Monday, 31 March 2014

Death by Bookshelf Part 2 of 3

Why do I read?

Pleasure, education...just because I can???

I'll throw that question back. Why do you read?

In which occurs an Illuminated Ramble with a Reading Lamp

It's the sort of question that will be around for as long as books (and has been). One that has started numerous debates and devolved into a lot of childish shouting. Especially when people start bringing up the type of stories one *should* read. 

I am not going to wander down those paths however because there are plenty of opinions and people out there already. Plus, returning to my title "Death by Bookshelf" well, I wanted to focus on what reading has allowed me to do in a potentially detrimental sense to my self-confidence (or rather what it has not done). To clarify. I read because I love to. It is home. It is comforting. It is safe. It is just me and the characters for however long I desire. That's certainly all well and good but what if you get to a point where all you do every day is read? What if what you are reading is not "high quality" on the scale of published, classic, cult, pop-culture or teen obsession? What then? Is reading bad for you then?

That question has been circling me for the past few months since I finished my schooling and I am living in a limbo of "what do I do next?" even as I heal my wrist so I can get back to completing my ARCT for piano and the last theory exam. Internet has been a cursed blessing. One which allowed me as an Introvert to get involved with people (if only after lurking for a while first). Two, it is a black hole of endless searching and generally of finding all sorts of things to read. I've discovered old alchemic algorithms and gone through various ancient Greek and Roman texts plus some Old English ones too. 

I've spent hours amusing myself on a never-ending trail of literary tropes on the excellent Lord of the Rings fan sites was where it really began however and that led me to fanfiction and a particular LOTR fanfic series by two authors that was so large (and well written in the eyes of angst-ridden 13-18 year olds) that it had spawned a forum of fans. It was there, after lurking for a bit that my online persona or the wacky person I am beneath my tendency to hide behind my hair, that I started feeling connected to like-minded individuals. I started seeing how I let certain people step all over me in real-life. Thi shower came after secretly being obsessed with Lord of the Rings since the final movie installment in 2003. It took five years after that point, before I asked for the extended editions for Christmas and I told my mom rather shyly that I loved Lord of the Rings. She wasn't disapproving, or snide, as I had imagined in my head, in fact she loved it; having a small by deep love for the power of those books and then the movies. 

Thus, reading fanfiction led to me finding a lot of people I still keep in touch with and becoming more sure and open about my likes and dislikes. I admit I still hate choosing things or stating opinions to a degree but now I recognize much of it was, and still is, out of a fear of rejection. Learning to embrace fear is an on-going project for me lately and this is where I say I wonder sometimes if my love of reading is only acerbating it. 

Not to mention, in recent years, perhaps because I have spent the last five being required to read heavy literature for my degrees that I leaned more on the comforts of stories in my favourite fandoms like Lord of the Rings (and the extended arenas provided by The Silmarillion and The Hobbit). Others were the hundreds of anime I have watched, BBC's Sherlock is second to LOTR, the Marvel universe and the few bits that exist of some of my favourite fantasy series like Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, or the Discworld. I lean toward quality fiction, often the novella or novel length sort and though I will admit to reading well-written fiction that goes AU (Alternate Universe) or pairs up non-canon characters, I prefer the stories to be as close to canon as possible. 

All that said, I am left with the unanswered questions of whether all this reading of published literature and lurking in fandom fanfic sites and forums is doing me any benefit? I have had people say if I enjoy it, then it is not a waste. But what if I have the niggling feeling I should be accomplishing something more "useful"? What constitutes as something "useful"? 

High school report card? I don't care now. Gandalf and Bilbo though...

This whole blog was a hard thing to start as past blogs I have played around with and eventually deleted were role-plays (RP's) of my original characters or my original universe. I always considered blabbing on blogs about my personal thoughts to be a waste and it probably is. However, I am done making excuses like that which ultimately return to the root known as Fear. I'll blab on here probably more than one should for a blog. I am also probably breaking all the rules of what constitutes the instant-success blog. Nonetheless, the one thing I have learned by all my reading is that, at skeleton, at heart, all stories are the same. They are all about individuals making mistakes and facing the consequences of those mistakes. The mistakes vary their impact, they vary in bad and good consequences, they vary in how the characters react and interact according to those mistakes but ultimately, the farm boy doesn't get the sword without leaving his village, the mystery doesn't get solved until the detective starts asking questions; nothing of note happens until the protagonist starts to move.

