2k BloggersAlthough I continue to argue that I’m not in blogging for the publicity, that I write neither for attention or notoriety, like shouting to the entire world from a mountain-top, appearances can be deceiving. Friends have, irreverently, been calling me “Johnno Bloggo” for a while…

2k Bloggers, a.k.a. “The Face of the Blogosphere,” is holding a contest to admit two bloggers to their exclusive, gold plated ranks; a place in their directory and photo-montage the publicly stated, much desired prize. The price of admission? This very blog post, and the fulfilling of three simple conditions:

  1. a pre-existing blog (preferably since before January 2007);
  2. a post containing on your blog explaining why you’d like to become a member;
  3. submit a comment on their site containing a link to this post and your photo.

Simple terms to fulfill you would think, but too hard for many; to date less than 10 have managed to meet the entry criteria. The contest is open for approximately another week, or until they receive 20 valid entries—which ever comes first.

What is the 2k Blogger’s photo montage? It is the very idea behind their site—a visual representation of the blogosphere itself, 2000 photos of actual bloggers stretched many lengths of a computer monitor, like a giant, memorial quilt. It’s a cool idea really—I for one have ranted lyrical, and on not just occasion about the faceless anonymity of the internet, the thousands of monkeys typing with barely an original word, far too many a grunt between them. Consider myself corrected. Here are 2000 typists, and not a single monkey sighted.

Why do I want to become a member, add my photo to the typing pool? When not writing about myself, I do on occasion highlight worthy causes and ideals (What value the environment?, Born Off-Topic, Aversion to Violence) causes which surely deserve the added exposure that, to repeat, I really do not crave.

Wish me luck—and good luck yourself if you choose to enter.

Sri Chinmoy lifts Radar. Photo by Projjwal Pohland.You’ve lifted heads of state, celebrities, community leaders, athletes and musicians overhead—physically. What on earth would you lift next? How about the world’s tallest horse? And the world’s smallest. Within the space of a single month.

For 75 year old New York based weight-lifter, humanitarian and world harmony leader Sri Chinmoy, the journey from smallest to tallest was a perhaps predictable giant leap—or lift—forward, in a lifetime full of them; he has made a practise, art form even of lifting people, unusual objects and animals overhead; a novel, inspiring twist to the normally mundane activity of raising weights into the air.

Radar. Photo by Drew Gardner.Officially recognised by Guinness Records, 9 year old Radar is a Belgian Draft Horse taller than any other—a towering 2 metres at the withers (shoulders), and at 1152kg, as heavy as a small car (airbags not included). On June 29th, together with handler Charles Wood, Radar grew even taller, lifted by Sri Chinmoy on a specially constructed, perhaps not correctly titled, calf-raise apparatus—a remarkable total of 1345kg lifted by steely septuagenarian calves above grass and meadow.

Thumbelina. Photo by Spencer Platt for Getty Images.At only 25kg and 44.5cm tall, chestnut mare Thumbelina is barely the weight of a toy car, and about the size of an average dog, but she is a record holder as well—a dwarf miniature horse officially the world’s smallest. No mere mare, Thumbelina is more important than diminutive stature suggests—namesake and inspiration for the Thumbelina Children’s Society, raising money and awareness for children in need around the world. On May 31st, Sri Chinmoy raised Thumbelina, together with owner Michael Goessling and handler Tago De Pietro, on a specially constructed, seated calf-raise machine—their combined weight a not insignificant 257kg.

Founder of the global The Oneness-Heart-Tears and Smiles humanitarian organisation, Sri Chinmoy awarded the tiny horse the Lifting Up the World With a Oneness-Heart award in recognition of her tireless strides to aid children. The award, where recipients are honoured by being physically lifted overhead by this weightlifting and fitness advocate, has previously been given to 8,000 people. And now one very small horse.

The quite possibly tireless Sri Chinmoy also lifted 58 white wind horses in Mongolia this May, a display of strength intended to draw attention to the plight of an endangered species also a national symbol of inner strength and spirit.

