Monday, January 31, 2011
-- Tolkien's poems make much more sense when read aloud. (Look! An internal rhyme!)
-- I am no longer disappointed by the "lack" of magic. Instead, I realize that the magic is more tangible and immanent than I knew -- and it extends into our world. Elf-magic is the magic of Richmond Beach park or Mount Rainier in the sunset. Sauron-magic is the magic of smog and combustion. Of course the elves must leave.
-- Never realized before, but Tolkien spends much of his book describing the scenery with loving care. Enjoy the scenery indeed!
Compared to other fantasy novels, Tolkien's writing is stilted. His non-hobbit dialogue is the worst at this. Yet the salient details that drive the story -- Aragorn's indecision, Boromir's subtle truculence, the sadness of the elves -- are ultimately more powerful and relevant to my own choices than the choices of the characters in most fantasy novels. By "most" I mean the ones read, enjoyed, and catalogued on this blog. No one writes souls like Tolkien.
The end result is that Tolkien has unmatched depth and texture. I was excited to read it again. Other authors have their points, too, but Tolkien's world improves with age. Even if a seventh grader might not see it, a thirty-six-year-old father of four might get an idea eventually.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
J.R.R. Tolkien got his start telling stories to his children. This is an early example of how that worked and what his stories must have been like. I read it aloud to Aidan -- sometimes slow going and some big words that I had to look up ("autothalassic" for one; Tolkien, like Lewis, did not believe in talking down to kids!). But then you get this burst of imagination and description that just captures you like nothing else. The book is the story of a dog that was enchanted to become a toy, and the toy is lost on the beach by a little boy (Tolkien's second son, whom he calls "Little Boy Two"), and then the toy meets a sand-sorcerer, flies to the moon, goes under the sea, and ultimately meets a happy ending. Obviously only one of those clauses actually happened! The moon's a little barren in the description, but the under the sea scenes are vivid and lush. As a Tolkien fan I knew I had to read this, and even though it's by no means his best work, I feel like I know him a little better for having done it. A university professor with several small boys can do some surprising things in his spare time ... just another reason he's a hero of mine.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Sunday, January 16, 2011
(As a side note, I'd like to point out, then we are alive at a very special point at which we've been allowed to observe the history -- something to be grateful for at least!)
I want to take that and ask, what does the expansion of the universe mean for the exploration of the universe? We already know it would take decades, traveling at near-light speeds, to reach the nearest star, and there appears to be no way to reach another galaxy constrained as we are by metabolism to the time scale of years. Reading the lights in the sky is one thing, but setting foot on another planet outside our system is quite another. Greene's point about dark energy expands this loneliness: even if we could develop something unimaginably fast, the universe may soon be expanding so fast we can't outrun it!
So the point is, there may be other planets out there, and other humanoids. But does it matter if we can never know them? Does it matter if we can't communicate, and can never, ever meet? Is this the Creator's intent, if He made myriads of worlds but keeps them each separate so they cannot touch? And does this moot all the questions about E.T. and alien salvation and other late-night dorm-room excursions?
Are we effectively unique? And if so, what does that mean to a science that seems to want to diminish the uniqueness of man with all its conclusions? To me, the accelerating universe means that, perhaps, in this limited sense, Copernicus was wrong: we are at the center of our universe after all.
There may be exceptions to this, and stranger things than we can imagine beyond the speed of light, but if we know what there is to know, this is what Greene's argument brings me to. Man is the measure, a little lower than the angels. Thus sayeth the Greene.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Again, with the data provided by this blog with 2009 numbers compared in parenthesis.
Books read: 45 (Exactly the same as 2009!?)
Posts written: 116 (140)
Peer-reviewed papers published/in press: 2 (1) (Geometric expansion here we come!)Baby boys born: 1 (1) (Do not expect this trend to continue!)
Eulogies written: 2 (1) (Sigh.)
Books written: 0 (No place to go but up!)