Tag Archives: words

The Doubtful Guest

gorey google

If you have tried googling anything this morning, you may have noticed that today is Edward Gorey day on Google! Yes, apparently they are commemorating what would have been his 88th birthday* with a special logo.

*I wonder why his 88th would be of significance…I know, I will google it!** Hang on….

**Please note that this increasing dependence on machines to do our searching and thinking for us is one of the first steps in our eventual downfall as a species. Yes, you are witnessing the genesis of it all right here, friends. And perhaps one day, many years after our Robot Overlords have wrested control of the planet, a small rag-tag band of rebel humans will mount a resistance movement. Hacking into the matrix, they will search back through the annals of internet history in search of a clue as to how it all went downhill…and maybe they will find this post. If you are reading this, rebel humans, please allow me to extend an apology to you. On behalf of the entire human race, I am sorry that we were too distracted by pictures of cats on the internet to notice that the machines were quietly plotting their attack.

Anyway, back to Edward Gorey. A cursory search has failed to reveal why his 88th birthday would be of importance. There must be a reason for it though. Am I missing something? Is 88 a significant number for Gorey fans? Or for Google? The number 8 is basically the infinity sign flipped on its head, so maybe that has something to do with it. Is Google engaged in an ambitious rivalry with infinity? That would be just like them, wouldn’t it?

Whatever. Some mysteries are never meant to be solved. Like the mystery of Edward Gorey’s ‘The Doubtful Guest’…

Where did he come from? Why did he stay? Was he sporting the same pair of white canvas shoes for 17 years, or did he keep ordering new pairs? Is falling asleep in a soup tureen as uncomfortable as it sounds?

There are no obvious answers to these questions. But I do very much enjoy the Doubtful Guest sitting here inside of the Google logo, surveying the scene with polite interest.

the doubtful guest

“Do tell…”

Ender’s Game

enders game

I just finished reading Orson Scott Card’s 1985 sci-fi novel Ender’s Game. It was great, on many levels – plot, characterization, evocative imagery, insightful commentary on the nature of the human condition. Aside from all that, though, one of the other aspects of the novel that I really enjoyed was the character names. First of all, ‘Ender’s Game‘ is a seriously kick-ass title for a book. It just sounds cool. The fact that Ender is the name of the main character is a bonus. And the entire story is populated by characters with interesting names. Here are a few of them:

  • ★ Ender Wiggin
  • ★ Valentine Wiggin
  • ★ Petra Arkanian
  • ★ Carn Carby
  • ★ Crazy Tom
  • ★ Sargeant Dap
  • ★ Dink Meeker
  • ★ Julian “Bean” Delphiki
  • ★ Rose the Nose
  • ★ Hot Soup
  • ★ Fly Molo
  • ★ Pol Slattery

I mean, would you not want to hang out with any and all of those dudes, based solely on their appellations? And sure, yeah, a couple of those are Battle School nicknames, but most of them are their legit birth names. Awesome.

Dictionary.com

You guys, I am totally obsessed with dictionary.com. I use it every single day. I mean, even a stellar vocabularist (totally not a word) such as myself needs a little help from time to time ;)

awesome

*Sidenote: how much do you love their sample phrase? Hilarious!

*Further sidenote: are you as surprised as I am to find out that awesome — a word I always think of as being super slangy — actually originated in the late 1500’s? That is…unexpected! And…awesome! It’s like an elder statesman of words, rather than being the bratty teen-aged word I always thought it was.

I am also a pretty huge fan of thesaurus.com. Words are so great!

thesaurus

Um…is ‘unamazing’ an actual word, thesaurus.com? I think we need some verification on that…

unamazing

Yeah…I didn’t think so. Looks like somebody needs to get their stories straight…

An Alchemy Imperceptible

prairie

Within him something was opening, releasing shyly as the petals of a flower open, with such gradualness that he was hardly aware of it. But it was happening: an alchemy imperceptible as the morning wind, a growing elation of such fleeting delicacy and poignancy that he dared not turn his mind to it for fear that he might spoil it, that it might be carried away as lightly as one strand of a spider web on a sigh of a wind. He was filled with breathlessness and expectancy, as though he were going to be given something, as though he were about to find something.

— W.O. Mitchell, Who Has Seen the Wind

Scintillate, Scintillate, Asteroid Minific

skillin' in the sky

Yesterday I wrote about a poem that I had to memorize in the fifth grade, and it made me think about another verse that our teacher, Madame Cohen (I went to a French immersion school) made us learn by heart:

Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minific,
Fain would I fathom your nature specific.
Exaltedly set in ether capacious,
A reasonable facsimile of a gem carbonaceous.
Scintillate, scintillate, asteroid minific,
Fain would I fathom your nature specific.

Or, as it is more familiarly known:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.

Sometimes the Last Hook’s the Most Difficult One

lost at sea

THE HOOK AND THE SEA

What is her problem?
The sea is her problem.
No that’s not true, she is her problem.
She is in fact her very own problem.
The ocean is vast, depths untold.
The water is dark, and so cold.

Thinking this way is not easy to do.
Can it really be real? Can it truly be true?
He asks, why does this seem to be hard for you?
Has some thoughts about it — in fact he has a few.

But she knows the answers, they’re often quite plain.
She tries to find words and she tries to explain
Why it is she falls into the water again.
Could it be that the fish is foolish and insane?

In truth she is not, for she knows in her heart
That things can be best when they all fall apart.
She knows what to say, and if she is smart
She’ll allow it to happen, allow it to start.

Sometimes the last hook’s the most difficult one
To tear from your skin, free yourself and be done.

Vanity Fair

VF cover

Look, I am not at all ashamed to admit that about 80% of what I know about the world comes from the pages of Vanity Fair. It is a stellar magazine, with superb investigative journalism and top-notch writing. I’ve been reading it since I was 10, and by now I actually have favorite articles from over the years that I dig out and re-read from time to time. Who can forget 1992’s infamous piece on Courtney Love which resulted in the author, Lynn Hirschberg, receiving death threats (from Love herself). I also loved the July 2002 article on big wave surfing, which I read while lying immobile in a hostel bed in Madrid, laid up with both a bad back and food poisoning. More recently, I sobbed pretty hard as I made my way through this piece about the black market ivory trade in Africa. You guys! Did you know that elephants get really upset when one of their loved ones dies? Check it out:

Footage from here in 2000 shows a procession of clearly distressed elephants, 127 of them over the course of two days, paying their last respects to a dead baby lying on one of the paths to the bai, caressing it with their trunks, trying to prod it back to life, placing their feet over its heart to see if it is still beating. One young male tried to lift it 57 times.

I mean…gah!!! What are you trying to do to me, Vanity Fair? I’m not made of stone!

Anyway, my point is that their articles are informative, compelling, and thought-provoking. Plus, nobody does scandal like Vanity Fair. If you want the lowdown on the seamy underbelly of rich America, look no further. Each new issue contains dazzling and lurid tales of corporate intrigue, high-profile affairs, explosive divorce battles, and infamous murder cases. I am happy to report that my copy of the annual Hollywood issue just arrived in the mail, so this weekend I plan on curling up on the couch with a nice glass of (maple sugar) wine and catching up on as much Hollywood dirt as I can!