Putting the unbelievable into take another look perspective, five-time Mr Universe Bill Pearl said recently of Sri Chinmoy and his mammoth animal lifts, “no one else in the world has been known to sustain such an enormous weight on his shoulders in a calf raise. And the man is 75 years old!”

Jennifer of Goodness Graciousness, a long time reader and worthy author in her own right, has tagged me in the Six Weird Things meme.

Only six? Even just a short list, you know I could never refuse…

Actually I prefer her word for weird things—idiosyncrasies. Nobody likes to be called a weirdo.

  1. Really bad car parking.Although relatively new to driving, I rant and rave through windscreen and windows closed at the rest of the world, which in my opinion appears filled with bad drivers. Drivers who drive too slow, drivers who cause you to miss the green light, drivers who change lanes without indicating, who can’t drive in a straight line, don’t know how to give way—I’m teaching them all how to drive, one by ignorant one. I’ve heard many people do this, but in my case evil, darkened glares, flashed headlights and occasional use of horn very much amuse my friends. I have a reputation for being polite and considerate.
  2. I’m not particularly good at saying no, although as my available time disappears in amounts inversely proportionate to my age, I’m fast learning. It’s taken a while to work out that few can read between the lines when I say yes, yet slowly and unenthusiastically. “That’s your cue to withdraw people!”
  3. I don’t appreciate people who can’t stick to a point or keep on topic in conversation, or even worse interrupt without consideration or pretense of listening. I’ve taken recently to interrupting such people, finishing their sentences for them. Life is just to short to wander without end or direction. And I really am a polite person. On a topic related, I used to once talk to telemarketers when they cold-called, politely answer their questions, take part in polls. Once. Now, although not as bad as a friend whose favourite line is “Mr. Smith no longer lives here. In fact he’s dead,” I seldom let them get to the end of their opening lines. Politely.
  4. I am bad with names. I have no idea why, but I can recall a face, a job, things spoken and actions before I recall the name. Perhaps I was dropped as a child? Apparently my mother gave up smoking after I was born.
  5. I’m not very good at ignoring barbs or insults. I probably take myself too seriously. I’m slowly getting better. Credit is certainly due to the positive benefits of meditation—inner strength and detachment included.
  6. As a child I would sometimes play chicken with adults on footpaths. Out of some stubborn, hard-headed irritation at people too unaware of others to give way, I would walk them all down, staring into their eye. I have to stop myself from doing this even now.

I’m sure I have many other idiosyncrasies, but strangely they are not coming to mind. Perhaps I am blind to them—a very common idiosyncrasy indeed.

Anybody reading is more than welcome to post a list in response.

By popular request I’m going to post some poetry. Of my own.

While painfully aware that one person asking isn’t the full, honest definition of popular, it is one more than enough to flatter this non-poet into poetry. And being honest, I have already used the “Look how messed up I was as a teenager cause I wrote such atrocious verse” excuse to hide a seldom expressed poetic voice behind. Now there’s no where left to hide.

I had the nerve to suggest a minor rewrite to a poetically more prolific friend recently, so what exactly would my excuse be for a failure of poetic nerve? That I make a better critic?

It’s Monday Poetry Train day today. Let’s grin and bare it for a little exposure…

Untitled and in progress

I am the drop of glistening rain,
puddle formed by side of road,
I am the car driving straight ahead,
beneath skies clouded and grey.

That is my sky,
as good as any other.

I walk under that sky,
along that road,
and beneath this rain
as happy as anywhere else,
as happy as any other.

It’s a few verses short of completion, a few ideas short of expression, and true lyricism was lost somewhere around the second line—the entire first verse has been rewritten off the page. But I’m feeling so much better for the saying…

On the topic of messed up teenagers, I made an initial attempt at tidying this one up, a several thousand word story about my own formative years, posted (with embarrassing photos) for all to see on another site: Miracles out of Mountains out of Molehills. It will also do as my response to Camille’s now ancient Conversations With Your Teenage Self Meme. Better late than never.

Introduction to Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opens, or more accurately is preceded, by two poems. The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus, and More Fruits of Solitude by William Penn.

The Libation Bearers
Oh, the torment bred in the race,
the grinding scream of death
and the stroke that hits the vein,
the haemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
the curse no man can bear.

