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Friday, April 29, 2011

KIM VII -- chapter 4.1: A Second Son at Least!

"On the Road"
stop reading at: "He was nearly asleep when the lama suddenly quoted a proverb: 'The husbands of the talkative have a great reward hereafter.' Then Kim heard him snuff thrice, and dozed off, still laughing."
  1. age-old question: The Lama's situation reminds me of a theme from the Agent Pendergast novel (Lincoln/Child) I just finished reading.  Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss, inasmuch as the truth--or the process of gaining it--is so potentially painful.  Is the Lama better off in the dark regarding, or ignorant of, the "real world" (he wonders whether Kim is a spirit or an evil imp) or to see it, experience it, and gain wisdom?  Is Kim better off as he is (he is, after all, an exceedingly happy and optimistic individual), or were he more like the Lama?  More broadly, I think about my children: is it better to protect them from the world that perhaps they may be happier for the lack of darkness thereof, or better off experiencing/observing as much of it as possible?
  2. Along the same lines, Kim, particularly considering his so-terrene nickname, is worldly, while the Lama seeks apparently to avoid worldliness.  The word (and its derivations), "worldly," is pretty plastic in its application.  In its most obvious, Kim is in "the seventh heaven of happiness" as he passes along the Old Trunk Road, watching the world pass by below him, while the Lama keeps, essentially, his eyes and mind closed to all but his own meditations.  Any thoughts here?
  3. The long descriptive paragraphs in the first few pages of this chapter are gorgeous--not necessarily in their prose, but in their subject and the details of which Kipling chooses to accent: a riot of color, life, creatures--animal and humans alike (and how appropriately so!) --sin and piety, caste and race.  What is your impression of life around the Old Trunk Road?
  4. (Is it just me, or is there a taste of Dickens about this book: the orphan, the bustling city...?)
  5. I'm interested in the tonal arc of this chapter and how the ambient activity and light/dark reflect in the mood of the day's inhabitants.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

KIM VI -- chapter 3.2: I Do Not Pester Them

the old soldier
starting reading at: "'Certainly the air of this country is good,' said the lama. 'I sleep lightly, as do all old men; but last night I slept unwaking till broad day. Even now I am heavy.'"

(I didn't think of this until just now:) We've briefly covered another pilgrimage--another type of pilgrimage--on the blog: that of the Japanese hyohakusha.  In this case, Basho is the master and his travelling companion, Sora, is the chela.  While both Buddhist (Lama and Basho--regarding the latter, I'm assuming), Kim's master is on a religious quest, while Basho's is more of personal, spiritual enlightenment.  Is there a difference?  What draws mankind to quest and pilgrimage?  My family is moving across the country this summer, and I can already smell the asphalt of the road, and it is exciting!  The "pilgrimage" seems to be as multifaceted as the symbolism of rivers.  Thoughts?
  1. I love the comparison of the Lama to the camel.  Maybe it's just the westerner in me, but it seems remarkably indicative of not only gate but demeanor.  More than that there is also the element of a camel's use in travelling long distances.
  2. "Delhi is the navel of the world."  Hmm, how many such navels are there across the globe?
  3. "I have never pestered them: I do not think they will pester me."
  4. Matthew 13:42 -- "I have noticed in my long life that those who eternally break in upon Those Above with complaints and reports and bellowings and weepings are presently sent for in haste, as our colonel used to send for slack-jawed down-country men who talked too much."
  5. Why is longing for the past, according to the Lama (or anyone else for that matter), weakness?
  6. Narratively speaking, what is the point of showing the episode with the old soldier?  (Though I haven't read it, the old soldier reminds me a little of the bumbling Don Quixote.)
Regarding the Rosary
This is a handful of cardamoms,
This is a lump of ghi:
This is millet and chillies and rice,
A supper for thee and me!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wednesday's for Kids XXIII -- DOUG TENNAPEL (woo-hoo!)

from Ghostopolis
For kids a little older than I usually address here (and this week I'm trying to make up a bit for my tardiness the last couple entries), I present the great Doug TenNapel, graphic novelist (he does other stuff, but I'm pretty much only familiar with the books) and certifiable nutcase.

