Live Event Review: Diana Gabaldon Skype Session

Barring some spotty transmission of sound, tonight’s Skype session with Outlander author Diana Gabaldon was a treat–and free! Connecting from her Santa Fe, NM, getaway house (lives in Scottsdale, AZ) to our own Lake High School Performing Arts Hall in Uniontown, Ohio, the Goddess of Jamie and Claire Fraser chatted to upwards of 200 people.

To start the presentation, Diana skipped the most common questions avid fans know the answers to, such as how she started writing the first book. Instead, she shared highlights about book 9’s progress (Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone–finish date still unknown), her writing, research, and editing processes, her three main types of characters (“mushrooms, onions, and hard nuts”–see Part 2 of her reference book The Outlandish Companion for full details), and impressions from consulting on the STARZ TV show adaptation.

In her explanation of character types, she used the case of Mr. Willoughby in Voyager to illustrate how a character springs up like a mushroom. Jamie and Claire are onion characters, with layers that keep revealing more depth. Then, some characters she is “stuck with,” hard nuts such as history’s George Washington, as she writes her current book during the American Revolutionary War, and Brianna Randall, Claire and Jamie’s daughter who had to be born for the long-haul story to work.

Diana has to get to know such characters gradually as they reveal themselves to her. She also noted that she doesn’t “kill” characters; they just die and she, too, finds those events “distressing.” She depicts her role as more of a conduit or vessel through which her stories create themselves. While it is not a passive, or by any means easy, process, she works intuitively and must remain receptive. She uses the senses to pose questions that her imagination then helps her answer.

True to her science background, (former) Professor Gabaldon described her writing in terms of natural processes. She revealed how her scenes start from “kernels” (a vivid image, a line of dialogue, a certain ambiance, a physical object) and proceed by an organic process that she compared to both “growing crystals in the basement” and “a slow game of Tetris.” She “fiddles” until the pieces fit together just right.

Perhaps unusual for a novelist, Diana doesn’t write in a straight line or plan her books in advance; she works wherever the images come from and cobbles or, as some have said, “quilts” scenes together. From the beginning of her book making, she has combined the research and writing processes, toggling back and forth to learn more and make corrections as needed. Her research prowess has become legendary among fans. She also shared how each book ultimately forms a geometric shape. Dragonfly in Amber is like a barbell, anchored by a framing story on both ends, and Outlander has a series of three pyramids or triangles where tensions rise and fall.

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Diana Gabaldon, San Diego Comicon 2015

During the Q&A, I was blessed enough to be able to ask Diana a direct question about how the show is adapting the Jamie-Claire relationship. I talked to HERSELF face to face sort of! Whoa. Happy Birthday (week) to me indeed. She agreed with my view that the core bond of these central characters needs some attention and further development on screen, and she indicated the producers think so, too. Diana assured us that the first six episodes she has seen of season 3 are “great,” which brought cheers from several attendees including me.

Just turned 65 last week, Diana Gabaldon is an endearing blend of erudite, friendly, and oddball. This was my second experience of a live Diana Gabaldon video session. She’s very generous and engaged with her fans, a wonderful writer and natural speaker.

Our hosts ran a solid event, the lights and audience mics worked well, and, though we were dram-dry, there was ample, delicious homemade Scottish shortbread laid out near the exit. Mmm . . . buttery, flaky goodness.

In sum, read these awesome Outlander books, people, and if you can, catch a video chat session with Herself. (Preaching to the choir?) The STARZ show really is pretty great, and season 3’s coming up. Even more impressive, though, the books are an endless fount of riches with an essence that even the very talented team of show producers and writers is hard pressed to capture in a visual medium. Books and TV are distinctly different species of animal, but in the case of this timeless, time-driven story, each is fierce and beautiful in its own way, with something for just about everyone.

Sláinte mhath from this balmy winter’s night in northeast Ohio’s Outlander fan land.

The event was hosted by the Stark County District Library, sponsored by Lake Community Friends of the Library, and buoyed by Diana’s two signed book copies for two lucky trivia game winners (not me which was a-okay).

An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 1

It has been said that the super fans of the Outlander book and TV show series are defined by their actually going all the way to Scotland to experience the setting and history first hand. But that notion sounds more than a little classist to me. You don’t have to spend the money for air travel or go super far to be a super fan, especially in this digital age. Yet, if you do take the journey, you will be hard pressed to experience Scotland, even if your trip is driven mainly by the Outlander obsession, without becoming a super fan of the country.

