The way the wheel works

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Ferris Wheel in Ybor, December 2012

I took this picture almost four years ago. There was a little pop up carnival across from The Bricks and I was mesmerized by the whimsy. I’m sitting here in August of 2016 at a point in my life where a plan I’ve spent the last four years on has been de-railed. And I thought of the song Wheel by John Mayer. And this picture.

My life is turning back around on itself. In some of the new things I’m pursuing my writing, reviewing books, and general blogging has popped back up as an outlet for an aspect of my personality I’ve spent the better part of the last four years suppressing. And now we’re back. I’m waving to my 2011 and 2012 self as I re-read some of those old entries. And I’m waving at myself now as I plan the next few weeks of blog entries. I hope you’ll join me as I review what I’ve been reading and other topics of interest. I will likely be very rusty. But I promise to show up and write.

-n.

monitor lizards & childlike awe

Yesterday I went to Busch Gardens with my friend Jenna. We went with the express purpose of petting kangaroos and wallabies.

wallaby

Don’t you just want to pet him? It was pretty cool, but here’s the anecdote.

After we pet the marsupials we wandered around the park to see the cheetahs and meerkats. And finally we made our way into the section with Busch Garden’s Animal Ambassadors and the Cave of Curiosities. I found out that Burmese Pythons and Boa Constrictors make me want to hurl. And bats totally freak me out.

We passed a family standing in front of the monitor lizards. They were surprisingly active when we passed by and the little girl in the family persistently declared that one of them was attempting to escape.

don't want to pet him

It made me chuckle and remember that iconic scene in Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone when Harry visits the zoo and releases the python. I haven’t talked much about Pottermore here yet (it’s sort of unique and difficult to describe) but this scene was fairly cool in the “experience”.

The zoo, the aquarium, MOSI, all of these places you visit as a kid and are amazed are so much fun for me to revisit. It’s like caffeine for my imagination. I’m overwhelmed with fanciful ideas and nostalgic memories from my childhood. Theme parks are designed to entertain but I think they also do a good job of revealing the bits of everyday magic. The sort we forget and often pass over.

Speaking of everyday magic – Publix Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream is just perfectly delicious and magical. I’d suggest dipping out a scoop or two and settling in for some evening reading.

of Shakespeare and Truth

Fakespeare movie

Monday morning I was quite ready for a break from the weekend. For the past month or so I’ve greatly enjoyed having Mondays off. I generally have to work to some degree on Saturday and Sunday with my family is not truly a day off so Monday is the catch all of relaxation. It’s a fun little thing for me, I legitimately do not have anything I HAVE to do, but I still feel like I’m playing hookie and that makes it all the more enjoyable when I go to see a movie at 11:35 am on a Monday morning (with all the retirees of Brandon).

I was excited this particular Monday morning that a movie I feared would not be playing in my neck of the woods had finally made its appearance at the theatre closest to my house. You can see from the poster over there to the left that the movie is titled Anonymous and it’s a conspiracy theory movie about the identity of Shakespeare.

Being a native English speaker I’ve had plenty of interaction with The Bard. In high school I not only read some of his major works but got the opportunity to visit his childhood home in Stratford-Upon-Avon as well as his wife, Anne Hathaway’s, farm. (Before you get too impressed they’re much like our State Fair’s Cracker Country… and they tell you about the cons of sleeping under thatched roofing). I’ve seen several movies about Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I. At this point they’re very common as a motif. Modern society is much interested in the life of the Tudors and their contemporary peasants.

All this to say, I knew a little bit of the controversy of Shakespeare being who he was. Yet, I was never concerned (and today remain unconvinced) by this anomaly of talent springing from obscurity because talent, historically speaking, has a way of latching itself onto some of the least likely suspects. I mean 8 year olds churned out entire symphonies in our illustrious history, so to me a man like Shakespeare coming from nowhere works.

Continue reading “of Shakespeare and Truth”

Language

Last semester I wrote a short story titled “I Don’t Know How to Write the End”. Today, my biggest struggle is that I don’t know how to write the beginning. The problem is I’ve been so excited about sharing this video that I’ve been thinking about it all week.

My friend Michael put this video on my Facebook wall last Thursday along with the comment “I don’t direct this at anyone.” It’s a kinetic typography video from a Stephen Fry transcript about Language.

Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography – Language from Matthew Rogers on Vimeo.

I’ve long been a linguiphile. And though that word is not recognized by most dictionaries, and it would be just as easy to say  “a lover of words” I like “linguiphile” better. My cheerleading squad in high school called me “Homeschool” because I, as I put it, had “quite an extensive vernacular” and I put it to use, often during cheerleading practice. Most of the girls I cheered with were rather smart and knew what I was saying, yet chose to truncate their communicative skills. I embraced mine and was marginalized. No, that makes me sound like a martyr. They teased me. I got over it.

