Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Very Good Book (But, yes, it IS scary)

Not too long ago I read Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I read a lot of children's (young adult) novels, and this one ranks among the very best. In fact, if I have my way, my kids will hopefully enjoy it as much as they do Narnia.

The story is about Coraline, a little girl who wants to live in a fantasy world, because she hates the world in which she lives. She is frustrated and upset with her mildly-neglectful parents who won't entertain her all day long, and she's an ungrateful whiner. She goes on to discover a real-life fantasy world, that gives her everything she wants, until she realizes that it's actually a curse.

Like all good little-girl heroines, she ends up slaying a witch, and her methods are not unlike those of Jael in the Old Testament book of Judges (by destroying her enemy through hospitality). She repents and learns gratitude, and in so doing, discovers that the real world is infinitely more magical then her escapist fantasies. In fact, in Coraline, Gaiman quotes directly from G.K. Chesterton and his chapter "The Ethics of Elfland" in Orthodoxy. This is where Chesterton explains the value of fairy tales because they open our eyes to the very every-day magic we are surrounded with (and ignore, because of our own dullness).

Just for two pre-warnings, the book is definitely creepy (and the illustrations more so), but by middle school age it would likely qualify as creepy and fun (not scary, as it may for some younger children). Also, there was a movie based on the book which came out several years ago. Do yourself a favor and avoid it completely. It changes the end of the book (no more Jael scene), and displays some pretty bad taste for something aimed at a G-rated audience.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Wait for the Saturday Morning Cartoon (and matching Breakfast Cereal)

For some reason my children have this idea that yeast is a superhero. I believe this stems from several years ago, when they asked how bread is made. I've made sourdough, so I tried to explain that these invisible particles, called yeast, float through the air and land on the dough, eating the sugar. Their toddler-boy minds probably most enjoyed the description I gave them on how the little yeasties make the dough actually rise, but I'll leave that up to your imagination.

Anyhow, it's become quite a rock-paper-scissors-dynamite type game, where whomever claims to be the yeast ends up winning by default. For example:

Thing 1: "And then I'll be the giant who saves everybody."
Thing 2: "Then I'll be the Papa who saves everybody."
Thing 1: "Well, then I'll be the super-fast robot who wins."
Thing 2: "I am the super-fast robot whose batteries don't run out."
Thing 1: "Then I'll be the yeast."

At this point an awed silence comes over the both of them as they consider the wonder of this amazing creature.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Have a Dream

That one day I will get up at 5:00 am. I will have a big, heavy camera and lug it out into the middle of an orchard. And I will take photos like Eugene Atget.

I will then lug my big, heavy silver plates into a darkroom at home and come out smelling like developer. And hang gorgeous black-and-white and sepia photos around my home.