So with all that I will leave you with some simple but important words from my favourite anime/manga of all time:

Lover of Long Walks,

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Death by Bookshelf Part 1 of 3

What do you do when down? Whether down is a sprained ankle or concussion, feeling bored or medically depressed. How do you stride through that stint of molasses, a food item which is only pleasant when paired with the words "gingerbread" or "mincemeat pies."

I read.

Nose in a Book

Yes. I read. I know, I know, I even left space for the proverbial, literary crickets to chirp. I always read. What's so special? My profile labels me as a Bookworm after all. Then again, if it is something I always do it obviously gives me comfort so why not do it when I am down, in whatever form that happens to take for me? (Sorry, nosey people physically in my life like to fill space with pestering me with questions centering around the theme of "don't you read too much?").

No. You can never, ever read too much. The world sits between your fingers. Worlds you never dreamed of sit there too. This post today jumps near the theme of moderation, and just what reading too much could be defined as, or at least as close to that as I can get since reading too much equates to the amount of vegetables one must consume before being told they ate too many. (Which is to say, I don't actually know the limit and have not taken the time to scour medical journals for the numerals). 

(EDIT: As this post is getting rather long for sensible attention spans on silly rambles so the actual death by bookshelf will be approached eventually, like terrified cat dangling off a cliff). (Which is to say, I might not even approach it because dangling cats of cliffs is for cruel people who don't belong here). (Which is to also say, I ramble. I try to be tidy but then I ramble. Expect this ship of posts to hit the Rocks of Rambling Off the Theme. My professors lamented this tendency but could to little to improve it).

Before I get to that climactic point however I have a few things to ramble about in order to provide some context (EDIT: See, I have mentioned the infamous "R" word already *cue Jaws music*):

What type of books do I read?

How do I read?

When/where do I read? 

Why do I read?

As you may or may not have conjectured from my brief sidebar bio, I am the sort of person who walks into a bookstore and immediately gravitates toward the section labeled "Fantasy&Sci-Fi." 95% of the time I read a book it will fall under one of those two genres; the other 5% goes to a period when I did read historical fiction, read what high school requires and spent 4 years as an English and Classics major which covered ancient literature (poetry, plays and novels) and literature through the range of 500 to 100 years old. Plus I have a smatter of mainstream bits like "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" or "The Da Vinci Code." I've probably missed something but there are too many subgenres to follow (because we humans love labels...but that's for another day's rant). Oh, thinking of subgenres reminds me I may as well mention here that yes I take as much pleasure reading Japanese manga and light novels, as I do quality fanfiction against things like Dickens' "Bleak House" or Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere." 

Who ever said "don't judge a book..." etc never saw this beauty.

Asking "how" is always the weird question, the tricky one that gets you blank looks from teenagers who hate English class because they were cornered into believing there is only one right answer and therefore everything to do with the class is boring because who wants to think more than necessary anyway? Cheers for the self-fulfilling circle of boring English class. (Which I will admit to feeling numerous times despite being someone who would choose a book over a friend...usually). So how I read books needs to get broken into a series of steps under the columns of: Do I want to read this book? Did someone tell me to read this book? 

If I want to read a book then I have all the time in the world to get through it, be there library overdue fees or me sticking the book on hold after returning it so I can get it for another period of 3 weeks times 3 (renewals). These books I approach with the aplomb of a hot summer's day and anticipation of cooling off as fast as possible in the pool/lake. That is to say, as soon as I get my hands on it I go into my room or sit in my favourite chair, ignore this reality and enter the one in the book. Sometimes however even books I choose, that are by favourite authors, or my type of tale, just don't grab me so I might read a few chapters, come up for air, and return at a more leisurely pace, which in the case of a few, particularly lately, means I have done a lot of library renewing and requesting of holds.

On the other side of the spectrum, there sits on the white picket fence the someone who told me to read the book. Now welcome the earwig called pressure regardless of that someone (or something) being a a friend, a teacher, a professor, a class, a course, a bookclub or for personal growth that someone thinks I need...(Aren't those people pesky? I could spend a whole post talking about how to cope with those individuals, especially as an Introvert, which doesn't mean I don't have my own strong opinions, thank you very much, I just don't go bellowing them from rooftops all day long). 

Pressure does not make for enjoyable book reading, unless you find a rope to grab on to that comes in the form of realizing the book is totally your type, or the book does have some valid things to say and you are all about being open-minded, or you can respect it for the technical genius and motivation required to write it. These books are usually the ones that get me library fines, or me doing a lot of renewing because there are other reasons for me having to get through them aside from me wanting to. Occasionally though, a book grabs me as if I had chosen it and those days are brilliant surprises. For example, Horace Walpole's silly "The Castle of Otranto" or Elizabeth Gaskell's "Society at Cranford" both of which were among my university reading list.

