Sunday, July 26, 2015

BW30 - Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley - Courtesy of Biography

It is the anniversary of the birth of British novelist Aldous Huxley, best known for his dystopian novel Brave New World.  He was a prolific writer and published many poems, short stories, essays, film adaptations and scripts.  Check out, a compilation of links about Huxley and his philosophy, ideas, works and politics as well as all things Brave New Worldish.  Fascinating site which will keep you busy following rabbit trails for days.

I'll leave you with the beginning of Chapter 1 of Brave New World

A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory. Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables.

"And this," said the Director opening the door, "is the Fertilizing Room."

Bent over their instruments, three hundred Fertilizers were plunged, as the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning entered the room, in the scarcely breathing silence, the absent-minded, soliloquizing hum or whistle, of absorbed concentration. A troop of newly arrived students, very young, pink and callow, followed nervously, rather abjectly, at the Director's heels. Each of them carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he desperately scribbled. Straight from the horse's mouth. It was a rare privilege. The D. H. C. for Central London always made a point of personally conducting his new students round the various departments.

"Just to give you a general idea," he would explain to them. For of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently–though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible. For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fret-sawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.

"To-morrow," he would add, smiling at them with a slightly menacing geniality, "you'll be settling down to serious work. You won't have time for generalities. Meanwhile …"

Meanwhile, it was a privilege. Straight from the horse's mouth into the notebook. The boys scribbled like mad.

Tall and rather thin but upright, the Director advanced into the room. He had a long chin and big rather prominent teeth, just covered, when he was not talking, by his full, floridly curved lips. Old, young? Thirty? Fifty? Fifty-five? It was hard to say. And anyhow the question didn't arise; in this year of stability, A. F. 632, it didn't occur to you to ask it.

"I shall begin at the beginning," said the D.H.C. and the more zealous students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning. "These," he waved his hand, "are the incubators." And opening an insulated door he showed them racks upon racks of numbered test-tubes. "The week's supply of ova. Kept," he explained, "at blood heat; whereas the male gametes," and here he opened another door, "they have to be kept at thirty-five instead of thirty-seven. Full blood heat sterilizes." Rams wrapped in theremogene beget no lambs.

Still leaning against the incubators he gave them, while the pencils scurried illegibly across the pages, a brief description of the modern fertilizing process; spoke first, of course, of its surgical introduction–"the operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months' salary"; continued with some account of the technique for preserving the excised ovary alive and actively developing; passed on to a consideration of optimum temperature, salinity, viscosity; referred to the liquor in which the detached and ripened eggs were kept; and, leading his charges to the work tables, actually showed them how this liquor was drawn off from the test-tubes; how it was let out drop by drop onto the specially warmed slides of the microscopes; how the eggs which it contained were inspected for abnormalities, counted and transferred to a porous receptacle; how (and he now took them to watch the operation) this receptacle was immersed in a warm bouillon containing free-swimming spermatozoa–at a minimum concentration of one hundred thousand per cubic centimetre, he insisted; and how, after ten minutes, the container was lifted out of the liquor and its contents re-examined; how, if any of the eggs remained unfertilized, it was again immersed, and, if necessary, yet again; how the fertilized ova went back to the incubators; where the Alphas and Betas remained until definitely bottled; while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out again, after only thirty-six hours, to undergo Bokanovsky's Process.  (Yes, this seems like the world's longest sentence, but it isn't)

"Bokanovsky's Process," repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks.
One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.

"Essentially," the D.H.C. concluded, "bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development. We check the normal growth and, paradoxically enough, the egg responds by budding."

Responds by budding. The pencils were busy.

He pointed. On a very slowly moving band a rack-full of test-tubes was entering a large metal box, another, rack-full was emerging. Machinery faintly purred. It took eight minutes for the tubes to go through, he told them. Eight minutes of hard X-rays being about as much as an egg can stand. A few died; of the rest, the least susceptible divided into two; most put out four buds; some eight; all were returned to the incubators, where the buds began to develop; then, after two days, were suddenly chilled, chilled and checked.