You may know of my growing fondness for Scotland, along with my love of Outlander, enough to have read about our plans for the trip we recently took there in mid-September 2016. In that planning post, one of the last in my Five-Phrase Friday series, I laid out our tentative list of sites and sights, guessing at what we would manage to accomplish. Thanks to good weather, healthy travelers, and having had ample time to plan, I wasn’t far off in my estimates.

I had begun to fall in love with Scotland the place upon reading about its physical beauty as author Diana Gabaldon describes it in the series’s first book, Outlander. Then, actually getting to see the country’s splendor on screen, enhanced by the romance and adventure of the story—as well as its mind-bogglingly photogenic co-stars Caitriona Balfe (as Claire Fraser) and Sam Heughan (as Jamie Fraser)—made visiting Scotland almost a requirement. At first, the plan was to visit both England and Scotland, but with everything I wanted to see in each place, that vacation would have been impossibly long.

As it was, we took 14 days in Scotland alone, and I’m not at all sure my first choice for a next trip won’t be some combination of the Isle of Skye, a repeat of some Scottish sights already seen, and capturing the ones we missed on the first round. This is not to say that we squandered our time there, just that we so thoroughly enjoyed it, and, I suppose, because we have been on relatively few such trips otherwise, it is difficult to imagine a more enjoyable alternative.

So far since our return, I’ve written and shared pictures focusing on the aesthetics of the overall experience, certain mountain-sea and mountain-loch vistas, an Edinburgh restaurant we loved, a nature poem by beloved Scot, Robert Burns, and the singular, marvelous attraction of a well-preserved castle ruin.

Now, I think it’s time to expound upon Outlander tourism in Scotland, in posts that will discuss our options and goals, share what we did and how we liked it, and provide some advice and resources for planning your own Scottish Outlander tour.

My coverage will focus on series 1 and 2, but especially series 1, or season 1, and some book sites not used in filming the show. I’ll also share sites of important historical and cultural context that made the saga possible, and then offer additional options I wasn’t aware of before traveling.

There are limits to my knowledge, so bear in mind that not all my statements may be entirely accurate. They’re just my nearest understanding of the facts up until this fall, based on personal research.

Sources include Diana Gabaldon’s novels, her website, her Outlandish Companion, volume 1, various online fan comments, fan blogs, broadcast media articles, and some sleuthing to find visual matches between viewing the show and seeing different places in the flesh. I think I found the site of at least one scene without learning its exact location in advance. So that’s a sample of my due diligence.

Since there’s so much to share, I’m spreading the information across more than one post.

Disclaimer: It’s ultimately up to each of you as travel planners to verify details to make your trip go as smoothly as possible, details such as which sites are open to the public (not all are), how, and when, especially if you intend to take the DIY approach for all or part of your trip. I’ll provide some resources to get you started, but information and access can change, and the location property owners and stewards have the final word, so be sure to do your own homework, too.

First, where to go?

One thing that may surprise some new and devoted fans of the series is the number of sites used in filming that are not located in the Scottish Highlands. Although most of the first book is set in the Highlands, which covers quite a large area of the country, the highest concentration of outdoor (and some indoor) scene locations can be found either reasonably close or very close to the capital city, Edinburgh. These locations include:

The Kingdom of Fife (at least 5), Stirlingshire (2), the counties of Midlothian (1), West Lothian (3), Edinburgh City (3), and East Lothian (1), the Borders and Southwest of Scotland (at least 4), and the Glasgow area (at least 7 but probably as many as 10).

For context, the official Scottish Tourism Board website VisitScotland.com has several maps of the country’s different regions, including “Edinburgh and the Lothians” at the bottom of that page.

All told, Central Scotland boasts around 25 locations, perhaps half of all those used. Various legal, logistical, historic preservation, and budgetary reasons for this exist. As one producer said, it’s “a beast of a show” to produce (Ron Moore or Maril Davis, I think).

So, theoretically, you could experience a nearly complete Outlander tour without ever ascending north of Central Scotland, but it’s worth the effort and time to make sure you do venture into the Highlands.

