Category Archive – Randomness

Watership Down

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cover imageWatership Down by British author Richard Adams, tells the story of a group of rabbits who leave their home in search of a place free from humans and other predators. The first rabbit that we are introduced to, is named Hazel. Hazel is a rabbit that’s very protective of his younger brother, who is named Fiver. Fiver claims to have a kind of sixth sense, that alerts him to the presence of any danger. When Fiver starts to believe that the rabbits who live in his warren are in danger, he and Hazel try to persuade the Chief Rabbit (or ‘Threarah,’ as he is also known as) to relocate. The Chief Rabbit doesn’t believe Fiver, and dismisses his admonitions entirely. In an attempt to save as many rabbits as possible from impending danger, Fiver and Hazel gather seven of their friends, and set off on a journey to try and find a new home. On their trip, they encounter many foreign animals, plants, and a few other rabbits before finally reaching Watership Down.

What I find interesting about this book, is that even though it’s a story about rabbits, it’s not necessarily for children. The language used in this book is quite advanced, but the story itself is very easy to follow. There are also lots of interesting facts about rabbits and their behaviour woven into the story. The only problem that I have with this book, is that it’s quite lengthy, and it can sometimes get tedious. Other than that, there are a lot of great moments story-wise, and all of the different characters are very memorable and likable. The way that the rabbits interact with each other, and the way that they behave at times, makes them feel human. I would recommend this book for animal lovers, and for people who enjoy the fantasy genre.

Week of Geek: Be it ever so humble…

by  | Category: Pop Culture, Randomness, Super Fan
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Hello Geeklings!

How was your weekend?  Fun, I hope.  Know how mine was?  I moved.  To my brand new home!  *happy sigh* New apartment!  Big bedroom!  Kitchen!  Living area!  Painting!  Unpacking after so much packing!  Buying things you never knew you didn’t have!  Figuring out which parking space, locker and mailbox is yours!  Adventures galore!

As you can tell, I’m excited!  I know a lot of you guys are still living with the families, but your day will come.  Be it moving out for school or getting a place after getting your first job, there’s nothing quite like having a space to call your own.  And of course, my very own space is going to be a fangirls dream.  ‘Cause it’s me!

So of course, this whole endeavor has got me thinking about houses and homes in pop culture.  A home can be many things in our favorite stories.  A base of operations.  A gathering place.  A sanctuary.  And just so much more.  Let’s look at some examples…

The Burrow, Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon, England: Home of the Weasley Family in the Harry Potter series, the Burrow is a mash-up of different houses with varying furniture and rooms all held together with magic and a prayer.  But there’s a big yard for Quidditch practice, which is always a selling point.  And though the Weasley’s may lack funds, they are never lacking in love, and their home reflects that so much.  I want them to adopt me.

Bag End, Hobbiton, The Shire, Middle Earth: As J. R. R. Tolkien himself wrote in the opening lines of The Hobbit: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”  The home of Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, and then Samwise Gamgee and his family, Bag End is filled with comfy chairs and delicious food.  Bilbo was reluctant to leave it for his great adventure, and who could blame him?

Carl and Ellie’s House from Up: There has probably never been a more versatile house than this one.  We first met it when it was an abandoned shack acting as a clubhouse for 2 9-year-old wannabe explorers.  It then turned into a restored home for those same children when they grew up and got married.  Later on, the home they built together would turn into a makeshift airship with the help of thousands of balloons, and launch skyward into an amazing adventure.   The house itself represents so much about what makes a home a home, and just what it can mean and what it can become.

Wayne Manor, just outside Gotham City, USA: Like it’s owner, Wayne Manor has many secrets.  Though on the surface it appears to merely be the stately home of the Wayne Family going back several generations, deep underground is a massive cave Bruce Wayne discovered as a boy.  That cave later turned into what is now known as the Batcave, the headquarters and base of operations for Batman and his partners.  Though the films and comics have often shown Bruce also owning penthouses and other residences that also act as Batcaves, Wayne Manor is the residence most utilized across all stories, and has been a home not only to Bruce, but to his butler Alfred and to several Robins over the years.

