Poetry Friday: Nonsense Poem

Laughable LyricsI felt silly today, so I’m posting one of Edward Lear’s wonderful nonsense poems from his 1877 book, Laughable Lyrics: A Fourth Book of Nonsense Poems, Songs, Botany, Music, &c.  I love Lear’s poetry because it’s so delightfully silly!  When I was a kid I used to just revel in his stuff (especially the story poems, like The Owl and the Pussycat).

The New Vestments

There lived an old man in the Kingdom of Tess,
Who invented a purely original dress;
And when it was perfectly made and complete,
He opened the door, and walked into the street.

By way of a hat, he’d a loaf of Brown Bread,
In the middle of which he inserted his head;-
His Shirt was made up of no end of dead Mice,
The warmth of whose skins was quite fluffy and nice;-
His Drawers were of Rabbit-skins;- so were his Shoes;-
His Stockings were skins,- but it is not known whose;-
His Waistcoat and Trowsers were made of Pork Chops;-
His Buttons were Jujubes, and Chocolate Drops;-
His Coat was all Pancakes with Jam for a border,
And a girdle of Biscuits to keep it in order;
And he wore over all, as a screen from bad weather,
A Cloak of green Cabbage-leaves stitched all together.

He had walked a short way, when he heard a great noise,
Of all sorts of Beasticles, Birdlings, and Boys;-
And from every long street and dark lane in the town
Beasts, Birdles, and Boys in a tumult rushed down.
Two Cows and a half ates his Cabbage-leaf Cloak;-
Four Apes seized his Girdle, which vanished like smoke;-
Three Kids ate up half of his Pancaky Coat,-
And the tails were devour’d by an ancient He Goat;-
An army of Dogs in a twinkling tore up his
Pork Waistcoat and Trowsers to give to their Puppies;-
And while they were growling, and mumbling the Chops,
Ten Boys prigged the Jujubes and Chocolate Drops.-
He tried to run back to his house, but in vain,
For Scores of fat Pigs came again and again;-
They rushed out of stables and hovels and doors,-
They tore off his stockings, his shoes, and his drawers;-
And now from the housetops with screechings descend,
Striped, spotted, white, black, and gray Cats without end,
They jumped on his shoulders and knocked off his hat,-
When Crows, Ducks, and Hens made a mincemeat of that;-
They speedily flew at his sleeves in a trice,
And utterly tore up his Shirt of dead Mice;-
They swallowed the last of his Shirt with a squall,-
Whereon he ran home with no clothes on at all.

And he said to himself as he bolted the door,
‘I will not wear a similar dress any more,
‘Any more, any more, any more, never more!’

“I Want to Play Her!”

Ok, so I stumbled across a fascinating question the other day on the internet and then afterwards discovered that so many other people had found it interesting as well they had turned it into a meme! How interesting! The question has to do with gaming art that makes you go “I want to play her!”. Yes, “her”, because this question was specifically directed at women gamers. Here’s what it said exactly:

Ladies, what RPG covers (or interiors) have you seen that involve a woman in the art that make you say, “I want to play that” or, just as good “I want to play her.” Or that make you feel like it is a game you could like, or be included in by a group of guys you’d never met and whose maturity you didn’t neccisarily know?

The question came from Brand at Yudhishthira’s Dice, and if you go visit him I highly recommend you check out the post right before this one entitled “Why is that woman on her hands and knees?” as well, it’s on a related subject and it’s absolutely brilliant (it’s what drew me to the site in the first place).

As this is a meme, there are rules and stuff, so here they are (I didn’t write them). They come from Official Shrub.com, which I wasn’t familiar with before (and still really know little about), but the link in the last rule goes to a page where a bunch of people who have participated in the meme have linked their posts and you can see what they had to say. It’s kind of interesting.

  1. Copy the text of the original challenge from Yudhishthira’s Dice and give a proper link attribution.
  2. Copy these rules exactly (including any links).
  3. Find images of game covers (interiors are okay, too) that make you want to play the game. Any kind of game — video game, card game, tabletop RPG, etc — is fine. Post them and include a short (or long) explanation on why the image makes/made you want to play the game.
  4. The original challenge is about finding out what women think about how game art is marketed and therefore it is targeted at women. I’d like to keep it that way, please.
  5. You can tag as many or as few people as you want. You do not need to be tagged to participate in the meme.
  6. When you make your post, please post the link on this thread so we can all see what others have said.

Ok, rules and explanation done now, we can get on with the fun part of this exercise! The pictures!