Two, four, eight, the buds in their turn budded; and having budded were dosed almost to death with alcohol; consequently burgeoned again and having budded–bud out of bud out of bud–were thereafter–further arrest being generally fatal–left to develop in peace. By which time the original egg was in a fair way to becoming anything from eight to ninety-six embryos– a prodigious improvement, you will agree, on nature. Identical twins–but not in piddling twos and threes as in the old viviparous days, when an egg would sometimes accidentally divide; actually by dozens, by scores at a time.

"Scores," the Director repeated and flung out his arms, as though he were distributing largesse. "Scores."

But one of the students was fool enough to ask where the advantage lay.

"My good boy!" The Director wheeled sharply round on him. "Can't you see? Can't you see?" He raised a hand; his expression was solemn. "Bokanovsky's Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!"

Major instruments of social stability.

Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of a small factory staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg.

"Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!" The voice was almost tremulous with enthusiasm. "You really know where you are. For the first time in history." He quoted the planetary motto. "Community, Identity, Stability." Grand words. "If we could bokanovskify indefinitely the whole problem would be solved."

Solved by standard Gammas, unvarying Deltas, uniform Epsilons. Millions of identical twins. The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.

"But, alas," the Director shook his head, "we can't bokanovskify indefinitely."

Ninety-six seemed to be the limit; seventy-two a good average. From the same ovary and with gametes of the same male to manufacture as many batches of identical twins as possible–that was the best (sadly a second best) that they could do. And even that was difficult.

"For in nature it takes thirty years for two hundred eggs to reach maturity. But our business is to stabilize the population at this moment, here and now. Dribbling out twins over a quarter of a century–what would be the use of that?"

Continue reading here.


History of the Medieval World - Chapter 34 
Mayors of the Palaces  pp 246 - 254

Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

BW29: Something Completely Different - Oulipo

Have you ever heard of an Oulipo?  I was recently introduced to the form during one of my writing classes and found it quite intriguing.   Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle or OULIPO was founded by French Mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau in 1960.   Basically it is introducing a constraint while writing a poem, creating a short story, or a lipogram.  

 My first experiment with creating an OULIPO using Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken was a big failure. I tried the N + 7 route which is replace the major nouns with another noun which is the 7th one below it, in the dictionary. However the first line ending up being Two robbers diverged in a women. After I stopped laughing and got over my hot flash, tried a few variations but it just wasn’t working. Then I got the bright idea to take book titles and transform them into a story, but got as far as a weird poem.

Death Comes
Brightly Burning
Across the Endless River
On the Night Road.

Dark Shadows
In the Woods
Scream for Me,
On the Night Road.

Dark Harbor.

The Door Within
All Through The Night
A World I Never Made.

A Lethal Harvest
Watcher in the Woods
Shoot Him if He Runs.

Forgotten Garden
Born in Fire
Thunder of Heaven.

Shadow of Doubt
Rivers Edge
Never Go Back.

Brilliance of the Moon
A Walk in the Woods
The Brink of Dawn
On the Night Road.

Infinite Days
The Silent Gift
Everything Beautiful Began Again.
On the Night Road.

I experimented with a serial sentences short story by  picking random books and plugging together a bunch of sentences. I gave myself a constraint. I started with ten books of varying lengths. Started with book one, chapter one, line two, chapter two, line two, and so on up to line 25. Then I started over again at line one at chapter 25 and so on. I kept going until I ran out of chapters, setting aside books as ran out of chapters and continue until used up all the books. I juggled the sentences a bit in order for things to make a modicum of sense and was mostly successful. All from well known mystery authors.  Below is a shortened version because the original was 99 sentences.

The engine fired with a smooth rumble. The car remained still. The long straight highway just beyond the gas station cut across an alluvial fan that spread gracefully down the mountains to the desert floor. Score watched the deputy go to the escalade and circle his finger, silently telling the Breck woman to lower her window.

“Tell Red Hill to get the hell out of my way.” He sounded excited and definitive.

“I’m not leaving Leland.” She said.

“You don’t get it, do you? He’s up that tree. I left him two messages.”

And so had I. Two from Dorothy, confirming that she’d been able to rent all the equipment and uniforms I asked for.


