Ice Friday: Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows

The front door of the hollow tree faced eastwards, so Toad was called at an early hour; partly by the bright sunlight streaming in on him, partly by the exceeding coldness of his toes, which made him dream that he was at home in bed in his own handsome room with the Tudor window, on a cold winter’s night, and his bedclothes had got up, grumbling and protesting they couldn’t stand the cold any longer, and had run downstairs to the kitchen fire to warm themselves; and he had followed, on bare feet, along miles and miles of icy stone-paved passages, arguing and beseeching them to be reasonable. He would probably have been aroused much earlier, had he not slept for
some weeks on straw over stone flags, and almost forgotten the friendly feeling of thick blankets pulled well up round the chin

Our Failure in Group Think

Theodore Sturgeon wrote of group think, or bleshing, as he called it, in his novel More Than Human. The idea is simple, founded on minds working together, the sum of the parts being greater than the whole, celebrated by many in the arts, such as Phil Lesh of The Grateful Dead. It is the dream of musicians and anarchists alike, to be at one with each other, to guide and at the same time follow, and yet it is just that, an impossible dream for anything practical. Human nature is the flaw, our inherent need to always want something more for ourselves. Adam Smith and his capitalist crew celebrate this in what we can achieve – always in terms of monetary success – but it’s a far cry from all those other things we are told to cherish, and in the end, just don’t give a damn about. We lie to ourselves about everything – about who we are and we will achieve – just to get through and not think about the world as we have made it.

Reading Aloud: Kipling’s “Elephant’s Child”

I have read Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child quite a number of times in recent days for my 92-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s. While Kipling’s work certainly is dated – with inherent racism, constant spankings and all-out revenge as major themes – it does have surprising merits, beyond the fact that my mother still remembers this story exceptionally well.

For one, there is the phrase ‘satiable curtiosity’, repeated throughout. A mash-up of courtesy and curiosity, it’s the Elephant’s Child’s ‘satiable curtiosity that gets him his trunk and makes him the envy of the jungle.

There is also Kipling’s idiosyncratic notes to his illustrations – mocking his own work – that provides, as they say, meta perspective on the work. But most intriguing of all is the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, a sinister character to be sure, which beats and tricks our hero, but in the end actually saves the Elephant’s Child from being eaten by the crocodile. He also teaches him what an effective tool his trunk actually is – even if it is to go home and beat up his abusive family…all very odd, something to ponder, when I read it once again.

Seven-Week Writing Session Done

Seven straight weeks of writing an average of 3-5 hours a day, culminating in 55,000 words, more than half of my second science fiction work has left me feeling empty. I think that I have done something – a summer well spent – and then I think, “So much for what?”

Ice Friday: Margret Wittmer’s “Floreana”

Margret Wittmer was an early pioneer in the Galapagos, arriving on Floreana Island in 1935:

At the end of July, 1938, I was working in the garden when I heard zooming sound overhead, I could see two airplanes somewhere over Floreana and then nothing but a vibration in the air. For a long time, we stood on the hill looking in the direction from which the planes had come.The next morning, just as we were finishing breakfast, Sergio came panting in, waving two letters, one from the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. “I am on board the United States Cruiser Houston, and radioed two of our escort planes to fly above your farm with a signal that we would come to Black Beach. I hoped you would come down there and we could take you out on the Houston in a launch. Unfortunately she was there two hours without your turning up. I shall hope to make you acquaintance another time.”