In the collage below are all the books of his which I've read, some of which I proudly own and all of which I highly recommend (those who are both interested and astute may recognize the absence of one of his novels, which will here remain nameless, and which I don't recommend, for personal moral reasons) and are here in a sort of organization:  Down the left hand side are the books I've read and in rough order of best (Creature Tech, which I've mentioned here before) at the top to the least, yet-still-totally awesome (Flink) at the near bottom, followed by three titles I haven't gotten to yet (lack of personal funds are a particular obstacle when the local libraries don't bother carrying this man's stuff, which, by the way, is hilarious, adventurous, beautifully drawn, witty in language and plot, absolutely ridiculous, absurd, and often drawing in theme from everything from Christian mythology and American History to popular current movies and other books), which I eagerly anticipate.  The big one on the right, Ghostopolis (which is in preparatory phases for film adaptation by Hugh Jackman, Disney, and others--crazy cool, if it actually happens), I just read today while "team teaching" (which fairly amounts to nothing save sitting in the back of another teacher's classroom while that teacher obstinately ignores you) for an English teacher, and I enjoyed it thoroughly--the book, not the "team teaching."  Always a fast read, a rushing escape, and, well, I'll say it again, laden with beautiful and surprisingly kinetic illustrations.

KIM V -- chapter 3.1: The Meaning of My Star is War

Indian Cobra -- wikipedia
stop at: "and Kim had enjoyed a most interesting evening with the old man, who brought out his cavalry sabre and, balancing it on his dry knees, told tales of the Mutiny and young captains thirty years in their graves, till Kim dropped off to sleep."
  1. The Lama's statement, "We go from these unblessed fields," reads like a passive-aggressive, not to mention rather whiny, gripe against the farmer, yet the farmer takes it as an actual curse from a man who is "Holy" (priest) in a religion not his own, and he believes the malediction will damage the prospects of his establishment.  Why does he so believe?
  2. As the farmer judged Kim and the Lama upon their trespass to his land, did not the Lama similarly so judge the farmer (yet he manages to observe the snake charitably!)?  What is your judgment on the Lama (for this or for any other reason)?  What does he tell us--think about Lama's judgment on farmer versus judgment on snake--about human nature?
  3. Grand Trunk Road
  4. "Then, if thy Gods will, be assured that thou wilt come upon thy freedom."  Describe the nature of this particular brand of freedom.
  5. Is Kim more likely to attract belief from his audience, as he foretells of coming war, by imitating a bazaar fortuneteller or by speaking baldly of how he came across such information?
  6. "This is a great and terrible world.  I never knew there were so many man alive in it."
I'm still having a hard time "getting" a lot of the story.  Now, however, I seem to be over the hurdle of filtering cultural references, culling for those most important and looking them up, but am often stymied by Kipling's narrative stylings.  It is always enriching to immerse oneself in something so, well, not new, but different.  If you're reading this, please let me know what you think thus far of the book and its author.


"The Carolina Parrot,"
by John James Audubon
I just now noticed, flitting over to Google.com for a moment to look something up, that today is the birthday of John James Audubon.  Normally, I don't take more than passing note of whoever's birthday it is that Google happens to be celebrating on any given day, however, this time, it happens to coincidentally coincide with the popcorn novel I'm currently reading, Fever Dream, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, who are, as it happens, my favorite popcorn novelists.

(I've been reading the Preston/Child books for so long--sheesh, something like fifteen years now--that opening their newest Pendergast novel is a little like a reunion with old friends, my two personal favorites of which are, of course, Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast, FBI, and Lieutenant Vinnie D'Agosta, NYPD.  As far as the books themselves are concerned, and with the slight exception of a very few missteps on the authors' parts, the stories are fast, fun, gripping, and surprisingly literary.)

The plot of this particular contribution to the series is bent around the late, great John James Audubon and his treatment of the Carolina Parrot, as well as a lost painting of his called "The Black Frame," so-called because no one knows it's actual subject and, which, if you're interested, is an invention of the authors.  As you read this very post (anyone, anyone?) I'm nearing the end of the book (trying to slow down and savor it, for it will be another year or more before their next effort is released in paperback), which happens to be their best in quite a few years.  And as before (I'm thinking particularly of one piano composer and savant, Charles-Valentin Alkan), the authors have sparked in me interest in an area, albeit highly specialized, where I'd previously only spent little time.

