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The End of Part I Don Quixote April 23, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in Don Quixote.
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Tofu is a dreamer too.

I know you were dying to find out how Part I ended. Well, I am not going to spoil it for you. But I do have some bits to chat about.

Remember that chick Dorotea from the previous post? Well, she travels with crew back to civilization and they stay at an inn (castle according to our fearless Quixote). There, Redondo and his ‘wife’ Lucinda stay the night on their way to a nunnery. Of course exclamations of love and surprise get tossed around between Lucinda and Cardeno. Then Dorotea has her moment to proclaim her love to Redondo.

Huh? Love? Maybe shame and misery. But I am viewing this with 21st century eyes where a woman has legal rights and can choose her husband. Back in 1600s Spain, a noble woman who had lost her virtue (which seems irrevocably tied to a small piece of skin that no one ever sees) had few choices. You had more choices as a shepherdess in such a case.

A series of well-meaning people have played their roles in tricking Don Quixote back to civilization and his family’s home. There is quite a discussion at the end about libraries and the dangers of certain books. It was interesting to hear book-burning discussed as a rational, well-intentioned act. Part of me had trouble wrapping my head around that, but then I recalled the book-burnings of J. K. Rowlings Harry Potter books. Even today, certain folks still find this destructive (and in the modern electronic age, futile) act a legitimate way to show displeasure or fear of a book.

So, will I continue on with Part II? It was written 20 years later. I wonder what else Quixote can attack and subsequently have his ass handed to him by? I also wonder about his lady love and if there is any future for them. Will Sancho Panza ever get that island he so desires?


Jack Williamson and Dead Star Station April 18, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in Vintage Sci-Fi.
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Stout doesn't read, but he should.

As some of you may remember, those of you without long-term memory damage, Jack Williamson and his short story Dead Star Station was part of January’s Vintage Scifi Month.

Yeah, I finally got around to it. My trusty library had a copy of Jack Williamson’s older works. Lady Darkcargo put together a very cool post about Williamson and the desert earlier this year. I read a total of three tales: Dead Star Station, The Metal Man, and The Girl from Mars.

I enjoyed each of these stories because the characters were flawed in some way, making them realistic and human. I could relate to them. The Metal Man mostly takes the form of a letter to a friend about his escapades in trying to locate a radium-bearing minerals at a place called El Rio de la Sangre. He comes across a peculiar place where all sorts of beasts through the age have been turned into metal. He himself manages to escape, but with a price. The Girl from Mars was a fun tale of basically having a testtube kit crash into your back yard; inside are instructions on how to grow your own Martian. Haha! I wish – I would have so much fun with that. Dead Star Station has an older, geeky gentleman with a lisp as our savior and hero. I enjoyed this story the most out of the three.

This particular collection had an intro on the author’s life and then each story had a tidbit from the author on why and how he came up with the tale. A worthy read indeed.

Don Quixote, Beware the Sheep! April 8, 2012

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Clementine and Don Quixote

I am about 12 discs into the 17 discs of Part I of Don Quixote. We already know from my earlier post that our Knight of the Sorrowful Face attacked a herd of sheep, and lost. This dude gets his ass kicked by everything and everyone. Yet, I still route for him. Probably because he is a dreamer….and maybe, just a little, because I like seeing him get into situations that he has to extricate himself from.

So, what intrigued me about the latest installment? One of my favorite topics – the treatment of ladies. Yep, imagine feminism in 1600s Spain, in all it’s glory…. uh. There wasn’t much bra burning going on in Spain in the 1600s, was there?

Don Quixote ends up in the forested hills, a pretty desolate location. There he comes across a madman. His love and grief and shame have driven him to the wilds where he alternately begs and steals from the shepherds. Cardeno eventually sits down and chats with Quixote and tells his tale of woe. In short he and Lucinda have been friends since childhood and had planned to marry. As they near the age to be betrothed to each other, Cardeno is summoned away by the local Duke to be a companion to his son, Ferdando (?). This dude is a womanizer, and goes around the countryside breaking hearts and promises of fair maidens. He eventually sets his eyes on Lucinda and schemes a way to marry her. Cardeno lurks around until the vows are said and then sets out on his personal quest to become mad in the foot hills.

