Thursday, June 13, 2019

Good Comedy is Good For the Soul

Earlier this morning, my siblings and I had to proceed to the laborious task of clearing the enormous lump of laundry in need of folding. As is my own habit, we turned on a show to make the work lighter, and we ended up watching old recording of Abbott and Costello on the Colgate Comedy Hour back in the 1930's. Now, I had watched some newer movies not so long before, and the humor was, at best, worth a slight smirk (providing it was clean enough even for that). Abbott and Costello? One minute of them was worth barrels of uncontrollable laughter. The difference between the two was not, as it may seem at surface level, just funnier cracks; the difference was the feeling one had coming away.
With the newer movies, what humor I remembered, I remembered only very vaguely, and it rather stuck like bad peanut butter to the roof of my mouth - a not necessarily unpleasant, but on a whole rather uninspiring sensation, and in places, it brought about a sense of guilt because the humor was rather morally shallow or even quite questionable. With the twosome's routines, I walked away with a lighthearted sort-of gaity in my step, and rather profound (for me, at least) thoughts on my mind, pondering the subjects of some of their witticisms. Why? The answer is in good comedy, and why it is good.
(Pardon all this commentary please, but, before accusations of bias, of course I love Abbott and Costello, however, this is not why I wrote this post - let this post be the reason why I love Abbott and Costello.)

No doubt, all of you have at some point heard, seen, or otherwise witnessed some of the "humor of the modern man," as my father once put it - it is occasionally amusing, but on a whole rather dependent upon the base, noisy, and slapstick (or things less clever and subtle even than slapstick, as often is the case). Most of the humor is either identity humor ("I'm funny because I'm..."), shock humor ("that's funny because it involves that uproarious, surprising, or gross thing") , or put-down humor ("that's funny because it insults someone or something we all generally dislike or disapprove of around here"). It's all based on thinking a thing is funny only because of a certain viewpoint, rather than something that is inevitably and universally true.
Good comedy is not based on the humor of a viewpoint; such humor is political, taking a side in a shallow controversy without appealing to something deeper. Of course, humor in controversy can still be funny, for, as the immortal Catholic writer, G.K. Chesterton, once said, "[Every man] ought himself to be importing humor into every controversy; for unless a man is in part a humorist, he is only in part a man." But Chesterton's comment nowhere implies that humor should be based on debate or prejudice. In fact, he is saying the contrary - that every event and happening, including debate and prejudice, should be met with humor.
(Just as a warning, I shall be quoting dear old Mr. Chesterton a lot in this post, as Mr. Chesterton and I get along quite swimmingly... All quotes are taken from Heretics, I believe.)

Really, truly good comedy is based on two things - the first and foremost of these is basic truths of life. The truth is, life is funny; odd things happen, coincidences happen, and nothing seems to make sense at face value. Thus, if reality is a funny thing, it is no coincidence that humor is based off of a discovery of reality and the truth. Nowhere will anyone claim that the truth always is convenient or sensible-sounding. Oftentimes, it's not, and to our limited human understandings, it seems like the silliest and strangest thing. Thus enters humor. And thus enters the second aspect of humor, almost as important as the first and even more integral in humor's nature: humility.

