Friday, December 5

New Perspective Courtesy of Amazon

So there I was, browsing Amazon Prime for a new show to watch when I saw this:
And suddenly I had to reevaluate everything.


I didn't know other people considered Torchwood a comedy. I had to go back and look at the shows to make sure I was ready the right caption. Naruto falls under Friendship? Yes. Archer falls under Offbeat? Yes. Mike the Knight falls under Fantasy? Of course. Dora the Explorer is a Mystery/Thriller? Fine, I can see how that fits. Chappelle's Show falls under Politics? Uh, yeah. But Torchwood is a Comedy? What show has Amazon been watching?

All of these labels were, of course, not Amazon's categorization.  Naruto is clearly Action/Adventure, Archer is Tough Guy (why is that a category?), etcetera, except it WAS NOT CLEAR after all that scrolling.

But I need to thank Amazon for giving me a new perspective on different shows - I can now cite seven reasons Torchwood could be considered a comedy.  That's another post, however.   

Sunday, March 9

The Beautiful Blue Danube

This poem comes from Poems of Passion by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

"The Beautiful Blue Danube"

They drift down the hall together;
He smiles in her lifted eyes.
Like waves of that mighty river,
The strains of the "Danube" rise.
They float on its rhythmic measure,
Like leaves on a summer-stream;
And here, in this scene of pleasure,
I bury my sweet, dead dream.

Through the cloud of her dusky tresses,
Like a star, shines out her face;
And the form his strong arm presses
Is slyph-like in his grace.
As a leaf on the bounding river
Is lost in the seething sea,
I know that forever and ever
My dream is lost to me,

And still the viols are playing
That grand old wordless rhyme;
And still those two are swaying
In perfect tune and time.
If the great bassoons that mutter,
If the clarinets that blow,
Were given a voice to utter
The secret things they know,

Would the lists of the slain who slumber
On the Danube's battle-plains
The unknown hosts outnumber
Who die 'neath the "Danube's" strains?
Those fall where cannons rattle,
'Mid the rain of shot and shell;
But these, in a fiercer battle,
Find death in the music's swell.

With the river's roar of passion
Is blended the dying groan;
But here, in the halls of fashion,
Hearts break, and make no moan.
And the music, swelling and sweeping,
Like the river, knows it all;
But none are counting or keeping
The lists of these who fall.

Everyone - or nearly everyone - has suffered a broken heart, so can identify with the emotions behind the words of this poem.  While not my favorite emotions, this poem is my favorite of all the poems in the book, for the clarity of communicating those emotions.  Love can feel like life and death.  This poem juxtaposes its supposed softness with the harshness of war.  At least, it says...  At least the misfortune of falling in a physical battle is acknowledged.  The pain of love's death wants to be acknowledged as well.

On a less romantic note, the love most often thought of in poems like these is eros.  Far sadder is the forsaking of agape, selfless love, love that sacrifices itself for the beloved or beloveds.  Death in battle, motivated by agape, is far more noble than any momentary pain caused by unrequited eros.

Tuesday, February 25

Déjeuner du matin

by Jacques Prévert

Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse Il a mis le lait Dans la tasse de café
Dans le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
Sans me parler
Il a allumé
Une cigarette
Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
Sans me parler
Sans me regarder
Il s'est levé
Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
Il a mis
Son manteau de pluie
Parce qu'il pleuvait
Et il est parti
Sous la pluie
Sans une parole
Sans me regarder
Et moi j'ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
Et j'ai pleuré..

Il a mis le sucre

He put the coffee
in the cup
He put the milk
in the cup of coffee
He put the sugar
In the cup of milk coffee
And he sat down the cup
without talking to me
He lit
a cigarette
He made rings
with smoke
He put the ashes
in the ashtray
without talking to me
without looking at me
he stood up
He put
his hat on his head
He put
his raincoat on
Because it was raining
And he left
in the rain
without a word
without looking at me
And I took
my head in my hands
And I cried...

(my translation)

Besides being one of the few French poems I can read, I like the repetition of this poem.  I like the emotions evoked by the way the words are partitioned.  I like that it starts with coffee, that I can picture it because I have been there, at a café in France.  I am glad I was not there in the rain.  I am glad I was not left without words, crying.

Friday, December 6

C.J. Cherryh's Protector - SPOILER ALERT

I just finished re-reading C.J. Cherryh's entire Foreigner series.  It is the only series that has more than five books and follows the same characters that I have ever finished (I tried with the Wheel of Time series, really I did!).  The latest (as of 6 DEC 2013) and fourteenth novel, Protector, was released in April 2013.  I read it for the first time in May and just finished the second reading last night.

Cherryh's ability to build characterization and produce interesting and convoluted plots is a continual joy.  SPOILER ALERT.  My favorite part of this book came at the very end, after the action of the climax when we learn more about Bren's faithful and enigmatic bodyguard, Banichi.  We learn a little bit, a very little bit, of Banichi's backstory.  Part of the interest comes from the emotion Bren feels toward Banichi, the forbidden emotion of friendship, of liking, that drives Bren to ask questions of his most enigmatic bodyguard, Algini.  Another part of the interest comes from Bren's confession of ignorance.  Bren is remarkably astute throughout the series which makes his self-doubt and grasping after the rare emotion he allows himself all the more satisfying when manifested.  The final, and most satisfying, part of the scene, is Bren's response to Algini at the end - "Take care of Banichi, nadiin-ji.  Keep him safe." - commending Banichi's wellbeing to his fellow Atevi as the best thing for Banichi and trusting those people to both keep Banichi safe and tell Bren if there is ought he can do to achieve that very same goal.