742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield, USA: Over the Simpson Family’s many, many adventures (about 27 years worth) Home, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie have always called this pink 2 story dwelling their home.  Sure they’ve moved a couple of times, but Evergreen Terrace is always where they end up again.  While hunting for my own home I often thought about Homer and Marge shopping for a new house in one of my favorite flashback episodes.  Thankfully I did not have to shop in any neighborhoods referred to as “Rats Nests”.

221B Baker Street, London: The stories of Sherlock Holmes have had many incarnations, many authors, many actors, many eras.  But one of the big things that has always stayed constant is the address.  When Sherlock Holmes first meets John Watson, they decide to rent a flat (which is like an apartment in England) run by landlady Mrs. Hudson.  Though John would move out on occasion, Sherlock would stay a constant presence, seeing clients in those very rooms, keeping experiments in the fridge and using the walls for target practice, much to Mrs. Hudson’s chagrin.  221B is as much a part of Holmes canon as any character.

So there’s a short list, but there are many more stellar examples out there.  I hope my new place can become as much of a happy part of my life as many of these homes have been.  What about you, Geeklings?  What are your favorite houses and homes from fiction?  Post away in the comments section.

May all your homes be as cozy as hobbit-holes, and until next time, End of Line.

There And Back Again: Part Four – Forth Eorlingas!

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Arise now, arise, Riders of Théoden! Dire deeds awake, dark it is eastward. Let horse be bridled, horn be sounded! Forth Eorlingas!“― King Théoden of Rohan

So now we have finally come to this, the climax of our little adventure. It has taken us a while to get to the fourth and final chapter in the There and Back Again story but we made it! I do apologize for the delay. This part of the story telling has always been the hardest to put into words. I…well you will understand soon enough. No need to go spoiling the ending now is there?

Very well. Are you ready? Let us continue on!

It has been quite the journey to get to this point so let us see what was waiting for over that last absurdly tall mountain peak. After all, what else could there possibly be left to do?

After a courageous but very foolhardy attempt at testing my ability to fall in a spectacular fashion it took me a day or so to recover my nerves. Nothing does the mind or body good quite like a quiet lake-side retreat out in the mountains where there is absolutely nothing for miles in any direction. Silence, snow, turquois waters, and plenty of tea in the vast wilderness of New Zealand is just what I needed.

The Southern Alps of New Zealand

It came as a bit of a surprise when I noticed something odd during one of my lakeside rambles. You see, it was grey and overcast that day but for some strange reason there was a bright flash of light on top of one of the nearby mountains. Do you see it? Sunlight off a snowcap perhaps? Oddly bright and strangely positioned for that. Or could it have been something else?
From where I stood it looked like a flash of a beacon of some sort. But a beacon on a mountain peak? Could that mean the beacons of Minas Tirith? Did somebody light the beacons? Because as everyone knows if the beacons are ever lit then Gondor was calling for aid. And if Gondor called for aid…I was going to need a horse. Where in Middle Earth do you get a horse?

One word: Rohan. So that is where I went.

Middle Earth is never more real then when it is experienced from the back of a horse of Rohan.

Film location for the Two TowersAs my travel companions and I made our way throughout the borderlands of the Riddermark Tolkien’s words sprang to life before us. Harsh winds screamed across the plains with such force they threaten to blow the bus away in an instant. We passed through the location where the Warg Riders of Isengard ambushed Théoden and his people as they fled to Helm’s Deep. I knew that place in my bones.

It is hard not to become emotional when you realize that everything you have kept locked away in your mind for decades suddenly comes into being right where you are standing. Seeing this, being here, knowing that it is real and not merely a figment of your imagination is what travelling half-way across an entire planet was for. It stopped being about New Zealand a few miles back and then Middle Earth took over in full spectacular force. This, my friends, is what Middle Earth is all about. This was horse country. The land of the Horse Lords of Erol. And it is very real.Theoden

When you reach this point there is one thing left to do. You must go forth on your own and fear no darkness. Take yourself to the very edge of the modern world and journey into the mountains. Follow the Dimholt road if you dare.