Cardeno goes on and on about Lucinda’s awesome qualities. He truly loves her and holds her in high regard – her beauty and gentleness and her willingness and be his wife and best friend. It is very touching. Until he compares her to a sheep. In all sincerity. I am not kidding. Stop giggling.

Sigh…. I asked my man to compare me to a sheep in a loving way. He snorted.

Later on, Cardeno comes across a young lady in these same hills, Dorotea. It turns out Ferdando did her wrong, taking her virtue (which seems to be a bit of membranous skin that is made way too much of) while promising to marry her. In shame, she fled to the hills to live out the rest of her days and to avoid bringing said shame upon her parents. Cardeno swears with all sincerity to restore her to her family and force Ferdando to give her back her honor by marrying her.

Great. Just what a happy marriage that will be.

Maybe it was better to be a shepherdess in 1600s Spain. At least the male shepherds clearly understood the difference between a human female and a sheep.

42 April 3, 2012

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I got my towel and my Guide. Ready to go!

If that doesn’t answer your question, I don’t know what will.

I hadn’t read The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy since highschool and it was good to revisit it. Douglas Adams put together a very humorous space story, with crazy made up species, bad poetry, and the most improbable ship ever.

Back when I read this book, I was sometimes worn out from the never-ending British humor. But listening to this book was a totally different experience and quite fun. Stephen Fry did an excellent job, putting in the right stresses where needed to give the narration that snooty-snarky British flavor.

Some Greek History for this month April 1, 2012

Posted by Elizabeth Campbell in Uncategorized.
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Ye Olde Book Club selection for April:

The Last of the Wine, Mary Renault

Additional reading: portions of or aboutThucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War

Additional reading: portions of or about Xenophon’s Hellenica

Enter Randomness: Italo Calvino March 30, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in Invisible Cities.
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My cat doesn't get it either.

What does this cat have to do with Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities? Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. I simply like this cat. Like I liked this book.

Lady Darkcargo put it very well in an earlier post that this is very much like a choose-your-own-adventure book. There was no point to this book, as in most novels have a tale, a story line of sorts. Once I got that down, i simply enjoyed the prose and imagery.

I could see Calvino sitting in some artsy little coffee or wine shop in Paris scribbling on a napkin and that scribble being expanded a little on the public transportation back to his flat, and eventually getting typed up and becoming the four paragraphs that make up Cities and the Sky 4. There was no need to write these in any order, though I wonder if he did. And once written, how did he decide what order to place them in for this book?

Don Quixote: The Beginning Quest March 29, 2012

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I knew very little about Don Quixote 3 weeks ago. I listened to the first lecture in the iTunesU series by Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria and learned a little more and then started by quest to read this massive work.

Prior to me beginning I knew:

  • How to pronounce Don Quixote
  • There was a donkey in the story some place (not surprising for 1600s)
  • At some point our hero says ‘meow’ in an unexpected context (thank Lady Darkcargo for a previous post)

I listened to the ‘prior to reading this book’ lecture on iTunesU and learned a little more:

  • Don Quixote is most likely a derivative of queso – which means cheese. Hence the odd looks our hero gets on his travels (don = lordship and quixote = cheese something)
  • The book was written in 2 parts, like 20 years apart. Hence why my library has the audio version in two parts
  • How the book ends (ugh! I didn’t know and now I do and how will that affect my first impression of this work!)

That last bullet I found particularly amusing because the lecturer spends some quality time talking about how it is nearly impossible in today’s age to come to such a classic innocent of the story. Well, I was pretty close to innocent prior to that lecture!

So I am about 5 CDs into the 17 CD-long Part I and so far I have enjoyed our illusioned hero as he charges around in home-made armor (like a helmet made of plaster) attacking windmills and flocks of sheep. He gets his ass kicked every time.

One side-tale I found interesting occurs when Don Quixote and his ‘squire’ Sancho come across a funeral. A young poet took his own life after being spurned by a beautiful shepherdess. She shows up at the funeral and the dead dude’s friends call her cruel and heartless. She makes this most eloquent speech about how she doesn’t have to accept the advances of anyone, even if they are made with respect. She didn’t encourage his love, and in fact, has discouraged all advances from all men, merely wishing to tend to her flock. His death is not on her head. Don Quixote is so moved by this speech, he offers to champion her in all who would call her less than a worthy woman.