Humility and humor really do go hand in hand. I mean, really, they even have the same root word. Humor is the manifestation of humility; it is the taking of joy despite and in spite of human flaws. We are imperfect, and that's what's so funny. The moment we take ourselves seriously, that is the moment we sin and become prideful. In taking ourselves seriously, we pretend that we are really worth something on our own, that we are respectable and praise-worthy, and that we really know what we're doing. Well... do we...? No, not usually, at least - we human beings almost never really know what we're doing properly. And most of the time, when we think we know best is when we make our worst and most regrettable decisions. Laughing at ourselves is the quickest way to route pride and grow humility because it admits to us that we really are strange, funny, awkward things, and we have no idea what to do and no power to do it on our own.
Now, this latter point is not to deny the value of human beings or anything like that; sure, we have value. But, really, doesn't it become arrogance when we assume that we have any value independently? Are we not created, finite beings without any power our own, except for free will, which we frequently abuse and never quite seem to understand? And yet, it is the divine nature within us - the flame of eternity that is emblazoned upon our hearts - that encourages us to humor. For, to quote Mr. Chesterton again, "Unless a thing is dignified, it cannot be undignified," and "Joking is undignified; that is why it is so good for one's soul." The heart of comedy is really an endless, round circle; as truth leads to humility, humility leads to truth. Without a basic yearning for truth and the infinite, we cannot realize that we are erroneous and finite. And without truly realizing our mortality, we can never reach for the greater truths beyond it. Humor is a beautiful, if difficult to acquire, virtue that touches the soul and combines two of the greatest goods to encourage man to reach higher and go beyond himself. Without a yearning for those two goods, we are prideful, ignorant beings indeed.

Good comedy touches a man and makes him simultaneous recognize his own lowliness and think of something greater than himself. "For a hearty laugh it is necessary to have touched the heart."

Good comedy is good for the soul.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Weapon Tag

As you all know very well by now, procrastination is my bread and butter. I am extremely good at it (I really should go into it as a profession). However. I spend so much time honing this skill that it is sometimes at the cost of reading all your lovely blogs and tending to all your generous tags - for this, I apologize. To a few readers who are, no doubt, still await my long-overdue comment on some post or perhaps even my reading of a post, my most hearty apologies and assurances that I have not forgotten. And to all fellow bloggers who have tagged me... including Signor Doorman... I shall do my best... starting now.
I was tagged for this, The Weapon Tag, almost a month ago by The Doorman (whom I express great thanks to for the honor), who invented this tag for the purposes of (of course) general glorification of the Divine, general fun writing, and fellow dorks who enjoy strange and obscure tags. I am pleased to count myself as one of the latter party (though less skilled on this particular topic), and so thus respond.
The rules of the tag?

  • Use the picture provided by The Doorman on his original post or a similar picture of a sword
  • Thank the person who tagged you and provide a link to their post (above)
  • Answer the seven questions as best as you can
  • Tag three other bloggers, if possible
  • Close the post with some dedication to the King of kings
To satisfy the first rule, here is the original picture used, though I may be more inclined to use pictures as I go on.
Alright. Now, onto the questions... A quick warning, though, both to all readers and all those who are tagged at the end of this post - these are mostly very weapon-centric questions (as the tag implies), so don't expect to be able to answer them as well as the tag-maker if you are not a weapons person generally. I certainly wasn't (and am not)!
If you had to choose any one medieval weapon for combat, what would it be and why?
Hmm, probably a small bow of some sort. I like longbows better, but I am not terribly athletic and would probably not be able to lift the real McCoy like I am with modern longbows. As to why a bow at all... it's what I know how to use! And I would have a raised brow to anyone who would choose to defend themselves in combat with a weapon they didn't know how to use.
If you had to choose any one post-medieval weapon for combat, what would it be and why?
Again, I would prefer to go with a weapon I would know how to use - either a pistol or pepper spray. Both are easy to use and require relatively little strength.
If you had to choose to die from a blow/shot from some weapon or other, what would it be and why?
Ach, what a question! I suppose I shall answer a guillotine, as gruesome as the thought is, if only because it would be a more brief death. Though, if it were for some higher purpose, such as martyrdom, I suppose one can't be picky, and I would be quite happy with any death.
If you could design your own personal weapon (whether logical or not), what would it be like and how would it work? What would you call it?
Hmm... an interesting query... I suppose it would, again, have to be something requiring little physical strength, and preferably small and light to carry. It would probably be some sort-of long-range weapon as well, as that is my personal preference. Perhaps some sort-of lightened crossbow, though I have no idea what I should call it except perhaps some Norwegian name, perhaps, because those are generally good for weapons. Perhaps I should call it Thialfi's Bow, for the fleetness of the weapon.
If you were in a battle, what era of weapons would you desire most to be fighting with and why?
Well, as an at least attemptedly respectable and traditional female, I can safely tell you that I would not be in a battle unless my life or someone else's necessarily depended on it. If this circumstance did, perchance, come about, perhaps I would prefer to use Ancient Greek-age weapons such as those in the Iliad, if only because they are quite fascinating to me.
If you were to lead a charge, what would your battle cry be?
Well... to make an obscure reference, "Never heard of it!" would be my comical choice. On a more serious level, though, I see nothing wrong with the Christeros' "Viva Christo Rey!"
Is your preferred style of combat physical, conversational, or mental? Are you more prone to do one as to the other despite your preference?
My personal preference is probably mental, though, yes, I am much more prone, despite this preference, and sometimes because of it, to conversational combat.