My favorite line in the book came on page 329: "Geigi, he suspected, had sat back at his desk, scarily satisfied."

Knowing Geigi, an Ateva equally understated and powerful, with all the backstory that came before, and all the estimable strategy and knowledge brought to bear in that person, and knowing that given a problem with infinite solutions and the odds thought to be stacked against his side that Geigi made the best possible choice - Cherryh timed the emotional and intellectual impact of that revelation perfectly.  

Monday, December 2

The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns

I was thankful that Thanksgiving fell on a weekend that was also the first Sunday of the month since that is when my home church has Communion (odd numbered Sundays).  I also love to sing the 'extra' hymns that come with the Holy Supper.  Well, not so much the singing since I can't always hit the right notes, but I like the extra dose of Lutheran doctrine that comes with the hymn text.  So you can imagine my joy when one of my favorite Advent hymns was the third 'extra' hymn!  I was at the rail during the second hymn and was delighted when the opening bars of The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns started and continued and continued and... changed.  Then I was not so delighted as I realized we were not going to sing the hymn because there were not enough people left in the Communion line to warrant it, I suppose.

Sadness!  Grief!  Despair!

Okay, maybe not despair.  But I did go home and I looked it up in my Lutheran Service Book and I pulled it up on YouTube and I sang it myself.


As with Advent itself, the joy and scope of this song are wonderful.  The first verse tells of Christ's second Advent and the joy that will awaken for those who are His.  Verse two tells us how the second Advent will be different from the first.  The third verse says that our joy will be greater even than it is because Christ, an acceptable sacrifice, was raised, victorious.  This is echoed in verse four.  Finally, the people of God pray eagerly for that day when our present suffering will be at an end and we will be united with Christ in joy for eternity.

The King shall come when morning dawns
And light triumphant breaks,
When beauty gilds the eastern hills
And life to joy awakes.

Not as of old a little child,
To bear and fight and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun
That lights the morning sky.

Oh, brighter than the rising morn
When Christ, victorious, rose
And left the lonesome place of death
Despite the rage of foes.

Oh, brighter than that glorious morn
Shall dawn upon our race
The day when Christ in splendor comes
And we shall see His face.

The King shall come when morning dawns
And light and beauty brings.
Hail, Christ the Lord!  Your people pray:
Come quickly, King of kings!

Wednesday, November 27

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

It's hard to pick my favorite season of the church year.  It would likely be a cop-out to say that whatever season we are in is my favorite, but there is something wonderful about each of them.  However, my favorite just might be Advent.

Advent means 'coming'.  During Advent we anticipate the coming of our Savior - past, present, and future - and wait with joy and longing.  Yes, Christmas is nice.  In fact, it's wonderful.  At Christmas Christ became incarnate.  God's love for us is so great that he put Himself into a world corrupted by sin.  How strange and marvelous!  But as with a long-awaited vacation, the planning and anticipation are at least half of the excitement.  Advent lets us look forward with delight and gladness to the fulfillment of God's promise to us, namely a Savior, who will free us from Satan's power, make us right before God, and eventually, finally, take us to be with him forever.

The world waits only for things.  They wait for that which rust and moth may destroy.  The children of God, meanwhile, wait for the riches of the heavenly King.  The gift of God is eternal life, through the Christ for whom we now wait.

And so, with deep yearning and wonder, and confident that we possess now, and shall possess on that final day, that which was promised - a ransom who died our death, for our sins - we rejoice in anticipation.  Our certainty is in Christ, our most precious gift, even as we wait for his second Advent.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God Appear
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ord'rest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Branch of Jesse's tree,
Free them from Satan's tyranny
That trust Thy mighty pow'r to save,
And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Monday, October 28

Sun and Shadow

By: Oliver Wendell Holmes

As I look from the isle, o'er its billows of green,
To the billows of foam-crested blue,
Yon bark, that afar in the distance is seen,
Half dreaming, my eyes will pursue:
Now dark in the shadow, she scatters the spray
As the chaff in the stroke of the flail;
Now white as the sea-gull, she flies on her way,
The sun gleaming bright on her sail.

Yet her pilot is thinking of dangers to shun --
Of breakers that whiten and roar;
How little he cares, if in shadow or sun
They see him who gaze from the shore!
He looks to the beacon that looms from the reef,
To the rock that is under his lee,
As he drifts on the blast, like a wind-wafted leaf,
O'er the gulfs of the desolate sea.

Thus drifting afar to the dim-vaulted caves
Where life and its ventures are laid,
The dreamers who gaze while we battle the waves
May see us in sunshine or shade;
Yet true to our course, though the shadows grow dark,
We'll trim our broad sail as before,
And stand by the rudder that governs the bark,
Nor ask how we look from the shore!

Some things are important and it's vital to pay attention to them.  Some things are inconsequential and can safely be ignored.  Some things, whether life is easy or life is troubled, must always remain a focus.  The consequences should a person do otherwise...