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Archives for October 2020

The Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks

I listened to The Elves of Cintra audiobook, brilliantly narrated by Phil Gigante.

I have fond memories of the Shannara books. I *think* it was recommended to me by a school friend back in the late 80s and I had a copy of The Sword of Shannara from the library at the Army Apprentices’ College in Harrogate when I had my accident in 1989. In those days I read fantasy pretty much exclusively and the derivative nature of Sword didn’t bother me at all.

I also have a memory of lying in my bunk at the apprentices’ college reading the Scions of Shannara when midnight struck into my 19th birthday and then I continued through that quadrilogy during the next phase of surgeries on my leg.

I’m not sure why I didn’t follow up when Terry Brooks wrote more and more Shannara books at the time, but I’m making up for it now and going right back to the beginning of the Word and the Void series.

The Word and the Void

The Genesis of Shannara trilogy follows on from the Word and the Void trilogy, so we’re now still in the real world, but after the apocalypse.

What apocolypse?

Exactly!

There are demons and mutated humans out to kill everyone, humans and elves both — but where the fuck did the elves come from if we’re supposed to be in the real world? I don’t feel like that is ever really explained. Maybe they were always there. Maybe they still are!

And why do the demons want to kill everyone? Just because that’s what demons do? What would they do if there was no one left to kill? Just chill I suppose.

And how the the demons that are in the Forbidding get put there? And when? In between the two trilogies? It’s never mentioned in the Word and the Void, so I’m guessing so?

I’d like to have more of the tale of what happened between the two trilogies. Maybe that comes in the Gypsy Morph? The old King of the Silver River pulls that old Allanon trick of not revealing everything to the young hero because it would be too much or some pish like that, and I found that kind of annoying. Very Terry Brooksy as tropes go. Just give the hero all the info and he might just win the battle a little easier? Hmmm.

What happened to Nest Freemark?

What happened to the fucking world?

And those feeders, what are they all about? They’re always there but they don’t serve the story at all.

And the elves? Where did they come from? Oh, wait, I already asked that, didn’t I?

How does Candle have foresight? What’s the deal with the lady from the Welsh valleys that hands out Knight of the Word staffs?

The characters are pretty wooden and tropey, but they serve the story well enough and the lack of detail into their motivations keeps the story moving along pretty fast I suppose.

I tell you what though, if all these loose ends aren’t wrapped up in the Gypsy Morph, I’ll… I’ll …

… probably keep reading the next books anyway. Who am I kidding?

Morning Pages?

Could I use this blog as a place to write my morning pages? Publish my unedited thoughts to the world?

Yes, I could.

My head is buzzing with creative ideas right now. The problem comes when that feeling goes away, which of course it does. Then I’m left with a feeling of hopelessness, of helplessness.

Share What You Know Summit

I’ve been going through Teachable’s Share What You Know summit. It cost me $40 and came at a time when I wasn’t able to tune in live on days 1 and 2 (of 3). The result of that was that I got behind and started to feel overwhelmed. I did get through some of it, and found it to be quite useful. I took notes in Roam Research, practising the skills I’d learned from Nat Eliason’s Effortless Output in Roam course. I probably watched less than a third of all the content, but I’d already decided that that was enough. Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t bad, but it was really just a huge advert for the Teachable platform and to the personal brands of the speakers. And that also isn’t a bad thing. One of the talks came up with an analogy of watching someone bleed but not offering your sticking plaster because you don’t want to seem markety. In other words, marketing is just a way of getting your thing in front of people that could really use it.

Could I really use the personal brands of the speakers? Yes, undoubtedly. But what I seem to be lacking is focus.

How to Get Clients to Come to You

The speaker that has stayed with me is Rebecca Tracey. She did one of the night class sessions and talked about her Uncaged Life philosophy. She’s a life coach and made a lot of sense. The core of her philosophy is to come up with a strong message and figure out just what it is that you do.

THAT’S my problem. What do I do? What am I offering potential clients? What do I want to do?

Lack of Focus

I spend my days being busy, following first one thing then another.

‘How much is this course? $250 dollars to learn how to take notes? I’m in!’

‘But wait! What’s this course here? Learn how to teach a course? But I don’t have any course ideas … doesn’t matter – it will change your life! It has the answers! I’m in!’

