Category: personal stuff

A 2017 Book Report

Every year I like to take a look back on what I’ve read and size up my literary diet for the past twelve months. Normally I do this on Twitter, but I’m going to start doing it here instead so it’s more permanent. Self-indulgent? Yes, but I don’t care. I’m the absolute monarch of my web log.

According to LibraryThing I’ve read forty books this year, but that’s not quite accurate because it doesn’t include Frankenstein, which I got via Project Gutenberg, nor does it count any of Plato’s dialogues. Few of those are book-length anyway, though, so I’ll set them aside. There were also Edgar Allan Poe’s poems, which may not quite add up to a book anyway, and the Book of Documents, which was too old for LT to have. So, we’ll say forty-two books for 2017.

Of these, five were novels, with Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried being the best, though it’s also one I’ve read previously.

Another five were collections of poetry, by Sappho, Pindar, Hesiod, Catullus, and the anonymous authors of the Book of Odes. Hesiod was my favourite, and probably best, as well.

Twenty-two were non-fiction of one sort or another. Five were history, albeit somewhat broadly defined, including Xenophon’s Anabasis, Yuri Pines’s The Everlasting Empire, Pat Buchanan’s Nixon’s White House WarsThe Book of Documents, and Rodney Stark’s God’s Battalions. All are very good, but Xenophon was my favourite new (to me) author of the year, so I’ll give him the prize. If we count that more as a memoir, which admittedly may be more reasonable, anyway, then give the prize to Mr. Stark.

Of the non-fiction odds and ends, they can’t really be compared together, but Arika Okrent’s In the Land of Invented Languages was the year’s surprise hit and the most enjoyable.

I read six graphic novels, all of them simply volumes in continuing series: Suetsugu Yuki’s Chihayafuru, Koume Keito’s adaptation of Spice & Wolf, and Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken: Second Season. Though all three are decent enough that I’ve continued to follow them, I’d only recommend the first unless you’re a fan of the other two franchises.

That leaves two art books, The Art of the Wind Rises and Groundwork of Evangelion 2.0, of which I’d recommend the first, and the second only to the type of person who’d buy it regardless of recommendations (though it’s not bad). That leaves one book of divination and commentary in the Book of Changes, which I admit I’ll have to revisit later, and the neat novelty purchase The Nintendo 64 Anthology.

Finally, since I do have a Letterboxd account and can thus easily keep track of these things, I also watched twenty-seven films this year, including a few rewatches. Yeah, not all that many, but that’s why this is primarily a book blog that only covers movies on a whim. Anyway, award for the best new (to me) movie goes to… let’s go with The Hobbit, mostly because I’m going to give this award to an animated film 90% of the time, with honourable mentions for The Kingdom of Dreams and MadnessThe Last Unicorn, and Throne of Blood for having the most metal title.

So, there you have it. I reviewed most but not all of what I read this year, but you can find a round-up of the year’s reviews in my previous post. There’s also, of course, the Highlights and Reviews Index, or if you’re just looking for something to read yourself and want to stick with the best of the best, try out the Recommended Reading page.…

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2017: The Speed at Which Cherry Blossoms Fall

What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that he hath rendered to me? Things continue to improve here at Everything is Oll Korrect! This is the third year in a row that views have been up, and quality, if I may say so myself, has held up pretty well. I wrote forty-six posts this year, which is the most since 2012, when I had a weekly schedule. There’s also a major change up ahead for me personally, but we’ll get to that.

Focusing in the blog for now, the first half of the year was more or less business as usual; I’m mostly happy with post quality, but, though I didn’t have any long hiatuses, articles came rather irregularly. There was a turning point halfway through, though, when I made “An Ascent with Xenophon.” In that post, which mostly draws from Bl. John Henry Newman, I pledged to aim for more depth in my reading and writing. That is, though I’ve always had a great breadth in knowledge, like Cardinal Newman’s example of a bright but unexemplary student I didn’t hang long enough on any one idea. So, I redoubled my efforts to make the most of the reflection and analysis of my books that this blog affords me, and I think post quality reflects that. My one fear was that this would slow down my pace of writing even more, but in fact, the opposite happened. For the past few months I’ve had a new post almost every week, and sometimes two in a week. Now, several of those were short reflections on single poems, but nonetheless, it’s a pace that matches the 75 Book Challenge in 2015, and is close to my aniblogging days in 2012.…