“Oh man,” Jensen said. My uniform was identical, except that I was wearing a dark blue trucker cap that also said HVAC of Reston on the front. Careful he told himself. He popped the last of the fritos in his mouth.


Score looked at his schedule, swore under his breath, and wished he knew what the Breck girl was up to. Now that St. Kilda was off the board, arranging the downfall of the Clever Ms. Breck would be a pure pleasure. He sat down at his desk and fought against the kind of burp that made his eyes water.

Hastily, he said, “I’m kinda like—I like to leave that kind of stuff to others you know?”

“Yeah Grandpa Hank,” He confirmed.

He didn’t fancy his chances of walking away from that kind of op free, much less alive. Maybe he realized that things had changed in Washington, that the new administration didn’t want to do business with him. And just when they’re sure they’ve got it figured out, it’s over and they’ve been totally fooled.

“I want to present it to him as a complete package.”

“Got it,” Zach said. “But I’ll get back to you once I do.”

We left our interview room—which was beginning to freak me out a little, all those round watching eyes; I told myself this was a good sign—and went into the observation chamber to see how Sam was getting on.

“No I’m better now.” She waved an oak accordion file and fought back a sneeze. She placed a folder within easy reach of the table.

I nodded.

“She’s had a bad f’ing day, made all the worse by the fact her own brother wasn’t there when she needed him.”

My challenge to you this week is to create an OULIPO.  It can be a N + 7, a poem created from book title, serial sentences or whatever your imagination dreams up.  Find out more about OULIPO's here, here and here.   Have fun! 


History of the Medieval World -  Chapter 33 Two Emperors pp 237 - 245 

 Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

BW28: Learning through History and Writing

Jonathan Wolstenhome
I've been knee deep searching for curriculum for next school year.  My son will be studying World History for 10th grade which means, like the picture above, I've been researching and following a lot of rabbit trails the past few weeks.  He loves history, especially the World War II era and has been following his own rabbit trails the past year.  I'm hoping to engage his sense of curiosity in regards to other eras as well.   I stumbled upon W.W. Norton's website and fell in love.  I discovered Worlds Together, Worlds Apart and after a short debate with myself decided to go for it.  Along with an Anthology of Western Literature.  *sigh*   

Since he loves history and loves to write, followed a meandering path to A Pocket Guide to Writing In History

As well as John Lewis Gaddis' The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past and Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers: A History of man's Search to Know His World and Himself.  Fortunately, he enjoys reading non fiction which has opened my eyes to some very interesting books which I would have never considered before. 

Finally decided since he is so into history, to include a bit of Art history as well.  I don't know if any of you have reading books from the Dummies series. They are kind of hit and miss depending on the subject.  We recently started reading  Art History for Dummies after dinner and it's more enjoyable than Stokard's mammoth Art History book. Sorry Marilyn.  However, I couldn't resist getting Gombrich's The Story of Art:

For my own personal amusement and education, I am reading Dinty Moore's  The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers.  Yes, I know, quite wordy but what do you expect from writers. *grin*   

What have you been studying lately? 


History of the Medieval World - Chapter 32 South Indian Kings  pp 231 - 236

Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

BW27: Jubilant July - Charming and enchanting

Welcome to Jubilant July and our theme of charming and enchanting plus our author flavor of the month - Tracy Chevalier.

What does charming and enchanting make you think of?  Southern Belles, Fairy tales, bewitching vixens, dashing alpha males, or mystical, magical tales or fantasy heroes.   We could go any route - whether it be cozy mysteries, retold fairy tales, southern gothics or historical fiction to name a few.  See what tickles your funny bone and enjoy following a few rabbit trails. 

One of which leads us to Tracy Chevalier  who is currently working on a retelling of Othello as well as organizing events and editing a short story anthology in honor to and in celebration of Charlotte Bronte's 200th birthday in 2016.  I think Chevalier is best know for her story The Girl with the Pearl Earring although she has written several novels including The Lady and the Unicorn and a story revolving around William Blake - Burning Bright.

Join me this month is reading all things charming and enchanting, plus I'll be diving into The Girl with the Pearl Earring. 


History of the Medieval World - Chapter 31 Reunification pp 223 - 230

Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post.