I was surprised to find vomit and bathroom humor in this ancient classic. M3 happen to be in the kitchen at this particular moment, and wanted to know what the hell I was listening to. ‘Don Quixote, love, ‘ said with a sigh. This will be his first, ever-lasting impression of this book. Great.

All Whaled Out March 26, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in Moby Dick.
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These kitties are hoping for some fish.

My final thoughts on Moby Dick:

That crazy dude, Cpt. Ahab, had only spent like 4 years on land for 40 at sea, whaling. He married some lass half his age and spent 1 night in the marriage bed before setting sail again. So Cpt. Ahab doesn’t like land and isn’t too partial to the married life. He let his life be defined by this mad hunt for the White Whale. He offered his crew a gold doubloon to the one who sights Moby Dick. Yet then claims the first sighting, and hence, the reward, for himself. Talk about demotivational acts by the management.

There was a chunk of a chapter that spent some quality time talking about how the sturgeon and the whale are the only 2 Royal Fish (English). That it is standard to present the head of a whale, or at least the head bones, to the King and the tail of the whale to the Queen. Why? Melville asks this question too, without coming up with a satisfactory reason. Intriguing.

The ending was a surprise to me. I managed to miss many of these classics through my public schooling and had avoided hearing about the ending to this story. I spent the entire book wondering what Ahab would feel upon finally catching, and conquering, his wet, salty foe (it was my assumption that he would get his whale). SPOILER ALERT so when Ahab doesn’t get his whale, and indeed, Ishmael is the only survivor left, I felt a little let down; yet oddly satisfied that Ahab doesn’t get to sail away smugly END SPOILER.

As a closing note on this story, the narrator Ishmael spends some quality time convincing the readers that whales will not, indeed cannot, be hunted to extinction. He cites that the whales are infinitely plentiful due to the vastness of the seas and the fact that the whales will always have the poles, where humans cannot follow for hunting. See my response to that below.

1700s – Atlantic population of the Gray Whale went extinct

2006 – Yangtze River Dolphin declared extinct

2010 – The Gray Whale, thought to be extinct for centuries, was spotted in the Mediterranean

HERE is an excellent site with numbers representing the effects of whaling industry on the prevalence of whales.

Useless Cities March 23, 2012

Posted by Elizabeth Campbell in Uncategorized.

I’m having a hard time with Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Is it the translation? I like it, but I’m having a hard time understanding what I’m reading.

Italo Calvino was part of a Parisienne writing group from the ’60s who called themselves Oulipo. This group focused on experimental writing, giving themselves constraints within which to write, such as not using the letter “e” anywhere in the entire novel, or poems in which every line contains every letter of the alphabet.

With that in mind, I can understand that Invisible Cities is an experimental novel. All the cities that Polo describes is (are?) the same city. And every city has multiple facets depending on who is experiencing life in that city.


It reads lie a webage, or a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. You can read the book from cover to cover, or read all the Polo/Kublai interactions first, or read the different chapter headers in numerical order, or…

Here’s an interesting webpage (in Russian) with artworks, in which the webpager dude actually set up the book to do this. it’s really beautiful. Go there and tell me what you think.

I plan to read more about Calvino. He led a huge life.

A Wreath of Grapes March 14, 2012

Posted by nrlymrtl in The Grapes of Wrath.
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I get it now, at the end. The title I mean. It is a very fitting title.

Rose of Sharon – did a horticulturalist name the flowering bush after this character or was this character named after the flower? And why does this character have to be so… young throughout the bulk of the book? She seems truly naive even though she is a married woman expecting their first child.

I loved how Steinbeck used religion to illustrate points in this book, such as being generous of thought. That means keeping your judgements to yourself and working on your own spirituality instead of forcing it upon others. When Uncle John is going on about his sins and how much they weigh upon him, the family reminds him to carry them and not burden others with them. He can tell them to God, or dunk his head in the river and speak them there. I love the image this brings to my mind.

The ending was a surprise. I watched the black and white movie a few years ago; so when I came to the end of the movie and still had 2 discs to go to finish the book, I knew I was in for an interesting ending. SPOILER ALERT I was so glad that Rose of Sharon blossomed at the end and she willingly gave her breast milk to save a starving man END SPOILER.

All in all, this was an enlightening read, one that will have me thinking for some time to come.