How I Write of Castles

I realised, after having reviewed castles (and, actually, historic sites of all types: palaces, temples, hills) that I have not said what I look for when I visit these places. While it is not that difficult to get the sense of what I say and don’t say, this might not be too helpful for people looking for some concrete facts or a detailed picture-overview.

Neither of these is in the realm of what I aim to do here. What I aim to do is to offer some snippets of historic curiosities, events which made me laugh or think or cry when I read about these places. That Tantallon’s lords liked going shooting on the nearby granitic outcrop, the Ailsa Craig of the eastern coast, or that James VI heard of his accession at Falklands and made it into a local title, or that a lord Cassilis of Culzean went and shot his umbrella-holder in the rainforests of Gambia…

These are stories which bring these places to life. They illustrate how living people treated each other and themselves in times gone past. What they laughed about and what they might not have enjoyed as much. All of these snippets help me build a better, clearer, window to look into history.

And I visit these places mostly to expand my understanding of history. This understanding takes many shapes. I do not particularly like reading about places and not being able to visualise them in my mind, and yet not many a text would describe Dunnotar Castle as well as the effort of climbing those steps to reach the peak of that peninsula. But this understanding also takes the form of the farmers at Alpsee who have ever lived looking at two or three castles on their nearby peaks. How do they relate to these? Is it a symbol of hope and strength, or does it merely represent wasted fortunes?

Naturally, all of these could be answered by other methods in the modern day. Yet, the feeling of going to somewhere and seeing it in its natural climate — no matter whether the result is a wintery Schloss Linderhof, sunny Mull of Galloway, or a rainy Rothesay — helps put that place into its natural context.

So… what I look for is emotion, a feeling, any feeling, that would relate to this place I am writing about. How this place fits into the world I have seen and into the lives of the people who were involved with it. How a representation of this place can carry the message that was dearest to my heart. How the inhabitants of this place would have looked about in the beginning of their day or at the end of their toils.

How I Review Books

Books can be looked at from many points of view. My one most strenous belief is that when I talk about books, you should not hear the plot in too great a detail (unless the author intends the ending to be known before the book begins). Hence, I rarely comment on plot devices or any story development as I feel I could be shortchanging the reader of the review. Continue reading “How I Review Books”

The Motivation for Writing

Why does anyone write?

What do they want to express? Who do they want to be? What is it worth writing about publicly?

I’ve had the wish to continue writing actively for a long time — ever since I stopped in 2014 (Goodreads’ reviews don’t count), but I never found the time as it’s so easy to make excuses. And, I think in the time I could have been writing, I was reading. So, perhaps I’ll write better now? Who knows…

But, earlier on this year someone (no disclosure, you know who you are) said that they enjoyed reading what I wrote and asked me whether I was still going at it. The answer, to be accurate, would have been a “no”, but I phrased it as a “maybe” — and it definitely kicked me into motion faster than otherwise. Still, it has taken me two months and 19 days to get this far, but I am here. Which is a start.

What has changed? My (probably) favourite answer to this comes from the film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ where Salah ad-Din so graciously says “Nothing. Everything” to a different question.

The one thing I have enjoyed writing about in all the time I haven’t made actual blog posts has been books, and my reviews for things on Goodreads have at least kept that alive. I also think it’s quite interesting to see how various people review books, but that’s a topic for another time. I feel that what is worth writing about is the cultures we experience and what the thoughts they bring up in us are. Hence it might entirely be I’ll take a step back over the last three years and look back at some places which come up again and again in my mind.

But, to end where I began, I will answer the question I began this by: I write for myself, but there’s more of a reason to “write out loud” when someone else is also interested in those selfsame thoughts. At least that is how I feel right now. Times change. And yet, the more they change the more they stay the same.

Of Typesetting and Writing

It will give you, my reader, an indication of my trust and faith in the WordPress engine that until a few days ago I did not believe that justifying text was possible here. That mistake has been resolved.

That is a suitable lead-in to the topic of typesetting — it is something most people spend very little time on, but after my dissertation and other university works definitely one of the more notable issues in my mind. Presentation, in the end, is everything. Especially when we talk of written pages where no conversation can add to what the reader sees. A question arises: If the written work has no form, no beauty, what value could its content have?

An example of great importance is the use of non-breaking spaces and dashes. It adds so much if one knows that the writer of the piece aimed for that superb elegance of correction in how lines start and in what pairs of words (or numbers) appear together.

Dashes are another thing — which one to use (how many people even know of the different ones and their proper application?) and how to create it. I only lately discovered a way in MS Office to create an em-dash. But these differences are the key.

