Posted by: Mark | August 22, 2017

One Hundred Years of Solitude

I had many choices for my next resolution but I decided on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

I have a couple of reasons but most importantly it is longer and more of a challenge than most of the others.

Posted by: Mark | August 21, 2017

Arthur Gordon Pym: WTF Poe?

I don’t think I’ve used “wtf” ever before but The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym forces me into unknown areas.

The first thing I should mention is that it’s uncharacteristically racist for Poe. More than any of his short stories, this novel doesn’t let you forget that Poe was writing in the 1830s in a slave state.

On the bright side, the worst depiction was of black people in Antarctica (which is so warm that they walk around naked and live in the abundant trees and shrubbery). The South Pole people are black all the way to their teeth and are terrified of anything white (hair, paper, sails, or anything). Fortunately, Poe’s South Pole is so temperate or snow would drive them batty.

The Narrative starts out as a sailing adventure with Pym stowing away in his friend’s father’s ship. He hides in a large coffin-like box and the story begins to change.

First he is abandoned without food or water in the hold. Next he is embraced by a giant animal. The story is turning into horror.

The animal turns out to be his Newfoundland dog named Tiger, and he learns he is stuck below because of a mutiny. The worst of the mutineers is the cook and we know he’s bad because he’s “Negro.” The mutineers killed Pym’s friend’s father but before anyone cares about that, the boat is swamped.

Pym, his friend, and two mutineers are lost at sea without food (Tiger disappears and is never mentioned again). Pym’s pal is the polar opposite of Inigo Montoya because he gets along fine with the mutineers.

A death ship passes them, full of corpses. A sea gull, less chatty than Poe’s Raven but just as malevolent, eats ita way into a dead man’s chest, and as it flies away, dribbles a piece of liver near Pym. He considers eating it but throws it in the sea.

The other three aren’t so anti-cannibal and force Pym to draw lots with them to see who will be the others’ dinner. One of the mutineers is eaten and almost immediately afterwards, the survivors discover a way to get to the ship’s storerooms. They didn’t have to eat him after all.

Usually this would be a huge plot point but it’s never mentioned again.

The survivors are saved by a British ship heading towards the South Pole. The blacker than black people slaughter everyone in boat except for Pym and one of the mutineers. They escape, heading towards the South Pole where they meet a giant snow white man.

Then Pym dies. The editors tell the readers that the final two chapters are lost forever, the only worse ending than it was all only a dream.

With this novel, I’ve read all of Poe’s fiction. I’m glad I did but I have to agree with Poe that the novel is pretty silly.

Posted by: Mark | August 20, 2017

Lovecraft Letter/Seven Wonders

Two new games at Game Day today:

Seven Wonders – I’ve seen this game for a while but finally played it today. It’s a pseudo-civilization building game, not as time-consuming as the world conquest of Risk or complicated as Civilization.

Players pick from the city-states that constructed the seven wonders of the ancient world (several of which may have never existed). The game moves through three ages, using natural resources, militaries, science, and  economic development.

It’s too complicated to really get all the scoring mechanics immediately but I was able to come in second in my first try.

I’m not much of a fan of this genre but it’s a well made game.

Lovecraft Letter – this is a simpler and quicker game than Seven Wonders but for me, it was more fun. It’s based on the older game Love Letter, which is about as easy to learn as Uno. The update adds an insanity level, doubling the number or cards, but still keeping it straightforward. I almost won on my first try but screwed up my strategy.

Definitely worth its price.

Posted by: Mark | August 19, 2017

Betta Report

Tonight I cleaned 60 Betta tubs. Demographics have changed since last week, with the single biggest group being eight female veiltails, then seven male veiltails, and six male crowntails. It would have been a second place tie but a male crowntail died, the first death in three weeks.

While I was cleaning, two customers bought a male King Betta, dropping the population to 59.

Posted by: Mark | August 19, 2017

Resolution Update 35

I’m driving about 90 minutes every school day. I still come out ahead.

1. Run 730 miles – 30.9 miles on the elliptical machine and nothing on the treadmill, 400.5 miles overall.

2. 5,000 push ups and 8,000 leg lifts –1,678 push ups and 1,802 leg lifts.

3. Lose weight – didn’t weigh in.

4. Support 24 local artists – still two.

5. 42 manuscript submissions – 23 submissions.

6. Write 40,000 words and five new stories – 32,065 words and six completed stories.

7. Read all the New Testament – Complete.

8. Read The Nature of Things — Complete.

9. Finish Finnegan’s Wake – Complete.

10. 300 blog posts – this is 153. Finally made it halfway.

11. Read The Song of Roland — Complete.

12. Read The Poem of El Cid – Complete.

13. Read Paradise – Complete.

14. Read The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym – Chapter 10 of 25.

Posted by: Mark | August 18, 2017

Arthur Gordon Pym: Chapter 2

So what synonym for the word “say” did Poe use in Chapter 2?

Apparently 19th Century men were prone to ejaculation.