That's all for the questions, but as to who is tagged...

  • Megan Chappie
  • Blue
  • Lia
Here is the list of questions for the tag:
If you had to choose any one medieval weapon for combat, what would it be and why?
If you had to choose any one post-medieval weapon for combat, what would it be and why?
If you had to choose to die from a blow/shot from some weapon or other, what would it be and why?
If you could design your own personal weapon (whether logical or not), what would it be like and how would it work? What would you call it?
If you were in a battle, what era of weapons would you desire most to be fighting with and why?
If you were to lead a charge, what would your battle cry be?
Is your preferred style of combat physical, conversational, or mental? Are you more prone to do one as to the other despite your preference?
(Note: I did change the wording of a couple of questions so as to avoid confusion - I encourage any bloggers doing the tag to look at the original questions in The Doorman's post so as to get context.)

And... as to the last rule, and to end this rather pathetic post...
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Meet the Books! - Pack Up Your Troubles

Some of you may have noticed that there is a new page on this old blog. Within it rests the record of all of my stories. What does this mean? Unfortunately, my friends, it means the end of Meet the Books!. This shall be the last Meet the Books! link-up I shall host for a long time, and possibly forever. I may post another one from time to time with only the questions on it, for the sake of other bloggers' story introductions, but there will be no more full posts here. Not only do I have no more stories of my own to introduce, but I have finally figured out the fickle contraption that drove me to make the feature in the first place. So, as this may be the last one, if you want to join the link-up, now's your last chance. The rules (for those who don't know) are simple enough - link back to my original post, send me a link of your Meet the Books! post in a comment, include the Meet the Books! picture if you like, and answer the questions for the link-up. This last feature will be on a prospective work, actually, because I have no more WIPs left to introduce, but I wanted to give the feature a last farewell. So, without further ado, the final one in the series...

