Marley was dead, Jesus was born

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Merry Christmas everyone!

I absolutely love, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This little book is written by a true word smith a master of story and it’s short.

I love the story, a classic tale of the changing of a human heart, but the absolutely best, most entertaining part is the first page and a half. I loved it so much that I memorized it. Dickens has this lovely moment where he wonders about the actual dead-ness of door-nails. To the point that he proposes that Coffin-nails might actually be deader. To this day my family can not let the phrase Dead as a Door-nail slid without goading me into repeating it.

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” Isn’t that a great opening line? Within that first page and a half Dickens reminds the reader exactly five times that Marley is dead.

“(1)Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.. . .  (2)Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know of my own knowledge what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. . . You will therefore allow me to repeat emphatically that (3)Marley was as dead as a door-nail. (4)Scrooge knew he was dead. Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? . . . (5)There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

Marley was not a figment of Scrooge’s imagination, he did not fake his death, time travel, get caught in a extra dimensional limbo, or get stuck in the teleporter for fifty years. He was dead. He was a ghost. This story is about life and death and afterlife.

Chilling.

How many other stories could benefit from persistent reminders?

Dickens own example is Hamlet. “If we were not perfectly convinced That Hamlet’s father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, . . . literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.”

I know right! The Shakespeare nerd in me smiles at this reference. How little would the play Hamlet have mattered if we hadn’t known for sure that his father the king was dead? You must admit Shakespeare really liked the whole missing person restored plot a lot. If the king had only been missing then how could Prince Hamlet have placed any stock in the words of a wandering spirit?

What about the story of the first Christmas?

Jesus was born, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

There is no doubt that Mary was a virgin. This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

The Shepherds knew he was God. Of course they. How could it be otherwise? ( What with the angels telling them and all.)

On his first page Dickens gives us a life lesson and a lesson in writing:

Make sure your reader, and everyone you meet, understands what they are in for.

Dickens wanted to make sure that everyone knew there would be no trick ending, fantastical revelations, and most of all, no doubt that Marley was dead.

If Dickens could state five times that Marley was dead, then Christian’s shouldn’t be afraid to state that Jesus was born, at least five times. Then five times state that he died. Then Five times state that he rose again.

Again I say Merry Christmas, and to quote Tiny Tim: “God bless us everyone.”

 

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Drinking, Highly Illogical

I haven’t posted anything in a while so here is an extra long one.

Every age comes with certain privileges that we can choose to partake in.  At 16 we can drive at, 17 watch an R rated movie and, 18 we become voting citizens of our great nation. But then nothing truly interesting happens at 19 or 20 and then at 21 is finally given the right to legally buy and consume alcohol. Why? It’s such an odd number to choose? At least 18 has a certain logic, you can vote you graduate from high school and start worrying about things like student loans and car payments, 19 would at least follow in sequence. In Ohio we have to renew our drivers license every four years. So if they made the drinking age 20 then they could get rid of that extra year before your first renewal.

Does anyone really think that a 21-year-old will really be anymore mature than an 18-year-old? Is it some medical fact that at 18 alcohol will affect your brain cells but not at 21? Drinking will kill your brain functions no matter what age you are.

I found this website that seems to answer the 21 question though I have no idea where they got their facts from.

http://www.madd.org/underage-drinking/why21/

My question is really Why Drink at all? What is the point? And how can people stand it? Alcohol messes with your memory and it dulls senses it ruins your reaction time and it just tastes bad.

The only time that I am ever really satisfied after a bit of spirits is when I am sick. I think of it this way Alcohol is used to disinfect therefore drinking it when you’re sick will disinfect your insides. Maybe not technically true but it makes me feel like I’m doing something to get better.

In Victorian era fiction we read about Spirits being used as a medicine, a restorative, a calming agent, something to warm your insides, and yes like I said a disinfectant.

Am I proposing that we bring prohibition back? No. Consuming alcohol just doesn’t hold any appeal for me. It doesn’t make you have more fun it just shuts off your common sense. So drinking at home with people you know and who you know want the best for you is fine but anywhere else is just Illogical.

In his autobiographical book I Am Spock Leonard Nimoy, writes a fictitious encounter between Spock and one of his many female fans. She has just offered Spock a drink and this is how Spock refuses her:

Spock: Madam, my mind is in precisely the condition it should be. I see no reason to alter that condition with stimulants or depressants.

Spock is right, if you are thinking clearly and you are walking without bumping into things and falling down, who in their right mind would want to change it? Personally I do not like to feel stupid and clumsy, trust me I feel that way enough when I’m sober there is no way I would purposely place myself in that state of mind.

I have actually used Nimoy’s quote before to turn down an invitation to go out to a bar. Though after that I didn’t get many invitations to anything. Oh well, people who need to be inebriated to have fun mustn’t be very good company anyway.