I had a lot of trouble with this. I usually pull character ideas from non-gaming sources when I role play because most gaming art really doesn’t appeal to me, so finding some that did was a real challenge. Michael certainly helped, but his idea of appealing art is not always the same as mine. He did point me to some interesting things I might not otherwise have seen, though, so the help was appreciated.

First Michael pulled out his Eberron books. I hadn’t looked at these much before, since the world itself doesn’t really appeal to me. That said, it didn’t take long for me to find a picture that did! In Sharn: City of Towers there is a double-page spread right after the title page of a big battle in the air around a flying ship thing. On the left-hand page standing on the ship is a woman. She has on a green leather breast-piece and numerous small pouches hang from her hips. She holds both a sword and a crossbow (and a quiver of bolts can be seen on one hip). Her hair is in a sensible short ponytail with braiding around her forehead to keep stray hairs from getting into her face. She looks totally awesome. I would totally love to play her! She appears competent, strong and prepared, just like a good adventurer should be, but she has character. The green is interesting, there is a flamboyant red sash at her waist, she almost has a swashbuckler air to her, although she certainly doesn’t look like a pirate. It’s great.

Polgara the SorceressIn thinking more about images that inspired me, I remembered the cover of Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings. The art is by Keith Parkinson (click on the thumbnail for a bigger image). It’s not exactly gaming art, but he’s a gaming artist much of the time, so I’m going to count it anyway. Polgara isn’t actually doing anything in this image, she’s just standing there with the owl on her arm and staring out at the viewer, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me (usually images that inspire me to play a character are actively doing something). She just radiates competence and power, which up to that point wasn’t really something I necessarily associated with mages (chalk that up to the people I played with). She doesn’t look angry or anything, but you still get the sense that this is not a woman to mess with. I looked at her and knew I wanted to play a wizard like that. I’ve played a number of spellcasters since then, all with that aim in mind (to greater and lesser degrees of success). That look of power has inspired me a lot. I’ve even tried a spellcaster that didn’t have the firepower the back up that look, but affected the bearing and mannerisms as if she did. It’s a great piece of art and certainly made me say “I want to play her!”

After finding these two, I decided that two wasn’t enough, so I went looking for one more. What I found was actually another spellcaster (which wasn’t what I expected, but the pickings were kind of slim, in my opinion). The piece I found was by Tomas Giorello and on page 63 of issue 342 of Dragon magazine. It’s of a woman spellcaster standing proud and tall on top of water with her bright red cloak billowing behind her, arm upraised with an artifact casting a spell. In her other hand is a golden staff and her eyes are fixed intently on something straight ahead of her out of the picture, over the viewer’s left shoulder. Her robes are practical and not billowy and she has what appears to be some type of light armor as well, partially over her robes and partially peeking out under the sleeves. It’s a remarkably practical version of the very impractical wizard garb we always see. At about the level of her hips and knees are the heads of her male, armored companions (two of them), both hip-deep in water. They are looking brave and everything, but they are clearly clustered around her (perhaps she’s casting haste or something where they all need to be close). In the foreground are the backs of two creatures (kuo-toa, maybe?) with spears. The effect is that the woman appears clearly in command of the situation and radiates power. Again, I’d love to be playing that woman, even if usually she isn’t the one in the center, directing the show. It’s a great piece of art with a great woman character and no cleavage!