Mostly because of those differences, I have had it in mind to re-process some of my university works to eradicate such errors for future purpose. It would be of very little benefit to anyone, but just maybe worth it in case someone wanted to read anything. I don’t know if they will or if they even should, but at least that would be being prepared.

In the end, what we write in this day and age is so much of a reflection of who we are that the small differences are what will matter and keep on mattering. For that reason if for nothing else (I personally find typesetting a very interesting topic in itself), it is worth knowing the correct way of doing things. And it is worth using that knowledge.

Also: How is it that ski commentators always seem slightly insane?

Chiaroscuro

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1
: pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color
2
a : the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art
b : the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character)
3
: a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also : a print made by this technique
4
: the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface
5
: the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

For some reason, I really like the sound of this word. Why? I can’t really put my hand to it, but the sound of it when one says the word — it is ethereal. Otherworldly.

Now, I have to admit that I have not heard it used once in everyday conversations, and I have seen it in literature for only a handful of times with the majority of these being in one novel (that I have reread). However, every time I read/listen as it goes by, I feel that the word has a personality. Mind you, if it was a person, it would probably be a bit too pretentious — but as a word I would really like to know it better. I would like to use it… but not too much.

For the etymologically inclined, it would seem that the root of the word is Italian — the words chiaro and oscuro, light and dark. Maybe that Romance heritage is what gives the word some charm in an English sentence, although it could be something else.

It could also be that if I knew what made me like this word so much, I would not like it any more. So I shall let this mystery be, at least for today…

The Second Benefit of Queues

I recently posted on how I enjoyed the feature of scheduled posting. That is still so, but now — around half a week into this experiment of mine, I can safely say that I forgot about an important part of this style of writing that I couldn’t really imagine before. Well, when I say “forgot” and “couldn’t really imagine”, I am speaking against myself, I know that. Do forgive.

However, what I wished to say is that when I schedule my posts I remember what I have written, and I get the wish to go back and change the words. I want to edit the post at least once so that when I read it through myself the next day (far less time consuming than writing itself), I get no bad feelings about anything I say. The wording might change and I might be improving the thoughts I wished to convey, but their internal inconsistency might have been the biggest downfall thus far with my posts.

So, there we go — another point for scheduled posting. =)

The Benefit of Queues

I have recently started writing posts in advance and then queuing them so that they are published throughout the week. This seems to be the approach that works better for me for otherwise I need to find the time and opportunity to come here every day (or every time when I have something to say), and to expand on my thoughts there and then. This clearly has not worked very well in the past so maybe this new way will do better.

For example, the posts this week on this site and on my literature blog both were written on Saturday evening when I had a moment to myself that I used to the best effect I could have thought of at the time.

It could be that in a sense I am losing the moment of “I am here, right now!” if I continue to think of what to say on a certain day in the future (or in the past).

Also, since my mood on that Saturday evening (well, it would be so much easier to say ‘right now’ but that wouldn’t be *the right now* when this post will be published so that I do not really want to do that) was a bit philosophical I am clearly avoiding writing of the world in favour of the topics that have a bit less to do with any tangible place and more with those passing feelings.

One benefit I do feel to be present though is a more consistent style. I could be mistaken, but these would probably read better overall than my posts from say November or December which were far more intermittent. Those posts were also written in a more hurried way — the time I had for them wasn’t really meant for them, but potentially a simple stolen 5-minute gap between eating and running out of my house. It would be interesting to see how this actually represents itself in the words you are reading though.

My next challenge therefore — if I am to continue this scheduled writing — is to find a way to encompass the world into the topics. I am certain that I can do this, although I might require some sort of incentive. I think that looking at National Geographic’s published photos or something similar would be enough though.

For anyone in a similar position as me — that is, feeling like writing at certain moments and not at others where thinking is the realm you’re in — I do suggest trying this scheduled posting way of writing.

Of Tyrants and Dictators

I generally abhor the misuse of any term which has a specific meaning, and recently it has come up in discussion that one was again misused — or misused as I see it. Indeed, I much prefer the original Roman meaning for dictator and the Greek meaning for tyrant. I find that every subsequent use has degraded the original and added a connotation that they not necessarily deserve. Continue reading “Of Tyrants and Dictators”

To…

Oh, it’s an odd thing, to have a wish to do something, to plan to do it, and yet not move a finger even though everything is perfectly planned out. This quite perfectly describes me writing — I can almost recall three different entries that I’ve planned and yet not written. Why? Laziness, I suppose. Isn’t that the answer to most human problems. Continue reading “To…”

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