My friend Michael often teases me. The same class for which I wrote “I Don’t Know How to Write the End” featured weekly workshops. In one of these workshops I used the word “bacchanal” instead of “party”. I won’t transcribe the entire argument that followed between Michael and myself about the specificity of “bacchanal” vs. “party”. But I was quite miffed. Again, I got over it (quickly, no worries) and we’ve gone on to tease each other about much sillier things. But when he shared this video with me I chalked it up to a victory in my column.

Watching this video made me want to jump up and down in excitement. Finally, I’ve encountered someone who understands my love for words, my need to express myself in new and challenging ways. Not to rub my lexicon in other’s faces, but for the sheer enjoyment of words.

I have never read the Dictionary cover to cover, though I have perused it from time to time. And I did once read a novel about the genesis of the OED. I often wrangle over which word will better illuminate what I am attempting to communicate and I also admit that I use a thesaurus about 20 times for each blog post. I wish to avoid sounding redundant or silly. Which brings me to another video featuring Stephen Fry from his satirical A Bit of Fry and Laurie days:

I believe my favorite part of that video is when he exclaims, “And yet we, all of us, spend all our days saying to each other the same things time after weary time.” With so many words available to us for speaking, writing, communicating, why do we repeat the same things? “I love you” is an important phrase to repeat, people need to hear it.

Yet I would argue that it is also vitally important to use the argot you have command of to gently coerce others into a higher jargon. Or by using bigger words force other people to learn and use bigger words. Not for an intellectual parade of verbiage, but for the challenge of illuminating articulation, for the fun of

 the tripping of the tips of [our] tongues against the tops of [our] teeth [to] transport [us] to giddy euphoric bliss

      – Stephen Fry

Happy word hunting 🙂

I’ll see you Monday with another brand-spanking new original work post!

For further reading:

Don’t Mind Your Language

Lamb by Christopher Moore

When I told my friend Jenna that I couldn’t wait to read for leisure this summer she immediately planned three books that I had to read from her own collection. Two of them are by Tamora Pierce (a writer we both have loved since our teenage years) and were pleasant quick reads after the trying semester of EIGHTEEN challenging books. The third sat on my shelf for a bit until I finished a couple graphic novels and Dorian Gray. I first saw this book on a shelf in my former boss’s office and flipped through the opening chapter on a brief break from actual work. It seemed offensive and sacrilegious and I don’t think it was time for me to read it then.

Jenna gave it to me saying that it was hilarious and that I would enjoy it. I’ll be honest, even though I feel I’m a bit more mature and willing to hear new ideas than I was when I originally saw the book I still felt some trepidation as I began reading. For those unfamiliar it’s a bit along the same lines as The Life of Brian though most likely less offensive. (I can’t speak categorically because I only made it through the first 20 minutes of TLOB whereas I finished this novel).

And I chuckled. A lot.

There’s a lot of wonderful subtle humour. The narrator, Levi, who is called Biff, claims that he created sarcasm, the original “two Jews walk into a bar” joke, and Judo (which was spelled a little differently, you can imagine). Overall, I enjoyed it. I’m not sure about the theological concern with imagining Jesus’s life as between his birth and recorded ministry (not counting that whole temple thing when he was 12). And for me, someone who has grown up with stories of Jesus my whole life, it was weird to see the story imagined through a different set of ideas.

It’s definitely an exercise in imagination. The narration and storytelling remind the reader that the world was a big place when Jesus was walking around. And the people around him were very real. Biff provides some humour and humanity to a story that sometimes just feels difficult. And I think Christopher Moore just had fun. Imagining Jesus attempting to teach an elephant yoga or learning kung fu (though anachronistic) are just fun things, and I don’t think they do any harm to one’s concept of Jesus as God’s Son.

There are some things that I could’ve done without. But that’s true about most books, movies, and music that I’ve encountered. It’s preference, eh? Anyway, if you know things about Jesus, or don’t, it will serve as a great conversation piece for someone else who does/doesn’t. I’d suggest shooting for the opposite though. Especially if you don’t know that there are no books in the Bible named Dalmatians or Amphibians.

I give it  out of 5 for entertainment. And as Moore is a modern author I consider it a good  out of 5 for instructional writing. It features fast paced humour, creative story telling, and witty dialogue and a warm/fuzzy ending that makes you feel like God is really interested in us down here.

Next on the list:

Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman

And the rest of the waiting stack, in no particular order, and not complete:

Palo Alto: Stories by James Franco (yeah, that guy!)

