According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, 2024 is the Year of the Dragon, and I am a huge fan of dragons. They’re just very cool, and I find it fascinating and mysterious that almost every culture in the world has a dragon or dragon-esque creature in their legends, mythologies, and hagiography. I wonder if they came about in response to dinosaurs…
Funnily enough, I just finished reading The Book of Dragons, an anthology of short stories all about dragons by some of my favourite authors, and so I thought I’d combine those two coincidences into a fun, dragon-themed post! (You can read my response to this book on my own site, if you like!)
Before we get into the media recommendations, you might be wondering what’s with the title. I’d always thought ‘here be dragons’ was a phrase used by ancient mapmakers to mark unknown regions of the world. Apparently, this isn’t quite true! According to a National Geographic article, “apart from an inscription on a single, 16th-century globe, this claim is unfounded.” However, “mapmakers would often place monsters and other imagined creatures to marked unexplored areas” which might be why ‘here be dragons’ can often be found in fictional maps.
It’s that time of year again. The time when algorithms — and the multinational corporations who employ them — encourage us to look back. At the pictures we’ve taken, the music we’ve listened to, and the digital lives we’ve led over the past year. We inevitably start to draw conclusions. What kind of year has it been? ‘Have I listened to a lot of emotional music this year?’ Or, ‘Should I start taking more pictures of my friends?’ It feels as if we’re being prepped to make our new year’s resolutions starting from the end of November, and resolutions have never been my friends. I don’t find it helpful to try to start new habits at the beginning of the calendar year, when we’re all getting over the indulgences and excesses of the winter holiday season. If there’s a habit I want to start, I try to start it when the motivation and momentum are there. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t have much motivation or momentum at the beginning of January. Nevertheless, it is the end of the year, so here at VPL we’re looking back at the most popular books and films borrowed by our customers in 2023. Here are my recommendations from the top ten lists this year. I share them in the hopes that they may bring a little joy to the last part of your 2023. Don’t worry about your new year’s resolutions yet. To paraphrase Ina Garten:
Don’t worry about the future. If you’re in a stream, and you find yourself knocking against the riverbanks, you’re in the wrong stream. Find a stream that carries you along.1
Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese animator, filmmaker, and manga artist, and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, which produces some of the most beautifully animated films of our time. Miyazaki himself is considered one of the most accomplished filmmakers in the history of animation.
Ahead of the December 8th release of the latest Ghibli film The Boy and the Heron, I thought a little dive into Miyazaki and Ghibli would be apt.
My first Miyazaki-Ghibli film (to distinguish from Ghibli films by other directors and/or screenwriters) was Spirited Away. My uncle brought it for me on DVD when I was somewhere between 10 and 13 years old, and said it was his favourite and that he thought I might like it. I remember being a little scared by all the monsters, horrified by Chihiro’s parents turning into pigs, and ultimately entranced by everything else. I was already hugely into fantasy, and there was nothing more designed to hook me at that age than a dragon-boy, a grumpy girl, and their relationship with each other.