Articles by " Adam"
22 Apr
2017

It’s April 23rd, which means it’s Talk Like Shakespeare Day again!

Talk Like Shake­speare Day cards! Yes! Get them!

For­sooth! Today is Talk Like Shake­speare Day!
The best of all the days through­out the year!
When all of us who love the Bard will say
“To be, or not to be?” in voic­es clear!
The works of William Shake­speare we shall read
and gai­ly plays and poems shall recite;
until the words ring loud­ly in our heads
and peo­ple speak in iambs day and night.
Of oth­er days may oth­er poets sing,
I’ll keep my words for April twen­ty-third.
For tru­ly, William Shake­speare is the king
of all the Eng­lish lan­guage, says this nerd.
If you be not a faith­ful fan of his,
Then kind­ly up a rope please take a whiz!

In all seri­ous­ness, though, April 23rd is Talk Like Shake­speare Day.  It’s because he was born (prob­a­bly) and died on April 23rd. Same day, dif­fer­ent years, obvi­ous­ly.  I don’t feel the need to tell you any more facts about Shake­speare, as he is prob­a­bly the most well-known writer the Eng­lish lan­guage has yet pro­duced and if you’re that inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about him, you can read his Wikipedia page.  Fas­ci­nat­ing stuff, actu­al­ly.

What I am going to do is post a pic­ture and a video which are both amaz­ing and Shake­speare relat­ed, and leave it at that.

 

Pos­si­ble best post on Tum­blr

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27 Mar
2017

If you give a mouse a cookie, that’s cool, but giving him a sword is better.

While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Tread­er. When she fails me, I pad­dle east in my cor­a­cle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s coun­try, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sun­rise and Peep­iceek will be head of the talk­ing mice in Nar­nia.” — Reepicheep, The Voy­age of the Dawn Tread­er

Ok, so here’s the thing about giv­ing swords to mice.  It’s the freak­ing best.  While the sym­bol­ism of the swords­mouse prob­a­bly goes with­out say­ing, let me at least say that one of the rea­sons swordsmice are awe­some is that they remind us nev­er to be daunt­ed by long odds and to always per­sist in the face of adver­si­ty (two lessons that are becom­ing increas­ing­ly impor­tant).

In the case of Reepicheep, a well-known char­ac­ter from C.S. Lewis’s Nar­nia and my very favorite swords­mouse, the lessons about being fierce despite small size are still there, but they’re slight­ly over­shad­owed by the main thrust (no pun intend­ed) of the char­ac­ter, which is that you should be a total and com­plete badass in every and all sit­u­a­tions, no excep­tions. Full stop.

Reepicheep’s whole thing is that he might be the tini­est bit inse­cure about being, you know, a mouse, so he way, super over­com­pen­sates by being real­ly into fight­ing every­one who even slight­ly annoys him in any capac­i­ty.  Now. On the sur­face, does this seem like real­ly not an admirable qual­i­ty?  Yes.  But!  Reepicheep com­plete­ly makes up for this egre­gious old-timey bel­li­cos­i­ty by being extreme­ly noble, chival­rous, and basi­cal­ly just a big, damn hero.

This is a fan­made piece of art depict­ing Reepicheep and Matthi­as in a sword fight. Vis­it the artist’s DeviantArt page, here!

Anoth­er great swords­mouse is Matthi­as, the main char­ac­ter of Bri­an Jacques’s Red­wall.  Matthi­as is a clas­sic unlike­ly hero and real­ly, who doesn’t love that?  Matthi­as is oppo­site of Reepicheep in most ways. He’s a peace-lov­ing mouse who pret­ty much just loves work­ing at Red­wall Abbey and is por­trayed as a bit of a bun­gler at first.  But he ris­es in defense of his home and his loved ones when the Abbey is threat­ened.  With­out spoil­ing the book for you, I’ll tell you that Matthias’s trans­for­ma­tion from hap­less pas­toral duf­fer to mighty swords­mouse is exact­ly what you need to read if you feel help­less.

Nar­nia and Red­wall are very, very dif­fer­ent from one anoth­er, but aside from swordsmice and being writ­ten by Brits, what they have in com­mon is the deep-root­ed the­me that good will defeat evil as long as heroes have the will to per­se­vere.

 

This should prob­a­bly be the KU mot­to. It’s def­i­nite­ly one of mine and is a per­fect depic­tion of the best of what swordsmice rep­re­sent.

Basi­cal­ly what I’m try­ing to say, you guys, is this: Swordsmice are one of the great­est things ever given to us by lit­er­a­ture.  They remind us that val­or, brav­ery, and phys­i­cal prowess are not the domain only of the large and strong. They teach us not to be afraid to pick a fight, if we feel threat­ened.  They show us that you can be peace­ful and still pro­tect those you love.  The­se are impor­tant things for every child to learn, which is why swordsmice are most­ly found in books for chil­dren and young adults, but I have found myself need­ing reminders late­ly. If you do, too, the­se books, and oth­ers like them, are the places to find them.