Regardless of plot and the "literariness" of this particularly esoteric popcorn, the birds and wildlife of Mr. Audubon are fascinating, and, nostalgically speaking, have always held company in my memory and imagination with Norman Rockwell, as  both painters were on regular display via gigantic coffee table books at my grandparents' homes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

KIM IV -- chapter 2.2: "The Good-Tempered World"

Start reading at: "'Let thy hair grow long and talk Punjabi,' said the young soldier jestingly to Kim, quoting a Northern proverb. 'That is all that makes a Sikh.' But he did not say this very loud."
"om mani padme hum"
  1. How will the Lama know when he's found the River [of the Arrow / of His Healing]?
  2. Interesting, Kim's perspective: "The Good-Tempered World."
  3. We don't know much yet about Kim's Red Bull, but try comparing what we do know to "Nandi."
  4. The relationship between Lama and Kim is, to me, odd.  Kim, supposedly and according to the Lama, and to a degree Kim, is the chela, yet it is the Lama who relies entirely upon Kim, as guide, facilitator, tutor-of-the-world, etcetera.  What is Kim's reliance upon the Lama, and/or how does Kim benefit from the partnership?
  5. Well that was fast and easy!  Kim didn't even have to search in order to find the Englishman he sought:  Deus ex Machina or simply a cutting-to-the-chase?
  6. Kim's expert delivery and culling of secrets plus the India's British-rule culture of war predict what for Kim?
  7. The Lama's quest and his pursuit of it make me think of pilgrimages in general.  Any extended travel abroad, and that only for more than sightseeing-pleasure-seeking, is a sort of pilgrimage, akin to that of the Lama, whether the pilgrim so intends it or not.  Thoughts?
  8. Red is (as far as I can discover) considered the color of the rising sun and new beginnings.  Consider this against the color of Kim's bull.
  9. What if everyone were "freed from the Wheel of Things" (not according to Kim, though his answer is at least humorous, but according to you)?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday's for Kids XXII -- KIPLING and an "A IS FOR ALPHABET"

Since we're reading a novel by Rudyard Kipling right now (Kim, which, by the way, is surprisingly more difficult than I thought it would be), I figured it not inappropriate, particularly as Kipling was so otherwise skilled at stuff so pointedly for kids, to feature a story from his so well-known Just So Stories.  If you're not familiar with these tales of origin (and Tolkien, by the way, was not the first Briton to invent a mythology, though Kipling's takes place "abroad" rather than in Britain, as Tolkien so intended his tales), they include answers to such life questions as "How Leopard Got His Spots" (the most famous of them, really, as this story is read and modeled to the point of "hackney-fication" by grade- and middle-schoolers across the English-speaking world), "The Beginning of the Armadillos," and "How the Whale Got His Throat."  While these stories are all so just fine, there are two that are perhaps so much more appropriate to the blog, here: "How the First Letter Was Written" and "How the Alphabet Was Made."

the alphabet necklace
All of these stories are brilliant, wonderfully simplistic little tales, and particularly perfect for narration (and so I think more appropriately so through oral retellings, fairytale-style, rather than straight readings) to kids.  Considering "How the Alphabet Was Made," I expect that an ambitious (more accurately read perhaps as "desperate" or "creative," depending) parent would even be able to generate such a discussion with his/her kid[s] and create their own alphabet, illustrations and all, just like the father/daughter duo of the story's Neolithic cave.

My favorite part of this particular story is Kipling's acrostic (sort of) poem (less sort of) and illustration:

ONE of the first things that Tegumai Bopsulai did after Taffy and he had made the Alphabet was to make a magic Alphabet-necklace of all the letters, so that it could be put in the Temple of Tegumai and kept for ever and ever. All the Tribe of Tegumai brought their most precious beads and beautiful things, and Taffy and Tegumai spent five whole years getting the necklace in order. This is a picture of the magic Alphabet-necklace. The string was made of the finest and strongest reindeer-sinew, bound round with thin copper wire.
Beginning at the top, the first bead is an old silver one that belonged to the Head Priest of the Tribe of Tegumai; then came three black mussel-pearls; next is a clay bead (blue and gray); next a nubbly gold bead sent as a present by a tribe who got it from Africa (but it must have been Indian really); the next is a long flat-sided glass bead from Africa (the Tribe of Tegumai took it in a fight); then come two clay beads (white and green), with dots on one, and dots and bands on the other; next are three rather chipped amber beads; then three clay beads (red and white), two with dots, and the big one in the middle with a toothed pattern. Then the letters begin, and between each letter is a little whitish clay bead with the letter repeated small. Here are the letters—

A is scratched an a tooth—an elk-tusk I think.

B is the Sacred Beaver of Tegumai on a bit of old glory.

C is a pearly oyster-shell—inside front.

D must be a sort of mussel shell—outside front.

E is a twist of silver wire.

F is broken, but what remains of it is a bit of stag's horn.

G is painted black on a piece of wood. (The bead after G is a small shell, and not a clay bead. I don't know why they did that.)

H is a kind of a big brown cowie-shell.

I is the inside part of a long shell ground down by hand. (It took Tegumai three months to grind it down.)