The Central Sites: Show Filming and Book Story by Region or County

Stirling, Fife, Falkirk, West Lothian, Midlothian, Edinburgh, East Lothian

Stirlingshire           →           Outlander Settings

Doune Castle, located in Doune, not far north from Stirling Castle → Castle Leoch, episodes eps101-104, ep109, both 18th– and 20th-century scenes

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Doune Castle, Highlanders arrive at Castle Leoch with Claire, end ep101. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

Touch House, Touch Estate, west of Stirling, southwest of the intersection of A811 and M9 → Culloden House exterior, ep213 – in a room here (filmed separately), Claire and Jamie consider a final option for stopping the Battle of Culloden.

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Touch House, Stirlingshire, as Culloden House. Claire and Jamie confer. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

Kingdom of Fife       →         Outlander Settings

Culross – authentic 17th– and 18th-century look; Mercat area, Mercat Cross → Village of Crainsmuir, Geillis Duncan’s home, ep103; witch trial procession, eps 110, 111; behind Culross Palace, herb garden for Castle Leoch grounds, with lawns, herbs and vegetables of the period

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Culross, Mercat Cross and town square, men ready the pyre for the conclusion of the witch trial. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

West Kirk – “The ruins of West Kirk lie in rural isolation near Culross in Fife. Built around 1500, it used to be the parish church.” No roof, unmaintained graves, vegetation → The Black Kirk, ep103 – Claire and Jamie visit these ruins to uncover the source of a boy’s mysterious illness, widely attributed to the Devil and his demons that roam the kirk grounds.

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West Kirk ruins, Claire and Jamie share a laugh at the Black Kirk during ep103. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

Falkland – The Covenanter Hotel; the Bruce Fountain; Campbell’s Coffee Shop → 1940s Inverness, ep101 – Claire and Frank’s second honeymoon at Mrs. Baird’s Guesthouse; where Frank sees a Highlander watching Claire; Farrell’s Hardware and Furniture Store where Claire sees a vase she likes

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Falkland town centre: site of the Highlander watching Claire brush her hair, ep101. Image by C. L. Tangenberg

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour → Scottish abbey of Jamie’s convalescence in ep116

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Aberdour Castle: Willie arrives after scouting the area around the Scottish abbey. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

Dysart Harbour, Kirkcaldy → Port of Le Havre, France, 1740s part of ep201

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Dysart Harbour with CGI creating busy port of 1740s Le Havre, France. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

Falkirk      →        Outlander Setting

Bo’ness and Kinneil Rail Station, Union Street, Boness, Falkirk → 20th-century train platform where Claire and Frank say good-bye during World War II, ep103

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Bo’ness & Kinneil Rail Station, flashback that starts ep103. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

West Lothian      →         Outlander Settings

Midhope Castle, Midhope House, Hopetoun Estate, Abercorn, South Queensferry, West Lothian → the Fraser estate of Lallybroch, eps 112, 113, 114, 208, 213

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Families gather at Midhope Castle, location used for exteriors of Lallybroch estate. Image by C. L. Tangenberg

Linlithgow Palace, Kirkgate, Linlithgow, West Lothian → Wentworth Prison exteriors and corridors, eps 115 and 116

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Linlithgow Palace winding staircase and landing. Image by C. L. Tangenberg

Blackness Castle → exteriors and courtyard of Fort William

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Blackness Castle balcony and railing, escape from Fort William, ep109. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

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Blackness Castle, alcove where Jamie questions British soldier during Fort William rescue. Image by C. L. Tangenberg

Midlothian          →           Outlander Setting

Glencorse Old Kirk, Milton Bridge near Penicuik, Pentland Hills, Midlothian → interiors and exterior of church where Claire and Jamie get married, ep107

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Glencorse Old Kirk outer wall and graveyard. Jamie joins Claire before wedding procession, ep107. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

Edinburgh region      →       Outlander Settings

Hopetoun House, Hopetoun Estate, South Queensferry, Edinburgh → Duke of Sandringham residence 1

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Hopetoun House. Opening shot for scene where Claire visits Duke of Sandringham for the first time, ep109. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television

City of Edinburgh     →        Outlander Setting

Palace of Holyroodhouse → in the second book Dragonfly in Amber, it is here where Jamie and Claire try to convince Bonnie Prince Charlie to abandon his cause

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Palace of Holyroodhouse, inner courtyard. Image by C. L. Tangenberg

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Palace of Holyroodhouse, fountain and front entrance. Image by C. L. Tangenberg

East Lothian      →         Outlander Setting

Preston Mill & Phantassie Doocot, East Linton, East Lothian → Lallybroch mill, ep112

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Preston Mill & Phantassie Doocot; Jamie’s about to take the plunge to fix the mill. Image credit: STARZ & Sony Pictures Television


In Part 2, we continue our look at Central Scotland with a shift to the west for Glasgow area filming sites.

