The Mad Hatter

A little random, oftentimes heady, totally looking for purpose. I'm moved by topics across the board, sometimes focusing on reading classic literature or more recent philosophy; sometimes given to less productive impulses. In order to stay active, I've also just joined the Yahoo Contributor Network.
The Mad Hatter has written 52 posts for Mad Hatter Miscellany

Animal Farm – Quick Review and Thoughts Part 1

Animal Farm

Animal Farm (Photo credit: Ben Templesmith)

I started and finished George Orwell‘s Animal Farm a couple of weeks ago, through a library loaned audio book, but am just now finding the time to write about it.  Have I mentioned the I love the ecollection from the library?

Anyway – Animal Farm.  GREAT book!  4 out of 5 stars on my Goodreads.  Apparently most of America read this early in life, but it was never required reading during school for me so it took me a little longer to find it.  It’s a very quick story which I could see appealing to younger crowds for the simple reason that it focuses on a group of farm animals that revolt and create their own farming community.  However, there are so many societal and philosophical questions throughout the book, both subtle and some not so subtle, that I found myself taking notes on my thoughts.  It’s the first time I can remember a book, which wasn’t required reading, stirring such a reflective mood.

I’ll use the next few posts to review my overall thoughts, some of which may seem more of a rambling than anything else since I’m not sure I actually found any conclusive feelings to any of the themes I found within the book.  Themes such as

  • Society’s putting too much value on intelligence.
  • Does higher levels of intelligence open a person to more opportunities in life and if so, is that actually a good thing?
  • Does high intelligence automatically lead to abuse of those of lower levels?
  • Is capitalism a foregone conclusion?  If so, is that a good thing?
  • Are we destined to always separate ourselves into classes, whether that be social, political, or ethnic?

For those interested in watching a film version, here is a classic animated version of Animal Farm.

More to come…

Coffee – Random Thoughts

Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical.  ~ Jonathan Swift

For some people its music, possibly of any persuasion.  For others its more meditative – yoga and such.  For me, undoubtedly, it’s coffee that calms me.

In my line of work, there are days where I’ll spend 6 hours or more on the road, with a few stops mixed in between.  And there’s no better company and no better way to wake up in the morning than with a little java and some talk radio.English: Cute coffee.

There’s a certain calmness that hits at around 7:30 each morning.  By then I’m normally out of traffic and several miles down the highway and whichever coffee I’ve bought that morning – whether it be Starbucks, McDonald’s, or gas station coffee – it’s finally cool enough to drink without scalding my tongue.  And the beauty is that it’s still too early for any phone calls.

The nice thing is that its become something that I go to whenever the day gets long or especially taxing.  On hot days – Hello iced coffee.  On stressful days – Grande Pike’s with sugar-free hazelnut.

Understanding that my morning routine is somewhat confined by four wheels and a windshield, and reading back through where this post has gone, I think I am a coffee addict.

Oh well, I’m facing a 300 mile day tomorrow.  So I’ll be seeing the smiling faces at the exit 14 McDonald’s once again – coffee black.

For an interesting read, check out The Women’s Petition Against Coffee.  “Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water.”  There’s some truth there, to be sure.

Etsy Artist of the Month – March 2012

New posts have been a struggle these past two weeks, but I’m happy to get back on track with this one.  The Etsy Artist of the Month for March 2012 is Julia Stiles.  I know nothing more about Julia than what is shows in her Etsy profile.

That being said, one of my favorite techniques has always been ink and ink wash.  That’s actually how I found Julia’s profile.  When I check Etsy for new work, most times I’ll start by searching for handmade ink paintings or drawings.  Julia’s work was easily some of the best I’ve seen.

All of the examples below are still shown as for sale on her Etsy page, and each image will link through.  There are also many other prints in her store beyond the original artwork below.

Here’s my personal favorite:

Another example of ink and wash:

And lastly, a great example of the artist’s work in oil.

Patrick Rothfuss – The Wise Man’s Fear – 400 pages to go

The Wise Man's Fear

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve allocated every minute of my reading over the past three weeks to The Wise Man’s Fear.  I know its been three weeks because the library only allows you to borrow ebooks for 21 days before they’re returned, and today is the day its leaving my Kindle.

I don’t want to give any final judgment on the book, but as of today I have been very happy with it.  Book one, The Name of the Wind, was Outstanding!  This one is also very good, adding depth and back-story to many of the characters introduced in the first book while introducing several new, diverse characters.  That character development, along with learning more about the rules of ‘magic,’ have easily been the best parts.  The time Kvothe spends at the University had me staying up late, falling asleep with my Kindle on my chest.

