Margaret Atwood on Anne of Green Gables

Filed under: Fun — joy at 8:31 am on Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Margaret Atwood wrote an intelligent, fascinating article about Anne of Green Gables, which is turning 100 this April. She goes over the history of the book, its continuing popularity, and the life of its author, LM Montgomery. And she asked some Japanese readers why these books are so popular in Japan. (Who knew?) Here are some of their responses:

Anne of Green Gables was first translated by a Japanese author who was very well known and well loved already. Anne was an orphan and there were a lot of orphans in Japan right after the second world war, so many readers identified with her. Anne has a passion for apple blossoms and cherry blossoms – the latter are especially dear to the hearts of the Japanese – so her brand of aesthetic sensibility was very sympathetic. Anne had red hair, which – before the past 20 years or so, when even middle-aged Japanese ladies may sometimes be spotted with blue, green, red or orange hair – was thought to be extremely exotic. Anne is not only an orphan, but a poor girl orphan – the lowest of the low on the traditional Japanese social ladder. Yet she wins over that most formidable of Japanese dragons, the bossy older matron. (In fact, she wins over two of them, since she adds overbearing, opinionated, but good-at-heart Mrs Rachel Lynde to her collection basket.)

Anne has no fear of hard work: she’s forgetful because dreamy, but she’s not a shirker. She displays a proper attitude when she puts others before herself, and even more praiseworthy is that these others are elders. She has an appreciation of poetry, and although she shows signs of materialism – her longing for puffed sleeves is legendary – in her deepest essence, she’s spiritual. And, high on the list, Anne breaks the Japanese taboo that forbade outbursts of temper on the part of young people. She acts out spectacularly, stamping her feet and hurling insults back at those who insult her, and even resorting to physical violence, most notably in the slate-over-the-head episode. This must have afforded much vicarious pleasure to young Japanese readers; indeed, to all Anne’s young readers of yesteryear, so much more repressed than the children of today. Had they thrown scenes like the ones Anne throws, they would have got what my mother referred to as What For, or, if things were particularly bad, Hail Columbia.

Naturally, I loved these books as a kid. Loved! Them! I re-read them not too long ago and was a bit disturbed by some of the more melodramatic passages. But despite all the Victorian swooning over nature and such, I still have enough interest in them to want to read the biography on LM Montgomery that is coming out in October.

Oh, patient patient Gilbert Blythe.

~ Joy

So, What’s It Like Being Married to Hunter S. Thompson?

Filed under: Fun — joy at 8:29 am on Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Here’s an interview with Anita Thompson, wife of Hunter S Thompson. She talks about his last days, what it was like living with him, and the struggle with his estate. It’s all pretty predictable and gossipy, but interesting none-the-less:

“The best thing about our marriage was that it was like being married to a teenage girl trapped in the body of an elderly dope fiend,” says Anita. “Which was also the hardest thing about our marriage.”

~ Joy

Political donations by occupation: Writers

Filed under: Fun — marcia at 8:07 pm on Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Huffington Post has a fun thingy — FundRace 2008 –that lets you look up political donations based on all sorts of criteria. Searching for political donations by those who list their occupation as “writer” shows that writers donated almost $2 million … with about $1.7 million of that going to Democrats.

Some people I’ve heard of:

Dean Koontz donated $4,600 to Mitt Romney (He also donated $2,300 to Fred Thompson)
David Mamet donated $4,600 to Christopher Dodd
Michael Chabon donated $4,600 to Barack Obama
John Grisham and Amy Tan donated $4,600 each to Hillary Clinton

I don’t know what this is, besides a strange way I entertained myself for 10 minutes. Politics!


Introducing the Gender Guesser

Filed under: Fun — joy at 9:33 pm on Saturday, March 8, 2008

Word Pirates, let me introduce you to Gender Guesser. It claims it can tell whether a man or a woman is writing a paragraph. See, maybe you didn’t know, but women and men write differently. Men use ACTION verbs and women write about their feelings. Thus, using a handy algorithm, it can predict what sex a person is based purely on their syntax.