What is the genre?
The genre is Drama, though it certainly has some Romance elements.
What is the title? Time period?
The title is Pack Up Your Troubles, after the wartime song... which leads to the time period - WWI.
How is it written (POV, main character, etc.)?
As usual, third person limited for me shall probably be the format. As I have not actually started writing it yet, I haven't much more detail than that at present.
What is the setting?
America and Europe in WWI.
Who are the characters?
Lady without a name is a young American girl who regularly sees and is in love with Arthur Whitten, who is strongly disliked by her brother,
Jules (no last name yet) - the lady's brother and a strict soul. Also American, but more of the Scottish blood comes out in him, and between him and his sister begin on their own in life, and his own high standards for her, he very strongly disapproves of Arthur, who doesn't seem worthy or reliable.
Arthur Whitten is the date of the young lady. Being your typical American youth, it's fairly easy to find meager details in Arthur to disapprove of for Jules, though on a whole he's an alright lad.
What does the plot consist of?
As I've mentioned before, Jules most heartily disapproves of Arthur for his sister, despite their taking to each other. In fact, Jules so much disapproves that he forbids (and enforces this forbiddance) Arthur to ever step foot near her again. Shortly after this, however, an accident occurs where, by chance, Arthur saves Jules' life. Arthur then steps out of the picture, going to the WWI front without a word. Jules realizes now, of course, that Arthur's nothing like he imagined - he really is a decent man. And he feels bad about splitting the pair up. He apologizes to his sister, and he promises that, whatever it takes, he'll get Arthur back to her - whatever it takes. So he follows Arthur to the front... but when he finds him, Arthur's already been in a battle... and gotten shell-shocked. Arthur doesn't remember a thing about America or the girl or Jules - just the battle he was in when it happened. But Jules promised, and he doesn't do anything lightly, so he tries to convince Arthur to remember everything. Traumatized, Arthur denies any of it, bewildered and wary of this stranger who can seemingly tell him his life. Jules puts his convincing of Arthur to rest for the moment, realizing that Arthur really can't recall anything at all, but Jules instead sticks with Arthur on the front, through thick and thin, trying to keep him safe and serve as his companion. Despite the cold confusion between them, they become friends, though Arthur still does not remember anything.
 Eventually, through a long series of events in the war, a battle occurs where, saving Arthur's life, Jules is blinded. Though Jules doesn't know it, it makes something click in Arthur - Arthur remembers the incident where he did the same for Jules. Jules, however, has to be sent home to America, and can no longer follow Arthur. His promise is broken. Determined, desperate, but unsure of how to proceed, Jules only goes back to his sister as he has to. He continues to hold that he'll fulfill his word, though - somehow. His sister, at this point, doesn't care - she forgives him and understands perfectly well that nothing can be done. One day Jules, however, hears word of an award ceremony; a war hero has returned to the US and is receiving a medal - Cap. Arthur Whitten. Overjoyed, Jules does everything in his power to contact Arthur, and finally gets a hold of him. Arthur, having remembered a little more, is hesitant, but agrees to meet Jules, the soldier who saved his life and may be telling the truth about the past. They set the time and place and wait. On the way to meet Arthur, however, Jules is caught in an accident - a car runs into him and he never makes it to their meeting place. Somehow, Arthur hears of the accident of his friend, and he rushes to the hospital, where Jules is gravely injured. Jules' sister is there. Arthur sees her, and he realizes that Jules has been telling the truth this whole time - everything was real. Blinded, crippled, perhaps even dying, Jules finally sees them back together - he kept his promise.
What gave you the idea?
Not being able to sleep, and having too many ideas... as usual.
Who are the favorite characters so far?
The only one aside from myself who's even read the summary is my sister right now, but her favorite character is Jules.
What is the favorite scene so far?
No scenes as of yet, as it is a prospective project.
Any drawings?
Not yet.
Any snippets?
Again, not yet.
Strong point in story?
The title! Don't you just love it when people use songs for titles? No? Well, I suppose I shall relish it alone, then...
Weak point in story?
Just about everything else - it is very, very recent, and needs a lot of work.
What are your plans for it?
Well, haha, I suppose I'll write it eventually...
Any particular writing habits for it?
Not yet. Really, using a prospective story for some of these questions just doesn't work, but I really did having nothing else left.

If it were made into a movie, what would be your ideal cast for it?
Hmm. I would probably pick Dana Andrews for Jules, the lady would have to be Betty Grable, and Arthur could be played by young Henry Fonda.
I'm afraid that's all for now, folks. Apologies for the lax blogging... again. Hopefully you enjoyed this post and this link-up's swan song! If you want to join, this may be your last chance, so please do!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Spring Cleaning Tag

Well. If I do say so myself, this post has come before procrastination (sorta). That's nice timing... for me, at least. Particularly when you are beta reading three novels and a short story or two, still doing schoolwork, attempting to learn a Tchaikovsky piece, and speaking about yourself in two different tenses all at the same time. Phew. But... apparently, I still have time for spring cleaning. Not room, house, or kitchen spring cleaning, mind you, but a writer's spring cleaning (what writer has time to clean their whole house?!). So, without further ado, I give you the rules for The Spring Cleaning Tag, which I picked up from Megan Chappie, here. (Grazie, Megs!)

