The Scholar in the Kingdom of the Mouse, II: The Ben Sharpsteen Museum

Interesting in a lot of ways, especially that it was (ironically?) Disney with whom Stewart worked. I remember the television shows very well, especially the movie about the fire which was based on Stewart’s book.

the EARTH ABIDES project

You might think scholarship is boring.  Dull as dirt.  Best reserved for those in the monastery or the ivory tower.

You’d be wrong.

Scholarship is an adventure, a  treasure-hunt.  And the quest brings surprising and unexpected discoveries – which usually lead to new treasure.   Researching the George R. Stewart biography, for example, I discovered that famous writers like Stephen King and Wallace Stegner and William Least Heat Moon, musician and composer Philip Aaberg, scientist Dr. James D. Burke of JPL, and Jimi Hendrix were influenced by Stewart’s works.

Walt Disney was also a great fan of Stewart.  He even hired Stewart to work at the studio as a consultant.  Stewart discussed ideas with various studio personnel; then submitted a report about the potential for American folklore films and educational films.   Stewart’s recommendations went to Ben Sharpsteen, legendary Disney producer and director.

In preparing materials for donation to the

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THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT – ELLIN CURLEY

I am fascinated with the concepts of time travel, parallel universes and the Butterfly Effect. Fortunately for me, there are several TV shows today that deal with these things. One is Timeless and another is The Flash. The Flash is a Marvel comic based series in which the hero can run so fast that he can bend time. He can move both forward and backwards in time. Timeless follows a government team of time travelers who have to keep going back in time to prevent the ‘bad guy’ from messing with major past events and drastically changing the timeline.

In both of these shows, each trip back in time results in an altered present. In each, a seemingly random individual who is important to one of the main characters, is either dead in the present or was never born and no longer exists in the present timeline.

This brings up the Butterfly Effect, a theory popular with time travel enthusiasts. The theory, mostly used in science, states that a small change can result in a large, unrelated change down the road. In everyday life, this means that unimportant decisions, like whether to go out to dinner or eat in, can lead to very different ‘storylines’ in your life.

There is both a movie and a play that depicts the parallel universes created by a minor life decision. The movie is “Sliding Doors” from 1998 and stars Gwyneth Paltrow.

It tracks the different careers and love lives that the heroine would have if she a) catches a particular subway train or b) misses the train. For example, if she catches the train, she also gets home in time to catch her boyfriend in bed with another woman. If she misses the train, she also misses this tryst. Her life takes very different paths depending on that fluke of timing.

butterfly-effect-cartoon

The play was a musical called “If/Then,” starring Idina Menzel. The show follows the heroine’s parallel lives if she either chooses to go to lunch with friend ‘A’ or if she chooses to go to a play with friend ‘B’ instead.

Interestingly, in both the movie and the play, the heroine ends up with the same ‘love of her life,’ just at different times in her life. Her career paths diverge but I think most people like to believe that some people are ‘destined’ to be together.

The Jewish concept of ‘Beshert’ says that every soul is a half soul and that there is another person in the world who is their perfect ‘other half’. So in time travel shows, many aspects of life are allowed to be affected by chance. But we don’t seem to want to accept that chance can also change the big things in life, like true love.

TimeTravelSome time travel writers have a different theory. They talk about the fact that the past ‘resists’ change. Rather than believing in the Butterfly Effect as it relates to time travel, many believe that at least the major events in history are more predestined and less susceptible to change.

It might seem easy to keep a major past event from happening, especially if small changes in the timeline can eventually result in big ones. But time travel writers feel events, like WWI, the assassination of JFK, or the sinking of the Titanic, will always find a way to happen, no matter how hard you try to prevent it.

You might want to read Stephen King’s brilliant book “11/22/63” about attempting to go back in time to prevent the JFK assassination. It was also made into a mini series, but the book is much better.

I guess it is easier to accept the idea that relatively small things, like the details of an individual’s life, are changeable and not ‘meant to be.’ Maybe this is because on a small-scale, cause and effect is more linear and knowable. On the other hand, historians are still arguing about the multiple and interrelated causes of the Civil War.

delorean time machineMy grandfather was hit by a truck and killed when he stepped off a curb too soon at the age of 88. I used to obsess about what led him to that exact spot at that exact time. I used to imagine the tiny things he could have done differently that would have gotten him to that spot even a second earlier or later.