This was a fun exercise to do. I looked for some stuff in video game art, since my apartment is full of it, but I have to say that what I found more often nauseated me than made me happy, and nothing really inspired me. I hope that changes soon and I’m certainly going to pay attention to it. I’ve loved looking at what other women have said as well. Now I’d love to see what more women say, so I encourage others to try this. Especially Viv and Eva, since I’m guessing they’ll have some interesting answers to this one!

~~~~~

I’ve set up a persistent page for this topic.  I’m going to keep looking for gaming art and images of women that inspire me.  The ones here are there as well as several more that I’ve found since posting this.  More will hopefully be added in the future!  The page is here: http://www.pixiepalace.com/role-playing-games/i-want-to-play-her/

Poetry Friday: Weather Poems

Christopher RobinToday is World Meteorological Day, so I decided to post weather poems. The weather outside my window is rainy and gloomy, so it seemed natural to post a rain poem. Except that I don’t like rain. I like snow and sunshine. So I decided to not post about rain and share these poems about snow and summer sun instead!

Snow
by Walter de la Mere

No breath of wind,
No gleam of sun-
Still the white snow
Whirls softly down-
Twig and bough
And blade and thorn
All in an icy
Quiet, forlorn.
Whispering, rustling,
Through the air,
On sill and stone,
Roof – everywhere,
It heaps its powdery
Crystal flakes,
Of every tree
A mountain makes;
Till pale and faint
At shut of day,
Stoops from the West
One wintry ray.
And, feathered in fire,
Where ghosts the moon,
A robin shrills
His lonely tune.

Summer Sun
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Great in the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven without repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More think than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles,
Into the laddered hayloft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

I hope that whatever the weather you have today it’s the type of weather you enjoy!

Imaginary Exploration in Babymouse

Babymouse vs. The SquidOne of my favorite new series is Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. It’s a graphic novel series about a young mouse who leads a life that is relatively similar to that of a normal elementary school child. What makes Babymouse particularly special as a character is her extraordinary imagination (and perhaps her extremely broad knowledge of literature, popular culture and history). The authors excel at exploring ideas through Babymouse’s imaginary worlds, which are usually riffs on stories or themes from various sources. The results are quite intriguing and often say as much about the source material of Babymouse’s imaginary play as they do about the idea she is exploring.

One of the common themes for Babymouse’s imagination are monster movies along the lines of Godzilla. Her locker regularly trying to eat her is one of the recurring gags in the books. Babymouse both defeats such creatures and turns into them herself, as in the Babymousezilla sequence in Babymouse: Our Hero. We are told in the first book that she and her best friend love to watch old monster movies, which clearly explains why they come up so often in her imaginary worlds. There are classic horror themes as well, such as Frankenstein. It is quite interesting that this character, and these authors, understood that it is possible to identify with the hunters, the monster and the victims, often all at the same time, especially when you are a child. I can’t think of a single other book that does this, although I am sure that they must exist (possibly the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips).

Another interesting source for Babymouse’s imaginary play is classic children’s books and fairy tales, although often she is, again, not taking the part one would have expected. In her Cinderella fantasy in the first book she turns from poor Cinderella into one of the mice pulling Cinderella’s carriage. She can be Peter Pan, but a Peter who doesn’t fly (and in fact walks the plank and falls into the crocodile-infested water). And her “Little Mermouse” gets inked by a squid. Somehow, fairy tales are rarely as rosy for Babymouse. But then, fairy tales were rarely that rosy to begin with. We only remember them that way. Babymouse’s creative use of those stories certainly seems to clarify things for her and help her work through issues that she needs to work through, which was the point of fairy tales to begin with! Perhaps Babymouse has it more right than most adults do.

One of the most interesting elements I found was that gender means nothing in Babymouse’s fantasy worlds. She can as easily be a soldier in basic training or Superman as she can be a princess in pink or a mermaid. Clearly Babymouse has no fixed gender image getting in the way of her imaginary play. Looking at the cover of the book, with it’s abundance of pink and main character in her scalloped dress with heart adornments one wouldn’t expect to find squid fights, world wars and presidents handing out medals of commendation to the main character, but rather pink iced cupcakes and Cinderella fantasies and floating hearts. The truth is, the books contain all of the above and more. Babymouse is as likely to turn into a rock star with a Mohawk as she is a proper princess on a pink puff. It’s really great!

I honestly have to say I have been more impressed with the Babymouse books than anything else I have read in the past year for a variety of reasons. The imaginary exploration of ideas is just incredible, but it really only scratches the surface of why these books are amazing. I haven’t managed to read all five that are out yet (and haven’t even bought the fifth, but believe me, I soon will), but they are absolutely worth it. The exploration of ideas in these books is so interesting they could fuel a whole slew of literary papers on any number of themes!

But I Already Read It!

Gideon the CutpurseI was very upset to read on A Fuse #8 Production that when Simon and Schuster publishes the book Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer this summer in paperback they are not only changing the cover, but also the title!