Posted by: Mark | August 18, 2017

Arthur Gordon Pym

Poe wrote one novel which even he didn’t think much of.

I have read all of his short stories but stopped short of this one. (I have no idea of what percentage of his poems and essays that I’ve read.)

The first chapter of the novel centers around sailing with a large boat crushing a sailboat.

Back when I read Well’s War of the Worlds, I remember how he used the verb “ejaculate” as a synonym for “say,” leading to the immortal line “I ejaculated on the stairs.”

Along those lines, Pym, the narrator, sleeps in the same bed as his sailing friend. Plenty of going to bed with Augustus. I know the meaning has changed but it still stands out.

Posted by: Mark | August 18, 2017

Tales from Grad School: Aftermath

Starting off with how I did on the reading lists:

1. Dante, Inferno. I recently finished Paradise, the last third of The Divine Comedy, but I had long read Inferno before the Masters Exam. I tried to read Inferno when I was in high school but couldn’t get far into it. Maybe I had a better translation in college or maybe I just wasn’t as dumb.

2. Chaucer, Geoffrey, “The General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales. I was able to finish “The General Prologue” in high school. I was good with it on the exam.

3. Shakespeare, King Lear. This is one of Shakespeare’s plays that I don’t feel compelled to reread. I was as ready as I’d ever be for the exam.

4. Swift, Books 1, 2, and 4 of Gulliver’s Travels and “A Modest Proposal.” I read all of Gulliver, even Book 3. I missed many of the finer points of “Modest Proposal” at the time but wised up a little after using it in class.

5.  Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” In high school and college, I read all of Poe’s fiction. . . except Arthur Gordon Pym. I couldn’t find it at the time (I didn’t look very hard). I just started it today.

6.  Shelley, Frankenstein. Read it. The story is iconic but never really cared for the actual text.

7.  Conrad, Joseph “The Heart of Darkness.” I did a half-ass reading in college and a better one later.

8.  Joyce, Ulysses. A sympathetic professor took pity on us and hosted a weekly meeting about the book. Maybe Ulysses is easier than Finnegans Wake or maybe those meetings made all the difference.

9.  Melville, Moby Dick. I read an abridged version in high school and decided with time constraints, it would have to do. I ought to read the whole thing eventually.

10.  Faulkner, As I Lay Dying. The list of 90 had Sound and the Fury. I started that but found out that the list of 60 switched Faulkners. This one was much easier.

11.  Morrison, Song of Solomon. This was another switch but I never had time to read this one. Again, someday I need to get to this.

12.  O’Connor,The Complete Stories. I thought I read all her short stories but years later, realized I had missed one. I read it but I don’t know how I skipped it to begin with.

Posted by: Mark | August 17, 2017

400.5 Miles

I reached 100 miles on June 11.

200 on July 8.

300 August 1.

400.5 today.

At this rate reaching 720 for the year isn’t as far-fetched as I thought a few months ago.

My knee might go out tomorrow so there’s always suspense.

Posted by: Mark | August 16, 2017

Tales from Grad School II: Iambic Bugaloo

In my last post, I had learned that the reading list that I had been using for my upcoming Masters Exam was wrong. With nine weeks to go, it turned out I was worse off than I’d dreamed.

This was before you could read books on-line or order them. Just finding the new books was a chore. I scrambled around in a panic but only found about half of them. Even without all the material, I calculated that I would have to read over 225 pages a day to get through it all, while going to school and working.

For a long while, I was trying to get through the 2,000+ page Don Quixote. I don’t know if it was the translation or my state of mind but I wasted too much time on it with only marginal progress. I gave up just as the quarter ended. I had Spring Break to get through dozens of books while substitute teaching.

It was clear I wasn’t going to make it. If I failed the exam, I would have to wait an entire year to retake it. I couldn’t afford to stay in school so I would have to retake the next year’s exam while working full-time. It seemed my best choice would be to drop out.

As luck would have it, the professors’ union decided to strike that year, immediately after Spring Break. Some departments ignored the strike but in English, classes were empty. The exam was postponed until the strike was over.

The extra time gave me hope. I studied notes instead of reading and decided to make flashcards of all the books: year of author’s birth, date of publication, year of author’s death, and any notable facts.

I didn’t think that would matter much but, looking back, using dates in all my answers must have made it look like I was applying historical criticism to the works, earning me unwarranted brownie points.

The strike only lasted a week but it gave me enough time to give me a chance. One of the three days of testing, I felt worried. The other two went better than I expected.

After one day, I heard a blowhard telling a female student that she was going to fail because she identified “Proteus” as a shape changer, and, not as he insisted, the god of the winds.

Anyone who has read X-Men can tell you he was wrong. I felt relieved, knowing I would do better than him.

It turned out I did better than many students. Nearly every creative writing student had been given the wrong list, one didn’t get the list of 60 until a week before the exam. A record number of students failed that year. I don’t know if that caused the department to revise procedures.

Despite everything, I passed and was gone in a few months. I haven’t thought about it much but recently found my folder of notes and it all came flooding back.

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