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Making One Hundred Friends, or: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Poets

Two years ago, I wrote about an excellent little book called the Hyakunin Isshu, a Medieval Japanese poetry anthology of one hundred poems, specifically five-line tanka, each by a different poet. At the time, I started wondering if, perhaps, I could memorise that many poems. If that sounds overly ambitious, keep in mind that this is something people actually do for a game called “karuta,” which is a card-matching game based around the poems. So, it’s certainly feasible, but I’m unsure about memorising the Hyakunin Isshu specifically. As much as I love the book, I do like some poems more than others, and besides, I’d like to write about the experience as I go. Each of the hundred poems, though, has already been covered, and covered very well, at this excellent blog.

Besides, as much as I admire Japan, I’m also a good patriot and so do ultimately prefer the literature of my own people. Could I make an English Hyakunin Isshu? The idea has stuck with me this long, and after memorising a couple of poems recently I remembered how much I enjoy doing this. So, after floating the idea on Twitter, I’ve decided to go ahead with this project.

Now, the closest equivalent to tanka we have would be the sonnet, but I soon decided to branch out a bit. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with these poems, and putting together a hundred of these was already a challenge, so though the sonnet would ultimately be well represented, I’m not restricting the list to them.

Regarding language and the poets’ countries of origin, I consider this an English project, though I also included a few Frenchmen since, contrary to what geographers may tell you, Britain is not an island, as well as one Japanese as a nod to the project’s origin. Furthermore, since this is supposed to be a set of standards, I was generally conservative in my selections; some of these are very well-known, almost cliché. That’s fine, because they deserve their reputation, and one benefit from this project will be a greater familiarity with the most notable poems in the language. Several of these are the types that make one think, “Oh, so that’s where that saying comes from!”

I prioritised poets from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, though the ultimate range is quite broad and other eras are well represented. Of course, some worthy poets are left out simply because I didn’t have room, or they didn’t have any suitable poems. A few of these are already quite a bit longer than is probably wise.

Me being me, I also favoured Cavaliers over Puritans, and Southerners over Yankees.

I should mention that I did get quite a bit of help in selecting these poets, as one can see from this thread where I announced the project. Joshua Jennings, always trustworthy in literary matters, contributed the most, but I also received suggestions from Arthur Ownby, Testis Gratus, Amy Mellein, Egon Maistre, and Fredrik Andréasson. Ezra Pound’s book ABC of Reading provided several of these, as well.

I am including some poems I’ve already memorised, so I do have a head start. Still, I’m unsure how long this will take. My goal will be one or two poems per week, but they vary so wildly in length that it’s hard to predict how this will go. Nonetheless, when it comes to reciting poetry, my ability is second only to Humpty Dumpty.

One final note, for those wondering about the “hundred friends” title. It comes from a comic called Chihayafuru, which is based on the karuta card game mentioned above and is how I first learned of both the game and the poems. I wrote about it a few years ago. In any case, when the protagonist first begins with the game and has to memorise all of the poems, her coach tells her to think of it as making a hundred new friends. The metaphor between a poem or poet and a friend is one that has stuck with me. As one can imagine, there’s no better way to really learn and understand a poem than to commit it to memory. Beyond that, though, there’s a deeper connection that’s difficult to describe, but it’s just what Confucius was getting at when he encouraged his students to study the Book of Odes, because the poems “will stimulate your emotions, broaden your observation, enlarge your fellowship, and express your grievances.” Some of my posts on these poems will be longer than others; some may offer a bit of analysis, others will basically just be “here’s a poem I think is worthwhile,” but I hope to be able to explain this better as we go on.

I also hope to encourage you to make some new friends of your own.…

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I’ll Hang Around as Long as You Will Let Me

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by- wait, that’s a different story. Mine’s a little less exciting than that, I’m afraid.

