The Egotist’s Club Turns Three!

We are ancient. At least in blog years. But it has been a good three years. We have laughed, we have cried, we have rhapsodized, and we have slacked off. Unfortunately, the pressure of being an adult in an adult world seems to sap our cognitive and scribbling strength. But we have been doing better lately, haven’t we?

It was an eccentric, but delightful partnership between Thalia and myself that began this blog. (The story is related here.) It was in part as a challenge to practice writing (haha) and in part as an outlet for snark and craziness. We have matured and grown in wisdom since then, moving onto grander flights of fancy and deeper plunges into melancholy than ever before. Sometimes we chose to share these with you, and sometimes we did not. Consider that to be both a blessing and a curse.

And as we approach middle-age-blogdom, it is time to reflect on all the changes that have happened in our lifespan. So, it the last three years:

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Review Part 2: Disney’s Frozen

Now that it’s nearly two months since it came out, I went to see Frozen.  Twice.  It is still the season for it, after all, and it hasn’t left the theaters quite yet.  So it was my turn to be delighted by the magic of animation and music and storytelling.  Here are some thoughts about it, a few of them in response to Melpomene’s earlier post.  In no particular order:

The music is beautiful.  I particularly enjoyed “Frozen Heart,” the song of the ice harvesters at the start of the movie, as well as “Heimr Arnadalr,” the choral coronation piece which translates from Old Norse approximately as follows:

Worthy Queen of greatness
The heart of Gold shines
We crown thee with hope, love and faith.
Beautiful, stony land, home Arendelle
Follow the Queen of light/ the Queen’s light

Of course, it’s hard to sing a choral piece (or antiphonal yoiking) alone, so I’ve also had “Let it Go” and “Love is an Open Door” running through my head on repeat.  It’s lovely having a song of defiance against the Polar Vortex weather.

Hullo, unexpected poignancy.  “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” sounds so lighthearted, and then it struck me with feelings.  Even worse is the thought that Elsa and Anna didn’t need to spend so long isolated from each other; Anna trusted her sister all along, and the utter lack of communication didn’t protect either of them.

Pardon me while I go do some gross sobbing in the corner.

Pardon me while I go do some gross sobbing in the corner.

Nothing separates a guy from his reindeer.  Kristoff and Sven are precious, like a friendlier version of Flynn and Maximus from Tangled.  There were lots of moments that made me giggle, and those two probably accounted for most of them.

Someone finally said it.

Marry Prudently yallThank GOD.

Additional background would be groovy.  We don’t really need to know where Elsa’s power comes from, for the sake of the story, but I would love to know more about her as well as the erstwhile king and queen.  Is Elsa like a Muggle-born cryokinetic witch, or is Anna like a Squib who missed out on the elemental control?  Also, if I were a nerdier person, I would love to calculate how much energy is getting thrown around when, say, the entire fjord is frozen.  See a bit more commentary on that here.

Darlin’, I don’t know why you go to extremes.  My brother and I wondered if, perhaps, the well-intentioned Love Experts actually gave the worst advice: concealing the source of the problem and counseling Elsa to beware of fear in no way encouraged her toward the positive virtue of being more loving.  “Conceal, don’t feel” was never a viable option, and when Elsa does finally let it go, she swings to the other extreme so hard that editorials on the dangers of repression write themselves.  Thankfully things reach a sort of equilibrium; it’s fortunate (and kind of weird) that she is able to undo her enchanted winter quicker than Aslan brings spring to Narnia.

True love sacrifices.  Love is not summed up in kisses, but consists of all manner of heart-thawing actions.  Love forgives the pains one has suffered.  Love runs to the aid of the beloved, love throws itself between the beloved and the sword, and love binds people together whether they’re parents and children, siblings, romantic couples, or friends.

All in all, Frozen is a beautiful movie, and its depiction of sororal love the most beautiful thing about it.huggiiiiingNow, if only I could thaw the frozen wasteland outside with my own sororal love…

Seasonal Selections

Nipping air, murky skies, dark puddles, and crisp edges in each sense: Fall is here!

I have been slowly reawakening from my summer stupor, and enjoying every moment of actual seasonal change. Despite the outwards appearance of death that seems to characterize Autumn, it is when the 5 senses seem to sharpen: colors are brighter, smells are cleaner, tastes are warmer, touching is cooler, and sounds are richer.