J is a fish hook in mother-of-pearl.

L is the broken spear in silver. (K aught to follow J of course, but the necklace was broken once and they mended it wrong.)

K is a thin slice of bone scratched and rubbed in black.

M is on a pale gray shell.

N is a piece of what is called porphyry with a nose scratched on it. (Tegumai spent five months polishing this stone.)

O is a piece of oyster-shell with a hole in the middle.

P and Q are missing. They were lost, a long time ago, in a great war, and the tribe mended the necklace with the dried rattles of a rattlesnake, but no one ever found P and Q. That is how the saying began, 'You must mind your P's. and Q's.'

R is, of course, just a shark's tooth.

S is a little silver snake.

T is the end of a small bone, polished brown and shiny.

U is another piece of oyster-shell.

W is a twisty piece of mother-of-pearl that they found inside a big mother-of-pearl shell, and sawed off with a wire dipped in sand and water. It took Taffy a month and a half to polish it and drill the holes.

X is silver wire joined in the middle with a raw garnet. (Taffy found the garnet.)

Y is the carp's tail in ivory.

Z is a bell-shaped piece of agate marked with Z-shaped stripes. They made the Z-snake out of one of the stripes by picking out the soft stone and rubbing in red sand and bee's-wax. Just in the mouth of the bell you see the clay bead repeating the Z-letter.

These are all the letters.
The next bead is a small round greeny lump of copper ore; the next is a lump of rough turquoise; the next is a rough gold nuggct (what they call water-gold); the next is a melon-shaped clay bead (white with green spots). Then come four flat ivory pieces, with dots on them rather like dominoes; then come three stone beads, very badly worn; then two soft iron beads with rust-holes at the edges (they must have been magic, because they look very common); and last is a very very old African bead, like glass--blue, red, white, black, and yellow. Then comes the loop to slip over the big silver button at the other end, and that is all.
I have copied the necklace very carefully. It weighs one pound seven and a half ounces. The black squiggle behind is only put in to make the beads and things look better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

KIM III -- chapter 2.1: De-Plane! De-Plane! :: Te-Rain! Te-Rain!

Kim and the Lama
STOP READING HERE: "The last of the Great Ones," said the Sikh with authority, "was Sikander Julkarn (Alexander the Great). He paved the streets of Jullundur and built a great tank near Umballa. That pavement holds to this day; and the tank is there also. I never heard of thy God."
  1. Evaluate the racism of India as it appears in the book.  Is there racism about Kipling himself, Kim, or simply the culture in general.  If not Kipling, since the narrative is essentially described through Kim's eyes, does Kipling, do you believe, possess any of that racism?
  2. Cool pun: "I know the ways of the train" :: "I know the ways of the te-rain/terrain."
  3. By continuation of the number 1, what happens on the train--at least the night trains--that can never happen elsewhere?  Judging by the so-public display between Husband and Wife, is there more "freedom" (for my lack of a better word) here than elsewhere?  Notice which individuals (as much as I can tell by my limited understanding of India back then (or now, for that matter)) don't care about caste and which do.
  4. "Are we Rajahs to throw away good silver when the world is so charitable?"
  5. Check Google Earth if you get a chance for the relative locations of Lahore (in Pakistan) to Umballah (Ambala, modern spelling) to Benares (or Banaras, official called Varanasi).
  6. There is a crazy amount of folklore throughout the world built around rivers, and, more often than not, their healing effects, from La Llarona to Naaman and Styx to the Ganges (also called, as it is in Kim, the Gunga), not to mention the general Buddhist comparison (if I'm not mistaken, which is always a possibility, unfortunately) between the flow of life and the flow of a river.  Also, there's an obvious visual correlation between the path of an arrow as compared to that of a river.  Thoughts about this general confluence?
  7. "He began in Urdu the tale of the Lord Buddha, but, borne by his own thoughts, slid into Tibetan and long-droned texts from a Chinese book of the Buddha's life. The gentle, tolerant folk looked on reverently. All India is full of holy men stammering gospels in strange tongues."  Tolerant, nonplussed, or numbly indifferent?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Names interest me.  Not so much the "phoneminal" (or "phonemical," for that matter) inventions of creatively-minded and unwittingly cruel parents, but those entrenched in linguistic history.  Kim, namesake for our current book, is one such name.  (all references from www.behindthename.com)