But there is a cure in the house
and not outside it, no,
not from others but from them,
their bloody strife. We sing to you,
dark gods beneath the earth.

Now hear, you blissful powers underground—
answer the call, send help.
Bless the children, give them triumph now.

—Aeschylus


More Fruits of Solitude

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that whch is omnipresent.
In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

—William Penn
(read the full poem at PoetSeers.org)

I think that tells us more than enough about this final instalment in the Harry Potter series…

Anyone doubting J.K. Rowling is a real, or serious author, should put that poorly titled book away right now. Any author who can quote Aeschylus, let alone has even heard of William Penn (one of the founders of Quakerism and namesake for the state of Pennsylvania), is worth all the pounds in the Bank of England.

I must say I am tiring of prose somewhat—the writing of it that is—for tiring of its reading would be a strange thing to say indeed, 607 pages of The Deathly Hallows still to be turned.

Prose is so precise, and therefore so unimaginative. You can joyfully throw precision out the window with poetry—although in the reading that is, definitely not in the writing, which requires an act of concentration at least deeper, if not stronger than in prose. With poetry you can let your imagination paint the words, and the lines in between.

I have been writing prose almost non-stop for a year now—the first substantive piece of writing in my entire life (Airport Anxiety) written a year ago during a visit to Japan, and am starting to tire of it’s up and down, black and white limitations; it’s tendency towards haranguing and shouting, as compared to poetry’s soft whispers, varied meanings.

Perhaps this is why I had a recent piece of writing declined for publication (Miracles out of Mountains out of Molehills); the editor said obliquely, and not completely helpfully, that he preferred my more simple, straightforward stories. Not so simply, I am growing tired of words in a straight line, trying my best to break them apart gracefully.

There will probably be some dreadful experiments to come.

I wrote my first poem in about a decade earlier this week—a rush of emotion-bourne words born upon listening to a song, and staring, at the same time, dream-like into a photograph. I then, by habit now an unrestrained shaper of prose, began to prune and rewrite, to my later regret. It will now probably not see the light of day.

Ever the melodramatist, I dare saw I am really only a little tired of prose. No doubt, to either benefit or regret, I have thousands of words inside me left.

And thousands more to read in The Deathly Hallows. I still haven’t made it past the opening poems…

Harry Potter movie stillAs I write, the seventh and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has just gone on sale. Here in New Zealand, readers are queuing in the mid-winter, mid-morning rain, while in Potter’s birthplace the young and often not so are lining for their copies at midnight. No matter where it is bought, or read, I suspect all will be up the following night reading—if the non-stop, reading-marathon intentions of one fourteen year old acquaintance are anything to go by.

I will be buying my own copy shortly, avoiding queues but paying a few dollars more at a reputable small bookstore rather than loss-leading chain, because I am difficult that way. I can afford to be so precious.

A friend who can likewise afford to buy The Deathly Hallows at whatever cost is not going to—he just called to request first place in a fast-forming queue for my own. While J.K. Rowling—or publisher Bloomsbury as well for that matter—definitely do not need his money, neither in truth does he—and in a fit of self-righteous indignation at his Scrooge-like spirit, on a day that for many is akin to Christmas, I will be lending The Deathly Hallows first to another, a friend and family who can only afford one copy. Although 47 years old, I suspect my friend will be reading book borrowed before two desperate daughters.

Harry PotterI came to Potter later than most—the week before book four, The Goblet of Fire was first released. Harry had somehow passed me by—on a broomstick perhaps—and an argument could be made that this self-created, purveyor of “high art” resented jumping on a bandwagon not his own. Whatever the reasoning I soon made up for lost time, lost an entire week to Potter-mania in fact. Book one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was bought on a Monday; a day and sleepless night later I was back for the second and third instalments; by the end of the week—sleep deprived but thoroughly entertained—purchased the fourth on first day of release, devoured it in a single sitting on barely noticed intercontinental plane ride.

As much for my own benefit as for anyone else, and by way of jogging out of shape, at times “potty” memory, here is a quick recap of the books to date, my read-just-a-single-time fleeting impressions, and several predictions for the final book soon to be acquired.