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21 Mar
2017

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul!

March 21st is Inter­na­tion­al Day of Forests, which has hon­est­ly got to be one of the best and most impor­tant days ever imple­ment­ed by the U.N. Here’s a link to the Wiki arti­cle, if you’re inter­est­ed in the bor­ing tech­ni­cal stuff that they do.

I want to go to here.

Forests are amaz­ing.  I have loved them since I was a kid, explor­ing what I per­ceived as the rugged wilder­ness of my grand­par­ents’ sub­ur­ban back­yards.  And while I grew to under­stand that the small stretch of woods between prop­er­ties in Hamp­ton Town­ship did not con­sti­tute a forest, I have yet to out­grow my awe of, con­nec­tion to, or love of, wood­ed areas.

Mmm, trop­i­cal rain­forest. Yes, please.

Did you know that 80% of Earth’s ter­res­tri­al bio­di­ver­si­ty is found in forests?  And that while trop­i­cal rain­forests cov­er only 10% of the Earth’s sur­face, more than half of all ter­res­tri­al species are thought to live there?  And don’t be fooled by the phrase “thought to” in that sen­tence.  Half is prob­a­bly a sig­nif­i­cant under­es­ti­mate, since new species are being dis­cov­ered all the time, and many of the rain­forests through­out the world remain large­ly unex­plored.

Tem­per­ate Rain­forests are total­ly rad, you guys.

Also! When peo­ple hear the word rain­forest, they usu­al­ly think of the jun­gles of the trop­ics, but did you know that there are rain­forests right here in the USA?! On the West Coast of the USA and Canada is what’s known as a tem­per­ate rain­forest, stretch­ing from Kodi­ak Island in Alaska to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.  Tem­per­ate rain­forests are also found on the south­ern tip of South Amer­i­ca, in Aus­tralia, North­west­ern Europe, and North­east­ern Asia.

Though most peo­ple think of leop­ards as com­ing only from warm cli­mates like the African Savan­nah, the Amur Leop­ard is native to a region of Siberia that boasts exter­me­ly harsh win­ters.

Prob­a­bly the coolest forest, though, is the taiga.  Taiga refers to the bio­me found just below the tun­dra at the Earth’s north pole.  There’s not real­ly south­ern taiga because Antarc­ti­ca is sur­round­ed by oceans, but the Arc­tic region is sur­round­ed on a few sides by North Amer­i­ca and Asia, and the land below the Arc­tic Cir­cle is home to the taiga. Taiga is char­ac­ter­ized by thick forests of ever­green, most­ly conif­er­ous trees, and weath­er pat­terns that can most eas­i­ly be described as tun­dra-lite.  Win­ters are long and sev­ere, sum­mers short and mild.  Despite the harsh liv­ing con­di­tions, though, the taiga is still home to plen­ty of awe­some plants and ani­mals.  The Asian taiga is home to the Siberi­an Tiger and the Amur Leop­ard, two of the rarest big cats in the world.  The taiga also con­tains approx­i­mate­ly one third of all the trees in the entire world, and pro­duces about one quar­ter of the oxy­gen we breathe.

Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green, deep woods.” — John Muir

Basi­cal­ly what I’m say­ing, peo­ple, is that forests are total­ly amaz­ing and are prob­a­bly the best thing on this entire plan­et of Earth.  With the way things are going, it’s like­ly that the entire con­cept of forests is going to rad­i­cal­ly be chang­ing in the next 50 years or so, so take the oppor­tu­ni­ty now to expe­ri­ence forests as they are, and may­be par­tic­i­pate in some of the ways that peo­ple are try­ing to pre­serve and pro­tect them.

Here’s anoth­er one of the taiga, because it’s awe­some.

You can learn more about the Unit­ed Nations’ Day of Forests efforts here.

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9 Mar
2017

I know you think you have a favorite instrument, but you’re probably wrong.

Well, it’s that time of the year again. March 10th marks Inter­na­tion­al Bag­pipes Day!  I know most of us are (obvi­ous­ly) great bag­pipe lovers already, but for any­one out there who has ever thought, “Wow, bag­pipes are total­ly amaz­ing, but I wish I knew more about them!” this post is for you.

The Pitts­burgh Fire­fight­ers Memo­ri­al Pipe Band at a com­pe­ti­tion! (My dad isn’t not in this pho­to…)

Let’s start with some basic bag­pipe facts.