I decided to give it a try. Gender Guesser says it needs 300 word to properly analyze someone’s sex. So I put in the following:

He looked around the room. There was a gun lying on the dresser. The bullet had been fired not too long ago, he thought. He could almost smell the gun powder. His penis twitched in his shorts. “Got to do something about that,” he thought.” But later, after I find that dame and find out what she knows.” Quickly he went to the closet door and flung it open. Nothing but a suit hanging on the hanger. “Dead end,” he thought.

“Now where can that dame be?” he thought. He went to the liquor cabinet and opened it. No beer. There were, however, small square bottles of absinthe. He eyed them suspiciously. “No,” he thought. “They probably cost $20-per-bottle, easily. And even though the patsy who rented this room would get charged…”

“No no no! Never mind my alcoholism! I have to find the dame. What was I doing? Oh yeah, looking for clues. Fine. Here are the clues: there is a gun. It fired. There is possibly a dead body somewhere.”

He turned and threw open the front door to the room. Outside, there was a hallway. He looked down it, waiting sternly for a new clue to materialize. He couldn’t see or hear anything of interest. He stalked out into the hallway, striding in his black coat. In his pocket, his own gun nestled comfortingly against his leg. He patted it. “Ol’ Nelly,” he thought.

As he rounded the corner, he stopped and looked around. He put his hand in his pocket and put his finger on the trigger, just in case something jumped out at him. For a moment, he held his breath. He thought he heard a woman whimpering pathetically somewhere. It was faint, but yes, but he could hear it.

“The dame!” he thought…

The result? Gender Guesser believes I am 82.14% male.

Just goes to show, these things are based on science and reason, not stereotypes and folderol. Boy, you really can’t fool the Internets…
~ Joy

What’s in a name?

Filed under: Fun — marcia at 11:04 am on Saturday, February 23, 2008

I have a really hard time coming up with titles for things that I write, or naming things in general. After coming up with a killer first sentence, I forget that the first thing people will actually read is the damn title.

I normally end up with a boring title, erring on the safe side so I don’t have something laughable or cliche as the title. Don’t want to be too long. Don’t want to do the one-word thing. Don’t want to give away any surprises. Don’t want to be ham-handedly cryptic. There are the don’ts; what are the do’s?

I don’t know! Maybe you do. Here is my personal list of don’ts for various writing-related things … feel free to add some do’s (or more dont’s).

1) Literary Journals: If you are starting a new one, right on. You might not want to put the word “train” in the name. There are at least four something-trains or train-somethings. Why? I don’t know. Plus, at least two of the trains are really good. So you will look like a copycat. Bonus don’t: Literary/Art/Mythology references are tricky to do. Give yourself a solid pretentiousness check beforehand.

2) Blogs: If your title or description includes “musings” or “rants,” you’re not alone. Not even close to alone.

3) Books: I want to remember what your book is called! When it is a super-long name or has a super-long subtitle, I have a really hard time remembering it (and thus finding it). Help a sister out. (Check out Bookseller’s list of the oddest book titles of the year here.)


Cool Christmas Tree

Filed under: Fun — marcia at 4:53 pm on Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I guess technically this tree is made out of trees.


The word for that feeling you get just before eating something spicy

Filed under: Fun — marcia at 9:11 pm on Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There’s a book, “Toujours Tingo,” that showcases a bunch of unique foreign words that have no English equivalent. In some cases, we just start using these words in everyday English (think schadenfreude or ennui, coincidentally two of my favorite words). I often make up my own words for things. I love the English language and think it is full of possibilities. But I must say, I am jealous of some of these words other languages have.

Here are a few that I think are pretty handy:
Jayus – Indonesian: someone who tells a joke so unfunny you can’t help laughing.