To celebrate, I give you 10 of my favorite things in Autumn. Choose one for each of your senses, and indulge!

10 Autumnal Artworks

10: The Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack (2005)

While Knightly is a terrible Lizzy and I cannot  in good conscience recommend the movie, the soundtrack is fantastic! Dario Marianelli is excellent in all that he does, but here his work sparkles with the clean, sharp images that go perfectly with the season.

9: Apple Cider

Hot or cold, spiced or au natural, (I prefer mine with a generous splash of peaty scotch,) apple cider is an absolutely  work of art. Think of the time, work, and tradition that go into making cider! While it may not have the individuality or require the skill of a poem or painting, still, cider makes the senses tingle with life. It fills the partaker with an incredible sense of time, place, and peace. It epitomizes the taste and smell of all good things in Harvest time.

8: The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers

Even ancient cultures recognized something dark and eery and tangibly mysterious about the Autumn.  (Samhain?) Therefore, a good mystery is must for those days when you have an hour to spare, and warm blanket, and a hot mug of your preferred beverage. Sayers is a favorite of the Egotists, but this mystery is particularly suited to the season; it is filled with graves, bells, ominous skies, and the blandly blundering Lord Peter.

7: This view of Yellowstone, by American painter Thomas Moran

6: Sauteing onions with the doors (or possibly windows) open

This art does require a certain amount of participation on your part.  It’s very modern that way.

When the wind is blowing from the east and the eves are dripping steady rainfall, open all the doors (or windows) and bend low over the heat of the stove. Slice an onion and throw it into a pan already bubbling with melted butter. With a wooden spoon shove both onions and butter about at will. When an aroma begins to arise, step back from the stove.

Feel the mingling of chill breeze from the open door and steamy heat on your skin. Inhale the sweet, tangy, wild scent of onions and rain. Know that life is astoudning.

5: Rocking chairs

Rocking chairs are one of the greatest advances of civilization. Even the Ancient Philosophers, in their wisdom, would have lavished praise on the rocking chair, that divinely inspired combination of sitting apparatus and cradle. It is a functional meditation on the complex nature of humanity: wise and child-like, hard-working and leisure-loving, practically minded and beauty oriented.  The combined parts living as a whole and complete rocking chair both inspires deep thoughts about our contradictory selves and gives us a place in which to think them.

4: Bonfires

Leaping light, low crackling, living heat, and woodsmoke scents. Autumn bonfires have been extolled for centuries, in part, (I think,) because they appeal to almost every sense so pleasantly. Contrasting colder weather and darker days with wildly controlled flames only makes resilient mortals more at ease in our domain between worlds.

3: Four Season: Autumn 3rd mvt, Vivaldi

This is high on the list for obvious reasons. The stately dance of grey clouds to the wild tumble of leaves are all present to your ears!

2: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle

“Wild nights are my glory”, declares a very wonderful Mrs. Whatsit one stormy Autumn night. Aside from being one of the best books of childhood, this story is filled with a presence of Autumn; from the actual earthly setting to the plot arcs of sacrifice and renewal.

1: The Poetry of Robert Frost

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.         5
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass         10
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,         15
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.         20
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound         25
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,         30
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap         35
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his         40
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Fearful, Human, Holy

For those of us who live more or less by solstices and equinoxes, there are a few weeks of summer yet, but for those whose lives follow the academic calendar, the summer is already dying or, perhaps, already dead.  And so it goes, and so all things on earth go.  So all men go, whether from a bored child’s gun, a poor driver’s car, a cancer, a chemical attack, or a thousand other things, the list ending with the quiet “old age.”

Typically I skip to that one, unwilling to acknowledge that any one of the people I love the most could be taken from me at any moment.  It’s difficult to face the fact that I am mortal and will one day be dust, but far more difficult to face the potential loss of parents, brothers, or friends.

*

How terrible to love what Death can touch,
and find one’s shadowed cloak of apathy
ripped off by fears of life made misery
should it approach to keep you in its clutch.
Perhaps I wouldn’t fret or fear so much
were there some way to fill a treasury
with moments shared, safe from Time’s thievery:
that song, those eyes, paths nigh-forgot, and such.
But fleeting moments never are enough,
not even when they’re in the present tense,
for Time is Death’s dog, hounding us by flight.
It might well sound like greed rather than love
to wonder what I’ll do, when you go hence –
still, greed is not more eager for that night.

