Monday, March 20, 2017

Coloring Katniss: Creative Platypus

So... I have Clip Art now. I am learning how to use it and getting another reminder that my creative abilities lag behind that of many 14-year-olds. Sigh... Anyhow, as a preliminary test of these new tools, I decided to sketch my version of The Hunger Games heroine, Katniss. I made sure to get the rough composition down before seeing the movie in an effort to record what I saw while reading the book. So, here we go. And yes, the jacket is from L.L Bean.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Hunger Games: The Platypus Reads Part CCCX

We're never on the cutting edge of anything over here at Platypus of Truth. So, today's confession is that we have only just finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The movie is in our Netflix queue. We intended to read this book when it first became popular, as we did Stephanie Myers' Twilight. Business got in the way as it usually does and the years rolled on. When I finally snagged a copy from the school library, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd heard so much about the novels and the films at this point and yet I remained fairly spoiler free and couldn't form any real conception except "it's sort of like Battle Royal, but not".

I was pleasantly surprised. The Hunger Games packed Hemingway's terse prose with Orwell's conscience to deliver a world peopled by incredibly well-drawn teenagers forced to grow up way to fast. The pacing is perfect, and the Games, when they finally appear, were not at all what I was expecting. The combined effect is being forced to watch society's most vulnerable members victimized by a very American type of evil -not one we are exactly committing right now, but the kind we could so easily commit under the right circumstances. The Romans did it on a much larger scale for half a millennium -and the Founders viewed us as the new Romans. Collins real genius, however, is that her particular cocktail delivers its message in a way that is simple and elegant. I appreciate that even more after years of watching students wrestle through 1984, Animal Farm, and Brave New World.

On a personal level, I appreciated Collins' hero, Katniss. I know people from western Pennsylvania. I know poor people from western Pennsylvania. As a teacher, I've only just begun to dimly appreciate the way that generational poverty creates a prison for the mind -even when the body has escaped. Katniss embodies this reality in her relentless drive for survival, her ignorance of and ambivalence towards larger social forces, and her dyed-in-the-wool fatalism. She also is quite clearly a girl who grew up in the woods. As a boy who grew up surrounded by large tracks of state forest, I appreciate the way that Katniss moves through her environment. There are things that come with growing up in the wooded Northeast that are second nature even to a wimpy nerd like me and they saturate every page of The Hunger Games. I never feel quite right unless I can see (preferably be under) a canopy of trees. It's good to see a heroine who feels the same way.

Catching Fire has just come in from the library, so we'll see where Collins takes us in volume two. Volume one will be a hard act to follow.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sunny Day: Creative Platypus

Sunny Day

The Sunny Days have returned
(You can have them)
Soon, no one will want them.
Heat and humidity will send
Us all in doors
and things will go unseen
as so much of the World
Does that can’t be
Viewed from a screen.

I think Hell is full of screens
Where we watch anything
but what we should be watching.

You, Stranger, who pass
Through this day with me,
Stop a moment with me
to regard the things
That need regarding.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Proclamation, December 2017: Creative Platypus

Proclamation, December 2017

I Do Proclaim:

That this is my hour.
I take as my demesne
All things that you reject:
Rainy days,
Cold, crisp Autumn,
The glistening thickets of Winter,
Old churches,
Graveyards.
And the moss about the foot of trees.

I will be kind to postmen,
And those who prepare my food.
Praise God for tobacco, and
The fellowship of working men
Smoking cigarettes on the porch.
I will thank God for immigrants
Who cut grass,
Domestics,
All who do the work my Irish ancestors
did.
Praise the Almighty for every man
Who calls himself a stranger in his home,
Chronically reduces his boil to a simmer.

I will not forget you either,
If you have what you love
Taken from you
Yet remain unbowed.
You are my teacher.

I welcome All
From the boarders of my kingdom
In the particular-
A shake of hands
Or a nod
Between potentates.

Monday, February 06, 2017

On Rainy Days: Creative Platypus

On Rainy Days

On Rainy Days like this one
I feel Gettysburg in my bones-
or maybe Plymouth-
seeing puffs of smoke in
the wet air
when no one else is out.

You happy people
who will not face the
Rain,
you Insiders, who never
looked in through lighted
Windows
and wished to God that you
belonged:

What do you know of
Astor or of woodsmoke-
who never had the larger fellowship
that comes with being
Alone.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Moby Dick: Creative Platypus

After a drawing by Rockwell Kent
Marker on Strathmore Toned Tan

A whale-ship was my Yale college and my Harvard.
-Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Howard's Conan: Final Thoughts: The Platypus Reads Part CCCIX

Well, I've done it: I've finally finished Robert E. Howard's entire Conan oeuvre. The journey has been several years long, and I've also taken side trips to cover Howard creations Kull, Solomon Kane, and Bran Mak Morn, but I have finally reached the finish.

What do I say now that I have reached the end? When I began this journey, one of my friends quipped that Conan should be known as "the venerially diseased" instead of "the barbarian". Others told me that they had simply given up along the way -the racism and misogyny were too much. I did give up on Howard's younger contemporary, Fritz Leiber, for about that reason. Having read to the end, I can confidently say that these criticisms are true: Conan is not a good man, and Robert E. Howard was a cynical nihilist out to earn a buck -but that's not the whole story. Conan and his creator also reflect the realities of the Great Depression and a life on America's not-so-tamed former frontier. It was an age of motorized bandits, speak-easys, okies, mafia, and lynchings. Howard reflects that reality in his fantasies as surely as Tolkien and Lewis do the Great War and its sequel. It's that artistic integrity -to show the world the way he saw it- that kept me reading. Texas often makes no sense to me, but reading Howard I get it just a little more than I might otherwise.

I love Lovecraft in spite of all his evils because he loves New England. I don't love Howard, but I do see in through his eyes how someone could passionately love Texas. Thank you Rob.