For about a year after that, I would imagine each time I reached a curb, that it could be my last moment on earth — if the stars were so aligned. Maybe this is the root of my love for some of these theories.

DO WE HAVE ENOUGH BOOKS AND PAPER? Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Books or Paper

Sometimes, I think my life consists entirely of books, papers, and dog hair. I’m not sure if that’s an exaggeration, either. It’s not that I haven’t given away thousands of books and off-loaded tons of paper. It’s that it keeps coming back.

Just a few odds and ends …

Remember “the paperless society?” Whatever happened to that? Remember when all you got when you left your doctor’s office was a receipt? Or not even that? Maybe a lollipop?

We needed room for the CD and DVDs … so the hallway is narrow. Just a bit

Now you get a sheaf of things to read. Homework. A bundle of papers showing every medication you’ve ever taken, every test, every appointment you made, cancelled, remade. Every upcoming appointment. Every doctor you’ve seen and notes from any conversations you may have had.

My collection of Gretchen Archer’s books and cup, if you please

And you have to sign for it, too. If I didn’t sign the privacy thing, would they stop handing me four pounds of paper each time I leave? Yesterday, leaving from our meeting with the audiologist, there was so much stuff to read, we needed two extra bags to carry it. Homework for Garry … and we are going back tomorrow, so he had to actually read it today.

It turns out, there was more to learn than he expected. He thought he knew everything about his ears, but there was more. Quite a lot more.

I try to leave a little room for a few knickknacks too. Fit them in with all the books …

INFECTED BY AUDIOBOOKS – Marilyn Armstrong

AUDIOBOOKS – A BELOVED INFECTION

Yesterday was the 16th of the month which for me means I get to pick two book from the audiobook collection. This might not sound like such a big deal, but it kind of is. First off, I’ve been an Audible reader for such a long time now, I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve got at least 1000 books in my audiobook library and probably a quarter of them I haven’t read, largely because I wasn’t in the mood when I got them … or I just plain forgot they were there.

I have a whole set of Manning’s “Mageborn” series and since I’m finishing his Thornbear collection, I might as well read Mageborn since I’ve apparently (surprise!) owned the books for several years. All five of them. Or are there six? I know I have at least three of them.

I’m still waiting from some of my favorite authors to finish their series. Jim Butcher, for one. He owes me a couple of books and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is restless. And Mike Carey, who owes all of us the final (fifth) book of his Felix Castor stories.

A lot of books are coming out in June which is, along with the September (buy books for Christmas) collection, the favorite release time for books. Because if you are a reader, summer is the time for a hammock, lemonade, and a good, long book, whether you are reading the words or hearing them spoken. Most of the ones I’m waiting for won’t be out until June or July, but in the meantime, I picked up the first book in a long time by Stephen King because it is not one of his horror stories.  Called “The Outsider,” it sound like a good murder mystery.

It won’t be released until the 22nd, but I can wait. I’m not a horror story fan,  so I have not read all of King’s books, but I’ve read all of his “Dark Tower” stories and his time travel “11/22/63,” but when King gets his teeth into any story, he’s possibly the best writer in my lifetime. His writing can be sheer poetry.

Murder mystery is not a genre King has tackled in the past,  so I’m drooling a little, awaiting its arrival.

Since having met Barbara Rosenblat, I’ve been hunting down her narrations, so I picked up the most recent Nevada Barr  series in which she is the narrator,”Destroyer Angel.”

Also coming up, Laurie King has a new Holmes and Watson arriving in late June, “Island of the Mad.”

Scott Meyer has a new time travel book – “Out of Spite, Out of Mind.” Finally, June, June will also brings one more of Ben Aaronovitch’s stories Peter Grant stories, “Lies Sleeping.”

Just a note for crazy horse-lovers, I just read “King of the Wind,” Marguerite Henry’s story of the Godolphin Arabian, a book I loved so much as a girl I think I read it until the words fell off the page. It was read by David McCallum who, when he isn’t “Ducky” on NCIS, is a brilliant narrator. If you loved the book when you were a kid, you are going to love it again!

On days like this, it’s hard for me to find time to do other things, but I need new glasses and today’s the day. How we’ll pay for them? That is another issue entirely. No idea at all!

Reading is my great joy and I think it is contagious. So these are this months germs. Enjoy every minute of your reading time. And share the infection with everyone else. It’s a disease worth having … forever.