All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Ghost Road

There’s a story I read once in The Martian Chronicles that Ray Bradbury wrote. A short story set on Mars that deals with ghosts. The beauty of this collection of short stories is that none of them actually feed into each other, making them different than chapters in books, yet they do sort of build on each other. So, before this story happens Man from Earth has sent several groups of astronauts to Mars. In all their expeditions the men either go crazy or are murdered by the Martians. By the time the third group of explorer-astronauts arrive the Martians are extinct. I believe it was some sort of virus that wiped them out.
So, man conquers Mars, builds his own empire from the ruins of theirs. The Martians civilization centered around the beautiful flowing waters that ran through their cities. They had almost a Venetian look to them. By the time Man enters the scene the waters are dried up and gone. Mars is desolate. Soon, regular people from Earth come to settle on Mars because Earth is over-crowded and polluted.
Thus our story begins with a man driving on one of the ancient highways on Mars. He’s speeding through the desert late at night, not expecting to come across anyone else. I imagine in my mind Highway 50, which my friend Adam told me is called the Loneliest Road in America. The sort of highway you pick up phantom radio signals from 50 years ago when you’re driving in the middle of the night. I think that’s what Bradbury might have been inspired by.
So, this man driving along meets two other headlights coming toward him. Intrigued by this he pulls over and waits for them. The other pair continue toward him and as they approach he sees a vehicle completely alien to him. Out steps one of the extinct Martians. They are both confused by the sight of the other. In the distance the Man sees the ruins of a great city; the Martian sees it lit up and beautiful, waiting for his arrival and a celebration. They talk, the Man tells the Martian he must be a ghost because his kind no longer exist. The Martian tells the Man that cannot be possible, he remembers hearing ancient stories of men who came from another place.
An ordinary timeline is set on it’s ear. At the conclusion of the short story one is uncertain of who is actually the ghost. It’s one of those concepts that adds more wrinkles to your brain.
I remembered this story today as I was driving. My little sister in the passenger seat was playing DJ and she picked Dashboard Confessional’s “Hands Down” right as we started driving on Bayshore Boulevard. For almost four years I travelled down this Boulevard on an almost daily basis. This was a few years ago now, so almost every time I drive on it now I’m overcome with nostalgia. But, this time, the feeling was very much more intense. You see “Hands Down” was on one of the few CDs I had when I started driving, so it got a lot of airtime. As we rounded the curves this morning I almost caught sight of a green VW Jetta in my blind spot, windows down and sunroof open, housing a girl a few years younger, totally alive in that song. Or in front of me I could see a beat up BMW, hand out the driver’s side window bobbing in the air current with the song. I drove alongside the ghosts of myself. This girl, unsure of the next few years, but loving this drive, hugging the curves of the boulevard with her German-made, tight suspension. Did she come before me, or will she come after me? I feel like, had we three had our own roadside chat, we would dispute the timeline. I know 17 and 20 come before 23, but as I get older the things that were the truest about my 17 and 20 year old self become obvious to me as the things truest about myself now.
I feel as though I’m always writing the same story. One that leads back to where it started. But life sort of flows like that doesn’t it? It’s the sensation you get when you visit someplace totally new, that you’ve been there before; that gas station looks the same, that street corner echoes another. Pieces of the familiar spring up and surprise you, make you feel a little more secure. bring peace.

Thoughts on Turning 28

I have the birthday blues. I’ve been a sort of funk all day. Despite my best efforts to shake out of it I’m just feeling weird.

New Year’s is a weird day to have a birthday. This one feels especially like the true end of an era. There is now a decade spanning between my 18th birthday and this one. Ten years ago really great pop-punk music was coming out of central Florida, Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco were just about to take the world by storm, I was heading into the second semester of my Senior year of high school. The world was spinning pretty well at the time. That kid and me, we’re almost entirely different people.

 

Her hair was just brushing her shoulders and mine almost reaches my waist. She wore size four jeans and I generally refuse to wear jeans. She wanted to be a youth pastor, thought that was her calling. I work with teenagers, and I still feel very strongly about marginalized youth, but I am wary of working in youth ministry now. She had yet to experience a panic attack or understand anxiety and I live most days working to recognize what might trigger me and preventing panic attacks from happening. Most importantly I think, she thought she was in love; I am about to get married and I think I have a better idea of what love is actually like at this point. 

We’re going to watch fireworks. We’ll be leaving soon to drive to the bay where we’ll watch the colors explode over the water. For now with this time to kill, Daniel taking a quick nap by my side, I’m trying to route out the source of my melancholy. I don’t want to walk into 2015 feeling this blah. But the words to Death Cab for Cutie’s song have just been repeating in my head all day today:

so this is the new year// and i don’t feel any different.

I read something heartbreaking today. At the end the blogger said something about this being an arbitrary date. A marker. I get to decide whether it means something or not.

So, this is the new year. Do you feel any different?