Stay tuned!


Sources:

All STARZ/Sony images courtesy of Outlander-Online.com‘s collection of episode screen captures.

About West Kirk, Culross: http://www.zazzle.com/outlanders_black_kirk_film_location_church_ruins_card-137365438944710596

About Falkland: http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/arts-and-culture/photos/get-inside-outlander-on-a-tour-through-scotland/page/2

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Hannah Heath: 9 Different Descriptive Settings to Use In Your Fantasy Novel (Without Using Forests)

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Source: Hannah Heath: 9 Different Descriptive Settings to Use In Your Fantasy Novel (Without Using Forests)

Response – the comment that wouldn’t post:

Great topics, Hannah! Thanks for the photo inspiration, too. I like the rice terrace idea Nathan mentioned.

Let’s see, other settings – canyons, badlands, active volcanoes, forests made of giant stalks of crops (wheat forest!), mine dwellings, something like the chocolate factory, castle as entire world, Africa-like savannahs or bush, underwater bubble worlds, some kind of constantly stormy place.

I’m writing a Through the Looking-Glass fanfic of sorts. I’m keeping all of the original features—chess squares, railway, reedy lake, Knights’ Forest, nearby meadow, Tulgey Wood adding a ravine, Garden of Live Flowers, magical brook crossings, feast hall for Alice’s coronation. I’ve added a river, sea coast, bog, mountains, alpine lake, farm, and Wonderland as the next-door neighbor, at least for now. This is my first foray into fantasy writing, so I’ll have to consider these other ideas! It helped to draw a map.

Does it automatically switch from fantasy to sci-fi if we go to space? Do we care?

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Last Week of Camp: Ready to Start

This month, in addition to reading, writing and revising poetry, I’ve been learning story craft as a way of participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, April’s more relaxed version of the annual National Novel Writing Month program. (Camp is also held in July.) In this post, I explore some of what I’ve been doing and learning as I ponder the mysteries of motivation.


The more relaxed approach that is Camp NaNoWriMo suits me fine since I’m just now fleshing out my story outline, and with less than a week before the “event” technically ends. I count this as an accomplishment for one who has never considered herself much of a storyteller and who is new to the practice of novel writing.

It certainly helped to have fewer of us participating in write-ins in person and to be a host for some of them each week–more pressure to make progress, I guess.

The pace of completion of this detailed outlining step in particular makes me impressed with myself, mainly because I tend to second-guess the value of the stories I think of telling. By outlining my intentions, I’ve given weight and form to a story that has not even been written yet.

Why should such a small step impress me? Why does being “impressed” matter?

It’s true that November’s NaNoWriMo more thoroughly facilitates the steady, somewhat high-paced push of “writing with reckless abandon” for thirty days straight than do her spring and summer cousin events. Camp is also flexible in terms of content, genre, form, purpose, and word count, whereas November’s goal is always 50,000 words by midnight on December 1.

Camp-Nanowrimo-No-Sign-300px-RGB2_400x400In both cases, “winning” is a formality and having some semblance of a recognizable tale when you reach the 50K happens only by the honor system.

No one reads the final product you upload for official validation to be classed among the winners. It’s all self driven.

In this way, for me at least, being “impressed” with myself or feeling good about my progress is crucial to furthering it.

My approach to Camp has been to study how stories are formed: brainstorming, researching theories, story structures, tools, and techniques, then outlining, profiling main characters, and then expanding that outline into a full, novel-length set of plot points.

It’s this last step that I was able to start and finish in one four-hour sitting, yesterday during our region’s Sunday write-in at Panera.

Now that I’ve reached this milestone, I am much more excited to move forward with composition of the story itself. I know what story I’m trying to tell, and I know the frame work within which I must work. I even know some of the symbolism, foreshadowing, irony and other literary elements I want to incorporate, and am starting to see exactly how I can accomplish them.