  • Favourite book to date
    Book five: The Order of the Phoenix. Aside from the brooding, introspective first two hundred pages, this is my favourite book of all—albeit followed closely by The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Chamber of Secrets and The Philospher’s Stone in that order. My least favourite was the most recent: The Half-Blood Prince; which to this occasional literary critic appeared narrative and enjoyment constrained—too transparent, perhaps necessary plot machinations to set up a series finale; major plot workings clunking away at the expense of telling a story. Like millions of distraught readers, I resented the beloved Dumbledore dying in this book—admittedly a twist I didn’t see coming—but will claim some after-the-fact prescience on the “Is Snape evil or really evil?” revelation—Rowling had been signaling this change of allegiance since the beginning of book one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • Favourite character
    It’s a toss up between Ron and Hermione—the latter is always the most interesting, not to mention most intelligent; the former—along with assorted siblings always the funniest. It is in many ways a shame neither were raised with a fortunate lightening shaped scar.
  • Least favourite character
    Harry. Really—if Harry is still brooding and being a boring teenager in The Deathly Hallows I may just start skipping pages. Get over yourself Harry—grow a backbone along with a few more inches, or I’ll soon be cheering for (heaven forbid) Draco Malfoy. Funnily enough, and I know I’m quite the snob, mine is the firm opinion that Harry’s screen alter ego, Daniel Radcliffe, can’t act his way out of a paper bag.
  • Predictions
    Rowling has revealed two major characters will die in The Deathly Hallows. I doubt one will be Harry—even though it would be the most shocking ending in all of literature since novelist Yukio Mishima fell upon his own samurai sword. Harry dying would also for the majority of readers be more than unsatisfying, and I do not get the feeling J.K.Rowling, unlike Mishima, is a literary sadist—or intent on ruining the childhood of millions. Snape is a definite option for death however—and you just know he has it coming. Likewise He Who Can’t Be Named—how can the series possibly end without a kill or be killed, good versus evil, mother of all showdowns? At longer odds for untimely character assassination are Ron or Hermione—major, beloved characters, but each in the end narratively dispensable.

Predications now aside, I beg to be excused. I have a book to go and buy.

So it’s time to vote in the Daily Blog Tips Blog Project: Three, choose a top 3 from no less than 115 entries. O.k. 114, because I don’t think I’ll get away with voting for my own entry, Me and three.

I must say I had some difficulty wading through all the “Top 3 Ways To Sell Your SEO”—or is that sell your soul?—style of entries, which is not to say they were badly written, or even plain bad, only not my cup of chai tea.

So, with much further to do, I should really get to the point and write my list, choose my top 3—necessary for my continued participation in the contest despite my aversion to writing such: “I Hate Lists And So Should You.” Oh, and thanks to those who have already voted for me—my fragile writer’s ego is appreciative.

  1. Top 3 Things Kermit The Frog Can Teach You About Blogging (and Life) by Dee.
    As Dee relates, it’s not easy being green, and top marks to her for telling us why.
  2. 3 Secrets of Writing for Blogs by Tejvan.
    Lists are definitely o.k. when about writing—one of my favourite topics of all.
  3. Three reasons to try a marathon by Shane.
    I’m training for a marathon at the moment, and carbo-loading as well—although no doubt Shane would tell me that buckets of pasta are for the final week of training—so this article on why you should run 26.2 miles and enjoy it gets my vote, and appreciation.

Although not in my top three, Graham Richardson also gets a mention simply for writing about dead bridges—Memorials to three dead bridges. Why? Because they were (once) there…

And another mention for his second entry in the contest, Three bad foods that are really good. Mmm, hot chips! Do I perhaps need help with my desire for lard-coated goodness? Apparently not according to Graham:

“If you are walking near a chip shop – you will feel hungry. Your body will tell you that it needs some chips. If it doesn’t then you need help.”

Talking of deep-fryers and fat covered fat, I am reminded of a flatmate many years ago, who liked to prove his “toughness” by pulling chips out of boiling oil with bare fingers—“Na, doesn’t bother me,” he would say, “I’m tough as nails.” Come to think of it now, he probably did need help.