  • Link back to the person who tagged you. (Check!)
  • Include the graphic. (Eh... I'll get to that in a moment.)
  • Answer the questions.
  • Tag three other people. (I shall do my best!)

At any rate, to satisfy rule #2, here is that graphic.

Dust Bunnies and Plot Bunnies:Reorganize Your Writing Goals (Or Make New Ones)

Hmm. Well, my three big plans for this year (writing-wise, of course) are probably as follows:
  1. Finish The Second Brother above anything else, and start that sequel because I can't live too much longer without it.
  2. Finish typing up all of In Greater Hands and thereby determine whether it is finished or not.
  3. Finally work some more on that coauthored book of mine...
Goal #1 is the big one. Unfortunately... I'm already kind-of sick of the book from Camp NaNo. But I'll finish it still - just watch. (At least, I hope I will...) As for typing things up, I am terrible about it. If I meet the other two goals, it will probably be only because I ditched another previous goal of restarting/rebooting Alomina this year - it's just way too big of a project for right now.

Which Stage Are You At? Expound!

Er, haha... Well... I kinda liked Megan's answer to this one... I'm about in the same place in writing overall - satisfied for the moment, but maybe not completely, 100% finished. For my main project of the year, however, I am right about to run into the climax - my favorite and least favorite part of the story. I only wish that Camp had gotten me into it, though - stopping right before the climax is really a terrible place to stop...

Anyhow. For the most part, I still have a good amount of writing to do - TSB still will need completed and its massive editing notes implemented, IGH will still need typed up as it is only about halfway to three-quarters of the way there at this point, and I have not even started writing that coauthored book since the last time (which was last summer, I believe... oops.)

Treasure From the Back of the Closet (Share One to Three Snippets You Love).

Ooh, goodie! Well, here are some minor samples from this year's work, including some pieces from the final work on Draft #3 of The Pain of a Memory...
From TPoaM...
"Perhaps not." Echo stood and bowed to her reverently, his head hung slightly. "I must only apologize to you, My Lady, for having failed my mission." His gray eyes shone in an almost sad, familiar way, and he left.
            Those eyes... that gaze... those words... Anwynne blinked in surprise and stood up. She went to follow Echo. "Wait!"
From In Greater Hands...
"I'm already there - I can hold it, just get out of here and get the code out of here." Vance's voice was calm, but not completely steady. "The grate's not just going to fall down right this second - go on, make sure Sam's alright."
            Leta's eyes flew down the hill to the scaffolding where the grate was. A tiny, tall silhouette was just barely visible within the shadowy control room even as the scaffolding trembled, threatening to fall. Vance.
And, finally, from The Second Brother...

Suddenly, a yell came from Owain's side. Feo tumbled off of his horse sideways and into Owain. Owain halted abruptly, flagging down the triplets. He scrutinized Feo bewilderedly.
            Feo looked up, wincing, his left shoulder pad torn, his left shoulder beneath it bleeding slightly and the left side of his neck bruised as though something massive had hit it, though nothing except perhaps smoke seemed to be there now. He breathed hard and swallowed painfully, his evergreen eyes flashing with urgency. He managed to just barely spit out one word as he rose with difficulty - "Silverwolves...!"
Bonus! Do Some Actual Spring Cleaning Of Your Writer Shelf! (And Share a Picture!)
Eh, hehe, it took me a while, but here's a pic of my spring-cleaned writer shelf... (one of them, anyways)

And that wraps the tag up for now! For the three other people, I tag... um... Lia@The Singing Writer, The Doorman@The Lord, His Lady, and Their Doorman, and Catherine Hawthorn@The Rebelling Muse.
What did you think? Have you done this tag yet? Have you done any spring cleaning...? How have/have your writer goals changed this year? Chat with me!