Piper Bill Millin, badass extra­or­di­naire of WWII

  • Bag­pipes were invent­ed in the Near/Middle East, evi­dence sug­gests some time before the Roman era.  The exact time­line is unknown, but ref­er­ences to bag­pipes and bag­pipers are made in ancient Greek plays and Roman writ­ings. There are spo­radic men­tions of the instru­ment in ear­lier texts.
  • Although the Great High­land Bag­pipe of Scot­land is the most wide­ly known bag­pipe in the Eng­lish-speak­ing world, bag­pipes are actu­al­ly fair­ly com­mon across all Indo-Euro­pean coun­tries, with most every region sport­ing sev­er­al exam­ples.  In addi­tion to the Great High­land Bag­pipe, pipes from the British Isles include the Scot­tish Small­pipes, the Bor­der Pipes, the Irish Uil­leann Pipes, and oth­ers. In Europe, instru­ments include the zam­pog­na of Italy, the bin­iou of France, and the Dudel­sack (yes, real­ly) of Ger­many.  There are also bag­pipes indige­nous to India, Iran, Greece, Turkey, Rus­sia, Poland, Nor­way, Swe­den, and pret­ty much every oth­er Euro­pean coun­try you know.
  • Bag­pipes were used on the bat­tle­fields of Scot­land and Eng­land as ear­ly as the 16th cen­tu­ry.  Bag­pipes were used in a man­ner sim­i­lar to the use of the bugle by the cav­al­ries of West­erns, with dif­fer­ent types of tunes to denote march­ing to bat­tle, retreat­ing, reveille, etc. The com­mon­ly known music of the Great High­land Bag­pipes today comes most­ly from the tra­di­tion of mar­tial music; bag­pipe com­pe­ti­tions strong­ly empha­size march­es specif­i­cal­ly.
  • Gra­tu­itous­ly sexy bag­piper? Don’t mind if I do!

    While dif­fer­ent types of bag­pipe vary great­ly in their tones, the instru­ments have an under­ly­ing uni­ty to their sound, which is due to the way they are played.  Almost all bag­pipes con­sist of a chanter, which plays the melody, and at least one drone pipe, which plays a sin­gle note in the back­ground (hence the name). The piper fills the bag with air, either blown in by mouth or pumped in by a bel­lows, and then squeezes the bag, which forces the air through reeds in the pipes, which pro­duces the notes of the instru­ment.

    From Wikipedia (because I tried to say this as con­cise­ly and failed): “The chanter is usu­al­ly open-end­ed, so there is no easy way for the play­er to stop the pipe from sound­ing. Thus most bag­pipes share a con­stant, lega­to sound where there are no rests in the music. Pri­mar­i­ly because of this inabil­i­ty to stop play­ing, tech­ni­cal move­ments are used to break up notes and to cre­ate the illu­sion of artic­u­la­tion and accents. Because of their impor­tance, the­se embell­ish­ments (or ‘orna­ments’) are often high­ly tech­ni­cal sys­tems speci­fic to each bag­pipe, and take many years of study to mas­ter.”

  • Bill Millin, per­son­al piper to Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, piped British sol­diers ashore at Nor­mandy like a total badass.  After the bat­tle he asked some cap­tured Ger­man snipers why they hadn’t shot him and they told him it was because they thought he had gone insane.  What oth­er instru­ment has a sto­ry like that?! None oth­er.

That’s about enough of the edu­ca­tion­al stuff!  Here are some bag­pipes for you to lis­ten to! Enjoy!

Pipe Major Bri­an Don­ald­son and Willie Mac­Cal­lum, two of the best pipers liv­ing (and two of the nicest peo­ple you’d ever hope to meet!)

The late Pipe Major Alas­dair Gillies, last Pipe Major of the Queen’s Own High­landers, and pos­si­bly the great­est piper of the 20th Cen­tu­ry.  (Also a fan­tas­tic per­son.)

Here’s some Ital­ian bag­pipes!  Wtf?!

Rus­sian Bag­pipes!  Ah!

That’s all from your favorite bag­pipe lover for today!  Haste ye back! <3

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20 Feb
2017

Find Someone to Love You Unconditionally on National Love Your Pet Day!

Feb­ru­ary 20th is Nation­al Love Your Pet Day!  Aka the best and most beau­ti­ful day of the year!  We love pets.  They are cud­dly and adorable and the actu­al best.  Pet own­er­ship has been sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly proven* to make your life bet­ter.  Tak­ing care of a crea­ture oth­er than your­self not only imparts respon­si­bil­i­ty and makes you a less nar­cis­sis­tic crazy­pants, but it is also the essen­tial ingre­di­ent for a per­fect meet-cute.  Basi­cal­ly what I’m try­ing to say is that you should have a pet.  Because if you don’t have a pet, you will get preg­nant.  And die.

Nev­er­mind that, though!  Let’s look at pic­tures of the var­i­ous and sundry pets of Kards Unlim­it­ed!

