Monthly Archives: March 2016
Happy Easter Monday, to those of you who celebrate it (Germans, Canadians, Brits, Down-Under-ites?). Here’s Steve, being the Easter Bear, to add his good wishes.
Yes, we still have Easter eggs at our house, even though the Offspring are a few years past the Easter egg hunting stage. Much like I can’t imagine Christmas without cookies, I can’t have Easter without eggs. When we were kids, we always got some in our Easter baskets, or rather, we hunted for them in the garden. (One year, one got missed, and a friend of my brother’s found it months later in the juniper bushes beside the garage. I vaguely recall someone cracking it open; it wasn’t a pretty sight.)
Eggs were somewhat of a luxury item around our house; you got one boiled for breakfast maybe once or twice a week – one, mind you. And sometimes when you had a picnic lunch for a trip, there’d be a hard-boiled egg in it, which was always a treat. But on Easter, you got something like four or five of them, all to yourself. So very awesome.
Of course, there were chocolate and tiny sugar eggs and chocolate bunnies, too, and my grandmother sometimes got us these really elaborate caramel creations – like the hollow chocolate bunnies or lambs you can get, but made out of hard caramel (like Werther’s candies), with very intricate detailing. I recall one large Easter bunny, upright with a basket full of eggs on his back. In my memory, he’s really big, something like 8″ high, but he probably wasn’t – I was quite a bit smaller then myself, and you know how back then everything was so much bigger than it is now.
So yes, there was plenty of sugar to be had for my childhood Easter celebrations, but the real Easter eggs were still something special that I treasured. And so I still want Easter eggs to celebrate with, as well as chocolate and other sugar, so I always make a dozen or so. I also bake a sweet bread bunny each year now. That’s not something from my childhood, but a tradition I started when the Offspring were little. Maybe it’ll become part of their childhood memory – can’t have Easter without a baked Easter bunny?
Life, the Universe, and Easter Eggs. Have a Happy Eastertide!
I’ve been thinking about the importance of Story again. My friend E. L. Bates recently posted the transcript of a talk she gave at her local library on that topic (read the full thing here, it’s well worth it). “This is what stories do,” she says, “they sink into our hearts and give us the tools we need to live more fully, more richly, in the everyday world around us.” Yes, exactly.
Last weekend, we went to see the new Disney movie, Zootopia. I’d heard that it was good, so while I wasn’t expecting any great profundity of the flick (it’s a Disney talking-animal movie, after all), I went into it hoping to be amused for a couple of hours and not have too many groaner moments. And those hopes weren’t disappointed.
But what bowled me over was the message of the film. That’s right, a Disney talking-animal flick with a message that I actually found really meaningful. And not the standard follow-your-heart-you-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be one, either (which nowadays just causes an eye-roll reflex in me, but that’s a rant for another day). Now, I don’t want to give any spoilers, the movie still being as new as it is. But what I found astounding is that the makers of Zootopia, who have been working on this movie for, I dunno, years, put out a film that hits right smack-dab at the bull’s eye of the current social issues. It’s as if they’d had a premonition of what the political and social climate of March of 2016 was going to be like, and they set out to tell a story that makes its point far more effectively than any sermon or political rant could do.
And that’s something I found profoundly encouraging. Because, you see, young children aren’t going to go to political rallies. And, let’s face it, most of their parents and grandparents won’t, either. But they’ll go to this movie, because it’s Junior’s birthday and you’ve got to do something with that horde of little hoodlums he’s insisted on inviting. So you take them to the movies to see the story of a perky little bunny rabbit from the country who wants to be a big-city cop, and hope that her and her sly-fox sidekick’s adventure will keep the kids quiet for a couple of hours. And in the process, Junior, his friends, and Mommy, Daddy and Grandma, without even noticing it, are being taught some lessons that couldn’t be more important in this moment in history, lessons about the insidiousness of fear and prejudice and of the power of acceptance.
But let me quote E. L. Bates again: “But [the stories] are not instruction manuals thinly disguised as entertainment! Perish the thought! If you set out, in writing a story, to point a moral or teach people something, you have failed before you’ve even begun.” In the case of Zootopia, Disney most certainly did not fail. It’s a well-told story in its own right, full of endearing characters that will enter the Disney canon, with great animation and jokes (including quite a few that will zip right over Junior’s head, but provide Mom & Dad with a good chuckle – including the teensy little Mafioso shrew with his nasal Godfather drawl). We’ll keep watching this film for decades to come for its story, because it’s a good movie – and in the process, its profound message is going to be absorbed into our collective psyche.
The pen (or in this case, film camera) is mightier than the sword – and that is something that can give us all hope.
Life, the Universe, and Zootopia. Story wins again.
Just three-and-a-half more weeks, and April’s Camp NaNoWriMo will be upon us! I just went and built us a cabin, so if you want to join the Word Count Slayers (that’s our cabin name. I know, right?) hop on over to the Camp NaNoWriMo site, make yourself a profile (if you haven’t got one yet), create a project, then let me know your username (either in the comments, or shoot me a mail at email@example.com), and I’ll invite you.
The nice thing about Camp NaNoWriMo is that the word count on it is flexible, so you don’t have to aim for the 50,000 words that the full-sized November NaNo requires. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to write a novel at all – you can work on whatever writing project suits your fancy. For last year’s July session, I spent the time editing Checkmate. This April, I’m planning to work on Star Bright, Septimus Book 4.
So, come on, I dare you! Pillow fights, marshmallow roasts, ghost stories at night (and they’re good ghost stories – we’re writers, after all!), and best of all, friends to hang out with! That’s been the really awesome part: I’ve made real friends during Camp NaNoWriMo (not to mention any names, Kate and Kara and Zach and Judy and Amanda and Whitney and…). Can’t wait for April!
Life, the Universe, and Camp NaNoWriMo. Who’s up for a campfire singalong?
It’s 4:00 AM, and I’m sitting in the living room catching up on my emails. Well, blog posts written by my bloggy friends, rather, while I was in the Fatherland with not-as-much time and internet access as I usually have. So here I am, making my way through about forty mails that accumulated over the last few days. Hello, jet lag, my old friend… (If my comment or “Like” on your blog post arrived kind of late, that’s why.)
I mostly went for a family visit this time round, but I did get in a day of shopping (had to bring home a few goodies, no?), and while I was in Stuttgart popped into the Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church) and the Württembergisches Landesmuseum in the Alte Schloss (Old Castle) in the middle of town, for a nice dose of history.
The church has a lovely high relief of life-sized sandstone statues of the Counts (Grafen) of Württemberg running down the side of the choir. It’s from about 1580 or so, and shows eleven of the guys, from the 13th century onwards. What cracks me up each time I see it is their names: there’s Ulrich, Ulrich, Eberhard, Ulrich, Eberhard, Eberhard, Ulrich… Except for the last one, who’s a Heinrich. He must have felt a bit left out (maybe that’s why his successor commissioned the sculptures, to prove that he was one of the gang, even though he’s no Uli).
The Alte Schloss next door to the church is another Renaissance building (it’s the Old Castle, as opposed to the New one a little further over, which was only built in the 18th century). One of the things that’s cool about the Old Castle is its horse staircase. That’s right, horse. Large four-footed critter with hoofs, that people use for transportation. See how shallow those treads are? The staircase is designed so that the nobs could ride their chargers all the way up to the third floor of the castle, right into the banqueting hall. The Renaissance version of a drive-in.
Well, I guess I’ll try to go to sleep for another couple of hours, so I’ll sign off for now.
Life, the Universe, Horse Stairs, Eberhard and Ulrich. Should be over this jet lag thing in a day or two.