*

I don’t remember hearing the line ‘Tis a fearful thing to love what death can touch, but it seemed the sort of thing that I couldn’t have invented on my own.  My attempts to find out who said it first brought this post to my attention.  Seems a 12th century fellow wrote the poem (unlike me, more out of remembrance than fear).  It is a fearful, human, and holy thing, he says, to love that which is mortal.

How much more fearful and holy, then, is divine love, which submits itself to death for the sake of the beloved?

Your life has lived in me, indeed.

No Safe Investment

This is a poem I wrote a few months back.  It patters in anapests, and sermonizes a bit, but as I needed a bit of self-admonishing didacticism today, I thought I’d share it ’round.

Chasing the sunset

A Paradox

Chase after delight ‘til the setting of sun:
You never shall catch it, for all that you run;
Your eyes seeking happiness day and all night
will only grow sore, for it flies far from sight.
But keep your eyes up and your hands stretched to help,
and seek truer joy in forgetting yourself.
Just as seeking your own good keeps happiness hence,
so you do yourself danger in building a fence.
There is no such thing as a love that plays safe,
only very complex forms of envy and hate –
though it tempts, you must not keep your breast-coffers shut;
there are worse fates than heartbreak, heartburning, heartcut.
It crumbles to dust when you keep it from day;
who would have a whole heart must hurl safety away.
No joy will lay siege to that dark citadel,
so cast off the armor that holds you in hell.
*

As ever, I am indebted to Lewis:  There is no safe investment.  …The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.

Infinity, Plus or Minus One

Over the past few days, I’ve been pondering the extent to which Christians are heirs of infinite blessing, incorruptible and undefiled and waiting for us.

Waiting for us is the worst bit.  It’s frustrating to be the heir who can’t access the fullness of his inheritance yet.  One is left anxiously fiddling with one’s pocket change, and casting about for security elsewhere.  I tend to eye the people who have more capital (so to speak) than I do: the people with more to be happy about (as though contentment were quantifiable), the people more focused on their goals, the people with more graces and gracefulness.

God help me.  When I was younger, I imagined that I would grow out of envy at some point.  Despite the fact that I am just as loved, just as redeemed, as any of them – loved and redeemed by the Creator of the universe, loved beyond my comprehension – I look, and I focus on the +1 that my neighbor has, that I don’t.

The very fact that such a mathematically small gap feels so big should be signal enough that my perspective is skewed.

It feels preachy (also, like cheating) to copy and paste the entirety of Romans 8 right here, even though it’s precisely what I need to reread.  Instead, I will share a poem from Sheldon Van Auken’s A Severe Mercy.  Julian, a friend of Sheldon and Davy’s, wrote it for them; it hung over Davy’s bed as she lay dying of cancer.  Davy’s life and love were part of the +1 that Sheldon enjoyed; the fact that he survived her, the severe mercy that taught him what inheritance was his through Christ.

If everything is lost, thanks be to God
If I must see it go, watch it go,
Watch it fade away, die
Thanks be to God that He is all I have
And if I have Him not, I have nothing at all
Nothing at all, only a farewell to the wind
Farewell to the grey sky
Goodbye, God be with you evening October sky.
If all is lost, thanks be to God,
For He is He, and I, I am only I.

Seeking Song and Story

Once upon a time, I read this guest post by Briana of Pages Unbound.  I put in my two cents about sidekick protagonists, carried on with my reading, and proceeded not to think about it further for four months.  But that post has been bouncing about my mind of late, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that Briana sought something that might not have existed.  She wasn’t looking for help remembering that one book she read in seventh grade that focused on the sidekick for a change and also it involved the Brooklyn skyline somehow. Had none of us readers had any volume to suggest, we might have taken it as a request to create such a narrative for her.

The second reason I’ve been thinking about it is that this post highlights the benefit of human eyes and human minds when one is on the hunt.  Google and other search engines do their very best to help one find a particular item or passage, and there have often been times when I could use such tools to find a song, a movie, a book of which I only recalled the haziest details.  But if you don’t come up with the right search terms, or if your query gets too lengthy, it can impede rather than assist your progress.

Therefore, dear readers, I bring my concerns to you, and hope that you can help with one or the other of these things I seek.