It’s still exciting to me, though, because as of today, Everything is Oll Korrect! is ten years old. There are a few ways I considered marking the occasion, and I was originally concerned, as I usually am, not to be overly self-indulgent. However, for a once in a decade event, I’m going to set that aside, mostly, and do something that’s become rare on this web log and talk about myself. Now, much of Everything‘s history is in the year-end reviews in the last section of the index page, which cover 2011 on. Before that, the whole blog was something of a mess, but I suppose we can take a moment to run through it quickly.

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An Ascent with Xenophon

I first heard of Xenophon and Anabasis while at college, in Bl. John Henry Newman’s great book The Idea of a University. In this particular essay, Newman gives an illustration of a poor applicant for university studies by giving a dialogue between a student and a tutor. This student does indeed stumble through the interview, able to give a basic summary of events in Anabasis but unable to answer questions about the etymology of the title and its significance, basic Greek grammar, and other such things. What struck me, though, was that Newman assumed that even a poor student will have read Anabasis, among other works from the Classical world, and have some basic knowledge of Greek and Latin. Indeed, in the printed essay, Newman does not even transliterate Greek words; he merely assumes that anyone reading would know the Greek alphabet.

Yet, here I was, a year or two into university studies, and I was clearly far less competent than even this student Newman describes as “below par.” I knew no Greek at all, and the name of “Xenophon” was merely a foreign sound to me, though I was at least aware of the other authors Newman mentions in the passage.

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Mischief Making in Two Wonderful Dimensions

MMboxSo, this past week I got a request to review a video game. It’s a bit outside the “bibliophile’s journal” theme I’ve been doing, but since I have posted about a few games before I thought it would be a nice change of pace. Also, this guy suggested that I’d look like some kind of nerd if I only write about books all the time, and I certainly wouldn’t want that. Anyone interested solely in Serious Business can come back next week, when I’ll have a post on Klemens von Metternich, followed by more from William Shakespeare.

Before we get to the main subject, though, let’s go back to the mid-90’s. The PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were the coolest things around, because now, for the first time on home consoles, games were in three dee! The days of side-scrolling in a mere two dimensions were gone, and now we could walk around awkwardly in three dimensions. Let me say, I was in elementary school at the time and was the first kid in my class to get an N64, and my social standing among my peers has never been higher, before or since.

Looking back, those early 3D games have, for the most part, aged pretty badly. Even in cases where the designers got the controls right, which certainly could not be taken for granted, the graphics were hideous. Very blocky with few textures was the house style for those early N64 games. Frankly, Super NES games were far more aesthetically appealing.…

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2014: It All Comes Tumbling Down, Tumbling Down, Tumbling Do~wn

So, if 2013 was the Agincourt of weblogging, 2014 was The Battle of Little Bighorn.

Not that I feel too sorry for myself – I had thought early in the year that I’d rather spend time on other things than web logging, though I did expect to get up more than ten posts. At least most of them turned out fairly well, including a couple retrospectives, one on serial experiments lain and another on Neon Genesis Evangelion. Speaking of Evangelion, I also wrote about the January theatrical release of Evangelion 3.0, which still hasn’t come out on glorious blu-rei. I also shared my thoughts on the other big anime theatrical release this year, The Wind Rises, which has come out on home video; based on my re-watch of the film on blu-ray, I think these early impressions still stand.

Among the normal review posts, I actually wrote about a few live-action films, which is unusual. The best of these was probably The Chekist; I also came up with a sequel of sorts to the Uncle Walt-a-thon with The Jungle Book, and wrote about the strangest book I read this year, Uzumaki.…

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2013: The Agincourt of Weblogging

That’s Agincourt from the French perspective, as last year’s success turned out to be shorter-lived than I expected.

Well, maybe “Agincourt” is an exaggeration, but it’s been a lousy year for me on all fronts. Leaving aside personal stuff, post quality was less even than I’d like, and update consistency fell apart in the second half of the year. I do seem to have gotten back on track now, though, and there were some good points throughout the year, so here’s the highlight reel for Everything Is Oll Korrect! in 2013.…

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