"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Humility: A Poem of the Cosmos

For another cosmic poem, read Pilgrimage Vignette


This piece was built using Adobe Photoshop CS5. Obviously, it includes the same image as I use for my blog's banner (a shot of me taken by my friend Stef). The background image is of the "Black Eye Galaxy" M64. Image credit goes to NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI), with acknowledgments to S. Smartt (Institute of Astronomy) and D. Richstone (U. Michigan).

Yet, I would be remiss if I didn't also credit the makers of Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back. They first got me to fall in love with the sight of humbled humans staring off into a nearby galaxy. Lastly, the poem is my creation--inspired largely by reading Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson's excellent book Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Childe's Novel Insecurities

Believe it or not, the quotes I'm about to share are for fun, though they reveal my artistic insecurity. I'm not trying to engineer a pity party. What follows is business as usual whenever I write creatively. I've taken these excerpts from the journal I'm keeping for National Novel Writing Month. Beneath them is a quick cellphone shot I took yesterday while treating myself to an afternoon walk in Waterloo Recreation Area.

From October 11, 2011:

One of my major insecurities to this point, albeit early point in the process, is that I worry I can’t turn this premise into a compelling story with action and suspense—that I can’t get it to rise above the sort of preachy blogging voice I and others often fall into in our writing. I want to write a story. I want it to be compelling. And I am aware that if the story is overly preachy and one-sided, it risks being distasteful via didactic overtones. I don’t want that. The tougher road, the worthy outcome, is to build a story that lets readers draw most of their own conclusions. It also needs to be multi-faceted and offer a compelling development of events. It can’t just be one guy sitting around waffling to himself...
From October 16, 2011:

Last night as I was at Zouzou’s CafĂ© listening to a friend’s duo perform, I had a strong bout of insecurity in relation to the direction of this novel. I start having thoughts about switching... . Oddly, when I think of switching to that, it’s almost like I feel that story, even more overtly autobiographical in theme and plot, would be safer. The quality of safeness is certainly no reason to embark on a major writing project. It ought not to be for the writer. So, I’m sticking with this one, admitting it’s not good enough in present form, has a certain amount of rehash from past stories I’ve written, and will need serious work and even research to get better. But having admitted that, I’m encouraging myself to see that as an attainable goal.

Mill Lake in Washtenaw County, Michigan

This photo makes me think of a fun line from the movie Wonder Boys. A best-selling author speaks of "the water's edge of inspiration" and the "far shore of accomplishment." It's a worthy enough metaphor. But it draws pretentious laughter from one of the film's main characters (who presumably regards it as pathetically quaint...not unlike this cell phone shot!)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Regarding Henry: I Plead the Fifth

But First

Important Announcement

Childe Jake has signed on to participate in National Novel Writing Month 2011
Please get ready to root him on!

Now for a Light-hearted Review

Henry VHenry V by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Kenneth Branagh, this Henry history play was the cool Shakespeare movie when I was in high school. Eat your heart out Franco Zeffirelli. Mr. Branagh acted and directed his butt off. There were lots of arrows flying between England and France. The French were portrayed as snobs, a testament to the Bard’s high research standards. The original score was majestic. Did I mention the cool arrows?

Honestly, I’m still not sure why England and France were fighting—something about tennis balls being very tacky gifts. So I make it a rule never to invite a British person to play tennis if he is holding a longbow. Oh, yeah, and having now also seen a good stage production, I find myself not the least bit bothered that a whole section of the play is done in French. It involves Henry’s bride-to-be chatting it up with a girlfriend, I think. At any rate, the deep symbolism for me in that scene is that whenever I find myself surrounded by chatting women, I can’t follow what they’re saying. But if I pay attention to their mood, things generally turn out okay.

Anyhoooo, having read it and seen it on stage and screen, Henry V remains for me a cool, exciting Shakespeare play. I had to dock a star because I made the mistake of attending college and becoming a critical thinker. So now the war sections don’t have the same pizzazz that they did in high school. And I’ve also realized that the love story has no pizzazz. “Hi, lovely French lady. I’m Henry. I killed more of your relatives than your country killed of my relatives. I love your eyes. Let’s consummate.” Yup, pretty sure that’s the final act in a nutshell.

Bottom line: Whatever literary gripes may exist about this play, the St. Crispin’s Day speech is rightfully one of the greatest moments in all of dramatic literature. Don’t miss this Shakespearean history play.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Rocket in Congress' Pocket

But First

It occurs to me that I haven't forced a Kate Beckinsale reference into my blog recently. My sincere apologies.

A Long Time Ago, in a Committee Far, Far Away...

Shortly after getting elected, President Obama came up with a plan for space exploration that sounded decidedly Republican: a free-market competition to drive down costs and spur innovation. But then the U.S. Congress, including some Republican members, fired back with ideas that looked decidedly Democratic: a big-government Apollo Program redux...or should I say reflux?

Here is the result, potentially the most powerful rocket ever to grace a government blueprint. It is called Space Launch System. (The Childe chuckles to himself, wondering if we've finally run out of sexy names from antiquity.) SLS hasn't been built yet, and won't for several years, hence the artist rendering:

Image Credit: NASA
For readers who are not well-versed in NASA politics, the appropriate response to the above image is this:

Oh my! The Saturn V rocket knocked up the Space Shuttle and they've had a love child!
Here is the more astute response:

So this is what happens when Congress (comprised of folks who aren't rocket scientists) tells NASA (comprised of folks who are rocket scientists) exactly what kind of rocket it is allowed to build (a behemoth machine favoring existing contracts, materials and the constituents of currently elected officials).
Sincerely, I think the above image is a tribute to NASA brilliance. Despite having to cope with a government that underfunds--in part because it was elected by a citizenry that is increasingly undereducated--NASA still achieves compelling and cool results. So I remain a fan...of NASA.

The Private Sector Gears Up

Now here is a great video detailing a private sector design: the Falcon Heavy from SpaceX. It is also being billed as the "most powerful." What I care about for now is that, more and more, the world doesn't have to rely on the U.S. Congress to fund worthy endeavors. The bottom line is that if either of these rockets makes it into orbit, we all win.

My refrain for the coming year will be, "Some taxes are worth paying."