So, at the end of that week, I’ve not finished the note-taking course, nor having I finished the Teachable course. And I’ve done absolutely nothing to earn my place in this crowded world.

Come up with a Plan

I need a plan, a core product, an offering. Then I need to make sure that the things I’m doing contribute to that, to ‘moving the needle’ in the parlance of our times.

Do I have a plan? Well, I do as it happens. As I walked the dogs last night, it came to me — even though I was listening to a fantasy book. I love guitar, right? My idea of live streaming my practice sessions fell flat, which in turn meant that I’m not getting through my Fred Noad Solo Guitar Playing book.

Why don’t I go through my Noad book to the end, make notes on each exercise on challenges, then go back to the beginning and make a course?

Why not indeed. So that’s my idea. I should set myself a deadline to complete the book – how does the end of the year sound? That could work. I’ll go through the book and come up with a weekly quota.

Stalin’s Scribe, Brian J. Boeck

I bought Stalin’s Scribe on a whim whilst on holiday in the town of my Alma Mater, St Andrews university. It was my first time visiting Toppings Books and I happily spent a few hours in there.

I’ve had a fascination with the Stalin era of the Soviet Union since my army days when I studied GCSE Russian Studies and wrote a paper on the show trials and purges.

You might find this a little hard to believe, but I had never heard of Sholokhov, or his famous novel The Quiet Don. Why should it be hard to believe? Because I studied Russian language and literature for four years and spent years living in the former Soviet Union. When I saw the book in Toppings, I thought I was buying a book written about Stalin by his official scribe!

So, even though I thought I was reading something else entirely, I found myself completely drawn in anyway.

On the face of it, it’s about an author whose magnum opus ‘The Quiet Don’ is iffy at best because of plagiarism charges levelled against Sholokhov, and who wrote very little of note after that. But there is so much more to it than that.

It’s about an author who was able to navigate the tricky political landscape and still managed to stay alive, become wealthy and even win the Nobel Prize for Literature. That in itself makes for a good story, and that is exactly what this book turned out to be.

Sholokhov was not afraid of speaking truth to power and was able to use his influence over the years, including instigating the release of 3 political prisoners released from the clutches of the NKVD after he’d learned of the truth behind the great terror.

Not only did Sholokhov manage to keep from being imprisoned, exiled or shot, he also managed to stay in the good books of the leaders of the Soviet Union right up to the present, as it is mentioned in the afterword that Putin visited Sholokhov’s home in Vioshki in 2005 to mark the centenary of Sholokhov’s birth.

The writing style of the book made it easy to read. The research was well done and obviously extensive. It did seem to jump forward in time pretty fast towards the end, but I guess that’s because there wasn’t much else to say? Maybe it was edited down to make it shorter and an easier read? I’m sure it could quite easily have been twice as long.

It was interesting to read that there are still documents in locked archives.

“Though some of his secrets no doubt remain buried deep in closed archives, his contributions to Soviet history can now be recognized.”

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Sholokhov seemed to be ahead of his time in the way that he perceived the dangers of Soviet policy. First he spoke of the failings of the agricultural policy as he saw them when Stalin launched collectivisation. He saw what was happening on the front during the war and was able to see through the propaganda with his mind before seeing it with his own eyes.

And later on, the 23rd Party Congress in 1966:

The remaining environmental portions of the speech still packed a few punches. He accused an unnamed factory of criminal indifference to poisoning the Volga River and killing between 11 and 22 million fish.

He claimed that the “glorious sea, sacred Baikal” was in danger from the felling of forests and the construction of cellulose paper industries along its pristine shores. He cited statistics about the dumping of waste water into the Don River and condemned the tenfold decline in the number of fish. In spite of key deletions, he still skewered the Fisheries Minister for bringing the Azov sea basin to “the edge of catastrophe.” Sholokhov was the only keynote speaker at the congress who spoke of nature as something more than a resource for immediate economic exploitation.

Dozens of other speeches emphasized the conquering of nature for industrial growth, but his was the only one to even mention the problem of industrial waste.

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I took some personal pleasure at the reference to Santa Barbara in the afterword. I spent a year in Odessa from 1995-96 and my landlady was obsessed with that show!