In other words, the fact that Camp NaNoWriMo is ending has less of a subduing effect on me than it has at the end of the last several Novembers. It’s easy to lose steam as the holidays approach, and I felt rather lulled into passivity by the achievement of “winning” NaNoWriMo each time. My stories became less important in themselves, so abandoning them was no great tragedy.

Still, it is a let-down. Some people are “pantsers,” writing by the seat of their pants without much forethought or planning, and certainly no outlining. I have tried that approach and found it unsatisfactory, so this Camp I used as a stepping stone toward becoming a bona fide “planner” of stories (who also happens to write them).

Aided also by regularly blogging and committing to taking my poetry more seriously, I may not even need something like Camp in order to finish this new story. But if I do, July awaits. . . .

I’ve always been better at planning than doing in many ways, so I was reluctant to begin my experience during my first NaNoWriMo in 2011 with too much planning.

Truth be told, I couldn’t help indulging in excessive research on the front end the first year. I found the subject of the Native Americans and particularly the Salish language quite fascinating as I prepared starting in September to write, during November, a story about a white teen raised by ranchers in Montana who comes across a mysterious wolf mask carving on her recently deceased parents’ ranch and begins her adventure. (I wonder what ever happened to that first novel’s protagonist, Emily. Perhaps I’ll return to the text of What the Wolf Knows some day and find out . . . by finishing the story.)

Whichever approach I take, though, I find that it’s practice and experience–and just going for it–that ultimately propel my development as a story writer.

So, although in some ways, my structured approach to a story beginning was rather formulaic, it served as its own kind of “going for it.” I’d never outlined a story so thoroughly before, after all. And it was only after writing a few rough novels, all four of which remain effectively incomplete stories today, that I had the confidence and motivation to teach myself how to plan them well and thoroughly, too.

I’m still in the process of planning the story, but after yesterday, I’m better prepared to write the story I planned. I had already begun some composition of the back story, but now I’m ready to charge ahead to write the main plot.

When you’re not in school formally and you don’t work at, with, or for an organization with a built-in structure for your work, i.e., when you’re a writer out there essentially on your own (albeit with a local support community and the Internet’s bounty), it’s helpful to have events like NaNoWriMo and its Camp cousins to assist with each new aspect of the creative project’s undertaking.

I realize each task can be useful if I know–that is, if I establish for myself–its purpose and see where it can lead me. Because I understand that writing is a multi-part process that is often cyclical in nature, I know that I may alter the plan just as I re-write some of the story.

As I often tell the students I tutor, each phase or step of the writing process holds importance and something to teach, just as each writer has a story inside waiting to be told.

There is hope, then, that eventually I, too, will bring all the pieces together and not only tell but also share my stories.

Every active writer has self-developed approaches, processes, and unique needs to stay motivated and be productive. This has simply been a slice of what mine look like right now.

“Stories matter.”  #CampNaNoWriMo2016

Happy writing.

Five-Phrase Friday (24): Book Menu 2016

Books I most want to read for the first time this year:

  1. Out of Africa by Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) – the memoir of a Danish coffee-plantation owner, and sole manager after separation from her husband, in Kenya from 1914-1931; I’ve seen the film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford many times and loved it.
  2. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – “a work of strange, scary loveliness,” it is the prequel to Jane Eyre, with spoilers if you haven’t read Charlotte Bronte’s book first, which I have.
  3. Poems New and Collected by Wislawa Szymborska, Clare Cavanagh (translator) – a hypnotic poet. I still have to get my hands on this one, so I’ll use my birthday money.
  4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – This is a need perhaps as much as a desire.
  5. Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings by Ron Burgundy / Will Ferrell. Hopefully a sufficient counterpoise to all this seriousness. I started the Author’s Note to this one last week, after getting the book from my brother for my birthday. I only got through half a page before I started laughing out loud. People’s names alone are hilarious. Read the summary penned by Ron himself at the above link.

I’d also like to finish all of the books I’ve been reading since last year–Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Narrative of Sojourner Truth; and all of the books I started last year but never returned to–Don Quixote by Cervantes, Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins, Emma by Jane Austen, and, yet again, Diana Gabaldon’s novel Outlander. I’m more than half way through the first three, so, like, . . . any day now. We’ll see.