When you are well and truly lost, and you will be I can guarantee it, you will come to a green valley hedged by the ancient forests. These are the forests of Fangorn and Lothlórien, where Peter Jackson made trees walk and Elves sing. It is in this particular valley that the war horses of Rohan can be found. If you are very lucky you may be given the chance to ride one.

Picture of horses of RohanThese horses are nobody’s pack ponies. Most of them are fresh off the racing circuit and know only one speed. Fast. You need to be a prolific rider in order to be allowed to go riding out across Rohan and Gondor. There are no trails, no pit stops, nothing but the wildness of New Zealand, the mountains, and plenty of mud. You will get soaked. You will freeze. You will end up covered head to toe in freezing muck. If you are lucky you will still have the ability to bend your knees by the time you dismount.

Twice I rode out across that valley and both times felt like pivotal life moments, the point when all the threads of a storyline finally intersect at that one part that everything has been building up to for so long. You see it wasn’t about riding a horse across what is probably one of the most beautiful spaces of untouched nature on the planet. There was much more to it than that.

Horse and Rider in New ZealandAfter all this is an adventure. In every adventure story ever told the main characters always have to face off in some sort of a built-up major conflict where the stakes are high and the final outcome is unknown. This journey was no different. So off I went astride a Rohirrim warhorse named Tobias to do battle with an enemy that only I could overcome. Myself.

For years the idea of coming here, doing this trip, was a personal motto that I would mutter to myself over and over again when things went bad. And they did go bad.

With the help of Tolkien’s magical world and the unforgettable characters that existed in it I was able to wage a relentless internal battle against the darkness that I could arm myself against. It may have been all in my head but if that was where the battle lines were to be drawn then I was not going to go into the fight unprepared. You cannot fight ghosts in darkness because you cannot see.

So I gave faces to the names that would have meant nothing without them. Stress, Anxiety, and Depression became the whispers of Grima Wormtongue, the Nazgûl shadow screams, and the long hard-fought battle with the Balrog of Morgoth. Whenever the “Dark Times” broke out the battle cries of Théoden King and Gandalf the Grey became my own.

Forth and Fear No Darkness! Forth Eorlingas! You Shall Not Pass!”

Spending time venturing through the land of the Rings reinforced a valuable life lesson that I would share with you now. I learned it long ago but I will admit that there were times where I had forgotten it. Never give up hope. No matter how deep the darkness gets you are worth fighting for. Despite what your mind might try to make you believe you are loved and are never alone. Help will always be given to those who ask for it and there is no shame in asking. You are not alone in this fight.

Look to your local library as you would to Minas Tirith, a place of refuge and learning. There are a number of fantastic resources available through the library and its databases if you or someone you know is looking for answers to questions that are needing to be asked. Do not fear the unknown. The darkness can be terrifying and overwhelming but know that you are never alone in such times. There will always be someone with a bow, a sword, an axe, a staff, a shield, and a frying pan at your back to help you through whatever the deep dark of Mordor can produce.

If there is one thing to be said about journeying is that you have to always go in expecting the unexpected and hoping for the extraordinary. Because if you do you will never be disappointed. I set out as a bundle of nerves one problem shy of a breakdown but returned a little older, much wiser, and all the calmer for it. Journey taking does a person good I think. Facing lifelong fears head on does wonders to a person’s constitution and I can honestly say I now know how Bilbo, Frodo, Samwise, Merry, and Pippin must have felt when they returned home to the Shire after their incredible journeys. Things may appear the same but there is something a little different about the way you see things.

And with that we end this tale. It was a rather good one I think. Full of adventure, unexpected revelations, and plenty of good cheer. I hope you have enjoyed hearing it as much as I have in telling it. Until next time, I wish you all a good morning.

Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go! ~ Bilbo Baggins
Bilbo Book

A musical flashback to the 90s… TODAY!

by  | Category: New Music, Pop Culture, Randomness
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Let me take you back, if I may.  Early 1997.  January or February ish.  I would’ve just turned 15 the previous November.  That particular time of year my family and I, which included Mom, Dad and 2 younger brothers who would’ve been 12 and 10 at the time, were taking a vacay in Florida, where my grandparents were in full snowbird mode and had a trailer down there for the winter.  We drove down, drove back and drove everywhere while in the state.  And we had the radio on…

And there was one song, one song, that was in CONSTANT rotation on the radio down in Florida in the winter of 1997.  This was on often enough that it drove my Dad absolutely NUTS… much to my amusement.  I liked the song myself.  So much so that when we got back to Ontario I got a copy of the album, and it proceeded to define a lot of my music tastes in my teens.

And I wasn’t the only one.  That album, and the group behind it, had a level of fame comparable to Beatlemania.  That debut became the WORLD’S top-selling album of 1997, peaking at number 1 in 17 countries and selling 31 million copies worldwide.

So what am I talking about?  You might’ve guessed already… or maybe you just scrolled down to this part of the post and found out (cheaters!).  If not, here ya go…

First of all, DON’T JUDGE US! I think we can all safely agree the 90s were a weird time.

Secondly, catchy no?  I was hooked!  I loved the Spice Girls!  Girl Power all the way!  I had the albums Spice and Spiceworld, and you know I owned a copy of their movie Spiceworld (I can’t remember if it was on VHS or DVD… probably VHS).  It was actually a pretty good movie, all things considered.  And the music videos!  They were super fun!

(BTW, you can find their Greatest Hits album in our catalog.)

So why am I bringing this up and going all “When I was a kid…” on you guys?  Well, in the grand tradition of “Everything old is new again”, this week a group called The Global Goals decided to take “Wannabe” and give it a more socially conscious spin.  And the results are retro but timely and awesome.  Check it out!

So a blast from the past and a call for change.  I like!  What do you guys think?  Have I convinced any of you to Spice up your life?  Do you think Global Goals has an awesome vid here?  Post away.

And remember; at some point you guys are going to be telling young people about how things are now.  Mark my words.

There And Back Again – Part Three: The Courage Of Hobbits

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Bilbo riskThere is something to be said about adventuring. Despite what you may think, you come to the stark and unsettling realization that you really don’t know who you are or what you are capable of until you find yourself in a situation that tests you beyond your limits.

Indeed. It would appear that we have arrived at the trial by fire part of our venturous tale. An adventure is all well and good at the start when things are amiable and everyone is in fine spirits. Excitement of the unknown will do that to you. But do not be fooled. This does not last. No matter how strong of limb or stout of spirit you may be at some point on the journey things will start to wear you down. Tempers fray, irritations arise, obstacles appear and the next thing you know you are muttering to yourself that maybe this was not the best idea you have ever had.

Winter had come to Middle Earth and with it came the rain. With the Southern Alps creating the most fantastical backdrop you could imagine our trek through the South Island was nothing short of incredible sights as well as danger. Mordor is an actual place (Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu) where hikers are warned to stay away due to the active nature of its volcano. Deadly rock slides are a common occurrence during the winter months and the aftermath could take months or even years to clear. High winds through the mountain passes makes driving a near hazard, especially since the roads are only two narrow lanes that wrap around cliff faces and sheer drops into the ocean. With no one around for miles any mishap on the roadways could spell disaster for the unwary traveler.

Then there are the bridges. Bridges in the South Island are an entirely other terrifying matter. One lane. Narrow. Prone to being washed out in flash floods or rock slides. If a bridge goes entire communities could be left stranded until help arrives. So when the rains come and don’t let up for weeks at a time even the locals have cause for concern.