I can sort of understand them changing the cover (although I really like the cover and have sold it to several people who were undecided on it and finally decided to buy it because they thought it had a cool cover) because the cover doesn’t really have anything to do with the book.  That said, I have no idea what the new cover will look like.  It may very well be worse.

Changing the title, however, is unforgivable in my opinion.  It is confusing and unnecessary.  I understand that you could argue that Gideon isn’t the main character, but he is very important and certainly one of the characters you will be most interested in and intrigued by throughout the book.  More importantly, the title is unique and memorable.  It stands out from the crowd.  People don’t forget it.  The new title is to be The Time Travelers, which is about as generic and boring as you can get.  Not only will no one remember that but I guarantee that half the people I’ve sold the book to would not have bought it under that title.  It’s too boring and says “this is generic sci-fi for sci-fi readers”, which Gideon the Cutpurse is most definitely not.  But people buy books by their covers and titles more than anything else.

Another big quip I have here is that the publisher’s page for the paperback version, The Time Travelers, does not say that it is the same book as Gideon the Cutpurse.  It should.  People buy from websites with a single click and Gideon was amazing enough that I wouldn’t think twice about buying another book with Linda Buckley-Archer’s name on it.  If I didn’t already know that this was the same book, I’d buy it when I came across it on a website.  And Simon and Schuster does nothing to help me know that it’s the book I’ve already read (and Amazon and the like has no reason to do so if the publisher doesn’t).  Granted it won’t be out for while, but those pages rarely change much after they go up, so I have little hope for it.

Another good reason not to change a book’s title is that it won an award under the first one, but clearly that didn’t stop them.  Too bad for anyone looking to buy the books on the Texas Lone Star Reading List in paperback!

Gideon the Cutpurse is a great book.  I thought it was one of the best science fiction/fantasy books I read last year and I very highly recommend it!  I can’t wait for the rest of the series and seriously hope they keep the titles planned out for them (otherwise I’ll buy the British versions, which probably won’t be changed!) rather than giving them dumb titles like the upcoming paperback.  Maybe we’ll be lucky and Simon and Schuster will come to its senses, but I doubt it.

Poetry Friday: Rose Poems

Today is Middle Name Pride Day, so it seems appropriate for me to share some poems about roses for Poetry Friday since my middle name happens to be Rose! Some of my favorite rose poems are from Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies of the Summer (1925). The most famous is, of course, “The Song of the Rose Fairy”, which I love, but there is another one that I adored when I was little from the same book called “The Song of the Wild Rose Fairy”. I’ve decided to share both since I doubt most people have heard the second unless they’ve actually read the book. The art should be fairly familiar since Barker’s fairies are everywhere now and the poems wouldn’t be complete without them!

Rose FairyThe Song of the Rose Fairy

Best and dearest flower that grows,
Perfect both to see and smell;
Words can never, never tell
Half the beauty of a Rose-
Buds that open to disclose
Fold on fold of purest white,
Lovely pink, or red that glows
Deep, sweet-scented. What delight
To be Fairy of the Rose!

Wild Rose FairyThe Song of the Wild Rose Fairy

I am the queen whom everybody knows:
I am the English Rose;
As light and free as any Jenny Wren,
As dear to Englishmen;
As joyous as a Robin Redbreast’s tune,
I scent the air of June;
My buds are rosy as a baby’s cheek;
I have one word to speak,
One word which is my secret and my song,
‘Tis “England, England, England” all day long.

Happy Middle Name Pride Day! I hope you like your middle name as much as I do mine! Fun fact for the day: Lynn is the most common middle name in America (it works for both boys and girls, so this isn’t a big shock).

And for more about Cicely Mary Barker and her wonderful flower fairies visit FlowerFairies.com!

Musings on Beatrix Potter

The pie made of mouseI’ve had an article from the Times Online about Beatrix Potter in my list of things to read for a while now and I finally got around to reading it today. It talked about Linda Lear’s biography of Beatrix Potter, but more than that it talked about Potter herself and the animals in her stories. The writer of the article, Nicola Shulman, focused on the dual nature of Potter’s animal characters. They are very true to life and realistic because Potter was such a naturalist, a scientist really, but they are also very anthropomorphized. Each character is indeed a rabbit or a cat or a pig, but he or she is also a Victorian lady or gentleman or child as well and the society they live in is something of an amalgam of those two worlds. And somehow Potter always made this come off without any visible conflict. The animal natures of her characters never really seemed to come into conflict with their human-like personalities. It was rather brilliant, really. And through all of this, they still live in a world with humans. It was brilliant. Shulman likens her writing that of Jane Austen and I think that the comparison is very fair.

One thing that struck me was that Shulman talked a good deal about the scary Potter stories, of which there are quite a few. She pointed out that we are often more familiar with the fluffy stories, but that in many of her books someone almost dies and the themes are often very dark (although I would counter with the fact that Potter’s most famous work is The Tale of Peter Rabbit which is very scary and dark in many ways). Then she said that some of the stories might really be too scary for children. I really hate when people say things like that. Kids have been reading Potter for a long time and haven’t had a problem, so where does that statement come from?