KIM (1)
GenderFeminine & Masculine
PronouncedKIM  [key]
At the present it is usually considered a short form of KIMBERLY, but it in fact predates it as a given name. It was used by the author Rudyard Kipling for the title hero of his novel 'Kim' (1901), though in this case it was short for KIMBALL. In her novel 'Show Boat' (1926) Edna Ferber used it for a female character who was born on the Mississippi River and was named from the initials of the states Kentucky, Illinois and Mississippi. The name was popularized in America by the actresses Kim Hunter (1922-2002) and Kim Novak (1933-), both of whom assumed it as a stage name.

and, though far less likely:

KIM (2)
Gender: Masculine
Scandinavian short form of JOACHIM


Gender: Masculine
Usage: English
Pronounced: KIM-bəl  [key]
From a surname which was derived from either the Welsh given name Cynbel meaning "chief war" or the Old English given name Cynebald meaning "royal boldness".


Gender: Masculine
Pronounced: zho-a-KEEM (French), YO-ah-khim (German), yo-AH-khim (German), yaw-AH-kheem (Polish), JO-ə-kim (English)  [key]
Contracted form of JEHOIACHIN or JEHOIAKIM. According to the apocryphal Gospel of James, Saint Joachim was the husband of Saint Anne and the father of the Virgin Mary. Due to his popularity in the Middle Ages, the name came into general use in Christian Europe (though it was never common in England).

Other Scriptsיְהוֹיָכִין (Ancient Hebrew)
Means "established by YAHWEH" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament this was the name of a king of Judah who was imprisoned in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.

Other Scriptsיְהוֹיָקִים (Ancient Hebrew)
Means "raised by YAHWEH" in Hebrew. In the Old Testament this was the name of a king of Judah, the father of Jehoiachin.


differential windlass: wikipedia
Beginning with: "Kim followed like a shadow. What he had overheard excited him wildly. This man was entirely new to all his experience, and he meant to investigate further: precisely as he would have investigated a new building or a strange festival in Lahore city. The lama was his trove, and he purposed to take possession. Kim's mother had been Irish too."
  1. "I worshipped none, child. I bowed before the Excellent Law."  Meaning?
  2. Already so alike Aladdin, he also resembles a little the various comic renditions of Robin Hood.
  3. The answer is no rare point of discussion on the blog: what is Kim's interracial/-cultural passport, also earning him the epithet, "Little Friend of All the World"? 
  4. The Lama's bald honesty engenders a patronizing sort of protectiveness in Kim for his new master.  Regarding the honesty: is the Lama so naive; is Kim so jaded?
  5. We know a little more about the River than we do the Red Bull, but clearly they are similar.  Any there any insights here, yet, regarding their similarities?  Now about the Pillars and the Wheel: again, we know more about the Lama's ambitions than Kim's, simply because Kim doesn't understand them himself yet, but those Pillars remind me, likely faultily, of the pillars crumbled by Samson.  Thoughts?  And what about the Wheel?  Dante speaks of Fortune's Wheel, though that is pretty much nothing at all like the Buddhist Wheel otherwise in question.
  6. Obviously this is subtle, and likely too subtle to be intentional, or at least not likely intended to be found by the reader, but I can't help but draw up a metaphor for the windlass as it compares to both Kim and the Lama.  Of course, it's situation among all the novelties of the bazar points away from this, and maybe toward another metaphor, but the windlass, as an implement in this case for drawing water from a well, indicates what of the boy and man?
  7. The letting of rooms between the walled--indeed imurred--arches of the aque-/viaduct (and this is another out-of-context comparison, but interesting nonetheless) reminds me of something I read some time ago (a little of which may be found here at my generous, online standby) about an old masons' tradition of entombing a person (dead or yet-alive) into the foundation of a bridge or other building, as a sort of pagan offering in request of strength and blessing and luck.
  8. When Kim is left with the horse-trader, the trader asks him what's going on, to which Kim responds, "Nothing. I am now that holy man's disciple; and we go a pilgrimage together—to Benares, he says. He is quite mad, and I am tired of Lahore city. I wish new air and water."  Is he telling the truth, as it seems to conflict, at least a little, with what he's told the Lama, or is he rhetorically shifting his motives for the sake of the horse-trader?
  9. (Anybody got an edition with footnotes?  What the heck is C.25.1B., R.17, M.4?  They have the appearance of being something like labels for sections of legal code, but they are used more like names.)
  10. I've got a bit of an issue with the story of Mahbub and the stallion and the 5 kings.  Narratively, it appears to have little reason to exist beyond an impetus to get Kim and the Lama out of town and on the road.  Likely I am wrong, but I couldn't help (third time this post) making a perhaps extraneous connection:  Kim's father's "prophecy" claims that a Red Bull will appear to help his son.  Well, Mahbub is, to put it obviously, rather bullish by nature (despite, of course, the Hindu sanctity of the bovine; though Mahbub is no Hindu) and he has a red beard, albeit dyed.  Hmm.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Kim astride the Zam-Zammah; illus.
from first edition (as far as I can tell)
NOTE TO READERS:  Though I came into this next book hoping for something short and simple, I can say with certainty that Kim does not fulfill my hope for brevity and likely similarly fails to fulfill the second--simplicity.  That said, and considering general time constraints of both you (hopefully collective) and me (definitely singular), we will be cutting most, if not all, chapters roughly in half.  I hope this isn't irksome at all, though if it is, well, then tough bananas.  Let's get started.