Before discovering Library Book Sales.

When and where I read is quite as simple as comfort and focus. Sometimes a bus does fine and other times the kitchen window seat when I am home with my very large family is even better. Mostly however, a bed or my favourite corner chair, also at home, are the best for diving into other worlds and character's heads. As I am sure you spotted my EDIT earlier on I will leave this first part on books to you with the following questions: What type of books do you read? Is it very specific or are you everywhere at once? Do you go through stages where you prefer one type of book for a long time, and then you don't go near it for years after? How do you read? That is a massive question I know. I only dinted the drywall with my explanations of how I read. After all there are the semantics, the whisper of alliterations, the out-loud laughter on early morning bus rides or carrying the book around like some little kids do blankets.
Vegetables might be Books for the Body but Book are Chocolate Covered Vegetables for the Heart, Mind and Spirit.

After 3 Years of Attending Library Book Sales.
May your Nose Alway Occupy A Book.

(P.S. No, I do not treat my books like that on a daily basis. Blasphemy! That was a "Clean the Dust off Shelves" Day and I was amused to realize I now have enough books I can practically bury my bed in them. Not my cat though, she makes her own space).

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Classical Recapitulations


If any music buffs are reading this. Ignore the following bit because you know (or should know) the meaning of recapitulation. Then again, if you are reading this period you probably know the meaning regardless of your ability to string a series of notes together in a pattern humans call music.
Last post I alluded to being mostly different to the me who I was three years ago. The "mostly" comes into play in more of a literal sense in some cases than some of you may have twigged upon. See, three years ago I was fantastically hard-headed. Still am. Siamese cat temperament of stubbornness.  

Stubbornness is fantastic, especially if you have a lot of people giving you the sort of look that one little sister gives broccoli. The look that among adults translates to wondering if the person being poked delicately with a stick should go somewhere safe, preferably with Peter Rabbit cotton padding. How stubborn would you say you are? Does it help you in any way or is it generally a huge hurdle of hindrance?

On the other hand, (in my experience), stubbornness is about as useful as learning to fly by swimming in water. That is to say, you end up swimming in a potato stew masquerading as the one labelled by the cook book as vegetable stew. Disgusting, lumpy and full of more stuff to climb than liquid to float through. 

My stubbornness (at least in terms of three years ago) equated to trying to complete my Accredited Royal Conservatory Teacher's (ARCT) certification while working through a full five course load of second year university courses in the departments of English and Greek and Roman Studies. That equates to doing about three degrees in one go. Okay, I am sure some of you are laughing because that is nothing to your biochemistry and astrophysics, or three jobs and full time school.

Regardless, my piano teacher did not approve of the examination period I pushed for. Also, I was living on campus, in a unit with three other girls, two of which were so Extroverted, if the scale of Introvert to Extrovert got wrenched into a circle we would hit each other on the forehead. Plus, I had just run myself through a summer trying to prove to the entire Lifeguarding Squadron of Tiny Hometown that I was, in fact, quite adequate, (fantastic in fact), as a lifeguard, despite the fact I did not strut like the fat Persian-Siamese cross from down the street or crack the air with authority like quail at six in the morning. I continued that milieu of physical and mental bashing trying to be someone I was not simply because I had to prove the following: 

1: I could flipping well do my ARCT eight months ahead of when my piano teacher said they thought I should. I practiced 4-5 hours per day. (Generally this was done all in one go, though occasionally I did two sessions of 3 hours in a day).

2: I had school, mid-terms, papers, piano, writing and a need for me-time so I was not going to listen to another boy problem, problem of a problem or go to some party thank you very much.
Go away I am working.

3:  *insert negative body image opinions here* Run at 6am. Forget to eat most of the time. Swim in the evening.

Any of that sound familiar? Maybe you've done worse, maybe you were not quite as bad, and yes I am not going to blab every gory detail because reflecting on bad things is about as pointless as reading them. (Unless that bad thing sparks a positive action. Well, in moderation, that is). 

Moderation. I still don't comprehend that term apparently because those three bullet points led to a series of physical injuries and mental dark spaces that were about as pretty as the sludge that comes out of over-enthusiastic children dumping every colour of the rainbow into one glutinous circle of paint.
I finished school last December. With two degrees in five years down one's jean pocket you would think I would be off and merry. Nope. Currently I am having a recapitulation of that paint sludge year. 