Pen­nyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

Speck is so amaz­ing and majes­tic.

 

Ate and Ursu­la! Cud­dling kit­tens of DOOM!

Baby Ursu­la was the best Ursu­la.

 

Oh Wat­son. You goof­ball.

 

Ha, Sip­per. Too cute. Look at her lit­tle crossed eyes.

This is Rick. She clear­ly takes after her own­er Dale

And this is Clover! I love her so much and I haven’t even met her yet!

*I don’t really think that science has proven anything of the kind, but it sounds reasonable.  Pets are the best.  Just trust me.
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6 Feb
2017

Learn to steal like Neil Gaiman!

I read a book a while ago called Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon.  The book isn’t real­ly about steal­ing, of course, but about how to go about cap­i­tal­iz­ing on inspi­ra­tion and under­stand­ing the dif­fer­ences between emu­lat­ing a style because you appre­ci­ate it and straight up copy­ing some­one else’s work.

When I heard Neil Gaiman was going to pub­lish a book of Norse mythol­o­gy (inven­tive­ly enti­tled, Norse Mythol­o­gy), I imme­di­ate­ly thought of Steal Like an Artist because one of the things Kleon talks about in the book is get­ting to know the influ­ences of your influ­ences.  If you want to paint like Van Gogh, find out not only all you can about him, find out all you can about the painters that he admired and that influ­enced him.

Gaiman’s appre­ci­a­tion for Norse myth is very obvi­ous when you read his nov­el Amer­i­can Gods, since sev­er­al char­ac­ters direct­ly from Norse mythol­o­gy are trans­formed into main char­ac­ters of the nov­el.  How­ev­er, I’m excit­ed to read the Norse myths retold by Gaiman him­self, since they are such a sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence on his writ­ing.

Norse mythol­o­gy is not near­ly as well known in Amer­i­ca as its South­ern Euro­pean coun­ter­parts.  Indeed, the word mythol­o­gy in and of itself gen­er­al­ly gets peo­ple think­ing of Olym­pus and Her­cules and the rest of the Greek pan­theon.  Norse mythol­o­gy is quite dif­fer­ent.  The gods are more hero­ic and human, their ene­mies are much more diverse and, frankly, weird, and the nine worlds that make up the Norse uni­verse provide a mul­ti­tude of paths a depart­ed soul can take from life instead of a sim­ple trip across a river to the Under­world of the Greeks and Romans.

Any­one who has asked for book rec­om­men­da­tions at Kards Unlim­it­ed has undoubt­ed­ly been point­ed in the direc­tion of Neil Gaiman.  All of his books have been picked as favorites of at least a few of the staff and the KU Book Club has read three of his nov­els over the course of our meet­ings.  I’m cer­tain­ly not alone in being excit­ed for Gaiman’s newest book, and I think you will be too.  Come pick up a signed copy, on sale tomor­row, 2/7/17!

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22 Sep
2015

It’s Tolkien Week and you know what that means!

Gandalf has questions that need answering!

Gan­dalf has ques­tions that need answer­ing!

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

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20 Aug
2015

I Sing the Body Fantastic: an Appreciation of Ray Bradbury

Look at that punim.

Look at that punim.

If we lis­tened to our intel­lect, we’d nev­er have a love affair. We’d nev­er have a friend­ship. We’d nev­er go into busi­ness, because we’d be cyn­i­cal. Well, that’s non­sense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

fahren451

I admit from the out­set that I am not a very good Brad­bury fan.  Brad­bury, born 22 August 1920, pub­lished at least 27 nov­els and over 600 short sto­ries (and like­ly wrote a ton more-he wrote reli­gious­ly every day for almost 70 years) and I’ve only ever read one of his books, Fahren­heit, 451 and I only thought it was ok.  One of his works that has stuck with me since I first saw it, though, is the made-for-TV movie The Elec­tric Grand­moth­er writ­ten by Brad­bury and based on his short sto­ry I Sing the Body Elec­tric (named for a Walt Whit­man poem).

The movie tells the sto­ry of a wid­ow­er and his three chil­dren who obtain an android grand­moth­er to help assuage the loss of their wife/mother.  It’s a love­ly and heart-wrench­ing sto­ry and it affect­ed me very strong­ly as a kid.  Ray real­ly knew how to hit you right in the feels, man.

Despite not hav­ing a great ground­ing in his works, I do real­ly love Ray Brad­bury for his love of and com­mit­ment to the art and craft of writ­ing.  Aspir­ing writ­ers now have so much dis­cour­ag­ing them (us) from pur­su­ing our goals that it’s great to have the moral sup­port of some­one so influ­en­tial in the field.

Thanks, Ray.

I know you’ve heard it a thou­sand times before. But it’s true – hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice. If you don’t love some­thing, then don’t do it.”

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