(This reading from beginning of chapter 1 through paragraph "The curator would have detained him: they are few in the world who still have the secret of the conventional brush-pen Buddhist pictures which are, as it were, half written and half drawn. But the lama strode out, head high in air, and pausing an instant before the great statue of a Bodhisat in meditation, brushed through the turnstiles.")
  1. The opening verse of the chapter is the first of 9 stanzas of the poem "Buddha at Kamakura," from Kipling's collection (originally published just a couple years after Kim), The Five Nations.  Here is a background on the collection, and here is the poem in its entirety within the collection.
  2. The "Zam-Zammah": like the red bull (to come) is quite potentially a symbol of some sort, considering Kim's heritage and current status, as he sits astride it and heckles the locals.
  3. Summarize the position of Kim's birth and his birthright, particularly regarding his status of British orphan left in India.
  4. What do you make of the "red bull in a green field," apart from the brilliance of the image?  Regardless of the "magic" of the Masonic Order, what magic must there always be for Kim in those three papers?  With this magic in mind, what weight might the opiated "prophesy" hold over him?
  5. Label the connection (perhaps it's obvious) between Kim and a prominent character from "Arabian Nights"?  Anything significant here beyond the superficial connection by age and lifestyle?
  6. "The Middle Way."
  7. First impression: The old Lama entering the museum with Kim reminds me of the two Mr. Kumars from Life of Pi.
  8. "Pilgrimage," apart from religious excursion, is a perfect label for which of the -romans?  And so a connection to the Arrow that became a River.
  9. Kim is generally lost listening to the Lama and the curator discuss the museum's holdings, so, as per the note below, I don't see any particular need to ensure our knowledge of the material as this book is narrated through Kim's eyes.  However, the spectacle clearly makes an impression upon Kim.  Thoughts?
  10. "So it comes with all faiths."  What does the curator intend?
  11. The Lama's personal faith interests me.  I am no scholar of world religions, but it seems a little self-contradictory.  Maybe one of you can help me out: What is the Lama's faith?  Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu?  And then what's with the rosary (is this where Martel got the triple-faith backdrop for LoP)?  Why might he want to break free (via the River of the Arrow) of The Wheel of Things?
  12. What of the gift exchange between the two disciples, as the Lama describes the curator and himself?
Wikipedia will surely become an even closer friend than ever through the reading of Kim.  While a certain amount of knowledge--schema--is required, I don't think that to understand what in the world Kipling is talking about, we need to be experts in Islam, Buddhism, Indian history, etcetera, so I don't plan to particularly over-clog the discussion points/questions with links to the encyclopedia (it would, after all, I think amount to a thousand points-per-chapter!), nor will I overindulge myself in writing up my own ecstatic discoveries of India and British-Indian culture.  However, as we read, if you believe I'm remiss in the omission of some key point or observation you've come across, please say so!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Art chirography is all over the place (though not so easy to find via Google-image search; it's the kind of thing you stumble upon when you're not really looking for it), and a lot more common than I thought back when I posted about it some time ago (which post, by the way, is the most popular post on The Wall by a thousand percent, literally ).  A little different from concrete poetry, the chirographic side, perhaps less poetic, and in a way, more onomatopoeic, is more the word done-up to look like what the word is, like the word "car" shaped like a car (often called "word art," and more than what MS Word means by it).  A really pretty stunning example I saw recently was at my son's grade school, where there is a series of prints, artfully framed, on the walls of one hallway depicting each of the seven continents, each continent's name spelled out and shaped (like that "car" car) like the continent itself.  Of course, I think we've all done this in grade school, and even high school, art classes, but it's also a not-so-uncommon trope of graphic artists and advertisers.  While this is perhaps a stretch--more a blend of the concrete poetry and chirography--the website wordle.net is a blast to play around with, and I highly recommend it (here's what I did just a few minutes ago), if less for the artistic/literary benefit then more for just the simple addictive fun of it.