If you wondered, (I wouldn't but maybe you're different, most are), why on earth I would bother inflicting my thoughts, and occasional opinions upon a world so inundated with blogs and blather? Well, I will admit it was heavily suggested a Good Thing for me to do plus past blogs I've done where generally character role-plays. Thu here I am, attempting to reflect on the series of detours my life has made so far and how they are making avalanches that aim to bury or burst out something in the grand 42 ticks on a chalk board that make up the meaning of life. (I'll get around to chatting about Douglas Adam's brilliance at some point for those who did or did not catch that loopy reference). I am also hoping someone out there might actually have some interesting comments to toss in the mix regarding their life lesson experiences. 

I'll end with this, recapitulations might repeat theme 1, the bridge, theme 2, the codetta, and probably add a coda but sometimes, there happens to be a composer who fiddles with the dials just enough that a theme 2a pops up, or maybe the bridge goes on for so long you never even realized how short theme 1 was in the first place and now you find the song blathering about in a soup of keys. 

Mostly though, recapitulations are about breathing through a fear of mistakes, patience to focus through a thirty minute long Sonata and ten fingers of grace to remind you the purpose behind the brutal sixteenth runs were not to punish you or push you to shatter your metronome but to gracefully recognize you are who you are and every detour you have builds the snowy avalanche a little higher so next time maybe you will end on a Beethoven fortissimo rather than a clatter of a-tonal 20th century triplets in a 18th century piece. (Also known as a mistake...unless you have a TARDIS, time machine, and accidently invented atonality a few centuries early).

How do you regulate your personal drive? Your motivation? Your stubbornness? 

Having a moment of wandering.

Friday, 28 March 2014

An Avalanche of Detour Signs

Into the West we will all go.

"You are not seperate from the whole. You are one with the sun, the earth, the air. You don't have a life. You are life." Eckhart Tolle

I like to think I embody the pastel colours of the above photograph, taken on an equally pastel temperature sort of day, mid-February, three years past when some things where similar to now and other things were mostly different.

Taking the above quote into account (and herein excuse my intentional misuse of it), I assume I am mostly different, but not entirely, from three years ago because I am part of the whole. The whole of yesterday, yester-year, tomorrow and two years from now. In reality the quote means you and I are, in alchemic terms: One and All. All and One.

Frankly that gives as much comfort as the night I deluded myself into hoping the frog (brought into my bedroom by one of my cats) that hopped into and knocked over the beside lamp before disappearing under the bed wasn't going to do any more hoping until I woke up in the morning more prepared to return it to a habitat with more water than the glass on my desk.

I have to wonder, as I sit down from the high of yesterday's celebratory day of birth (and leftover homemade Greek food), if I am life, are the ups and downs of my life so far meant to mirror the dramatics of volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and tripping over the sunbathing cat sprawl of pine tree roots? Probably not. One, tripping, on the scale of a potato beetle to the Eiffel Tower, is about as important as the stink bug. Two, why does tripping matter when a billion people are suffering the aftermaths of an earthquake? How do you reply to that?

One, everybody trips. Even your cat, or your neighbours cat (if you don't have one), or your neighbour's neighbour's cat. Two, if everybody trips, then everybody is life and life is tripping. Therefore every time someone trips a domino falls and knocks the next one over.

(This is the point in time when we reach me explaining the title of this post and purpose of this blog because why else would you bother coming here? Okay, maybe you get perverse amusement laughing at my naivitie, rambling, hideous grammar, or something, because like tripping, there is complaining, always). This tripping will manifest itself as a life resembling an avalanche. An avalanche of detour signs. This blog is both a reflection on the detours I have made in my domino track of tripping and what sort of impact I have made because I may be a potato bug on the scale of important humans but I am a perfect little bug, rolly polly tripping along as I navigate my next set of detours toward, maybe, just maybe forming one of those brilliant domino picture constructions you can go look up on YouTube now. 

Okay, not now. Almost. See, I just have one more thing to say before I let you run off into the purple. I am a nearly mid-twenty-something Introvert, Geek, Bookworm, Pianist and numerous other labels. Mostly though I am, as much as I would prefer not to admit it (so cherish this moment), human. A human who is simply trying to trip her way brilliantly through a series of avalanches that make up her Coquihalla Highway of Life.

Now, run off, gorge yourself on brilliant domino displays and think about how your detours have made an avalanche somewhere, somewhen, somehow.

Always adventuring,
What is your impact?