That got me thinking about the Potter stories that I liked best when I was a child. They were the dark ones, for the most part. And the ones no one has heard of (but I was like that). My favorite was The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan which isn’t terribly dark, but no one has heard of it. Besides that, I liked The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, where the duck unwittingly helps a fox collect herbs so he can cook her for dinner until she is saved by some farm dogs. I don’t remember what others I liked, but I remember that in many of them the creatures barely escaped with their lives (I think there was one with Tom Kitten, but I don’t know if it was The Tale of Tom Kitten or another one where he was a character). And I thought there was one with some mice in a dollhouse. The Tale of Two Bad Mice perhaps? I remember a pig too, but I can’t remember it’s name or what happened to it.

Anyhow, clearly nothing terribly bad happened to me from reading these stories. My brother read them as well and he’s just fine. And yet most of these are not sold in the bookstore where I work. They are likely in the collection we sell (I think it has all of Potter’s stories), but we only sell her famous stories and her happy stories separately. I actually find it very annoying, since I would love to sell The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan to someone! I still have my copy from childhood and love it!

A Life in Books Meme

ReadingThis is a new book meme from Big A little a. It’s very interesting and has some pretty cool questions. She asked everyone who reads her blog to do it, and it’s a pretty neat meme, so I’m doing it!

1. What are your 5 most important books?

  • The Chronicles of Prydain Series by Lloyd Alexander: I know this is already five books, but I’m counting it as one. It’s a unit. I’ve read this series so many times it’s scary and I love it. They are truly my favorite books of all time. I can’t say they are the best books, because they aren’t, but they are my favorites and so they are the most important to me.
  • The Winnie-the-Pooh Books by A. A. Milne: This includes the two poetry books. I love these books a lot. I really do think everyone should read them. I don’t think that about very many books, but I definitely think that about Pooh.
  • The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum: This is my favorite of the Oz books, which is one of my favorite series. It’s a great adventure story and has one of the most coherent plot lines in the series. It is an almost perfect adventure/mystery in the Oz world with all of the great characters playing crucial roles. It’s fun and entertaining and Baum at his absolute best.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: This is one of the only love stories that ever really got to me. I love the characters and love the story. If more modern romance novels were like Jane Austen, I might actually read more of them! Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy were such a strange couple that worked so well. I doubt a lesser writer could have pulled it off without it seeming campy, but Austen does it and makes me swoon every time too.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare: I adore this play so much it almost hurts sometimes. I find something new and fascinating in it every time I pick it up. I love reading it (although I’ve learned that I’m largely incapable of reading it silently) and I love staging it and I love performing it and everything. I hate the character of Hamlet himself, so I usually skip his parts, but everything else is pure genius to me. Claudius, the King, is my favorite character in all of theatre. It’s just a brilliant play.

2. What is an important book you admit you haven’t read?

  • I haven’t read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and I probably should at some point. It’s been on my list for a long time and I recently read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, which reinforced that I really should read Lolita sometime! I don’t even own a copy, though.

3. What classic (or childhood favorite) was a little disappointing on rereading?

  • This one is really hard. I actually don’t reread that many things. Jane Eyre, I guess. I really liked it the first time I read it but was rather indifferent to it when I reread it over one summer in college.

4. What book do you (or did you) care most about sharing with your kids?

  • I actually have to say the Winnie-the-Pooh books. They are so much fun to share, especially with kids. The poetry in particular is a blast to read to kids. It bounces along and is so much fun! And who doesn’t love sharing the stories where Pooh falls out of the tree trying to get honey, hitting every branch along the way, and Piglet sends a note in a bottle asking to be rescued from his water-filled house, only to be rescued by the “Brain of Pooh”! They are such fun stories and reading them aloud is the best!

5. Name an acclaimed book, either classic or contemporary, that you just don’t like.

  • The Scarlet Letter. For some reason, I just never could stand it. Maybe it was because of studying it with an overly enthusiastic teacher in high school or maybe I just couldn’t get past the fact that for 150 pages nothing happens, but whatever the reason, I never liked it. I figure in about ten years I’ll try reading it again and see what happens.

Tag, you’re it! I don’t like tagging people, so if you like this meme, do it. If you don’t, ignore it! Simple as that!

World Book Day!

World Book DayHappy World Book Day everybody!

Yes, I realize that it’s almost the end of World Book Day at this point, but what matters is that I got the post up, right? Anyway, here at Pixiepalace we’re celebrating! There are lots of other celebrations around the internet and I’d like to share two of my favorites.

The first is the Times Online article about The Cat in the Hat, which is celebrating it’s 50th birthday for those of you who may not already know. The article is great because it asked a number of writers to share their memories about The Cat and other Seuss classics. After reading the article help The Cat celebrate his birthday by heading over to his website at Random House and sending him a birthday card! For every birthday card The Cat in the Hat receives Random House will donate one book to First Book, which is a nationwide literacy program.

My other favorite World Book Day celebration is a display in Oxford University all about The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. It can be visited in England, but for those of us unable to visit it in person, there is a virtual display as well! The display has the manuscript from the original book, E. H. Shephard’s drawings, and even Grahame’s son’s original copy of the book. It’s a very cool display and well worth looking at.

Now I’m going back to my reading! Happy World Book Day everyone!