Monday Earworm: Ted Yoder

This little video contains something really amazing and lovely, the Tears for Fears hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” being played on hammered dulcimer. The best part is, you think it’s going to be one thing you think you know, because hammered dulcimer is nice and all, but you’ve heard this instrument often at Renaissance Festivals and such, and it’s okay, but…

Then this starts playing, and, well. I was taken aback.

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My Grendel Essay — Now Published

I’ve had an essay published in the third issue of New Reader Magazine. On their site, you can download the entire (gorgeous) magazine for free. My essay appears starting on page 54.

The essay is called “Thoughts and Slayers: What We Do About Grendel, Our Oldest and Most Persistent Villain.” Here is a quick blurb about it which appeared in my query letter when I was trying to get it published:
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“Even though “troll” used to mean something a lot worse than “random jerk on the Internet,” Beowulf, the oldest surviving poem in the English language, can still help us make sense of current events. What does an Anglo-Saxon epic have to teach us about mass shootings, immigration, or even Congressional gridlock? Given that sometimes our most daunting monster is the one already in our midst, quite a lot. In “Thoughts and Slayers: What We Do About Grendel, Our Oldest and Most Persistent Villain,” I explore what Beowulf has to say about problems we still struggle with. Centuries after it was composed, I use a combination of social/cultural critique to suggest what we can do about the various Grendels still wreaking havoc among us.”
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This essay was shortlisted at more than one magazine but was selected by NRM first, so they got to publish it. I’m really, really proud of this work and hope you’ll enjoy it. If you’d like a teaser of it, here’s the opening…
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The oldest surviving poem in English highlights much of what we still struggle with, centuries later. It involves a monster who destroys the mead hall, the most communal of settings.

Grendel lives. Sadly, he thrives.

The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is a part of our language’s literary canon and cultural heritage, and the poem’s first and most infamous villain remains a threat to us. In the story, Grendel, the monster who attacks the inhabitants of modern-day Denmark, is a vaguely humanoid beast with impenetrable skin who kills and eats the Danes, gobbles them up like jelly beans right in their own mead hall, every night for twelve winters. His monstrosity, however, comes from more reasons than just wrecking shop in the Danes’ mead hall, and he’s still vitally important for what he represents within our society, far removed from Dark Ages Denmark and those who fought against him, or chose not to.

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The epic contains surprisingly little physical description of the monster. When I used to teach Beowulf to ninth graders, I would talk to them about what I called The Grendel Situation and then ask them to draw pictures of him. Mostly they came up with fangy, clawed, hairy, green creatures dripping with the blood of half-Dane corpses. What they could not yet internalize was the abstract evil Grendel presents and the practical, tangible dangers that make him relevant now. They could not yet see that we, too, are living in the mead hall.

(Read the rest of this essay at New Reader Magazine.)

 

Monday Earworm: David Bowie (Who Makes Everything Better)

I first became aware of this song in the movie A Knight’s Tale (which is great fun and uses this song marvelously), and even though I love this song so much I’d never sought out the video for it.

This music video is a touch surreal.

It’s also flavored with some 1930s-era gangster silliness, and I just finished reading the extremely not silly but very, very funny and entertaining Hallow Point by Ari Marmell, and so this is tonight’s earworm.

Hallow Point is A Mick Oberon Job, which means it’s part of a series of books set in Gangsterland Chicago, but the catch is that it’s also urban fantasy, see? Imagine Mick Oberon, this private detective, is also…well…an aes sidhe, an exile from the Seelie court. In the Mick Oberon world, there’s both the Chicago we know and the Otherworld, fae version. If you like your humor sharp and salty, your gangsters authentic, and your protagonists convincingly masquerading as humans much of the time, then you will probably enjoy Mick Oberon.

Just go get the book. In fact, start with the first one, Hot Lead, Cold Iron. I’ll wait.

And while you’re waiting on it to arrive, please enjoy this delightful song.

Spontaneous Poetry: A Festival and a Challenge

Finding the August Postcard Poetry Fest was an accident. It was just one of those dozens of submission calls that overwhelm my inbox every week, but this one, I happened to read. Click here to learn more about how it works, but the concept is simple: you sign up the week of July 4th, you get put into a group with thirty-one other people who have signed up, and then you commit to Continue reading “Spontaneous Poetry: A Festival and a Challenge”

Monday Earworm: Steve Perry

So, last Monday night I went to the Journey and Def Leppard concert, and ZOMG IT WAS AWESOME! SO, SO, SO GOOD! I WANT TO GO BACK RIGHT NOW!!

I am still zinging from it.  🙂  And I wanted to do an earworm this week of one of my Def Leppard favorites, but honestly, their videos are just too creepy or too unintentionally funny, from this distance of about thirty-five years, to post them. Then I found one of Journey doing “Don’t Stop Believin'” IN HOUSTON from the 80s some time when Steve Perry was still with them. And not that I don’t think Arnel Pineda is fantastic — because I do — but Perry really is just such an incredible singer, and it was a decent video but couldn’t really capture the experience of a 21st century rock concert, which is such a multimedia extravaganza.

Ultimately I decided to go with this one, which honestly WAS stuck in my head for much of last week, can’t imagine why. Enjoy, while I continue trying desperately to gain something like traction in this new school year that is kicking me up one side and down the other already good grief I mean srsly enough is enough already oh look more papers to grade and lessons to plan and yet more meetings and administrative stuff to deal with holy cats okay bye.

 

Monday Earworm: Florence + The Machine (once more)

So the end of the dog days of summer is supposed to be August 21st, but seriously, last week was almost just as brutally hot here as the week before. Theoretically it’s supposed to ease up back into the double digits again this coming week.  *le sigh*  Let us hope.

Here’s a little Flo to get you moving. Even in the heat, this one makes me want to dance.

 

Monday Earworm: Aretha Franklin

Unless you’ve been on a news blackout for several days — and I get it, why wouldn’t you want to be? — you’ll have heard about the sad passing of the Queen of Soul. Yes, Aretha Franklin died last week, and the world is now somewhat bereft of her glorious talent and immense contributions to arts and culture. It may or may not be well known that she and her family were influential during the Civil Rights Era as well. You can click here for an excellent tribute to her.

So of course this week’s earworm would have to be Aretha. But which song? So many would work so well; I just couldn’t decide. Should I go with “Freeway of Love,” which was the song that allowed me (then a child) to fully connect who she was with her impressive previous work? How about “Respect” or “Think,” anthems most people who know her music will connect with her immediately? What about her performance of “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center — yeah, that one almost won out. So powerful. There were too many good choices, and I could spend another hour watching videos of her online, but I have to make a choice.

So here you go. Enjoy it, and rest in peace, Queen of Soul.