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Pain of a Memory - Part XIII

I apologize for how long it's been since I last posted on TPoaM, but here is the next installment. Very soon, I will edit a couple of the posts (I will note it on another post when I do so), primarily the first one, so, while it will not be absolutely necessary to understand the story to re-read those parts, they will have some information that pops up later more in details. The last episode - for lack of a better word - can be found here, and it contains links to all the previous ones.
            Errius looked out across the haze around him. There was a voice faintly ringing in his mind, saying a good-bye. He knew the voice well enough. It was the voice of someone long dead, but somehow Errius still remembered its sound. He looked around. There was also a vague face in the mistiness, a face Errius couldn't quite see all the way.  
            Errius stepped closer, gazing intently at the face. It had appeared before, but he had never been able to quite pick it out. He looked a little closer. It started to become slightly clearer. Yes, now it was becoming clearer... Errius could almost tell who it was... Then another face came, one already extremely clear. It was that of the bandit captain, Rogan. And suddenly the faces merged, blending into one face. Somehow it was still Rogan, but it was somebody else too... Errius just couldn't think who...

            Suddenly Errius opened his eyes. He looked around. The dawn was streaming into the sky, and Elystra was still asleep. Errius stood up. The faces... It had just been a dream, though, and it was time to forget it. But then, the dream had seemed as though it were telling him something... What, that Rogan and that vague face from the past were the same? That he'd seen Rogan before? It must have been Elystra stirring the idea in his mind. He'd never dreamed that before. But then, he had seen that vague face before...
            Errius strode over to Elystra. He shook her shoulders gently. Slowly her silvery eyes opened, to reflect the sunrise through the trees above her.

            She turned and looked over at Errius. "Errius...?" Elystra sat up weakly. "Oh, I'm sorry - is it time for taking to the road now?"
            Errius nodded. "I only wish that we could rest a little longer, but..."
            Elystra smiled a little sleepily. "It's alright, Errius. I am not weary anymore, see?"
            Errius helped her to her feet and smiled. "You were never very good at fooling me, Elystra, and you're still not now. But I'll make you take your rest once we reach the capital"
            Elystra took his hand. "Make me? Oh, dear, I suppose I must behave myself if the captain of the royal guard himself is threatening me"
            Errius rolled his eyes. "More like your older brother, who isn't impressed by your little bit of jesting, by the way."
            Elystra laughed. "Is it  bad thing, Errius, that even in this odd way, I'm glad to have you to myself?"
            Errius looked at her chidingly, but ended up breaking into a smile. "If you don't behave yourself, you may be having me to yourself more often."
            Elystra coughed and then gestured to him as though impatient. "Come, Errius, we mustn't tarry about here bantering when we've got a journey to make," she said innocently.
            Errius laughed a little, for the first time that he could remember doing so in a long time. "Alright, then let's depart, Elystra. I'm sorry my bantering was delaying us"
            With this, they set off. After a few hours, they'd made it into a small glade in the forest. Errius stopped. He looked up at the sky. The sun was in the center of the sky now.
            Errius turned to Elystra. "We should be coming across the river anytime now, and the path is along it"
            Elystra heaved a little breath, and coughed. "That's good"
            Errius sighed. Poor Elystra... She was already exhausted. Errius took a breath and trudged on. Any moment now they should come across the river road... Errius pushed aside the branches of a tree on the edge of the glade. There it was. The river.

            Errius turned back to Elystra again. "There it is, Elystra" He smiled. "Don't worry - now it will be a lot easier from here. Only one day more until we reach the first town on this road"
            Errius slowly began to aid Elystra over the river. It would be soon now... Very soon...

