me. (Inner voice: OLD MAN! OLD MAN!)

So, it was a week of Apache training. I learned quite a few things, and have a lot of changes that I need to make to my class notes and to my book. I wonder if I will be able to keep up the drive to do so this time. Generally, the urge dies out after a few days. I’ll try harder.

The network at the training site was somewhat restrictive, so I was off IRC for almost the whole week. On Friday, Eddie reminded me how to tunnel IRC (or anything, I suppose) over an ssh connection to anywhere. You open an ssh connection to wherever you can ssh to, and then you can tunnel any other protocol over the top of that, so that you can use your preferred IRC client (xchat, or whatever) to connect over that tunnel to anywhere else. I suppose it’s just as well that I didn’t remember earlier in the week.

ssh -C rbowen@wooga.frumble.com -L 8081:irc.freenode.org:6667

Then point your IRC client at localhost, port 8081.

Most evenings while on my trip, I went out somewhere, saw a thing or two, but was back in my room by 7 or 8. I read a lot of stuff during those 2 or 3 hours before going to bed. Here’s some of it.

In the Presence of Fear by Wendell Berry. Avoid this book if you are content to be fat, happy, and complacent in your current view of your consumer life. This is a collection of essays about how the world has changed in the last several presidential administrations, and, particularly, how it has changed since the incident in 2001 when we realized that we didn’t live in an isolated bubble. Very good stuff. Whatever your political leanings tend to be, Berry gives a lot of plain common sense to some issues that we tend to over-politicize.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. A murder mystery of sorts. Written from the perspective of a young autistic man who finds a dead dog in his neighbor’s (I suppose I should say neighbour’s. He’s british.) yard, and who sets out to find out how it died. Funny, sad, and eye-opening. Highly recommended. It was recommended to me by someone in blog-space. I don’t rember who. Get this book.

The Gift Moves by Steve Lyon. Steve is the organist/pianist at my church. He’s also the husband of the well-known children’s author George Ella Lyon. The book was shelved (mistakenly, I think) in the children’s section of the book store. Yes, it’s a book about some kids. Sort of. It’s also a book about a culture (seems post-apocalyptic, but hard to say) where the economy is based on gifts, rather than on money or barter. It’s about how we relate to one another. Or, I suppose, you could read it as a shiny happy kid’s story. Presumably that’s where the store thought it would sell better. After all, who wants to think? Recommended. Frankly, I didn’t expect to enjoy it, largely because of where it was shelved. But I like to read books by people I know, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. I keep thinking that the Discworld books will get tired and boring. And perhaps that’s happening just a little bit. But this book was funny I suppose it gets a “2” on the measure on the “laughed out loud in public” scale. The story was good, the characters were interesting, and the conclusion was unexpected. I recommend this if you’ve read any of the other Discworld books. If you haven’t, I recommend that you read The Colour of Magic first. Try to get a British edition of you can find it. Apparently they tried to Americanize it for the US printing, whatever that means. Silly publishers. And if you’re in this area, I’m sure that Ken would be willing to loan you a copy. I don’t seem to have a copy any more.

And I suppose I should mention that I picked up a new printing of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. This is a Barnes&Noble printing. A little pocket-sized edition of ACC as well as The Chimes and Cricket on the Hearth. Nice binding and size, so I could hardly pass it up, now, could I?

Oh, and one more thing. While in Palm Beach I ate at a place called City Cellar. Twice, in fact. I had two of the best meals I’ve had so far this year. The first night, I had crab-encrusted chilean sea bass. It was positively heavenly. The next night I had mahi in a tamarind sauce, which was almost as good. It was … *ahem* … somewhat pricey. The bass, at least, was worth every penny. The mahi was more expensive and less wonderful, but only marginally so.

Ok, there. Finished with no crashes, and crammed more topics into a single post than is my usual habit. Deal with it. I write for me and not for you anyway. 🙂

National Security Strategy

I just got done reading “A Citizen’s Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” an essay by Wendell Berry. It is in a little booklet called Citizen’s Dissent which you can obtain for a mere $8 from Amazon.com or elsewhere.

I’m 3 years late in reading it, but I *highly* encourage you to get a copy and read it. It questions the sanity of our response, then and now, to the events of September 11, 2001. It questions our continued insistence that war is the way to peace, and that an isolationist willing to “act alone” is inconsistent with our desire to create a “global economy.”

Berry is a genius who put ideas in terms that simple people can understand. When it comes to politics (and most other things, I suppose) I am very simple in my thinking. Berry is very practical. If I were to quote to you the parts that I thought were important, I’d quote the entire thing. But I’ll be content with this:

It is useless to try to adjudicate a long-standing animosity by asking who started it, or who is the most wrong. The only siffucient answer is to give up the animosity and try forgiveness, to try to love our enemies and try to talk to them and (if we pray) to pray for them. If we can’t do any of that, then we must begin again by trying to imagine our enemies’ children who, like our children, are in mortal danger because of enmity that they did not cause.

May God have mercy on our great nation, and grant that we may, by putting aside our insanity, and remembering what greatness means, be great once more.

Another book

Going against all good sense and prior experience, I have today submitted a proposal for another book that I want to write. As though I don’t have enough to do already. But the idea seems very appealing, and I have a reasonably good idea of how I want to handle various topics.

More details as I have them. But I expect that things like rewrite.drbacchus.com will feature in the book, and I expect that I will rely pretty heavily on IRC conversations for inspiration for the content of the book.

It always seems to me that commercial entities want to keep things secret, and I want to just tell everybody about things. I’ve already discussed the idea for the book with a number of people, and gotten some good feedback that has influenced how I wrote the proposal. Feedback that can be best summarized as “Don’t write about things that 1) other people have done a way better job than you ever can or 2) you’re just completely ignorant about.” Sage advice. On the other hand, there seem to be certain people who are reticent to write about certain topics, even when I know they would do an exceptional job.