REBELLIOUS? – Marilyn Armstrong

WHAT’S A REBEL? AM I A REBEL? ARE YOU?

I was never consciously a rebel, but I was definitely “different.” I’m pretty sure the difference  was books.

I read a lot of books. If you couldn’t find me, I was probably hiding somewhere. With a book. Rain, shine, sun, or snow — I read books. I read books intended for grown-ups long before I was “ready” to read them. Once, the librarian tried to prevent me from reading adult books and my mother came and tried to eat the librarian for breakfast.

After that, I could read whatever I wanted. I read ten to twelve books a week and if school hadn’t interfered with my reading program, I’d have read more. Sometimes, my mother took the books from my hand and shoved me outside. So I also jumped rope and played tag and built weird “houses” out of old crates and whatever junk we could find on the streets.

Because I read, so did my friends. Just as bad habits are contagious, sometimes, so are good ones. We were a group of completely outlandish friends who were friends only because we all lived in a strange part of town and were the only kids in the area.

Two girls attended the local Catholic school, the rest of us — a bunch of miscellaneous Jews, Lutherans, and non-believers — read books. We used to have contests with questions and answers — sort of personal trivia — about the books we read.

Of this crowd of kids who basically had nothing in common, everyone (except me) got either a Ph.D. or a Masters … and none of us really fit in anywhere. We used big words — always something that makes you an outsider in most schools — and we all wanted to be something. We got a psychologist, a Director of a NY school district, two college professors … and me.

We were different because we read books and books gave us ideas. They weren’t — apparently — like the ideas everyone else had. Maybe they were ideas others had and dismissed.

Is that really what a rebel is? Someone who has different ideas?

The official definition is:


REBEL

noun
1  –  A person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler, e.g. “Tory rebels”
Synonyms: revolutionary, insurgent, revolutionist, mutineer, insurrectionist, insurrectionary, guerrilla, terrorist, freedom fighter.

verb
reˈbəl (Accent on the second syllable)
2 – To rise in opposition or armed resistance to an established government or ruler. E.g., “the Earl of Pembroke subsequently rebelled against Henry III”

Synonyms: Revolt, mutiny, riot, rise up, take up arms, stage/mount a rebellion, be insubordinate as in “the citizens rebelled.”


I’m not insurrectionary or any kind of freedom fighter. I have had some unconventional ideas, but ideas don’t make me a rebel. Not being the same as everyone else is — or wants to be — is not revolutionary.

Having unique ideas is just “thinking for yourself.” It’s something we should all do. No one can manipulate you if you do your own thinking.

WORLD SHARING: ALMOST A NEW WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World – April 23, 2018

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

English muffins. No, really. You can eat them for breakfast and they make a great crunchy sandwich. They come in a million flavors, but a plain one with port wine cheddar on it? Delicious beyond human understanding.

But best? A simple toasted muffin with some orange marmalade or other jam and a cup of great coffee is one of the world’s most affordable and totally delicious treats.

List at least five movies or books that cheer you up.

Boy, this is a tough question. My head is so full of movies and books, characters and stories!

Movies

Murphy’s Romance
Blazing Saddles
Trading Places
Tombstone (all that delicious violence)
Rustler’s Rhapsody

Books:

This gets hard. So many books, so little time.

Connie Willis’s Bellwether (1996) – No matter how many times I read it, it makes me smile, laugh, and think … at the same time!

Robert H. “Rob” Reid wrote Year Zero: A Novel, the only science fiction novel I ever read with truly entertaining footnotes … and explained to me everything I never wanted to know about the music industry.

Everything by Douglas Adams, but especially The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul which I have read at least a dozen times and will probably read a few more — possibly soon.

Jasper Fforde – All seven of the Thursday Next series are a joy to anyone who loves books. In this series, “outer space” is actually the inside of novels. I yearn for another one, but I think he is done with the series.

Jodi Taylor’s entire series about the time-traveling historians of St. Mary’s make me happy. Actually, I love all her books, but anything with time travel in it is a sure winner for me. She is funny, sharp, literate, and she loves history. I just finished An Argumentation of Historians which was less funny and more touching than many of her books — and it was part 1, so now I have to wait for the next part. But I have loved every book she ever wrote.

Kim Harrison’s entire series about Rachel Morgan and The Hollows. Thirteen books long, from the start to conclusion, including a 14th book that was a prequel.