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Books of 2019 - January to April

Happy Easter to all! Hopefully everyone's was wonderful (and nobody noticed my bowing out). Ahem. I know that my blogging has been rather sporadic lately - I apologize.
Anyways, as usual, when I cannot think of anything to blog, but have been neglecting the old thing, I blog about books. So - here are some books (reviewed in brief) that I have read so far this year. (And if anyone is curious why I rate the endings of fiction - as someone did ask about this last time - it's because I cannot stand good books with bad endings personally, or badly-done endings, probably more so than any other part of the book being done badly.)
The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength)
by C.S. Lewis
This was one of the best books series/trilogies I have ever read. It was enjoyable. It was intense. It was light and comic. It was profoundly allegorical. It had such lovable characters. It had such gripping plot. It had settings like I'd never seen anywhere before, and described so vibrantly so as to almost arouse a physical taste and sight and smell of them, truly. When I heard it was a space story, I suppose it would be like every other space story - dark and stars and spaceships and weapons and military and alien civilizations and all the sorts of boring black and silver tech aesthetics that accompany most space stories now. But was I wrong. The first two particularly had such well-developed settings that I was almost drowning in qualia.
For the plots, Perelandra easily wins the crown - all of them had good plots, but Perelandra's was great. The first one's plot seems like nothing to get excited over if you just read a summary of it, but in the book it is quite splendid and leads you on quite well. The last one took some time to get started up on its plot, that's for sure, but once it finally did, its plot might have been better than Perelandra even.
The characters were great, particularly the recurring link, Professor Elwin Ransom (who, by the way, I now have a stuffed owl named after). The Scot in the third book (don't ask me to spell his name, please) would be a candidate for one of the most amusing characters in classic literature I've read. And the characterization of Merlin in the third book was quite fascinating and definitely unexpected.
My Favorite Character - Prof. Ransom, of course.
Writing Style - I'd say a pretty easy 5/5 stars.
Morality - 4/5 stars. It's definitely for adults because of certain discussions therein, but they're quite enlightening and definitely profoundly insighted.
The Ending - 4.5/5 stars. It was quite a close, and the scene at Belbury near the end was utterly terrifying. Not to mention, the resolve of the main character's family conflict was such a relief after a whole book of back and forth stress over it.
Overall Rating - About 4.5/5 stars as well. I would actually give it that fifth star if not for a rather slow beginning in the third book (which was good anyways... just a bit less enthralling than the first two books and their beginnings).
The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization
by Mitchell Kalpakgian
This book was a collection of essays detailing some beautiful traditional cultural practices that have disappeared in modern days. Some of the subjects focused on included dressing well, letter-writing, courtship, pleasing people, and hospitality. It was definitely enjoyable, but it was rather sad because everything in it was, I'm afraid, rather true - so many practices have been neglected for no good reason nowadays, and those practices helped society and the next generation blossom. It really is a shame. But anyway, the book was very good if you enjoy the essay style (I like it well enough, though I would have probably preferred a full-on book rather than short essays collected together).
Writing Style - 3/5 stars. I really wish the book was longer.
Morality - 5/5 stars.
Overall Rating - Probably 4/5 stars.
The Scarlet Pimpernel
by Baroness Orczy
Unlike the others above, I had actually read this one before - numerous times. And it is probably my favorite book, if I had to pick just one. The allegory, the romance, the setting, the characters, the writing style, and the sheer beauty of the book (plus the wonderfully pleasant scarlet and gold binding on our copy) is just sigh-inducing, like a melodic overture to an opera or something poetic like that.
My Favorite Character - Sir Percy Blakeny, Esquire.
Writing Style - Absolutely amazing - 5/5 stars at least for my personal preferences, and still at least 4/5 for technicalities.
Morality - Only 4/5 stars for minor swearing.
Overall Rating - 5/5 star. It is possibly my favorite book, after all.
Anyone who has read and wishes to see a movie of The Scarlet Pimpernel should really seek out the  B&W Leslie Howard version - it's really the only one that's true to the story.
The Power of Silence
by Cardinal Sarah
I'm still reading this one in addition to My Imitation of Christ, but it's quite a book. It really makes one stop and think - as it's supposed to. The book chronicles how one can truly find inner potential, particularly spiritual potential merely by closing off the noise and distraction of the outside world for sessions. It is, as Cardinal Sarah points out, nearly impossible to have a tenable relationship with God in a world as loud and rushed and ours is, so silence is really necessary to maintain any sort of spiritual motivation or progress, particularly in developing the virtues and prayer life. It's been a very good book so far, and I hope to finish it soon after Lent.
Writing Style - 3/5 stars for my personal preference (I don't really like the interview style), but the efficiency and technical prowess of it is more like 5/5.
Overall Rating - So far, 4/5 at least, but I'm not terribly far in.
Overall, so far this year has had nothing but very good, very formidable, and very high-ranking books in my own opinion. I definitely encourage the reading of them, particularly The Space Trilogy and The Power of Silence. What did you think? Have you read any of these? Do you want to? What are you reading right now? What's on your list for the future? How was your Easter-Tide?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Silence and Beauty - A Lenten Meditation From Cardinal Sarah