I’m looking for…

…a piece of music. 

I sang it in June 2001, at the Illinois Summer Youth Music choir camp.  It is called “Canticle,” and I sang it as part of an all-girl ensemble led by some Canadian lady whose name eludes me.  Tragically, I supposed that remembering all the words and most all of the notes would help me to find it again.  I was mistaken.  The text is Psalm 89:1 (or Psalm 88:2 for the Douay-Rheims folk) in Latin: Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo; in generationem et generationem annuntiabo veritatem tuam in ore meo.  No idea who composed it.  No idea if it’s a setting of some earlier composer’s work or chant.  Someone, for the love of my sanity, tell me this rings a bell for you.

UPDATE: I ask, and Jenna delivers!!  Michael Levi’s Canticle!  MY HEART IS FULL OF SONG.

…an explanation for why “capital” should be different from “capitol.” 

Evidently I completely forgot this distinction in the years since my elementary spelling classes, but “capital” refers to the city or town which serves as the seat of government, while “capitol” refers to the building in which the legislature gathers.  Typically heterographs don’t bother me, but I just. don’t. understand.  Someone call the Inky Fool.

UPDATE: I have been informed that the legislative building was named, per Jefferson, for the Roman temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill.  Thus far I am satisfied that the difference stems from an existing difference between the words in Rome, but there has been no further illumination of the difference between Latin suffixes or whatnot.  Do feel free to ring up Inky anyway and see what capital he can make of it.

…a less-typical narrative. 

This one’s a bit tricky to explain.  Earlier today, I read this post (which, briefly, is the story of Susan Isaacs looking for love online, getting rejected from eHarmony because she didn’t fit into their algorithm, and eventually finding The Man on Christian Cafe).  I’m not 41, and my fortnight on OkCupid is nothing compared to Susan’s litany of dating site attempts.  When I reached the end, I was glad for her: she seems to have found what she was looking for, and it rounded out the story quite neatly.  But it also rang a bit hollow because it rounded out the story so neatly.

    "The artistic flaw is inaccuracy, specifically a violation of the canons of reality. Things don’t happen that neatly. It’s an upward slope, finally plateauing into a straight line. Which…when that happens on your heart monitor, it’s a bad thing." Oh, Dr. Whalen. How illuminating you are.

“The artistic flaw is inaccuracy, specifically a violation of the canons of reality. Things don’t happen that neatly. It’s an upward slope, finally plateauing into a straight line. Which…when that happens on your heart monitor, it’s a bad thing.” Oh, Dr. Whalen. How illuminating you are.

This isn’t normally a criticism I raise, because I appreciate both romance and happy, tidy endings.  I don’t recall ever complaining about the Prince marrying The Girl in any given fairy tale, or how relationships (and events more generally) shake out in Austen, Harry Potter, Stardust, or the Lord Peter stories.  I don’t whinge about Dune ending with “History will call us wives,” or the end of That Hideous Strength.  I don’t consider myself a feminist, and have never evaluated books on the basis of whether or not they pass the Bechdel Test.

But Susan’s story (and Hannah Coulter, and The Princess Bride, and any given article on Boundless) suggests that there is no other narrative, that no lady can ever be happy without The One, that the only ending possible is marriage.  This ground has been trod by a lot of women in tiresome family-vs-career arguments, but the fact remains that I want a story: a different story than my usual fare, something involving a woman who is content with a different sort of happy ending.  I’m looking for a female character who is content to live her life on her own, if only to show me that it is possible.

Surely one must exist; for all I know, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of such stories that I’ve completely missed.  And if not, my dears, please help me write one.

American Independance Day

 

On the night before the final voting on the American declaration of Independence, John Adam wrote to his wife,

[This] day of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

You may think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this declaration and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.

 

“Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.”

President Ronald Reagan, 1981

 

“As the Virginia-born Lady Astor was later put it, the war was fought “by British Americans against a German King for British ideals.”
Don’t take her word for it: look at the primary sources. The resolutions of the Continental Congress are a protracted complaint about the violations of traditional British liberties. The same is true of the Declaration of Independence itself. As that great Anglo-American, Winston Churchill, put it:
‘The Declaration was in the main a restatement of the principles which had animated the Whig struggle against the later Stuarts and the English Revolution of 1688.'”

~ Daniel Hannan