Tuesday, 20 February 2018

170 -- Wells/Dickinson/Niehaus

Short Story
H.G. Wells:  In the Abyss
This is a delightfully inventive story, written in 1896, over 30 years before the first bathysphere hit the water. They didn't find the underwater city of this Wells story though -- which is of course a great pity!

Emily Dickinson:  As if some little Arctic flower
AS if some little Arctic flower,
Upon the polar hem,
Went wandering down the latitudes,
Until it puzzled came
To continents of summer,    
To firmaments of sun,
To strange, bright crowds of flowers,
And birds of foreign tongue!
I say, as if this little flower
To Eden wandered in—      
What then? Why, nothing, only
Your inference therefrom!

Amanda C. Niehaus:  Pluripotent
Pluripotent is a descriptor of stem cells, and in this inventive essay, the story of the author's PhD thesis, her pregnancy and birth of a daughter, and the diagnosis of her breast cancer are all woven together.

Monday, 19 February 2018

169 -- Wells/Dickinson/Flannery

Short Story
H.G. Wells: The Story of the Late Mister Elvesham
This is a terrific story -- I really liked it. Suppose you woke up and looked in the mirror and saw someone that wasn't you, and you spoke and it wasn't your voice... Nice twist at the end too. I'm liking Mr Wells.

Emily Dickinson: From Cocoon Forth a Butterfly
On the surface this looks like a nice poem about a butterfly, and it's a good poem just on that level. But this is Miss Dickinson, and I know that it must have a dozen layers under that surface and at least 24 metaphors in its 24 lines. Here's the poem and an analysis. I don't think this analysis has captured everything, but I'm no poetry expert. It's an odd thing that it takes 15 minutes to read a story and 2 minutes to analyse it, while it can take 2 minutes to read a poem and 15 years to analyse it.

Tim Flannery:  Extravagant, aggressive birds down under
This is an essay on the book Where Song Begins, by Tim Low and its findings about the evolution of birds, which apparently began in Australia and spread from here to the rest of the world. I have Low's book on Wild Food Plants, but I haven't read Where Song Begins. I think the most amazing bird of the lot is the Kea, a parrot that can kill a sheep. And magpies, They are common here, but neither Low nor Flannery mentions that these birds will come to your door and knock on it with their beaks and demand that you open the door and feed them. They also fail to mention the cat biscuit obsession these birds have -- at least at my place.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

168 -- Wells/Dickinson/Riley

Short Story
H.G. Wells: The Plattner Story
What happens when you're in the midst of an explosion in a Chemistry classroom? Well, of course you pass into a fourth dimension where the Watchers of the Living reside. And when you come back, you come back as a mirror image, both externally and internally. This is a great Sci-Fi story.

Emily Dickinson: I started early, took my dog
I haven't the foggiest idea what this poem means. I've seen an analysis that says that the sea personifies a man or men, that she is afraid to come close to. I've often wondered what the poet herself would think of such an analysis -- would she recognise it?

Harriet Riley: Endlings
An essay about climate change, species extinction (an endling is the last survivor of a species), and the kakapo in New Zealand.

Friday, 16 February 2018

167 -- Wells/Dickinson/Grant

Short Story
H.G. Wells: A Slip Under the Microscope
This is an interesting story about ethical/moral decisions a student has to make after he accidentally cheats in an exam.

Emily Dickinson: This is My Letter to the World
I've borrowed a book of Emily Dickinson's poems from the library. She wrote lots of them and I could probably find enough to fill the next 833 days of this challenge, but I'll only comment on a few of them, even though I'll read them all. The choices, like today's will be random rather than a selection of the poems I think are "best", whatever that means in poetry.

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,--
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty. 
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

Stan Grant: Uluru: Statement from the Heart
An essay from the 2017 National Constitution Convention, about the future of the First Nations of Australia. (Uluru is the Aboriginal name for what used to be called Ayers Rock.) Right at the end is a reminder of something I still find absolutely disgusting. It happened before my family migrated to Australia, so I wasn't here to witness it, but in 1967 they actually held a referendum to decide whether Aborigines should be counted in the census or should continue to be considered FAUNA!!!!! Even more disgusting is that 9.23% of voters said no to this. Unbelievable. We have, fortunately, come a long, long way from this, but nowhere near far enough.

166 -- Power/Emerson/Humphries

Short Story
Stephen S. Power: For Our Light Affliction
A newer and less established author today for a change. I get the Daily Science Fiction story every day, and they vary from excellent to so-so. This one is so-so, even though I found it by searching for highly rated stories only. It's a good reminder of why I'm reading the older stories by more established authors for this challenge. I don't think this is even a story really, and it made little sense to me. There are several errors (like "review mirror" instead of rearview mirror) that nobody noticed or bothered to change, which is sloppy. Back to H.G. Wells tomorrow.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Fate (1860)
Another poem to be looked at again and again. I'm not sure exactly what it means. I'll give it some thought.

Barry Humphries: Up a Wombat's Freckle
This is an amusing, if a little crude, essay about Australian slang (which Humphries loves) and some of its unique features. It was written in the 1970s after the film Barry McKenzie was released, and does seem very dated now.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

165 - Wells/Foss/ James

Short Story
H.G. Wells:  Under the Knife
This is a strange story about a man who has an operation and believes he's died under the knife. He goes on rather a long journey - beyond the solar system - or does he?

Sam Walter Foss: The House by the Side of the Road (1910)
I really like this poem. I think it's about contentment -- living life and letting the chaos and clutter pass unheeded, but being a friend to anyone who comes by.

Clive James: Chip, chip, chip
Another essay about television in the UK. Many of the references meant nothing to me, but I gather Clive's no fan of Rupert Murdoch, and neither am I. I haven't watched TV for years because it's become such crap. I'd rather spend evenings reading a story, a poem, and an essay.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

164 - Casanova/Emerson/James

Short Story
Pablo Gonzalez Casanova: The Little Fox and the Wolf
I think that's the last story I'll read in this book. An utterly stupid story with no point to it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Good-Bye
I read a commentary that this was about retirement from work, but I don't think so -- I think it's about death. I don't think the last lines can mean anything else -- he's stretched beneath the pines meeting with God, which surely means he's dead.

Clive James:  Galway Kinnell's Great Poem
The great poem is Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World, a lengthy poem, but evidently a brilliant one, about the holocaust. I'll try to find it.