My only struggle with it has been the question – where is this going?  I had thought it would again follow the timeline of the University, with conflict and diversity intertwined.  I’m now 600+ pages into it and there really isn’t any main conflict, although many of the small conflicts had me completely absorbed.  The book has taken an interesting turn into political intrigue, which I have to admit has been a good twist, but beyond that I don’t know…

Since I’m someone who struggles to commit to a book for more than a couple of weeks, I’m going to add a chapter or two from Close to Shore in between longer stints with The Wise Man’s Fears.  We’ll see which I finish first.

Comfort in Fog – Thoughts

Nebbia / Fog

Have you ever driven on a foggy day, the world outside reduced to what you can see a few meters from your hood?  That was me today.

It was almost as if the fog lay waiting.  As I left the main highway, following the curve of the road, it bulged from behind a small smattering of trees, quickly enveloping me in its embrace.  Fingers of mist danced around me, the trees sparkling in the morning haze.  You could almost see them smile.

The weight of deadlines and appointments was still there, but it was almost as if the fog had a density great enough to block out everything except what was held within my small space.  The twin beacons of fellow travelers passed slowly through my kingdom, paths crossing in separate worlds.  I have no doubt that had I reached my hand out, I could have given the hazy grey morning a squeeze.

A calmness, pure serenity came with that mystical embrace.  There’s comfort in silence so peaceful.  It left me smiling – just me – happy and grateful for all the gifts I’ve been given.

I hope everyone has the chance to get lost in the fog sometimes.

Have You Ever Considered… The Trust We Hold in Our Community?

I spent much of this week trying to think of a topic for the next post in this series.  Then, as is typical, it hit me and was as clear as could be.  After having picked up my second coffee of the day from a fast-food drive-thru, the light bulb went off.

Almost every work day I trust other people, from the moment I leave my house to the minute I lock my front door at night.  What do I know about any of the people who make the food I buy; who share the road with me at 70+ miles an hour; who live their lives in the same world of semi-interaction?  And even more relevant, would I want to know more?

There’s a comfort that comes from ignorance which seems universal.  I’m a happier person because I’m able to let things go, trusting that those around me will act in a responsible fashion.  I trust that those who make my coffee in the morning aren’t adding in a bit of cat urine.  Those around me trust that I’m not going to test my crash-dummy skills on the highway.

Unfortunately, this trust is why some events are so quick to make the news.  When someone breaks that trust it’s a temporary shock to the system.  Think of the stunned silence that rolled across the country after Gabby Giffords‘ shooting.  However, even when someone breaks the trust in as emphatic and tragic a manner as Giffords’ shooter, we still fall quickly back into the same trust we held before, with a slightly more cautious manner.

Just for a moment, think of all the things we trust others to handle.  Don’t dwell too long though, paranoia is no one’s friend.

“There is no way to be completely happy without being oblivious to the world around you.” ~ Maredith Close

Flash Fiction – Harder than it Looks

I finally completed my first attempt at flash fiction and submitted it to Flash Fiction Online.  What an experience!

Initially the story, currently titled Uncommon Magic, was somewhere around 1065 words, which would have been acceptable as long as I would be willing to cut it down to 1000 or less if it was actually accepted.  However, in the true spirit of flash fiction I wanted to trim it down for a couple of reasons.

One is that I’ve read so many books, blogs, etc. which all agreed writing short fiction is extremely difficult because every word has to count.  Since this was the first story I’ve written in years, and since it was purely for myself, for a sense of fulfillment, I decided to give it everything I had.

And secondly, why would anyone submit something that wasn’t finished to the point that it could realistically stay in its current form if the long-shot, one-in-a-million chance, happened and it was picked to be published?  I’m now at the point that I can’t imagine having to change anything else in it.

I now fully understand what I’ve read – that it truly is all about revision.  It several hours total revising a three and a half page story.  I can’t imagine the struggle involved in revising a 300 page novel.  I found I was able to mold Uncommon Magic so that the main character had more personality and I could see the scene around him when I closed my eyes.

If it’s rejected, which I’ll be sure to pass along, I’ll try submitting it to a few other markets just to test the waters and if nothing else, I’ll be posting it here.

Uncommon Magic

Total Words = 997         Total Time Invested = 8+ hours

Websites and Articles about Authors and Writing – Tips, Earnings, Etc.

