Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal: Fireworks, Ender Quartet, Being a Pirate

Here's a bonus unforeseen: I'm sitting in my apartment with the lights out and only the glow of the computer screen to distract me. Outside my windows, the fireworks are being set off down by the lakeside. The last three years, when I've heard such explosions start at night (and it's not uncommon during the summer), whether for one of the festivals by the lake or over at the Pottawatomie Indians' casino, I've walked out of the Abbottsford Apartments and strolled across the campus until I could find some spot to watch, maybe over east by the Art Museum when they were by the lake, or when they were at the casino, then south by the LaLumiere language building that looks like some monstrosity left over from 2001's vision of the future. In some ways, this is clearly better: I can see a lot more, and from the comfort of my sofa. There are no trees in the way. Or perhaps I'm losing something, too: the anticipation, the hunt of the walk; the fellowship of some stranger--a maintenance worker or security officer--with whom I could share a quick anonymous smile, and nod of excitement and pleasure. Maybe it's the same loss I suspect we all suffer, when we watch television by ourselves, rather than having to go out and to a theatre; where the actors on stage are as real as the audience around us, as real as ourselves.

It's odd writing this with my fingers--I'll correct spelling later--while my eyes stay as focused as they can on the fireworks. My favourites, in some ways, are the ones that explode in a globe with a ring around them--tonight, in Milwaukee, of red and green, respectively--like the old model's picture of atoms that I learned as a child. My other favourite--I'm watching it right now!--are the ones that stretch and hang like an impossibly-huge golden willow tree, finally fading from sight and drifting slowly away on the wind.

I've tried to think before of why I can't get enough of fireworks. I owe the question itself to Robert Jordan, commenting on it as he does, in the minds of his characters in The Wheel of Time. In those stories, one ethnic group, the Seanchan, have something called Sky Lights that lets them treat fireworks with disdain. Sitting here, watching the finale now (I can see the whole thing from my apartment--WOW), I can't imagine what something like that would be. I can't explain it, and perhaps it isn't even worth trying, but I can't get enough of fireworks. Watching them, I feel the same way I did when I was seven. Watching them, part of me still is seven. And that feels alright.

And now they're done. Back to regular life. I'm still without internet in my apartment, and so I'm typing this up on the new (used) laptop that my Dad got me this past weekend. There's a story in that, too, but not for now. I'm writing this up in a Word file, because I've learned that I can go sit in the stairwell later on and upload this while borrowing bandwith on someone else's wireless network. I hope they'll forgive the small, harmless act of piracy, but since they won't ever notice it nor lose anything by it, I'm not going to mention it to them. I mention it here simply because it makes me feel both sneaky and foolish and so that you all can make fun of me for being an evil pirate theologian.

I've not done as much work this week as I ought. Too easily distracted. I've been embarrassed to sit with Sister Shawnee in the library while she chugs along on her doctoral exam questions and I largely zone out through mine. I did get more done today, a bit, while typing out sets of actual questions I'm trying to answer in each of my five topic areas. These will likely be tossed back at me--one of each of them--for my actual exam, as I understand it. I've been very efficient in reading the Ender Quartet again, blazing through Speaker for the Dead and now into Xenocide. This is my first re-read of them, which is almost as important a thing for the important books, as the first read. I knew the "surprise" or the mystery of Speaker--that was the biggest difference there. I think that it made me more attentive to what Ender was actually doing: the kinds of questions that he was asking, and the probing he conducted into the lives of the characters. Teacher stuff, I guess, as I see it; looking through those eyes or that mission, as I tend to. In Xenocide, what leaps out at me is the despair Miro feels toward his now-crippled body: a set of largely answerless questions and empty visions of the future that resonated with my own experiences in the dark times of this post-surgery year. I'm also both deeply moved and electrified (as I think I was last time, too) by the experiences of Quin-jao. "Spoken to by the gods" or "obsessive-compulsive disorder": it takes my own secularized (even though I've resisted that), Western vision and/or prejudices and mashes them in my face. It's a delicious challenge to move into the mind of that character, and into that Taoist world, without judgment and dismissiveness, whatever my conclusions. Card makes both human and alien cultures as truly alien as I've ever seen them represented.

I think that's enough for now. Off to be a pirate and upload this. Arrr!
Tags: books, personal

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