One reason I read so slowly is that I tend to read the classics with pen in hand, especially if it’s a copy I own that I can mark up. I like to communicate literally with books, writing marginalia on them and occasionally responding aloud. Literature lives, and breathes, and speaks. So I talk back.

As a student and teacher of literature, writing, and ideas, I also take notes. That means often re-reading large swaths of text in order to capture key insights, delightful writing, story element details, and other treasures.

I’m not much for pop fiction, so this is the reading life I have. If that means I may not get through much of my Goodreads to-read list, then so be it. I’d rather read thoughtfully, learn things, and savor ideas, images, and language than simply devour millions of words, only to pass them unabsorbed.

But I’ve always been a ruminant scholar; I chew my literary food. Some may find this process (or this metaphor) tedious, if not disgusting. Being partial to reading and writing poetry makes the approach work pretty well for me.

Along with typical time management challenges, I suppose dealing with intermittent brain fog and blurry vision may slow the pace a bit, too.

What kind of reader are you?

 

Five-Phrase Friday (19): In My Loving Arts

For the end of the year, and to make up for posting late (well, it was Christmas Day, after all), I’ve collected a year-end finale of five sets of five pop culture things I love. Usually represented in the form of a phrase, these are only samples of the many objects of my admiration. So here they are in no particular order.

I. Five titles of some of the most endearing Scottish folk songs Bear McCreary uses in the Outlander Starz TV Season One Original ScoreSheet_music_comin_thru_the_rye_duckduckgo_photostock

  1. “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye,” which supports at least three different scenes in the series
  2. “Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man” – in two different scenes and speeds: Jamie’s drunken evening and Jamie’s hangover the next morning, both in ep112 “Lallybroch”
  3. “My Bonnie Moorhen” in Jenny and Claire’s part of ep114 “The Search”
  4. “Weel May the Keel Ro” – described by composer Bear McCreary as a “fun jig” for the first part of Claire and Murtagh’s search in the same episode
  5. “Sleepy Maggie” – for the up-tempo rescue  sequence in ep116 “To Ransom a Man’s Soul”

II. Five of the novels I have most enjoyed (that I hadn’t already read)

since early 2011:

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 4/5
  2. 1984 by George Orwell – 4/5
  3. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – 4/5
  4. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (4th novel in the Outlander series) – 4/5
  5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – 5/5

III. Five favorite movies I have seen recently (I’ve got lots to catch up on, especially from 2014):

  1. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens – 5/5
  2. Still Alice – 4/5
  3. The Martian – 4/5
  4. Spy – 4/5
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy – 4/5

IV. Five of my favorite alternative music hits from 2015 – heard on SiriusXM’s AltNation:

  1. “Trip Switch” by Nothing But Thieves
  2. “Leave a Trace” by Chvrches
  3. “First” by Cold War Kids
  4. “Sedona” by Houndmouth
  5. “Now” by Joywave

V. Five of my new favorite TV shows (not necessarily new shows–in order to have a life, I’ve limited my exposure):

  1. Outlander
  2. Penny Dreadful
  3. Archer
  4. Parks and Recreation
  5. the prospect of watching Netflix shows one day, as well as Orphan Black, The Americans, and season two of Outlander

I hope you are counting your diverse blessings, too, and that they number well over 25, as mine do. I wish you all the best in 2016. Now and always, may the phrases be with you.

Banned books? People Still Read?

As we reflect and look ahead, 2014 goes on record as a year that, despite Internet and social networking milestones and information proliferation, has continued the world’s sad legacy of suppression and censorship. “A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists recorded at least 220 journalists were in prison around the world for reporting the news.” – Source: “The Year 2014 on Al Jazeera,” subhead “Press freedoms”

Here’s to global free speech and press.

A Matter of Scale

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The Written Word

The most powerful invention created by humanity right after fire, agriculture and the thrown rock (though not necessarily in that order).

The written word allows us to share information across time and space. To store ideas frozen for generations for new thinkers to review, revise, and even renew. Writing connects us with our past and with the future. From the Rosetta Stone to the Gutenberg Bible, writing consistently proved its value to Humanity again and again, allowing ideas, even forbidden ones, social and cultural taboos, their chance at immortality.

If they can get by the censors. For as long as we’ve been writing, there has been someone to say: Oh my god! You can’t write that! What if <insert sheltered group here> were to see this?

Censoring knowledge, hiding the written word is not new. Books can go from being literature to being banned in less than a…

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