If we could start using it like a medicinal helper instead of, “A sure sign of a good time,” (Bud light’s slogan) then maybe the drinking age wouldn’t matter so much. Maybe if people would stop doing stupid things with stuff that should be used sparingly then maybe we wouldn’t have to worry about monitoring alcohol usage in the extremes that we do. But people are stupid and they do drink to be numb and to get stupid. So the illogic behind the drinking age must be overshadowed by the illogic of drink itself.

The “You Brute” Letter: A Sherlock Style Deduction.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short essay called “Some Personalia about Mr. Sherlock Holmes.” This essay is reprinted in both The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook and The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

In it ACD talks about all of the fan mail that he received in regards to Holmes. One letter really stands out. ACD does not reprint the whole letter but just the salutation line. The letter, received after the publication of “The Final Problem,” began with “You brute.” ACD states that the letter writer was a woman but gives us no other details.

My first thought was, “Wow really deluded fan!” But then it occurred to me that if this woman had believed in Sherlock as a real person with Arthur Conan Doyle as a pen name for John Watson then she would have sent condolences, not insults. So we now know that she accepts the stories for the fiction they are. Second observation: With the etiquette of letter writing drilled into Victorian/Edwardian Lady, why would a woman sitting down to the thought full task of writing a letter choose to open with “You Brute?” Answer she was under such emotional strain that no matter how calm she became she still thought of him as a Brute. But why such emotion over the death of a character that she knew to be fictional? Perhaps someone she knew was not as rational as herself and so took Holmes death at Reichenbach Falls rather hard.

One more deduction before I reveal what I believe would have been in the original letter. I think that this woman must have been an American because no proper British lady would have used the word You in place of a proper title. An English lady would have began it with Dr. Brute (The Sir was added after this) or, if she was ignorant of his profession, Mr. Brute.

 And now my logically thought out reproduction of the “You Brute” letter:

You Brute,

Did you even stop to think how news of Holmes death might effect other people? If you didn’t want to write anymore about Holmes then just stop writing. To just Kill him so heartlessly is beyond reason. Would you have still done him in if you had known just how truly devoted and attached Holmes’s fans really are? My own poor Husband has been barely been able to eat or sleep since reading of Holmes untimely demise. I do believe that he loved Holmes as a brother. Nay he loves him more than his own Brother. I can not ask you to revive The honored detective but do please write to my husband and try to help him see reason. You created this problem so I ask you now to fix it.

 Sincerely,

Mrs. Hope Sherrington of New York

Doyle’s reply must have read thusly:

Dear Madam,

I recommend that your husband, and all other mourners, seek psychiatric counseling.

Sincerely,

 Arthur Conan Doyle

P.S. Do your utmost to keep Cocaine away from your husband. I would hate for any poor soul to become addicted to the stuff for love of anything that I had written.

Elementary My Dear Wells!

Lately I have been reading a lot of Wells and Doyle. Probably two of the best writers of the English language. I also admire Jules Verne but as we all know he was French.

 H. G. Wells is best known for his Science Fiction thrillers. Most notably The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.

 But he also wrote some more realistic novels as well the best of which, I think, is Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll  In this novel the main character Mr. Hoopdriver ( no, I’m not kidding) decides to take a bicycling tour of the English coast for his holiday. Naturally trouble follows him wherever he goes. But what really excites the geek in me are the six or so references to Sherlock Holmes, that well-known creation of Dr. Doyle’s.

 Mr. Wells also wrote a short story titled “The Stolen Body” in which a resident of Baker Street, experimenting with Astral projection, goes missing and his Housekeeper is said to be consulting with “That well known investigator.” That’s all we hear of him though because as I’m sure you can guess possession is 9/10th of the plot and he believes that “No ghosts need apply.”(The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire)

 Wells’s allusions to Sherlock Holmes are really a testament to how wildly popular Doyle’s creation had become in his own time. It’s exactly the same as a modern author referencing Harry Potter or Twilight.

 Or a simpler explanation is that these two Authors knew each other. In the biography Arthur Conan Doyle: A life in Letters  there is reprinted a letter written by H. G. Wells Congratulating Sir. Arthur on his recent Knighthood. It’s on page 503 for those who want to look it up.

 These two authors are really good and have a similar writing style. Very simple narratives with vivid descriptions and beautifully flowing dialog. I have tried to emulate the writing style and have found it a very trying exercise.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has a great body of work in addition to the 60 Holmes stories. I recommend checking out this site http://siracd.com to learn more about ACD. Especially find some his Non-Sherlock Short stories to read. ACD works amazing wonders with the short story format and I think that they’re probably better than most of his longer works. For example Holmes Adventures as compared to Holmes Novels.

 As far as Wells is concerned your local Library should have at least a few of his better known books. Though once again try to find a Short story collection if you can.