Then there's the stuff that some people call picture puzzles, my favorite of which is simply:


--or the "rebus."


as well as some brilliant samples posted by my sister,
who's much more skilled than I am at finding stuff
like this


Finally, two more sources of a sort of art chirography or (ew) graphically representational words are the classic Magnetic Poetry kits and my personal preference among thesauri, of all things: Visual Thesaurus.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

ANNOUNCING: Our Next Title -- KIM, by Rudyard Kipling

If Modern Library were to base their distinctive List solely upon reader preferences, their list wouldn't be worth much.  Thankfully, the "Reader's List" is ancillary to the "Board's List," upon which we find, at place number 78, our next book, Kim.  Perhaps more than just about anything else, this is what drew me to this particular work of Rudyard Kipling's, rather than my once top-choice pick, Just So Stories.

More than that, I really don't have anything to say more than what I've otherwise read at Wikipedia; I don't know anyone who's read the book, and I really don't know anything about it apart from, well, Kipling wrote it, likely it had something to do with his 1907 Nobel for literature, and it's set in British-ruled India (which for some reason keeps connecting itself in my mind to the film, The Painted Veil, based upon Maugham's novel).

Don't have a hard copy of the book (like me)?  HTML format here; or select another of Gutenberg's offerings here.


Check out the "Books Completed" list over on the sidebar.  Of six books, 4 are already Brits'; this makes 5 (not that that's a bad thing; they've produced a heckuva lot of fantastic books).  We're reading another American novelist next--and a modern one.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Google CAPTCHA, List #3

ackso | aeser | alead | allymsmu | alyze | andowswe | aspharh | auzzlent | becie | besigi | buledu | bulgaul | burst | cabro | carlar | catiz | cenor | cesedanf | chells | chitsma | clocker | coarcisp | codsbon | comazin | conste | corbuse | cratemer | dularli | extort | flunwal | gablewor | goont | hentsac | herying | hopul | huloork | hysion | imings | immen | indiffur | iners | kourathi | litar | litida | malursi | marmili | matsked | minermar | mistlyc | monspo | noodic | nuroa | ocksh | ophesse | ouricut | paddlife | pareld | peare | pirratin | polyt | ponitrot | porer | porshpl | previ | pridi | procapt | quest | redlyr | remen | rersp | saludged | scetr | serfl |sesore | sessedu | sessmot | skstede | smelabl‏ | sonno | speridi | sterm | stswei | sulion | sumbleth | sunticst | suppec | surtis | symican | tactiver | twindoc | unall | undeh | ursedi | valsicks | vdmissio | vinowerb | vitymett | wholoo | woramp | xsant |

my favorites: smelabl, wholoo, and gablewor

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rudyard Kipling -- Our Next Author: PLEASE CAST YOUR VOTE

Rudyard Kipling
While I can't say I've read tons of Kipling, I've made it through a fair amount of his verses and many of his stories.  For better or worse (likely the latter), I have not read The Jungle Book, and the Disney version, like the original or not (likely the latter), is on my short list of all time favorite movies.  That said, of his poetry/verse stuff I've read, this is my favorite:

I have eaten your bread and salt.
I have drunk your water and wine.
In deaths ye died I have watched beside,
And the lives ye led were mine.

Was there aught that I did not share
In vigil or toil or ease, –
One joy or woe that I did not know,
Dear hearts across the seas?

I have written the tale of our life
For a sheltered people's mirth,
In jesting guise – but ye are wise,
And ye know what the jest is worth.

It is the prelude poem, brief and surprisingly elegant, to his "Departmental Ditties."

SO HERE IT IS (because of the hope for short/fun):  I suggest that Kipling be our next author, and hope, therefore, to narrow our search down to one from the following three (please read a little about each and indicate your preference below in comment):
* added later, because, well, who doesn't need friends:

Wednesday's for Kids XXI -- FIELD TRIPS

Sorry I didn't post this yesterday.  We were on a field trip.

Forget the books for a day.  Take your kids (or yourself) on a field trip.

Yesterday, my family went up to Temple Square in Salt Lake City and spent the better part of the entire day in and out of museums, historical sites, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' spectacular gardens.  My kids seemed most "in to" (yes, this is true) the Church's historical museum, and went from display to display eager to hear my wife or me read them the curated descriptions.  My favorite was the tour we got the Conference Center (the largest "single-point" auditorium in the world, with apparently gravity-defying feats of structural engineering), the artworks (paintings, sculptures--all originals) throughout the lobbies and waiting areas, and the rooftop gardens and waterfall (and this aside from the organ and auditorium acoustics, which, unfortunately, were not on demonstration).