There are so many others. I’ve been an ardent reader for an entire lifetime and my head is full of books.

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing? 

Trying to kill off the mice. We have a lot of mice and getting rid of them has become a priority. A few mice is cute. Hundreds — thousands? — of mice isn’t at all cute.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  

We went to a party. We got there and didn’t get lost. We stayed long enough to enjoy the company and then — we got home without getting lost. Thumbs up!

THE TRUTH OF SCHOOL

I always find myself defending school to kids. They complain it’s dull. That there’s nothing in it that “grabs” or fascinates them — and nothing they will find useful in life.

I find myself trying to explain that school wasn’t fascinating, but that many of the boring stuff you learn in it is indeed going to be useful. Like arithmetic, the ability to add and subtract mentally without a calculator or even a piece of paper and a pencil. The point of school wasn’t only to intrigue or titillate us but to make us ready to face the real world in which we all must live.

High School, really

Some studies were dull, but you needed to know it because while there’s creativity, there is day-to-day life too and unless you are one of the entitled few, you will have to do your share of it.

I was the kid who had a book in my lap so when no one was looking, I would read. Although I love science today, in school, it wasn’t interesting. Maybe it was the teachers who were dull. In high school I had a double period of botany beginning at eight in the morning when I was already half asleep. The class went on for two hours. We had a teacher who knew her stuff, but talked in a monotone. She’d start to talk — and I’d black out. Gone.

I did not do well in that class. A pity because I was interested, but she was better than a sleeping pill. Twice as good, really. Nothing I ever took knocked me out as well as she did.

 

Social studies which would today be … what? Social science? History? Some weird version of both? It consisted of everything that wasn’t English, math, or science. What we called “the rest of the stuff.” I was a passionate, ardent, enthusiastic reader.  I loved history and the world. But social studies? With those stupid work books where you would answer a question and then you had to color the pictures. Seriously? Color the pictures?

I flunked coloring.

English was dull, too. We had to read books that were of no interest to anyone. I suspected the teachers found them dull too, but it was in the curriculum and that’s what they were supposed to teach. They did. We yawned. I drew pictures of horses in my notebooks. Sometimes, when I got tired of horses — I never got the feet right — I moved into castles. I was better at castles.

If they let us write, I was good at that. But being good at it didn’t make it interesting. My summer vacation wasn’t the stuff to brighten my week.

The teachers droned on and on. Those of us who intended to go to college hung in there. It never — not once, not for a split second — crossed my mind that I should drop out and work at an entry-level jobs for the rest of my life because I was bored at school.

 

1893 Thayer Library Photo: Garry Armstrong

For me, going to college was exactly the same as going to heaven. I would go to college because I knew I could learn. I never doubted my ability to think. I was sure if I made it to college, the rest would follow. And so it did.

I learned a lot of things in college. Ultimately, the really interesting parts of my education were learned at work, when math, science, and statistics were relevant and meaningful.

When you are working, the things you learn are in a context. You discover science has a purpose. Numbers are not random shapes which you jiggle around until you get the answer or sit with empty eyes wondering what this is supposed to mean. I did stuff at work I had found impossible in a classroom.

It wasn’t my fault. It was their fault. They taught the material so poorly no one who didn’t have a special fervor for it figured it out. What a pity for everyone. Worst of all, they meant well. They genuinely did the best they knew how.

College had its share of drones and bores … but there were enough wonderful teachers — maybe a dozen — who were inspirational.
They were was enough.  For each year of school, there was at least one or two teachers who made a difference in my life. Plus, I was in an environment where everyone wanted to learn. We needed to learn.

We chose it.

I have never properly explained the whole school thing to my kid or granddaughter. I told them “Oh, it’s not that bad.”

PS 35, Queens

Except, it really can be that bad. Sometimes, it’s even worse and comes with boring teachers and brutal classmates. That is very bad. Whether they are teasing you because of your color or because you are smart and they aren’t … cruelty is cruelty and kids can be cruel.

The thing is, you don’t stay in school because it’s fun. Or because the quality of education is uplifting. You are there because you know that this is what you must do if you want to have a real life.

If you also get wonderful, inspiring, enlightening teachers, that’s better. But even if they are dull, you still need to be there.

School is the work of childhood. It’s the “why of the how” of growing up.