Finally - the Lenten meditation post I promised. Hopefully it's worth something, because otherwise, I have failed in quality as well as timing and length thereof, I'm afraid... for which I apologize. Anyways, though, I mean (and meant) to make these posts a tradition, but obviously I kind-of failed last year. Here is the original Lenten post that I did (concerning the song of Violetta Valery and Lenten sacrifice).
It's very strange sometimes how much one word can do. Oftentimes, we human beings can become as distraught or as fluttery as anything just because of one word. But sometimes it's less than one word that does the most.
Silence is a strange thing. It's not noiselessness or noise, and it can sometimes be sound. Silence is, perhaps, best defined as the real quieting of oneself to truly appreciate a thing. Who can concentrate on Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae whilst working out math problems? Who can gaze at the Sistine Chapel when a vaudevillian is dancing away beside them? Who can possibly speak and still hear the last, heart-rending tones of Verdi's La Traviata as they should be heard? As Cardinal Sarah points out in his amazing book, The Power of Silence, without silence, there is nothing we can enjoy; at best, we can placate or numb ourselves with half-attentive entertainment that is shallow and light enough for us to take without proper concentration. How much more is this so for things more consuming than recreation?
Silence is the voice of God, for it is all beauty, and without it beauty is pointless, it is all truth, for nothing is more real and true than deep silence, and it is all goodness, for, without it, no one has a hope of prospering in virtue. There's not too much that's harder to accomplish, though. Meditation has always been a difficulty for me, at least, and I know many people who feel the same way. When you are expected to give everything you have - body, mind, emotions, everything - to only one thing, it is so hard. In this day and age, it is an accomplishment even to be half-invested in something. To exercise our every power towards one cause seems, well, sometimes unbearable. But this is what silence is; in fact, this is what God is: the whole of a thing, uninterrupted and unblemished, lacking in nothing. God is existence itself, the fullness of all three eternal goods, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. So it seems strange that He should dwell in silence - isn't silence just a lack of sound? Isn't it just nothing? How can God, He Who Is, by His Nature have anything to do with silence?
Silence is not the lack of sounds. Silence is unification of everything one has towards one cause. Christ Himself points out that a cause which is divided won't get anywhere. So we have to be devoted to something. That thing will either be nothing - all the meaningless noise and distraction that infiltrates us constantly - or it will be God, the full unification of everything that is good - silence.
So... maybe there was some rambling getting to it, but my point is that we need to distance ourselves via silence for a little while, especially in this Lenten season. If everything is pointless without God, then we need to listen to Him by quieting ourselves.
If we cannot give even our silence to God for Lent, then how can we expect to give our souls?