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been compiling a few websites related to writing that I found interesting.   Normally, I found them through a typical Google search looking for author earnings info on short stories and ebooks.  Basically I was procrastinating in my favorite way – Googling random things.

Without further ado, so I can get back to more aimless searching, here are the websites:

  1. Lindsay Buroker’s blog is a great resource and surely gives inspiration to those hoping to make writing their day job.  Granted, she took her time and worked hard for her success.  She doesn’t shy away from posting actual lessons learned and earnings reports.
  2. The Writer’s Cafe can be found on the website.  This site has a wealth of information if you’re willing to spend some time digging.  There are updates on various indie authors’ sales or numbers of times their book was borrowed through Amazon.  It has a great community feel to it as well.
  3. Robin Sullivan’s article, The New Midlist, from June 27, 2011 is an interesting read, giving stats on her husband’s success.
  4. The Good E Reader blog is another one with a never-ending amount of information.  There are sections focused on Indie Author News, Digital Publishing News, and so on.  This is one I’ve tabbed and plan to return to regularly.
  5. Rebecca Brandewyne’s website had some good informational posts like The Pros and Cons of Being a Writer and Advances & Royalties – How Authors are Paid, although I have to admit that I did have to mute my laptop and make an effort to look past the sparkling letters (seriously, if you click through, brace yourself).  She obviously writes in a genre that I’m not actually interested in, and it appears that most of the information is a few years old, but some concerns are consistent across genres and throughout time.

Lessons Found in Unlikely Places – Emily Dickinson 1350

Emily dickinson

Image via Wikipedia

Tired after a long day’s work, I sought a quick distraction before shutting down.  Emily Dickinson came to the rescue.  Here is her short, yet powerful untitled poem 1350

Luck is not chance —
It’s Toil —
Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned —
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned —

I find it extremely interesting that someone who lived in such extreme isolation can speak so perfectly of  hard work and ambition.  Thank you Emily.  I will make my own fortune, my own luck.

Have You Ever Considered… Man’s Need to Find External Entertainment

This will be the first in a new series of posts related to taking a step back and reflecting on various aspects of life.  A previous post, Introspection in America, actually was the informal first post.

On a day like today, Super Bowl Sunday, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and festivities.  I’ve been the norm since I was young – Super Bowl parties, too much to drink, etc.  The same can be said for the World Cup, March Madness, and regular season Colts games (with the exception of this year due to their poor play all around).

This morning was abnormally warm for Indiana so I spent some time outside watching my dog play in the back yard.  He can spend hours by himself out there, chasing squirrels or shadows and flinging sticks around.  This morning it occurred to me just how much entertainment he creates for himself and just how little most of us create for ourselves.

Our need for external entertainment is astounding, especially visual.  Think about it.  We have multi-million dollar athletes because they “entertain” us for a few months.  We buy into the games like we’re the ones playing and if our team wins, what do we really get from the experience?  Pride in our team?  Really?  We get to feel that we’re part of a crowd, all entertained by the same overpaid players.  What will that team ever really do for us but take our money and our time?

The same can be said of movies and television.  We’re entertained for a couple of hours, or if the story is especially moving it may stick with us for a while, but what of those actors in movies?  Are they really worth the crazy amounts of money that they burn through everyday?  From a marketing and business standpoint, absolutely.  Because the better the actor, the more they fulfill our need to be entertained.  From a realistic standpoint… Not likely.  And even worse, what about those reality show debacles that have run rampant for the past 10 years?

And as Mark Zuckerberg takes his monstrosity public, he puts a monetary figure on one piece of the next juggernaut in external entertainment, all based on a figment of our collective imaginations.  Much of the populace has the self-delusion that online friendships are the same, or even better, than those interpersonal relationships we have with those around us.  I could write for days on this point.

Watching my dog in the backyard made me realize that we’ve lost touch with our grasp of what entertainment should really be or do.  It should be something that makes us think; helps us create!  It’s amazing how much visual entertainment differs from listening to the radio or reading.  A good novel will absorb a reader in a way that no movie or television show can.  You feel the characters’ successes or failures, sense the world their in, and ultimately use the writers’ words as the framework for creating that world in your mind.

Beginning next weekend, try something new.  Opt for a Silent Sunday – no movies, no Youtube or Facebook and definitely no Housewives of Brainlessville.  Read, write, enjoy nature… whatever it takes to entertain yourself.  It’ll be awkward at first, but persevere.  You’ll be happy you did.

As always, feedback is welcome and appreciated.

The Rabbit Hole

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