Now if there is one thing that I cannot stand it is rain. More specifically, the creeping damp and marrow-chilling cold that accompanies an endless torrential downpour of Biblical proportions. There was no shortage of that I can tell you. In New Zealand the rain tends to get into everything. Everything you possess somehow becomes damp and no amount of drying will get rid of it. One minute the day may seem decent enough for a mountain hike but then the next thing you know the skies grow a murky grey as the winds pick up and then a thick cloying mist comes creeping down from the mountains. Now I know why Peter Jackson used these mountains as the Misty Mountains in his films. If the shoe fits and all that.
Bilbo rain
In the North Island the sun shone brightly, the birds sang, and clouds were lovely puffs of cotton on a clear blue sky. Perfectly wonderful. The further south you go is a different matter all together. It didn’t take me long to realize why the locals dress in more layers than I would ever think necessary. Dry socks suddenly become a rare and precious commodity while a new set of winter gear ends up claiming a fair share of your limited travel funds.

I will admit that I was not prepared for this leg of the journey. Not in the slightest. Neither was the company of fellow adventure seekers that I joined up with for a tour of the South Island. Runny noses, sore throats, and chills were now a daily part of the travel experience as was spending the majority of our time stuck on a tour bus being buffeted back and forth by high winds. IBilbo barrelt felt like being stuck in a barrel and jostled around. Once I made the grave mistake of looking down at the road during a winding drive up a mountain and instantly regretted it. There was no road! None! The lane was so narrow that only a sheer 50 foot drop into flooded scrub brush that reminded me of the Dead Marshes could be seen.

Sometimes the ride got to be so rough, what with the swaying and the bouncing, that everyone became very well acquainted with their breakfasts. Myself and the bus driver included. After that everyone just stopped eating breakfast all together whenever a long drive was what was in store for the day. This is not something they put in the fine print of the travel contracts when you sign up for a trip like this but they should consider doing so. Many a hoodie would have been spared constant laundering if they had. A valuable lesson was learned though. Always bring spare plastic bags, a bar of soap, and laundry detergent with you no matter where you go. You will never regret it.

Now I have done a fair bit of grumbling about some of the unexpected challenges that sprang up. However this is an adventure, not a two-week by the poolside all inclusive stay, so there are always challenges. But those challenges were worth every moment because once you made it through the mountains the island showed off its true personality.  Suddenly you realize that you are standing smack dab in Middle Earth and it is everything you could ever imagine it to be.

Queenstown, New Zealand is the adventure capital of the country. It is a place where thrill-seekers, nature lovers, journeymen of all walks of life come together to do the impossible. Want to see the curvature of the earth and jump out of a plane? No problem. Want to swing across canyons and bungee off bridges up to 100 feet? Sure thing. How about jet-boating on four inches of water through canyons where the smallest mishap could send you straight into a rock wall? Why not. Anything and everything death-defying and adrenalin pumping that you can think of can be done here. So what better a place to conquer your fears?

By nature I enjoy the hobbit life. I prefer quiet evenings, good food, good books, and good company. I happen to be stupid terrified of heights. The thought of standing on something tall and looking down is enough to make me curl into a ball and hide under a desk…which is something I want to do right now now that I think about it. But I won’t. Why? Because somewhere along this adventure through Middle Earth I discovered something rather unexpected. My courage. I’ve spent a life-time playing it safe and avoiding risks as much as possible. So much so it started having an adverse reaction on my daily life. To think that I would stand on the narrow ledge of a very old bridge and throw myself out into the unknown is not something people, or myself, would think possible of happening.

Any time the idea of a bungee jump was brought up I went green around the gills and just shake my head. There was no way I would ever willingly do something so dangerous. What if…well…you know. That changed though. Somehow I found myself in a harness waiting to jump and thought that it was a good idea. It was time to conquer fears, be bold, do the unexpected! Yeah right. I spent two minutes clinging to the side of the bridge in mute fear regretting life decisions. When that happens you don’t jump, you get pulled back in for safety reasons. Then I heard it. A voice on the wind. Yelling at me to “just do it”. Well, then I did.

Did I think it was possible? Nope. Did it happen? Yep. Would I do it again? HA! No. But I jumped and for a moment it was the most exciting thing I have ever done. Little did I know then that something even greater was waiting for me just over the next mountain.