As a family, we take field trips quite frequently (and generally less religiously oriented than yesterday, despite, and contrary to, what many may otherwise think as we are indeed Mormons in Utah).  They're great for building family (optimistically) ties and (jadedly) tolerance.  We listen to music and audio books in the car.  We pack picnics.  We walk and giggle and explore.

Not sure where to begin?  Get on your city and state websites and hunt around a bit.  Though I'd be lying if I claimed that all places were created [on the potential-for-field-trip-scale] equal, every place everywhere (and I mean every place everywhere) has stuff to see, visit, and do.  There's no place without a history, or, well, near someplace that is.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Nothing (and this doesn't count), right?  Oxford says no, anyway.  And they're the authorities, right?

Maybe not.

Try this out (say it out loud if you need to): what sound does the letter R make?  Based on everything you know about consonants and vowels, wouldn't you call "rrrr" a vowel?  After all, it acts just like a vowel.  Doubt me?  Compare the relative positioning your mouth assumes for R against A, E, I, O, or U.  Bearing this in mind, as well as the subtle dialectical shifting of the "schwa" (especially that of my 3-year-old, which, in this case, more closely resembles the "soft" I; and what, really, defines the "perfect" (referring again to the Oxford from above) pronunciation of any vowel, vowels being, after all, the first phonemes to change in any living language?), I have now found a word, in English, that rhymes with ORANGE, at least if we presume that in order to rhyme with orange, the final consonant, as well as the previous two vowel sounds, must echo precisely that of the next word, then ...

(drum roll) 

... the word SYRINGE rhymes with ORANGE.

THE WALL'S NEXT BOOK (we're winding up for our 6th already!)

Our last book, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (discussed here; reviewed here), by Umberto Eco, was a bit of a monster; I'm hoping we can decide on a slightly shorter, simpler text next (though not necessarily "easier," if you get my drift).  I've got some thoughts, but would love to hear your ideas first.

Please, sound off below.

[that is, leave a comment]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Poetry XXIV -- NO MORE A TEACHER & John Keats' "THIS LIVING HAND"

It hit me this past week--for some reason with particular vigor while monitoring the cafeteria at lunch, of all things or places--how terribly I am going to miss being a teacher.  Not preparing lessons and "molding young minds" and grading papers, but being a part--and integral part--of the lives of children and teenagers.  If I'm any good at teaching, it's not because of my subject or my love for it, but because I know and love and "get" kids.  They are my kids, and this living hand, no matter how I try--successful or not--to extend my own to them, is rather theirs, whether they're aware or no, to me:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might scream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—
I hold it toward you.

This is one of my very favorite Keats' poems, and so it is for its depth and how it keeps hidden down there its immense beauty and, despite the inelegance of the word, its personableness.  Maybe you'll "get" it right away.  Not me.  It took me several reads--I had to work at it--before it hit home.  Even now, I have to read it twice.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Another Creative Writing Challenge -- 1.618...

if not the GR exactly, try Fibonacci
The Golden Ratio has fascinated me for quite some time (and though I'm not proud to admit it, I would be remiss if I did not:  It was Dan  Brown, via The Da Vinci Code, who introduced it me).  About the same time I read The DVC, I was learning about the Oulipo.  My thought then and still--simple enough in concept but in practice perhaps, at worst, impossible, and at best, monstrously impractical and inartistic--is to use this ratio as an Oulipian restriction for some type/piece of creative writing.  Maybe write a poem where each stanza increases its letter count by increments of the ratio and maybe that poem could be about a conch shell (okay, that's stupid) or the dimensions of someone's beautiful face (cheesy to the extreme of bad Shakespeare imitations) or the evidence of God in nature (or lack thereof, depending on how you see things--as potentially good as bad) by its exquisite design.  I don't know.  I've tried many times and failed, miserably, on each attempt.  Maybe I just need a good idea to build from.

What do you think?

Got an idea?

Can you do it?

Care to share?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday's for Kids XX -- CASEY AT THE BAT

So I sort of flip-flopped-blended the kids stuff and poetry this week, but what the heck.  Both today's and Sunday's are fairytales of sorts and have both been interpreted--loosely--by Disney.  I'm not offering much commentary, but leave the comparison, favorable or not, to you.

Casey at the Bat
by Ernest Lawrence Thayer
The Outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that -
We'd put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville - mighty Casey has struck out.

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