Tartle – Scottish: to hesitate when you are introducing someone whose name you can’t quite remember

Layogenic – Tagalog, Philippines: a person who is only goodlooking from a distance.



Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day

Filed under: Fun — marcia at 9:41 pm on Tuesday, September 18, 2007

September 19 is Talk Like a Pirate Day! In honor of that, I give you a ridiculous picture of a man who is obviously not a pirate along with some pirate lingo.


Here is some good pirate vocabulary for you to sprinkle into your conversations on this special day:

Ahoy! – “Hello!”

Avast! - Stop and give attention.

Aye! – “Why yes, I agree most heartily with everything you just said or did.”

Arrr! – Can mean, variously,”yes,” “I agree,” “I’m happy,” “I’m enjoying this beer,” “My team is going to win it all,” “I saw that television show, it sucked!” and “That was a clever remark you or I just made.” And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!

Bilge rat – The bilge is the lowest level of the ship. It’s loaded with ballast and slimy, reeking water. A bilge rat, then, is a rat that lives in the worst place on the ship.

Bung hole – Victuals on a ship were stored in wooden casks. The stopper in the barrel is called the bung, and the hole is called the bung hole. That’s all. It sounds a lot worse, doesn’t it? “Well, me hearties, let’s see what crawled out of the bung hole.”
Grog – An alcoholic drink, usually rum diluted with water, but in this context you could use it to refer to any alcoholic beverage other than beer, and we aren’t prepared to be picky about that, either.
Lubber – (or land lubber) This is the seaman’s version of land lover, mangled by typical pirate disregard for elocution. A lubber is someone who does not go to sea, who stays on the land.

Smartly – Do something quickly. “Smartly, me lass,” you might say when sending the bar maid off for another round. She will be so impressed she might well spit in your beer.

(From the Talk Like a Pirate Day website, which also includes pirate pickup lines such as “Ya’ know darlin’, I’m 97 percent chum free” and others that include puns on the word “booty.” –Marcia

Cool: Authors make a music playlist for their books

Filed under: Fun — marcia at 11:46 am on Friday, September 14, 2007

Neato thing to check out: Largehearted Boy has a series in which authors create and discuss a playlist related to their book.

The authors and types of books featured vary. An interesting one was Chuck Klosterman talking about his playlist for “Killing Yourself to Live,” which is about his road trip visiting rock ‘n’ roll death sites. Music and writing are personal and public, so I love the intersection.
From Klosterman’s interview/playlist:

There is a long passage in the book where I analyze girls I’ve slept via the context of the 1978 KISS solo albums, and the highest-charting single from those albums was Ace’s disco metal effort “New York Groove.”

Thanks to Andre for the link!


Spreading the joy of reading

Filed under: Fun — marcia at 9:50 am on Tuesday, August 7, 2007
book mule

I’ve never actually seen a bookmobile in real life, but I like the idea. Reading is important, blah blah children society. OK, now I can get to the awesome part: bookmules and bookcamels! Children! Excited about books! All right, no more exclamation points.
About bookmules in remote areas of Venezuela:

Anyone who was not out working the fields – tending the celery that is the main crop here – was waiting for our arrival. The 23 children at the little school were very excited.

“Bibilomu-u-u-u-las,” they shouted as the bags of books were unstrapped. They dived in eagerly, keen to grab the best titles and within minutes were being read to by Christina and Juana, two of the project leaders.

“Spreading the joy of reading is our main aim,” Christina Vieras told me. (read entire story on BBC website)

About bookcamels:

The actual Camel Bookmobile brings books to semi-nomadic people in Northeastern Kenya who live with the most minimal of possessions, suffering from chronic poverty and periodic drought. I visited the region during a period of drought and made several hours-long walks through the African bush with the bookmobile. I cannot describe how moving it was to see the people, particularly children, crowding around as the traveling librarians set up straw mats under an acacia tree and spread out the books. The excitement is palpable. (get more details, including how to donate books, from Masha Hamilton)

Links via Kevin Kelly

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